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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 19 Dec 2007

Vol. 644 No. 4

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 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 54, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 55 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

Telecommunications Services.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

65 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the value for money policy review on phase one of the MANs programme; when he will decide on the progression of a further phase of MANs; the status of MANs; the number of towns it has been delivered to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35614/07]

A Value for Money and Policy Review (VFMPR) of Phase I of the MANs Programme will be completed and published in January 2008.

My Department is also preparing a draft policy paper on Next Generation Broadband Networks which will consider the optimum role for Government in facilitating the roll out of high speed broadband networks. I expect to publish the draft policy paper on Next Generation Broadband Networks for consultation early in the New Year.

In the circumstances, I consider it prudent that contracts for the construction of new MANs networks should not be signed until I have had an opportunity to consider and assess the implications of the value for money report and the outcome of the consultation on the Next Generation Broadband policy paper.

In the meantime, MANs that are under construction will proceed as planned. There are sixty six Phase II MANs that are either recently completed or under construction.

Twenty seven MANs have been completed under Phase I of the programme and these are currently being managed by eNEt, the Management Services Entity for Phase I.

Telecommunications Regulation.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

66 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on reports that he will give Regtel more powers; the reason for same; his further views on incorporating Regtel into ComReg; the timeline for providing more powers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35611/07]

I am interested in the protection of consumers and have recently expressed my concern about the level of consumer dissatisfaction and number of complaints from members of the public in relation to the operation of premium rate telecommunications services.

In this context, I intend to examine how the regulation of premium rate telecoms services should be best addressed, and how the system could be strengthened to provide better and more targeted consumer protection, especially for children.

As part of this process, I met recently with the Regulator and Chairman of RegTel to share my concerns and to explore how improvements might be made. I also plan to engage with my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment as the area of consumer protection within which RegTel operates, also falls under his remit.

As this area is fast moving and complex, my consideration of the issue may require input from many stakeholders, including child safety, parent and consumer organisations, mobile network operators, content providers, handset and network manufacturers, and regulators.

Finally, I would like to emphasise the role of parents in decisions concerning the purchase and use of mobile phones by their children. Their supervisory role is key to the protection of children. I am also aware of the work done by the Irish Cellular Industry Association (ICIA) over recent years in encouraging the safe and responsible use of mobile phones including publishing a Parent's Guide, which aims to inform parents of some key safety tips to encourage responsible and secure use of mobile phones by their children.

Notwithstanding this, the level of complaints being received from parents and children with regard to texting charges shows that there is a continuing problem which requires a much tougher regulatory approach. I intend developing and delivering a new tougher regulatory system in the New Year.

Energy Efficiency Initiatives.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

67 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the percentage energy saving that has occurred in his Department and in all agencies for which his Department has responsibility in 2007; the way this compares to 2004, 2005 and 2006; the amount he expects to save in energy usage in percentage terms in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35599/07]

The vast majority of energy consumption occurs at my Department's largest accommodation sites:

29/31 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2,

Leeson Lane, Dublin 2,

Tom Johnson House, Beggars Bush, Haddington Road

Elm House Cavan

Electricity is supplied to each of the three Dublin premises by Energia and the heating is powered by natural gas supplied by Bord Gáis.

There has been a cumulative reduction of 29% in the overall amount of natural gas consumed in my Department in these three premises since 2004.

There has also been steady decrease (cumulative almost 6%) in the amount of electricity consumed in the two main buildings occupied by my department in Dublin over the period in question. I have arranged for usage details for both Electricity and Gas for the Dublin buildings to be sent to the Deputy.

Elm House has only been occupied by staff from my Department since October 2006 and the Department's presence there is being built up on a phased basis. There is no comparative data available for that premises.

I have asked to OPW to do a full energy audit of our head office in Adelaide Road and the offices on Leeson Lane with the intention of undertaking a major upgrade of the buildings as demonstration projects for what can be achieved in energy efficiency gains.

Greener Homes Scheme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

68 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the funding and number of applicants for the second phase of the greener homes scheme post budget 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35624/07]

The aim of the Greener Homes Scheme is to stimulate consumer investment in renewable heating solutions and to develop the market for renewable technologies and fuels, thereby reducing CO2 emissions in the domestic sector.

The scheme provides grants for householders for the installation of renewable heating technologies including wood biomass boilers and stoves, solar panels and heat pumps.

€28 million has been provided for the Greener Homes Scheme in 2008. This includes additional funding of €2m announced in Budget 2008 for new technologies which I plan to introduce in the new year. Programmes for these new technologies will be developed by Sustainable Energy Ireland, in consultation with my Department. There have been almost 1900 applications received to date under Phase II of the Greener Homes Scheme.

Phase II of the Greener Homes Scheme was launched on 1st October with several adjustments reflecting the evolution in the market for domestic renewable technologies. The grant levels have been reduced for some technologies where the market has reached a level of maturity to allow it to continue at a lower rate of support. Other grant levels remain unchanged. The products that continue to be grant aided under Phase II are solar panels, wood pellet and woodchip boilers and geothermal pumps.

Phase II aims to further consolidate the market, underpinning it with quality standards and training and providing for a long-term future that is not grant dependent. In this way Phase II will help secure a range of objectives including more competitive offerings, revised product standards, improved training standards and greater stability across the renewable heating industry. The aim is to ensure that the market for these products, services and fuels continues to develop strongly, allowing suppliers and installers to consolidate their market offerings ahead of an unsubsidised market.

The Greener Homes Scheme will continue to be kept under review and will continue to evolve in light of the maturing of technologies and market developments.

Efficiency Reviews.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

69 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the issues on which he will report to the Department of Finance as part of the efficiency review announced in budget 2008; the areas in which he expects to report possible efficiencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35466/07]

I fully support the efficient and effective use of taxpayers money and the continuous achievement of value for money. My Department continuously seeks to deliver programme and administrative expenditure as approved each year by the Dáil in a value for money way whilst meeting the policy objectives underpinning this expenditure.

My Department will reinforce its commitments to value for money in the context of the efficiency review announced in Budget 2008. This will be informed by detailed guidance expected from the Department of Finance on the process and mechanisms to be employed in the efficiency review of administrative spending. It is premature to be specific as regards specific progress under the review which is due for completion by 1 March 2008 but particular scrutiny will be placed on the potential for administrative budget savings in my Department and the agencies under its aegis.

Net-metering Facilities.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

70 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a detailed timetable that indicates when a comprehensive net-metering system will be implemented throughout the country; if this represents the shortest time possible for such roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35478/07]

The introduction of net-metering facilities for micro-scale producers will be enabled by the introduction of smart metering technology.

The Programme for Government and the Government's Energy Policy Framework commit to the introduction of smart meters to every home in the country over the next five years. The smart meter programme is a key component of the Government's Strategy to radically improve demand, management and energy efficiency and to enable the development of micro generation and distributed generation on a wider scale.

The implementation of smart metering is being directed, at my request, by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) with the assistance of a High-level Steering Group comprising my Department, CER, Sustainable Energy Ireland, ESB Networks (ESBN) and an Independent Operators representative. There are a number of high level objectives which underpin the roll out of the natural smart meters programme:

To facilitate and inform demand side management.

To facilitate more efficient use of energy.

To aid in the promotion of competition and improved customer service.

Improved meter management.

Technical Working Groups, with wider industry representation, are being established by the CER, and will address all relevant issues such as tariffing, networks, data management and the optimal geographic distribution for the first phase roll out. ESB Networks has initiated the procurement process for smart meters and anticipates test meters will be available by mid 2008. ESB Networks plans the roll out of meters to begin in summer 2008 with a view to 25,000 meters being installed by year end.

Microgenerators will be included in the assessment of the optimal design of a smart meter and associated processes.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he expects high quality high speed broadband availability in all areas here without exception; the action he has taken or plans to take to achieve this objective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35562/07]

The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In order to address this issue the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is currently under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met.

The procurement process is being undertaken pursuant to the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 using a competitive dialogue procurement process.

The first phase of the procurement process Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) is now complete and four candidates have pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium.

The Department has invited these remaining candidates to participate in the "Competitive Dialogue" phase of the procurement process and to present their proposed solutions to meet the Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected and appointed in June 2008.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

73 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a national advisory forum of telecoms experts has been set up; if he will provide an overview of that forum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35615/07]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

107 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has established a national advisory forum on next generation broadband; if this forum will have provided him with a blueprint for facilitating the development of NGN in Ireland by 31 December 2007 as stated in his introductory brief; the contents of this blueprint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35483/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 107 together.

In response to recent industry announcements, and developments internationally, my Department is preparing a draft policy paper that will review current communications infrastructure policy and analyse policy options in light of industry developments, in relation to the optimum role for the Government in the planning and rollout of next generation broadband.

I intend to establish a National Advisory Forum of experts early next year to critically evaluate policy options contained in the draft paper. Details relating to the timing for the Forum and the time frame for publication of its recommendations are still to be finalised. Following review by the Forum, I plan to publish the paper in the first part of next year and I will welcome views on it.

Electricity Generation.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

74 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views in view of the recent vote for strike action by ESB workers on the issue of the break up of ESB, on concerns that have been expressed across Europe that this policy could fatally weaken electricity companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35626/07]

Management of industrial relations within ESB is, in the first instance, a matter for the Board and management of the company. I am aware of the recent ballot undertaken by a number of the unions within ESB and my Department is continuing to monitor the situation closely. The proposal to transfer the ownership of the transmission assets from ESB to EirGrid is a commitment in both the White Paper on Energy and the Programme for Government 2007-2012. It is in line with the proposal for full ownership unbundling of transmission networks by the European Commission contained in the 3rd Energy Market Liberalisation Package. Most Member States support the proposal which reflects the de facto position in 13 Member States.

As previously stated in this House, combining the ownership and operation of the transmission assets makes sense. It will ensure that the system operates transparently and effectively giving confidence to all market players. The present structure is complex and cumbersome and adds to costs. It creates additional overheads and transaction costs, duplication of skills and activities and the risk of blurred accountability. It also makes for more complex regulation.

The transfer of ownership of the transmission assets will be implemented in a way that ensures the future of both EirGrid and ESB as strong Semi State companies, as well as reflecting the position of the State and the ESOT as shareholders. There is no question of breaking up the ESB.

The ESB Group will remain a strong, commercially viable and integrated entity after completion of this process. The ESB has a vibrant future ahead. Given its prominent role in the Irish energy sector, ESB has a crucial contribution to make in the energy and climate change challenges ahead. It is equally the case that EirGrid has a crucial national role to play in the new energy landscape as the strong independent operator and owner of the transmission system, delivering for all energy stakeholders and for the economy.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

75 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the Broadcasting Bill; when it will be published; if he is in favour of maintaining the RTÉ authority; if this is no longer the case, his reasoning for same; the changes the Broadcasting Bill will make to the licence fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35622/07]

The draft general scheme of the Broadcasting Bill was submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in September 2006 for the purposes of public consultation under the eConsultation initiative.

The approach adopted in the draft general scheme of the Broadcasting Bill was as follows:

To establish a single content regulator for commercial, community and public service broadcasters to be known as the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and encompassing the existing regulatory functions of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the RTÉ Authority.

To ensure the availability of adequate and proportionate enforcement instruments to the BAI.

To provide that the BAI will be funded primarily by a sectoral levy applicable to all broadcasters.

To provide greater transparency as regards the award of broadcasting contracts.

To establish RTÉ and Teilifís na Gaeilge as companies limited by guarantee.

To amend the existing public service remit of RTÉ and Teilifís na Gaeilge to incorporate the use of new web-based technologies in delivering on their mandates.

To provide a statutory mechanism for the oversight of public funding to RTÉ and Teilifís na Gaeilge.

To establish a basis for the television licence that is separate and distinct from wireless telegraphy legislation.

To provide a developed right of reply to persons whose reputation and good name have been damaged by an assertion of incorrect facts in a television or radio programme.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee published its conclusions on the draft general scheme in April 2007. It is proposed to publish the consequent Broadcasting Bill in the first quarter of 2008 having considered the Joint Oireachtas Committee's conclusions on the outcome of the eConsultation process, with a view to ensuring the appropriate regulatory and organisational structures for the growth and development of public service, commercial and community broadcasting in Ireland.

Electricity Interconnector.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

76 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the CER will launch the competition for design and construction of the east-west electricity interconnector by the end of 2007 as announced; if details of the winning contract for design and construction of the interconnector will be announced by end of quarter three 2008 as announced; if there is progress on the discussions between the CER and Eirgrid in relation to the funding of the interconnector; if he has investigated the possibility of fast-tracking the project in order that commercial operations can start earlier than early 2012 as currently envisaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35473/07]

I am advised by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) that EirGrid is launching the competition for the design and construction of the interconnector in the coming days. I am further advised that the contract for design and construction will be completed by the end of quarter 3, 2008, when the successful bidder will be announced.

As regards funding of the east-west interconnection development, both the CER and EirGrid are working to determine the most cost-effective and efficient arrangement.

In that context as signalled in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 the possibility of an Exchequer funded contribution for the project is being examined. My Department is engaging with the CER and Eirgrid on all technical and financial aspects of a business case for a proportion of Exchequer support for this strategic energy infrastructure project. Such support would of course require Government approval.

The CER and EirGrid are working intensively to expedite the delivery of the interconnector. I would emphasise that interconnection projects are of their nature complex not least because of the planning and related onshore infrastructure needs.

A number of key milestones have already been achieved. EirGrid has secured Woodland in County Meath as the connection point for the interconnector on the Irish transmission system. In recent weeks EirGrid has obtained a formal connection offer from the UK National Grid for Deeside in Wales. EirGrid has also commenced work on a seabed survey to determine the most suitable route for the undersea cable. In the coming year, the CER and EirGrid will continue to work to deliver the project to schedule.

Quarter 3 2011 is targeted for the completion of works with quarter 1 2012 targeted for the completion of commissioning and testing and the start of commercial operations.

The CER and EirGrid have planned the project to ensure that it is delivered in the shortest possible time frame. The programme outlined is time barred and ambitious. Where opportunities exist to undertake work in parallel, these will be taken. For example, the selection of the contractor to design and construct the interconnector is being carried out in parallel with the seeking of planning consents.

The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure Act) 2006 provides for a streamlined planning process for strategic infrastructure developments and includes special provision for electricity interconnector projects. To oversee and ensure completion to schedule, a High-Level Coordination Group has been established under the Chairmanship of the CER and comprising representatives of EirGrid and my Department.

Grant Payments.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

77 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has plans to introduce a building insulation capital grants scheme in 2008; what the €5 million pilot programme for home insulation entails; the other specific funding that has been allocated in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35451/07]

On top of the €50 million allocated in the pre-budget estimates for renewable energy and energy conservation measures, I secured an additional €13 million for this area in 2008 on Budget Day.

I am allocating €5 million of this funding to the new Home Energy Saving Scheme. My Department is working closely with Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) to fully develop the details of the Pilot Programme, which I intend to launch in the first quarter of 2008. Their work is being informed by considerations relating to value for money, cost of solution, overall energy efficiency and carbon reduction effectiveness.

I envisage that the Pilot Programme in 2008 will support investment by householders participating in the Pilot to improve the energy performance of their homes. In specific terms I would see improved roof and wall insulation as being of pivotal importance, together with other identified measures with the potential to significantly enhance the energy efficiency of the housing sector.

It has been estimated that of the 1.7 million homes in Ireland, up to one million are deficient in one or more significant energy efficiency aspects. This is particularly true of pre-1981 private sector housing, originally built with no energy efficiency features and of which over 300,000 remain of low efficiency standards.

The roll out of the Programme will have clear synergies with preparations for the mandatory home energy rating of existing housing put up for sale or lease after 1 January 2009. Building energy rating is a key measure of energy efficiency improvement before and after remedial action.

I am also providing additional funding to SEI to build on its 2007 energy efficiency programme for industry and Small and Medium Enterprises. A further €2 million is being provided to SEI to administer and oversee the Building Energy Rating Programme.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

78 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the proportion of the electricity used in his Department that comes from renewable sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35434/07]

In my reply of 27th November 2007, to a parliamentary question, I indicated that the percentage amount of electricity used in my Department's offices generated by renewables was 4.5%. In the light of subsequent information which my Department has received in the matter, I have asked my Department to clarify the position with the relevant energy suppliers, and I will revert to the Deputy in the matter if necessary.

I have also asked to OPW to do a major assessment of the energy performance of my Department's head office building with a view to improving its energy efficiency. This review has included a review of the heating and power systems in the building and the OPW is now considering the introduction of new more sustainable energy systems. It is expected that contracts for such an upgrade will be issued early next year.

Telecommunications Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

79 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to ensure the roll out of broadband in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31970/07]

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

111 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action he is taking to support the provision of broadband to rural dwellers in view of the fact that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is urging farmers to make use of online processes to eliminate registrations and scheme applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30760/07]

James Bannon

Ceist:

118 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when broadband will be fully available in the midlands as economic development is being impeded by lack of roll-out. [35409/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 111 and 118 together.

The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In order to address this issue the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is currently under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met.

The procurement process is being undertaken pursuant to the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 using a competitive dialogue procurement process.

The first phase of the procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four candidates have pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium.

The Department has invited these remaining candidates to participate in the "Competitive Dialogue" phase of the procurement process and to present their proposed solutions to meet the Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected and appointed in June 2008.

Proposed Legislation.

John Perry

Ceist:

80 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the timetable for the plans to transfer ownership of the electricity transmission assets from ESB to Eirgrid; when he will be seeking Government approval to draft the necessary legislation; when he will publish the heads of Bill; when he will bring the legislation before Dáil Éireann; when he will begin to meet management and unions of the ESB and the ESB ESOT as part of this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35484/07]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

116 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding plans to transfer ownership of the electricity transmission system from ESB to Eirgrid; the timetable for the implementation of the transfer by end 2008 as stated in the programme for Government; if he has had recently or will hold in the near future meetings with ESB unions or the ESB ESOP to discuss issues arising from the transfer; if his attention has been drawn to the reservations that surround this plan; the arrangements made to compensate the ESOP as a result of this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35604/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 116 together.

The Programme for Government reaffirms the commitment in the Energy Policy White Paper to the transfer of ownership of the electricity transmission network assets from ESB to EirGrid by end 2008. The mechanisms to implement the transfer to EirGrid of ownership of the assets comprise a range of legislative, commercial, legal and financial dimensions, which are currently under consideration by my Department.

The drafting and publication of the necessary legislation is a key step in the process. I will be seeking Government approval to draft in the near future. The Bill will include provisions enabling EirGrid to fulfil the requirements of the Transmission Asset Ownership function and undertake any necessary borrowing. The legislation is also likely to include a range of amendments to existing electricity legislation to fully reflect the new arrangement. The advice of the Attorney General on the precise parameters of the legislation will determine the scoping of legislation.

In line with successive Partnership Agreements, there will be a full process of engagement with the management and unions of both ESB and EirGrid on implementation of the transfer of the asset ownership function. The process will also include engagement on legitimate concerns of the ESB's Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT).

I met with the ESB Group of Unions on 23rd July in relation to the energy policy objectives set out in the Programme for Government and the Energy Policy White Paper which impact on ESB.

I have made it clear to the Group of Unions that I am willing to discuss constructively any legitimate issues of concern that they may have. I look forward to a positive process of engagement and to further meetings as appropriate with the Group of Unions.

I intend meeting with the ESB's Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT) early in 2008 on a range of issues, including the transfer of the transmission assets. As was the case in my meeting with the Group of Unions, I will be listening to any concerns that they might have on the issues and providing a clear outline of my own position and that of the Government.

Government policy is clear in relation to implementation of the transmission assets decision in a way that ensures the strategic future of both EirGrid and ESB as strong viable Semi State entities, as well as reflecting the position of the State and the ESOT as shareholders.

Inland Fisheries.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

81 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the increased funding for inland fisheries announced in budget 2008; the way he will ensure that value for money is achieved in this spend; the way this allocation will operate in the context of the restructuring of the fisheries boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35472/07]

In the 2008 budget, funding of €51.737m has been allocated to Inland Fisheries. A total of €16 million of this relates to the Salmon Hardship Fund and the associated Community Support Scheme. The balance of €35.737m is provided to the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards and the Loughs Agency to cover their operational expenditure as follows:

Pay: €21.450 million

Non-Pay: €10.987 million

Capital: €3.3 million.

The agencies operate in accordance with agreed performance contracts and business plans, progress on which is monitored on a quarterly basis. This allocation is in place for the management of the inland fisheries sector and applies for the period 2008, whatever the management structures might be and would apply to any successor organisations in the event of restructuring.

Postal Services.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

82 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position he took at the 1 and 2 October 2007 Telecommunications Council discussions on the provision of a free postal service for blind and partially sighted persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35602/07]

The position of the Telecommunications Council on this issue reflected the balance of the position of Member States in the matter.

In so far as Ireland is concerned, An Post, as universal service provider, provides a free postal service for blind and partially sighted persons. The draft third postal directive proposes that this practice may continue. I intend that our national legislation will continue to contain an obligation to provide this service in a liberalised postal market.

Emergency Call Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

83 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the tendering process for the State’s emergency call service; when it will be implemented; the amount it will cost; if there will be a period when some people may be left without the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35613/07]

My Department launched an open tender process seeking proposals from undertakings in relation to the provision of an emergency call answering centre in September 2007. The closing date for the receipt of tender was on the 7th December 2007 and four tenders were received by that date.

Following the evaluation process, it is planned to enter into contract negotiation with the highest ranked tenderer. The details of the operational rollout and transition to the new service will be agreed at this stage. The transition to the new service will be carefully planned to ensure the continuity of the service.

EU Directives.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

84 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has reservations regarding Ireland’s commitment to the Biofuels Directive in view of ethical concerns in relation to land use for biofuels, particularly in developing countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35609/07]

The challenge of sustainable global development of Biofuels is coming increasingly into focus. It is expected that the European Commission's forthcoming renewable energy legislative proposals, will contain targets for biofuels market penetration, subject to the introduction of sustainability criteria and the coming on stream of second-generation biofuels.

Ireland's biofuels obligation will take full account of EU sustainability initiatives in relation to biofuels and I intend to work very closely with my EU colleagues in addressing this highly complex challenge for biofuels policy to ensure that all biofuels placed on the European and Irish market are produced in a environmental sustainable manner.

Postal Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

85 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on An Post’s failure to live up to its delivery deadlines as set down by ComReg; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35610/07]

Matters relating to quality and levels of postal service in An Post are a matter, in the first instance for the management and board of the company and one in which I have no statutory function.

Furthermore, in accordance with the European Communities (Postal Services) Regulations, the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, is responsible for the monitoring, measurement and regulation of the postal sector including measuring the levels of service achieved by An Post and ensuring that the company abides by its statutory universal service obligations.

I do however remain in continuing contact with both An Post and ComReg on the issue and monitor the trends in service level delivery which feeds into the general policy analysis my department undertakes in the area.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

86 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the applications processed by his Department; the average waiting time to process each application; the steps he is taking to speed up the processing time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25151/07]

The applications processed by my Department, the time taken to process each application and where appropriate the steps being taken to speed up the processes are included in the following table.

Applications processed by the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Average processing time

Steps being taking to speed up the processing time

Prospecting Licence Applications

4 months

The Division is engaged in an ongoing process of business process refinement to identify areas for improvement. This process will be reflected in the Department’s Statement of Strategy 2008-2011.

State Mining Lease/Licence applications

N/A Each application is dealt within timescale agreed with applicant

None. The issuance of such leases and licences is an extensive and relatively infrequent occurrence in which timescales are individually agreed with applicants.

Section 14 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 Authorisations for exemptions to carry out works for the purposes of artificial propagation.

1 week

The applications are processed in the shortest possible time frame given that the Department needs to consult the relevant Fisheries Board and its scientific advisors in the Marine Institute prior to issue.

Petroleum Licences & Licensing Option Applications

4.5 months

New computer system and management system in place which will lead to reduced times

Applications for Petroleum Leases

No application for Petroleum Lease since July 2002

Broadcasting Services.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

87 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his Department’s readiness for the digital terrestrial television switch over; if the south east and east of Ireland will be affected when Wales switches off analogue in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35621/07]

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

102 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress that has occurred to date in the preparation for the launch of digital terrestrial television; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35475/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 102 together.

The 2007 Broadcasting (Amendment) Act introduces a framework for the licensing of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in Ireland. Under this legislation, RTÉ is required to carry the current national TV channels of RTE and RTE 2, TV3 and TG4 over a national, free to air DTT multiplex and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) is required to offer multiplexes for the provision of additional commercial DTT services. It is anticipated that, before 2012, there could be many TV channels available on DTT. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is tasked with ensuring that sufficient spectrum is available for DTT services and that spectrum licences are issued to RTÉ and the BCI. I am satisfied that ComReg, BCI and RTÉ are making progress in delivering on their statutory duties.

The EU has proposed a deadline of 2012 for the switching off of analogue television broadcasting. It is expected that the coming year will see the upgrading and development of networks for digital terrestrial broadcasting. It is probable that actual DTT broadcasting will commence in the 2008/2009 period.

Analogue broadcasting is due to be switched off by the UK Government in Wales in 2009. At this time, the south east of Ireland will lose overspill reception of British analogue TV channels. The border area will continue to receive analogue overspill from Northern Ireland until 2012. It is anticipated that, from 2008 to 2012, there will be a steady development of Irish DTT services as a range of services aimed at meeting viewers needs are made available by both public service and commercial broadcasters.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

88 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he envisages TG4 will be financed in the long-term; the timeframe for implementation of appropriate corporate governance arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35620/07]

TG4 will continue to receive public funds to finance its operations, along with the income it receives from advertising. In the recent Estimates process, TG4 has been allocated €36.580m in funding, for the year ending 31 December 2008. As the Deputy is aware, TG4 was established as an independent statutory body from 1 April 2007. The Code of Practice for the Governance of State bodies applies to TG4 from that date. The funding arrangement for the station will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

The forthcoming Broadcasting Bill will outline the high level corporate governance arrangements in respect of Teilifis na Gaeilge and will propose the introduction of a mechanism for the review on a five year basis of the adequacy or otherwise of public funding for the station.

Departmental Agencies.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

89 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the statutory bodies for which he has ministerial responsibility, but for which he is not accountable to Dáil Éireann for daily operational activities; the budget for each of these statutory bodies; the level of contact between his Department and that body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35600/07]

The following table shows the bodies for which I have Ministerial responsibility for the information of the Deputy.

In relation to the budget for these bodies, I can advise that these details are available in their Annual Reports and Accounts. This information is a matter of public knowledge and is in the public domain. The Mining Board has no budget allocation and its expenses are paid through the Department's Vote. The National Salmon Commission has no budget allocation. I have no function in the day-to-day operational activities issues for any of the organisations or authorities operating within my Department's policy area. The level of contact between these bodies and my Department is appropriate to the needs of my Department and Body concerned.

The level of contact between these bodies and my Department varies from daily communication to weekly communication, depending on:

The scale of the body.

The nature of its responsibilities.

The legal relationship between the Department and the body in question.

The issues being handled by the body and between the Department and the body at any particular point in time.

Bodies under the aegis of DCENR

Board Name

An Post

Commission for Communications Regulation

Digital Hub Development Agency

RTÉ

TG4

Broadcasting Commission of Ireland

Broadcasting Complaints Commission

ESB

EirGrid

Bord Gáis Éireann

Commission for Energy Regulation

Bord Na Móna

Irish National Petroleum Corporation Ltd

National Oil Reserves Agency

Sustainable Energy Ireland

Loughs Agency

National Salmon Commission

Mining Board

Central Fisheries Board

Eastern Regional Fisheries Board

Northern Regional Fisheries Board

North Western Regional Fisheries Board

Shannon Regional Fisheries Board

Southern Regional Fisheries Board

South Western Regional Fisheries Board

Western Regional Fisheries Board

Proposed Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

90 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will fund further research and a detailed cost benefit analysis into the potential for deep geothermal energy exploitation in here; if he will provide legislation;the budget that will be made available for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35617/07]

Deep geothermal energy exploitation may offer the potential to supply an important part of Ireland's renewable energy mix. In order for this sector to develop to a level that is commercially sustainable, a regulatory and administrative regime would need to be implemented to provide for the orderly development of geothermal energy. Some complex issues in relation to ownership and access will need to be addressed in this context.

I am also conscious of the fact that the deep geothermal sector in Ireland is in a fledgling state and for this reason I am convening an internal informal group within my Department to address this issue. The group will carry out a stakeholder consultation early in the course of their work and, I would expect this to be launched early in the New Year. I have asked that they report to me as early as possible in the first half of 2008. I will then consider how to further progress this issue. Exploitation of earth resources is a private sector activity, which should be facilitated by the State and therefore the budgeting for the development of new geothermal resources will primarily be a matter for the private sector rather than the State.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

91 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he will manage and proceed with the investment required in order for the national grid to allow for more renewable energy; when he expects the 3000 MW of renewable energy in the grid connection application process to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35608/07]

The Investment Programme of at least €770 million by EirGrid in the transmission grid up to 2013 is designed to meet overall electricity demand, enhance security of supply and accommodate the connection of renewable energy sources to the grid in line with our ambitious targets up to 2020.

Decisions in relation to further investment in the grid will be informed by the findings of the All–Island Grid study, which will be published early in 2008. EirGrid is also preparing a Grid Development Strategy 2008–2025. The Strategy will take account of growing transmission demands, grid technology development and the growth of renewable energy as well as spatial strategy and regional development objectives.

There are now more than 1,000 Megawatts of renewable energy connected to the grid. EirGrid is currently completing a connections offer programme to the 1300 megawatts of renewable energy under "Gate 2". In excess of 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy applications is being assessed under the new "Gate 3" round.

Warmer Homes Scheme.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

92 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the budget allocated to the warmer homes scheme for each year since 2000 to date in 2007; the number of homes affected for each year up to and including 2007; the budget allocated for 2008; the number of homes that have applied for this scheme in 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35598/07]

The following table summarises the expenditure and houses remedied through Sustainable Energy Ireland's Low Income Housing programme from 2000 to date. The Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) was introduced in 2003.

Applications to the Warmer Homes Scheme are managed by the respective Community Based Organisations in their respective areas. They are responsible for identifying the client homes in consultation with a wide variety of community based services and also for managing any ad hoc applications for the services. It is expected that a budget of circa €2.5 million will be available for this scheme in 2008.

Year

Expenditure

Homes Retro-fitted

Locations and Measures**

€m

2000

0.15

1,430

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation. Locations: Dublin

2001

0.21

1,500

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation. Locations: Dublin

2002

0.34

1,600

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation. Locations: Dublin

2003

0.81

1,768

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation Locations: Dublin, Limerick, Donegal, Cork and Kerry

2004

0.81

1,947

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation,Cavity wall insulation, Hot water cylinder, Jackets, Low energy light-bulbs, Energy Advice. Locations: Dublin, Limerick, Donegal, Cork, Kerry and Wexford

2005

1.41

1,813

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation, Cavity wall insulation, Hot water cylinder Jackets, Low energy light-bulbs, Energy Advice. Locations: Dublin, Limerick, Donegal, Cork, Kerry, Wexford and Louth.

2006

1.98

2,124

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation, Cavity wall insulation, Hot water cylinder Jackets, Low energy light-bulbs, Energy Advice. Locations: Dublin, Limerick, Donegal, Cork, Kerry, Wexford, Louth, Galway, Mayo and Leitrim

2007*

2.47

3,050

Measures: Draught proofing, Attic insulation, Cavity wall insulation, Hot water cylinder Jackets, Low energy light-bulbs, Energy Advice. Locations: Dublin, Limerick, Donegal, Cork, Kerry, Wexford, Louth, Galway, Mayo, Leitrim and Clare

*Figures for 2007 are provisional outturn to date.
**The measures indicated comprise the total range of measures across all the Community Based Organisations (CBOs) operating within SEI's Warmer Homes Scheme. However certain CBOs do not offer cavity wall insulation services. Further the measures are only implemented as appropriate to the particular client homes.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

93 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his Department have conducted research into the likely revenue that would accrue to the Exchequer if oil and gas exploration companies were subject to the same taxation and royalties as in Norway. [35174/07]

The Deputy will be aware that in August of this year I announced revised licensing terms for oil and gas exploration and production. The Government decision to revise the fiscal licensing terms followed an independent review that included a comparative analysis of eight other exploration areas, including Norway. That review had regard to energy prices, water depths, operating and capital costs, along with the key consideration of Ireland's relative prospectivity as a location for exploration investment. The review recommended that Ireland's fiscal terms should be revised to provide for a higher tax take in the case of more profitable fields while holding the tax take at 25% in the case of more marginal fields. The Government decision provides for a tax take of up to 40% in the case of more profitable fields.

Having regard to the findings of the review that was completed earlier this year, I consider that introducing the Norwegian tax rate of 78% in Ireland in this sector, would result in no future applications for exploration licences, as the risk involved would be considered by the industry to be far too high. This would result in no new discoveries and as a result no tax return to the State. Adopting the other element of the Norwegian model, the rebate on unsuccessful wells, might encourage exploration. This would mean, however, that the Irish taxpayer would in fact pay the majority of the cost of unsuccessful exploration wells. This would, in my view, place an unreasonable burden on the Exchequer as a single deepwater well in the Atlantic can cost in the region of €100 million. I am of the view that it is the industry and not the State that should take the risk associated with investment in exploration for oil and gas.

I am satisfied that Ireland's revised licensing terms strike the right balance given the current record of success from exploration in Irish waters. The revised licensing terms are designed to attract what is mobile international investment, while ensuring a fair return to the State for its natural resources.

Electricity Transmission.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

94 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he will address the concerns of people regarding the erection of 400kV power lines in certain parts of the country; his views on installing these power lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35601/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

114 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the viability of putting the proposed 400kV north-south electricity interconnector underground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35470/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

413 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his preferred options for the transmission of power supplies in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35957/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 114 and 413 together.

The European Union is committed to ensuring secure and competitively priced electricity into the future. Better interconnection between electricity systems and major investment in transmission and distribution networks markets is a key priority for Europe. The Energy Policy Framework and the Programme for Government underlines Ireland's commitment to a more sustainable energy future through a range of measures including electricity interconnection and investment in the electricity networks.

The Single Electricity Market for Ireland came into effect on 1st November this year. As part of this market development, EirGrid is jointly developing the second North South electricity interconnector with its Northern Ireland counterpart. The increased capacity provided by this interconnector will facilitate security of supply, fuel savings, lower emissions and ongoing integration of wind generated energy onto the grid.

EirGrid is also strengthening the transmission network in Counties Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. The Woodland (County Meath) to Kingscourt (County Cavan) 400kV Power Line will reinforce the electricity system in the North East, facilitating competition in generation and ensuring secure power supplies for all customers. The new lines are critically needed because existing transmission in the region will reach full capacity in the near future. The ability of the North East region to attract new enterprise and maintain economic activity requires reliable electricity supply to business and consumers.

The Meath-Cavan Transmission Investment Power is in line with the Government's national and regional economic objectives, the National Spatial Strategy and overall energy policy goals. Strategic energy infrastructure investment is a national priority under the National Development Plan 2007–2013. The European Union Trans-European Network for Energy has funded 50% of the stage 1 planning phase for both the Meath–Cavan Power Line and the Cavan–Tyrone Interconnector.

The planning and development of these 400kV lines is an operational matter for EirGrid and I have no statutory function in this matter. The approval of the Transmission System Development Plan, is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation, (CER). Individual power transmission lines will also require approval from An Bord Pleanála under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act.

I have, however, received advice from EirGrid on the undergrounding of 400kV power lines. In international and European experience, high voltage electricity lines are only placed underground in heavily built up areas. In areas of dispersed settlement overhead lines are the most technically feasible solution to providing a secure and reliable supply of high voltage electricity. Overhead lines are also the most economic way of transporting power, with underground lines costing between six and 10 times as much as standard overhead lines. Cost is a key consideration given that electricity networks investments are financed by all electricity customers. In addition, finding and repairing a fault on an overhead line can usually be done within hours, whereas the same process for an underground line can take weeks if not months to effect. A prolonged time delay in repairing a fault in a high voltage power line would cause a lengthy and significant loss of supply to a large number of electricity customers including businesses.

The information available to EirGrid is that, there is no 400kV Alternating Current (AC) line of the length required in these two projects placed underground in any part of the world. Some 97% of the onshore high voltage transmission network in Europe is of high voltage alternating current carried by overhead lines.

In routing overhead lines EirGrid's operational approach is to maintain as much distance as possible from communities and houses. A minimum clearance of 50 metres is the EirGrid routing target.

As Deputies are aware, EirGrid is carrying out extensive public consultation and information dissemination at local community level on the proposed routes for the transmission lines in question. Local communities and concerned parties will also have the opportunity to raise concerns in the context of the planning process, once the consultation phase is concluded.

Sustainable Travel.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

95 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the part he has taken in preparing a sustainable travel and transport action plan; the extent of his role in same to date; the timeframe for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35623/07]

My Department is represented on the Cross-Departmental Group on Sustainable Travel and Transport. The work of the group is informing the finalisation of a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan to be published by my colleague, the Minister for Transport in 2008.

Electricity Generation.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

96 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the proportion of the fuel used in electricity generation here that is imported from the UK; the action he proposes to reduce this dependence on one country for this vital function; the contingency plan he has in place to deal with a fuel shortage in the UK and the consequent effect on the electricity generation here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35474/07]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

104 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the percentage of Ireland’s overall energy supply which is imported from the UK; his plans to reduce Ireland’s dependence on one country; the position regarding the proposed publication of the all-island gas storage and LNG study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35631/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 104 together.

Currently over 90% of Ireland's energy needs are provided for by imports. In order to ensure the security of our energy supply, the Government's objective is to reduce our reliance on imports and to significantly enhance diversity of energy sources.

Natural gas, coal and oil accounted for 50%, 19% and 9% respectively of electricity generation in Ireland in 2006 while renewable sources provided 11% of overall generation. I am advised by the CER that, with increasing usage, natural gas now accounts for over 60% of electricity generation in Ireland.

With the decline of the Kinsale gas field and, pending the full development of the Corrib field, we now import over 90% of our natural gas from the UK. Natural gas transported through the UK network comes from fields in the North Sea, the Netherlands, Norway and Russia. The Energy Policy Framework points to the need to develop longer term strategies to reduce over-reliance on gas imports from the UK. The actions set out in the Framework include long term strategic planning by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) in relation to security of gas supply and working within the European Union to deliver fully integrated regional gas markets for Northern Europe and diversification of supply.

The CER has granted a gas storage licence to Marathon Oil Ireland Ltd to make the full capability of its depleted Kinsale facility, which has a capacity of 7 billion cubic feet (bcf), available to third parties. This is the first such storage facility in Ireland and BGE has contracted to use over 5 bcf of it. The planned development of a merchant LNG storage facility at Shannon may also have a positive impact on the security of our gas supply and improve our connectivity to the global gas market.

Earlier this year, my Department in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for Northern Ireland (DETINI) commissioned a joint study on a common approach on natural gas storage and liquefied natural gas (LNG) on an All-Island basis.

The study has assessed the medium to long-term position with regard to security of natural gas supply on an all-island basis, to consider the scope for a common approach on natural gas storage and LNG with a view to optimising that position, and to make recommendations accordingly. The report has been received in recent weeks and the findings are currently being assessed by both Departments, North and South.

The connection of the Corrib gas field, with its estimated capability to supply some 60% of our annual natural gas requirements over the first 3-4 years of production, will also significantly reduce our dependence on imports during that period.

Existing gas interconnection and planned electricity interconnection between Ireland and Great Britain, is a key plank in our security of energy supply strategy. The current interconnection capacity with the UK Grid (through Northern Ireland) of 300 MW, will be increased by 500 MW with the delivery of the new East West electricity interconnector between Ireland and Wales by 2012. Enhanced interconnection, in both electricity and gas, will assist in promoting the regional energy market, in line with EU security of energy internal market objectives.

To further reduce our dependence on imported fuel, the Government has set ambitious and essential targets for the increased penetration of renewable energy. Connected wind capacity will reach over 900 MW by year end, which will represent a very significant increase of over 25% of installed wind capacity since the start of 2007. It is also a priority to ensure the provision of flexible generation plant to accommodate electricity coming on to the system from wind generation.

As regards imports of oil, in 2005, the latest year for which definitive figures are available, 65% of Ireland's oil imports were sourced from the UK, with crude accounting for 12% and products accounting for 88% of those imports. In the same year Norway accounted for 28% of our oil imports, of which crude consisted of 93% and products 7%. The Irish downstream industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated. My Department is currently undertaking a strategic review of security of oil supplies which will include consideration of security of commercial access to oil supply.

In relation to contingency planning, Bord Gáis Networks, as National Emergency Manager for the gas network, has detailed arrangements in place to maintain supplies in the event of a shortage of gas imports from the UK. BGN also works closely with the ESB and EirGrid, under the direction of the CER, to ensure coordination between the emergency arrangements for both the gas and electricity networks. Furthermore, BGN participates in the UK arrangements for gas emergencies, and are thus able to keep abreast of both the procedures in place in the UK, and the potential impact that any curtailment of gas supply in the UK could have on Ireland.

Grant Payments.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

97 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to further encourage energy research development; the position regarding the grants available under Charles Parsons II; the position in relation to the energy research strategy; the budget available to this area in 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35632/07]

The Energy Policy Framework and the Programme for Government underline the Government's priority commitment to energy research development and innovation in line also with EU priorities. The Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy and the National Development Plan both reflect the vital importance of energy research and innovation to underpin the energy sector and the imperative to deliver sustainable, competitive and secure energy supplies for the economy and society. Our ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency targets in particular require a significant ramping up of research and innovation.

A comprehensive energy research strategy is currently being finalised by the Irish Energy Research Council, which will advise on the key energy research priorities in the short to medium term. Building national energy research capacity and capability has already been identified as an area for priority attention. The Charles Parsons awards have already committed €20 million for the period 2007 to 2012 to progressively develop energy research capacity in third level institutions.

The Programme for Government also commits to enhancing the remit of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to include a third research pillar in the area of sustainable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and discussions are underway with SFI accordingly. In the context of taking forward this commitment, I am considering carefully the approach to take in respect of a second round of the Charles Parsons Awards.

At the end of 2006, €7.9m from the Department's Vote was expended on the first tranche of funding under the Charles Parsons Awards covering the period 2007 to 2009. The projected 2007 outturn for the energy RTDI subhead of the Vote is estimated at €515,000. As announced on Budget Day we are providing €13.1 million for energy RTDI in 2008 including new funding of €5 million to underpin Ocean Energy Research and Development.

Semi-State Bodies.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

98 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the up to date position in regard to the future structure and operation of the ESB: the extent to which discussions have taken place with the various interests involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35561/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

415 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he has had discussions with the ESB, management and unions in the context of the future structures of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35959/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 415 together.

Government policy is clear on the retention of the ESB Group as a strong, commercially viable and integrated State-owned entity.

The Programme for Government, together with the White Paper on Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland, explicitly confirms the Government's position that the electricity network, as a strategic national asset, will remain in State ownership and will never be privatised. The transfer of ownership of the transmission assets from ESB to EirGrid will take place by end 2008, in that context.

In line with successive Partnership Agreements, there will be a full process of engagement with the management and unions of both ESB and EirGrid on implementation of the transfer of the asset ownership function. The process will also include engagement on legitimate concerns of the ESB's Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT).

On 29 November 2006, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and ESB agreed a strategy, which includes an agreement for ESB to divest 1,300 MW of its existing capacity, to ensure the progressive reduction in ESB's market share in power generation to around 40% in an all-island market context by 2010. It is in this context that ESB Power Generation will continue to compete in the island of Ireland and, eventually, as the regional energy markets progress, the wider single energy market in the EU.

While ESB continues to develop its renewable energy portfolio on the island, approval has been given to the company to build a new power plant at Aghada, County Cork. Authorisation for the construction of Aghada is intrinsically linked to ESB's delivery on the CER-ESB Asset Strategy to the full satisfaction of the CER.

I expect that the ESB Group will play a leading role in supporting the development of renewable energy and demand side and management strategies. ESB International will be strongly growing its UK, European and international business. ESB Group will continue to compete successfully with Viridian, Airtricity and all other independents in power-generation and electricity supply in the all-island electricity market.

I met the ESB Group of Unions on 23rd July in relation to the energy policy objectives set out in the Programme for Government and the Energy Policy White Paper, which impact on ESB.

I have made it clear to the Group of Unions that I am willing to discuss constructively any legitimate issues of concern that they may have. I look forward to a positive process of engagement and to further meetings as appropriate with the Group of Unions.

I intend meeting the ESB's Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT) early in 2008 on a range of issues, including the transfer of the transmission assets. As was the case in my meeting with the Group of Unions, I will be listening to any concerns that they might have on the issues and providing a clear outline of my own position and that of the Government.

I have no doubt that the ESB has a vibrant future ahead. Given its prominence and central role in the Irish energy sector, ESB has a crucial contribution to make in the challenges ahead.

Postal Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

99 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has a cost benefit analysis of the introduction of postcodes here; when he will publish a cost benefit analysis of the proposed postcode system; when a general consultation process will take place; the type of postcode system he favours; the timeframe of implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35612/07]

The National Postcode Project Board (NPPB) has presented its recommendation as to the most appropriate postcode system for Ireland, the costs and benefits arising from its introduction along with a detailed implementation plan. As part of its analysis, the NPPB's advisors carried out an extensive consultation with stakeholders both within the postal sector and outside it with a view to arriving at a postcode model that best meets the needs of the stakeholders and measures the likely costs and benefits of the introduction, promotion and maintenance of such a postcode.

After consideration of the matter in May this year, the Government decided that further analysis and quantification of the wider economic and societal benefits of postcodes would be required. Subsequently, the commitment to introduce a postcode system in Ireland was contained in the Programme for Government 2007-2012 and I am currently considering the issues involved in order to progress the project which I believe will play a vital role in the development of a modern communications network for the country.

Departmental Schemes.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

100 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the installation of pilot scheme smart electronic meters; when same will be rolled out to every home as per the Programme for Government; the full cost for the pilot scheme and the estimated cost for the roll out to every home; the geographic locations of the pilot scheme; if this will facilitate the introduction of a micro generation strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35616/07]

The Programme for Government commits to having a smart meter in every home as part of demand management and energy efficiency strategies. The provision of smart metering technology will allow customers to manage their own demand for electricity and reduce their bills. In this way, smart metering is a key strategy for promoting efficient use of electricity and reducing the amount of electricity we generate, particularly at peak times. This, in turn, would lead to reductions in both the costs of generating electricity, which is at its most expensive at peak times and in the levels of harmful emissions produced by that generation. Smart metering will also assist in the further development of micro generation, by facilitating the export of micro generated electricity, and the development of distributed generation.

The implementation of smart metering is being led, at my request, by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and overseen by a High level Steering Group comprising My Department, CER, Sustainable Energy Ireland, ESB Networks (ESBN) and an Independent Operators representative.

Technical Working Groups, with wider industry representation, are being established by the CER, and will be operational from January next to address all relevant issues such as tariffing, networks, data management and the optimal geographic distribution for the first phase roll out. ESB Networks has initiated the procurement process for smart meters and anticipates test meters will be available by mid 2008. ESBN plans an ambitious roll out of meters to begin in summer 2008 with a view to meeting the target of 25,000 meters installed by years end.

At this early stage the best estimate available for the cost of the first phase roll out of 25,000 meters is €10m. The initial estimate for the full network roll out is of the order of €600m under the Networks Investment Programme, which is regulated by the CER.

Fishing Industry.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

101 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the payment of drift net fishermen through the Lough’s Agency; and if the Government sought a meeting with the EU commissioner in relation to the matter. [35279/07]

I am advised that all applicants under the Salmon Hardship Scheme, operated by the Loughs Agency, who have fulfilled the requisite conditions will receive payments now that State Aid approval has, I understand, been intimated by the European Commission. When lodging the application for approval, a meeting with officials was offered by my Department to the Commission in order to facilitate the adjudication process but, in the event, not taken up.

Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 87.

Electricity Generation.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

103 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the background and reason for the major policy shift from the Energy Green Paper to the Energy White Paper in relation to the transfer of ownership of assets from ESB to Eirgrid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35607/07]

There was no major policy shift between the Energy Policy Green Paper and the Energy Policy White Paper in relation to the transfer of the ownership of the transmission assets from ESB to EirGrid. The Green Paper which was launched in October 2006 for a period of public consultation, outlined the options for future energy policy, including the competitiveness of energy supply.

The Green Paper signalled the need for structural change in the electricity Sector. The Green Paper also stated clearly that it was the Government's intention to retain a strong, commercially viable ESB and that the Government did not intend to privatise or atomise the ESB. The policy directions set out in the White Paper are fully consistent with these positions.

The Green Paper also stated that it was the Government's firm view that strategic electricity assets should be retained in State ownership for the long term. The decision to transfer the transmission assets to EirGrid as the State-Owned independent system operator is fully in line with this position.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 96.

Prospecting Licences.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

105 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will comment on his recent decision to decline applications for licenses for exploration of uranium; his views on whether this complements his calls for a debate on nuclear energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35603/07]

My recent decision not to grant Prospecting Licences to two companies which would have allowed them to search for uranium in Donegal was taken after careful consideration. The most likely end use of any uranium extracted here would be for nuclear electricity generation. It would not be consistent, therefore, to permit the extraction of uranium for use in nuclear reactors in other countries, while Ireland is opposed to the use of electricity generated by nuclear power in Ireland.

In granting a Prospecting Licence to search for any mineral, the clear understanding is that if a commercial discovery is identified, the Licence holder will be able to proceed with an application to mine the deposit. It follows then, that it would not be right to allow an exploration company to carry on searching for a mineral when it is our clear policy not to allow extraction of that mineral.

I do not see that this decision conflicts with the idea of a debate on nuclear energy which I hope can take place within the Oireachtas Committee system. The debate should allow deputies or outside parties argue the case for an alternative policy position to the existing statutory ban on electricity generated by nuclear power in Ireland.

Electricity Generation.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

106 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when Eirgrid will report to him on cost benefit analysis and feasibility planning for electricity interconnection with north west Europe; the reason they will not report sooner; the reason he has not placed greater priority on the project; if, in his view this failure to place greater priority on the project will not lead to a situation where Ireland is highly dependent on the UK for both fuel to generate electricity and electricity itself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35476/07]

The Government attaches the highest priority to the development of electricity interconnection between Ireland and other EU Member States. The Energy Policy Framework underlines this commitment, which will contribute to security of supply and competitiveness. Greater interconnection between Member States is also a key priority for the European Union to ensure the effective working of the Internal Market.

I can advise the deputy that EirGrid is currently at an advanced stage in the planning of the second North South electricity interconnector with Northern Ireland, which will more than double the current cross-border power transfer capacity to over 600 megawatts (MW) and of the 500 MW East West electricity interconnector with Great Britain. While the immediate focus is on the delivery of the North South and East West electricity interconnectors, no later than 2012, EirGrid will be undertaking in the short term the necessary cost benefit analysis and feasibility planning for further interconnection with the UK and potentially with Europe.

The work that EirGrid is currently undertaking, together with the Commission for Energy Regulation, in planning and developing the East West interconnector will be clearly relevant to the development of further interconnection options, particularly in terms of appropriate technologies and projected costs.

Enhanced interconnection with the UK in the first instance will improve both the competitiveness and the security of Irish energy supplies through access to one of the most highly developed energy markets in Europe. The UK market is in turn linked to the wider European energy markets by both gas and electricity interconnectors and has recently invested heavily in additional import infrastructure including Liquefied Natural Gas terminals.

Connected wind capacity will reach over 900 MW by year end, which will represent a very significant increase of over 25% of installed wind capacity since the start of 2007. It is also a priority to ensure the provision of flexible generation plant to accommodate electricity coming on to the system from wind generation. The successful establishment of the All Island Single Electricity Market will contribute to ensuring the security, reliability and competitiveness of electricity supplies throughout the island.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 73.

Energy Efficiency.

James Bannon

Ceist:

108 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he will make up the shortfall of 50% in Budget 2008 for energy efficient initiatives. [35408/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

115 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will explain the 50% cut in funding for energy efficiency initiatives announced in Budget 2008; the initiatives that were funded under this programme in 2007; the initiatives that will be funded under this programme in 2008; the funding allocation in each year of each programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35471/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 115 together. Far from there being a shortfall for energy efficiency initiatives in Budget 2008, I announced additional funding for insulation, energy building rating schemes together with the energy efficiency programme for SMEs. This is in line with the Government's commitment to radically enhance energy efficiency in the interests of environmental sustainability and competitiveness. I am making some €63 million in total available in 2008 for energy conservation measures, together with a further €13 million for energy research and development initiatives. The €63 million funding for energy conservation measures, which is more than twice the original 2007 REV allocation for this area, will fund Sustainable Energy Ireland's programmes in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy. These include the House of Tomorrow Programme, the Public Sector Programme, the Industry Programme, the Low Income Housing Programme, the Greener Homes Scheme and many other smaller programmes.

The separate Subhead entitled "Energy Efficiency Initiatives" exclusively relates to the funding for the National energy efficiency awareness campaign, Power of One. The level of funding of €2.5 million in this subhead will meet the remaining contractual commitment in 2008 for the Power of One campaign, which was launched in 2006. Some €4.9 million has been spent on the campaign in 2007. The overall contractual commitment for 2006–2008 is €10 million.

Electricity Generation.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

109 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the all-island grid study; the benefits to having same complete and published; the length of time it has taken to complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35625/07]

The All Island Study is a comprehensive assessment of the ability of the electrical power system and, as part of that, the electricity grid on the island of Ireland to integrate significant levels of electricity produced from renewable energy sources. The study assesses renewable resources potential and the technical feasibility and the relative costs and benefits associated with a number of renewable generation scenarios in 2020.

All five workstreams of the Grid study have been finalised and will be submitted to my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry Northern Ireland in the coming days. It was commissioned in June 2005 and has been delivered on time and on budget. The study is a significant piece of complex cutting edge research in international terms.

Together with my Northern Ireland colleague, Minister Nigel Dodds, I propose to publish the Grid Study early in the New Year. The findings of the study will inform technical, investment and policy decisions in relation to grid development and renewable energy capacity in line with our target of 33% electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

110 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the electricity interconnection projects the ESB has offered to pay for; the reason he has for not accepting these offers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35477/07]

I have not received any formal offers from the ESB in relation to the funding of construction of an electricity interconnector. The Government decided in 2006 that the ownership of the East West Interconnector would be vested in EirGrid, the National Transmission System Operator. EirGrid in conjunction with the Commission for Energy Regulation is proceeding with the competitive procurement and construction of the Interconnector.

Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Energy Resources.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

112 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the outcome of the consideration of the Exchequer making a contribution towards the Strategic Energy Infrastructure Programme announced in the National Development Plan; the amount of money that has been invested under this programme to date; the outcomes particularly under the two headings of improved gas interconnection and strategic reserve capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35481/07]

The Strategic Energy Infrastructure Programme of the National Development Plan envisages the investment of over €1.25 billion in key strategic energy infrastructure projects. A number of large scale public good energy infrastructure projects have been identified in the Programme. These projects include the construction of the East/West electricity interconnector, the construction of a second North/South interconnector, enhanced security of gas interconnection through strengthening the Ireland/Scotland gas link and strategic oil and gas storage.

Because of the scale, strategic importance and immediacy of national energy needs, the Government will consider the possibility of an Exchequer contribution to fund, where appropriate and on a case by case basis, certain energy infrastructure projects over the period of the National Development Plan. Any decisions in this regard will be a matter for the Government.

The possibility of an Exchequer contribution to the cost of the East West Interconnector project is currently under consideration. The technical and financial details of a business case in this regard are being developed by EirGrid and the Commission for Energy Regulation together with my Department. The question of Exchequer funding to support potential projects on gas interconnection reinforcement and strategic oil and gas storage will be explored as part of the decision making process for such projects at the appropriate time.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

113 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the critical comments made by managing directors of companies (details supplied) in relation to Ireland’s broadband connectivity problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35630/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is primarily a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market that is regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services by competing private sector service providers. The widespread provision of broadband services has been a priority for Government.

There has been very significant progress in the broadband market. A recent report from the OECD shows that Ireland has the strongest per capita subscriber growth in the OECD, with Ireland adding 6.6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants during the past year, far ahead of the OECD average of 3.65 per 100 inhabitants. ComReg's report for quarter 3 of 2007, published yesterday, highlighted continuing strong growth in terms of broadband subscribers. There are now almost 800,000 subscribers which is an increase of 13.7% on the previous quarter. In addition my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In order to address this issue the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is currently under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met. The procurement process is being undertaken pursuant to the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 using a competitive dialogue procurement process.

The first phase of the procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four candidates have pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium.

The Department has invited these remaining candidates to participate in the "Competitive Dialogue" phase of the procurement process and to present their proposed solutions to meet the Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected and appointed in June 2008.

The matter of the speed of broadband services is, in the first instance, one for the service providers. Worldwide, the telecommunications sector is focusing its investment plans on what has become known as Next Generation Networks (NGNs), which are likely to see the delivery of higher-bandwidth broadband services over fibre-optic infrastructure. I understand many of the services providers in Ireland are formulating plans for the rollout of NGNs. It is important that service providers understand their customers' positions and I welcome the contributions being made by various commentators in that regard.

My Department is currently considering policy options in relation to the optimum role for Government in encouraging and facilitating the planning and rollout of next generation broadband in Ireland, including how existing Government owned infrastructure, and possible future Government investment, could help achieve national policy objectives in this area. A policy paper is being drafted in this regard. I will shortly be announcing an Advisory Forum of experts to critique the draft policy paper, following which, I will publish for consultation.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 94.
Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

117 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the UK’s new offshore wind power policy to power up to 25 million homes in the next 12 years; the lessons to be learned for Ireland; his further views on calls to put in place a framework to allow for a substantial roll out of offshore wind projects; his plans to address the complaints of NOW, the representative body of offshore wind sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35605/07]

I have noted with considerable interest the announcement last week by the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform of his proposals to enable the potential development of up to 33 Gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2020. I share Minister Hutton's belief in the vast potential for renewable energy in these islands, and we also share a clear determination to play our national roles in meeting the EU target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. I will be meeting my UK colleagues in the near future. Our respective ambitious plans to radically develop renewable energy sources will be top of the agenda.

I am committed to accelerated growth of renewable energy sources. The range of measures already in place to incentivise and support that growth will continue to be enhanced and developed. Ocean Energy, Solar Energy and Offshore Wind all have major potential and the Energy Policy Framework and the Programme for Government are committed to their development through incentivisation and systematically addressing the technical challenges. I will be working with all the stakeholders and the renewable energy industry, including the offshore wind sector, in the coming months to put in place the necessary frameworks to meet the challenges and opportunities for renewable technologies in the short to medium term.

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Telecommunications Services.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

119 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the rolling out of broadband for County Kerry. [35171/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

Under the current phase of the MANs Programme construction has commenced on four MANs in County Kerry. These MANs are being built in Castleisland, Killarney, Listowel and Tralee. Once completed these four networks will be available to all service providers who may offer high speed broadband services. Under the Group Broadband Scheme, grant aid was paid for the provision of broadband in the North Kerry and Sliabh Luchra areas of Co. Kerry.

There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. Accordingly, the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met. The procurement process is being undertaken pursuant to the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 using a competitive dialogue procurement process.

The first phase of the procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four candidates have pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium.

The Department has invited these remaining candidates to participate in the "Competitive Dialogue" phase of the procurement process and to present their proposed solutions to meet the Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected and appointed in June 2008.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

David Stanton

Ceist:

120 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if all semi-State bodies under the aegis of his Department have met and are maintaining the 3% employment quota of people with disabilities as per the provisions of the Disability Act 2005; the percentage of people with disabilities employed in each semi-State body respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35566/07]

Employment and recruitment of staff is a day-to-day operational matter for the agencies as is fulfilling their obligations under the Disability Act 2005 I have no direct function in these matters. However, the Department's Disability Act Sectoral Plan 2005 requires Agencies under the remit of the Department to report on the levels of employment of persons with disabilities.

The independent Monitoring Committee established, under section 48 of the Act, to oversee the implementation of the sectoral plan reported to me in July 2007 and I attach for the information of the Deputy, an extract from that report. The extract consists of a table outlining the position with regard to the 3% employment target for the employment of persons with a disability under the Act.

Name of public body

An Post

Com Reg

RTE

BCI

ESB

EirGrid

Bord Gais Eireann

Bord Na Mona

CER

NORA

SEI

Type of body

(Government department — G; Local authority — LA; Commercial — C; Non-commercial — NC)

C

C

C

C

C

NC

C

C

NC

NC

C

1

Data for monitoring target

1.1

Total employees

9,451

115

2,283

40

7,599

169

817

1,261

62

4

42

1.2

No of employees with a disability

180

5

83

2

461

8

26

31

3

0

0

1.3

Percentage of employees with a disability

1.90%

4.35%

3.64%

5.00%

6.07%

4.73%

3.18%

2.46%

4.84%

0.00%

0.00%

Name of public body

Central Fisheries Board

Western Regional Fisheries Board

South Western Regional Fisheries Board

Eastern Regional Fisheries Board

Shannon Regional Fisheries Board

North Western Regional Fisheries Board

Northern Regional Fisheries Board

Southern Regional Fisheries Board

Type of body

(Government department — G; Local authority — LA; Commercial — C; Non-commercial — NC)

NC

NC

NC

NC

NC

NC

NC

NC

1

Data for monitoring target

1.1

Total employees

57

55

43

50

51

46

58

34

1.2

No of employees with a disability

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

1.3

Percentage of employees with a disability

1.75%

1.82%

0.00%

0.00%

0.00%

2.17%

0.00%

0.00%

Telecommunications Services.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

121 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will expedite the upgrade of broadband infrastructure in County Donegal in view of the fact that hundreds of households and businesses still can not access any broadband facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35278/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include providing grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

To date, under the MANs Programme, Donegal has received a total of nine MANs. The following towns can now offer high speed, open access fibre optic networks: Letterkenny, Gweedore, Ballyshannon, Buncranna, Bundoran, Cardonagh, Donegal Town, Ballybofey and Stranorlar. Under the Group Broadband Scheme, grant aid was paid for the provision of broadband in North Central Donegal and around the areas of Ardara, Raphoe, Mannorcunningham and Newtowncunningham.

There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. Accordingly, the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is under way. The NBS will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband in unserved areas are met. The procurement process is being undertaken pursuant to the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 using a competitive dialogue procurement process.

The first phase of the procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four candidates have pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. As my Department indicated on 2 September 2007, the four candidates are, in alphabetical order, BT Communications Ireland Ltd Consortium, eircom Ltd, Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd and IFA/Motorola Consortium.

The Department has invited these remaining candidates to participate in the "Competitive Dialogue" phase of the procurement process and to present their proposed solutions to meet the Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected and appointed in June 2008.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

122 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the outcome of meetings he has held since 13 July 2007 as part of the whole Government Energy Innovation and Employment Initiative announced that day; the extra investment and jobs in the energy services and green technology sectors as a result of those meetings; if the IDA will have involvement in this initiative; if Exchequer funding will be available to encourage investment in the sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35479/07]

On 13 July this year, I hosted a forum for senior representatives from across the Irish energy sector. The purpose of holding the event was to start a dialogue with the key players on innovation and job creation in the energy sector.

Investment in clean and green energy technologies is growing worldwide. Ireland's advantage in renewable natural resources such as wind and ocean energy creates the potential to benefit from such investment. Our ambitious and essential targets for energy efficiency in the built environment and across the economy will also stimulate and support economic activity in the energy technology services and the building sector.

Meeting the challenge of climate change and ensuring secure energy supplies into the future means adopting a radically different approach to our energy services. I believe that these challenges are also tangible opportunities to generate significant economic activity in the energy services and green technology sectors, with clear benefits to the economy.

This forum was the beginning of a process of regular engagement with the energy industry. On 23 November I hosted a high-level discussion for senior members of the Irish and international finance community. This was an opportunity for discussion and an exchange of views with the finance community on the investment climate in Ireland for sustainable energy. I am planning a further energy innovation summit with the sector next March as part of a regular engagement and dialogue. Enterprise Ireland will continue to be involved in the engagement.

Exchequer assistance is currently targeted at promoting the development of the renewable energy sector by stimulating demand for renewable energy goods and services. The Greener Homes scheme which has stimulated significant demand by householders has achieved a dramatic increase in renewable technology suppliers and a ten-fold expansion in the number of renewable energy products available on the market.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

123 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps being taken to pursue the option of carbon capture and storage; the legislation, required to advance this method of addressing CO2 emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35628/07]

The assessment of the prospects for geological storage of carbon in Ireland is at a relatively early stage. A study by Sustainable Energy Ireland, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Geological Survey of Northern Ireland and Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) examining the potential for such storage on the island of Ireland is proceeding on schedule. The results of this study is due to be submitted to the Department by end September next year and at that point I will then decide how best to proceed in the matter.

An EPA-GSI project in the next 2 years will evaluate the prospect for potentially favourable sites in the Moneypoint region. This study is due to be submitted to the Department by end 2009. The GSI intends to affiliate to an active European network on geological storage of carbon to ensure we are fully aware of best practice on technical options relevant to Ireland.

My Department is also participating in other EU and international fora where the potential for carbon capture and storage is being progressed. The Commission's Strategic Energy Technology Plan was published on 22 November, setting out a proposed roadmap for energy research for the period to 2020. It sets out a number of key EU technology challenges for the next ten years including a CO2 capture, transport and storage project of industrial scale. I have welcomed, in principle, the overall direction of the plan. The question of legislative underpinning for geological storage of carbon will be kept under review in light of developments.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

124 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the measures he proposes to take in order to reduce the level of carbon emissions from electricity generating stations. [34761/07]

All commercial scale fossil fuelled electricity generating stations in Ireland are obliged to participate in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, as part of the national and EU contribution to meeting greenhouse gas emissions obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

My colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has overall responsibility for the management of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in Ireland. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for operating and monitoring the scheme here with participants being legally obliged to report their emissions levels on an annual basis to the EPA.

Under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, installations are granted a certain level of allowances and are required to either mitigate their emissions or purchase allowances for any emissions above the level of allowances. Accordingly, it is a matter for the individual electricity generating stations to decide on the most cost effective mix of abatement measures for their business.

The Government has already decided, in the context of the preparation of Ireland's second National Allocation Plan under the scheme, that the emissions trading sector as a whole will be responsible for making approximately 3 million tonnes annual reductions in greenhouse gases out of the approximately 7 million tonnes per annum reductions needed to enable Ireland to meet its Kyoto target over the period 2008 to 2012, after existing abatement measures have been taken into account. Research work being carried out by the GSI and others is also examining the potential future location of underground storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power plants.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

125 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach the number of posts filled in his Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in his Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35678/07]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

126 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach the number of posts filled in the Government agencies under his Department’s remit in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in these agencies that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or which were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35693/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 126 together.

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

127 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach further to a previous parliamentary question, if he will provide details of the incremental costs of all bodies from set up and annual budget with a break down of annual overheads. [35916/07]

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

Official Regulations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

128 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the extent to which the obligation to consider alternatives to regulation as contained in the quality regulation checklist in the Cabinet handbook has resulted in a reduction in the volume and burden of legislation on Irish society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35918/07]

The Cabinet Handbook provides that before Government approval for the drafting of legislation can be sought, Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) must be carried out. RIA is an assessment of the likely effects of a proposed new regulatory change. It involves a detailed analysis to ascertain whether or not the new regulation would have the desired impact. In cases where significant impacts or costs are involved, a full RIA must be carried out and this should include consideration of possible alternatives to regulation such as a tax or information campaign or an alternative form of regulation such as self-regulation or co-regulation.

In line with the commitments contained in Towards 2016, an independent Review of the operation of Regulatory Impact Analysis commenced on 31 October, 2007. The Review, which is expected to be completed early in the new year, will look at the extent to which alternatives to regulation have been considered.

The focus on Better Regulation means that we now have the tools and systems in place to facilitate a much more considered approach to regulation. This provides for a greater emphasis on whether desired policy outcomes can best be achieved through regulatory or alternative means. Where we do regulate, there is now a greater understanding of the impacts involved and the importance of quality regulation. This leads to a more balanced regulatory environment and appropriate regulatory outcomes.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35975/07]

My Department has engaged PA Consulting Group to provide expert support to assist the work of the Organisational Review Programme Team. The company is engaged from 1 October, 2007 for a minimum of 20 days over 6 months. To date, payments amounting to €23,958 have been made. The advice provided to date will be used by the Review Team in its work over the period ahead. Boyd Freeman Design to develop a logo. The cost amounted to €598.95.

RA Consulting was engaged on 1 November, 2007 to design and conduct an Employee Opinion Survey for the staff of my Department. The use of consultants helps to assure staff of the confidentiality of the survey and the independence of its findings. A report on these findings is expected shortly, which will help us in developing our new HR Strategy. The project does not relate to capital expenditure. The cost of the contract is €18,101, including VAT.

The Taskforce on Active Citizenship conducted consultations and presented a set of recommendations to Government in March 2007 which included proposals to improve policies that promote a continued sense of community and greater engagement with civic and democratic processes. There was no capital expenditure incurred in this project. A Steering Group, chaired by Mary Davis, is being established to oversee the work of the Active Citizenship Office as it prepares an implementation plan, in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

In December 2006, the Government approved the initiation of a major Review by the OECD of the Irish Public Service. The objectives of this Review are to benchmark the Public Service in Ireland against other comparable countries and secondly, to make recommendations as to future directions for Public Service reform which will support the Government's drive for delivery of world class services to the citizen and contribute to sustainable national competitive advantage. A High Level Steering Group of senior officials, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, is overseeing the Review.

This is the first comprehensive review of the Public Service — as a system — ever undertaken in this country. Given that this is the first whole of Public Service Review undertaken by the OECD, the work is very extensive and requires developing new approaches and working methods. In order for the OECD to develop a holistic approach to reviewing the Public Service as an entity and to apply it in the first instance to Ireland, the Government agreed to increase its contribution to the OECD on a once-off basis by €490,000, to be paid over two years — 2006 and 2007. This Review will assist us in mapping out a new phase of the change and modernisation programme building on the significant change which has already occurred. It is expected that the Review will be completed and published early in 2008. This advice does not relate to capital expenditure.

Fitzpatrick Associates were employed at the end of 2006 to undertake an evaluation of Customer Charters across the Civil Service. Their brief was to evaluate

the quality of Charters across Government Departments and Offices;

the visibility and accessibility of Charters; and

their effectiveness.

They were also required to recommend actions to improve the process and enhance the delivery of service to Civil Service Customers. The report of the evaluation was presented to Government on 25 July, 2007. On foot of the report, the Government established a Task Force on Customer Service to implement the recommendations of the Report. The work also fed into the revision of Guidelines for the Preparation of Customer Charters and Customer Action Plans. These guidelines are currently being finalised and will be distributed across the Civil and Public Service in the coming weeks. The cost of the consultancy was €57,838. This advice does not relate to capital expenditure.

Ms Isolde Goggin and Ms Gillian Lauder are undertaking a review of the operation of Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA). The cost of this consultancy will be €108,900. The final report is expected early 2008. This advice does not relate to capital expenditure.

Goodbody's Economic Consultants were engaged by my Department in March 2006 to provide economic support to Government Departments and Offices for the application of Regulatory Impact Analysis. This advice was on an ongoing basis and the contract finished in 2007. The cost of this consultancy was €29,040. This advice does not relate to capital expenditure.

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) comes under the aegis of my Department. It consists of the National Economic and Social Council, (NESC), the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP). NESDO has engaged Anne Brady McQuillan DFK to provide accountancy services following a request for quotations in October 2006.

Statute Law Revision.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

130 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach his views on whether in the interests of practicality and value for money, the focus of the statute law revision project should be shifted from local, personal and private acts and charters to post 1922 Acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36009/07]

Significant progress has been made in the area of statute law revision and reform in recent years. The ultimate goal is to create a modern and streamlined Irish Statute Book which is more accessible to the citizen and to business. The Statute Law Revision Act, 2007 provided for the repeal of 3,225 obsolete Acts which predated Irish independence. The Act builds on the Statute Law Revision Act, 2005 under which more than 200 obsolete acts were repealed. The current phase of the Statute Law Revision Project, focusing on Local, Personal and Private Acts, will see the completion of analysis of all pre-1922 primary legislation and the availability of a complete list of such legislation which remains in force.

The focus to date of the Statute Law Revision Project on pre-1922 legislation has been a necessary first step in creating a modern Statute Book, but it is not an end in itself. This phase has cleared away the deadwood of thousands of redundant and obsolete Acts that were clogging the Statute Book.

The next phase of the project will allow us to focus on the remaining extant pre-1922 legislation and post-1922 legislation and to see clearly what now needs to be repealed and re-enacted in modern, consolidated form. Good progress has already been made in this regard, with consolidation underway in key policy areas such as Land Law and Conveyancing; Liquor Licensing; Companies Law and Financial Services. In addition, the Law Reform Commission is undertaking a programme of Statute Law Restatement, which will serve to make post-1922 legislation more accessible by providing, in the case of selected Acts, a single up-to-date text including all amendments. This process of Restatement will also facilitate future consolidation and modernisation of legislation.

I agree that the focus of future efforts should be on post-1922 legislation and particularly on the consolidation and modernisation of legislation in key areas. It is a matter for each Minister to bring forward proposals in relation to legislation under his or her aegis and I strongly support further efforts in this regard.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

131 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36032/07]

The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Finance is responsible for the overall decentralisation programme. There are no proposals to decentralise my Department or any of the bodies under its aegis.

Departmental Properties.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

132 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason he chose to demolish part of his Department’s premises on Leeson Lane in view of the historical significance of this building; the action he will take in relation to the space after demolition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35727/07]

The building in question is one of a pair of buildings which are surplus to requirements and are therefore being sold. The demolition of part of one of the buildings was done to remove planning risk, which would create greater certainty for the buyer and thus greater value for the exchequer in terms of the purchase price paid. Having consulted with the relevant bodies, we are satisfied that the portion of the building which we retained on site contains the majority of the most architecturally valuable features.

Drug Seizures.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

133 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of checks for drugs carried out at private airfields nationwide; if drugs have been located on private flights coming into Ireland; the checks that take place at these private airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35934/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Customs Service has primary responsibility for the implementation of drugs enforcement controls at all airports and private airfields/ aerodromes in the State. I presume that the Deputy is referring to customs controls in place at the airfields and aerodromes outside of our three major international community airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that Customs controls at such airfields/aerodromes are risk-based and are carried out by mobile Customs Enforcement Officers. Attendance by these Officers is selective and targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. Flights with origins and destinations with a high risk-rating would attract particular interest. These attendances cover the full range of flight times and are kept under constant review in particular to take account of emerging smuggling trends and any traffic increases at these airfields.

Since the beginning of 2007 there were 422 visits by Customs Enforcement Officers to such airfields/aerodromes. Drug detector dog teams were also deployed. There were 15 seizures of controlled drugs. All of these were small "own use" quantities and none were for supply.

In addition to drugs enforcement work, other duties are undertaken by officers in attending airfields/aerodromes including controls against the smuggling of excise products, the clearance of aircraft and passengers arriving from third countries, spot checks on EU flights, the verification of fuel drawback claims, the verification of end-use authorisations, clearance of aircraft under transfer of residence, and checks on private aircraft to ensure compliance with import procedures.

It is important to note by way of context that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than for anti-smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of these airfields/aerodromes where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. In fact some of the smaller ones had no international flights. In this context, Revenue's approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

The Revenue Commissioners assure me that having regard to the context set out above, they are satisfied that their risk-based approach remains valid and their operations are on a par with, and may even exceed, those of many other EU Member States. I am also assured by the Revenue Commissioners of their strong commitment to playing their part in combating smuggling and criminal activity without unduly impeding legitimate international travellers or international trade.

Disabled Drivers.

John Perry

Ceist:

134 Deputy John Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Sligo was turned down on their application for VRT rebate on an adapted vehicle in view of the fact that they have a physical disability and their driving licence prohibits them driving anything other than an adapted vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36010/07]

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area.

If the Primary Medical Certificate has been refused in this case, the named person may appeal the refusal to the Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. I would point out that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

135 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the revenue charges per transaction for laser and credit cards; his views on whether these act as a disincentive to use of electronic payment methods. [35710/07]

There are no Revenue charges on transactions carried out using either debit cards or credit cards. There is, however, a stamp duty on financial cards which is being reduced as announced in my recent Budget speech. The charges are:

A 25 per cent cut in the duty on credit cards reducing the charge from €40 to €30;

A 50 per cent cut in the duty on ATM and debit cards reducing the charge from €10 to €5; and

A 50 per cent cut in the duty on combined ATM and debit cards reducing the charge from €20 to €10.

Architectural Heritage.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

136 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if works on the historic Swiss Cottage and its adjacent bridge in Cahir, County Tipperary have been completed; when it is proposed to reopen this important tourist attraction; the projected final costs involved in the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35740/07]

Works to the structure of the Swiss Cottage and the adjacent bridge are completed. Landscaping and ancillary works are ongoing. The projected costs are in the order of €0.5 million. A formal re-opening will take place at the Swiss Cottage in March 2008 and the site will be open from mid March to mid October.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

137 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 121 of 28 November 2007, if the contracts have been signed and the site is now in State ownership. [35777/07]

Contract documents have not yet be finalised and therefore have not been forwarded to the Department of Education & Science for signing.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

138 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will estimate the cost of restructuring stamp duty for non first time residential buyers where there is 0% for transactions of up to €100,000, 5% on the next €350,000 and 9% on the balance; the estimated cost for the same buyers if 0% for transactions of up to €125,000, 7% on the next €875,000 and 9% on the balance; and if he will calculate this on the basis of transaction and price levels for both 2006 and 2007. [35844/07]

It is presumed the Deputy is referring to the costs relative to the old residential stamp duty rules which were in place prior to Budget 2008. These costs are a function of the actual and estimated number of transactions and the price levels at which these transactions take place, and are therefore sensitive to cyclical changes in the housing market.

The estimated cost of restructuring stamp duty for only non-first time residential buyers where there is 0% for transactions of up to €100,000, 5% on the next €350,000 and 9% on the balance would be of the order of €400m and €320m on the basis of transactions in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

The estimated cost of restructuring stamp duty for only non-first time residential buyers where there is 0% for transactions of up to €125,000, 7% on the next €875,000 and 9% on the balance would be of the order of €285m and €240m on the basis of transactions in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

The Deputy should note that the costs of the Stamp Duty changes introduced in Budget 2008 took into account an assumption that there will be lower levels of activity in the housing market next year as compared to the exceptional levels of activity that have been evident in more recent years.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

139 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of cars were imported into Ireland in 2005, 2006 and 2007; the level of under-declared VRT on imported cars in 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35860/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the available information in respect of the number of cars (new and used) imported into Ireland for the years 2005, 2006 and the period 1 January to 30 November 2007 is as follows:

Year

2005

New

171,881

Used

41,801

Total

213,682

2006

New

178,265

Used

56,327

Total

234,592

2007

New

186,323

(Jan to Nov)

Used

56,864

Total

243,187

I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of Vehicle Registration Tax which might be under-declared on cars imported to the State between 2005 and 2007 is fully quantifiable only by reference to the detection of the particular offence in each and every case. Revenue enforcement officers, who are based at numerous locations around the country, carry out regular and ongoing checks to identify and deal with breaches of VRT legislation involving under-declarations. Their officers engage regularly in operations, including multi agency operations, which are targeted at high-risk areas of VRT evasion. These operations can result in warning notices being issued to individuals who appear to have been late in registering their vehicles, or in seizure of the vehicles where significant and intended under-declaration of VRT is encountered. In these latter cases the vehicle may be returned on payment of the under-declared VRT together with a penalty, or in some instances prosecution can result.

As a result of operations in 2005, 1,195 warning notices were issued and this resulted in payments of VRT totalling €3,380,627. In addition, 927 vehicles were seized during 2005 and resulted in payments of VRT and penalties totalling €3,866,375. In 2006, 1,955 warning notices were issued which resulted in €5,309,272 in VRT being collected. In addition 999 vehicles were seized during 2006 with €1,844,609 in VRT and penalties being recovered. In 2007 to date, 1,944 warning notices were issued and resulted in VRT payments of €5,937,497. In addition 1,016 vehicles were seized resulting in €1,223,726 in VRT and penalties being paid. In a special operation in the last few days, 103 vehicles were seized and it is estimated that the revenue at risk is around €500,000. In 2005 there were 23 convictions for VRT related offences. In 2006 there were 8 convictions and 16 convictions in 2007.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

140 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the arrangements his Department makes for direct provision or funding of childcare for civil servants in his Department; the average daily and weekly cost per child of such services as subsidised by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35901/07]

There are no childcare facilities specifically for the children of civil servants in my Department. The Office of Public Works acts as agent for my Department in developing crèches around the country for the children of civil servants as part of an initiative by the Government to improve childcare provision and increase the number of childcare places available in Ireland. The Interim Board of the Civil Service Childcare Agency (the Board) manages the Initiative. Operators are appointed by the Board following a tendering process. These operators must manage the crèches on a commercial basis.

At present there are six crèches in operation under this Initiative — providing around 170 full-time childcare places. The crèches are located in Mount Street and Marlborough Street in Dublin and in Ennis, Athlone, Sligo and Backweston, Celbridge.

Building work commenced on 16th April 2007 on a 135 place crèche at Mahon in Cork. It is expected that this crèche will be completed early next year and open for business in September 2008.

As of 1st January 2008, fees in the Dublin area will be babies €189 per week, toddlers €179 per week and Montessori €163 per week. Fees outside Dublin will be babies €160 per week and toddlers €140 per week. Other rates used by the crèches such as a daily rate etc, are calculated on a pro rata basis. The Civil Service Childcare Initiative introduced in 2001 is currently undergoing a Value for Money and Policy Review which is due for completion early 2008.

Departmental Bodies.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

141 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to a previous parliamentary question if he will provide details of the incremental costs of all bodies from set up and annual budget with a break down of annual overheads. [35912/07]

Where appropriate, financial provision is made in the relevant supply services as published in the Estimates for the Public Services and accounted for in the annual Appropriation Accounts. In relation to statutory bodies, financial information is provided in their published accounts.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

142 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the use here of trusts with charitable status being used for the purposes of holding complex financial instruments, such as securitised mortgages and loans; his estimate of the number of such trusts in operation here; the contribution such trusts make to charities; if the activities of such trusts are monitored by him and his Department or the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35933/07]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to securitisation special purpose vehicles (SPVs). Securitisation SPVs are as a general rule unaffiliated in terms of their ownership structure. It is an essential function of these SPVs that they are not owned by the originating institution; this allows the investor to rely on the asset within the SPV, and protects the investor from any risk of exposure to the originating institution.

As these SPVs are not in the ownership of the originating institution it is a normal feature that they would be held by a charitable trust structure, established for the purpose of holding the equities in the SPV.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are aware that in a typical securitisation transaction it is common practice for the shares in the SPV to be owned by a charitable trust. The Revenue Commissioners are not aware of the number of such trusts nor the contribution that such trusts make to charities. These trusts are not within the exempt charity regime, and are chargeable to tax under the normal rules relating to trusts.

The taxation of securitisation companies is governed by section 110 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Such companies are charged to corporation tax at 25%. The normal rate of tax for trading companies is 12.5%. There are 1,057 companies which have notified the Revenue Commissioners that they qualify for treatment under Section 110.

Appropriate company law and other provisions apply to these structures, and the institutions arranging and originating the SPVs are generally regulated by the Financial Regulator or its equivalent in other jurisdictions.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

143 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the average age of staff in the following grade of principal officer, standard and higher scales assistant principal officer, standard and higher scales and higher executive officer, standard and higher scales in respect of the Revenue Commissioners; the number of retirements and resignations at each of the grades in 2006; the number of staff at these grades from the former taxes grades, opting for relocation in other Departments or offices; the number of staff retiring or resigning in 2007; and the estimate of the number of staff expected to retire and resign in these grades during 2008 and 2009 if available. [35941/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information the Deputy requires is as follows:

1.Average PO age (combined standard and higher scale) = 53

2.Average AP age (combined AP std & AP HS) = 52

3.Average HEO age (combined HEO std & HEO HS) = 49

4.Relocating to other departments/offices from former taxes grades 2006/2007 = 19

5.Retirements/resignations at PO, AP & HEO in 2006

PO10

AP25

HEO35

Grand Total70

6.Retirements/resignations at PO, AP & HEO in 2007

PO9

AP22

HEO35

Grand Total66

7.Estimates of retirements/resignations for 2008 & 2009 not available.

State Property.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

144 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position of the house at Farmleigh, renovated to head of State and Government status, and suitable as the Taoiseach’s residence; the cost of refurbishment of the house and its grounds to date; the number of days and nights it has been occupied and by whom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35945/07]

The Deputy may be referring to the Steward's House at Farmleigh. The Steward's House was recently refurbished to provide additional guest accommodation as part of the overall Farmleigh complex but separate from the main house. The Steward's House is an integral part of the Farmleigh Estate and it was included as part of the purchase of Farmleigh by the State in 1999. Much of the renovation work was done by the building maintenance service of the Office of Public Works as part of its ongoing programme of works. External contracts directly associated with the renovation work amounted to €568,076 inclusive of VAT. In addition, direct landscaping contracts came to €30,748 inclusive of VAT. Since it became available for use, one group of 3 guests, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and two others, were accommodated in Steward's House for 2 days and 2 nights.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

145 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of nights for each of the past five years that Farmleigh has been used for overnight visitors; the persons who have used it; the cost of such overnight visits per head; the annual cost of running Farmleigh for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35946/07]

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to overnight usage of Farmleigh and the annual running costs of Farmleigh in each of the 5 years from 2002 to 2006 is given in the following tables. In addition to the cost of running Farmleigh as the premier guest facility for visiting Heads of State, the expenditure in each year supported significant other activity at Farmleigh in relation to its use as a venue for high level meetings and also the very successful public access and event programme. Details of these other activities are given in the attached tables also. In relation to the cost of overnight visits per head, while the OPW which manages Farmleigh, would have incurred costs associated with those visits, those costs would have been small in the context of the overall cost of the visits where most of the expenditure would have been borne by the Department of Foreign Affairs and/or the Department of the Taoiseach in relation to catering and general hospitality costs, and by the Garda Síochána in relation to security costs

Annual OPW Expenditure on Farmleigh Running Costs

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Operating/Running costs

3.357

3.183

3.563

3.456

4.586

Usage Patterns:

Summary of Residential Visits in recent years:

Year

No. of Guests

No. of Bednights

Duration of overnight stays

Main State Visits/Guests (Heads of State)(Overnights)

2002

127

205

1 – 3

Ethiopia, Luxembourg, Latvia, Nigeria, Slovenia

2003

134

258

1 – 5

Malaysia, Germany, Chile

2004

114

264

1 – 5

Secretary General of U.N.

2005

164

394

1 – 3

Hungry, Japan, Con of Judges, Serbia, Canada, Bulgaria

2006

102

269

1 – 4

Croatia, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Egypt,

2004 figures do not include guests for special EU Day of Welcomes ceremony on 1st May.

Summary of High Level Events held at Farmleigh:

Year

No. of Events

Nos Attending

2004

250*

8,141

2005

64

3,236

2006

96

4,350

* EU Presidency.

Public Access:

Summary of Public Events Programme

Year

Total No. of Visitors

No. of Guided Tours of House and Library

Total No. of Public Events

2003

120,928

359

22

2004

98,152

120

53

2005

180,487

161

58

2006

277,005

134

54

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

146 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [35947/07]

One Hundred and twenty-two (122) staff of my Department have decentralised to Tullamore and a further four (4) have accepted offers of decentralisation. Of those in Tullamore eighty two (82) staff transferred from Dublin posts to Tullamore, twenty-five (25) were serving in various other locations in the country and fifteen (15) were recruited specifically for Tullamore. About thirty (30) further posts in my Department are scheduled to be decentralised to Kildare of which twenty-six (26) are currently in place in Dublin pending the planned move.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that two (2) officers transferred from Dublin to temporary accommodation in Limerick in preparation for the move to Newcastle West. Forty-six officers (46) from outside of Dublin are also relocating to Newcastle West. Five (5) officers from Dublin have decentralised to Kilrush. A further fifty two (52) officers from outside of Dublin have relocated to Kilrush. Eight (8) officers from Dublin have decentralised to Listowel. A further forty four (44) officers from outside of Dublin have relocated to Listowel. Forty two (42) officers from Dublin have decentralised to Athy. A further two (2) officers from outside of Dublin have relocated to Athy. Seventy seven (77) officers from Dublin are due to decentralise to Navan in the first quarter of 2008. A further four (4) officers from outside of Dublin have accepted offers to decentralise to Navan.

I am informed by the Office of Public Works that twenty-three (23) staff in that Office have transferred to Claremorris. Of the personnel concerned, five (5) were based in Dublin and eighteen (18) were based outside of Dublin. The OPW has 187 staff in place in Dublin with a view to moving to their decentralised HQ in Trim.

With regard to the other agencies under the aegis of my Department, arrangements for decentralisation are proceeding in accordance with their implementation plans which have been prepared and submitted by each of the agencies to the Implementation Group. To date, no staff have been decentralised by the Public Appointments Service, the Valuation Office or Ordnance Survey Ireland. However ten (10) staff in the PAS and seven (7) staff in the Valuation Office are currently in posts in Dublin awaiting a transfer to Youghal. There are currently eighty-five (85) staff in OSI awaiting a transfer to Dungarvan. However, a certain number of these posts may be affected by the terms of the recent labour court recommendation in relation to the FÁS agency.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

147 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the capital cost including land, the leasing and rental commitments and additional commitments for each decentralised location to date as per the Government’s planned programme of decentralisation. [35948/07]

Schedule of locations where sites have been purchased:

Location

Site Cost

Carlow

1,440,000

Clonakilty

2,875,000

Buncrana

1,105,860

Killarney

4,500,000

Newcastle West

325,000

Longford

576,250

Trim

3,600,000

Thurles

967,500

Dungarvan

2,100,000

Knock

390,000

Cavan

2,900,000

Claremorris

2,500,000

Tipperary

1,625,000

Edenderry

1,500,000

Roscommon

3,000,000

Drogheda

10,075,000

Portlaoise

1,027,636

Mullingar

8,250,000

Wexford

3,500,000

Schedule of locations where long term lease terms have been agreed (permanent solutions):

Location

Rental Cost (p.a)

Estimated Fit-out cost

Kilrush

85,050

334,000

Listowel

183,000

1,513,000

Carrick on Shannon

800,000

4,721,000

Loughrea

139,235

572,000

Navan

1,015,300

6,013,000

Building Purchase

Location

Price including fit-out

Tullamore

10,034,000

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

148 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has been advised of the extent of the use of complex financial instruments in finance, banking and investment here; if he has an estimate of the amount involved currently including in the IFSC; the principal complex financial instruments in use here; his views in relation to Irish risk exposure in respect of such instruments and vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35949/07]

The term "complex financial instrument" is not defined in Irish legislation and, as mentioned in the media and elsewhere, embraces a wide range of financial instruments, particularly in the area of derivatives. Accordingly, I have no data on the extent of usage of such instruments. If the Deputy has a concern about a specific instrument, I shall be happy to make further enquiries on the Deputy's behalf. The Deputy's question may relate to concerns arising from the international subprime difficulties and investments in so-called "complex financial instruments" by some financial services entities. A survey of the exposures of Irish banks published in the Financial Stability Report shows that the domestic banking system has no significant direct exposures to US subprime mortgages and essentially negligible exposures through investments and through links with other financial companies or special purpose vehicles. Accordingly, the stability and health of the banking system here remain robust as assessed by the usual indicators of financial health such as asset quality, profitability, solvency, liquidity and credit ratings.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

149 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the losses in value of Irish pension funds and similar investments in the context of falls in share values recently recorded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35950/07]

In my role as the Minister for Finance I have responsibility for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. The day-to-day responsibility for the supervision of financial institutions is a matter for the Financial Regulator.

The Pensions Board is responsible for the regulation of occupational pension schemes and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts in Ireland as part of its statutory role to monitor and supervise the operation of the Pensions Act.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

150 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of artists who have submitted returns in respect of income tax payable in relation to qualifying artistic work; the average and highest amounts of gross income and tax payable; and the number of artists who have reported income above the taxable amounts and in bands or amounts of €50,000 above the threshold. [35952/07]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the threshold relating to the restriction on the use of tax reliefs by high income individuals, which I announced in Budget 2006 and which took effect on 1 January 2007.

While preliminary tax payments will have been received for 2007, income tax returns, which will demonstrate the effect of the restriction, are not due to be made until late 2008. It will be some time after that before the statistics the Deputy has asked for will be available.

The restriction on the use of tax reliefs is designed to address the issue of a small number of individuals with high incomes who, mainly by means of the cumulative use of various tax incentive reliefs, have been able to reduce their income tax liability to a very low level or to zero. Such individuals are no longer able to do so. The aim of the restriction is to raise the effective income tax rate of high income individual affected by the measure towards 20 per cent. This is achieved because the total amount of relief an individual can obtain from the specified reliefs is limited to 50 per cent of his or her adjusted income. This means that a minimum of one half of the individual's income will be taxed, mostly at the 41 per cent rate. Allowing for the standard rate band, this is equivalent to a 20 per cent tax charge on the individual's full income.

The method used to increase the tax rates at which these high income individuals pay tax effectively addresses the equity concerns raised over the past number of years while, at the same time, ensuring that the intended incentive effects of tax schemes will continue to deliver.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

151 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of returns received in respect of persons operating stud farms and availing of tax reliefs in respect of stallions; the number of returns in respect of individuals, partnership, companies and other entities; the returns in relation to same; the taxable income and tax payable that has been declared in respect of such operations; and the average and the highest of same. [35953/07]

The latest relevant information available is based on tax returns by individuals and companies of tax exempt income arising from stallion stud fees for the tax year 2005.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the total number of such returns was 185 with the total exempt income reported at €51.8 million, an average of €280,000.

There are 13 returns of stallion stud fees in excess of €1 million. Because of the Revenue Commissioners' obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of individual taxpayers, a figure for the highest amount of exempt income returned is not provided in relation to individual amounts exceeding €1 million. This is due to the small numbers of returns with amounts exceeding that level. Data is available only on gross, not net, income in the returns. Such income will now be subject to tax from 31 July 2008.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

152 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of Irish domiciled residents who are non-resident for tax purposes here and are high net worth individuals who have been identified by his Department or the Revenue Commissioners; if the Revenue Commissioners are identifying and monitoring the amount of time such individuals spend here per year; if he has an estimate of the tax foregone in respect of such individuals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35954/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that its Large Cases Division looks after the tax affairs of high wealth individuals. The 2005 income tax returns show that 19 of these individuals filed returns on which they claimed non-residency for Irish tax purposes.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that residence is a feature of its risk-based programmes and that the procedures adopted in validating non-resident status depend on the circumstances in each case. The administration of the validation procedures is a matter for the Commissioners and the methods used to verify claims to non-residence include a range of tests and an intelligence-based dimension which, for obvious reasons, is not publicised.

In relation to work carried out as part of its risk-based programmes, Revenue has previously advised me that it has no reason to conclude that there are failures to comply with the rules governing non-resident status. However, Revenue continues to include a cross-section of non-resident cases in its risk-based programmes.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Irish citizens, who are non-resident for tax purposes, are obliged to file Irish tax returns only in respect of:

income arising in Ireland (e.g. income from directorships, a trade or profession, rented properties etc); and

Gains from the disposals of land, buildings or shares which derive their value from these assets, and certain other assets such as minerals in the State or other assets related to exploitation of such minerals.

There is no statutory obligation on these citizens to return details of income or gains arising anywhere else in the world. Therefore, it is not possible to establish the amount of these incomes or gains, including any associated tax.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35970/07]

As the Deputy will appreciate, consultation of the nature referred to is undertaken with a wide range of persons, groups, bodies and agencies across the very wide spectrum of budgetary and other policy and administrative matters relating to my Department. If the Deputy has a question about a specific item, I will make appropriate inquiries.

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the nature and extent of construction, refurbishment, extension or improvement works carried out in the past five years in respect of or homes or property or properties owned by Ministers, Ministers of State and their families other than their designated constituency offices where such works involved building, plumbing, plastering, electrical fitting out or other such works that resulted in a cost to the State; the purpose of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35985/07]

The only works carried out by the Office of Public Works to the properties so mentioned are of a security nature and I consider it inappropriate to give details of such security measures.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

155 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children under the age of six who have been assessed in accordance with the Disability Act 2005; the waiting list for such assessments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35790/07]

The National Disability Strategy, which was launched in September 2004, provides for a framework of new supports for people with disabilities. The Strategy builds on a strong equality framework, which is reflected in several pieces of equality legislation. The main elements of the Strategy are:

The Disability Act 2005;

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004;

Six Outline Sectoral Plans published by Government Departments;

The Citizens Information Act 2007

The Disability Act 2005

The Disability Act 2005 is a central element of the National Disability Strategy. The Act is a positive measure designed to advance and underpin participation by people with disabilities in everyday life.

Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was commenced on 1st June 2007 for children aged under 5. This gives people with disabilities an entitlement to an independent assessment of health and education needs and a service statement identifying the services to be delivered. A system of complaints and appeals has also been established. An assessment based on the needs of a client, independent of the costs of the provision of service, will be provided. The HSE will prepare a service statement outlining the services to be provided to the person. This is a very welcome significant step towards enhancing the level of support to people with disabilities.

It is the first time that an independent assessment of need, conducted according to standards laid down and monitored by an independent agency, the Health Information and Quality Authority, will be available. The Act will also give us an accurate picture of service provision and of areas for improvement across the system.

The assessment of need process is a matter for the HSE and I have referred this matter to the HSE who will be in a position to provide information in terms of the numbers involved.

Health Services.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

156 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in the care of the Health Service Executive under the age of 16 who are not in receipt of full-time education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35870/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health 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 arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

157 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding services (details supplied) in 2008. [35657/07]

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 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

158 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a claim under the health repayment scheme will not pass to the spouse of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35661/07]

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.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

159 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated. [35662/07]

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.

Hospital Properties.

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

160 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if the lands adjoining St. Bridget’s Hospital, Ballinasloe, have been sold or are in the process of being sold; if the proceeds of such a sale will be ring fenced for the provision of a proper mental health service in the area; if the promised lands to the community will be still made available to these community groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35664/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

171 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to sell land in a location (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35795/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 171 together.

The Deputies' questions 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 Deputies.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

161 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Irish Osteoporosis Society is not in receipt of core funding from her Department; if her attention has been drawn to the tremendous help the society gives to osteoporosis sufferers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35695/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

162 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the new EOCP funding regulations in view of the fact that the proposals will ghettoise all community based childcare as working class parents who fall short of the subvention criteria move their children to other schools which will have a negative effect on the remaining pupils who will all be classed as social welfare children (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35721/07]

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 main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400m in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose. In addition to these universal supports, Government childcare policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit childcare providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community childcare services to provide affordable childcare to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which is to be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will have a weekly subvention paid to the service in respect of their child. A higher subvention will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify for subvention will be charged the cost price for their childcare service. However, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. When I announced the new scheme in July of this year, I signalled my intention to undertake a review of the Scheme on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which was forwarded to my Office in November and December. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the review has been completed and the following adjustments to the scheme have been approved by the Government: the childcare subvention rates, which form the basis for assessing the level of grant funding payable to community childcare services, have been increased from €80 to €100 per week in the case of Band A parents and from €30 to €70 per week in the case of Band B parents; services will also be grant aided to enable them to provide reduced childcare fees for parents in Band C who are marginally above the Family Income Supplement (FIS) threshold and low income parents who qualify under this measure will benefit by €45 per week per full-time place; where a parent moves to a lower Band (e.g. from social welfare into employment), the subvention paid in respect of them will be withdrawn on a tapered basis with the effect that where a parent would no longer qualify for a Band A payment, he or she will be treated as a Band B parent in the following year; special provisions will be provided for in the case of childcare services where, for valid reasons, it is not possible to assess grant funding on the basis of annual parental declarations alone (e.g. women's refuges, special services for children of drug misusers) and, in exceptional cases, where special levels of funding provision may be required; in recognition of the on-going input of the community and voluntary sector, and to provide stability for services which would otherwise receive very low levels of grant subvention (e.g. small rural services) a minimum annual grant level of €20,000 is being introduced.

As a transitional measure during 2008-2010, services which would otherwise face a significant decrease in their existing level of grant support from July 2008, will continue to receive grant aid equal to not less than 90% of their previous grant level during July-December 2008, equal to not less than 85% of that amount in 2009, and equal to not less than 75% of that amount in 2010. The transitional grant funding will be conditional on all requirements of the Scheme being complied with including the return of annual applications together with completed parent declaration forms and the implementation of tiered fees based on the subvention levels for Band A, B and C parents.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Group in question has been approved for transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), and a letter of approval has issued from the Childcare Directorate of my Office. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Groups under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

163 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will increase the funding to the Irish Osteoporosis Society (details supplied). [35724/07]

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.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

164 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is planning to reassess the early assessment for speech and language in relation to increasing the numbers of such teams in view of the positive overview of school principals to such schemes with the only difficulty being the observation that there is not enough speech and language teams available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35744/07]

As part of the Multi Annual Investment Programme under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive an additional €75m in 2007. This funding included monies to provide new residential, respite and day places, therapy services and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Jack Wall

Ceist:

165 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language teams available within the Health Service Executive; the areas that such teams cover; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35745/07]

As part of the Multi Annual Investment Programme under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive an additional €75m in 2007. This funding included monies to provide new residential, respite and day places and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements. The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment, which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

166 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of the renewal of a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35764/07]

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 moderate and 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 a further adjustment to the income guidelines for GP visit cards. These are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

John Cregan

Ceist:

167 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will be admitted to Limerick Regional Hospital for cataract surgery. [35778/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

168 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on the standards for services for people with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35792/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

197 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the framing and implementation of national standards and inspection of residential centres and community homes for children and adults with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35900/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 197 together.

Draft National Standards were produced by the National Disability Authority (NDA) in association with the Department of Health and Children. These draft Standards were forwarded by the Minister for Health and Children to the interim Health Information and Quality Authority (iHIQA).

Building on this work, HIQA recently established a national committee whose task is to consider the development of service specific standards including residential and community based services for people with disabilities in residential centres. I understand a set of draft standards will be available for public consultation in the second quarter of 2008 and completed by the third quarter. A published set of standards is expected by the end of 2008. In the meantime, HIQA will be recruiting and training inspectors so that inspections of the disability services should commence in 2009.

Residential Care.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

169 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on the national standards for residential care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35793/07]

In January 2007 the Minister for Health & Children published a new set of draft national standards for all nursing homes. The standards were developed by a working group chaired by DoHC and included the Health Service Executive, Social Service Inspectorate and the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board.

As the Health Act, 2007 provides that the enhanced inspection function will be taken over by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the draft standards were formally referred to HIQA for consultation and finalisation. The Authority established a wide-ranging Working Group to finalise the draft standards.

The terms of reference of the Group were to:

review and develop the draft standards

establish a process for targeted and public consultation

oversee the public consultation process

consider feedback from the public consultation process

finalise the draft standards for publication and inspection

HIQA published draft standards on 8 August, 2007 for public consultation. Members of the public, service users, their families, service providers and all those with an interest in residential care for older people were invited to submit their views on the draft.

The results of the public consultation were discussed at the most recent meetings of the HIQA Working Group. It is proposed to hold one further meeting of the Working Group to finalise the standards. The next step will be to refer the standards to the Minister, following which Regulations will be drafted to give statutory underpinning to the Standards.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

170 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the code of practice for sheltered occupational services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35794/07]

As the Deputy is aware, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has recently established a National Review Group to carry out a Strategic Review of HSE funded Adult Day Services for People with Disabilities including Sheltered work.

This review will identify the range, configuration and objectives of future adult day services that are most appropriate to the needs of people with disabilities and the statutory responsibilities of the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. The review will include consideration of the draft code of practice for sheltered occupational services.

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Civil Registration Act.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

172 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive is obstructing implementation of the Civil Registration Act 2004 in so far as it has rendered it impossible for a couple to celebrate a civil marriage ceremony anywhere in Dublin, Kildare or Wicklow other than in a registry office in violation of the provisions contained in the Act which enables such marriages to be celebrated in other locations such as hotels; if an independent enquiry will be conducted into the failure of the HSE to properly carry out its delegated functions under the legislation; and if she will take action to require it to comply with its statutory duties. [35796/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provisions of the Civil Registration Act, 2004, governing the giving of notice of intention to marry, solemnisation and registration of marriage were commenced on 5 November 2007. The commencement of the new provisions has the effect of repealing all the old legislation relating to registration of marriages dating back to 1845.

Under the 2004 Act, primary responsibility for the provision of civil registration services locally, including solemnisation of civil marriages at venues other than the registrar's office, rests with the Health Service Executive (HSE). The Act also provides that an tArd Chlaraitheoir (Registrar General) exercises a supervisory role in relation to the provision of services by the HSE. I understand that certain difficulties have arisen in relation to the filling of staff vacancies in the Eastern Registration Area, and that an tArd Chlaraitheoir is seeking a meeting with the HSE to discuss the matter.

Acquired Brain Injury.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

173 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who are registered with acquired brain injury here; the commitment in developing a comprehensive rehabilitation strategy for people with ABI; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35797/07]

According to the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database Committee Annual Report 2007 there are 613 people registered with "Head Injury" and 1076 people registered as "Stroke Hemiplegia". There is no category on the Database for Acquired Brain Injury. The Deputy should be aware that a collaborative project between the Health Research Board and Headway Ireland is being undertaken in relation to capturing information on people with Acquired Brain Injury. My Department is currently examining the development of a strategy on rehabilitation services.

Medical Cards.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

174 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the re-evaluation of the medical card scheme to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35800/07]

My Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. As part of this general review, a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards is being undertaken and is expected to be completed by Autumn 2008.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

175 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department and the Health Service Executive will give consideration to the development of a dedicated children’s hospital in Cork to serve the southern region. [35806/07]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

176 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will defer the introduction of the new fair deal scheme for the funding of nursing home care until there is further debate on the implications of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35808/07]

The final details of the Bill are being addressed at present. The Minister proposes to publish the Bill as soon as possible, following Government approval. Details of the scheme have been in the public domain since the Minister announced it in December 2006 and there has been consultation and meetings with stakeholders arising from commitments under Towards 2016. The Department will be conferring again with the Social Partners following publication of the Bill.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

177 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps which she is taking to resolve the dispute between the Health Service Executive and public dentists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35821/07]

The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides for a range of dental services for adult medical card holders from participating dentists holding contracts with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The DTSS Review Group was established in May, 2006, to undertake a comprehensive review of Primary Care Oral Health Services provided under the DTSS. Represented on the Review Group are the HSE, the HSE — Employers Agency, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Finance and the Irish Dental Association (IDA). The Group is chaired by Mr Finbar Flood.

During the course of the review, based on legal advice by the HSE, a legal issue arose in relation to the Competition Act, 2002 and the collective negotiation of fees with the IDA. The HSE was advised that the coming together of the DTSS contractors under the auspices of the IDA to negotiate fees would constitute a breach of the Act. The IDA was advised of the legal situation and, in January 2007, discussions on the fee aspects of the review were temporarily put on hold. It is clear now from discussions between officials of my Department and the Attorney General's Office, that there are complex legal difficulties associated with the traditional process for the negotiation of professional fees and that a new approach, in line with Competition Law, must be found. Accordingly, officials in my Department are working with the Attorney General's office to clarify the way forward.

Suicide Incidence.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

178 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will grant an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death by suicide and have a review of the care and treatment of the person (details supplied) which they received in the course of their illness.. [35822/07]

My Department has sought a full report from the Health Service Executive in relation to this case.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

179 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if entitlement to services under the general medical services scheme is valid across all Health Service Executive regions; if a valid medical card is operable in all regions; the procedures in place to ensure that these entitlements are uniformly recognised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35824/07]

Where a person is assessed by the HSE as qualifying for a medical card, he/she is categorised as having full eligibility for health services. This eligibility status is applicable in respect of services in all HSE regions and administrative arrangements are in place to enable a person, for example, to access general practitioner or pharmacy services as necessary in any part of the country.

The HSE has drawn up standard National Medical Card Assessment Guidelines to ensure that all persons applying for a medical card are assessed in a fair and equitable manner. I am also informed by the Executive that national business processes have been developed to enable a model of best practice to be adopted for the processing of medical card applications, including the initial application stage, the assessment stage and the decision making stage.

Before the establishment of the HSE, some variation in practice had developed over time, between the individual health boards, in relation to the provision of certain community services and the range of such services available. These arrangements will be reviewed in the context of the ongoing development of primary care services and the legislative proposals being prepared by my Department to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

180 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason domiciliary allowance payment has not been granted in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Louth who has been diagnosed as being autistic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35826/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

181 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a submission (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35836/07]

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 main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400m in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose. In addition to these universal supports, Government childcare policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit childcare providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community childcare services to provide affordable childcare to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which is to be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will have a weekly subvention paid to the service in respect of their child. A higher subvention will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify for subvention will be charged the cost price for their childcare service. However, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. When I announced the new scheme in July of this year, I signalled my intention to undertake a review of the Scheme on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which was forwarded to my Office in November and December. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the review has been completed and the following adjustments to the scheme have been approved by the Government:

the childcare subvention rates, which form the basis for assessing the level of grant funding payable to community childcare services, have been increased from €80 to €100 per week in the case of Band A parents and from €30 to €70 per week in the case of Band B parents;

services will also be grant aided to enable them to provide reduced childcare fees for parents in Band C who are marginally above the Family Income Supplement (FIS) threshold and low income parents who qualify under this measure will benefit by €45 per week per full-time place;

where a parent moves to a lower Band (e.g. from social welfare into employment), the subvention paid in respect of them will be withdrawn on a tapered basis with the effect that where a parent would no longer qualify for a Band A payment, he or she will be treated as a Band B parent in the following year;

special provisions will be provided for in the case of childcare services where, for valid reasons, it is not possible to assess grant funding on the basis of annual parental declarations alone (e.g. women's refuges, special services for children of drug misusers) and, in exceptional cases, where special levels of funding provision may be required;

in recognition of the on-going input of the community and voluntary sector, and to provide stability for services which would otherwise receive very low levels of grant subvention (e.g. small rural services) a minimum annual grant level of €20,000 is being introduced.

as a transitional measure during 2008-2010, services which would otherwise face a significant decrease in their existing level of grant support from July 2008, will continue to receive grant aid equal to not less than 90% of their previous grant level during July-December 2008, equal to not less than 85% of that amount in 2009, and equal to not less than 75% of that amount in 2010. The transitional grant funding will be conditional on all requirements of the Scheme being complied with including the return of annual applications together with completed parent declaration forms and the implementation of tiered fees based on the subvention levels for Band A, B and C parents.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Group in question has applied to enter the new scheme and a letter has issued from the Childcare Directorate of my Office requesting them to forward outstanding information. When this is received a letter of approval for transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) will issue. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Groups under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

182 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedures involved for a town (details supplied) in County Kildare to secure an after hours doctor service considering the expanding population of the town; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35837/07]

Out of hours co-operatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP co-operatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Out of hours co-operatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. In 2007, almost €37 million is available to the HSE to fund the operation of GP out of hours services. This figure does not include the fees of the participating doctors.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to provide the information sought by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

183 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for mobility aids by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35838/07]

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.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

184 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide an updated report on the health repayment scheme which is due to close at the end of December 2007 including the number of applications, the number of cases which have been resolved and where payment has been made; the amount of awards which have been made to date; her Department’s estimates of the total moneys which will be paid; the number of cases under appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35861/07]

The Health Repayment Scheme was launched in August 2006 and the HSE has informed my Department that as of 7th December 2007 over 33,000 claim forms have been received. 5,346 payments totalling over €105.8m have issued and 8,320 offers totalling over €160m have been made.

The HSE has indicated that based on the number of valid applications received to date, the estimated total of the amount of money repaid will be approximately €380m. The costs of administering the repayment scheme will be additional to this amount.

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has advised my Department that as of the 7th December 2007 the total number of people who have indicated their intention to appeal under the health repayment scheme is 1,959. However, of this figure 895 appeal forms have actually been received.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the information she has received from the Health Service Executive in relation to the ending of embargoes on staff recruitment throughout the HSE organisation and in particular if she has received reports in relation to the position of HSE workers returning from career breaks who have been prevented from resuming their careers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35862/07]

The current pause on the recruitment of additional staff is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan. Of course, in any instance where a critical or essential vacancy arises it may be filled through redeployment of existing staff by the Line Manager or re-assignment of responsibilities based on assessment of priority need.

Notwithstanding this, it has been recognised that there are some circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly, a process has been put in place by the HSE to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A small group has been established including a representative of the National Hospitals Office, PCCC and other Directorates and this group meets regularly to consider such applications.

Of the applications for derogation received to date, 860 w.t.e.s have been approved where posts have been identified as critical to service delivery.

I have been advised by the HSE that the recruitment pause will continue for December 2007 and the current arrangement will be reviewed prior to the end of the year. It is intended that a robust employment control framework will continue to be applied to services in 2008.

I have also been advised by the HSE that career breaks are granted under the terms of the Career Break Scheme as set out in the HSE Terms and Conditions of Employment. Employees applying for a career break are normally required to sign that they accept these terms and conditions. Under the provisions of the scheme, "if a suitable vacancy does not exist at the date of the termination of the career break, an employee is guaranteed re-employment within twelve months, i.e. an unpaid period of up to twelve months could ensue upon termination of the date of the career break."

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

186 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the situation in the midlands where patients in need of breast scans have been referred to Portlaoise, Tullamore and Mullingar hospital only to be told the service is no longer available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35872/07]

The review of mammograms at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise is complete. A report on the review will be published by the Health Service Executive (HSE) after any individual identified in it has been offered the opportunity to comment, as is the normal legal requirement. The suspension of mammography services at Portlaoise continues pending the publication of the report. The HSE has advised my Department that women in the area are currently being referred for mammography to St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin.

Arising from the designation of eight cancer centres nationally and in order to comply with the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease, the HSE has directed a number of hospitals, including the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore and the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar with very low case volumes to cease breast cancer services. The National Hospitals Office has already planned the redirection of this symptomatic caseload. The HSE has advised my Department that women in these areas are currently being referred to St. Vincent's Hospital and the Mater Hospital, Dublin. The HSE has also advised that the new referral patterns have been advised to all Consultants and GPs in the region.

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 has designated St. James's Hospital and St. Vincent's Hospital as the two cancer centres in the Managed Cancer Control Network for the HSE Dublin Mid Leinster region, which includes the Midland Regional Hospitals at Tullamore, Portlaoise and Mullingar.

Mental Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients admitted to psychiatric wards who have a history of abuse of illegal drugs for each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35873/07]

The Health Research Board (HRB) collects data on all admissions to psychiatric in-patient facilities in Ireland. Data on patients history of drug use is not captured. However, the following table outlines the number of admissions to Irish Psychiatric Units and Hospitals with a diagnosis of drug disorders over each of the past five years.

Year

Drug Disorders

2006

663

2005

777

2004

724

2003

617

2002

675

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

188 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the financial assistance available for families of patients suffering from dementia in the south Dublin City area who must use private nursing homes as there are no public beds available for this purpose; if her attention has been drawn to the serious financial hardship caused for families who find themselves in such a situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35876/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

189 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount expended on specialist disability services as described in her Department’s sectoral plan in 2006 and 2007 respectively with a breakdown of this expenditure per Health Service Executive area and service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35887/07]

David Stanton

Ceist:

191 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the support services covered under the term multidisciplinary support services available to people with disabilities as laid out in her Department’s sectoral plan; if the €41 million allocated for same in 2006 was expended; the amount allocated for these support services in 2007 and the amount expended; if the remainder of the additional funding allocated for services for people with disabilities in 2006 was also expended; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35889/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 191 together.

As part of the Multi Annual Investment Programme 2006 — 2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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

Mental Health Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

190 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the target of creating 100 new mental health places per annum in mental health day centres, day hospitals and community residential facilities for the duration of the multi-annual investment programme 2006 to 2009, as outlined in her Department’s sectoral plan was met in 2006 and 2007 respectively; if so, the locations where these places were created; if not, the number of new mental health places created in each of these years respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35888/07]

David Stanton

Ceist:

192 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if all the service developments planned under the Mental Health Service Developments in 2006, as laid out in her Department’s sectoral plan were carried out; the service developments which were not carried out; if the budget allocation for 2006 was expended; the amount made available for these services in 2007 and amount expended; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35890/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 and 192 together.

In 2006, additional revenue funding of €26.2m was made available to the Health Service Executive to develop services in line with the recommendations of "A Vision for Change". This included funding of €7.5m as part of the Government's multi-annual investment programme, for the provision of additional community based mental health facilities, including mental health day centres, day hospitals and community residential facilities.

A further sum of €25 million, including €8.25 from the multi-annual investment programme, was allocated in 2007 to continue this development.

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

Question No. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 189.
Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 190.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

193 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons with full medical cards as a proportion of the population at the end of 2007; and the comparable figures for 1992, 1997 and 2002. [35896/07]

Details of the numbers of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of holders' circumstances.

The most recent figure provided to my Department by the HSE is in respect of 1st December, 2007. In 1992 and 1997 medical card figures were supplied on a quarterly basis to my Department. The table below shows the number of persons, according to the health boards' databases, with medical cards as a proportion of the national population on the dates requested by the Deputy.

In interpreting this information, it is necessary to take account of the fact that the HSE (and before 2005 the health boards) has undertaken a substantial programme of work in recent years to improve data quality in the General Medical Services (GMS) client database. For example, in 2003 and 2004, work carried out by the health boards led to a deletion of approximately 104,000 inappropriate entries where, for example, there were duplicate entries for the same person, the expiry date on the card had passed, the person had moved away or was deceased. This exercise did not involve any reduction in the actual number of persons who held medical cards but rather resulted in a more accurate picture of the number of individuals in receipt of GP services under the GMS Scheme.

Year

National Population

No. of medical card holders

Proportion of National Population with Medical Cards

1992 (as at 31st December 1992)

3,547,600

1,263,001

35.60%

1997 (as at 31st December 1997)

3,626,087

1,219,852

33.64%

2002 (as at 31st December 2002)

3,917,336

1,164,453

29.73%

2007 (as at 1st December 2007)

4,339,000 (Central Statistics Office estimate for April 2007 announced on 18th December 2007)

1,279,026

29.48%

In addition, as at 1 December 2007, 75,542 persons held a GP visit card.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

194 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons over 70 who have received the non-means tested medical card for over 70s since its introduction. [35897/07]

Since July 2001, all persons aged 70 and over have a statutory entitlement to a medical card. In all other cases an assessment is undertaken having regard to the applicant's means.

Information provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department indicates that as of 1st December 2007, 131,668 persons aged 70 or over have received a medical card under the provisions of Section 45 (5A) of the Health Act 1970.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

195 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the implementation of the community childcare subvention scheme will be deferred until the end of 2008 and the EOCP accordingly extended until then, in order to allow comprehensive consultation with all stakeholders before the final details of a revised scheme are agreed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35898/07]

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 main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400m in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose. In addition to these universal supports, Government childcare policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit childcare providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community childcare services to provide affordable childcare to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which is to be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will have a weekly subvention paid to the service in respect of their child. A higher subvention will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify for subvention will be charged the cost price for their childcare service. However, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. When I announced the new scheme in July of this year, I signalled my intention to undertake a review of the Scheme on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which was forwarded to my Office in November and December. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the review has been completed and the following adjustments to the scheme have been approved by the Government:

the childcare subvention rates, which form the basis for assessing the level of grant funding payable to community childcare services, have been increased from €80 to €100 per week in the case of Band A parents and from €30 to €70 per week in the case of Band B parents;

services will also be grant aided to enable them to provide reduced childcare fees for parents in Band C who are marginally above the Family Income Supplement (FIS) threshold and low income parents who qualify under this measure will benefit by €45 per week per full-time place;

where a parent moves to a lower Band (e.g. from social welfare into employment), the subvention paid in respect of them will be withdrawn on a tapered basis with the effect that where a parent would no longer qualify for a Band A payment, he or she will be treated as a Band B parent in the following year;

special provisions will be provided for in the case of childcare services where, for valid reasons, it is not possible to assess grant funding on the basis of annual parental declarations alone (e.g. women's refuges, special services for children of drug misusers) and, in exceptional cases, where special levels of funding provision may be required;

in recognition of the on-going input of the community and voluntary sector, and to provide stability for services which would otherwise receive very low levels of grant subvention (e.g. small rural services) a minimum annual grant level of €20,000 is being introduced.

as a transitional measure during 2008-2010, services which would otherwise face a significant decrease in their existing level of grant support from July 2008, will continue to receive grant aid equal to not less than 90% of their previous grant level during July-December 2008, equal to not less than 85% of that amount in 2009, and equal to not less than 75% of that amount in 2010. The transitional grant funding will be conditional on all requirements of the Scheme being complied with including the return of annual applications together with completed parent declaration forms and the implementation of tiered fees based on the subvention levels for Band A, B and C parents.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

196 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the closure of the female surgical ward at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe; the duration of the closure; the way the public bed places lost will be replaced during the closure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35899/07]

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

Question No. 197 answered with QuestionNo. 168.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

198 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the support the Health Service Executive west region is giving to a private operator (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35936/07]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

199 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the additional €50 million Budget 2008 allocation to disability services that will be devoted to mental health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35937/07]

As part of the Multi Annual Investment Programme under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. This funding included monies for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

Development of mental health services will continue in 2008 using the additional investment made in recent years. This will include the further development of services in the area of child and adolescent psychiatry.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

200 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide retrospection to 1 January 2008 for the proposed new nursing home payment arrangements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35939/07]

The final details of the Bill are being addressed at present. The Minister proposes to publish the Bill as soon as possible, following Government approval. The Minister is very keen that the benefits are made available to those who have been waiting for the new Scheme as soon as possible and discussions are on-going with all parties in this respect.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom she or Ministers of State in her Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of her Department or other bodies under her aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35972/07]

Having regard to the broad nature of the Deputy's question, I have arranged for inquiries to be made across my Department to determine what advice was sought or received in the period referred to. I will forward this information to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

202 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36029/07]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department is not one of the Departments scheduled for decentralisation under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. However the Deputy may wish to note that to date fifty civil servants have transferred to decentralising Departments from my Department. Further details in respect of the transfer of these officers is available from the decentralising Departments.

The Health Information and Quality Authority which was formally established this year is encompassed by the Decentralisation Programme. Its headquarters is located in Cork.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

203 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of posts filled in his Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in his Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35679/07]

The information sought is not readily available in the Department and as it would involve an inordinate amount of staff time to compile it is regretted that the information cannot be provided to the Deputy.

Departmental Agencies.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

204 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of posts filled in the Government agencies under his Department’s remit in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in these agencies that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or which were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35694/07]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available.

Light Rail Project.

Dr Martin Mansergh

Ceist:

205 Deputy Martin Mansergh asked the Minister for Transport the number of fatalities caused by the LUAS since it came into operation; the number of passenger journeys per year; and the operating subsidy annually. [35751/07]

The data requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Year

No. of passengers

Subsidy

2004

6.6m

*3,842,545

2005

22.2m

Nil

2006

25.8m

Nil

2007

29.0m (estimate)

Nil

*€557,545 of this subsidy was paid in 2005.

There have been no fatalities caused by the Luas since it came into operation in 2004.

Driver Licences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when he will bring forward legislation for the graduated driver licence scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35854/07]

One of the actions in the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 is to legislate for a graduated driver licensing system in the 3rd quarter of 2008.

The first step towards this has already been taken in the Regulations made in October providing for the introduction of a driver learner permit for all new applicants for driver licences.

State Airports.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on further progress on establishing a Public Service obligation between Shannon and Heathrow; the EU or British officials or Government Ministers he has contacted in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35858/07]

Officials of my Department will shortly be meeting with EU officials to discuss the options, if any, for facilitating the provision of air services to meet the connectivity requirements of the west of Ireland in a liberalised, competitive aviation market. I have had no discussions to date with my UK counterpart on this matter pending the outcome of the discussions with the EU Commission.

Road Network.

Michael Kennedy

Ceist:

208 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the use of contra-flow bus lanes by taxis; if there are plans to allow same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35871/07]

Taxis are not permitted to use contra-flow bus lanes and I have no plans to introduce any change to this situation.

Taxi Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

209 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if, in accordance with his Department’s sectoral plan, all the measures regarding accessibility, affordability and availability of taxis and hackneys for people with disabilities have been completed and are in place; if not, the amount that remains to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35879/07]

The objectives of the Commission for Taxi Regulation include the promotion of access to small public service vehicles (taxis, hackneys and limousines) by persons with disabilities.

The Commission published new national vehicle standards for small public service vehicles on 26 November 2007 including new requirements in relation to accessibility, involving a new category of wheelchair accessible hackney. The new vehicle standards will be given a statutory basis through revised regulations to be made by the Commission during 2008.

It is proposed that the new requirements for wheelchair accessible taxis and wheelchair accessible hackneys will apply to all newly granted accessible vehicle licences from a date, to be determined, in 2008 and all existing accessible taxi licences from 1 January 2012.

The Commission and my Department are currently in discussion in relation to a proposed subsidy arrangement that would assist taxi and hackney operators in purchasing wheelchair accessible vehicles, which by their nature will cost significantly more than standard saloon cars.

The Commission has also made good progress on other commitments under the Department's Sectoral Plan Transport Access for All:

(1)The Commission has indicated that it is proposed that Dispatch Operators will be licensed during 2008 and will have a number of standards to meet prior to licensing, including accessible booking processes which are reasonable and practicable.

(2)A database of all licensed dispatch operators will be made available with contact details for booking small public service vehicles.

(3)All of the Commission's publications are available in Braille and large print and a consumer information guide is available on the Commission website and can be provided in accessible formats on request.

(4)A national complaints system is now in place and consumers can obtain a complaints form by telephoning the consumer line 1890 606090. When a form has been completed, the complaint is investigated by the Commission enforcement team.

(5)Regulations have also been put in place to ensure guide dogs are carried by vehicle licence holders.

The Commission has commenced an audit of taxi ranks and hopes to develop revised guidelines for ranks following completion of the audit, these guidelines will address the concerns of persons with disabilities.

Public Transport.

David Stanton

Ceist:

210 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if, in accordance with his Department’s sectoral plan, all Bus Éireann bus stations are fully accessible to people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments; if not, the stations that remain to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35880/07]

The upgrading of Bus Éireann bus stations is a matter for the company. However, I am advised by Bus Éireann that it envisages, with the exception of Limerick and Galway, that all bus stations will be upgraded to full accessibility standards by the end of 2008. I am informed by Bus Éireann that planning permission for Limerick bus station was refused and Bus Éireann has lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála. I understand that the upgrading of the Galway station forms part of a wider redevelopment plan for Ceannt station.

David Stanton

Ceist:

211 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if the target, as outlined in his Department’s sectoral plan, of making all suburban trains fully accessible to people with disabilities by the end of 2007 has been met by Iarnród Éireann; if not, when this will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35881/07]

I understand from Iarnród Éireann that apart from the refurbishment work to some older DART carriages that is expected to be finished in 2008, all DART carriages on the suburban rail network are already accessible. The diesel railcars on suburban rail serving the Dublin and Cork areas are all accessible.

Rural Transport Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

212 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if accessibility for people with disabilities is one of the principal criteria for assessment of funding applications under the rural transport initiative, as outlined in his Department’s sectoral plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35882/07]

In accordance with Transport Access for All, my Department's Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005, accessibility for people with mobility, sensory and cognitive impairments is a core consideration for services under the Rural Transport Programme (RTP).

Pobal administers the RTP on behalf of my Department. It requires groups being funded under the Programme to take account of this in developing their schemes and evaluates their applications for funding accordingly.

Departmental Bodies.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

213 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport further to a previous parliamentary question, if he will provide details of the incremental costs of all bodies from set up and annual budget with a break down of annual overheads. [35917/07]

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

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35976/07]

I receive advice, on a daily (and on some days an hourly basis) from all sorts of people . It would be impossible to list everyone concerned.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

215 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36033/07]

To-date 36 civil servants from the Department of Transport have relocated to new Departments and are due to move out of Dublin under the Government's decentralisation programme. The transfer of these staff to their decentralisation location is a matter for the new parent Department. No employees of State bodies have been relocated by this Department.

In addition, 6 staff from this Department have already relocated to their decentralised location in Loughrea as either Department of Transport staff or Road Safety Authority staff. Of these 6 posts 2 staff members transferred with their posts and are already in place in Loughrea.

All staff that have already relocated or are awaiting relocation are from Dublin.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

216 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of posts filled in his Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in his Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35674/07]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

217 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of posts filled in the Government agencies under his Department’s remit in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in these agencies that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or which were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35689/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 217 together.

The number of posts filled in my Department in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 were 124, 66, 88, 125 and 218 respectively. These figures include those recruited to work in the Headquarters of the Department, including Irish Aid, the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries and the Passport offices in Dublin, Balbriggan and Cork.

All posts in my Department have been filled for the past five years either as a result of a competition advertised directly by the Department or on foot of competitions organised by the Public Appointments Service. The Public Appointments Service is the centralised provider of recruitment, assessment and selection services for the Civil Service.

It is not possible in the time available to provide the Deputy with a breakdown of the number of officers appointed from competitions confined to existing civil servants and those open to external candidates. This information will be communicated to the Deputy as soon as possible.

There are no Government agencies under the remit of my Department.

Irish Language.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

218 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha an raibh aon chruinniú nó comhfhreagras idir é, nó oifigigh a Roinne, le Rialtas Shasana maidir le gealltanais i gComhaontú Chill Rímhinn ar Acht Teanga don Ghaeilge a rith agus an féidir leis ráiteas a dhéanamh ina leith. [35731/07]

Leagann Aguisín B le Comhaontú Chill Rímhinn amach gealltanais Rialtas na Breataine i leith cearta daonna, comhionannais, íobartaigh, agus ábhair eile. I measc na hábhair seo, tá gealltanas ar leith tugtha go dtabharfaí isteach Acht Teanga do Thuaisceart na hÉireann, agus go ndéanfaí comh-oibriú leis an bhFeidhmiúchán nua le forbairt na Gaeilge a chosaint agus a chur chun cinn.

Mar aon leis an ngealltanas seo, cuireann Acht Thuaisceart na hÉireann (Comhaontú Chill Rímhinn) 2006, a achtaíodh i Westminster ar an 22 Samhain 2006, iachall ar an bhFeidhmiúchán nua straitéis a bhunú a dhéanann cur síos ar an slí ina mbeartaíonn sí forbairt na teanga a chur chun cinn agus a chosaint.

D'ardaigh mé an t-ábhar seo leis an Rúnaí Stáit do Thuaisceart Éireann, an tUasal Shaun Woodward MP, nuair a bhuail mé leis i mBaile Átha Cliath ar an 12 Meán Fomhair 2007. Ardaíodh an cheist chomh maith i gcruinnithe idir an tAire Éamon Ó Cuiv TD agus a chomhionann i dTuaisceart Éireann, an tAire Edwin Poots MLA le déanaí. Pléadh an cheist sa Tionól freisin ach, mar tá fhios ag an Teachta, ní raibh na páirtithe ag an am ar aon bharúil fúithi.

Tá sé leagtha amach ag an Rialtas na gealltanais i gComhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus i gComhaontú Chill Rímhinn a chomhlíonadh, agus ar ndóigh na gealltanais i leith na Gaeilge san áireamh.

International Agreements.

Dr Martin Mansergh

Ceist:

219 Deputy Martin Mansergh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if referendums were held prior to accession in each of the 12 member states of the EU; if all those states were represented in the European convention prior to the drawing up of the constitutional treaty; and if in his opinion the people of those member states were in a position to take account of the principal developments and issues now incorporated in the EU reform treaty before deciding on their country’s membership of the EU. [35748/07]

Of the ten Member States that joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, nine held a referendum prior to their accession. Cyprus did not hold a referendum. The Cypriot House of Representatives unanimously approved the Accession Treaty. In Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the European Union on 1 January 2007, the Accession Treaty was approved by parliamentary process in both countries.

Each of the Union's current Member States were represented at, and fully participated in, the work of the European Convention which met from February 2002 and which laid the groundwork for the draft Constitutional Treaty. The Convention comprised of more than 200 representatives from the Member States, national parliaments and the EU institutions.

The essential balance and substance of the draft Constitutional Treaty, which followed from the work of this representative Convention, is preserved in the Reform Treaty signed on 13 December. As a result, and given also of course the debates and reviews in the Parliaments of Member States by their elected representatives on the Reform Treaty, current Member States and their citizens have been facilitated in taking into account the principal developments and issues now incorporated in the Reform Treaty.

Diplomatic Representation.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

220 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans in 2008 to develop Ireland’s relationship with Cuba. [35811/07]

As I informed the Deputy in my responses to Parliamentary Questions Number 517 on 26 September 2007 and Number 197 on 24 October 2007, relations between Ireland and Cuba have developed in recent years, particularly since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1999. Our Ambassador in Mexico City is accredited to Cuba. In 2001, Cuba established a resident Embassy in Dublin, which has been headed by a resident Ambassador since October 2005. Prior to that the Embassy was headed at Chargé d'Affaires level, with the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland resident in London. The Cuban Chargé d'Affaires and, subsequently, the Cuban Ambassador have been very active in seeking to promote links between our two countries based, inter alia, on people-to-people contact and cultural activities.

My Department and our Embassy in Mexico City also support the development of such links. In July 2005, the International Joyce exhibition, commissioned by my Department, was opened for display at the National Library in Havana and a donation of Spanish translations of the plays of Samuel Beckett was also presented on the occasion. And of course, many Irish people have visited Cuba in recent years. I welcome these developments and I would certainly wish to see the bilateral relationship between Ireland and Cuba develop further in 2008.

As the Deputy will be aware, the European Union's 1996 Common Position on Cuba remains the basis of both the European Union's and Ireland's approach to relations with that country. The overriding objective of Ireland and our European Union partners in our relations with Cuba is to encourage, but not to enforce by external coercion, a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Common Position was most recently reviewed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 June 2007, at which I participated. The Council's Conclusions deplored the fact that the human rights situation in Cuba has not fundamentally changed, and noted that the Cuban Government continues to deny its citizens internationally recognised civil, political and economic rights and freedoms. We also recognised the right of Cuban citizens to decide independently about their future.

While the European Union will continue to pursue its dialogue with Cuba's civil society and to offer to all sectors of society practical support towards peaceful change in Cuba, the Council also emphasised the Union's willingness to resume a comprehensive and open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities on all areas of mutual interest. In order to sound out the potential for such a dialogue, which should take place on a reciprocal and non-discriminatory basis, the Council decided to invite a Cuban delegation to Brussels.

The Council Conclusions represent a balanced approach, which is in accordance with the principles of the Common Position. The decision which we took in Council to invite a Cuban delegation to Brussels would provide an opportunity for establishing an open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities. The Cuban authorities have rejected this invitation. However, we remain hopeful that such a dialogue will be established in the future. In this regard, on foot of a further initiative of the European Union, a Ministerial-level meeting between the European Union Troika and Cuba was held en marge of the 62nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on 24 September 2007.

Passport Applications.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

221 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the date that a person (details supplied) was issued with their first Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35817/07]

The person in question was issued with their first Irish passport on 9 August 1994.

Human Rights Issues.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

222 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the actions he has taken in relation to the recent case in Saudi Arabia in which a young rape victim was sentenced to 200 lashes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35823/07]

I shared the strong public concern about this appalling case. I was shocked by the sentences and by the context in which they were imposed. I regard any punishment by flogging as abhorrent, no matter where it takes place. Our overriding objective in making our views clearly heard on the issue was to ensure that the sentence was not carried out. I therefore very much welcome the announcement that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has pardoned the victim, recognising the trauma already suffered.

As soon as I became aware of the case, I directed my officials to consult with our EU partners on the most effective possible intervention in the interests of the victims. We joined with partners in agreeing an immediate approach to the Saudi authorities, expressing our strong concerns. On behalf of the EU, the Portuguese Presidency raised the case with the Saudi Foreign Ministry, stressing our shock at the severity of the sentence, and the imperative need in such cases for physical and psychological support for the victims. The Presidency also emphasised the huge public concern about this case across the EU. Last week, I personally conveyed my concerns about the case to the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia.

It is noteworthy that the verdict of the court in this case was also the subject of widespread discussion and publicly expressed disquiet within Saudi Arabia. This would have been highly unlikely a few years ago and in itself represents something of a positive development in relation to the human rights situation.

Departmental Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

223 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, further to a previous parliamentary question, he will provide details of the incremental costs of all bodies from set up and annual budget with a break down of annual overheads. [35913/07]

In my reply to the Deputy's previous Question No. 101 on 22 November 2007, I outlined details of the new boards, agencies, bodies, commissions and offices which were established in the past ten years and the number which were abolished in the same period operating under the remit of my Department.

I have outlined below further details in relation to these bodies, including their budgets and staff numbers where possible. As the previous question asked about the last ten years, I have given details relating to this period.

The Advisory Board for Irish Aid, which replaced the Irish Aid Advisory Committee, was established in August 2002 to provide general oversight and advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for Overseas Development on the strategic direction of the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries.

Year

No. of Staff

Budget

2002

3

65,727

2003

3

608,632

2004

4

950,257

2005

4

1,008,119

2006

4

1,062,884

2007

4

1,050,000

The Development Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) was appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2003 following the recommendations of the Ireland Aid Review Committee. Its purpose is to advise the Minister, Minister of State and Irish Aid on policy regarding development education. As an advisory body, it has no independent budget or overheads; the administration of DEAC is serviced by the Department of Foreign Affairs from the Department's overall budget.

The Díon Advisory Committee was set up in response to concern about the situation of Irish emigrants in Britain in 1984. The Committee advises the Government and makes recommendations on Emigrant Services funding to voluntary organisations that work with vulnerable Irish people resident in Britain. In February 2003, these responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. As an advisory body, the Committee has no independent budget or overheads; the administration of the Committee is provided by our Embassy in London and financed within the Department's overall budget.

The Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission) The Fulbright Commission finances study, research, teaching and other educational activities between Ireland and the United States of America. The Fulbright Commission has eight members and enjoys autonomy of management and administration in accordance with the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991. From 1997 until 2000 the Grant-in-Aid given to the Commission was £100,000 annually. In 2001 the annual Grant-in-Aid figure was increased to €254,000 per annum and has remained at this level since then.

The Hunger Task Force was established in September 2007, in line with the recommendation of the White Paper on Irish Aid, to identify the contributions that Ireland can make to international efforts to reduce hunger. The Task Force has 16 members and had its first meeting in September 2007. As an advisory body, the Committee has no independent budget or overheads; its administration is serviced by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Bodies abolished, replaced or transferred (between 1997-2007)

The Irish Aid Advisory Committee (IAAC) was in existence between 1993 and 2002. Its purpose was to provide advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the strategic direction of the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries. In 2002, as stated above, it was replaced by the Advisory Board for Irish Aid.

Year

Staff

Budget

1997

1

£86,872

1998

1

£118,938

1999

1

£98,618

2000

1

£145,764

2001

1

€154,952

2002

1

€71,583

The National Committee for Development Education (NCDE) was established in 1994 to promote development education throughout all sectors. It was abolished at the end of December 2002 following the recommendations of the 2002 Ireland Aid Review Committee and was succeeded by the Development Education Advisory Committee.

Year

Staff

Budget

1997

7

IR£1,004,232

1998

7

IR£1,011,745

1999

7

IR£1,033,268

2000

6

€1,638,615

2001

6

€2,285,120

2002 (year of abolition)

6

€2,708,375

The Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO) was established by the Government in March 1974 to promote and sponsor temporary service in the developing countries of the world. The activities of APSO were formally integrated into the Development Cooperation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs on 1 January 2004

Year

Staff

Budget

1997

31

IR£10,587,454

1998

32

IR£11,230,915

1999

30

IR£9,891,024

2000

26

IR£12,166,451

2001

23

€14,308,510

2002

22

€17,942,378

2003 (year of abolition)

19

€22,890,636

The Irish Refugee Agency was created in 1991, under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs, to assist with the integration of Vietnamese refugees in Ireland, and it subsequently assisted with Bosnian and Kosovar refugees. In 2001, following the recommendations in the report of the Interdepartmental Group on the Integration of Refugees in Ireland, the Government decided to replace the existing structures for dealing with refugees (including the Refugee Agency) with the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Year

Staff

Budget

1997

n/a

€411,418

1998

9

€419,037

1999

11

€921,882

2000

13

€833,000

2001 (year of abolition)

6

£150,000 (January-April 2001)

The Cultural Relations Committee (CRC) was established in 1949 under the aegis of the then Department of External Affairs, and was transferred from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in 2002. The role and function of the CRC was to advise the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the administration of the annual Grant-in-Aid voted by the Oireachtas for the development of cultural relations with other countries. Its administration was serviced by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Year

Grant-In-Aid

1997

€584,080

1998

€596,777

1999

€634,869

2000

€1,027,218

2001

€1,493,212

2002 (year of transfer)

€672,000

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

224 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35971/07]

The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for two Votes — Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Cooperation). I have set out in the tables below details of external advisory services engaged in connection with policy and administrative matters relating to the operation of the Department under both Votes and the amounts paid on such services since 1 January 2007.

I am very conscious of the need to achieve value for money on such expenditure. The Department commissions external advisory services only where specialised knowledge and/or skills are not available within the Department and, particularly in the case of Irish Aid (Ireland's official development assistance programme), where ongoing independent evaluation of programmes and projects is required. Given the overall scale of the Irish Aid Programme, I am satisfied that this level of monitoring, review and evaluation is both prudent and proportionate.

With regard to bodies under the aegis of my Department, only the Irish Aid Advisory Board commissioned external consultancies in 2007 and the relevant figures are included in a separate table.

In addition to the foregoing, the Department, the Minister of State for Overseas Development and I had access to advice on policy and administrative matters relating to the operation of the Department from the following sources during 2007:

The Advisory Board for Irish Aid provides general oversight and advice on the strategic direction of the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries;

The Development Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) provides advice on policy regarding development education;

The Díon Advisory Committee advises and makes recommendations on Emigrant Services funding to voluntary organisations that work with vulnerable Irish people resident in Britain;

The Hunger Task Force was established in September 2007, in line with the recommendation of the White Paper on Irish Aid, to identify the contributions that Ireland can make to international efforts to reduce hunger. The Task Force will present a final report to the Minister of State with responsibility for Overseas Development.

The administration of the foregoing bodies is met from the Department's budget.

During 2007, I also received a report from the former Minister of State, Mr. Chris Flood, on a study carried out in relation to Irish people serving prison sentences overseas. This report was provided at no cost to the Department, apart from the travel costs associated with the study.

The capital expenditure projects undertaken by the Department mainly concern the acquisition and maintenance of Mission properties abroad. The Department may from time to time seek advice from the Office of Public Works in relation to such property matters.

I regret that it is not possible for me to give the Deputy an item-by-item breakdown of the advice received and the status of implementation in each case. However, I can confirm that all advice received is carefully considered and that all recommendations that enhance policy and administration will be implemented where practicable and where budgetary considerations permit.

Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) External Advisory Services Engaged in 2007

Service Provided

Consultants

Payments made to date in 2007

Technical advice on the maintenance and development of the Department’s ICT security infrastructure.

Bianconi Research Limited (trading as RITS) Information Security Centre, 2052 Castle Drive, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin 24

151,250

Development of technical specifications and tender documents for the support and maintenance contract for the Automated Passport System.

Cornwell Management Consultants Ireland Limited, Alexandra House, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

4,537

Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Irish Emigrant Groups Programmes

Goodbody Economic Consultants, Bankcentre, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

25,894

Quality Assurance Assessment of the Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Irish Emigrants Groups Programmes

Annesley Resource Partnership

3,751

Evaluation of the capacity building programmes provided by the Institute of Public Administration in 2006 to the Bulgarian Institute of Public Administration and the Romanian National Institute of Administration.

BCT Communications Limited

20,469

Software Programming for Secure Document Repository

Version 1 Software Limited

1,481

Cultural Events Coordination and Advisory Services for State and Official Visits

Mr. Eugene Downes

9,883

Taxation advice provided to the Irish Embassy, London.

Mr. Peter Brown

3,835

Legal Advice on Contractual matter

Mason Hayes and Curran Solicitors

1,355

Automated Passport System Assessment Project

Sysnet Ltd.

28,132

Advice on technical specifications for procurement of new support and maintenance contract for the Automated Passport System

Cornwell Consultants

6,079

Vote 29 (International Cooperation)

External Advisory Services Engaged in 2007

Service Provided

Consultant

Amounts Paid to date in 2007

Provision of advice and expertise on public procurement.

Achilles Procurement Services Limited

109,500

Technical support to the Zambia/Ireland TeacherEducation Initiative

Reginald Terrence Allsop

15,910

Quality Assessment of the Irish Aid Evaluation Tsunami Report

Annesley Resource Partnership

2,723

Independent Consultant for the Partnership Programme for Europe and Central Asia Funding Committee

Annesley Resource Partnership

6,579

Review of the Irish Aid Fellowship Training Programme

Annesley Resource Partnership

34,388

Technical Consultant to the Civil Society Funding Schemes

Aodh O’Connor

13,800

Technical Support to the Civil Society & Micro Projects Fund 9

Aodh O’Connor

2,658

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Assessment and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Andre Barsony

10,166

Programme Consultant for the Central America Programme

Luis Enrique Bran Reyes

37,864

Global Fund Strategy Technical Support

Ruiri Brugha

8,450

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS March 2005 to Dec 2006

Catherine A Butcher

3,893

Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Nicholas Chisholm

1,500

Monitoring of Irish Aid Recovery Programme, Malawi

Anne Conroy

82,773

Provision of Technical support for HIV/AIDS

Áine Costigan

49,836

External technical advice to the Fellowship Selection Committee

Bernie Crawford

3,712

Assist Irish Aid in appraising and approving proposals under the HIV /Aids Partnership Scheme Supplementary Grant

Bernie Crawford

5,384

Consultancy and Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Thomas Crowley

16,066

Mapping of Irish Aid Approval Processes

Dalberg Global Development Ad

25,410

Provision of Public Health Specialist Support

Sean Drysdale

55,527

Support to the revision of Irish Aids Country Strategy Planning (CSP) Guidelines and Procedures

Kate Dyer

28,895

Evaluation of the Mozambique Country Programmes 2001-2006

Ecorys Research & Consulting

93,191

Consultant to Development Education Grants Committee

Deirdre Farrell

5,000

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Assessment and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Arthur M Fell

20,261

Irish Aid Management Review

Farrell Grant Sparks

92,767

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS, October to December 2006

Margaret Fitzgerald

18,392

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Margaret Fitzgerald

8,480

Mainstreaming; Building Strategy and Practice within Irish Aid, January to December 2006

Cathy Gaynor

4,180

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme

Cathy Gaynor

20,429

Provision of Technical Support for Education for All June 05- Dec 06

Cathy Gaynor

32,658

Provision of Technical Support for Emergency and Recovery Section, Rapid Response Initiative, August to November 2006

Margaret Gaynor

13,806

Provision of Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Margaret Gaynor

7,939

Support Irish Aid in the Areas of Vulnerability and Infrastructure

Margaret Gaynor

28,241

External Evaluator for Irish Aid for Balkans and CIS

John Grindle

8,500

Assist the Review of the Staffing Needs of the Diplomatic Missions in Programme Countries, Sierra Leone and South Africa, March-August 2006

John Grindle

15,426

Legal Advices regarding the establishment and operation of the Rapid Response Initiative

Grosso & Maldonado

2,080

Support to the Zambia/Ireland Teacher Education Initiative

Cathal Higgins

30,521

Provision of Technical Support for Education for All June 05- Dec 06

Cathal Higgins

24,746

Irish Aid Centre Public Relations and Outreach Consultant

Daire Higgins

13,200

Technical Consultant on Tsunami Response

Anne Holmes

69,579

Quality Review of Mozambique Country Strategy Programme Evaluation

Institute of Public Administration

2,904

Public Expenditure Review of the Irish Governments Support to Tsunami affected countries

INTRAC

31,181

Review of the Irish Missionary Resource Service (IMRS)

INTRAC

23,716

Mainstreaming: Building Strategy and Practice within Irish Aid, January to December 2006

Mary Jennings

3,020

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme

Mary Jennings

28,125

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Jim Kinsella

3,264

Irish Aid Seminar — Presentation on OECD/DAC Agriculture Task Team

Jim Kinsella

300

Programme of Strategic Co-operation between Irish Aid and Higher Education and Research Institutes

Maura Leen

4,396

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group Jan- Dec 2006

Maura Leen

5, 371

Programme Consultancy, Central America

Imelda Torres Lopez

3,049

Evaluation of Development and Inter-Cultural Education Project (DICE)

Maeve Martin

15,000

Education for All — Quest 111

Mary Immaculate College

4,868

Programme Consultancy, Central America

Mary McCann Sanchez

46,887

Programme Consultancy in Central America 2006 — Dissemination of an Irish Aid teaching resource entitled “Our World — Our Future”

Owen McCarthy

9,065

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS in area of R&D for new drugs, vaccines and micro biocides

Diarmuid McClean

106,799

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Geraldine McDonald

14,655

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme, November 2006 to October 2008

McEvoy Peter

3,933

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Hunter McGill

10,471

Assistant Communications Officer

Brid McGrath

46,316

Provision of Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Mary McKeown

3,000

Technical Consultant for the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme, November 2006 to October 2008

Mary McKeown

4,727

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Mary McKeon

5,227

Provision of Technical Support to the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Mary McKeown

17,234

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Bernard McLoughlin

5,525

Provision of technical expertise for private sector development in Africa

Kevin Moore

114,494

Provision of Technical Support for Education for All June 05- Dec 06

Patrick D. Murphy

8,774

Gender action planning and support to policy implementation.

Una Murray

7,519

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Una Murray

3,721

Irish Aid Centre, Content Consultant

Jill Nesbitt

10,000

Development Education Strategy

Helen Newman — Newman & Assoc

18,150

Provision of Technical Support on HIV/AIDS

Ann Nolan

52,432

Development of Irish Aid’s Governance Strategy for Tanzania for period 2007-2011

Dr. Diarmuid O’Donovan

4,821

Support to Irish Aid on the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB & Malaria, March ‘06 to February ‘07

Jerry O’Dwyer

37,896

Consultant to Conflict Resolution Unit March — August 2007

Eleanor O Gorman

65,493

Advisory input to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group 2006 — 2008

Helen O’Neill

12,350

Provision of Technical Support to HIV/AIDS Advisers Meeting

Morina O’Neill

6,708

Irish Aid Centre, Content Consultant

Morina O’Neill

5,000

Provision of Audit Management Support to the Evaluation and Audit Unit September 06 — June 07,

Johnny O’Regan

75,737

Provision of Audit Management Support to the Evaluation and Audit Unit, 31 March 2007- 31 Mar 2008

Johnny O’Regan

19,764

Strategic Review of Irish Aid’s Engagement with the United Nations Funds and Programmes

Oxford Policy Management

61,316

Consultancy Support to the Irish Aid Hunger Task Force

Oxford Policy Management

5,283

Evaluation of the Irish Aid World Bank Education Trust Fund

Steve Packer

23,001

Provision of Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Advisory Group 2006 — 2008

Aidan Pender

8,450

Independent Consultant for the Partnership Programme for Europe and Central Asia Funding Committee.

Ann Pesic

2,294

On-going support to Irish Aid funding of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Sept 06- December 07

Pat McMullin

11,928

Consultancy on Good Governance Jan–July 2007

James Polhemus

77,421

Facilitation of UN Volunteer Internship Programme Aug 06–Mar 08

Rothwell Performance Consulting

81,016

Piloting of Organisational Assessment Guidelines.

Rothwell Consultancy Civil Society

13,141

Technical Support — Information and Public Awareness

Daniel Rowan

28,314

Support to the AMAR Health Rehabilitation Project for the Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq

Dr Jane Salvage

12,135

Rapid Response Initiative -Manager of Standby Register

James Saunderson

520

Participation at Mekong Private Sector Development Facility Planning and Review Meeting, and Vietnam Business Forum, December 2006

Mike Scott

6,357

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund, March 2007–March 2009.

James Sheehan

5,298

Provision of Technical support for HIV/AIDS June 06–June 07

Tara Shine

118,417

Country Strategic Planning Backstopping Support

Tara Shine

5,072

Implementation of the Irish Aid Environment Policy

Tara Shine

476

Provision of Technical Support for Emergency and Recovery Section, Rapid Response Initiative, August to November 2006

Ben Siddle

41,393

Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Fund

Marie Smith

15,162

Technical Advice on Gender Equality

Aisling Swaine Consultancy Ltd

98,112

Supporting the work of the Emergency Section

John Telford

15,633

Production of publication material for communication about Irish Aid’s health programming

Debbie Thomas

10,000

Report on Staffing needs of Missions in Irish Aid Programme Countries, South Africa and Sierra Leone

Richard Townsend

8,556

MAPS 11 Civil Society Section Funding Schemes April 06 — Mar 07

University Of Glasgow

7,563

Supporting the work of the Emergency Section

Barnaby Willits/ John Telford

21,326

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006–2008

Bernard Wood + Associates Ltd

27,137

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006–2008

Hunter McGill — PAEG Const.

417

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006–2008

Andre Barsony — PAEG

357

Advisory Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2007

Art Fell

591

Support to the revision of Irish Aid’s Country Strategy Planning (CSP) Guidelines and Procedures

Kate Dyer

476

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS March 2005 to Dec 2006

Kate Butcher

476

Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG)

Art Fell

234

Programme Consultants in Central America 2006

M Torrez-Lopez M McCann-Sanchez

3,243

Private Sector Support Aug–Nov 06

Kevin Moore

3,939

Primary Teacher Education in Uganda

Margaret O’Sullivan

145

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS, October to December 2006

Margaret Fitzgerald

10,687

On-going support to Irish Aid funding of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Sept 06–December 07

Pat McMullin

4,277

Services to Irish Aid’s Project Appraisal and Evaluation Group (PAEG) 2006–2008

Margaret Fitzgerald

575

Consultancy Support to the Irish Aid Hunger Task Force

Nick Chisholm

6,408

Provision of Technical Support on HIV/AIDS, April 2007–31 July 2007.

Ann Nolan

22,241

Independent/External Mid-term Evaluation of the Justice System Programme August 2007

Siobhan Mulalley

5,197

Provision of Technical Support on Health and HIV/AIDS March 2005 to Dec 2006

Diarmuid O’Donnabháin,

280

Provision of Technical Support on Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria

Jeremiah O’Dwyer

4,328

Maintenance of DCI Spanish Language website in Central America (January to December 2007) & Promotion of the Website (February 2007)

Roberto ED. Martinez

2,186

Irish Aid Advisory Board

Service Provided

Consultant

Amount Paid to Date in 2007

Preparation of a report entitled: Best Practice in the Governance of Aid Programmes

Theta Eta Advisors Limited

6,050

Research study entitled: “Measuring Impact: The Global and Irish Aid Programme Context”

Oxford Policy Management

42,258

(i)Preparation of a report entitled: “Selectivity in Action: Choosing Irish Aid’s Tenth Programme Country” (ii)Editorial Work on Research Findings Volume 1 Governance Trade and Aid Effectiveness.

Mr Tony Killick

25,410

Public Procurement Advice on establishment of Framework Agreements for Research

Achilles Procurement Services Limited

1,270

Proposed Legislation.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

225 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to bring forward legislation dealing with the banning of cluster munitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36013/07]

The Programme for Government states that "This Government will campaign for a complete ban on the use of cluster munitions. In the absence of a full ban we will seek agreement on an immediate freeze on the use of cluster munitions pending the establishment of effective international instruments to address humanitarian concerns regarding their use."

In my speech to the United Nations General Assembly in October I referred to Ireland's role in seeking a comprehensive response to the curse of cluster munitions, the appalling effects of which are all too evident in Lebanon and elsewhere, and stated that, in order to advance the collaborative effort launched in Oslo last February, Ireland would host a Diplomatic Conference in May 2008 which we hoped might finalise the first-ever international agreement on cluster munitions.

At the Oslo Meeting in February 2007, to which I have just referred, 46 States adopted a Declaration which committed them to conclude by 2008 a legally binding international instrument that will "prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians." They also committed to cooperation and assistance for survivors and affected communities, clearance of affected areas and destruction of stockpiles and to consider taking steps at national level to address these problems, pending adoption of a treaty.

Ireland has taken a leading role in the Oslo Process and is a member of the Core Group guiding it, together with Austria, the Holy See, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway and Peru. Following the Oslo Declaration, a meeting in Lima in May 2007 saw the number of participating States grow to 68, while the most recent conference in Vienna earlier this month attracted 138 States and saw detailed and substantive discussion of the text of a draft Convention. Further discussions will take place in Wellington in February 2008 and the Dublin Diplomatic Conference will take place in Croke Park from 19-30 May. Given the clear political momentum which exists, I am hopeful that it will be possible to agree an effective prohibition on the use of cluster munitions, with substantial humanitarian provision for victims and affected areas. A hallmark of the Oslo Process is the involvement of NGOs and civil society representatives, with significant attendance from this sector expected in Dublin.

In the course of 2007, a number of countries whose armed forces possess cluster munitions, including Belgium, Austria and Hungary, have adopted legislation or moratoria banning their use. Though Ireland has never possessed these weapons, I am willing to examine the case for a ban in domestic law as a signal of Ireland's leadership role in this area. To that end, I have asked my officials to examine, in conjunction with other Government Departments, what measures would be necessary to achieve a ban in domestic law.

Our main focus remains on securing effective action at the international level. Once an international instrument on cluster munitions is adopted it will be necessary to consider the steps, including possible new legislation, required to enable ratification by Ireland.

Overseas Development Aid.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

226 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the overseas development assistance funding allocated to organisations in the United States of America for the years 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; if organisations were funded, the purpose of these organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36014/07]

In response to the humanitarian emergency caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and as an expression of solidarity with the people of the United States, Ireland provided €1 million in emergency funding to the disaster effort. Approximately €700,000 was delivered via the Irish Red Cross to the American Red Cross, and a further €300,000 was committed by our Embassy in Washington to support civil society and community based organisations working in the affected region with the recovery effort.

My Department, through Irish Aid, has also provided €490,000 over the period 2005 to 2007 to support field based humanitarian research in emergency environments. This research, carried out by the Feinstein International Centre, in Massachusetts, is designed to assist international humanitarian organisations and NGO's to respond more effectively in crises situations. The work also focuses on protecting the vulnerable in conflict situations and in rebuilding livelihoods in the aftermath of emergencies and is part of Irish Aid's commitment to best humanitarian practice.

The Deputy will also be aware that Ireland makes significant ODA eligible payments to many organisations having their headquarters in the United States of America — the UN and the IMF / World Bank being obvious cases in point. Those, mainly multilateral organisations, have as their main objective the economic and social advancement of developing countries. Contributions to those organisations are published in the Irish Aid Annual Reports.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

227 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions, contacts or meetings he has had with his counterparts in Northern Ireland or its party leaders or representatives with respect to the death of a person (details supplied); the contacts he has had with the person’s family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36015/07]

As I said in response to Question No. 328 of 4 December 2007, this was a particularly brutal and shocking murder, widely and rightly condemned. Since then, on 17 December, I met with the parents of the deceased young man, in Dundalk. I conveyed to them the sympathy of the Government on their terrible loss and our determination to see justice done in this matter.

A very active criminal investigation by An Garda Síochána is ongoing and receiving excellent co-operation and assistance from the PSNI. My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Brian Lenihan T.D. has discussed this case with Secretary of State Woodward and NIO Security Minister Paul Goggins in the context of the ongoing investigation. I would again urge anyone who has any information on this murder to pass it on to the two police forces. It is only through full co-operation with the law enforcement agencies that the authors of this vicious crime will be brought to justice.

Overseas Development Aid.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

228 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the overseas development assistance channelled through multinational and international organisations for the years 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; the organisations, multinational and international that received funding; the amount of same; the locations where these organisations are based and their function or remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36016/07]

Ireland's overseas development assistance (ODA) is delivered through a wide range of development and humanitarian organisations, including non governmental organisations (NGOs), multilateral and other international organisations, and directly through our own programmes in our 9 Programme Countries. This mix and balance of delivery mechanisms is designed to maximise the impact of our assistance on the ground, in line with the priorities set out in the White Paper on Irish Aid published in 2006.

The multilateral component of Ireland's ODA is predominantly channelled through the United Nations (based largely in New York, Geneva and Vienna), the World Bank (based in Washington) and the European Development Fund (based in Brussels). A percentage of this multilateral ODA is also paid by other Departments such as the Department of Finance (which makes payments in support of the International Financial Institutions including debt relief); the Department of Agriculture and Food (which supports food relief through the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation) and the Department of Health and Children (which supports the World Health Organisation). Ireland is also credited with substantial amounts of the EU development cooperation budget.

Ireland's core multilateral ODA amounted to over €190 million in 2005 and €312.5 million in 2006. While precise figures are not yet available, a figure in the region of €200 million is expected for 2007.

It should be noted that while Irish Aid makes a number of core contributions to UN development bodies, we also support the UN to carry out aspects of our own bilateral programmes, particularly emergency humanitarian relief. For example in 2006 and 2007 we contributed €10 million and €20 million respectively to the Central Emergency Response Fund. The CERF was established, with Ireland's support, to enable humanitarian organisations to respond much more rapidly to sudden onset emergencies in order to save lives. Ireland also works with international organisations such as the Red Cross family in its humanitarian endeavours. The Red Cross received €5.6 million in 2005, €10.7 million in 2006 and €11.6 million in 2007.

The majority of Ireland's development contributions to the UN are concentrated on a small group of agencies whose policies and development priorities fit best with our own, which have the most robust management arrangements and which have monitoring and evaluation systems considered to be of the highest calibre. These are the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which plays a central role in coordinating the delivery of development aid on the ground, with a special focus on governance; the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The decision to designate these bodies as Priority Partners within the UN system followed a recommendation by a 2006 external review of Ireland's engagement with the UN Funds and Programmes.

Irish Aid makes smaller contributions to UNAIDS, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the Environment Programme (UNEP), the Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Volunteers and the Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Assessed contributions to the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), International Office for Migration (IOM), and the World Conservation Union are also made.

Irish Aid's support for the World Bank is also directed to a number of large global funds managed by the Bank, notably the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. This is one of the principal mechanisms for addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic in a systematic and effective way. Smaller amounts are given in support of the International Finance Corporation, the branch of the World Bank Group devoted to strengthening the private sector in developing countries.

Irish Aid also funds a range of multilateral organisations under the general heading of Aid for Trade. These include the International Trade Centre and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The total amount of funding provided to assist the various trade capacity building and development projects in 2005 was approximately €1.4 million, with €3 million contributed in 2006 and €6 million in 2007.

A comprehensive list of Ireland's contributions to multilateral and international organisations for each year is outlined in the Irish Aid Annual Report, which is placed in the Dáil Library.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

229 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36028/07]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is Irish Aid's Headquarters, will decentralise to Limerick. This is scheduled to take place in early 2008 on completion and fit-out of the permanent premises in Henry Street. Good progress has been made and personnel have either been assigned to, or identified for, 103 posts or approximately 83% of the 124 posts scheduled to be decentralised.

An advance party involving 55 staff has already decentralised to interim office premises in Limerick. Forty-nine of these were Dublin-based applicants and the remaining 6 were from provincial locations.

Two officers of this Department, based in the Passport Office Cork, transferred directly to their chosen decentralised location in other Departments.

Twenty three Dublin based-officers of this Department have transferred to other Departments with a view to moving to a provincial location under the Decentralisation Programme. Thirteen of these officers initially transferred to Dublin- based offices of the respective decentralising Departments and ten transferred directly to a provincial location.

Job Creation.

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

230 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA initiated visits of potential investors or companies to Ballinasloe over each of the past four years in an effort to bring jobs to this town following job losses during the past decade; the dates of these visits; the result of discussions which have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35663/07]

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

235 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA initiated visits of potential investors or companies to Gort over each of the past four years in an effort to bring jobs to this town following job losses during the past decade; the dates of these visits; the result of discussions which have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35761/07]

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

236 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA initiated visits of potential investors or companies to Tuam over each of the past four years in an effort to bring jobs to this town following job losses during the past decade; the dates of these visits; the result of discussions which have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35762/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230, 235 and 236 together.

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

I have been informed by the Agency that in the period 2004 to date in 2007, there has been a combined total of 16 visits by potential investors to the towns of Ballinasloe, Gort and Tuam. Details of these visits are set out in the tabular statement. Discussions with existing or prospective client companies are an operational matter for the Agency and are treated as confidential. However, one of these visits resulted in the establishment of a research, marketing and distribution facility by USCI in Ballinasloe. This facility currently employs in the region of 70 people.

A central goal for Government is the achievement of balanced regional development. The National Spatial Strategy provides a framework for achievement of this goal through the prioritisation of development and investment in gateway and hub locations. Under the NSS, Galway City is designated as a Gateway and Tuam is designated as a hub town. Both locations together with Ballinasloe are priority locations in Galway for the Agency.

Despite increasing competition, Galway County and City continue to be very successful in winning Foreign Direct Investment. There are 50 IDA supported companies in Galway City and County employing almost 10,000 people in permanent jobs with a further 2,000 in temporary and contract jobs. Indeed, over the last three years employment trends show a continuing gradual increase in IDA supported employment.

In addition, IDA Ireland is investing significantly in the provision of planned and focused property solutions in the West region. IDA is developing world class Business and Technology Parks in Oranmore, Tuam, Ballinasloe, and Parkmore.

I am confident that the strategies being pursued by IDA together with the roll out of the National Development Plan 2007-2013 will continue to bear fruit in terms of investment and job creation for the people of Galway.

Table showing the number of site visits to the towns of Ballinasloe, Gort and Tuam

2004

2005

2006

2007

Ballinasloe

4 (March, May, September & October)

6 (February, March & May

0

0

Gort

0

1 (December)

0

0

Tuam

2 (March & December)

1 (December)

2 (July & August)

0

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

231 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of posts filled in his Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in his Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35671/07]

Table 1 sets out details in respect of the total number of posts filled in my Department at various grades in each of the past five years:

Table 1

Year

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Numbers

121

107

128

150

260

The number of posts above include the total number of people assigned to my Department by one of the following avenues:

(a)recruited from open competitions

(b)promoted from Interdepartmental competitions

(c)promoted from internal panels

(d)decentralisation assignments

(e)temporary recruitments e.g. term time

(f)assigned to Dept/Office from outside e.g. Political appointments.

A detailed breakdown of these posts (by grade) is included in Appendix 1 below.

Table 2 sets out details in respect of the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in my Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only;

Table 2

Year

Grade

Internal Seniority (Senior suitable)

Internal Interview

PAS Confined

2003

Staff Officer

4

3

1

Executive Officer:

2

3

6

Higher Executive Officer

2

4

4

Assistant Principal

2

2

3

Principal Officer

1

2004

Staff Officer

3

3

2

Executive Officer:

2

2

6

Higher Executive Officer

8

Assistant Principal

Principal Officer

2

1

2005

Staff Officer

1

3

2

Executive Officer:

2

1 + 9 Lab. Insp.

1

Higher Executive Officer

3

Assistant Principal

Principal Officer

1

2006

Staff Officer

1

1

1

Executive Officer

1

1 + 1 Lab. Insp.

3

Higher Executive Officer

Assistant Principal

5

Principal Officer

2

2

2007

Staff Officer

1

1

4

Executive Officer:

1

3 + 7 Lab. Insp.

5

Higher Executive Officer

1

14

4

Assistant Principal

5

Principal Officer

2

2

The number of staff by grade who transferred in from other Government Departments for the purposes of decentralisation (existing civil servants) are as follows:

Year

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Numbers

20

45

Appendix 1

Grade

Numbers

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

Cleaner

1

1

6

3

5

Service Officer

1

Temp CO

74

67

61

35

16

CO

71

33

7

14

41

SO

6

3

5

8

7

EO

26 + 15

10 + 1

7 + 9

14

14

AO

2

5

6

HEO

19 + 6

4

3

8

10

AP

4

7

2

2

4

PO

1

3

2

2

1

Asst Sec

1

1

Temp Cleaner:

4

3

3

4

2

Legal Advisor:

2

EO Students:

14

9

12

11

9

Director of NERA:

1

PA to Minister:

3

2

1

PS to Minister:

2 + 2 Sec. Ass.

2

1

1

Press Advisor:

1

Civilian Driver:

4

2

Accountant Grade 1:

1

1

Member of Comp Auth:

2

Member of Labour Court:

1

1

3

Special Advisor to Min:

1

2

Auditor:

2

Counsellor:

1

Legal Advisor:

1

Controller in ESF:

1

Departmental Agencies.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

232 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of posts filled in the Government agencies under his Department’s remit in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in these agencies that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or which were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35686/07]

Subject to approved overall levels of staffing and to overall budgetary constraints, the filling of posts in the Agencies within the remit of my Department is a day-to-day matter for the agencies concerned. My Department has no role or function in this process.

Industrial Development.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

233 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA itineraries that have visited Kildare south constituency in each of the past five years; the results of such visits; the areas of the constituency visited; if the areas that the IDA has sites were visited; if there are outstanding issues in relation to such visits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35706/07]

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

I have been informed by the Agency that, from 2003 to date in 2007, there have been a total of 5 site visits by prospective investors to towns in County Kildare. During the course of an itinerary all potential sites, including sites owned by IDA Ireland, would be brought to the attention of prospective clients. Details of these visits are set out in the attached tabular statement. To date, no investment has resulted from these visits.

Over the past 5 years, IDA Ireland's focused strategy for Kildare has been to promote the County as part of an integrated East Region with access to a population base of 1.5 million people. The East Region offers foreign direct investors a global gateway and benefits from almost half of all employment in IDA supported companies.

In recent years Kildare has attracted some world class manufacturing companies such as Intel, Wyeth Medica, Braun Oral B and Hewlett Packard. At the end of December 2006, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 24 IDA supported companies in Kildare employing approximately 10,310 people.

In October 2007, Wyeth Medica in Newbridge announced a €24m R&D project which will enhance the quality of products within the plant. Another significant development, announced earlier this year, has been the decision by Tegral to relocate to a Greenfield site. Within the Tegral Group, Athy is seen by the parent company as being efficient, competitive and worthy of new investment. Also the decision by Coca-Cola to increase the job numbers in Athy International Concentrates is most welcome.

I am satisfied that the strategies being pursued by the Agency together with the roll out of the National Development Plan will continue to bear fruit in terms of investment and job creation for the people of Kildare.

Table showing the number of visits to towns in Kildare in each of the years 2003 to 2007.

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2 (Naas & Kildare)

0

0

0

3 (Athy 2 & Maynooth 1)

Job Creation.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

234 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of Irish companies are outsourcing a number of their operations, in particular call centres, to other European and international countries; and the measures his Department is taking to promote job creation here in this particular area. [35709/07]

The Enterprise Development Agencies under the aegis of my Department, Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards, and IDA Ireland have remits respectively in the areas of, growing indigenous enterprises, and attracting and growing foreign direct investment. In addition, Shannon Development is the regional economic development agency for the mid-west region, and has specific responsibility for Foreign Direct Investment in the Shannon Free Zone. My Department has put in place a range of strategies, programmes and financial incentives to promote economic and enterprise development that will support sustainable employment throughout the country.

Ireland is building its position as a leading European provider of the next business step up from contact centres — shared services and business process centres, by offering detailed technical support and a wide range of services way beyond giving simple solutions to straightforward customer inquiries. Some are operated by outsourced suppliers, but most in Ireland are managed by the companies they serve.

Ireland has approximately between 60 and 70 shared services centres that are multilingual, pan-European and trans-Atlantic. These include major companies the size and scale of IBM or Dell. Outsourcing is often undertaken as part of a long term strategic business growth plan of Irish companies.

These companies increasingly focus on outsourcing as a strategic option. Outsourcing by indigenous enterprises is a natural stage in the growth and development of internationally trading enterprises as they seek to achieve international scale. In general, companies engage in outsourcing with the objective of enhancing corporate profitability and maintaining the international competitiveness and long run survival of the company by accessing productivity enhancing factors of production such as skilled labour, low cost raw materials and labour.

Outward Direct Investment (ODI) gives rise to a range of costs and benefits which impact on the firm itself, its stakeholders, and the Irish economy as a whole. A 2007 Forfás Commissioned report on the effect of ODI on the Irish economy concludes that ODI by indigenous firms has a positive impact on the domestic employment levels within investing firms, a positive effect on the skills levels within those companies indicating increased numbers of higher skilled employees and a positive impact on the productivity of the investing firm.

Overall the Forfás Commissioned report concludes that ODI by indigenous firms has a net positive impact on the economy. However, the creation of high-value added jobs in the context of ODI is often accompanied by a loss of low skilled jobs in low-value added activities. This may have greater impact where it happens in regional areas of the country, where alternative employment opportunities may be less readily available.

Looking to the future, neither the Government nor my Department is complacent or unaware of the varied challenges facing the country's economy. One of our main tasks is to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive place to do business, and to support the development of economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we continue to work to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions, and promote new areas of competitive advantage by developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures, and promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning, in line with the NDP and the Programme for Government.

Questions Nos. 235 and 236 answered with Question No. 230.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

237 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in accordance with his Department’s sectoral plan, all the recommendations of the value for money evaluation have been enacted with an action plan and timeframes developed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35893/07]

In accordance with a recommendation contained in the Study of Efficiency and Effectiveness of Vocational Training Services and Rehabilitative Training Services for People with Disabilities provided by Specialist Training Providers, agreement has been reached on the capitation fee payable to FÁS contracted Specialist Training Providers in respect of vocational training services for people with disabilities.

FÁS have established a working group to oversee the implementation of other recommendations emerging from the Study. The group is scheduled to review and report on progress by March, 2008.

The Working Group is made up of representatives of FÁS Community Services/Social Inclusion and Specialist Training Providers, and its Terms of Reference are as follows:

1.To oversee the implementation of the recommendations emerging from the Report.

2.To identify and design appropriate structures, systems and linkages to address each recommendation in the context of exploring best practice modern service delivery models.

3.To ensure active implementation of these structures, systems and/or linkages by appointing appropriate sub groups to initiate and monitor same.

4.To review and report progress by March 2008.

David Stanton

Ceist:

238 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, as outlined in his Department’s sectoral plan, specific budget training supports such as assistive technology and training supports have been made available by FÁS to people with disabilities; if all training materials and other publications are accessible to people with disabilities as per Section 28 of the Disability Act 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35894/07]

The provision of assistive technology and training supports to people with disabilities is a requirement under the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and the Equality Act, 2004. This legislation requires that appropriate measures are available to enable a person with a disability to have access to employment, to participate in employment and/or to undertake training.

Within its remit for providing vocational training services for people with disabilities FÁS does everything possible to have in place any supports or assistive technology that a disabled learner may require. This could relate to training itself or in any examination or test that might be part of the certification process for his or her FÁS course in compliance with current legislation.

Assistive technology and training supports are currently funded out of FÁS regional training budgets. However, FÁS plan to establish a central dedicated budget for this in 2008 in accordance with a recommendation in the FÁS Vocational Training Strategy for People with Disabilities.

Accessible training materials are made available by FÁS on the basis of individual need. In regard to publications, the FÁS web site is currently WAI Triple A compliant for publications, and will be "Browse Aloud" compatible in early 2008. These facilities directly address the requirements of Section 28 of the Disability Act.

David Stanton

Ceist:

239 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if targets have been set by his Department and by FÁS in relation to the participation of people with disabilities in work and training options; if so, the details of these targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35895/07]

Since 2006 an annual national target is set in all FÁS regions in the first quarter of the year for all training and employment programmes in respect of a number of target groups, including people with disabilities. For 2007, there is a targeted increase of 1% over the 2006 figures regarding registration, completion and placement. Targets are monitored quarterly. In 2006, 7,385 persons in receipt of disability payments completed employment and training programmes.

The total numbers of persons in receipt of a state disability income who commenced on all FÁS training courses in 2006 was 983. Approximately 50% of these would have commenced training in Specialist Training Providers, such as National Learning Network (NLN), which are specifically for disabled people and are contracted, and monitored by FÁS.

The immediate objective under my Department's Sectoral Plan for People with Disabilities in the medium term is to raise the employment rate of that cohort who do not have a difficulty in holding a job towards the employment rate of their peers who do not have disabilities. The immediate objective over the period of this plan is to aim to have at least half, or 7, 000 of that cohort in employment. The Plan covers the period 2006- 2010 and will be reviewed in 2009.

Ministerial Appointments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35968/07]

The main sources of advice, externally provided to my Department, are the various agencies and bodies under its remit. Of these, Forfás is the main source of advice which inputs into decisions taken by me and my Department in relation to policy matters. Forfás is the national policy and advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation and the body in which the State's legal power for industrial promotion and technological development has been vested. It is also the body through which powers are delegated to Enterprise Ireland for the promotion of indigenous industry and to IDA Ireland for the promotion of inward investment. Science Foundation Ireland was established as a third agency of Forfás in July 2003 to provide strategic support to scientists, engineers and academic researchers working in biotechnology and ICT development.

In carrying out its functions Forfás works with a number of bodies which operate under its aegis or to which Forfás provides an administrative and/or research function. The work of these bodies is an important input into policy formulation at my Department. These bodies include:

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC), which reports to the Taoiseach on issues of National Competitiveness.

The Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (Advisory Science Council), which advises on medium and long-term policy for science, technology and innovation (STI) and related matters.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs

The Enterprise Strategy Group and associated Enterprise Advisory Group

The Business Regulation Forum,

Discover Science and Engineering, the national science awareness programme.

The Small Business Forum, which reported to the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment in May 2006.

The Interim Board of the National Consumer Agency (established as a statutory entity on 1 May 2007).

The Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB), a committee of Forfás, is the National Body with responsibility for accreditation in accordance with European and international formal standards and guides.

There has been no additional cost to the Department as it is the function of Forfás, which supports the work of the above bodies, to provide such policy advice to the Minister.

As regards Company Law initiatives and legislation, the Department consults a variety of stakeholders including the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, private sector stakeholders with legal, accounting and fund management expertise and Company Law Review Group. The advice provided by these experts is free of charge to the Department.

In addition, as part of the commitments included under the partnership agreement ‘Towards 2016', a High-Level Manufacturing group was established to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and to identify further measures to meet those challenges.

None of the above advice relates to capital expenditure projects.

In respect of externally sourced advice, outside of my Department's agencies, which was sought in the period 1 December 2006-30 November 2007 as an input into policy formulation and administrative matters pertaining to the operations of my Department, the information required by the Deputy is set out in the tabular statement.

Name of Consultants

Purpose

Total Cost

Implementation of advice

HELM Corporation Ltd.

Advice and support on the Optimisation of the ORACLE Financial Management system

€18,525.07 (none of which is Capital expenditure)

The advice provided through this consultancy has resulted in greater use being made of the ORACLE Financial Management system. Most notably, access to daily expenditure reports is now directly available to Line Sections throughout the Department.

RITS

ICT Security Review

€118,928 (none of which is Capital expenditure

The review looked at all information and communications systems throughout DETE and its offices including, physical locations, IT infrastructure, applications and online services. The review made a number of recommendations to ensure ongoing continuity, integrity and availability of data, including improved patching, formalised change controls and a more systematic and integrated approach to, and increase awareness of, security work. Already a number of the recommendations of the review have been implemented and the remainder, which require considerable work for the Department’s IT Unit, will be implemented over the next two years.

Indecon Consultants

The Department requested Forfás to examine the implications for Irish industry of the revision to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Forfás engaged Indecon consultants to undertake a study in this regard

€30,000 (none of which is Capital expenditure. DETE part — funded the project)

The Study was finalised at the end of October 2007. The Report’s analysis provides an assessment of the competitiveness impact on both enterprises as a whole and the particular industrial sectors directly affected by the proposed revisions to EU Emissions Trading Scheme. It is currently being used to form the basis of Departmental policy decisions on the issue.

Mr Tom Walsh

To provide advice on the development of occupational health and safety policy and related legislation to the Department.

€81,493.20. (not related to capital expenditure)

The advice provided by Mr Walsh is taken into account in the formulation of policy.

ARUP Consulting Engineers

To provide advice and recommendations in support of the Department’s review of the Dangerous Substances Acts

€144,072. (not related to capital expenditure)

Project just commenced recently

Work Research Co-operative Social & Economic Consultants Limited

Research Study on Acquired Disability and Employment

€79,896.30 (none of which is Capital expenditure

Project commenced in October — final report due in March 2008

Goodbody Economic Consultants Limited

Review of the FÁS funded Wage Subsidy Scheme for the employment of people with disabilities.

€47,190 (none of which is Capital expenditure

Work on the Study commenced on 5th November 2007 and a final report is expected in January 2008.

RPS Consultancy

Engaged by the interim National Consumer Agency Board to conduct research into energy policy.*

€19,150 (none of which is Capital expenditure)

The advice provided is taken into account in the formulation of policy

Deloitte

Engaged by the interim National Consumer Agency Board to advise on drawing up a corporate plan for the Agency.*

€80,323 (none of which is Capital expenditure)

The advice provided is taken into account in the formulation of policy

*The Interim Board of the NCA and the ODCA ceased to exist on 1st May 2007 when the National Consumer Agency was formally established as a statutory Agency.

I have not included details of representations made to me by individuals or representatives groups, operational circulars and directions from other Government Departments, or any legal advices received or sought. I also have excluded any information which relates to the operational day-to-day matters of my agencies, in which I have no function.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

241 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36026/07]

My Department is required to relocate 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme and this is planned to occur by the end of 2009.

In order to accommodate staff who wished to move earlier than the projected building completion date of late 2009, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30th 2007. The number of posts in this decentralised advance office is 98. Of the staff in place in this office, 38 were decentralised from locations outside Dublin with the remainder decentralised from Dublin.

Additionally my Department has 48 staff due to decentralise to Carlow in the substantive move scheduled for 2009. The number of staff who have transferred from my Department to other decentralising Departments is 59.

Health and Safety Authority

The Health and Safety Authority is to decentralise 110 staff to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. In anticipation of the move to Thomastown, the Health and Safety Authority has established an interim office in Kilkenny city and to date 27 staff of the Authority have decentralised to that office which is now at full capacity. The majority of these staff were either directly recruited or transferred from Dublin. All staff that move to the Kilkenny office will transfer to Thomastown when the premises there are completed.

Enterprise Ireland (EI)

The Government decentralisation programme provides for the transfer of the Enterprise Ireland Headquarters, with 300 posts, to Shannon. Further progress in effecting this move is contingent on a number of factors, including the level of interest in the Shannon location expressed through the Central Applications Facility and the resolution of certain key issues for agency decentralisation in discussions at central level. I understand that there have been 25 applications through the Central Applications Facility from civil and public servants for transfer to Shannon. Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works, has identified, but not yet acquired, a preferred site for the construction of a new HQ building in Shannon.

Following the transfer of responsibility for indigenous industry development in the Mid-West Region from Shannon Development to Enterprise Ireland (EI) from 1 January 2007, Enterprise Ireland established its new National Regional Development Headquarters, which incorporates the County Enterprise Coordination Unit, in Shannon. This has given Enterprise Ireland a major presence in Shannon. At present, 40 staff, including a number of staff transferred from Shannon Development and over 20 local recruits, are based at recently leased offices in Westpark, Shannon. It is expected that this number will increase to about 65 over the coming months. A senior manager has been appointed as Head of Regions and Entrepreneurship to oversee the establishment of the EI presence in the Mid-West Region. EI managers with responsibility for the County Enterprise Coordination Unit and EI Regional Development strategy as well as the Regional Director with responsibility for the Mid-West Region are now in place in the Shannon office. As part of EI's regional strategy, these posts were assigned from Dublin to the new office in Shannon.

FÁS

Transferred from Dublin to Birr, 12

Transferred from outside of Dublin to Birr, 3

New Entrants to Birr (replacing Head Office

Posts, 6

TOTAL, 21

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

242 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of posts filled in his Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in his Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35666/07]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

243 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of posts filled in the Government agencies under his Department’s remit in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in these agencies that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or which were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35681/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 243 together.

The information set out as follows refers to all posts filled in my Department during the last five years and include all posts filled by open recruitment, promotion, transfers in respect of decentralisation, staff returning from career breaks, etc.

Year

Total Number of Posts filled in year

2003

25

2004

16

2005

23

2006

70

2007

45

Details in relation to the number and grade of posts that were open to existing public or civil servants only, which include internal and interdepartmental promotions, staff who joined the Department under decentralisation and staff who resumed duty following career breaks are as follows:

Year

Number and Grades

2003

2 Assistant Principal Officers 1 Higher Executive Officer 9 Executive Officers 2 Clerical Officers

2004

1 Assistant Principal Officer 3 Higher Executive Officers 4 Executive Officers 1 Clerical Officer

2005

1 Assistant Secretary 1 Principal Officer 5 Assistant Principal Officers 2 Staff Officers 2 Clerical Officers

2006

1 Principal Officer 10 Assistant Principal Officers 1 Administrative Officer 14 Higher Executive Officers 15 Executive Officers 3 Staff Officers 12 Clerical Officers

2007

1 Secretary General 2 Principal Officers Assistant Principal Officers 6 Higher Executive Officers Executive Officers 3 Staff Officers 6 Clerical Officers

The number of posts to which staff were appointed or promoted which were not subject to competition, are set out as follows:

Year

Total Number of Posts filled in year that were not subject to a competition at all

2003

2

2004

Nil

2005

2

2006

2

2007

5

These appointments include personal appointments made by me and by my predecessor and a small number of junior staff promoted by the seniority/suitability method through centrally agreed procedures.

The filling of posts in agencies under the aegis of my Department is a day-to-day matter for the agencies themselves and my Department does not have the details sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Reports.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

244 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he will publish the Arts Council report on the Arts in Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35772/07]

The Arts Council has presented me with a copy of this report and I have studied its contents. I am currently considering the proposals further and will be discussing them with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, and with the Arts Council in due course.

In the meantime, my officials have already had bilateral discussions with the Department of Education and Science and the Arts Council and all three parties are due to meet in the New Year to discuss the report in further detail.

The timing of publication of the report will be considered when this process is complete.

Departmental Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

245 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism further to a previous parliamentary question, if he will provide details of the incremental costs of all bodies from set up and annual budget with a break down of annual overheads. [35905/07]

The budgetary information in respect of the Agencies operating under the aegis of my Department is set out in my Department's Estimates, which are published annually as part of the Estimates Volumes. The Estimate Volumes are available on the Department of Finance website www.finance.gov.ie.

Subhead D3 of the Department's Vote aggregates the Estimates provision for the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Chester Beatty Library, National Concert Hall and Crawford Gallery.

The costs and overheads of the agencies under the aegis of the Department are a matter for the day to day management of the bodies concerned. Each statutory agency is responsible for complying with normal financial procedures in relation to the disbursement of funds allocated to it.

Ministerial Appointments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35963/07]

As the Deputy is aware I took office at my Department in June 2007. Since then, in addition to the policy and administrative advice I have taken from my Department, I have taken into consideration the advice of my special adviser and press adviser on a broad range of issues including capital expenditure projects.

I also discuss policy and administrative matters with representatives of the agencies under the aegis of my Department as appropriate.

Apart from the salary costs of my advisers, who are paid at civil service Principal Officer Higher and Ordinary levels, no further costs have been incurred by me on advice.

There is no Minister of State in my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

247 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36020/07]

Under the Government's Decentralisation Programme, the number of civil servants who have transferred from Dublin to my Department's decentralised office at Fossa, Killarney, Co Kerry currently stands at 24.

The number of civil servants who have transferred from locations outside of Dublin, i.e. provincial locations, to my Department's temporary accommodation at Fossa currently stands at 46. The number of civil servants in my Department in posts in Dublin pending decentralisation to Killarney currently stands at 10.

To date, no employees of State bodies under the aegis of my Department have transferred to their designated decentralisation locations.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

248 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of posts filled in his Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in his Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35677/07]

The following tables detail the number of posts filled in my Department under various categories for the past five years.

Table 1: Total Number of Posts filled in Department of Social & Family Affairs

Year

Number of Posts

2003

193

2004

270

2005

224

2006

369

2007 (to end Oct)

381

Table 2: Number of posts open to existing public and civil servants only

Year

No of posts open to existing public or civil servants only*

2003

126

2004

156

2005

142

2006

264

2007 (to end Oct)

208

*Includes all posts filled (by transfer, promotion, decentralisation) apart from those filled from open competitions.

Table 3: Number of posts not subject to competition

Year

Posts filled not subject to competition*

2003

90

2004

118

2005

90

2006

231

2007 (to end Oct)

145

* Includes lateral transfers (including decentralisation), non-competitive promotions and secondments.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

249 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of posts filled in the Government agencies under his Department’s remit in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in these agencies that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or which were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35692/07]

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

250 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether it is acceptable that the living alone allowance has not increased since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35801/07]

The living alone increase is an additional payment of €7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people who are under 66 years of age who are living alone and receiving payments under one of a number of invalidity type schemes. The increase is intended as a contribution towards the additional costs people face when they live alone. The policy in relation to support for pensioners has been, for many years, to give priority to increasing the personal rates of pension rather than supplements like the living alone increase. The objective is to use resources to improve the position of all pensioners to the fullest extent possible rather than focusing on particular groups. This approach was continued in Budget 2008 with increases of up to €12 and €14 per week granted on personal rates.

The results of this policy can be seen in the recently released results from the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) which showed that the position of older people improved significantly from 2005 to 2006, with the ‘at risk of poverty' rate falling from 20.1% to 13.6%. Furthermore the number of people aged 65 and over ‘at risk of poverty' was significantly lower than the figure of 17% for the general population.

Family Support Services.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

251 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the way the back to school clothing and footwear allowance increase will make a significant difference to many low income families, in view of the fact that the qualifying criteria for this payment remain so onerous; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35802/07]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is not intended to meet the full cost of school clothing and footwear but only to provide assistance towards these costs.

A person may qualify for payment of an allowance if they are in receipt of a social welfare or Health Service Executive (HSE) payment, or are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education and training course and have household income at below standard levels.

Family Income Supplement (FIS), which is a weekly tax-free payment for families at work and on low pay, is also one of the qualifying payments for the purposes of the BSCFA scheme. This enables families, not normally in receipt of a social welfare or HSE payment to avail of the BSCFA scheme. Self-employed people on low incomes may qualify for Jobseekers Allowance (JA), depending on the income from their business. As JA is a qualifying payment for BSCFA a self-employed person may then qualify for payment of BSCFA subject to meeting the other qualifying criteria of the scheme. A means test is applied to ensure that limited resources are directed to those in greatest need. Income Limits for 2008 will be €496.10 for a couple with one child and €347.30 for a lone parent with one child. The limit is increased by €24.00 for each additional child. The fact that the income limit is aligned to weekly social welfare payment rates means that it is automatically indexed upward each year with budget increases.

In Budget 2007, the rate of payment of BSCFA was increased by €60 per child for children aged 2 to 11 years old and €95 for children aged 12 to 22 — a 50% increase on the previous allowance. The rates for 2007 are €180 for children aged 2 to 11 years old and €285 for children aged 12 to 22. Budget 2008 has increased BSCFA rates by €20 to €200 and €305, a further increase of 11% and 7%, respectively. Expenditure on the scheme will increase by €3.5m to around €43.5m in 2008. These improvements in BSCFA are very significant when viewed in the context of clothing and footwear price trends. According to the Consumer Price Index for October 2007, the overall cost of clothing and footwear has fallen by 3.5% over the past twelve months. Since December 2001, clothing and footwear costs have decreased by 18.4%.

I consider the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme to be an important support for parents at a time of particular financial strain. Any changes to the structure of the scheme, rates of payment, income limits or amendments to the qualifying criteria would have cost implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of resources available to me for improvements in social welfare payments generally.

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

252 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the fact that almost four out of five carers are not entitled to the carer’s allowance or carer’s benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35803/07]

The Government has made significant improvements to the carers allowance and Carers Benefit in recent years. The number of hours a person can work and continue to receive payment has increased from 12 to 15 hours per week. The income disregard has been increased in Budget 2008 to €332.50 for a single person and €665 for a couple. The respite care grant was extended to all people providing full time care and Budget 2008 provides for the payment to be increased to €1,700 in respect of each care recipient. Other enhancements include care sharing and the extension of the Carers Benefit scheme duration to 24 months.

At present there are over 34,000 carers in receipt of a weekly payment for caring from my Department. Of these, over 32,400 are in receipt of carer's allowance and over 1,980 are in receipt of carer's benefit. In addition, over 8,000 carers have received a respite care grant from my Department in respect of 2007 and applications continue to be received. One of the fundamental qualifying conditions for all of these payments is that the recipient must be providing full time care and attention to a person who needs it.

According to Census 2006 there are 160,917 people providing at least 1 hour of unpaid help per week for a friend or family member with a long term illness, health problem or disability. Of this number, 93,363 people provide up to 2 hours of unpaid help per day and a further 17,093 people provide unpaid help of between 2 and 4 hours per day. So there are approximately 50,400 people providing care for more than 29 hours per week or just over 4 hours per day. Of these, approximately 19,600 people are classified by principal economic status as being at work and many of these would be engaged in employment for more than 15 hours per week which would make them ineligible for carer's allowance or benefit.

Budget 2007 provided for significant structural reforms to introduce new arrangements whereby people in receipt of a social welfare payment, other than carer's allowance or benefit, who are also providing someone with full time care and attention, will be able to retain their main welfare payment and receive another payment, depending on their means, the maximum of which will be equivalent to a half rate carer's allowance. Similarly, people currently in receipt of a carer's allowance, who may have an underlying eligibility for another social welfare payment, can transfer to that other payment and continue to receive up to a half rate carer's allowance. These new arrangements which came into force in September 2007 apply to almost all weekly social welfare payments including state pension contributory and non-contributory; widow/er's contributory/non-contributory pension and to people in receipt of qualified adult allowances.

I will keep supports for carers available from my Department under review in order to continue to improve the schemes and ensure commitments on income support are delivered.

Child Support.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

253 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether the recent increases announced in Budget 2008 will make a decisive impact on child poverty in view of the fact that the qualified child rate for social insurance and social assistance payments has only been increased by €2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35804/07]

The reduction and eventual elimination of child poverty is a national priority and at the core of the strategic process to combat poverty and social exclusion, as set out in Towards 2016, the National Action Plan for social inclusion (NAPinclusion) and the social inclusion commitments in the NDP.

Children growing up in low income or jobless households are the most vulnerable to poverty. A high proportion of these households are composed of larger families with three or more children, and those headed by lone parents. As national and international evidence shows that employment participation is the main route out of poverty, the policy direction followed by successive Governments from 1995 to 2006 was to dedicate substantial resources to Child Benefit (CB). This process was intensified during the period 2001 to 2006 when an additional €1.27 billion was invested in the scheme, making child income support more neutral vis-à-vis the employment status of the parent and thus ensuring more parental choice in relation to working inside or outside the home in relation to retention of child income supports.

The shift towards CB has been substantial, from a position where Child Benefit represented 27% of the total CB/Qualified Child Increase (QCI) payment, to 63%. In other words, following the CB increases, a family will now lose only 37% of their child income support when moving into full-time employment. The advantage of this change is that, unlike QCIs, it does not contribute to unemployment or poverty traps. In addition, the introduction of the early child care supplement in 2006 in respect of all children up to six years of age has increased the overall level of child income support to all qualifying families, and proportionately more in the case of low-income families.

In the ten years from 1998 to 2007, CB rates have increased by 300% (lower rate) and 266% (higher rate). This compares with a consumer price index rise of 39.2%. In addition, the early child care supplement, which is payable in respect of all children under six years of age, provides a further €83.33 per month (paid quarterly in arrears). Budget 2008 provides for further increases payable in respect of all children. In percentage terms, these represent increases of 3.8% and 3.2% over 2007. When added to the increase of €100 per annum to the Early Childcare Supplement, the overall increases in relation to children under six years are €14.33 (lower) and €16.34 (higher) per month, percentage increases of 5.89% and 5.87% respectively.

While CB rates continue to increase, recent budgets have seen the concentration of additional resources on more targeted payments and specifically to families who are dependent on welfare supports, including family income supplement which is paid to low-earning employees with children. In this context, Budget 2007 provided for the first increases in QCIs since 1994, followed by the further increase which I announced in Budget 2008.

Pension Provisions.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

254 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide exemption for those female old age pensioners who are denied the qualified adult allowance due to the impact of joint accounts on their entitlement to QAA, where their husbands may have deposited in the account a lump sum received due to redundancy, retirement, severance and so on; if he will take into account the fact that the females concerned are likely to have remained at home to care for and nurture children, and look after their homes while the husband was the sole wage-earner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35809/07]

The state pensions contributory and transitional include, where appropriate, an increase for a dependent spouse or partner. This increase is means-tested and a full increase is payable where a spouse's income is less than €100 per week, and reduced rates are payable until income exceeds €300 per week, up from €280 before the recent Budget. The decision is made on the basis of the income enjoyed by the qualified adult only. However, where capital or property (other than the family home) is jointly owned, then the qualified adult will be assessed with 50% of any actual/notional income or capital value deriving from that asset. The effect is that the qualified adult of a couple with capital of just under €116,000 will qualify for a qualified adult increase at the maximum rate of €200 per week provided the principal pensioner is also in receipt of state pension (contributory) at the maximum rate. Social Welfare legislation provides for the tapered withdrawal of the qualified adult increase until it is withdrawn where a couple has capital of €216,000 or more.

As set out in the Programme for Government, the policy in relation to the means-testing of qualified adult payments is to increase the income limits that apply in the means-test so that more people will qualify for the allowance. These limits are kept under review in a budgetary context. The issue of means-testing qualified adult payments for pensions is discussed in the Green Paper on Pensions, published on 17 October. Although this is an issue which cannot be looked at exclusively in a pensions context, as it applies to all social welfare payments, the consultation process on pensions will include discussion on the future status of qualified adults.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

255 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the plans his Department have to introduce a grant to enable a person in receipt of the State pension to install a land line phone in view of the substantial cost of such an installation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35842/07]

Budget 2007 provided for the telephone allowance to be extended to cover mobile phones. Under this new arrangement, customers have the choice to opt either for a direct credit to a telephone company for their landline as before or for a cash payment in respect of their mobile phone. This means that it is no longer necessary for a person to have a landline installed in order to benefit from the telephone allowance. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to further extend the telephone allowance to include broadband services. A range of proposals have been made to extend the coverage of the household benefits package of free schemes. These proposals are kept under review in the context of the objectives of the scheme and budgetary resources.

Departmental Programmes.

David Stanton

Ceist:

256 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in accordance with his Department’s sectoral plan, his Department’s disability awareness training programme has been completed; if all senior managers have completed this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35883/07]

The Disability Awareness training programme, in accordance with my Department's Disability Sectoral Plan, is currently underway. To date, training has been provided to staff in my Department's decentralised headquarters office in Longford which has responsibility for the administration of the main disability-related schemes. All Access Officers, who are at senior management levels, have also received training. In addition, the Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Irish Civil Service has been circulated to all staff in the Department. The provision of Disability Awareness training to the rest of the staff of the Department will continue in 2008. All senior managers will participate in this programme.

Departmental Strategy Statements.

David Stanton

Ceist:

257 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in accordance with his Department’s sectoral plan, a strategic review, including upgrading and promoting usage, of his Department’s website has been carried out; if all the recommendations have been implemented in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35884/07]

A strategic review of the website was completed in June 2006 which recommended a full redesign and redevelopment of the website. Work is currently underway on the development of the new website which is scheduled for implementation in the second half of 2008. A promotional campaign to encourage greater use of the website will be undertaken thereafter.

Departmental Programmes.

David Stanton

Ceist:

258 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his Department’s progress in relation to ensuring that their schemes and services which support mainstreaming and full participation of people with disabilities in employment as per his Department’s sectoral plan; if the expansion and consolidation of projects to increase labour market participation of certain illness benefit customers has been completed and evaluated; if the publicity initiatives in relation to the automatic restoration of benefits and allowances for persons engaged in employment and activation were undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35885/07]

In July 2006 my Department launched its Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005. The plan is aimed at developing services that not only give people with disabilities financial security but encourage maximum participation in society. One of the objectives of the plan is to engage meaningfully with persons of working age, particularly marginalised groups and provide services directly and in co-operation with other relevant agencies to encourage and support these people in taking up relevant work, training and education or development opportunities.

My Department is committed to the development of a systematic programme of engagement for all people of working age, including people with disabilities. The Social & Economic Participation Programme under the NDP 2007-2013 will develop an active case management service for all people of working age including people with disabilities. This service will be complemented by my department's existing back to education and back to work schemes. Senior officials representing relevant departments and agencies have met to progress activation commitments under the Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016 and the National Development Plan. A review of existing social and family support services resources within my Department has been undertaken to identify gaps in service provision.

In addition, a project proposal entitled "Supporting Economic Participation by People with Disabilities" has been approved for funding under the European Social Fund, Human Capital Investment Operational Programme 2007-2013. The high level objective of the proposal is to develop and test a comprehensive employment strategy based on individual case management of people on illness and disability welfare payments, that will have the capacity to increase their rate of employment. Planning for the project has commenced in the Border Midland and Western region where the project will be piloted. Nominations for the project board have been sought from relevant departments and agencies.

An amendment to existing legislation, effective from 1st January, 2007, provides that where a person who has been in receipt of illness benefit for a period of two years and engages in employment for less than 26 weeks, payment of the benefit will be re-instated without the requirement to serve waiting days if that person finds that s/he is unable to continue to work. A similar exemption applies with disability allowance, except that the person may engage in employment for up to 52 weeks and still qualify for immediate re-instatement of the payment, should the need arise.

These provisions ensure that people with an illness or disability can return to the labour market without fear of losing entitlement to the benefit or allowance should they find that they are unable to continue in employment. Information regarding restoration of benefits is provided by the relevant scheme areas and individual customers are advised of the arrangement where applicable.

Departmental Bodies.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

259 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to a previous parliamentary question, if he will provide details of the incremental costs of all bodies from set up and annual budget with a break down of annual overheads. [35915/07]

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

260 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in relation to qualification for a combined Irish and UK pension for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35960/07]

The person concerned is in receipt of maximum rate Widow's (Contributory) Pension of €191.30 plus € 21.90 fuel allowance, per week. As her spouse had worked in England, the relevant information was referred to the Department of Social Security in Newcastle upon Tyne (DHSS) to assess her eligibility for a widow's pension. It is a matter for that Department to advise the person concerned of her entitlement. A reminder has been sent to DHSS in this case.

Ministerial Appointments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

261 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35974/07]

The information requested is currently being compiled within the Department and will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

262 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36031/07]

To date, 177 posts have relocated from the Department's Dublin Offices to Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo, of whom 65 were Dublin based and 112 were provincially based. In addition, a further 136 employees, of whom 104 are Dublin based and 32 are provincially based, have transferred to this Department's existing decentralised offices in Dundalk, Letterkenny, Longford, Sligo and Waterford to fill vacancies created by the current decentralisation programme. A further 188 Dublin based employees have transferred into posts in preparation for decentralisation. In addition to the above, 195 employees of the Department have transferred to other Government Departments under the programme of decentralisation, of whom 89 were Dublin based employees.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

263 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of posts filled in his Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in his Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all. [35668/07]

Apart from appointments made under the decentralisation programme, most of which were the result of bilateral staff transfers between my Department and other Departments, the following posts were filled in my Department in each of the grades listed in the last five years

GRADE

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Totals

Assistant Secretary

0

1

0

0

1*

2

Principal Officer

0

1

2

2

1

6

Assistant Principal Officer

2

1

1

3

3

10

Higher Executive Officer

7

1

3

4

5

20

Executive Officer

5

7

2

1

5

20

Staff Officer

0

1

1

0

1

3

Clerical Officer

9

4

3

5

10

31

Services Officer

1

0

2

3

2

8

Accountant

1

0

0

1

0

2

Translator

1

0

0

1

0

2

Engineer

1

0

0

0

1

2

Personal Secretary to Minister*

0

0

0

0

1

1

Personal Assistant to Minister*

0

0

0

0

1

1

Special Adviser*

0

1

0

0

1

2

Media Adviser*

0

0

0

0

1

1

Personal Secretary to Minister of State*

0

0

0

0

1

1

Personal Assistant to Minister of State*

0

0

0

0

1

1

Totals

27

17

14

20

35

113

All of the appointments from Assistant Secretary to Staff Officer (inclusive) (except for 1 Assistant Secretary post in 2007 and 3 Executive Officers in 2003, 2 in 2004 and 1 in 2007) were open to civil servants only and were filled by competition. The posts mentioned in brackets were filled by open, public, competition. The posts asterisked were posts filled in accordance with Instructions relating to the appointment of Ministerial Private Office staff published by the Department of Finance in 2007. Two of these appointments were the re-engagement of the same officers.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

264 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of posts filled in the Government agencies under his Department’s remit in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in these agencies that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or which were not subject to competition at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35683/07]

My Department is in contact with the relevant bodies and agencies regarding the information requested by the Deputy, which will be forwarded as soon as it has been collated.

Drug Abuse.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

265 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the actions proposed or the changes already agreed, to proposals in relation to highlighting the problems attached to the misuse of illicit substances as a result of recent events involving such use of such substances over the holiday period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35699/07]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

268 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he or his Department has had meetings with the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform or his Department as a result of recent events due to the use of illicit substances as to the way the dangers of the misuse of the substances can be highlighted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35742/07]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

269 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has given directives to agencies within his remit seeking the highlighting of the effects of the use of illicit substances and their dangers during the holiday period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35743/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265, 268 and 269 together.

Last week, I chaired the regular quarterly meeting of the Inter-Departmental Group on Drugs. This Group comprises representatives of all the key Departments — including the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform — and Agencies involved in delivering the National Drugs Strategy 2001-08, as well as representatives of the community and voluntary sectors. At the meeting, a presentation was made by the Health Promotion Unit of the Health Service Executive outlining the forthcoming National Drugs Awareness Campaign, the initial phase of which was launched last Monday. The aim of the campaign is to dispel the myths surrounding cocaine and cocaine use and it is targeted at recreational users aged 15-34 years.

While the Health Promotion Unit has lead responsibility for the development of this campaign, an Advisory Group, including representatives of my Department along with the Drug Task Forces and the National Drugs Strategy Team, was established earlier this year to consider the most effective way forward with the campaign. The campaign will be primarily digital based. It is expected that the second phase of the campaign, which will include radio, outdoor, ambient and press coverage, will be rolled out in February 2008. I have not given directives to agencies within the remit of my Department regarding the effects of drug misuse over the holiday period.

Departmental Funding.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

266 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of applications for funding received from Donegal County Council for refurbishment or new works on islands within the remit of the council for each of the past three years; the position of the applications; the amount of funding allocated; the number of applications still under consideration or refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35700/07]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

267 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of applications for funding that his Department has received from Mayo County Council for improvements to facilities within the local authority remit for islands within its control for each of the past three years; the number that have been successful; the amount of funding involved; the number refused or still being investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35701/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 267 together.

Firstly, I should explain to the Deputy that the normal procedure in relation to the matters raised by him is that proposals for island work programmes are discussed between my officials and officials of the relevant local authority in advance of a formal application for grant assistance being made. Accordingly, agreement is reached by consensus on annual programmes of island works on the basis of prioritisation and in the context of the overall budgetary provisions. Any projects that cannot be processed at a given time are kept under review. Total capital expenditure under the Islands subhead of my Department's Vote for the Donegal islands over the last 3 years was in excess of €1.1m, as shown in the following table:

2005

2006

2007*

€202,085

€479,849

€449,900

*Final end-year figure outstanding.

The works in question comprised a wide range of infrastructural works, including piers, helipad, coastal protection and roads, in addition to the provision of smoke alarms and safety equipment. In the case of the Mayo islands, the total capital expenditure over the last 3 years was in excess of €4.4m, as shown in the following table:

2005

2006

2007*

€2,948,832

€1,397,557

€73,800

*Final end-year figure outstanding.

The works in question comprised major pier developments on Inishturk and Clare Island, in addition to other infrastructural works, such as roads and slipways. The Deputy may wish to note that my Department also provides funding for islands under various other subheads and programmes, including, for example, CLÁR, the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme, as well as a range of Gaeltacht schemes in the case of islands located in the Gaeltacht. If the Deputy requires further information in relation to any specific island or project, I will, of course, be happy to assist.

Questions Nos. 268 and 269 answered with Questions Nos. 265.

Departmental Correspondence.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

270 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35753/07]

Larkwood Blueberry Farm is a subsidiary of Allenwood Enterprise Park. This project was funded by FÁS, under the Social Economy Programme on the basis that it would become commercially viable and self-sustaining. The Social Economy Programme transferred to my Department in 2006 and has been re-named the Community Services Programme, to reflect a change of emphasis towards the provision of community services. After 8 years of operation the blueberry farm at Allenwood had failed to become commercially viable and could no longer meet the eligibility criteria for funding under the Programme. By agreement with the project my Department's funding is transferring to the parent organisation, Allenwood Enterprise Park. Accordingly, the funding will continue to be used for the benefit of the Allenwood community.

Community Alert Schemes.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

271 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the grants and assistance available to a community for them to establish a community alert scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35831/07]

The funding of Development Officers to assist community alert schemes is a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Departmental Bodies.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

272 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to a previous parliamentary question, if he will provide details of the incremental costs of all bodies from set up and annual budget with a break down of annual overheads. [35906/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 299 of 17 Deireadh Fómhair 2007, which includes information regarding the annual budgets, since the establishment of my Department in 2002, of bodies referred to in my previous reply to the Deputy's Question No 119 of 22 Samhain 2007. The Deputy will appreciate that details relating to the breakdown of annual overheads of the bodies in question are made available in a format agreed with the Comptroller and Auditor General in the annual accounts of such bodies, which are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. If, however, the Deputy requires particular information in relation to any specific body, I will be glad to assist in any way possible.

Community Support for Older People.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

273 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who has applied for an appliance has not been given one. [35935/07]

My Department has received no application for funding for or on behalf of the named individual under the Scheme of Community Support for Older People. I am informed that a local Active Retirement Group have been in contact with the individual and are likely to make an application on his behalf in due course.

Ministerial Appointments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

274 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number and identity of persons, groups, bodies or agencies other than the established civil servants from whom he or Ministers of State in his Department have sought or received advice in connection with policy or administrative matters appertaining to the operation of his Department or other bodies under his aegis in the past 12 months; the extent to which such advice related to capital expenditure projects; the cost of such advice; the extent to which it has been implemented to date or if it is intended to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35965/07]

The Deputy will appreciate that, given the wide range of programmes operated by my Department, external advice relating to policy or administrative matters, including in relation to capital projects, may be required from time to time. The table below sets out the main instances (excepting those of minor value) in which such advice has been sought formally over the past 12 months, together with associated information along the lines sought by the Deputy. I do not consider it realistic to provide details relating to informal or unsolicited advice, or to advice provided by bodies or agencies in fulfilment of their everyday functions, in a reply of this nature.

Name

Subject

Capital expenditure project?

Estimated cost

Stage of implementation

Fitzpatrick Associates

VFM Review of Local Development Social Inclusion Programme

N/A

96,135

Final report due by year end

Fitzpatrick Associates

Strategic Outline Case for restoration of Ulster Canal

Yes

48,958 (to be shared with the NI Department of Culture Arts and Leisure)

Project commenced

Fitzpatrick Associates

Evaluation process in relation to Local Action Groups in context of new Rural Development Programme 2007-13

N/A

102,525

Ongoing

Irish Charities Tax Research Ltd

Development of Agreed Codes of Practice for charitable fundraising

N/A

300,000

Final report due shortly.

Irish Charities Tax Research Ltd

Feasibility study re Irish ‘GuideStar’ for the not-for-profit sector

N/A

70,000

Project ongoing

Combat Poverty Agency

Evaluation of IT system used for Community Development Programme

N/A

20,000

Review ongoing

Arthur Cox

Corporate Governance Guidelines relating to Local and Community Development Structures

N/A

86,683

Implemented

Goodbody Economic Consultants

Employment Aspects of Community Programmes reorganisation

N/A

14,513

Implemented

Dr Oonagh Breen

Review of Corporate Governance in Local and Community Development Structures

N/A

24,500

Implemented

Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta, Gaillimh

Linguistic Study of Use of Irish in Gaeltacht

N/A

550,223

Report published. Consideration ongoing

Saltire Management Ltd

Feasibility study relating to RO/RO service to Aran Islands

Possible impact on future development of piers/marine facilities

72,552

Under consideration

Cranfield University

Update of report on air services to certain islands

Possible impact on future development of air facilities

15,519

In progress

Ethos Ltd

Evaluation of tenders for cargo service to certain islands

Possible impact on future development of piers/marine facilities

8,232

Being implemented

Saltire Management Ltd

Evaluation of tenders for passenger/cargo services to certain islands

Possible impact on future development of piers/marine facilities

6,239

Being implemented

Petrus Consulting Ltd

VFM review of Capital Expenditure on the Islands 1998-2004

Yes

56,034

Implementation, as appropriate, under consideration

Thomas Garland & Partners Ltd.

Evaluation of tenders in relation to the construction of Clifden airstrip

Yes

120,707

Ongoing

Goodbody Economic Consultants

Review relating to Dormant Accounts Fund

38% relating to capital projects

70,664

Implemented

Goodbody Economic Consultants

Evaluation of Funding Schemes under White Paper on Supporting Voluntary Activity

N/A

77,924

Implemented

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

275 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number to date of civil servants and employees of State bodies transferred from Dublin to decentralised locations; the number transferred from outside of Dublin to other decentralised locations; and the number transferred in post to decentralising Departments in Dublin pending planned decentralisation to locations outside of Dublin. [36023/07]

To date, 47 officers of this Department have transferred in post from Dublin to decentralised locations — 43 to an interim location in Tubbercurry and 4 to Na Forbacha. 31 officers transferred from outside Dublin to those destinations — 29 to Tubbercurry and 2 to Na Forbacha. 8 officers transferred from other Dublin locations to this Department's Dublin office and will relocate in post in due course.

Of the 25 posts filled in Clifden by Pobal only 1 staff member relocated from Dublin, the remaining posts being filled by way of local recruitment. The decentralisation of 30 posts by Foras na Gaeilge to Gaoth Dobhair is still at the planning stage and no staff have decentralised as yet.

Aquaculture Development.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

276 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps she will take to ensure the continued viability of the shellfish industry in an area (details supplied); and if a contingency arrangement has been approved by her Department officials to ensure that due process will take place and that there is no threat to this industry as a result. [35828/07]

My Department currently has overall responsibility for the implementation of the Shellfish Waters Directive (79/923/EEC), pending its onward transfer to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in accordance with the government decision taken on the 9 October. This directive has been enacted through SI 268/2006 and Clew Bay is designated as a Shellfish Water under these regulations. As a designated water, an ongoing action plan has been implemented to protect and improve these waters, consisting of a testing regime and ongoing analysis of the pressures on the bay.

Local Authorities and the EPA are listed in the regulations (SI 268/2006) as relevant Public Authorities. Mayo County Council and the EPA were advised of their responsibilities under the Directive in June 2006. The Council and the EPA are therefore aware of their duty to protect the shellfish waters in Clew Bay from contaminants set out in schedule 2 of the regulations.My Department has been in regular contact with Mayo County Council throughout the year and the Council is fully aware of its obligation to protect these waters, in accordance with the provisions of the Shellfish Waters Directive.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

277 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of posts filled in her Department in each of the past five years; the number and grade of posts in each of the past five years in her Department that were open to existing public or civil servants only, or that were not subject to competition at all; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35665/07]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the table below.

Posts Filled

Of which posts confined to Civil Servants

2007

367

108

2006

308

80

2005

245

81

2004

257

67

2003

353

117

The posts confined to Civil Servants included positions at Assistant Secretary, Principal Officer, Assistant Principal, Higher Executive Officer, Executive Officer, Staff Officer, Supervisory Agricultural Officer, District Superintendent, Area Superintendent, Forestry Inspector Grade 1, Agricultural Inspector, Service Officer, Senior Superintending Veterinary Inspector, Superintending Veterinary Inspector, Senior Research Officer and Senior Superintending Research Officer.

Departmental Agencies.