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 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

10 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he plans to amend the legislation governing the Standards in Public Office Commission in order that it can initiate its own investigations of matters which may breach proper behaviour by persons in its area of responsibility. [15686/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

54 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he plans to amend the Ethics in Public Office Acts; if he will agree to the substantive amendments sought by the Standards in Public Office Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15607/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 54 together.

As I have informed the House on previous occasions, the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 already allows the Standards in Public Office Commission to carry out investigations on its own initiative, where it considers it appropriate to do so, on breaches of the provisions of the Ethics legislation, by persons in the Commission's area of responsibility, and as provided for by the legislation. The Deputies will, of course, be aware that issues concerning a non-office-holding member of the Oireachtas would, in the first instance, be a matter for the Select Committee on Member's Interests of the relevant House.

As regards the other changes to the Ethics legislation recommended by the Standards Commission in its last Annual Report, I do not propose to amend the definition of the term "specified act" used in the legislation, or to legislate for a complaint concerning failure to abide by certain defined ethical standards. The existing definition of "specified act" aims to strike a fair balance, and there are already Codes of Conduct to guide the ethical behaviour of Oireachtas members, office-holders and civil servants in their day-to-day business and these codes can be taken into account by the Standards Commission in an investigation of an alleged breach of the legislation.

As regards inquiry officers, again I have informed the House previously that I have no plans to amend the law to enable the Standards Commission to appoint an inquiry officer without having received a complaint. It is reasonable that a complaint to the Standards Commission should be required to commence the inquiry process, which, in itself, can carry serious consequences for the person who is to be the subject of it. Numerous categories of persons, including members of the public and any public representative, are entitled to make a complaint against the persons and office holders against whom complaints can be made to the Commission.

The other Standards Commission recommendations are technical. One of them — about the furnishing of ‘nil' statements — is already provided for in the Ethics in Public Office (Amendment) Bill 2007. Another concerns statutory declarations of tax compliance under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001, and relates to extending the period within which proceedings can be taken in relation to false or misleading declarations. The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006, which is before this House, extends that period in relation to statutory declarations generally, including those required under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. I aim to circulate amendments to the Ethics in Public Office (Amendment) Bill 2007, which amends the Ethics legislation and has been passed by the Seanad, to cater for the remainder of the Standards Commission's recommendations in advance of the Committee Stage debate on the Bill when it is being taken in the House.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

11 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the timetable for the completion of the roll out of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15240/08]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

80 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans for a review of the programme of decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15605/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

95 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in regard to uptake in the Government’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15854/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 80 and 95 together.

The Programme for Government states that the Government will continue to move ahead with decentralisation and ensure that no public servant is obliged to accept decentralisation against their wishes and that promotion opportunities remain available. I have no plans to review the programme. A progress report by the Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) was submitted to me and published on 8th October last. The Group reported that implementation of the civil service element of the Decentralisation Programme is progressing satisfactorily.

From the announcement of the Programme in December 2003, the focus has been on detailed planning and organisation of the property, staffing and business aspects. The DIG has considered it essential that all organisations take the necessary time to prepare this groundwork well in order to ensure effective implementation of a programme of this scale and complexity. The focus of the Group has not been on how speedily the programme can be achieved but how well. It is important to remember that the programme is not just about moving public services. It fundamentally impacts on the staff in those organisations, on their career choices and their expectations. Over 11,000 civil and public servants have applied to relocate under the Programme. Of these, over 6,000 or 55% are currently based in Dublin. The Central Applications Facility (CAF) remains open and continues to receive applications.

To date, decentralising organisations have a presence in 34 towns. Approximately four thousand staff have been assigned to decentralising posts and over 2,200 of these are currently in their new locations, while the remainder are being trained in advance of decentralisation to a new location, as soon as accommodation becomes available. Taking account of both posts moved and assignments approximately 50% of the civil service posts have already moved or have staff in place with a commitment to move. Property or sites have been acquired or are well advanced in a total of 38 locations. In addition, the OPW have been very efficient in securing suitable advance or temporary accommodation in over 20 locations to facilitate the early phasing of the transfer of business units. The October DIG report, which can be accessed at http://www.decentralisation.gov.ie, provides an update of the OPW timeframes for the expected completion of permanent accommodation. The OPW conducts a review of the property timeframes for permanent accommodation on an ongoing basis and is keeping these timeframes under review based on its experience to date in relation to property selection and acquisition, brief and design issues, tendering periods, planning issues and contractual arrangements.

I remain confident that the public service will deliver this programme in a considered, sensible and sensitive manner. The Government is anxious to ensure that the momentum of the programme is maintained and developed and in that context Secretaries General of decentralising Departments have been asked to review these timeframes in association with the OPW and the DIG to assess where earlier progress could be made either in relation to permanent accommodation or advance accommodation. The DIG is currently examining the position in relation to progressing the relocation of the State Agencies, with a view to identifying where early progress can be made.

Fiscal Policy.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

12 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will bring forward revised spending Estimates for 2008 in view of the steeper than expected decline in Exchequer returns, the steeper than expected increase in the live register and higher than expected inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15627/08]

The 2008 spending plans were set out in detail in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2008 which were published on 21 February 2008. The Estimates provide for total gross expenditure of just under €62 billion made up of approximately €53 billion current expenditure and €9 billion capital expenditure. These are the settled spending allocations with which all Government Departments and Agencies must comply. The end-March Exchequer returns showed that expenditure was broadly on target for the first three months of 2008. The question of bringing forward revised spending plans does not arise, and I have no plans to do so.

Spending Evaluation Programmes.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

13 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on giving the Houses of the Oireachtas responsibility for spending evaluation programmes. [15669/08]

The Orders of Reference for the Select Committees of the 30th Dáil specifically encompass consideration of spending evaluation programmes in the form of Value for Money Reviews and I wrote to the Chairpersons of all Dáil Select Committees on 1st February this year encouraging them to ensure that the Committees schedule time to consider Value for Money and Policy Reviews in detail, and where appropriate, to discuss the Reviews and their conclusions and recommendations with the relevant Department. In my view this approach combined with the submission of Annual Output Statements to the Select Committees results in an improvement in the quality of the information available to the Dáil in considering the Estimates and facilitates better accountability and information on what is being achieved for the moneys approved by the Dáil. Separately, the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General provides Value for Money Reports to the Committee of Public Accounts for consideration as part of his role in examining whether State bodies are using their resources economically and efficiently and have mechanisms in place to evaluate the effectiveness of their operations.

Tax Yield.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

14 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the implications of the shortfall in tax receipts to date in 2008 for public policy. [15666/08]

In response to Priority Questions 1 and 2, I have already set out the fiscal position at end-March. In this regard, I would remind you again of the Government's policy. While our fiscal position may have weakened from that envisaged at Budget time, the current situation is manageable given the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio. Also, the fundamentals of the Irish economy remain strong. This will help us to absorb the housing adjustment and external ‘shocks' so that our medium term prospects are favourable. For instance:

our public finances are sound with one of the lowest levels of debt in the euro area;

our markets are flexible allowing us to respond efficiently to adverse developments;

we have a dynamic and well educated labour force;

we have a pro-business outward looking society;

the tax burden on both labour and capital is low.

I wish to stress that the Government accepts that there can be no unnecessary loosening of fiscal policy and, in that context, the implementation of the National Development Plan remains a key priority. As regards current day-to-day expenditure, it is crucial that the agreed budget spending limits are adhered to this year. As I indicated at Budget time, the rate of increase in current spending over the medium term must be managed carefully and kept within available resources. This Government intends to do just that.

National Development Plan.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

15 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make arrangements that the maximum possible details in respect of appraisals of NDP projects are published, subject to not compromising the State’s ability to run competitive tenders effectively. [15694/08]

As I have previously indicated, the responsibility for undertaking project appraisals rests in the first instance with the individual Departments and Agencies. They are prepared to facilitate and inform the internal decision making process. It has not been the practice to publish these appraisals as they generally contain commercially sensitive information, the publication of which could be prejudicial to the State's capacity to get best value for money in procurement of capital projects. In these circumstances, I would not consider it appropriate to require that details of appraisals of NDP projects be published as a matter of course.

Efficiency Reviews.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

16 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the purpose and extent of the efficiency reviews of public expenditure as cited in the OECD’s 2008 Economic Survey of Ireland; the terms of reference of these reviews; the person who is carrying out these reviews; when he expects these reviews to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15620/08]

The efficiency review referred to by the OECD is the one I announced in Budget 2008. The nature and terms of reference are set out in the Budget Booklet at Page B.24. In accordance with these terms of reference, all Government Departments and Offices were required to examine all administrative spending within their area, including spending by state bodies under their aegis, and to report back to my Department by March 2008 with specific proposals to maximise administrative savings in their area. The results of this exercise would then be reviewed within the Department of Finance, and the savings identified would be used in reducing the cost of the existing level of services for 2009 and subsequent years.

In setting out the parameters of the Efficiency Review, I laid down no requirements as to the persons who should be involved in conducting the examinations within each Department, nor as to the specific terms of reference that would guide the examination exercise in each case, as these are matters to be determined by the Head of Department or Office in each case. However, in the Summary of 2008 Budget Measures, I indicated that particular areas of interest included possible inefficiencies due to the multiplicity of Boards and Agencies; the need for better sharing of certain services; and efficiencies in management, travel and consumables in general. I also indicated that the measures identified would not jeopardise the maintenance of front-line services. The reviews have now been received and my Department is examining what further action is required. The outcomes of this exercise will be taken into account in the Budget for 2009, at which point the results of the exercise will be published.

Tax Code.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

17 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost of not plugging the avoidance scheme on stamp duty; and the reason this was deemed an appropriate policy boost tool for the housing sector. [15645/08]

Section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 made provision for a charge to stamp duty where license agreements and other such arrangements are used when land is purchased for development without conveyance or transfer. The provision ensured that these arrangements will incur a Stamp Duty charge where a landowner receives a payment amounting to 25% or more of the market value or consideration concerned. Section 110 is subject to a commencement order on the basis that it would be prudent to consider the state of the housing and property market before the provision is put into place.

For this reason, I commissioned an independent study of the potential effects that such a provision may have on the market. The Report is available for download on my Department's website at http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/reports/2008/S110Report.pdf. As these transactions, under current law, do not involve a liability to Stamp Duty, there is no requirement to present any documentation to the Revenue Commissioners for stamping and there is therefore no specific data on which to accurately estimate any revenue gains from commencing the provisions.

The Report also makes the point that there are no official data sources on the value of development land sales; therefore, it gives an indicative estimate of the total value of the development land market in 2006 at c. €7bn to €8bn. Based on a technical assumption that 40% of land transactions use these arrangements, the Report estimated a potential revenue gain in 2006 of c. €251m if the provisions had been in place at that time. However, this estimate is based on the historic levels of activity in 2006 and is not indicative of the revenue gain that would occur following commencement of the provisions at a later date. A more realistic figure for the revenue accruing from the provisions is in the order of €50m per annum.

It should be noted, however, that the Report recommended that, on balance the section should not be commenced at this time. In this regard, it indicates that Section 110 would have led to a rise in land prices, with a knock-on increase in house prices, especially for first-time buyers, and possibly risked exacerbating the down-turn in the property market. In addition, the Report highlighted that Section 110 would also have raised the cost to the State of PPP projects because of increased land prices. The commencement of Section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 is kept under constant review and any further consideration of this issue has to take into account the prevailing circumstances in the housing and property markets.

National Partnership Agreement.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

18 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on his objectives in the negotiations of the forthcoming social partnership agreement. [15708/08]

As the Deputy is aware, the social partners meet today to open negotiations on a new pay agreement under Towards 2016. The Government's objective in entering these talks is to achieve a sustainable agreement compatible with improving competitiveness and productivity. Pay developments in the period immediately ahead must reflect the more challenging economic and competitiveness scenario that we now face and be accompanied by improvements in productivity. Any agreement will have to take account of the economic and budgetary realities. Therefore, pay increases must be kept at a level which will not undermine our competitive position relative to our main trading partners.

It is crucial that wage expectations are kept in line with the rapidly changing economic environment in which we are operating. Over the last number of years, wage increases have exceeded productivity growth, with a resulting loss in competitiveness. Regaining market share will require an approach to wage determination which takes greater account of productivity developments as well as labour cost developments in our major trading partners. As a small and open economy, our priority must be to ensure that our economy is in a position to take advantage of the global recovery when it emerges. This will require a renewed focus on competitiveness. As regards public sector pay, the public service pay bill remains the biggest single element in public expenditure accounting for around half of all current expenditure. Each 1% increase in the public service pay bill costs around €185 million. The development of public service pay costs must ensure that resources allocated to public service pay do not cause a shortfall of resources for other key priorities.

One of the core strengths of Social Partnership has been its strong foundation in realism regarding the nature of the competitive challenge for Ireland. It is important that all those in the public service improve their productivity and continue to deliver the best possible quality services to the public. The structures we have put in place in the public service pay agreements are an important mechanism to help ensure that we achieve that goal. We need to build on that base in what is agreed in the current negotiations. The national partnership agreements have served us well over the last decade and I would hope that this well tested approach can once again be relied upon in helping us meet the emerging challenges we now have to face as a small open economy.

House Prices.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

19 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the International Monetary Fund’s report that property here could be as much as 32% over valued, particularly with respect to the high levels of lending by Irish banks to the residential property sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15598/08]

I have noted the IMF report and it is important to be aware that in relation to the Irish housing market there are some significant variables of specific relevance to Ireland such as household formation and flows of immigration that were not included in the technical model. While this is acknowledged by the IMF it does mean that their analysis is not a wholly representative picture of the Irish housing market. As I said in response to a priority question earlier today, house prices have fallen when inflation is taken into account. In other words we have already seen a significant price reduction, which has resulted in a fall in house prices of nearly 15% in real terms.

The price adjustment in the housing market alluded to above, when combined with the measures I took at Budget time on stamp duty and mortgage relief, is making house purchases more affordable for first time buyers. The April EBS/DKM affordability index shows that the proportion of net income devoted to mortgage payments for a first time buyer working couple has decreased from 26.4% in December 2006 to 22.4% in January 2008.

The rate of growth of mortgages has cooled substantially over the past year. Annual year-on-year growth for February fell to 12.3%, a 14 year low, from 22.9% a year previously. Both the Central Bank and I have highlighted the need for borrowers and lenders to factor into their financial decision-making the prospective impact of potential changes in the future economic and financial environment, including the impact of higher interest rates. I fully support the vigilance of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator on the issue of personal credit and mortgage debt and in reminding both borrowers and lenders of the need for responsible behaviour. Finally, as I said earlier the underlying demand for housing is solid and as more confidence returns to the market over the coming months the fact that there is now better value will impact on the market.

Fiscal Policy.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

20 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of recent increasing unemployment, falling house prices and increasing instances of mortgage default, he has considered the establishment of a contingency fund to ensure that home repossessions do not escalate significantly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15621/08]

The Deputy may wish to note that while the outlook is for weaker, although still positive, employment growth this year, Ireland's unemployment rate is expected to remain low by international standards, below the European average. In terms of the housing market, affordability in Ireland is supported at the current time by such factors as continued income growth, interest rates that are relatively low in historic terms and increases in mortgage interest relief available in particular to first-time buyers. Improvements in affordability are being achieved, reflecting the adjustment in the housing market and changes that I have made in my December 2007 Budget in relation to Stamp Duty and Mortgage Interest Relief.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Financial Regulator (FR), speaking to the 30 January meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, pointed out that there are no indicators emerging yet that there is a significant increase in mortgage default levels or arrear levels. The Governor of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland pointed out in a recent speech that the level of non-performing loans remains low by historical standards. The FR's Consumer Protection Code (CPC) requires regulated entities to undertake suitability assessments before offering a product or service to consumers. In addition, the CPC sets out the requirements that a regulated entity must contact the consumer as soon as it becomes aware that a mortgage account is in arrears and that it must have in place a procedure for handling accounts in arrears. The CEO, also at the 30 January Joint Committee meeting, pointed out that the FR considers this to include a requirement that lenders agree a remedial action plan with a borrower where it detects arrears starting to emerge and to try to assist the borrower to manage his or her financial commitments and not allow the situation to worsen.

As Minister for Finance, I have consistently highlighted the need for responsible behaviour by both borrowers and lenders and, in particular, the need to factor into their financial decision making the effects of potential future changes in economic and financial conditions. Unfortunately, a small minority of borrowers develop debt problems but house repossession is generally a last resort for lenders. I understand that member institutions of the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) have voluntarily adopted a Code of Practice on Mortgage Arrears and a Code of Practice for Personal Customers. These include provisions for helping customers in financial difficulty. Anyone experiencing difficulty in repaying a mortgage or other loan should discuss the matter with the loan provider and seek appropriate advice without delay. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt, or in danger of getting into debt. MABS offices, throughout the country, work with people in order to assist them with their financial planning and budgeting for the future.

Furthermore, the Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme — which is part of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme administered on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs by the Community Welfare Services of the Health Service Executive — provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. While I will remain alert and vigilant to any emerging issues, I do not, given the extent of the arrangements already in place, consider the establishment of a contingency fund to be either necessary or appropriate.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

21 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the changes to the vehicle registration tax regime due to come into force are expected to be revenue neutral for 2008 and for subsequent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15610/08]

As outlined in Annex D to the Summary of 2008 Budget Measures, the revised VRT system to take greater account of CO2 emissions is being introduced on a broadly revenue neutral basis. It is being introduced as an environmental measure and not to increase the revenue yield from the purchase of cars. Neither, of course, is the VRT revision meant to result in a loss in revenue from VRT, all other things being equal. The performance of VRT will be kept under review as part of ongoing policy analysis in the context of the annual Budget.

Fiscal Policy.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

22 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the impact, in view of significant increases in the live register during the first quarter of 2008 and projected increases over the remainder of 2008, such increases will have on the Exchequer in terms of increased social welfare payments and reduced income tax receipts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15593/08]

The 2008 expenditure allocation for the Exchequer social welfare Jobseekers Allowance scheme is almost €1,020 million. I am aware of the recent upward pressure on the Live Register and this will, depending on developments over the remainder of the year, have implications for expenditure on this scheme. However, Jobseekers Allowance is only one of a number of demand led schemes that are funded from the Vote of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The expenditure trend on the Jobseekers Allowance scheme will be closely monitored during the course of the year, but it is still too early to say that such pressure will pose significant difficulties for the Social and Family Affairs Vote as a whole. Expenditure on the Jobseekers Benefit scheme is met from the Social Insurance Fund and does not fall on the Exchequer.

Regarding income tax receipts, at the end of the first quarter income tax receipts were up 5% compared to the same period last year. Despite the Live Register pressure, this is a welcome indicator of the resilience of the Irish economy and my Department will continue to closely monitor overall tax performance over the coming months as a clearer trend emerges.

Appointments to State Boards.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

23 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will ensure that all appointments to State bodies would be considered by the Oireachtas committee. [15661/08]

The arrangements for appointments to the boards of State bodies are normally set out in the legislation establishing the bodies in question and are designed to ensure the efficient management of the organisation. Appointments to the boards are generally made by the Minister with responsibility for the body in question, subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance. In making appointments, Ministers seek to ensure that the people appointed bring a diverse range of relevant skills and experiences to the body. Ministers also take account of any specific legislative or policy requirements such as those contained in the Workers Participation (State Enterprises) Acts or the Government's policy on gender balance on the boards of State bodies.

Where appropriate, Ministers may also consider representation from the different strands of society such as the business community, consumers, trades unions or the other social partners. Government and Ministerial appointments are published in the Iris Oifigiúil as soon as can be arranged following the appointment. The Government Secretariat arranges for publication of appointments made by the Government, while it is the responsibility of individual Departments to publish appointments made by a Minister. I am generally happy that the present arrangements, which follow the practice of previous Governments, work well and that people with the required skills and experience are appointed to State boards. Nevertheless I recognise that it might be useful to give some thought to involving committees of the House in appointments to some boards. This is an issue that some of my colleagues have been looking at in relation to boards under their remit.

Programmes for Government.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

24 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason he is unwilling to provide a costing of the proposals in the Programme for Government 2007 to 2012. [15699/08]

As I have indicated in previous responses, the Programme for Government is a five year programme in which a number of guiding principles in relation to economic and budgetary matters have been set out. As the Deputy is aware, the first instalment of the delivery of this five year Programme for Government — Budget 2008 — was published in December. Budget 2008 announced all new spending and taxation measures in a single, unified way and was a significant reform providing for greater transparency. The costs associated with the decisions made were set out at Budget time. Taking account of the overall macroeconomic and fiscal environment, further instalments will be made in the subsequent Budgets over the lifetime of this Government.

Tax Code.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

25 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether the commitments to reduce the standard rate of income tax to 18% and the top rate of income tax to 40% contained in the programme for Government are viable; and if he will make a statement outlining that it is not his intention to implement these proposed cuts. [15247/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

76 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether, in view of recent economic developments which demonstrate the dangers inherent in an over-reliance on taxes related to construction and consumption, the proposals contained in the programme for Government to cut income tax rates were ill thought-out and would be detrimental to the State’s ability to fund essential public services. [15242/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 76 together.

The Programme for Government sets out a commitment to reduce the standard rate of income tax to 18 per cent and the top rate of income tax to 40 per cent over the lifetime of the Government, provided economic resources allow. It is clear that we have now entered a period of lower economic growth than was generally envisaged in the early part of last year. This process must be managed carefully so as not to jeopardise our longer term future and this is what I am doing. I would remind the Deputy that the Programme for Government is a five year programme. As such, the commitment must be judged over the full five years of this Government, taking account of the health of the public finances. Budget 2008 was the first instalment of the delivery of that programme.

Fiscal Policy.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

26 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the concerns expressed by the OECD regarding the deterioration in the public finances. [15653/08]

The OECD report contained a generally positive assessment of the Irish economy. While recognising the challenges facing Ireland in the period ahead, the report acknowledges the remarkable performance of the Irish economy over the past decade. Of particular note is that the OECD report states that the economic fundamentals — including a skilled workforce, a flexible labour market, moderate taxation, a business-friendly regulatory environment and a sound fiscal position — all remain strong. In addition, the OECD's assessment of Irish fiscal plans is that they remain prudent overall. In commenting on the fiscal position, the OECD notes that the rate of public spending needs to slow and that it is important not to lock-in expensive spending commitments. I have already indicated on a number of occasions that spending growth has to moderate and grow in line with the growth of our resources over the medium term. Consequently, I regard the OECD's assessment as an appropriate one in the present economic climate.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

27 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has had reason to modify his economic or public finance projections for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15688/08]

At Budget time, an economic growth rate of 3.0 per cent in GDP terms was forecast. However, a number of risks to the economic forecasts were identified, including the possibility of a sharper slowdown in the US, the possibility of adverse exchange rate movements, the possibility that financial market difficulties could persist for longer than assumed and the possibility of a sharper contraction in new house building. It now appears that some of these risks have materialised and in this regard other economic commentators that produce forecasts on a more frequent basis have revised their forecasts for growth in 2008 downwards. The market consensus is now for GDP growth of around 2.25% this year, compared to a consensus of about 3.25% at Budget time. More modest growth would, of course, have implications for the evolution of the public finances.

At end-March, there was a tax shortfall of €600 million and I indicated that I did notexpect that it would be recouped. While the fiscal position has weakened somewhat from that envisaged at Budget time, it is important to point out that the current situation is manageable given the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio. Also, the fundamentals of the Irish economy remain strong. This will help us to absorb the housing adjustment and external ‘shocks' so that our medium term prospects are favourable. For instance:

our public finances are sound with one of the lowest levels of debt in the euro area;

our markets are flexible allowing us to respond efficiently to adverse developments;

we have a dynamic and well educated labour force;

we have a pro-business outward looking society;

the tax burden on both labour and capital is low.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

28 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has given consideration to the impact of an expansion of low paid employment on the tax take, both in terms of income tax revenue and revenue from spending taxes. [15243/08]

Government Policy over the last number of years in relation to low paid workers has been to keep them out of the tax net entirely. As a result, in 2008 it is projected that a total of 878,100 or 37.6% of income earners will be outside the tax net. As provided in the Programme for Government, this Government's priority is to keep low earners out of the standard rate band and average earners out of the higher band. Tax revenues are forecast by the Department of Finance on a disaggregated individual tax-head basis using relevant macroeconomic drivers and, where appropriate, certain elasticity factors. When preparing the Department's forecasts, changes in employment, earnings and consumption patterns are taken into account.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

29 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the progress being made to find a satisfactory system for deposit protection in credit unions. [15680/08]

The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has since 1989 operated a savings protection scheme (SPS) for credit unions. The SPS aims to protect the individual savings of members by ensuring that credit unions are financially and administratively sound and provides for savings protection for each individual credit union member. It is important to note that under the SPS regime no member of a credit union has experienced any loss of shares and deposits and no credit union has become insolvent. The SPS has only been called upon in a very limited number of cases and it has never been necessary to make savings protection payments to individual credit union members. The Deputy may wish to note the role of sound prudential supervision of credit unions by the Registrar of Credit Unions under the Credit Union Act 1997 in ensuring the continuing solvency and liquidity of credit unions and the safeguarding of the interests of credit union savers.

Section 46 of the Credit Union Act 1997 provides for approval of savings protection schemes by the Registrar of Credit Unions as the delegate of the Regulatory Authority. Once an approved scheme is in place under the Act it would be incumbent on all credit unions to participate. This highlights the importance of ensuring that an approved savings protection arrangement is consistent with the requirements of the credit union movement as a whole.

In line with changes in the regulatory environment for financial services generally the need for modernisation of the credit union SPS has become evident over time. Proposals for reform of the SPS were the subject of discussions in 2007 between the Registrar and ILCU resulting in the submission of detailed proposals for the reform of SPS in November 2007. I have written to the Chairman of the Financial Regulator confirming my view that an approved savings protection scheme for all credit unions should be in place as soon as possible. In this respect the Chairman of the Financial Regulator has advised me that it is the intention of the Financial Regulator to deal with outstanding issues on SPS and to urgently find a solution to this issue. I am further advised by the Registrar of Credit Unions that he has arranged to hold further discussions with ILCU on reform of the savings protection arrangements for credit unions in an effort to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion as soon as possible.

Expenditure Reviews.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

30 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress made to date in achieving better value for money from the latest round of expenditure reviews. [15693/08]

Value for Money and Policy Reviews are part of a package of changes that I have introduced to the Estimates and Budget processes in recent years to move resource allocation policy away from a narrow focus on financial inputs, on to a broader consideration of performance and the delivery of outputs and outcomes. The Government approved some 90 formal Value for Money Reviews to be carried out for the period 2006-2008. This programme of reviews focuses on significant areas of expenditure and major policy issues. To date, 54 reviews are complete or almost complete under the 2006-2008 round. Responsibility for carrying out each of the reviews and for publishing them and submitting them to the Select Committees rests with the individual Departments and Offices and details of any individual review should be sought from the relevant Minister.

The reviews when completed will normally be published and submitted to the relevant Select Oireachtas Committee for consideration and in this regard consideration of Value for Money and Policy Reviews is now included in the Orders of Reference for the Select Committees. I have also written to the Select Committee Chairpersons earlier this year to encourage them to ensure that time is scheduled to consider the reviews in detail, and where appropriate, to discuss the reviews and their conclusions and recommendations with the relevant Departments and Offices.

In respect of the reviews under my own Department and the Offices for which I have responsibility the following is the position:

Department of Finance reviews under the 2006-2008 round

Review

Status

Economic and Social Research Institute

Completed July 2006

Information Society Fund

Completed August 2006

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Completed April 2007

Civil Service Child care Initiative

Expected completion end May 2008

Construction Procurement Reform Initiative

Expected completion end May 2008

Procurement Management within the Department

Scheduled for completion by end 2008

The Value for Money and Policy Review of the Grant-in-Aid payment to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) contained five recommendations, all of which are in the process of being implemented. The recommendations are intended to improve the overall value for money for the grant-in-aid. Among other things, they are directed at relating funding to outputs; benchmarking the ESRI with comparable institutes in other EU member states, and periodically reviewing the policy relevance of the Institute's research. The level of the grant in aid has not changed significantly as a result of the review. The Information Society Fund terminated at the end of 2005 in line with its intended lifespan. As a result, an annual allocation for the fund is no longer required. The Fund was focussed on initiatives in the areas of Electronic Government and Electronic Commerce.

The focus of the Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) Review was largely on policy aspects relating to the payment of the grant-in-aid and several of the recommendations should contribute to the efficiency of the organisation and reduce not only the direct Exchequer grant, but also the payments for services made to the organisation by both the public and private sector. One of the recommendations of this Review was that responsibility for Ordnance Survey Ireland should move to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. This change took effect from 1st January, 2008. The DCENR will be better placed to comment on further progress achieved as the other recommendations of the Review are implemented.

With regard to the reviews of Procurement Management within the Department, Construction Procurement Reform Initiative (formerly Procurement Management Reform) and the Civil Service Child care Initiative, it is not possible to anticipate the consequences of these reports until their findings are finalised, considered and implemented.

Office of the Revenue Commissioners reviews under the 2006-2008 round

Review

Status

Revenue’s Data Capture Outsourcing Programme

Completed October 2006

Information Technology External Resources Expenditure

Completed March 2008

The first review Revenue's Data Capture Outsourcing Programme was completed in October 2006. The report contained six recommendations, three of which have been implemented. These relate to the promotion of e-facilities for returns filing and the ongoing review and research of form design and simplification. There is an ongoing project in Revenue to simplify and improve all PAYE forms. Post-implementation reviews have been carried out on existing contracts. The implementation of the other recommendations will only be possible should Revenue initiate further data outsourcing projects and will be addressed at that time.

The second review Information Technology External Resources Expenditure was published in March 2008. The report contained eleven key recommendations relating primarily to:

the use of more formal project and programme management methodologies and best practice techniques;

expansion of internal resources and skills; and

implementation of a multi-sourcing strategy.

The majority of the key recommendations of this review and the best practice techniques proposed have already been implemented or are very significantly advanced. The remaining best practice techniques proposed by the VFM Review will be assessed to determine their suitability for and relevance to Revenue's ICT programme. The implementation of the recommendations will deliver improved effectiveness in the delivery of ICT programme objectives and optimise the value obtained from this expenditure.

Office of Public Works reviews under the 2006-2008 round

Review

Status

Provision of Flood Relief Schemes

Completed and will be published shortly

Property Management

Terms of Reference approved

The Review of Provision of Flood Relief Programme, which has been completed and will be published shortly, concludes that the programme is being implemented in a manner that represents good value for money. It makes a number of recommendations to further improve the management of the programme.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

31 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to amend the legislation governing the Financial Services Ombudsman in order that he can make rulings on classes of transactions in respect of which refunds should be made instead of hearing each case individually. [15713/08]

The role and functions of the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) in dealing with consumer complaints complements that of the Financial Regulator in protecting the interests of consumers of financial services as a whole. During the passage of the FSO legislation through the Oireachtas in 2004 it was stated, on behalf of the Minister for Finance, that the Ombudsman's remit essentially is to deal with individual complaints from customers of financial institutions and it is the responsibility of the Consumer Director in the Financial Regulator to deal with general issues relating to the protection of consumers.

The relevant legislation provides for co-operation between the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Financial Regulator on general issues relating to the protection of consumers. A Memorandum of Understanding has been concluded between the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Financial Regulator to ensure the efficient and effective handling of complaints. An issue drawing attention to a general breach affecting consumers can be referred by the Financial Services Ombudsman to the Financial Regulator. Such issues can then be examined by the Financial Regulator to consider if there are any suspected breaches of the relevant regulatory requirements including the Consumer Protection Code. The Financial Regulator can, as part of its administrative sanctions regime, seek to mediate or take regulatory action in relation to a firm including an order to make refunds to a firm's customers where appropriate.

I have asked the FSO and the Financial Regulator to review their current co-operation arrangements to ensure that these work smoothly where a finding of the FSO in an individual case may have implications for a broader group of customers of a financial services firm. The Ombudsman and the Financial Regulator have responded in a joint submission to the Department that the Memorandum of Understanding is operating as intended and that co-operation between both offices is highly satisfactory and allows issues to evolve. They have also advised that where a pricing error occurs after 1 July 2007 the provider is required under the Consumer Protection Code to speedily, efficiently and fairly correct such an error.

The Deputy may be aware that a High Court judgement in October 2007 confirmed that the Financial Services Ombudsman's power of direction, except in relation to a change in general practice, may only relate to an individual claimant and does not extend to payment of compensation for other consumers in relation to similar conduct of the financial service provider. I have asked the Advisory Forum on Financial Legislation to review the implications of this High Court decision in conjunction with the joint submission of the Financial Regulator and the FSO.

Expenditure Reviews.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

32 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of value for money reviews being undertaken by Departments at his request in relation to the value for money reviews of public expenditure, cited in the OECD’s 2008 Economic Survey of Ireland; the Departments concerned; the reviews that have been completed; when the remaining reviews will be completed; when these reviews will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15609/08]

In June 2006 the Government approved some 90 formal Value for Money Reviews to be carried out for the period 2006-2008. This programme of reviews focuses on significant areas of expenditure and major policy issues. To date 37 Reviews have been completed. Details of the reviews by Department including those completed and the original scheduled completion dates of remaining reviews are set out in the table below. Responsibility for carrying out each of the reviews, publishing them and submitting them to the Houses of the Oireachtas and the relevant Dáil Select Committees rests with the individual Departments and Offices and details of any individual review should be sought from the relevant Minister. In respect of the reviews under my own Department and the Offices for which I have responsibility the following is the position:

Department of Finance reviews under the 2006-2008 round

Review

Status

Economic and Social Research Institute

Completed July 2006

Information Society Fund

Completed August 2006

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Completed April 2007

Civil Service Child care Initiative

Expected completion date end May 2008

Construction Procurement Reform Initiative

Expected completion date end May 2008

Procurement Management within the Department

Scheduled for completion by end 2008

Office of Public Works reviews under the 2006-2008 round

Review

Status

Provision of Flood Relief Schemes

Completed and will be published shortly

Property Management

Scheduled for completion end 2008

Office of the Revenue Commissioners reviews under the 2006-2008 round

Review

Status

Revenue’s Data Capture Outsourcing Programme

Completed October 2006

Information Technology Consultancy expenditure

Completed March 2008

Department or Office

No.

Title of review

Scheduled completion date

Agriculture, Fisheries & Food

1

Installation Aid

End September 2006

2

Farm Waste Management

Completed

3

Laboratory Facilities (plant health, crops, Research & Development grants)

Completed

4

Aquaculture programme

Completed

5

Dairy Hygiene

Completed

6

FIRM (Food Research & Development Grants)

Completed

7

Bovine TB Scheme

End December 2007

8

Meat Hygiene — Temporary Veterinary Inspectors

End December 2007

9

Cattle Movement Monitoring Systems/Animal Identification

End December 2008

10

Fallen Animals Scheme

End December 2008

11

Forestry NDP Capital Scheme

End December 2008

12

Marketing and Processing Scheme

End December 2008

13

BIM (non-decommissioning/non-aquaculture) Marine support Programme

End December 2008

Arts, Sport & Tourism

14

Swimming pools programme

End September 2006

15

Irish Sports Council

End September 2006

16

Irish Film Board

End September 2006

17

Arts & Cultural Capital Enhancement Scheme (ACCESS)

End December 2006

18

Review of the Arts Council

End December 2007

19

The Horse & Greyhound Fund

End December 2008

Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

20

Energy (Conservation and Alternative)

Completed

21

Broadband Infrastructure (MANs)

End December 2007

22

The Group Broadband Scheme

Completed

Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

23

Scéimeanna Feabhsúcháin sa Gaeltacht

Completed

24

Capital expenditure on the off-shore islands, 2000-2004

Completed

25

Ciste na Gaeilge

End September 2006

26

Drugs Initiative

Completed

27

Local Development Social Inclusion Programmes

End December 2007

28

Area Based Rural Development Initiative and LEADER + — Not proceeding with agreement of CSC (Replaced by) Review of CLÁR & RAPID leveraged Funding Schemes

End December 2008

Defence

29

Maintenance of Aircraft

Completed

30

Defence Forces clothing programme

Completed

31

Review of Naval Service Vessel Maintenance (originally 2008 review, move agreed by CSC)

End December 2007

32

Review of Usage of Military Training Land (originally 2007 review, move agreed by CSC)

End December 2008

Education & Science

33

Supply Panel for Primary Teaching

Completed

34

Youth Encounter Projects

End September 2006

35

1st & 2nd Level Building Programmes: Topic 2 (Devolved initiatives)

Completed

36

Schools Information Communication Technology programmes

End September 2006

37

Information Communication Technology undergraduate skills programmes

Completed

38

Teacher Education & Development

Completed

39

Youthreach/Traveller Education

Completed

40

Insurance arrangements for schools

End December 2007

41

Summer Works Scheme (Primary and Post-Primary School Buildings) (originally 2008 review, move agreed by CSC)

End December 2007

42

Special Needs Assistants

End December 2008

43

Grants to 1st and 2nd Level Schools

End December 2008

44

Expenditure on the education of persons who do not have English or Irish as a first language. (originally 2007 review, move agreed by CSC)

End December 2008

Enterprise, Trade & Employment

45

Science and Technology Spending

Completed

46

Science Foundation Ireland

End December 2007

47

Fás Competency Development Programme

End December 2007

Environment Heritage & Local Government

48

Preliminary Review of the Rental Accommodation Scheme

End December 2006

49

Rural Water Programme

Completed

50

Ex-post review of the ERDF element of the Water Services Infrastructure Provision of the Economic and Social Infrastructure OP.

End December 2008

51

Rental Accommodation Scheme — follow-up on preliminary review

End December 2008

Finance

52

Information Society

Completed

53

Economic and Social Research Institute

Completed

54

Ordinance Survey Ireland

Completed

55

Civil Service Child care Initiative

End December 2007

56

Construction Procurement Reform Initiative

End December 2007

57

Departmental Procurement

End December 2008

Foreign Affairs

58

Support for Irish Immigrant Groups

Completed

59

Evaluation of Development Cooperation Ireland’s Emergency Humanitarian Assistance for a selected disaster (Tsunami)

Completed

60

Automated Passport Project

End December 2007

61

Development Aid to Mozambique

Completed

62

The HIV/Aids budget line

End December 2008

Health & Children

63

Allocation and utilisation of funds for Acute Hospitals

End December 2007

64

Equal Opportunities Child care Programme

Completed

65

Mental Health Services — Review of efficiency and effectiveness of Long Stay Residential Care for Adults

End December 2008

Justice, Equality & Law Reform

66

Maintenance of Garda premises

End September 2006

67

Asylum/immigration

Completed

68

Prisons capital projects

Completed

69

Staff training and development in the Courts Service

End September 2006

70

Probation & Welfare service — Assistance to Voluntary Bodies

End December 2007

71

IT infrastructure & systems in the Courts Service

End December 2008

Office of Public Works

72

Provision of Flood Relief Schemes

End December 2007

73

Property Management

End December 2008

Houses of the Oireachtas

74

Parliamentary Information Programme Phase II

Not proceeding with the agreement of the CSC

75

Provision of a Service Level Agreement for Information Communication Technology services to members

Completed

76

Printing of a publication programme for the Oireachtas

End December 2007

77

Debates Office

End December 2008

Revenue

78

Use of outsourced service providers to support returns processing

Completed

79

Information Technology Consultancy Expenditure

Completed

Social & Family Affairs

8

Supplementary Welfare Allowance phase 2

Completed

81

Unemployment Benefit/Assistance for atypical workers

Completed

82

Review of One-Parent Family Payments

Completed

83

Review of Social Welfare Payments to Carers

End December 2006

84

Review of the Medical Review and Assessment Service

Completed

85

Review of the Disability Allowance Scheme

End December 2007

86

Review of information services provided to customers

End December 2008

Taoiseach

87

National Economic & Social Council/National Economic & Social Forum/National Economic & Social Development Office

End September 2006

Transport

88

Motor Tax On line Initiative

Completed

89

CIE Subvention

Completed

90

Capital spend by Dublin Transport Office

End December 2007

91

Non-National Roads

End December 2007

92

Rail safety

End December 2008

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Ceist:

33 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he foresees any threats to the Irish corporation tax regime; and his plans to mitigate the possible effects. [15673/08]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

36 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress of his Department’s EU level discussions on the common consolidated corporate tax base; if he will reaffirm that this proposal has no substantive bearing on the Lisbon reform treaty referendum and that Ireland will veto this proposal or any Irish participation in it; the potential impact on Ireland or Ireland’s bilateral double taxation agreements with any member states that may participate in the CCCTB on the basis of enhanced cooperation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15623/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

67 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the recent comments of France’s Minister for Finance, Ms. Christine Lagarde, that France will push hard for a common consolidated corporation tax base across the EU during its presidency of the EU later in 2008; and the impact the implementation of such a proposal would have on this State. [15245/08]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 33, 36 and 67 together.

I want to assure the House that the Government's position on our corporate tax regime is unambiguous. Corporate taxation matters are and will remain within the competence of Member States. Our corporation tax system is protected, in an EU context, by the principle of unanimity in taxation matters. This principle is underpinned in the Reform Treaty, so that the Treaty will not undermine our national discretions in this regard in any way. Recently, Ms. Christine Lagarde, French Minister for Finance made the opening speech at the Brussels Tax Forum which had as its theme "Taxation Policy: Enhancing Competitiveness and Growth in a European Way". Ms. Lagarde spoke about the themes for the forthcoming French presidency which includes taxation matters. In relation to the CCCTB she acknowledged the difficulties with the proposition, reflecting the reality that there is no consensus among Member States.

It is important to remember that no political decisions or even discussions have taken place among EU Finance Ministers on this project. The Commission is carrying out technical work on various aspects of a CCCTB but has not yet made any formal proposal. While France supports the CCCTB concept I know that they are keenly aware that a significant number of Member States have serious reservations about the project, and I believe they will deal with any Commission proposal in a way that fully respects the views of all Member States. As there has not been a formal proposal, it is very difficult to assess the impact of a CCCTB on Ireland and the EU overall. The Irish position on the CCCTB is well known and I will continue to highlight the difficulties I believe such a proposal could cause for individual Member States and overall EU competitiveness. There is, I know, increasing scepticism among Member States as the Commission's technical work continues.

Fiscal Policy.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

34 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether the failure to address the fact that for the past five years economic growth was driven by domestic consumption rather than by exports is partly to blame for the current economic situation and that if steps had been taken to address this matter at an early stage the prospects for the Irish economy would be better than they now are. [15347/08]

In recent years, domestic demand was the main driver of growth, in part due to very high levels of residential construction. The high level of completions in this sector over the period was necessary in order to ensure more modest house price inflation by achieving a greater balance between housing demand and supply. I would also point out that higher levels of completions also resulted in substantial employment growth over the period. Notwithstanding these developments, the Government recognises that, in a small open economy such as Ireland's, it is imperative that sustainable export growth is achieved. Such growth can only be realised through ensuring that our economy remains competitive.

In this regard, this Government has been pursuing, and will continue to pursue, a number of policies which will underpin the future competitiveness and growth of our economy, including a firm commitment to responsible budgetary policies. This Government has implemented policies which are aimed at rewarding both work and enterprise through maintaining a low tax burden on capital and labour. Furthermore, the continued roll-out of the National Development Plan (NDP) remains key. The investment in capital provided for in the NDP is helping to eliminate infrastructural bottlenecks which hinder economic efficiency and is also enhancing productivity.

Tax Yield.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

35 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the fact that tax revenues were 8.3% lower in January and February 2008 than in the same period in 2007. [15244/08]

Taxes were €35 million above target at the end of January, €552 million behind target in the month of February and €84 million behind target in the month of March. Overall tax receipts were around €600 million, or 5.1 per cent behind target in the first three months of 2008. Over half of this shortfall is due to the poor performance of Capital Gains Tax which reflects the more adverse conditions in equity and property markets. At this stage it is not expected that this tax shortfall, particularly in CGT, will be recouped later in the year. It is important to point out that the current situation is manageable given the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio. Finally, my Department will continue to closely monitor overall tax performance over the coming months as a clearer trend emerges.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 33.

Departmental Expenditure.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

37 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that no depreciation is charged in the accounts of the public service and implications this has for efficient costing of resource use and planning for the cost of replacement. [15717/08]

As the Deputy is aware, there are two forms of accounting in the public service. The accounts of Government Departments and Offices are prepared on a cash basis while Local Authorities and Commercial State-Sponsored Bodies, for example, prepare their accounts on an accrual basis which includes the charging of depreciation. The Appropriation Accounts for central Government Departments and Offices are required under legislation to be prepared on a cash basis. In a cash accounting environment, the value of a capital resource is recognised and charged fully to the account in the year of acquisition. In addition, in cash-based accounts, the planning for the cost of replacement of capital items is done on a requirements basis and submitted for Vote approval. It should be noted that cash accounting does not provide the scope to build up a fund of money for future spends either current or capital.

Under the Management Information Framework (MIF) Project new accruals-based accounting systems were rolled out across the civil service over the last four years. It is now possible for all Departments and Offices to capture more detailed information for the better management of spending programmes and to improve the scope of financial reporting. Drawing on the information available under the MIF, an information note in the Appropriation Account reports on the capital assets position and presents the position of Net Assets (original cost less accumulated depreciation). In addition, all Departments and Offices must now present an Annual Output Statement to Dáil Éireann which sets out the target outputs of Departments and Agencies for the resources provided and reports progress on performance as compared with targets for the following year. These initiatives significantly improve the efficiency of resource use in Departments and offices.

Tax Code.

Damien English

Ceist:

38 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the impact on employment levels here following the recent request by the US Treasury to renegotiate the US-Ireland double taxation agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8564/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that while there have been recent contacts between officials in the Revenue Commissioners and the US Treasury about updating the existing US-Ireland income tax treaty, no dates have been agreed for a meeting between officials. Given that no discussions have yet taken place, it is not possible to estimate any possible impact, positive or negative, at this stage.

Home Repossessions.

John Perry

Ceist:

39 Deputy John Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has assessed the level of home repossessions which is occurring; and if there are implications for public policy. [15718/08]

The Deputy will appreciate that reports relating to court proceedings for property repossessions need to be interpreted with caution, given the variety of circumstances that give rise to such cases and the fact that not all of the proceedings relate to residential property. It should also be noted that even where such orders are secured some are not enforced. The number of orders granted by the High Court is a very small proportion — representing less than 0.3% — of the number of new mortgages issued in the same year. As such, care needs to be exercised in drawing any particular conclusions regarding the property market or public policy overall.

In terms of the housing market, affordability in Ireland is supported at the current time by such factors as continued income growth, interest rates that are relatively low in historic terms and increases in mortgage interest relief available in particular to first-time buyers. Improvements in affordability are being achieved, reflecting the adjustment in the housing market and changes that I have made in my December 2007 Budget in relation to Stamp Duty and Mortgage Interest Relief. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Financial Regulator (FR), speaking to the 30 January 2008 meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, pointed out that there are no indicators emerging as yet that there is a significant increase in default levels or arrears levels. The Governor of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland pointed out in a recent speech that the level of non-performing loans remains low by historical standards.

The FR's Consumer Protection Code (CPC) requires regulated entities to undertake suitability assessments before offering a product or service to consumers. In addition, the CPC sets out the requirement that a regulated entity must contact the consumer as soon as it becomes aware that a mortgage account is in arrears and that it must have in place a procedure for handling accounts in arrears. The CEO, also at the 30 January Joint Committee meeting, pointed out that the FR considers this to include a requirement that lenders agree a remedial action plan with a borrower where it detects arrears starting to emerge and to try to assist the borrower to manage his or her financial commitments and not allow the situation to worsen.

As the Deputy will be aware, Section 19 of the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2007 introduced a system of regulation of non-deposit taking lenders, including specialist or so-called sub-prime lenders, with a view to extending both the Consumer Protection Code and the Minimum Competency Requirements to their activities. This system is currently being rolled out by the Financial Regulator. As Minister for Finance, I have consistently highlighted the need for responsible behaviour by both borrowers and lenders and, in particular, the need to factor into their financial decision making the effects of potential future changes in economic and financial conditions.

Unfortunately, a small minority of borrowers develop debt problems but house repossession is generally a last resort for lenders. I understand that member institutions of the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) have voluntarily adopted a Code of Practice on Mortgage Arrears and a Code of Practice for Personal Customers. These include provisions for helping customers in financial difficulty. Anyone experiencing difficulty in repaying a mortgage or other loan should discuss the matter with the loan provider and seek appropriate advice without delay. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt, or in danger of getting into debt. MABS offices, throughout the country, work with people in order to assist them with their financial planning and budgeting for the future.

Furthermore, the Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme — which is part of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme administered on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs by the Community Welfare Services of the Health Service Executive — provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. I will remain alert and vigilant to any emerging issues, in particular where there are any implications for public policy.

Fiscal Policy.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

40 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the contingency plans in place to deal with any shock within the financial system here. [15659/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

81 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the action required to offset the effects of the international financial crisis here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15633/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

90 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has taken steps to minimise the effects of the international financial crisis here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15849/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

91 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the banking and financial services sectors here are sufficiently protected against fluctuations arising from the international banking crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15850/08]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

107 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measures, in view of the current global credit squeeze crisis, he proposes to implement to ensure that the banking sector here is sufficiently robust to deal with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15916/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40, 81, 90, 91 and 107 together.

The Irish financial system has been positively assessed by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland in its Financial Stability Report and more recently by the OECD. The OECD's Economic Survey of Ireland, 2008 points out that Irish banks entered the current period of international financial turmoil in a very strong position and that they, therefore, have considerable capacity to respond to unexpected developments. The OECD noted that sustained economic growth has ensured that Irish banks are well positioned to deal with recent market developments. The OECD welcomed the findings that Irish banks have little exposure to the sub-prime market, hedge funds and the private equity sector.

I would remind Deputies that the most important safeguard of financial stability is the existence and effective operation of the financial regulatory and supervisory regime. In Ireland the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland integrates within a single institutional structure both the supervision of individual financial firms by the Financial Regulator and the monitoring of overall financial stability, which is the independent responsibility of the Governor of the Central Bank. The roles are complementary and this structure yields significant advantages in terms of monitoring and maintaining financial stability in ensuring seamless, effective and timely co-ordination of these two key functions. It is important to emphasise that the framework for financial regulation here is shaped by a detailed and comprehensive template which applies across the EU and that our approach has been positively assessed by both the IMF and OECD.

EU Finance Ministers have adopted an extensive road map of actions incorporating a work programme running to the end of 2008 aimed at putting in place a comprehensive response to developments in financial markets. This road map includes reviewing along with the EU's international partners how to further improve transparency of complex financial instruments, valuation standards, the prudential framework, risk management and supervision and market functioning including the role of ratings agencies. Ecofin Ministers and Central Bank Governors have recently agreed an extended Memorandum of Understanding on financial stability contingency planning between financial supervisors, central banks and finance ministries that incorporates common principles and practical guidelines for cross-border cooperation. This EU framework facilitates timely information exchange and sharing of views and assessments between my Department and the CBFSAI on issues related to financial stability.

Garda Stations.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

41 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if sanction has been given for the construction of a new Garda station (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if the construction will be a public private partnership venture or an Office of Public Works project; the envisaged time scale for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14039/08]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

75 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress on plans to provide a new divisional Garda headquarters at Tallaght, Dublin 24; when work is expected to commence; if the construction will be a partnership with the private sector; the number of gardaí that will be accommodated in the new premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8975/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 75 together.

A sketch scheme to accommodate a new Garda Station, Courthouse and other facilities on the existing Garda Station site will be completed by the end of May 2008. It will then be submitted to the Garda Authorities and Courts Service for consideration and approval. The procurement methodology for this major project has not yet been determined and it is not possible at this early stage to provide an accurate timescale for commencement and completion. It will be a matter for the Garda Commissioner what number of Gardaí will be assigned to the new station.

Public Transport.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

42 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has plans to allow commuter buses to use the Phoenix Park on a regular basis; the details of these plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15626/08]

As confirmed in my reply to a similar question on 5th February 2008, the position is as follows. In line with the recommendation outlined in the Phoenix Park Transportation Study published in September 2006, I wish to confirm that the OPW has agreed to facilitate a limited public transport service through the Park and is assisting the relevant agencies in this regard.

Fiscal Policy.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

43 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the findings of the ESRI quarterly economic commentary for spring 2008 which predicts that GNP will grow at its slowest pace since 1988, that the unemployment rate will reach 6% and that the Exchequer deficit will be over €5 billion for 2008. [15241/08]

I have noted the findings of the ESRI in the Spring Quarterly Economic Commentary. In this Commentary, lower levels of new housing output and the deterioration in the international environment are the main factors weighing on growth this year. The market consensus is now for GDP growth of around 2.25 per cent for 2008. However, there is currently a wide range of forecasts for economic developments this year, as in fact over a two week period a number of different forecasts including the ESRI's were published with forecasts ranging from 1.8 per cent to 3.5 per cent for GDP growth this year. What is clear is that while growth will be lower than in the recent past, it will be a higher rate of growth than can be expected in many of our trading partners.

Tax Code.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

44 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in relation to the results to date of the Revenue Commissioners’ initiative of examining ATM transactions and credit card statements, or other similar initiatives, of Irish tax exiles for the purposes of establishing if they were in fact in the State for no more than 183 days for any year in which they were classified as tax exiles; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that over half of spouses of tax exiles remain domiciled here while their partners are abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15599/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that enquiries relating to non-residence are a feature of their risk-based audit programmes. The procedures adopted in relation to validating a claim to non-residence status depend on the circumstances in each case. The methods used to verify claims to non-residence include a range of tests, which may include the examination of ATM transactions and credit card statements, and an intelligence dimension which, for obvious reasons, they do not publicise. In relation to work carried out as part of its risk-based audit programmes, Revenue have advised me that it has no reason to conclude that there are failures to comply with the rules governing non-resident status. I can confirm that the Revenue Commissioners have previously advised me that the number of individuals who show they are not domiciled in the State on their 2005 return of income is 4,955. In addition, the 2005 returns show 2,239 spouses as non-domicile.

Domicile is a concept of general law. In the case of married couples, the domicile of each spouse is determined by their own particular set of circumstances. There are three different types of domicile: domicile of origin; domicile of choice and domicile of dependency. Under Irish law, every individual is regarded as acquiring a domicile of origin. This is the domicile of his/her father subject to certain exceptions. This domicile of origin will remain until such time as a new domicile of choice is acquired. In order to change domicile and acquire a new domicile of choice, an individual must have reached the age of majority, they must move to a new country with the intention of making a new home there and they have to abandon the idea of ever returning to live in Ireland. It should be noted that it is not unusual for spouses to have different domiciles and, in this regard, the level of immigration to Ireland in recent years may be a relevant factor. Domicile of dependency is now generally only relevant to minors.

Services Sector.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

45 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the downturn in business activity in the services sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15608/08]

Available data on services are, by their very nature, somewhat limited. However, in relation to the available indicators these suggest more modest activity in the services sector this year. I would point out, however, that exports of services have been very strong in recent years, rising by over 14 per cent last year. Employment in tradeable services tends to be in the higher value-added, knowledge-intensive sectors, where pay levels are relatively high. In other words, we are moving further along the value-added curve and this is a positive development.

Health Service Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

46 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the requests he has made to the Health Service Executive in terms of spending for 2008; if he has instructed the HSE to freeze or delay recruitments; if the recent reduction in the HSE payroll has come about as a result of a deliberate policy decision by him with respect to health spending; if he will provide an assessment of the expected future implications of these instructions for HSE employment and front line services for the remainder of 2008; if he will ensure that sufficient funding will be allocated to the HSE to allow the filling of vacant posts, particularly in front line services to patients and clients of the HSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15614/08]

The post-Budget Estimates allocation (current and capital expenditure) for the Health Service Executive is over €14.9 billion, a 7% increase on 2007. The numbers employed (wholetime equivalents) in the health service increased last year by almost 4,300 to just over 111,500 at end 2007.

My Department's 2008 sanction to the HSE to spend its post-Budget Estimates allocation for current expenditure allows for the creation and filling of 1050 additional development posts in services for the elderly, palliative care, disability, cancer and population health. This will bring the total numbers employed in the health service to 112, 560 by the end of 2008. It also includes a two year reconfiguration target which requires the HSE to reconfigure the numbers employed towards front-line services within the pillars and from the hospital pillar towards primary, community and continuing care (PCCC) pillar in line with its strategic policy of developing an integrated approach to health care. In this regard, the HSE will be required to redeploy over 2,000 posts to PCCC and over 250 posts from HSE Corporate to front-line services.

Unemployment Levels.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

47 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his Department has revised the forecast rate of unemployment and the growth rate in employment contained in budget 2008. [15246/08]

On Budget day, my Department projected that unemployment, based on the classification used in the CSO Quarterly National Household Survey, would average 5.6 per cent for this year and that employment would rise by 1.1 per cent. These forecasts were, and remain, broadly in line with the market consensus. My Department, as always continues to monitor the emerging labour market position, including developments in terms of the Live Register.

Tax Code.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

48 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps being taken to ensure that Irish domiciled taxpayers are fully tax compliant for income and capital gains tax earned in respect of foreign properties in their possession, or previously in their possession; if he will supply a revised estimate of the number of Irish resident taxpayers in possession of foreign properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15594/08]

Revenue is not in a position to estimate the total number of Irish resident taxpayers in possession of foreign properties. As regards ensuring tax compliance by such persons I am advised by Revenue that one of the key objectives of their Offshore Assets Group is to identify Irish residents holding offshore properties in particular where these properties have been funded by undeclared profits or gains. So far, the Group has identified more than 2,000 Irish owners of foreign properties. This has been achieved by using methodologies such as, exchange of information arrangements with other tax administrations; monitoring of advertisements and websites; accessing land registries in other jurisdictions where this is possible and using the information provided by other jurisdictions under the EU Savings Directive.

All of these cases identified are referred for examination to ensure that there is no Irish tax evasion involved either in relation to the source of the purchase money, any income generated from renting the property or any chargeable gain arising from disposal of the property. I gave Revenue additional powers in the Finance Act this year to obtain information from agents who manage properties abroad or receive rents in respect of properties abroad. It is hoped that this will also contribute to the identification of non-payment of tax on foreign property income but the impact of this measure will not be known until the first returns are submitted.

Economic Competitiveness.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

49 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measures, in view of the report from the high level group on manufacturing, he proposes to bring forward to achieve control over Government regulated costs. [15727/08]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

99 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measures, in view of the report from the high level group on manufacturing, he proposes to bring forward to achieve control over Government regulated costs and to restore competitiveness. [15908/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 99 together.

My colleague the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment launched the Report of the High Level Group on Manufacturing earlier this month, on foot of a Towards 2016 agreement to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector. The Group has highlighted a number of issues for the manufacturing sector in the areas of, among other things, utility and other costs. Every effort will continue to be made to pursue policies that seek to contain costs to business and manufacturing industry to the greatest extent possible. In this regard, my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who retains responsibility for the development of enterprise policy, will consider appropriate measures to address key issues raised by the Report. It should be remembered that Ireland has always had one of the lowest Corporation Tax rates on companies and our social security costs for employers are far less than in many EU member states. These are not inconsiderable benefits to the manufacturing sector which should not be overlooked.

Tax Collection.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

50 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding measures being proposed with the aim of ensuring that recipients of credit union dividends comply with DIRT legislation in all cases where this is appropriate; if information is available or is being sought from credit unions in relation to non-payment of DIRT at source; if this is carried out on a retrospective basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15624/08]

With effect from 1 January 2002, credit unions were required to apply DIRT on certain deposits held by members. Where recipients are in receipt of income that attracts DIRT they have no further tax liabilities in relation to this income as the DIRT liability is the final tax liability. The issue of the correct operation of the DIRT provisions by credit unions is a risk factor which the Revenue Commissioners consider in determining whether to initiate an enquiry or conduct an audit on any credit union. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is currently no industry-wide audit of the credit unions on the non-operation of DIRT at source.

In addition to enquiring about the compliance with DIRT requirements by credit unions, the Deputy may also be enquiring about the enabling provisions contained in section 891B of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (as inserted by section 125 of the Finance Act 2006) which authorises the Revenue Commissioners, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to make regulations requiring financial institutions, including credit unions, to make an annual return to Revenue of payments made to customers resident in the State. This provision applies regardless of whether or not DIRT applies in a particular case. Regulations can be made for any period not earlier than 1 January 2005. Officials from my Department and the Revenue Commissioners have had detailed consultations with the various financial institutions on the proposed implementation of these regulations and the outcome of these discussions is now being considered.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

51 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when he proposes to bring forward measures to improve the protection mechanism for bank deposit holders here including an increase in the protection ceiling from the current level of €20,000 per person per bank or an increase in the protection ratio from 90%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15604/08]

In the wake of dislocation in global financial markets from mid-2007 onwards, the Ecofin Council of 9 October 2007 requested the Commission and the EU Financial Services Committee (FSC) to consider possible enhancements of the EU Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS) and to report back to the Council by mid-2008. Since then, discussions on DGS have taken place in the FSC, the EU Economic and Finance Committee (EFC) and at Ecofin. These discussions are ongoing and acknowledge the crucial role that DGS can play in maintaining confidence in the banking system. They also recognise that DGS are but one of the elements of the financial safety net.

Ireland is participating in the EU review of DGS launched by EU Finance Ministers last October. On the basis of the outcome of the EU review, I will, of course, consider any specific changes required in the Irish DGS to ensure that savers in Ireland benefit from safeguards in line with EU best practice. I would remind the Deputy that, as I have mentioned in response to previous similar questions, the first and most robust line of defence for depositors must be a well-managed system of prudential regulation and supervision so as to try to minimise the risk that a DGS needs to be activated. Recent assessments by bodies such as the IMF have confirmed that the Irish regime for financial regulation complies with best international practice.

Finally, the Deputy may wish to note that consistent with EU requirements, the Irish Deposit Protection Scheme guarantees 90% of deposits up to a limit of €22,222, which means the maximum possible payout is €20,000. The Irish DGS is maintained by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland.

Fiscal Policy.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

52 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the concerns expressed by the EU Commission about the deterioration in the public finances. [15703/08]

The European Commission's assessment, based on the update of Ireland's stability programme which was published with Budget 2008, represents a reasonable view of the Irish economy. While it refers to the challenges of a "transition to a period of lower economic growth, mainly linked to a return to more sustainable activity in the housing sector", it also acknowledges the overall strong position of the public finances and that the fundamentals of the Irish economy remain sound. The main recommendations in the related Council Opinion of 4 March 2008 are that Ireland should:

maintain firm control over public expenditures in order to keep the public finances in broad balance;

implement further pension reforms to improve the long-term sustainability of the public finances in view of the significant projected increase in age-related expenditure.

Ireland is in full compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact requirements and the Government is committed to respecting the terms of the pact as the economy adjusts to a period of slower growth. The Government accepts that there can be no unnecessary loosening of fiscal policy and, in that context, the implementation of the National Development Plan remains a key priority. It will help boost the productive capacity of the economy and lay the foundations for future growth. In relation to the area of pensions, the recent Green Paper discusses a range of possible measures and the Government is committed to put in place a pensions system which is financially, economically and socially sustainable.

Price Inflation.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

53 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the rising rate of inflation here and its consequences for public policy. [15650/08]

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

74 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measures he proposes to put in place to reduce inflation. [15725/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 74 together.

Inflation, as measured by the average annual change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), reached 5.0 per cent in the twelve months to March 2008. However, it is important that we acknowledge that the fact that price levels in Ireland are now on average 20 per cent above levels in other euro area countries is an indicator of the slippage in recent years in our competitiveness. Most of this upward pressure is due to external factors, particularly mortgage interest rate increases and rising fuel and food prices. When comparing our inflation rate to that in other EU Member States we must use the EU comparable measure of inflation the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) — which is a better measure of underlying inflation. The HICP differs from the CPI in terms of coverage, the most notable difference being the exclusion of mortgage interest repayments from the HICP.

Annual HICP inflation in Ireland in the twelve months to March 2008 was 3.7 per cent, compared with 3.5 per cent in the euro area and 3.8 per cent for the EU as a whole. Achieving a moderate rate of inflation remains a key priority of economic policy because of its importance in restoring competitiveness. The Government is focusing on areas it can control and taking positive actions to contain inflation by implementing responsible fiscal policies. We are promoting greater price competition through the work of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. We are also investing in public infrastructure — as evidenced by the National Development Plan 2007 — 2013. This will enhance our ability to produce more goods and services and, which by improving the economy's efficiency, should help to keep down inflation.

To the extent that inflation is externally-driven it is essential that such increases are not exacerbated by generating second-round effects through inflation-chasing pay settlements, which would have a further adverse impact on Ireland's competitiveness. In the sectors that contribute to domestically-generated inflation, pay and profit margin restraint are essential as well as increased competition so as to keep down price increases. Therefore is it essential that the upcoming pay talks under the Social Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, take account of the reality that we face.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 10.

Off-Licence Fees.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

55 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on increasing the off-licence fee in respect of beer, wine and spirits from the current level of €300; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15596/08]

In the Finance Act 2008 I increased from €250 to €300 the duty payable in respect of an off-licence for the retail sale of alcohol. In the normal course, many off-licence premises have three separate licences for the sale of alcohol, covering spirits, beer and wine, which, between them, allow the sale of all kinds of alcohol. The effect of the increase is, therefore, to increase the annual licensing cost for an off-licence from €750 to €900.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government Alcohol Advisory Group, established by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, examined, among other matters, the increase in the number of supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations with off-licences; and the manner and conditions of sale of alcohol products in such outlets. The Group invited submissions from the public and reported to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 31 March 2008. The issue of any necessary legislative changes in relation to off-licences will be considered in the context of the Group's recommendations.

Public Sector Reform.

James Bannon

Ceist:

56 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the initiatives he plans to achieve public service reform. [15644/08]

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

58 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the OECD report on the public service here and the proposals he will bring forward on the basis of its recommendations. [15595/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 58 together.

Last year the Government asked the OECD to carry out a review of the Irish Public Service. The OECD was given two tasks: to benchmark the Public Service in Ireland against other comparable countries, including identification of appropriate measures to compare the productivity and effectiveness of the Irish system, or discrete elements of it, against comparable international best practice; and to make recommendations as to future directions for Public Service reform which will support the Irish Government's drive for delivery of world class services to the citizen, within existing resources commitment, and contribute to sustainable national competitive advantage. The OECD Review will be published next Monday. It will make a major contribution to the ongoing modernisation of the Irish Public Service. I and my colleagues will be giving careful consideration to its recommendations.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

57 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will reconsider activation of section 110 of the Finance Act 2007; if, in relation to the report finalised by Goodbody Economic Consultants, he will confirm that he preferred not to highlight the findings of the report or its treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15592/08]

The commencement of Section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 is kept under constant review and any further consideration has to take into account the prevailing circumstances in the housing and property markets. The Deputy's question presumably arises as a result of a recent newspaper headline stating "Department of Finance wanted stamp duty report put on hold". The document giving rise to this article was released under a Freedom of Information request and it related to a briefing for the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners attendance at the Public Accounts Committee in December 2007. In this regard, the briefing reflected the fact that the report had been recently received and in that context "Finance have advised that they would prefer not to highlight the findings of the report or its possible treatment (i.e. commencement or non-commencement of Section 110) at this stage until the Report and its implications have been fully considered." There was never any question of the findings in the Goodbody Economic Consultants Report being withheld. It was always my intention to publish this Report and it was actually placed on the Department of Finance website on 1 February 2008.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 56.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

59 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the substance and the time line of Government plans to introduce a windfall tax on gains made by landowners and property developers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15615/08]

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government does not include provision for the introduction of such a tax and there are no plans, at this stage, to introduce a tax of this type.

Social Insurance.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

60 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the surplus in the social insurance fund for 2007 and the cumulative surplus at end of 2007; the projected surplus in the social insurance fund for 2008 and the cumulative surplus at end of 2008; the structure of its investment profile and the way this differs from that of the national pension reserve fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15601/08]

The provisional annual surplus of the Social Insurance Fund in 2007 was €581.7 million and the provisional accumulated surplus of the Fund at the end of 2007 was €3,630.8 million. The annual surplus of the Fund in 2008 is estimated to be €548.1 million and the accumulated surplus at the end of 2008 is estimated to be €4,178.9 million.

The investment of the accumulated surplus of the Fund has been delegated, subject to guidelines, to the National Treasury Management Agency. In line with those guidelines, the accumulated surplus is invested in euro deposits and Government bonds. These guidelines and investment policy reflect a strong liquidity preference in the investment of the accumulated surplus, as funds must be available to meet the benefit and other liabilities of the Fund as required. That prudent approach is also dictated by the projections contained in the recent Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, which indicated that, having regard to stated assumptions, the accumulated surplus will run down in the early years of the next decade.

The National Pensions Reserve Fund was established with the objective of meeting as much as possible of the cost of social welfare pensions and public service pensions from 2025 until at least 2055. Under the provisions of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission controls and manages the National Pensions Reserve Fund and it has discretionary authority to determine investment strategy in accordance with the Reserve Fund's statutory investment policy of securing the optimal total financial return provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the Commission. In formulating its investment strategy, the Commission has regard to, inter alia, the Reserve Fund's long-term investment horizon and strong cash flow, due to the annual Exchequer contribution of 1% of GNP. The Commission's asset allocation strategy, therefore, is founded on the premise that real assets, such as equities, will outperform financial assets such as bonds over the Reserve Fund's long term investment horizon. Therefore, the differences in investment horizons and capacity between the Social Insurance Fund and the National Pensions Reserve Fund are reflected in their respective investment strategies.

Fiscal Policy.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

61 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of the tax revenue shortfall of €600 million up to March 2008 and house completion projections for 2008 being substantially lower than the 55,000 projected in his budget forecast for 2008, he will be introducing a supplementary budget to take account of same. [15726/08]

As I have indicated in response to earlier Parliamentary Questions on the fiscal and economic situation, the fiscal position at end-March was some €600 million behind where we had expected. Furthermore, I have indicated that at this stage it is not expected that this tax shortfall, particularly in CGT, will be recouped later in the year. In terms of new house completions, the indications are now suggesting that housing output may be below that anticipated at Budget time. Some of this weakness is evidenced in the performance of taxes in the first quarter.

While our fiscal position may have weakened from that envisaged at Budget time, it is important to point out that the current situation is manageable given the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio. Also, the fundamentals of the Irish economy remain strong. This will help us to absorb the housing adjustment and external ‘shocks' so that our medium term prospects are favourable. For instance:

our public finances are sound with one of the lowest levels of debt in the euro area;

our markets are flexible allowing us to respond efficiently to adverse developments;

we have a dynamic and well educated labour force;

we have a pro-business outward looking society;

the tax burden on both labour and capital is low.

I wish to stress that the Government accepts that there can be no unnecessary loosening of fiscal policy and, in that context, the implementation of the National Development Plan remains a key priority. As regards current day-to-day expenditure, it is crucial that the agreed budget spending limits are adhered to this year. As I indicated at Budget time, the rate of increase in current spending over the medium term must be managed carefully and kept within available resources. This Government intends to do just that and the issue of a supplementary Budget does not arise.

Economic Outlook.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

62 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on comments in the OECD’s 2008 Economic Survey of Ireland in relation to the housing market here and to falling productivity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15613/08]

In general terms, the OECD has long considered that the encouragement of home ownership diverts capital away from more productive uses within the economy. Bearing this is in mind, the main thrust of the OECD's survey on Ireland in relation to housing was that we should gradually reduce the bias towards home ownership in the tax system by either starting to phase out mortgage interest tax relief or by introducing a property or capital gains tax on owner-occupied housing. In this regard, I'd point out that it is the long standing belief held by policy makers in Ireland that home ownership is desirable and that is why successive governments have implemented measures to support home ownership.

I broadly agree with the views of the OECD regarding the need to raise the growth rate of productivity. However, it is important to remember that productivity is still rising but that the rate of increase has slowed somewhat in recent years. This mainly reflects the rising importance of the labour-intensive new house building sector. In this regard, there are a number of policies already in place to help achieve improvements in productivity. The prioritisation of resources towards infrastructure and education under the National Development Plan is perhaps the best example. Other important policies in place to support productivity include the maintenance of a flexible economy with a low burden of tax on capital and labour. Finally, I'd remind the Deputy that in overall terms, the OECD gave a generally positive assessment of the Irish economy and acknowledged its strong fundamentals.

Tax Collection.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

63 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that those entitled to a DIRT refund are getting it; and if he has proposals to rectify the apparent under-claiming. [15710/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no solid basis on which to estimate the numbers entitled to refunds of DIRT in excess of those who annually seek and are granted tax refunds. A refund of deposit interest retention tax is provided for in very limited circumstances only, namely, an individual who is not liable or fully liable to income tax and is over 65 years of age at some time during the tax year or is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental/physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself. (Bodies qualifying for ‘charitable' status and companies are also entitled to refund of DIRT). The taxpayer must advise Revenue that he or she meets the legislative requirements and the amount of the retention tax suffered. In addition, it should be noted that with deposit interest rates being relatively low in recent years, the quantum of the interest earned and tax retained would be very small in many cases and it may be considered uneconomic to reclaim.

The number of people claiming refunds and the amounts of the refunds for the years 2002-2007 is summarised in the table. This may not include some taxpayers whose DIRT refunds were processed as part of a self-assessment tax return.

Year

Amount of DIRT Repaid

Number of repayments

€ M

2002

11.27

1,155

2003

9.71

1,440

2004

2.11

1,003

2005

2.32

971

2006

1.19

883

2007

2.20

920

In Section 34 of the Finance Act 2007, I introduced a new scheme to allow the operation of DIRT-exempt savings accounts subject to two conditions: (1) the account holder must be aged 65 years of age or over or be permanently incapacitated; and (2) their total income must not exceed the relevant exemption threshold. Provisional figures show that in 2007 some 47,218 such accounts were operated. These figures will increase as the remaining financial institutions file returns for 2007.

Revenue widely publicised these changes when they were made in 2007. An Information Leaflet (DE1) giving comprehensive information for qualifying taxpayers on how to have interest credited to their savings accounts without deduction of DIRT was made available at Revenue offices. Information on DIRT exemption was also included on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie. Application forms and information leaflets were also made available at most financial institutions. Revenue also arranged for an information leaflet to be issued to social welfare customers in receipt of state and other pensions. Approximately 100,000 leaflets were issued in this way. Information on the DIRT exemption was also included in Age Action's monthly magazine "Ageing Matters" in June 2007. During 2008, Revenue will continue to examine a range of channels or means to target the over 65s and it plans to publicise the facility, including: posters in local offices; contact with representative bodies; financial institutions; other Government Departments and agencies; and relevant advertising.

Price Inflation.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

64 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the fact that the consumer price index shows that inflation is running at 5% with inflation in fuel and staple food prices running significantly in excess of this level; his further views on the effect this is having on persons on low, fixed incomes and on social welfare; if he will propose measures to address the persistently high inflation rate and measures that will particularly aim at alleviating the effects of inflation for those on low, fixed incomes and on social welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15622/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

78 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the fact that inflation is running at 5% per annum; if he proposes measures to bring down the inflation rate; if he will take steps to protect the real incomes of workers during the upcoming national pay talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15603/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 78 together.

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), increased by an average 4.9 per cent in 2007, and has risen by 5.0 per cent in the twelve months to March 2008. Of the 4.9 per cent figure in 2007, 2.2 per cent was contributed by increased mortgage interest repayments. Including the impact of mortgage rate increases in the CPI not only masks the underlying inflation rate but also highlights the short-term impact of interest rate increases which are designed to bring down inflation. A better measure of inflation than the Consumer Price Index is the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) which excludes, among other things, mortgage interest. The HICP is also the measure used by the European Union and European Central Bank to compare inflation across member states. The average increase in the HICP in 2007 was 2.8 per cent, and 3.7 per cent in the twelve months to March 2008, marginally below the average for the EU 27 as a whole.

The main contributions to the annual increase of 5.0 per cent in CPI over the 12 months to March 2008, in order of importance were: housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels contributing just over 2.0 per cent; food and non-alcoholic beverages contributing almost 1.1 per cent; and transport contributing 0.75 per cent. Therefore out of the twelve categories comprising the basket of goods that make up the CPI, three contributed almost 80 per cent of the total inflation in the twelve months to March 2008. The main driving forces behind these figures are increased mortgage repayments and rising food and fuel costs. Mortgage rates are largely set by the ECB and the price levels of food and fuel are set on global markets, and are therefore largely outside domestic control.

That is not to say that I have not sought to support measures that seek to curb inflationary tendencies in our domestic economy, and to pursue policies intended to mitigate the impact of inflation on the less well off. Over the past ten years or so I and my predecessor have ensured that those depending on social welfare have achieved substantial real improvements in their living standards. Furthermore, in my Budget 2008 statement I made clear that the first priority of this Government was to ensure that the poor and vulnerable in society are protected. This priority still stands. In addition, pay increases under partnership agreements combined with tax reductions have resulted in the disposable income of the average Irish worker being the second highest in the EU.

The best way to protect the real incomes of ordinary workers is to pursue policies that sustain competitiveness and employment. We must always seek to ensure that our domestic cost base does not undermine competitiveness. Seeking to achieve low inflation, pursuing an appropriate incomes policy and keeping public spending growth at sustainable levels in the medium term are essential. Doing these will allow us to keep the burden of taxation low, thus helping to maintain competitiveness and to maximise our economic potential. If we can ensure that pay increases reflect productivity growth, rather than unwisely trying to compensate ourselves for externally-generated inflation, our economy can grow at a pace which will continue to deliver real increases in living standards for those on social welfare and for all workers.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

65 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the transfers to the National Pensions Reserve Fund for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and projected for 2008; the estimate of the level of the NPRF at end 2008 and at end 2025; the estimate of the outstanding pension liability to the Exchequer, including public service, State contributory and State non-contributory pensions, at end 2008 and at end 2025 assuming a historically average return on investment; if he is confident that current allocations to the NPRF are sufficient; the proportion of the Exchequer’s pension liability the NPRF is expected to cover from 2025 onwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15628/08]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) was established on 2 April 2001 with the objective of meeting as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of Social Welfare pensions and Public Service pensions to be paid from the year 2025 until at least 2055. For this purpose, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 provides that 1% of GNP is to be paid from the Exchequer into the Fund each year. The transfers to the NPRF from the Exchequer for the years 2005 to 2007 were as follows:

2005 — €1,320.250 million

2006 — €1,446.500 million

2007 — €1,615.500 million

The 2008 Budget provision is €1,690 million.

The estimated market value of the fund on 26 December 2007 was €21.3 billion. The National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission publishes fund value and performance figures on a quarterly basis. I understand that an updated 2007 outturn and outturn figures to the end of March 2008 will be published shortly. The full accounts of the Fund are published in the annual reports of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission. The reports are available on the Commission's websitewww.nprf.ie. The liability of the Exchequer for public pensions is normally set out in terms of a percentage of GDP. The latest projections are for public pension expenditure to increase from around 5% of GDP in 2007 to 7.6% in 2025. These projections cover the cost of both Social Welfare and Public Service pensions. The contribution that the NPRF will make towards these costs after 2025 will depend on the precise drawdown pattern adopted.

I might add that the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 provides that the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission shall commission, from time to time, assessments of the projected profile of Exchequer outlays on Social Welfare and Public Service pensions, after consultation with the relevant Ministers.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

66 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will review the VAT rate on defibrillators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15239/08]

The position is that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In relation to the VAT rate that applies to defibrillators, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to defibrillators which are subject to the standard rate.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include defibrillators for general use. The reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of defibrillators. Therefore the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of defibrillators is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 33.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

68 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has received notification of the inclusion of Irish residents on the list of 1,400 individuals who held money in anonymous trusts in a bank (details supplied); if he will publish such names if and when they become available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15611/08]

In my response of 4 March 2008 to the question raised by Deputy Burton (No. 207) I advised that the Revenue Commissioners had sought to establish from the German Tax authorities if any Irish residents appeared on the list held by them. They subsequently indicated that a response would be provided. This is still awaited. As the Deputy is aware the Revenue Commissioners are precluded from releasing details of information in relation to taxpayers, except where this is permitted under statute. For example under the provisions of Section 1086 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, the Revenue Commissioners publish quarterly lists of details relating to tax defaulters in Iris Oifiguil, where settlements involving tax, interest and penalties have been made.

If there are Irish resident taxpayers on the list to which the Deputy refers and the relevant information is made available to Revenue by the German Tax authorities, their tax affairs will be the subject of inquiries by Revenue. Depending on the outcome, this may or may not result in the publication of the details of any settlements made.

Off-Course Betting.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

69 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the plans he has to regulate off-course betting in all sports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10819/08]

Off-course betting in all sports is already subject to regulation in the form of the Betting Act, 1931. There are, at present, no plans to provide for further regulation of off-course betting.

Garda Stations.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

70 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will take action to ensure that progress is made to commence the building programme in respect of the redevelopment of Tallaght Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11851/08]

A sketch scheme to accommodate a new Garda Station, Courthouse and other facilities on the existing Garda Station site will be completed by the end of May 2008. It will then be submitted to the Garda Authorities for consideration and approval.

Ministerial Salaries.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

71 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of the changing economic climate, he proposes to review the decision to accept substantial pay increases for members of Cabinet, albeit on a deferred basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15625/08]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

102 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views, with the new national wage talks underway, that following his call to ordinary workers for wage increase restraints he and his Cabinet colleagues must not take the excessive salary increases as set out in the latest report from the review body on higher remuneration in the public sector. [15911/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 102 together.

Increases for office holders and a number of other groups were recommended in Report No. 42 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. The Review body is an independent standing body whose primary function is to advise the Government on the general levels of remuneration appropriate to higher public servants. As well as members of the Government and Ministers of State, the remit of the Review Body includes higher grades in the civil service, local authorities and the HSE, chief executives of non-commercial State bodies, higher ranks in the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, and members of the judiciary.

The Review Body found that the remuneration of many senior public service posts is below private sector levels even when allowance is made for the superior value of public service pensions. In relation to members of the Government and other political office holders, the Review Body considered that direct comparison with the private sector was not appropriate and that the remuneration of senior public servants was a more relevant comparator. In their case, therefore, the comparison with the private sector is an indirect one.

The overall effect of the review is that the salaries recommended are below the average level of salaries in the private sector since the recommendations of the Review Body are based on the lower quartile of the private sector rates and have been further reduced by 15% to allow for the superior value of public service pensions relative to the private sector. It is established Government policy to accept the recommendations of this independent review body and this approach has been taken by successive Governments. In line with the established practice, the Government decided to accept and implement the recommendations of the review Body.

In the case of public service groups generally covered by the Review Body's recommendations, the Government decided that the increases recommended by the Review Body would be implemented on the following phased basis:

5% from 14 September 2007, the date of the Report, or where the total increase is less than 5%, the full increase from that date;

half the balance from 1 September 2008; and

the remaining balance from 1 March 2009.

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has reviewed the arrangements set out above in respect of their application to members of the Government and Ministers of State. In their cases, it was decided in December last that the increases would be deferred and would be phased as follows:

4% from 1 September 2008;

half the balance from 1 September 2009; and

the balance from 1 September 2010.

This will mean that the full increase to political office holders will not be paid until 1 September 2010.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

72 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a non-domicile tax charge for those people resident here but non-domiciled for taxation purposes similar to a initiative recently introduced in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15597/08]

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government does not include provision for the introduction of such a charge and there are no plans, at this stage, to introduce a tax of this type.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

73 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on recent reports of irregularities with respect to the short-selling of Irish banking stocks; the progress of the investigation into these reports; his further views on whether the Financial Regulator has sufficient powers to bring such investigations to a successful conclusion; if he proposes to introduce tougher sanctions for malicious trading practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15618/08]

I should first explain that policy responsibility for market abuse legislation is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The legislative framework relevant to market abuse issues is S.I. No. 392 of 2005, the Market Abuse (Directive 2003/6/EC) Regulations, 2005. Responsibility for the administration of that legislation is a matter for the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland.

I am aware of the recent reports of alleged irregularities with respect to the short-selling of Irish banking stocks. I am of course concerned to learn that such practices may be occurring. On 20th March, the Financial Regulator (FR) made a statement drawing public attention to incorrect rumours circulating in the market and reminding market participants of their responsibilities in handling such rumours. In the course of that statement the FR advised that it was examining certain transactions, as one would expect it to do when such unusual trading takes place. I understand that the FR has been in contact with market participants and will be working with other regulators including the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) to uncover the source of false and misleading rumours circulating in financial markets at that time. I am satisfied that we have a robust and effective legislative framework in place in Ireland closely based on the EU Market Abuse Directive which embodies best practice international standards to guard against market misconduct.

As regards the type of sanctions that could apply in the case of illegal trading practices, I would direct the Deputy's attention to Section 32 of the Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2005 which provides, in the case of conviction on indictment under Irish market abuse law, for a fine not exceeding €10 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both.

Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 53.
Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 41.
Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 25.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

77 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that there is sufficient liquidity in the banking system here in the context of the ongoing international credit crunch; his views on whether tighter regulation of the banking system should be considered in view of recent developments in international and inter-bank credit markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15606/08]

The Irish banks' liquidity arrangements are sound and the Governor of the Central Bank and Financial Service Authority of Ireland has recently stated his view that the sector is comfortably meeting the more stringent prudential liquidity requirements introduced by the Financial Regulator before the recent market disruption commenced. This view is echoed in the recent report of the OECD, which points out that Irish banks entered the current period of international financial turmoil in a very strong position and that they, therefore, have considerable capacity to respond to unexpected developments. The OECD noted that Ireland's sustained economic growth in recent years has ensured that Irish banks are well positioned to deal with recent market developments. In this regard, the OECD welcomed the findings that Irish banks have little exposure to the sub-prime market, hedge funds and the private equity sector.

In relation to the question of tighter regulation, I note the clear recommendation in the recent OECD report that the costs and benefits of regulation be carefully weighed so as to continue to secure the benefits of financial innovation in reducing liquidity constraints, a wider spreading of risks and development of new products to meet a wider range of borrower needs. EU Finance Ministers are alert to the need to ensure an appropriate balance in regulation that yields both effective and efficient regulatory outcomes that safeguard the interest of consumers. To this end, they have adopted an extensive programme of work aimed at putting in place a comprehensive response to developments in financial markets. This road map includes reviewing, along with the EU's international partners, how to further improve transparency of complex financial instruments, valuation standards, the prudential framework, risk management and supervision and market functioning including the role of ratings agencies. Ireland is fully participating in this work.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 64.

Fiscal Policy.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

79 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will revise his growth forecast for 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15305/08]

On Budget day, GDP was forecast to rise by 3.0 per cent this year, with GNP forecast to rise by 2.8 per cent. The Budget day forecasts have not changed. At the time, the median forecast for 2008 among economic commentators was for GDP growth of 3.25 per cent. In other words, my Department's forecasts were marginally below the market consensus. In terms of next year, GDP was forecast to increase by 3.5 per cent at Budget time, while GNP was forecast to rise by 3.3 per cent. However, in framing these forecasts a number of downside risks to the economic outlook were identified on Budget day. These risks included the possibility of a sharper slowdown in the US, the possibility of adverse exchange rate movements, the possibility that financial market difficulties could persist for longer than assumed and the possibility of a sharper contraction in new house building.

It now appears that some of these risks have materialised and in this regard other economic commentators that produce forecasts on a more frequent basis have revised their forecasts downwards. The market consensus is now for GDP growth, of around 2.25 per cent this year. My Department continues to monitor developments and advises accordingly.

Question No. 80 answered with Question No. 11.
Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 40.

Company Closures.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

82 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reports that there was a 60% increase in the number of companies collapsing in the first three months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007; the estimate of the expected impact of this fall in business activity on the Exchequer, in particular on corporation tax receipts; if there are fiscal or other measures under preparation for the support of indigenous enterprises and start-ups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15600/08]

The economic environment for business is more challenging as we move into the early months of 2008. The reported Exchequer Statement at the end of the first quarter showed Corporation Tax receipts were marginally behind profile at that stage. However, as the bulk of Corporation Tax is collected towards the end of the year it is too early to predict the full year performance at this juncture. While this is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, on the basis of data supplied by him, I understand that the performance of enterprise agency assisted companies for the first quarter of 2008 is similar to the same period in 2007. I am also encouraged by the fact that overall job losses in agency assisted companies notified for the first quarter of this year are, in fact, below the level recorded for the first three months of 2007.

The enterprise development agencies under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provide a range of supports and programmes to assist indigenous enterprises and start ups and continue to develop and refine their client offerings in light of the changing business environment. Further details of the scope and range of schemes in support of indigenous enterprises can be obtained from my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the first instance.

Pension Provisions.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

83 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has given consideration to the implementation of a comprehensive ethical investment code, including but not confined to banning investments in cluster bomb and landmine manufacturers, for the National Pensions Reserve Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15619/08]

Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission controls and is responsible for the investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF). The National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission joined a group of the world's largest institutional investment funds in signing the UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment when they were launched in April 2006. The aim of the Principles is to integrate consideration of environmental, social and governance issues into investment decision-making and ownership practices and, thereby, to improve long-term returns. As set out in its Annual Report 2006, the Commission's initial focus in its implementation of the Principles is on the development and implementation of a comprehensive proxy voting policy and the development of the capacity to engage with the companies in which Fund moneys are invested on environmental, social and governance issues.

In relation to the issue of cluster munitions, it is Government policy to campaign for a complete ban on the use of such weapons and my colleague, Mr Dermot Ahern, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is working to bring to completion negotiations on the first-ever instrument of international humanitarian law specifically directed against cluster munitions. I understand that there are still significant differences to be resolved in relation to the proposed Convention, including key issues such as definitions. When the precise shape of the Convention is clear, the Government will reflect further on any statutory requirements. I have raised the issue of investing in shares of companies which are involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions with the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission and the Commission has agreed to exclude companies involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions from the Fund. The Commission is currently in the process of implementing this decision.

Tax Yield.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

84 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reports of significant reductions in the number of high street shoppers here; the impact this will have on consumer spending and VAT returns for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15602/08]

At Budget time, my Department projected an increase in consumer spending of 3.8 per cent this year. This is lower than last year and reflects more modest employment growth and the absence of any significant SSIA impact. The Budget day forecasts for VAT receipts this year are partly based on this more modest rate of consumer spending. VAT receipts for the first quarter are slightly behind the expected profile for the first three months. However, while it is too early to say with certainty, the weakness seems to be related to the property market and not consumer spending. The main source of short-term trends on consumer spending is the monthly retail sales data series, published by the CSO. The latest data relate to January, and show a year-on-year inflation-adjusted increase of 3.0 per cent in consumer spending.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

85 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of people who claimed top slicing relief in respect of redundancy payments and so on in 2007 or for the earlier years for which information is available; the number of people who have had their claims for a refund rejected due to the introduction of the four year rule for claiming repayments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15757/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of claimants for top slicing relief in respect of payments made as compensation for loss of office which has been compiled on the basis of income tax returns for 2004, the most recent year for which full actual figures are available, is 1,400. There are preliminary indications that the numbers of claimants for 2005 is of a similar order.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is their experience that employees who are made redundant are generally made fully aware of their entitlements by their employers and/or trade union etc., and consequently the likelihood of a timely claim not being made is remote. There are no definitive statistics available on the number of refund claims rejected for claimants of top slicing relief, because the claims were made outside the ‘four year rule' for claiming repayments. While Revenue is aware of some claims in this category being rejected, I am advised that the number of such claims would be minimal and there is no mechanism for readily identifying them.

Departmental Agencies.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

86 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the names and addresses of each of the offices of the Revenue Commissioners and the Collector General; and the principal functions carried out at each of these locations. [15767/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy can be found in the table.

No.

Building

Location

County

Function

1

Staplestown Rd.

Carlow, Co. Carlow

Carlow

VRT, compliance and audit functions are also carried out in this sub-offices of Kilkenny District

2

Newcourt Centre

Church Street

Cavan

Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

3

Government Offices

Kilrush Road, Ennis, Co. Clare.

Clare

Administration of all taxheads for Co Clare Provision of public office for all taxheads including VRO

4

Shannon Airport

Shannon, Co. Clare.

Clare

Trade Facilitation and passenger control

5

Enterprise House

Estuary West, Cappagh Road, Kilrush, Co. Clare

Clare

CG’s — Debt Collection; Direct Debit Registration and Compliance Unit

6

Bantry

Bantry, Co. Cork.

Cork

Provision of VRO office. Custom duties

7

Cork Airport

Kinsale Road, Cork.

Cork

Trade Facilitation and Passenger Control

8

Centre Point

Unit 4 Centre Pt Marina Commercial Pk,

Cork

Revenue Maritime unit

9

Centre Park House

Centre Park Road, Cork

Cork

Customs Enforcement

10

Tivoli

Tivoli Docks, Cork.

Cork

Trade Facilitation

11

Sullivan’s Quay

Sullivan’s Quay

Cork

Administration of all taxheads for Cork city & county Provison of Public Office for all taxheads and and VROSW Regional Head OfficeLarge Cases Div To perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, in respect of its case base — the largest businesses and wealthiest individuals

12

Boland’s Warehouse

Bolands Indl. Est., New Mallow Road

Cork

Storage facility

13

Sunbeam Warehouse

Sunbeam Complex, Mallow Road

Cork

Storage facility

14

Aras Ailigh

Bridgend

Donegal

Investigations and Prosecutions Division

15

Lifford Road Station

Lifford

Donegal

Customer Service (VRT) functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

16

Mountain Top

Letterkenny

Donegal

Storage facility

17

Government Offices

High Road, Letterkenny

Donegal

Customer Service, Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

18

Dunnion Buildings

High Road, Letterkenny

Donegal

Customer Service, Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

19

Civic Offices

Donegal Town

Donegal

Customer Service, Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area. Central Transit Office

20

Pier Buildings

Killybegs

Donegal

Customs and Excise

21

Ashtowngate

Navan Road, Dublin 15.

Dublin

Deals with Business Customers in relation to PAYE, Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT, and Relevant Contract Tax.Criminal investigation and prosecution of serious Tax and Customs offences

22

Apollo House

Tara Street, Dublin 2.

Dublin

Management and Administration of the Dublin Region.Large Cases DivTo perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, in respect of its case base — the largest businesses and wealthiest individualsAEPCustoms Consolidation LegislationOPED: Operational Policy programmes with regard to Customer Service, Compliance, Sectoral Compliance, CAT & Stamps, Excise & VRT, Revenue Powers, Administration of the Division

23

Cargo Terminal

Dublin Airport, Co. Dublin.

Dublin

Customs Clearance imports and exports

24

Passenger Terminal

Dublin Airport, Co. Dublin.

Dublin

Customs enforcement of drugs, fiscal smuggling and other Revenue offences

25

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4.

Dublin

Deals with Business Customers in relation to PAYE, Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT, and Relevant Contract Tax.Revenue civil tax investigations projects

26

New Custom House

Prominade Road, Dublin 3.

Dublin

Customs clearance imports and exports in Dublin Port Enforcement of drugs, fiscal smuggling and other Revenue offences

27

Mount Street

85-89 Lr. Mount Street, Dublin 2.

Dublin

Deals with Business Customers in relation to PAYE, Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT, and Relevant Contract Tax.

28

The Plaza Complex

Tallaght, Dublin 24.

Dublin

Deals with Business Customers in relation to PAYE, Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT, and Relevant Contract Tax.CAT for the E&SE Region along with compliance and audit functions are carried out in this Klidare District Office along with C&E ControlsLarge Cases DivTo perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, in respect of its case base — the largest businesses and wealthiest individuals

29

The Square

Tallaght, Dublin 24.

Dublin

Tax enquiries dealt with at Public Counter

30

St. John’s House

Tallaght, Dublin 24.

Dublin

Vehicle Registration OfficeLarge Cases DivTo perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, in respect of its case base — the largest businesses and wealthiest individualsOPED: Operational Policy programmes with regard to Customer Service, Compliance, Sectoral Compliance, CAT & Stamps, Excise & VRT, Revenue Powers, Administration of the Division

31

9/15 O’Connell Street

Dublin 1.

Dublin

Deals with Business Customers in relation to PAYE, Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT, and Relevant Contract Tax.HRD, Employee Assistance Service, Providing an Employee Assistance Service to support staff.

32

Clanwilliam Court

Lr. Mount Street, Dublin 2.

Dublin

Revenue civil tax investigations projects

33

Offices, Howth

2 West Pier, Howth, Co. Dublin.

Dublin

Customs Training

34

Boat House, Howth

11 West Pier, Howth, Co. Dublin.

Dublin

Storage facility

36

Ocean Pier Terminal

Alexander Rd, Dublin Port

Dublin

Customs Imports and Exports

37

South Bank Quay

Pidgeon House Rd, Dublin 4

Dublin

Customs Imports and Exports

38

Dublin Freight Terminal

Dublin Port

Dublin

Customs Imports and Exports

39

Ferryport

Dun Laoghaire

Dublin

Customs Imports and Exports

40

Dublin Mail Centre

Oak Rd. Knockmitten, Co. Dublin

Dublin

Customs Imports and Exports

41

Ardilaun House

St. Stephens Green

Dublin

Operational Policy programmes with regard to Customer Service, Compliance, Sectoral Compliance, CAT & Stamps, Excise & VRT, Revenue Powers, Administration of the Division

42

Block 22

Dublin Castle

Dublin

Accommodation/Health & Safety/Energy Environment UnitsProvision and maintenance of staff accommodation and formulation and implementation of policy.

43

Blocks 8-10/Cross Block

Dublin Castle

Dublin

Chairman and Board of the Revenue CommissionersStrategic Planning Division

44

D’Olier House

D’Olier Street

Dublin

HRD, Training Branch,Developing and implementing organisation wide training strategies and programmes

45

Ship Street Gate

Dublin Castle

Dublin

HRD, Personnel BranchDeveloping and implementing human resource management strategies and practices Providing staff with general information on all Personnel related mattersRevenue Solicitor’s OfficeCG’s- Insolvency Unit

46

Stamping Buildings

Dublin Castle

Dublin

Dublin regionStamp duty, Customer Service and CRESTRevenue Legislation Divisions

47

Findlater House

Cathal Brugha St.

Dublin

Strategic Planning Division, Internal Audit Unit

48

Airways Ind. Est.

Swords Rd., Cloghran, Co. Dublin

Dublin

Storage and distribution of various Revenue forms and leaflets

49

35-184 Shanowen Rd.

Santry, Dublin 9

Dublin

File storage and retrieval service Storage and distribution of various Revenue forms and leaflets Forms and leaflets Telephone Service

50

State Warehouse

Bond Rd, Dublin 3

Dublin

Storage of seized goods

51

Unit H, Furry Park,

Santry, Dublin 9

Dublin

Vehicle Registration OfficeProvision of in-house printing service — Storage and distribution of various Revenue forms and leaflets

52

Setanta Centre

Nassau St., Dublin 2

Dublin

Large Cases Div: To perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, inrespect of its case base. To provide specialist support to other Divisions in the form of Anti-avoidance consultancy.

53

St. John’s Road

Dublin 8

Dublin

Development and maintenance of Revenue’s ICT Strategy and Architecture; Operation and maintenance of the Revenue Data Centre; ICT Production and Output management; ICT Business, Technical Support and Telephony Services to all Revenue Offices; Technical Support for all public-facing services.

54

Castle View

52-57 Sth. Great George’s St., Dn 2

Dublin

ICT Software Applications Development, Quality Assurance and Testing, Release and Implementation Management and Live Systems support for all of Revenue’s internal and public-facing (e.g. ROS) ICT systems, and associated Project Management, ICT Training and Administrative functionsLogistical Services

55

Grattan House

Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2

Dublin

To perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, in respect of its case base (Pensions)

56

Claremont Road,

Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Dublin

The office at Sandymount deals with Wicklow Districts customer services (including PAYE), audit, compliance and control functions, along with import and export controls.

57

Custom House

Flood Street

Galway

Customer Service (incl VRT & Stamp Duty), Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

58

Hibernian House

Eyre Square

Galway

Customer Service, Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

59

Hynes Building

St. Augustine Street

Galway

Customer Service functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

60

Government Offices

Spa Road, Tralee, Co. Kerry.

Kerry

Administration of all taxheads for Co KerryProvision of public office for all taxheads including VRO

61

Mill Lane

Listowel

Kerry

CG’s — Debt Collection; Minor Taxes

62

St. David’s House

Naas, Co. Kildare

Kildare

VRT & compliance and audit functions are also carried out in this sub-offices of Kildare District.

63

Unit 5, Block F,

Athy Business Campus, Athy, Co. Kildare

Kildare

The office at Athy deals with individuals living in Kildare to incorporate customer services (including PAYE), audit, compliance and control functions, along with import and export controls.

64

Government Offices

Hebron Rd., Kilkenny

Kilkenny

To perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, in respect of its case base

65

Government Offices

Portlaoise, Co. Laois

Laois

compliance and audit functions are also carried out in this sub-office of Kilkenny District.

66

An Post Mail Centre

Clonminan Ind. Estate, Portlaoise

Laois

Customs & Excise Control & enforcement.

67

V.R.O.

Carrick On Shannon

Leitrim

Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

68

River House

Charlottes Quay, Limerick.

Limerick

Administration of all taxheads for Limerick City & CountyProvision of public office for all taxheads including VROSPD: VAT repayments

69

Sarsfield House

Francis Street, Limerick.

Limerick

Administration of all taxheads for specific cases in the regionLarge Cases DivTo perform, with some exceptions, Revenue operational activities for all taxes and duties, in respect of its case base — the largest businesses and wealthiest individualsCollector GeneralsCustomer Services; Returns Accounting & Payment Services; Tax Relief at Source; SSIA’s; ROS Helpdesk; Debt Collection

70

Estuary House

Henry Street, Limerick.

Limerick

Debt Management UnitCG’s — Debt Collection; P35 Management

71

Rhebogue Warehouse

Rhebogue, Co. Limerick

Limerick

Storage facility

72

C&E Foynes

Foynes, Co. Limerick

Limerick

Trade Facilitation

73

Corcanree Industrial Estate

Dock Rd Limerick

Limerick

Storage Facility

74

V.R.O.

Richmond Street

Longford

Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

75

Government Offices

The Mall Drogheda

Louth

Customs and Excise

76

Millennium Centre

Dundalk

Louth

Customer Service (incl VRT), Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area VIMA national function (VIES, Intrastat & Mutual Assistance)

77

Brook Buildings

Dundalk

Louth

Special Compliance Functions

78

Carrickcarnan

Dundalk

Louth

Customs and Excise

79

Greenore Port

Greenore

Louth

Customs and Excise

80

Michael Davitt House

Castlebar

Mayo

Customer Service, Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area. National Processing Unit for Income Tax returns

81

Abbey Mall,

Abbey Road, Navan, Co.Meath

Meath

The office at Navan deals with individuals living in Meath to incorporate customer services (including PAYE), audit, compliance and control functions, along with import and export controls

82

Coolshannagh

Monaghan

Monaghan

Customer Services, VRT Repayments Office (Disabled Drivers/Passengers Diplomats, etc)

83

Fitzpatrick Square

Clones

Monaghan

Special Compliance Functions

84

Plantation

Clones

Monaghan

Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

85

V.R.O.

Tullamore

Offaly

Customer Service (incl VRT), Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

86

Government Offices

Convent Road

Roscommon

Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

87

Custom House

Quay Street

Sligo

Special Compliance Functions

88

Westward Centre

Bridge Street

Sligo

Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

89

Finisklin Industrial Estate

Sligo

Sligo

Storage facility

90

Government Offices

Cranmore Road

Sligo

Customer Service, Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

91

Government Buildings

St.Conlan’s Road, Nenagh, Co.Tipp.

Tipperary

CG’s — Charities and Sporting Bodies — tax exemptions; Charities — tax refund claims; International Claims; Dividend Witholding Tax; Employers HelplineCustoms Legislation Division

92

Government Buildings

Stradavoher Rd., Thurles, Co. Tipp.

Tipperary

The office deals with individuals living in Tipperary to incorporate customer services (including PAYE), audit, compliance and control functions, along with import and export controls

93

ACC Building

Thurles, Co. Tipperary

Tipperary

Sub Office dealing with Compliance functions for all taxpayers living in Co Tipperary excluding South Tipperary Clonmel area.

94

Harbour House

New Quay, Clonmel, Co. Tipp.

Tipperary

compliance and audit functions are also carried out in this sub-office of Waterford District.

95

Unit 4, Belview Terminal

Waterford

Waterford

Customs & Excise Control and Enforcement

96

New Civic Offices

Dungarvan, Co.Waterford

Waterford

compliance and audit functions are also carried out in this sub-office of Waterford District.

97

Frank Cassin Wharf

Waterford

Waterford

Customs & Excise Control and Enforcement.

98

Government Offices

The Glen, Waterford

Waterford

The office deals with individuals living in Waterford, South Kilkenny and South Tipperary to incorporate customer services (including PAYE & VRT), audit, compliance and control functions, along with import and export controls, Registry of Shipping and Mercantile Marine. Excise Licences and C&E accounting functions for the Region are also located in this building. The E&SE Regional Office is also located in The Glen Waterford

99

C&E, Bellport

Belview, Waterford

Waterford

Customs & Excise Control and Enforcement.

100

Pearse Street

Athlone

Westmeath

Customer Service, Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

101

Spoutwell Lane

Mullingar

Westmeath

Compliance and Audit functions for the taxes and duties for persons living in and businesses managed and controlled in its geographical area.

102

Government Offices

Anne St., Wexford

Wexford

This office deals with individuals living in Wexford to incorporate customer services (including PAYE& VRT), audit, compliance and control functions, along with import and export controls, Registry of Shipping and Mercantile Marine

103

Terminal Buildings

Rosslare Port, Co. Wexford

Wexford

Customs & Excise Control and Enforcement.

104

Staffords Wharf

New Ross, Co. Wexford

Wexford

Customs & Excise Control and Enforcement.

105

Devereux Buildings

Rosslare , Co. Wexford

Wexford

The CVO with a National Function is based in this location.

106

Tyrell’s Building

North Quay,Arklow, Co.Wicklow.

Wicklow

The Customs and Excise, compliance and audit functions are also carried out in Wicklow sub-offices in Tyrrell House, North Quay Arklow,

107

2 The Murrough

Wicklow, Co.Wicklow.

Wicklow

Customs and Excise, compliance and audit functions are also carried out in Wicklow sub-offices, VRT is also dealt with at this location.

Flood Relief.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

87 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 51 of 13 March 2008, the outcome of the meeting. [15791/08]

Following discussion of the flooding problem at Johnstown, Co. Kildare at the meeting in question, the Office of Public Works advised Kildare County Council, that it is willing in principle to provide it with funds to relieve the problem if remedial measures that can be justified on social, environmental and economic grounds can be undertaken at reasonable cost. Kildare County Council is now commencing the process of engaging a consulting engineer, to examine the problem in detail and to prepare a report identifying potential solutions. The Office of Public Works will fund the preparation of the report.

Fiscal Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

88 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the action he proposes to take to stimulate the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15846/08]

While there are a number of challenges facing the economy, the fundamentals are still good. For instance, our public finances are sound with one of the lowest levels of debt in the euro area, our markets are flexible allowing us to respond efficiently to adverse developments, we have a dynamic and well educated labour force, we have a pro-business outward looking society and the tax burden on both labour and capital is low.

Budget 2008 was, however, predicated on a slowing economy. In addition a number of domestic and international downside risks were identified at that time. It is now clear that some of these risks have materialised. Bearing this in mind at Budget time, I provided for an increase in current spending of around 9 per cent this year. This is higher than the projected growth in tax revenues and therefore represents a significant stimulus to the economy. I am also giving priority to full implementation of the National Development Plan, and an increase in capital spending of 12 per cent this year has been provided for. In the short term, this will help to absorb some of the slack emerging from the new house building sector; over the medium term this spending will help to boost the productive capacity of the economy.

The Government is also committed to education, training and life-long learning in order to ensure that those losing their jobs can acquire the necessary skills to gain employment in expanding sectors of the economy. Through the social partnership process, the Government is also supporting improvements in competitiveness by promoting sensible wage developments as well as reforming the public sector. We are also committed to maintaining flexibility in our economy and to maintaining a low burden of taxation of capital and labour in order to reward work and enterprise.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

89 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the action he proposes to take to improve the competitiveness of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15847/08]

The Government recognises that, in a small open economy such as Ireland's, it is imperative that sustainable export growth is maintained. Such growth can only be realised through ensuring that our economy and exports, in particular, remain competitive. Our competitiveness determines our ability to trade in international markets. In order to maintain or indeed to improve our competitiveness it is necessary to ensure that increases in costs do not outstrip increases in productivity.

In support of this, the Government has implemented policies which are aimed at rewarding both work and enterprise through maintaining a low tax burden on both capital and labour. Furthermore, the continued roll out of the National Development Plan remains a key priority for both myself and the Government as a whole, including substantial investment in capital which is helping to eliminate bottlenecks which hinder economic efficiency and thus enhance competitiveness. While we have seen productivity increases in recent years, costs and particularly labour costs have risen faster.

As measures designed to enhance productivity are slow to bear fruit, if Ireland is to recover lost competitiveness it is imperative that the cost of doing business here does not become prohibitive. Therefore it is vital that restraint is shown in the forthcoming wage negotiations. Pursuit of unsustainable wage increases that cannot be justified by their productivity will, if achieved, only constitute short-term gains with significant long-term costs for all.

Questions Nos. 90 and 91 answered with Question No. 40.

Price Inflation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

92 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which he expects to combat inflation over the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15851/08]

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has risen by 5.0 per cent in the twelve months to March 2008. The main contributions to this increase, in order of importance were: housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (which includes mortgage repayments) contributing just over 2.0 per cent; food and non-alcoholic beverages contributing almost 1.1 per cent; and transport contributing 0.75 per cent. Therefore, out of the twelve categories comprising the basket of goods that make up the CPI, three contributed almost 80 per cent of the total inflation in the twelve months to March 2008.

In terms of the inflation impact from last year's interest rate increases, I addressed this in this year's Budget when I increased the ceiling on mortgage interest relief for first time buyers. This I believe is the appropriate targeted response to such specific cost pressures. To the extent that inflation is externally-driven — such as through commodity prices — it is essential that such increases are not exacerbated by generating second-round effects through inflation-chasing pay settlements. To do so will only further adversely impact on Ireland's competitiveness. In the sectors that contribute to domestically-generated inflation, pay and profit margin restraint are essential, as well as increased competition so as to keep down price increases. Therefore it is essential that the upcoming pay talks under the Social Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, take account of the reality that we all face.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

93 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has fully examined the factors contributing to inflation with particular reference to price rises not visible in the consumer price index; the measures taken or proposed to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15852/08]

The main contributions to the annual increase of 5.0 per cent in CPI over the 12 months to March 2008, in order of importance were: housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels contributing just over 2.0 per cent; food and non-alcoholic beverages contributing almost 1.1 per cent; and transport contributing 0.75 per cent. Therefore out of the twelve categories comprising the basket of goods that make up the CPI, three contributed almost 80 per cent of the total inflation in the twelve months to March 2008. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is designed to measure the change in the average level of the prices paid by consumers for goods and services. It measures in index form the monthly changes in the cost of purchasing a representative basket of consumer goods and services. The Director General of the Central Statistics Office has sole responsibility for — and has full independence when — deciding the statistical methodology and professional standards to be used in compiling the CPI.

However, it must be acknowledged that we have no control over some of the factors influencing the CPI — such as commodity prices, the exchange rate and mortgage interest rates. In this regard, we must always seek to ensure that our domestic cost base does not undermine competitiveness. Seeking to maintain low inflation, the pursuit of a sensible incomes policy, and keeping public spending growth at sustainable levels in the medium term are important. Doing this will allow us to keep the burden of taxation low, thus helping to maintain competitiveness and to maximise our economic potential.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

94 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has in mind tax based incentives to steady or revitalise the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15853/08]

The Government's approach to taxation is set out in the Programme for Government and in recent Budgets and Finance Bills. In addition the Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, states that the Government is committed to a taxation policy designed to maintain and strengthen the competitive position of the economy, foster improvements in productive capacity, economic and social development, and equity, while maintaining a sound fiscal stance. These commitments underpinned the tax changes which I announced in the Budget and which were given legislative effect in the Finance Act.

Following a major review of various property and area based tax incentives I announced in Budget 2006 that most of the existing reliefs either had achieved the objectives set out for them or were no longer considered to be cost effective in terms of the objectives set out for them and were being terminated subject to certain transitional provisions. The role that time-limited tax relief schemes can play in supporting public policy objectives is assessed continually in the formulation of tax policy in the context of the annual Budget process.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 11.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

96 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the anticipated rate of economic growth in 2008 and for the next three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15855/08]

On Budget day, GDP was projected by my Department to rise by 3.0 per cent this year, before increasing to 3.5 per cent next year and to 4.1 per cent in 2010. The equivalent figures for GNP were for growth of 2.8 per cent this year, followed by 3.3 per cent next year and 3.9 per cent in 2010. The Budget forecasts have not been changed. At the time a number of downside risks to these forecasts were also outlined. These risks included the possibility of a sharper slowdown in the US, the possibility of adverse exchange rate movements, the possibility that financial market difficulties could persist for longer than assumed and the possibility of a sharper contraction in new house building. It now appears that some of these risks have materialised. As a result, the consensus among economic commentators for GDP growth for this year has declined from around 3¼ per cent last December to about 2¼ per cent at present.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a P60 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15856/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Form P60 which contains details of pay and tax/PRSI deducted for a particular tax year is not issued by the Revenue Commissioners; it is obtainable by an individual from the employer in whose employment the individual was at 31st December and must be issued by the employer before the following 15 February. The Revenue Commissioners have no record of the individual mentioned and to facilitate the updating of their records the individual should complete and return a Form 12A to the Revenue Commissioners. The Form 12A is available by downloading from the Revenue Commissioners' website at www.revenue.ie or can be requested by telephone at 1890 306706. Alternatively the individual may wish to visit the local Revenue Commissioner's offices at Hebron Road, Kilkenny where he will receive assistance directly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

98 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works secured accommodation in Enniscorthy for the proposed Bord Bia and Bord Glas offices locating to the town under the decentralisation programme; the time-frame for having the office space ready for use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15899/08]

The Office of Public Works has agreed terms for a site in Enniscorthy with the Town Council. The contract for sale is being processed by the Chief State Solicitor. When the sale closes, tenders will be invited for the design and construction of a suitable office. It will be a matter for the successful bidder to apply for planning permission and to design and build the building within an acceptable timeframe.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 49.

Price Inflation.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

100 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measures he proposes to put in place to reduce inflation. [15909/08]

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has risen by 5.0 per cent in the twelve months to March 2008. The main contributions to this increase, in order of importance were: housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (which includes mortgage repayments) contributing just over 2.0 per cent; food and non-alcoholic beverages contributing almost 1.1 per cent; and transport contributing 0.75 per cent. Therefore, out of the twelve categories comprising the basket of goods that make up the CPI, three contributed almost 80 per cent of the total inflation in the twelve months to March 2008.

In terms of the inflation impact from last year's interest rate increases, I addressed this in this year's Budget when I increased the ceiling on mortgage interest relief for first time buyers. This I believe is the appropriate targeted response to such specific cost pressures. To the extent that inflation is externally-driven — such as commodity prices — it is essential that such increases are not exacerbated by generating second-round effects through inflation-chasing pay settlements. To do so will only further adversely impact on Ireland's competitiveness. In the sectors that contribute to domestically-generated inflation, pay and profit margin restraint are essential, as well as increased competition so as to keep down price increases. Therefore it is essential that the upcoming pay talks under the Social Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, take account of the reality that we all face.

Fiscal Policy.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

101 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the implications for this year end Exchequer deficit, general Government balance deficit and possible breach of EU Stability and Growth Pact deficit limits and the way he proposes to address this in view of tax revenue shortfall of €600 million up to March 2008 and house completion projections for 2008 being substantially lower than 55,000 projected in his budget forecast for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15910/08]

The fiscal position at end-March was some EUR600 million behind where we had expected. Furthermore, I have indicated that at this stage it is not expected that this tax shortfall, particularly in CGT, will be recouped later in the year. In terms of new house completions, the indications are now suggesting that housing output may be below that anticipated at Budget time. Some of this weakness is evidenced in the performance of taxes in the first quarter.

While our fiscal position may have weakened from that envisaged at Budget time, it is important to point out that the current situation is manageable given the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio. Also, the fundamentals of the Irish economy remain strong. This will help us to absorb the housing adjustment and external ‘shocks' so that our medium term prospects are favourable. For instance:

our public finances are sound with one of the lowest levels of debt in the euro area;

our markets are flexible allowing us to respond efficiently to adverse developments

we have a dynamic and well educated labour force;

we have a pro-business outward looking society;

the tax burden on both labour and capital is low.

I wish to stress that the Government accepts that there can be no unnecessary loosening of fiscal policy and, in that context, the implementation of the National Development Plan remains a key priority. As regards current day-to-day expenditure, it is crucial that the agreed budget spending limits are adhered to this year. As I indicated at Budget time, the rate of increase in current spending over the medium term must be managed carefully and kept within available resources. This Government intends to do just that. Ireland is compliant with the Stability and Growth Pact requirements and the Government is committed to respecting the terms of the Pact as the economy adjusts to a period of slower growth.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 71.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

103 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [15912/08]

Six (6) people have transferred from Dublin to my Department in Tullamore under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008. The total number of people who have transferred to date under the decentralisation programme to Tullamore is one hundred and twenty five (125) people. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that four (4) people have moved from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008. I am further advised that a total of four hundred and seventy four (474) have transferred under this programme to date. I am informed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) that twenty nine (29) staff in that Office have transferred from Dublin to Trim with OPW under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008 and the total number of persons now transferred under the decentralisation programme with OPW is 58.

Economic Competitiveness.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

104 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the most recent OECD economic survey of Ireland 2008 report; and if he will implement all of its recommendations. [15913/08]

I have noted the OECD's generally positive assessment of the Irish economy and the assessment that the fundamentals all remain strong. I would agree with the OECD that key challenges for the economy include productivity growth and wage moderation to avoid a weakening of export performance. The recommendations in the report relate to a broad range of policy areas, some of which are the responsibility of my colleagues in Government. The recommendations in the report will be considered in the context of future policy making by Government.

Tax Code.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

105 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the impact a 1% reduction in the 21% VAT rate would have on annual Exchequer tax receipts. [15914/08]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

106 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the impact a 1% reduction in the 13.5% VAT rate would have on annual Exchequer tax receipts. [15915/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 106 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost in a full year, estimated in terms of expected VAT yield in 2008, of reducing each of the 13.5% and 21% VAT rates by 1 percentage point is €399 million and €484 million respectively.

Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 40.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

108 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 140, 141, 142 and 143 of 7 November 2007, the position regarding the overall public expenditure on disability specific services each year respectively since 2004 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15917/08]

As I indicated in my response to the previous parliamentary questions, the overall allocation of Exchequer funding for the provision of disability specific services is provided for in the annual estimates. The development of policy, the provision of services for people with disability and expenditure on those services in each sector are primarily a matter for the Minister responsible for each sector. Under the Disability Act 2005, each Minister is responsible for allocating out of the moneys available to him or her the maximum amount as he/she considers appropriate for such services having regard to the other obligations which he or she must provide for. Similarly, the relevant Departments are responsible for preparing and reporting progress on their Sectoral Plans.

The table provides updated details of the overall public expenditure on disability specific services as reported to my Department by the various Government Departments from 2004 to date.

Department

Estimate 2004

Estimate 2005

Estimate 2006

Outturn 2006

Estimate 2007

Provisional Outturn 2007

Estimate 2008

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

Agriculture

80

61

53

115

860

Arts, Sports and Tourism

2,113

242

3,416

648

Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

1,960

1,942

83

161

133

Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

1,600

2,425

2,511

2,479

3,375

Defence

9,060

9,024

10,299

9,336

10,341

Education

469,345

568,427

643,000

706,000*

827,935

840,097

904,553

Enterprise, Trade and Employment

56,087

64,112

78,832

68,145

76,938

76,594

77,772

Environment, Heritage and Local Government

35,123

46,849

63,303

58,215

61,280

64,993

61,486

Finance

7,766

8,152

13,326

10,850

11,905

Foreign Affairs

1,627

1,949

267

1,772

1,752

1,776

Health and Children

1,958,139

2,183,103

2,420,000

2,385,000

2,656,000

2,647,000

2,902,029

Justice, Equality and Law Reform

6,812

10,564

11,986

15,420

14,371

14,578

14,117

Office of Public Works

5,000

5,000

5,000

4,241

5,000

4,125

5,000

Social and Family Affairs

1,892,561

1,902,946

2,567,231

2,617,071

2,749,082

Taoiseach

64

75

40

35

180

Transport

6,219

5,549

15,000

8,267

15,000

10,615

14,000

Total

2,536,725

2,885,231

5,152,161

5,172,294

6,252,079

6,303,217

6,757,256

* Figure amended by the Department of Education and Science.

Any queries in relation to the detail of the provision for and expenditure on disability specific services should be referred to the relevant Ministers. The cost to the Exchequer of the Disabled Drivers Scheme was €53 million in 2004, €56 million in 2005, €68 million in 2006, and €75 million in 2007. The estimated cost to the Exchequer of the Disabled Drivers Scheme for 2008 is €83 million.

Health Services.

Niall Collins

Ceist:

109 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if vouchers or assistance are available to persons who for reason of ill-health have to travel to Dublin twice weekly to receive hospital treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15781/08]

Niall Collins

Ceist:

110 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if vouchers or assistance are available to persons who for reason of ill-health have to travel to Dublin twice weekly to receive hospital treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15782/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 110 together.

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.

Alcohol Abuse.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

111 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children her views of the recent position paper on alcohol treatment systems and services published by an organisation (details supplied) at the request of the Health Service Executive; if the State has endorsed the World Health Declaration on Alcohol and Young People adopted in Sweden in 2001; the steps she is taking to implement the terms of the directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15729/08]

I understand that the position paper received by the Health Service Executive (HSE) from Alcohol Action Ireland entitled "Alcohol Treatment Systems and Services" is being actively considered by the HSE in the context of its input and response to deliberations on the development of a new National Drug Strategy by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. I would assure the Deputy that the policies and measures being taken by the Government on alcohol misuse are consistent with the aims and objectives of the World Health Organisation's 2001 Declaration on Young People and Alcohol.

A key priority for the Government is to protect young people from the harm caused by alcohol misuse. In order to achieve this, we are taking a twin-track approach, involving, on the one hand, policies and interventions targeted at vulnerable populations and, on the other, policies targeted at the population at large to reduce the overall level of alcohol misuse in society. The measures announced this week by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in relation to licensing law form part of our response. Today I have announced further restrictions on the advertising and marketing of alcohol which aim to reduce the exposure of young people to such messages.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Cregan

Ceist:

112 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; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15732/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. 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.

Pharmacy Services.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

113 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when the head office of the Irish Pharmaceutical Society was sold; the action taken regarding the proceeds of this sale; if the members of the society gave full authority for the sale of the premises concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15733/08]

I am informed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland that they have not sold their head office. The Society's Council has, however, following the Pharmacy Act 2007, been engaged in a general review of all its operations.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

114 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if action will be taken to expedite payment of the nursing home repayment scheme to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15736/08]

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.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

115 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the holiday respite grant will be provided by the mid-west Health Service Executive area and all other HSE areas during 2008; the breakdown in tabular format of the number of persons who received this grant during 2007 from the mid-west HSE area and all other HSE areas with the total grant sums involved broken down by the mid-west HSE area and all other HSE areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15745/08]

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.

Health Service Allowances.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

116 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Waterford was refused domiciliary care allowance from October 2006 to October 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15760/08]

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.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Ceist:

117 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an orthodontic assessment will be carried out for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; when the necessary treatment will be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15763/08]

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

Health Service Allowances.

John Cregan

Ceist:

118 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the mobility allowance will continue to be made payable to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15764/08]

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 question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

119 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if the supply without charge of medical and surgical appliances covered in section 59 of the Health Act 1970 includes shoes provided these have been prescribed by a medical doctor. [15769/08]

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

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

120 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on a matter (details supplied). [15773/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

121 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow who is waiting for an operation for cataracts in Ardkeen Hospital, Waterford; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency as they cannot drive at the moment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15775/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. 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 his behalf, to contact the Fund directly in relation to this case.

Adoption Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

122 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the time-scale involved and the waiting list for a first assessment in relation to an inter-country adoption (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15776/08]

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

As the Deputy may be aware, requests for assessment for inter-country adoption are continuously increasing. The recent study on inter-country adoption, undertaken by the Children's Research Centre in Trinity College, revealed that Ireland has one of the highest rates for foreign adoption in Europe. In addition, as a result of the increased number of children coming from abroad, a new and increasing demand for post-adoption reports from sending countries has been created. Both assessments and post-placement reports are being undertaken by HSE social work staff. The HSE has been assessing the provision of services in the context of moving from the health board system to a single executive. It has acknowledged that there is a divergence in the provision of services and is committed to addressing those differences. In a number of areas, the HSE has improved waiting times by contracting assessments out to non-statutory agencies with appropriate expertise.

The HSE has undertaken a review of the inter-country adoption service. This review examined staffing, business processes, resources, strengths and options within the service. The HSE has indicated that it will contact the Department shortly with a proposed strategy on the management of the service into the future based on this work and parallel discussions with professionals within the service. I would like to assure the Deputy of my attention to this issue and reiterate the importance of a rigorous and effective assessment system.

Compensation Schemes.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

123 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a claim in relation to insurance for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15777/08]

Under the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act 2006 (No. 22 of 2006) provision was made for the establishment of an insurance scheme for persons who had been infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through the administration, within the State, of infected blood and blood products. Under Regulations put in place under the Act in January last year (S.I. 31 of 2007) life assurance products are now available to these people. In accordance with the Act the scheme is administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The information sought by the Deputy is therefore a matter for the HSE. 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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

124 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare qualifies under the National Treatment Purchase Fund for their medical expenses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15793/08]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was established in 2002 to treat public patients on hospital waiting lists by acting as a resource to patients of the public hospital system. Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the NTPF. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case. The NTPF operate a nationwide lo-call line for this purpose which is 1890 720 820.

Ambulance Service.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

125 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children where the ambulances located in County Wicklow are serviced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15796/08]

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.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

126 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to funding from the Health Service Executive in view of their medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15809/08]

Full eligibility for health services is granted to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive, are unable to provide general practitioner, medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. Persons with full eligibility are entitled to general practitioner services, prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, child health services, home nursing and a maternity and infant care service. Persons aged 70 and over are statutorily entitled to a medical card, regardless of income. In all other cases an assessment of means is undertaken.

As the determination of an individual's eligibility status is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, 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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

127 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason none of the details on arrangements for respite service at St. Oliver Plunkett’s Hospital, Dundalk was released in the parliamentary question reply given on this issue on 17 April 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15816/08]

As I indicated to the Deputy in my reply of 17 April last, the management and delivery of services at St Oliver Plunkett's Hospital for Older People is a matter for the H.S.E. The Deputy's question also related to the cases of specifically named individuals. Arising from this recent question, I asked the H.S.E. to reply directly to the Deputy in this matter. The Deputy will be aware that the H.S.E. issued a Press Statement on 18 April 2008 in relation to the provision of services at St Oliver's. The statement referred to a number of relevant issues including efforts planned or under way by the Executive to maintain services for patients in the coming months.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

128 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in the provision of a primary care unit in Drogheda, County Louth as advertised recently; the number of submissions received; when a decision will be made; the expected cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15817/08]

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

129 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department received advance draft copies or advance notice of the recent report into the proposed new regional hospital for the Dublin north-east area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15818/08]

As I indicated in my reply to the Deputy on 15th April I received a briefing from the HSE and the consultants who prepared the report on the key findings of the study on a possible location for the new Regional Hospital. My Department has been advised by the HSE that no advance copies of the report were submitted to the Department.

Health Promotion.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

130 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans the Health Service Executive has to distribute the Together We Play, Learn and Understand resource pack to all schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15836/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

131 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans for the transfer of services from Roscommon County Hospital; if she will review this plan in view of the fact that there are no plans at present to put alternative medical supports in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15840/08]

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 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.

Pharmacy Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

132 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans which have been put in place in case of pharmacists’ action to withdraw from the medical card scheme from 1 May 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15841/08]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

134 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the alternatives in place to facilitate holders of medical cards, long-term illness cards and drug payment scheme members from 1 May 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15844/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 134 together.

I have been informed by the HSE that it has, to date, received notification from over 500 community pharmacy contractors indicating their intention to either cease providing services from 1st May 2008, or otherwise reserving their right to do so. Community pharmacy contractors are required under the terms of their contract to give three months notice of their intention to withdraw. The HSE is writing to each of the contractors concerned, seeking formal confirmation of their intentions and pointing out that 3 months notice of cessation of service is required. At this point in time, only two contractors have actually given formal notification of termination in accordance with the requirements in the contract.

The HSE has developed a national contingency planning framework which will inform and provide direction to local operational management for the development of local area-specific contingency plans. As service provision, geographical and demographic circumstances will vary from area to area, each local health area is developing its own area-specific contingency plan within the context of the overall national framework. I believe that threats of withdrawal from the community pharmacy contract are unjustified and not in anyone's interest. There is no need to bring patients into a dispute between the pharmacists and the HSE. There can be no grounds for causing upset or anxiety about the supply of prescriptions to patients.

Health Service Reform.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

133 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Hanly report on the reform of the health service forms part of Government policy; if the Health Service Executive is obliged to consider the contents of its recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15843/08]

The National Task Force on Medical Staffing was set up to:

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

address the consequent medical staffing needs of Irish hospitals ;

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

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

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

the changes needed in NCHD work patterns;

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

the need for a revised contract for medical consultants;

reform of medical education and training;

and the reorganisation of acute hospital services.

Work is proceeding in relation to each of the main recommendations made in the Report. The Report is helping to inform the Health Service Reform Programme.

Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 132.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when home help will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15891/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

David Stanton

Ceist:

136 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if care assistants are employed in all Health Service Executive areas; the role and functions of these assistants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15918/08]

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

David Stanton

Ceist:

137 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has issued new service level agreement templates to voluntary providers of disability services; if a deadline has been set for having all disability services provided by voluntary providers to be covered by comprehensive service level agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15919/08]

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

Parliamentary Questions.

David Stanton

Ceist:

138 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children when Health Service Executive related parliamentary question responses will be available on-line; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15920/08]

Responding to the information needs of the Oireachtas and the public is a priority for my Department and is a regular agenda item at meetings between myself and the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive. The provision of replies to Parliamentary Questions on the HSE website is one of a number of measures the Executive has taken as part of an ongoing process of meeting its obligations with regard to accountability and transparency. Access to responses issued by the HSE in respect of Parliamentary Questions referred to the Executive for direct reply was available on the HSE's old website. My Department has been informed by the Executive that there was a slight delay in the planned transfer of its responses to Parliamentary Questions to its new website. However my Department has been informed that this problem has been resolved, that the HSE's responses to Parliamentary Questions will continue to be available on the Executive's new website and can be accessed via a quicklink function.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

139 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made regarding the formulation of guidelines by a primary community and continuing care working group for the provision of services for children with disabilities in a residential setting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15921/08]

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

David Stanton

Ceist:

140 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 44 of 31 January 2008, when the draft national standards for services for people with disabilities will be available for public consultation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15922/08]

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) was established on 15 May 2007 as provided for in the Health Act 2007. HIQA is the statutory agency with responsibility for developing standards for health and social care services and then ensuring that the standards are being met. A Standards Advisory Group has been established comprising key stakeholders and service users to develop standards for residential care settings for people with disabilities. I am informed by HIQA that it intends to publish draft standards during the second quarter of 2008. It is understood that HIQA will engage in a public consultation process with the intention of publishing finalised standards following the consultation process.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

141 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a case (details supplied). [15927/08]

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

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

142 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [15928/08]

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

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

143 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16132/08]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department is not one of the Departments scheduled for decentralisation under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. To date fifty-four civil servants have transferred to decentralising Departments from my Department (three of whom have transferred since 1 January 2008). Further details in respect of the transfer of these officers are available from the decentralising Departments and I understand that the Deputy has also tabled questions to the relevant Ministers.

Air Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

144 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding a query from a person (details supplied). [15741/08]

Aer Lingus is a private company. I have no function in employment matters of the company.

Harbour Authorities.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

145 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that land owned by the harbour commissioners and boards and port authorities is held in trust on behalf of his Department, on behalf of the public; and the annual review process undertaken by his Department on the work being carried out by the harbour boards, commissioners and port authorities on his behalf. [15751/08]

There are currently ten State owned port commercial companies set up under the Harbours Acts 1996 to 2000. The State has a 100% shareholding in each of the companies and they are regarded as State assets. Under the Act, decisions regarding the disposal and purchase of land are primarily a matter for the companies' boards. Each of the port companies is required to publish an audited annual report and accounts. The annual reports are reported on to Government and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. There are ten regional harbours, which are State assets. These harbours are managed under the Harbours Act 1946 by a harbour authority composed of commissioners whose duties include the management, control, maintenance and operation of the harbour.

Policy in relation to the regional harbours, as published in the Ports Policy Statement in 2005, is that the continued operation of the regional harbours under the outdated provisions of the Harbours Act 1946 is unsustainable on the grounds of good governance and that most of these harbours would best achieve their potential through their transfer to local authority ownership. Where it is not possible to reach agreement on transfer to local authorities, the option of sale of the harbours will be considered. In harbours where significant commercial traffic exists, consideration will be given to bringing such harbours under the control of a port company.

Three Harbour Authorities (Annagassan, Dingle and Sligo) have already ceased to exist in accordance with the above policy. In the case of Dingle, it has been designated as a Fisheries Harbour Centre. For over three years now, my Department has been funding essential works to protect the fabric of the regional harbours at an average cost of approximately €4m per annum pending the transfer of the harbours to local control. The harbour commissioners are required to produce annual accounts and these are subject to audit by the Local Government Auditor.

Road Network.

Niall Collins

Ceist:

146 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport the level of investment to date in a project (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15780/08]

Major investment has been made in the national roads programme in the county, including the N7 Southern Ring Road and the N7 Limerick to Nenagh. However under Section 19 of the Roads Act 1993 allocation of funding in relation to the construction or maintenance of national roads is a matter for the NRA. To date, under Transport 21, a total of €1.78m has been invested in regional bus priority and park and ride in County Limerick, while €720,000 has been provided to County Limerick/North Cork Transport Group trading as Rural Bus under the Rural Transport Programme.

Public Transport projects funded under Transport 21 in the period 2006 to date which have benefited the Limerick area include:

the new intercity railcars which have been introduced on the Limerick-Dublin route as part of the €402 million upgrade of the intercity fleet;

the upgrading of refuelling and maintenance facilities at Limerick Depot on which €1.75 million was spent in 2006;

the elimination of speed restrictions on the Limerick-Dublin line at a cost of €16 million to date;

upgrade works on the rail system in Limerick and improvement works on the Limerick-Ballybrophy line which included track renewal, signal upgrading, level crossings, structures and fencing, as part of the Railway Safety Programme;

The commencement of construction of Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor, from Ennis to Athenry, which will facilitate the introduction of a rail service from Limerick to Galway.

I understand from Bus Eireann that the Limerick area has benefited from the deployment of 9 new city buses and 3 of the 4 commuter coaches planned as part of the major Transport 21 funded fleet renewal programme being undertaken by the company.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

147 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16136/08]

No new persons have been transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1st January, 2008. 47 staff from my Department have transferred to posts which were due to move out of Dublin under the Government's decentralisation programme. Of these 47 staff, 6 have relocated to their decentralised location in Loughrea as either Department of Transport or Road Safety Authority staff.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

148 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16131/08]

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. Good progress has been made and personnel have either been assigned to, or identified for, 107 posts or approximately 86% of the 124 posts scheduled to be decentralised. An advance party has already decentralised to interim office premises in Limerick, with 57 officers currently in place, the majority since May 2007. Two officers have decentralised from Dublin to Limerick in 2008. It is expected that the remaining staff of Irish Aid will transfer to Limerick in the autumn, on completion and fit-out of the permanent accommodation.

Industrial Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Ireland remains sufficiently attractive for foreign inward investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15848/08]

The level of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, is one of the highest in the world. Today, in Ireland, there are over 1,000 IDA supported companies employing in excess of 136,000 people. While competition for FDI continues to be relentless, Ireland continues to punch above its weight when it comes to attracting overseas investment. While our costs may be higher now, the strategy we have put in place in response to this is to position the country as a location for more advanced activities, with more qualified and better paying jobs in many of the leading companies in Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology, Medical Technology, Financial Services, International Services, Digital Media and ICT sectors.

The 2007 business environment ranking of the Economist Intelligence Unit placed Ireland 10th globally out of 82 countries, naming it as one of the most attractive business locations in the world. One of the Government's main tasks is to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive place to do business. In that regard, we work to maintain and enhance our competitive conditions, and to promote new areas of competitive advantage. In line with the NDP and the Programme for Government, we are developing our R&D base and investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures. In addition, we are promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning as well as up-skilling to improve labour market flexibility.

The overall objective for the future must be to place Ireland at the leading edge of the global economy in specific competencies or industry niches, where we can be a prime location for high value activities. This means not relying solely on an individual project focus, but rather on fostering the development of clusters of excellence in which technology companies, education and research institutes, venture capital and business service providers all form a network to create a self-reinforcing climate of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am satisfied that the policies being pursued by Government together with the sterling work being done by IDA Ireland will continue to bear fruit in terms of continued foreign direct investment and I am confident that Ireland is well positioned to win further leading FDI in 2008 and the years beyond.

Community Employment Schemes.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

150 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of personnel on the FÁS schemes in Aughrim, County Wicklow as of 1 April 2008; the number who were on these schemes on 1 April 2006 and 1 April 2007; the various FÁS schemes in the town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15794/08]

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

To cater for older workers in particular, in November 2004 I revised the 3 year CE capping to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April, 2000). Subsequently, the participation limit for persons eligible for CE based on a Social Welfare disability linked payment was increased by 1 year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and people with disabilities may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community. However, it should be remembered that, in so far as participants remain on CE, they are precluding someone else from benefiting from the programme. FÁS makes every effort to ensure that differing levels of demand between neighbouring schemes are equalised. FÁS also operates the programme flexibly as far as possible to ensure the continuation of community projects. This Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, we are keeping the operation of the Scheme under constant review.

In relation to the information sought by the Deputy the table sets out details of the number of personnel on the FÁS schemes in Aughrim, County Wicklow as of 1st April 2006, 2007 and 2008.

1st April 2006

1st April 2007

1st April 2008

30

30

23

I am informed by FÁS that the reduction in numbers is a consequence of an amalgamation of schemes. The main Community Employment (CE) project in Aughrim is the National Disabled Angling Facility (NDAF) which incorporates the Tidy Towns activity. The current NDAF project continues to mid October 2008, when it comes up for renewal. In addition there are two participants at the local GAA Park under the aegis of the GAA County Board CE Project. The GAA project continues to mid February 2009, when it comes up for renewal.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

151 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to amend the criteria for participation on FÁS schemes; if he will extend the period of time permitted on the schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15795/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. The programme helps unemployed people to progress to the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine and assists them in enhancing/developing both their technical and personal skills. To cater for older workers in particular, in November 2004 I revised the 3 year CE capping to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April, 2000). Subsequently, the participation limit for persons eligible for CE based on a Social Welfare disability linked payment was increased by 1 year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and people with disabilities may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community. However, it should be remembered that, in so far as participants remain on CE, they are precluding someone else from benefiting from the programme. FÁS makes every effort to ensure that differing levels of demand between neighbouring schemes are equalised. FÁS also operates the programme flexibly as far as possible to ensure the continuation of community projects.

In conclusion then, I would say that this Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, we are keeping the operation of the Scheme under constant review.

Work Permits.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

152 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit in respect of a person (details supplied) will be re-issued. [15829/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that they cannot consider the re-issue of a permit in this case as they understand from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the visa application in respect of the above named has been refused and upheld on appeal.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

153 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16129/08]

My Department is required to relocate 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme and this is scheduled to be completed 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. There are currently 99 staff in place in this advance office. Three of these officers transferred from Dublin since 1st January 2008.

Sports Capital Programme.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

154 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm having received an application for lottery funding from a club (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if in view of the importance of this very ambitious project for the whole area he will take steps to ensure that same is given a significant grant in the forthcoming allocation of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15901/08]

All applications for funding under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme received before the deadline, including the one in question, will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

155 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16124/08]

The number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008 currently stands at 2. The total number of persons transferred under this programme to date to my Department's temporary accommodation at Fossa Killarney Co Kerry is 72.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

156 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if persons in receipt of rent supplement are entitled to receive their payments through electronic fund transfer; and if in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway they will be made through this method. [15768/08]

Rent supplement may be paid by electronic fund transfer. The Health Service Executive has advised that if the person concerned wishes to change the method of payment of his rent supplement, he should contact the community welfare officer at his local health centre to discuss arrangements.

Social Insurance.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

157 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that people whose earnings increase to €353 per week pay PRSI contributions of 4% which can lead to a situation where an employee with a gross weekly pay over €353 can have a lower net pay than a employee earning €352 or less per week; his views on whether this disincentive to people earning additional income is fair; if he has proposals to eliminate this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15784/08]

The level of the weekly social insurance contribution that is payable is, for the most part, determined by both the level of reckonable earnings in that week and the appropriate PRSI rate. The PRSI exemption on low earnings has now been increased to €352 per week (up from €339 in 2007) — any earnings above this level are liable to an employee PRSI contribution rate of 4%. Above this threshold point contributors are entitled to a PRSI-Free Allowance of €127 per week that reduces the ‘step-effect', whereby an employee with gross weekly pay over €352 could have lower net pay that an employee earning €352 or less per week, of the threshold.

Therefore, a person insured with an income up to €352 per week will have a nil liability whereas a person with an income of more than €352 per week will have a PRSI liability of 4% on the portion of that income above the €127 PRSI-Free Allowance. This tiered system enhances employment incentives for low-earning employees by ensuring that they do not experience financial difficulties from the payment of social insurance contributions. There are currently no plans to change the existing provisions.

Social Welfare Code.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

158 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated cost to the State of introducing a paternity leave entitlement of two weeks per child whereby paternity benefit would be paid on a similar basis to maternity benefit. [15812/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated cost to the State of introducing a paternity leave entitlement of four weeks per child whereby paternity benefit would be paid on a similar basis to maternity benefit. [15813/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 159 together.

The estimated full year costs of introducing a Paternity Benefit, on a similar basis to maternity benefit, for one, two and four weeks are €10.5m, €21.1m, and €42.2m, respectively.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

160 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded disability allowance, following their medical examination. [15831/08]

Disability Allowance is a weekly Allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged over 16 and under 66. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both medical assessment and a means test. The person concerned made an application for Disability Allowance on 12th September, 2007. Following as assessment by a Social Welfare Inspector to determine the person's means, and an assessment by a Medical Assessor on the 10th April, the person was deemed suitable for Disability Allowance. Weekly means were assessed as €41.36 and the person concerned qualifies for Disability Allowance at the weekly rate of €337.10.

This person is currently receiving Job Seekers Allowance (Farm Assist) at a rate of €349.10 which is €12.00 more per week than the rate of Disability Allowance. A department official wrote to the person concerned on 16 April 2008 advising him that it would not be to his financial advantage to transfer to Disability Allowance. However, if he did opt for Disability Allowance and satisfied the qualifying conditions, he may qualify for certain Free Schemes. He would automatically be entitled to a Free Travel Pass. The person concerned has now indicated that he wishes to proceed with his application for disability allowance and my Department is making the necessary arrangements to put his disability allowance claim into payment.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

161 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who was recently assessed for the widow’s non-contributory pension will be assessed for farm assist. [15832/08]

My Department has no record of a current application for farm assist from the person concerned. However, it is open to the person concerned to apply for farm assist and a form for this purpose has been issued to her. The person concerned has been awarded widow's non-contributory pension at the weekly rate of €170.30 from 1 February 2008. Her first payment, including arrears, will issue on 25 April 2008.

Social Welfare Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 142 of 6 March 2008, if he will explain his definition of a geographic marriage separation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15883/08]

Persons of a marriage/union who reside at different addresses and who fail to provide evidence that the marriage/union has been dissolved, or irretrievably broken down, are considered to be geographically separated. In order to qualify for one-parent family payment a separated person must demonstrate that the marriage tie between the applicant and his/her spouse is broken. The fact that a couple reside apart does not in itself satisfy this condition.

According to a High Court judgement in 1998 dealing with the issue of couples living apart it was set out that marriage is not primarily concerned with where the spouses live or whether they live under the same roof, and indeed there can be a number of circumstances in which the parties are not living under the same roof as, for example, where one party is in hospital or an institution of some kind, or is obliged to spend a great deal of time away from home in the course of his or her employment. Such ‘separations' do not necessarily constitute the persons are living apart from each other.

There must be something more than mere physical separation and the mental or intellectual attitude of the parties is also of considerable relevance. Both of these elements must be considered in conjunction with each other. Accordingly parties who are physically or geographically separated may in fact maintain a full matrimonial relationship. A separated applicant for one-parent family payment must demonstrate that the marriage tie between him/her and his/her spouse has ended.

Social Insurance.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the value of the social insurance fund in each of the past five years and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15885/08]

The Social Insurance Fund derives its income mainly from pay-related social insurance contributions from both employers and employees. It provides insured contributors with both long-term pension benefits and short-term benefits such as unemployment and disability payments. The table outlines the Social Insurance Fund receipts, expenditure, annual surplus and cumulative surplus for each year since 2003. The figures for 2007 are provisional.

Year

Receipts

Expenditure

Annual Surplus

Cumulative Surplus

€ m

€ m

€ m

€ m

2003

5,089

4,833

255

1,529

2004

5,650

5,273

377

1,906

2005

6,159

5,665

494

2,400

2006

6,974

6,326

649

3,049

2007

7,833

7,251

582

3,631

From 1st of January 2008 to the 29th of February 2008 receipts amounted to €1,480m and expenditure from the fund was in the order of €1,350m. This increasing cumulative surplus in the fund is the continuation of a trend which commenced in 1997 when a surplus arose for the first time since the fund was established in 1953. In the previous forty-four years of the existence of the fund, there was a shortfall between the amount of income received into the fund and the amount of expenditure paid out of it, which was made up by way of an Exchequer subvention in each year, as provided for under the Social Welfare Acts. The Acts also provide for the investment of the amount of the surplus arising in the fund. The investment account of the fund is managed by the National Treasury Management Agency, subject to guidelines issued by the Minister for Finance.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of correspondence (details supplied) he maintains that one parent family allowance should not be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15886/08]

The person concerned applied for One Parent Family Payment in February 2003 and April 2007. On each occasion her application was disallowed by Deciding Officers on the grounds that she failed to establish that she was a separated person within the meaning of the Social Welfare legislation. The person concerned appealed the decisions to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and, following oral hearings on 20 September 2006 and 8 January 2008, the Appeals Officers upheld the decisions. An Appeals Officers decision is final in the absence of new facts and fresh evidence. The letter submitted, by the Deputy, with this PQ does not provide any new facts or fresh evidence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an exceptional needs payment will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15889/08]

Under the terms of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, an exceptional needs payment (ENP) may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which the applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the Executive based on the particular circumstances of the case. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment. In the case of the person concerned, the Dublin/Mid-Leinster Area of the Executive have advised that they have no record of a request for an exceptional needs payment from her. It is open to the person concerned to approach the Executive should she wish to make an application for ENP support.

Social Welfare Code.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

166 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on increasing the number of hours which a person who is in receipt of invalidity pension can engage upon in productive work, from its current level of 19 hours, to at least 22 or 23 hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15905/08]

Invalidity pension is a social insurance based payment paid to people who are permanently incapable of work due to disability or illness. One of the conditions for receipt of the payment is that the recipient does not engage in any form of employment. However, an exemption to this requirement is provided for in very specific circumstances. Such an exemption, which typically lasts for 12 months, will normally take the form of employment which is deemed by the Department to be both part-time (i.e. not more than 19.5 hours per week) and rehabilitative in nature or, alternatively, a community employment scheme or a training course arranged by FÁS. An application for such an exemption must be made to the Department in advance of the employment or training course beginning.

This exemption from the general rules of behaviour was introduced for a very specific purpose, namely to allow persons who are regarded as permanently incapable of work to engage in training or part time, rehabilitative employment which would increase the opportunity for them to return to the open labour market. To increase the hours which the claimant would be allowed work, as suggested by the Deputy, would blur the distinction between part-time, rehabilitative employment and full-time, open labour market employment.

For those persons in receipt of invalidity pension who wish to work more than 20 hours per week or move towards full time employment, the back to work allowance may be a more appropriate mechanism to achieve this. This allowance ensures that the claimant will retain a portion of their payment, including any secondary benefits, for a period of 3 years following their return to employment. Moreover, if the person feels they are unable to continue with their employment and wishes to return to benefit, their entitlement to invalidity pension will be automatically restored without the need to re-apply for the pension.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

167 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16134/08]

To date, under the current programme, 192 posts have relocated from the Department's Dublin Offices to Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo. In addition, the Department has decentralised offices in Longford, Sligo, Letterkenny, Waterford, Dundalk and Roscommon and a further 195 employees have transferred to these offices and other offices of the Department, to fill vacancies created by the current decentralisation programme. Since 1st January 2008, 12 posts have relocated from the Department's Dublin Offices to Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo of which 1 was filled by a Dublin based employee. A further 17 posts will also relocate to Carrick-on-Shannon in the coming weeks of which 2 are filled by Dublin based employees. Furthermore, a total of 225 employees of the Department have transferred to other Government Departments for the purposes of their decentralisation programme.

National Drugs Strategy.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

168 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the cost involved in creating and officially opening a memorial garden (details supplied) in Dublin 17 which was funded by the local drugs task force; if this garden is maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15806/08]

I have been advised that, while there have been informal discussions between a group in the area and the Local Drugs Task Force, no formal funding application has been made. The Task Force has indicated to the group that it would be favourably disposed towards supporting the project. The group should submit a detailed costed proposal to the Task Force for consideration.

Departmental Programmes.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

169 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the allocation of funding provided to each school in County Roscommon and County Leitrim respectively under the CLÁR primary school outdoor play facilities enhancement scheme; the allocation to each CLÁR area since 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15842/08]

Since 2004 to date, 37 schools in County Leitrim and 66 schools in County Roscommon have been allocated funding under the CLÁR Primary School Outdoor Play Facilities Enhancement Scheme. This scheme is co-funded by my Department and the Department of Education and Science on a 50/50 basis. Details of the funding provided to schools in Counties Leitrim and Roscommon are set out in appendix 1 below.

Total funding approved under this measure nationally since 2004 is over €5.5m with 828 schools being assisted. Details of funding to each county within CLÁR (including the contribution from the Department of Education and Science) are set out in appendix 2 below.

Roscommon 2004

School

Roll No.

D.E.D.

Total Cost

CLÁR / DES

Rooskey N.S./Our Lady of Mount Carmel

04800F

Carrick-on-Shannon

10,000

7,500

Naomh Michael & Padraig

19720P

Boyne Urban

10,000

7,500

Kilmore N.S./Dangan NS

17571O

Carrick-on-Shannon

10,000

7,500

Granlahan G.N.S.

15664L

Ballinlough

10,000

7,500

Grange N.S.

15584N

Boyle Urban

10,000

7,500

Clooncagh N.S.

16291D

Strokestown

10,000

7,500

Clochar na Trocaire

15043C

Boyle Rural

10,000

7,500

Aughrim N.S.

14684M

Boyle Urban

10,000

7,500

Carrick Mixed N.S.

16009H

Ballinlough

10,000

7,500

Tulsk N.S.

16034G

Tulsk

10,000

7,500

Ballinlough N.S.

11943S

Ballinlough

10,000

7,500

Ardkeerin N.S.

15217J

Boyle Urban

10,000

7,500

Brusna N.S.

17904P

Ballaghadereen

10,000

7,500

Castleplunkett N.S./Scoil Chiaráin Naofa

15545D

Castleplunkett

10,000

7,500

Naofa Padraig N.S.

17283J

Boyle Rural

10,000

7,500

Naofa Lassair N.S.

17622F

Lough Allen

10,000

7,500

St Mary’s NS/Ballinagare N.S.

17266J

Ballaghaderreen

10,000

7,500

Strokestown N.S./St Mary’s Convent NS

17808T

Strokestown

10,000

7,500

Abbeycarton N.S.

19809I

Elphin

10,000

7,500

St. Josephs B.N.S

15628H

Boyle Urban

10,000

7,500

Strabaggin N.S.

19257S

Lough Allen

10,000

7,500

Naofa Padraig N.S.

17748E

Ballaghaderreen

10,000

7,500

Cill Ronain N.S.

06100K

Boyle Urban

10,000

7,500

Naofa Padraig N.S.

15045G

Strokestown

10,000

7,500

Naofa Padraig N.S.

13978B

Boyle Rural

10,000

7,500

Naofa Michil N.S.

05220P

Carrick-on-Shannon

10,000

7,500

Cruachain N.S.

18012G

Boyle Urban

10,000

7,500

Baile Ui Fhidhne N.S./Ballyfeeney NS

18432F

Ballaghaderreen

10,000

7,500

Mount Talbot

14056G

Lismaha

3,500

2,625

Feevagh N.S.

18005J

Turrock

1,205

904

Kilteevan

14966W

Kilteevan

9,750

7,312.50

Cloontuskert N.S.

18116S

Cloontusket

10,000

7,500

Gortaganny N.S.

16127N

Artagh South

19,080

7,500

Scoil N Nhuire

17709R

Carrick-On-Shannon

10,000

7,500

Naomh Attrachta

18182I

Boyle Rural

10,000

7,500

Rathcroghan N.S.

17094G

Ballinagare

8,100

6,075

Ballintleva

18729F

Turrock

9,648

7,236

Total

37

361,283

264,152.50

Leitrim 2005

School

Roll No.

D.E.D.

Total Cost

CLÁR / DES

St Marys NS

19600F

Carrigallen East

6,500

4,875

Total

1

6,500

4,875

Roscommon 2005

School

Roll No.

D.E.D.

Total Cost

CLÁR / DES

Scoil Muire Gan Smal

15557K

Killtullagh

59,625

7,500

Total

1

59,625

7,500

Leitrim 2006

School

Roll No.

D.E.D.

Total Cost

CLÁR / DES

Hunt NS

08673V

Mohill / Maothail

9,500.00

7,125.00

St Michaels NS

19255O

Munakill

12,000.00

7,500.00

Cornagee NS

18181G

Yugan

3,000.00

2,250.00

Ardverney NS

15116D

Dromahaire

9,500.00

7,125.00

St Patricks BNS

18656E

Ballinamore

4,050.00

3,037.50

St Aidan’s N.S.

13908D

Conray

10,000.00

7,500.00

Total

6

48,050.00

34,537.50

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

170 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16126/08]

To date, 89 staff have transferred to temporary accommodation in Tubbercurry and 10 to Na Forbacha. Of those, 46 officers transferred from Dublin to Tubbercurry and 43 came from locations outside of Dublin. Of the 10 officers who relocated to Na Forbacha, 5 transferred from Dublin. 3 officers transferred from Dublin to Tubbercurry since 1 January 2008.

Official Engagements.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

171 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will report on the visit of EU Commission President, Mr. José Manuel Barroso to Dublin recently; if she is satisfied that every effort is being made by her Department to exert pressure on the European Commission to protect the future of farmers here during the World Trade Organisation talks; if the Government will exert pressure by way of veto; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15734/08]

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs met the EU Commission President last week as part of his visit to Ireland to address the National Forum on Europe. The ongoing WTO negotiations were high on the agenda of these meetings and the Irish position and concerns in these negotiations were clearly expressed to President Barroso. It was emphasized that Ireland is seeking a balanced and fair outcome to this WTO Round across all of the various negotiating pillars. Ireland's position is that the final agreement which is reached must not place a disproportionate burden on EU agriculture.

This is the position which I and my Government colleagues have been and will continue to express in the strongest terms at our many bilateral meetings with the Commission and at EU Council of Ministers meetings. The negotiations have reached another critical stage with the prospect of a Ministerial meeting next month in Geneva. There are still many issues to be resolved, not alone on the agriculture dossier, but also in the non-agricultural market access, services, rules and trade facilitation areas.

At this point in time, we can only speculate as to the content of a final WTO deal, or indeed, whether such a deal will be concluded. It is far too early to decide what position Ireland would take on a final WTO deal. We are still in the throes of negotiations and there is no certainty as yet as regards the timing, or indeed, the shape of a final deal. The Government will take a final position when the shape and the details of any deal are known. In the meantime I will continue to pursue a positive outcome for EU agriculture in these ongoing negotiations.

EU Directives.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

172 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she is making a submission to the EU regarding the directive on the revision of the EU emissions trading system; her views regarding the inclusion of the agriculture sector as part of this review in view of the significant contribution that the agriculture sector makes to greenhouse gas emissions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15740/08]

The review of the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS), by means of the amendment of Directive 2003/87/EC, is being undertaken in the context of the implementation of the Commission's proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Over 11,000 installations currently participate in the EU ETS. This includes over one hundred Irish installations, 33 of which are in the dairy, food or drinks sector. My officials are closely monitoring developments in the review process, and met representatives of installations that participate in the Emission Trading Scheme on April 23 to discuss issues relating to the dairy, food and drinks sector in the context of post-2012 emission trading and the Commission's proposals to amend the current Directive. I am committed to making all efforts necessary to defend the best interests of all participating Irish installations.

Emissions from primary agriculture are accounted for in the non-ETS sector, which under the Commission's proposals for 2020 has a specific national emissions reduction target, and there are no proposals to deal with these emissions under the Emission Trading Directive.

Grant Payments.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

173 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is waiting for their REP scheme payment for more than three months; if same will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15746/08]

The person named was due to submit a consolidated plan with the 1C form that was lodged in December 2007. The consolidated plan was not submitted to my Department until 21st February 2008 and the application was then processed. I would expect the person named to receive payment within the next few weeks.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

174 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding REP scheme payments for farmers in County Wicklow; the number who are waiting for payment; the reason there is a delay with their payments; if this delay is due to staff shortages; if so, her plans to rectify the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15747/08]

There is no delay in making REPS payments to farmers in Co Wicklow. There were thirteen farmers from Wicklow on the last pay-run, and this cleared all valid applications for payment up to 21st April 2008.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

175 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a decision will be made on a farm improvement scheme on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [15748/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Applications under this Scheme are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 Partnership agreement, Towards 2016. The application concerned is, therefore, eligible for consideration and will be processed subject to funding still being available at that time.

Afforestation Programme.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

176 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to the concerns by an association (details supplied), who are substantially clients of Coillte, regarding the payment of an economic rate for harvesting and haulage and the need for an independent evaluation of the volume of pre-harvested timber provided to contractors for harvesting and haulage; her proposals for addressing these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15754/08]

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act, 1988. Day-to-day operational matters such as the procurement of harvesting and haulage services and issues concerning the measurement and valuation of timber volume prior to sale are the responsibility of the company.

Fishing Industry Protection.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

177 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps she will take to protect farmed salmon enterprises here from the dumping on the European market of farmed salmon from outside the Community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15755/08]

The anti-dumping measures, which create a minimum import price for farmed salmon entering the EU market from Norway, have been in place since early 2006. These measures have brought price stability to the market following proven dumping by Norway. This market stability has led to renewed investor confidence in Irish companies. The trade measures are now under threat due mainly to the strong opposition among many other Member States to their continuation. At a recent meeting with the Director General of DG Trade John Browne Minister for State at my Department made a very strong case for the continuation of these measures. We will continue to work closely with the EU Commission, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and our Scottish and UK colleagues, as well as, the Irish salmon-producing sector, to retain these measures for a further period.

EU Funding.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

178 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason she has not availed of the rural development opportunities for coastal communities under the AXIS 4 initiative; the consultations which she has had with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on this matter; her views at this stage on making a submission to the EU Commission on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15779/08]

Ireland was allocated EU funding of €42 million for the 2007-2013 European Fisheries Fund. To maximise the benefits of this funding it is being specifically targeted at a small number of Co-Financed measures under the pillars of AXIS 1,2 AND 3, most notably the fleet decommissioning scheme which I launched in February. A draft operational programme setting out specific proposals has been submitted to the EU Commission. The observations of the commission on the content of that operational programme will be considered.

As outlined in the National Strategic Plan for the Fisheries Sector (2007-2013), measures under Axis 4 are planned as Non-Co Financed (ie State aided). These predominantly socio-economic sustainability measures will be implemented by BIM with the assistance of local development networks such as Leader. In this context BIM have been holding discussions with the Leader network with a view to ensuring that overall cohesion is achieved in this area.

Energy Resources.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

179 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the condition requiring the erection of a wind turbine to be more that 250 metres distance from the boundary of a forest plantation will be reviewed in order to facilitate the erection of turbines closer to plantations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15789/08]

This is not an issue for which I have responsibility as Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries as the condition referred to by the Deputy is not a condition imposed by the Forest Service of my Department.

Fishing Fleet Modernisation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

180 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if funding is available for crew members of decommissioned boats who would like to return to educational courses as stated in the Cawley report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15798/08]

All fishermen are eligible to undertake Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) training programmes including those serving on vessels that are decommissioning. In this regard, BIM and FÁS have agreed to co-operate to provide training for fishing vessel crew members that find themselves without a job when their fishing vessel is decommissioned. Both agencies will work closely together to provide retraining, up-skilling or diversification opportunities in the seafood industry or elsewhere in the economy as required.

In addition, funding will be provided within BIM's overall programmes to support the sustainable development and improvement of the quality of life in fisheries areas as part of an overall strategy that will support the implementation of the objectives of the common fisheries policy, in particular taking account of its socio-economic effects.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

181 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason farmers will have to open a bank account to receive their single farm payment; the provision which is being made for farmers who are not serviced by a bank or post office due to the downsizing of their networks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15839/08]

The requirement to make all payments under EU funded or co-funded schemes directly into bank accounts arises under EU Council Regulation (EC) No 1290/2005 which lays down the rules on the financing and management of the Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2007 to 2013. The detailed implementing rules as set out in EU Commission Regulation (EC) 885/2006, require that all EU paying agencies must adopt procedures to ensure that payments are made only to bank accounts with effect from the 2009 financial year which begins on 16 October 2008. As the designated paying agency for EU funds, my Department is obliged to adhere to these rules. Farmers can choose to have their payments made by cheque or electronic funds transfer directly into their bank account for the remainder of the 2008 EU financial year which ends on 15 October.

My Department notified the new requirement to farmers on a number of occasions over the past year or so and will be writing to farmers again this week. A large number of farmers have already ‘signed up' for electronic funds transfer. Farmers who have not yet done so still have several months in which to open a bank account and to notify my Department of the details. However, I would urge all farmers to make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible.

My officials have briefed the banks on the new requirement. I met with An Post which intends to facilitate the electronic transfer of funds through a system of post bank accounts in the near future. I understand that a limited number of Credit Unions are also in a position to handle direct payment to customer accounts and that this number will increase over time. I will continue to explore all options to minimise disruption to payments and farmers may, of course, contact my Department with any concerns that they may have.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

182 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the difference in the level of payment each month to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary under the farm retirement scheme. [15898/08]

The person named received his first Early Retirement pension payment in March 2007. As no notice of tax credits was received, tax was assessed on an emergency basis. In January 2008 a notice of tax credits was received and applied. The level of net monthly pension payment has remained constant since this time.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

183 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16123/08]

At the end of March, 267 posts had moved to the Department's offices in Portlaoise under the decentralisation programme, 12 of which were in 2008. At the end of March, 81 posts had moved to the Department's offices in Clonakilty under the decentralisation programme, 1 of which was in 2008.

UNESCO Property.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

184 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the recently revealed destruction of stocks of books held by UNESCO, of which Ireland is a member. [15735/08]

I am aware that UNESCO's external auditor has raised questions about the way in which the removal of the organisation's stock of publications was managed in the period from 2004 to 2005, which resulted in the destruction of many books. The Director-General of UNESCO has expressed very strong concern about this situation, and has condemned the destruction of the collections of books. I understand that the Director General has also launched an inquiry, which will seek to clarify the facts and identify the chain of responsibility. Arising from this inquiry, the UNESCO Directorate will be taking measures to ensure that such a situation never occurs again.

Schools Building Projects.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will arrange to progress the development of the extension to a school (details supplied) in County Laois, in view of the fact that 80% of the school building campus is of a temporary prefabricated nature; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15739/08]

My Department is currently in contact with the school referred to by the Deputy in relation to finalising some details pertaining to the Design Team nominees currently under consideration. Delivery of all building projects, including the school in question, will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

186 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in the final approval by her Department of the PDSP of a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow, for an eight classroom school; and if she will make a commitment that final approval will be given before the end of the school year due to the investment made in voluntary work to prepare this application for this school year. [15749/08]

The development of a building project for the school in question is at an early stage. The commencement and progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Transport.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

187 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science when school transport will be provided for a new primary school (details supplied) in County Monaghan in view of the fact that the application went into her Department through Bus Éireann in June 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15756/08]

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme, on behalf of my Department, have advised that transport services to the School referred to in the details supplied will commence on Monday 28th April 2008.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

188 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if in determining the number of special needs assistants to a school under the general allocation model, her Department makes such a determination based on enrolment numbers within that school going back to 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15770/08]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the general allocation system of learning support/resource teachers that was implemented in mainstream primary schools in September 2005.

The system provides teaching resources to schools to enable them to cater for children with high-incidence special education needs such as borderline mild general learning disability and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability. The allocation is also intended to support those with learning support needs, that is, those functioning at or below the tenth percentile on a standardised test of reading and/or mathematics. In circumstances where a child has low incidence needs, this automatically attracts an individual resource teaching allocation.

The allocation system under the general allocation model was linked to the school's enrolment and it was decided not to review this aspect until the model had been in operation for three years. This review is now underway. The allocation to schools was however enhanced in the case of schools experiencing large increases in enrolment and which satisfied the conditions under my Department's Developing School Criteria. Special Needs Assistant support in schools is intended to address the care needs of pupils with special educational needs. Decisions regarding the extent of such support in each particular case are based on the care needs of the individual child.

Schools Building Projects.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

189 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Science when a design team will be appointed for the new primary school campus at Summerhill, Portlaoise, County Laois; and the time-scale to deliver this project. [15783/08]

My Department is currently in contact with the school referred to by the Deputy in relation to finalising some details pertaining to the Design Team nominees currently under consideration. Delivery of all building projects, including the school in question, will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the proposed new school at a school (details supplied) in County Carlow will be sanctioned as promised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15788/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers is currently at an early stage of architectural planning process. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

191 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be provided to carry out repair work on a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15790/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding has recently been approved in respect of works for the school in question.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

192 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if the stage 2(A) documentation was received in connection with the new school for Kill in County Kildare; and if she has authorised further progression in architectural planning for this project. [15792/08]

The documentation referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on Monday, 14th April and was assessed at a meeting the following day involving a School representative, the design team and officials from my Department. Some revisions to the submission are necessary before formal approval to proceed further is issued, but I am pleased to inform the Deputy that these are minor in nature and furthermore, that both the School and my officials are more than satisfied with the rate of progress overall.

Languages Programme.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

193 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teaching hours of English language support, for pupils whose first language is not English, that is being provided in primary schools and post-primary schools; the cost to her Department for this service in each year over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15800/08]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

194 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in the Irish education system receiving English language support; the number of teachers involved in this work exclusively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15801/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 194 together.

It is estimated that in the region of 28,000 children benefit from English language support education. The majority of English language teaching posts are allocated on the basis of full-time posts rather than teaching hours. I have already allocated almost 2,000 language support teachers in the current school year. The corresponding figures for the 2006/07 and 2005/06 school years are approximately over 1,400 and over 800 respectively. Additional supports are provided for children in schools who do not meet the qualifying criteria for the appointment of full-time teachers in the form of grant aids for the employment of part-time English language support teachers. 469 schools have benefited from this type of financial support in the current school year.

The total cost of providing English language support to children in our primary and post primary schools is estimated to be in the region of €126 million in the current school year. The corresponding estimated costs for the 2006/07 and 2005/06 school years are in the region of €91 million and €52 million.

The substantial increase in the number of language support teachers underlines the important improvements made in this area in recent years. The previous limit of two teachers per primary school and the limit of two years' support to an individual pupil was changed. An individual primary school may now be allocated up to six language support posts under the improved arrangements in place. In order to ensure that schools can accurately and objectively assess the language requirement of children, my Department will be sending to schools assessment materials which have been developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT). The assessment materials will enable schools to ensure that the specific language requirements of children needing support are met in a targeted way. The IILT materials will also enable accurate initial and on-going assessment of the language proficiency of the child and his or her need for continued language support.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

195 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide a timetable for site procurement, appointment of patron body, construction and opening of the second level school for south Lucan as agreed by her Department and subsequently included in phase one of the recently adopted Clonburris local area plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15802/08]

My Department is conscious of the extent of housing developments in the Lucan area and the consequences which this has for school provision. Because of this, substantial additional accommodation has been provided in the area by my Department at both primary and post-primary levels in recent years and this is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Based on current demographic trends, my Department anticipates that there will be a need for a further post-primary school in Lucan in the medium term and it has asked South Dublin County Council to identify a site for this development. A timeframe for the delivery of the school will be known when a suitable site has been identified and acquired. The local authority has a number of Local Area Plans in train and it is likely that we will be able to secure a site under this process. My Department is conscious of the lead-in period for the delivery of a post-primary school and it would be anxious to conclude the site issue as soon as possible. It will continue to engage with the local authority until this matter is resolved.

In the meantime, my Department has increased capacity at the four existing post-primary schools to 3,000 places overall. The current combined enrolment is 2,500 which means that there is spare capacity for some 500 pupil places. A building project which is in train for Lucan Community College will further increase capacity by 200 pupil places. In addition to this, a building project for St Joseph's College has been assessed and the project brief, which will provide an additional 200 pupil places, has been agreed. The combined total of extra places which will be available when these projects are completed will be 900 which is the equivalent to the size of a post primary school in its own right. These measures will assist in reducing pressure for pupil places in the short to medium term while the process of advancing the project for a new school continues.

Site Acquisitions.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

196 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is the intention of her Department to acquire a section of land currently owned by South Dublin County Council at Willsbrook, Lucan adjoining a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15803/08]

The Department is of the view that sufficient additional capacity is available to serve the Lucan and Adamstown area and is satisfied that the site at the school to which the Deputy refers is sufficient to cater for its long term needs.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

197 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is considering an application for dormant accounts funding from a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15804/08]

In light of the very large number of project proposals received and the level of oversubscription the Dormant Accounts Fund Inter-departmental Committee for Educational Disadvantage recommended that arrangements should be made to transfer these proposals to the Department's Planning and Building Unit for consideration in the context of the Department's overall Schools Building and Modernisation Programme. The application referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this context.

Higher Education Grants.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

198 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 819 of 2 April 2008 regarding an application for a third level grant, if the person will qualify for a special rate of maintenance grant on the basis that the person believes they are in receipt of analogous payment (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15805/08]

Further to my previous response I wish to advise that, for the special rate of maintenance grant, an analogous payment is considered to be a social welfare payment paid by another country which can be equated to one of the listed eligible social welfare payments in the grant schemes. As the person referred to by the Deputy has not provided information in respect of an analogous payment the decision remains unchanged since your previous Parliamentary Question No. 819 of 2 April 2008.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

199 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied). [15819/08]

An application for a home tuition grant for the pupil referred to by the Deputy was received recently in my Department. My officials requested additional information in support of the application. As soon as this information is received, the application will be considered further.

State Examinations.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

200 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether it is necessary to have an annotation on examination certificates for junior and leaving certificate students who are provided accommodation during the examination on grounds of specific learning disability and dyslexia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15822/08]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including making arrangements for the marking of work presented for examinations and issuing the results of examinations. A range of accommodations are provided to enable students with disabilities to access the Certificate examinations. For example enlarged print, Braille translation, modified questions, use of a scribe, a reader, a personal assistant, a tape recorder or word processor, may be allowed depending on needs. The scheme was introduced following the report of an expert advisory group, and the introduction enabled opportunities to be provided for exemptions where a candidate was not in a position to demonstrate achievement in a core area of assessment.

Annotations on certificates only apply in situations where a core area of a subject is not assessed, or where the mode of assessment used has the same effect. This is used to ensure fairness and integrity vis a vis other students who have been assessed in these components, and in order not to mislead the end user of the certificate.

School Numbers.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

201 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools and the number of secondary schools here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15823/08]

There are currently 3,286 primary schools (3160 ordinary schools and 126 special schools) and 730 post primary schools (389 secondary schools, 250 vocational schools and 91 Community & Comprehensive schools).

School Accommodation.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

202 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school buildings and the number of secondary school buildings that are more than 20 years old; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15824/08]

My Department does not maintain a database of primary and post-primary schools with records of the age of school buildings; accordingly the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available.

Departmental Programmes.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

203 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools taking part in the green schools programme; the improvements to the school buildings this programme has involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15825/08]

Green-Schools is an international environmental education programme, designed to promote and acknowledge whole-school action to care for the environment. It is both a programme and an award scheme. Green-Schools in Ireland is operated and co-ordinated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce. The programme complements the formal curricula in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) at primary level and the Science and Geography curricula at post-primary level by demonstrating the application of an eco-friendly approach to environmental issues in the school context. This process increases students' awareness of the importance of environmental issues so that it is more likely that they will become environmentally aware in their personal and home lives. Over 2,800 primary, secondary and special schools in Ireland are currently taking part in the programme and over 1,250 have been awarded the Green Flag.

With respect to energy programmes that would complement environmental work currently taking place under the green flags initiative for the past nine years the Planning and Building Unit within my Department have been using a process called the DART approach (Design, Awareness, Research, and Technology) to develop sustainable and energy efficiency in educational buildings. The policy is driven by technical guidance documents, informed by building unit professional and technical staff, external partnerships and updated by continued energy research and development.

The guidelines encourage the design team to take a complete design team approach from project conception. The incorporation of low energy design has been done on a hybrid basis by maximising natural resources and utilising technologies. This involves focusing on areas such as natural ventilation, passive solar design, day lighting and reducing infiltration, enhanced insulation, lighting and heating controls and water efficiency. This has proven quite successful with modern day schools typically using three times less energy than schools built ten years ago and also using less than half the energy than what is termed as good international practice for schools.

An information package is currently being prepared for schools on the most appropriate measures to minimise excess consumption of water and to reduce wastage where it exists. As part of this exercise, technical guidance and specifications for the most common problems that are likely to arise in this area will be provided. The demand for water in schools must be minimised firstly through push type spray taps, low flushing toilets, urinal controls, repairing leaks, etc, then the potential for rainwater harvesting can be maximised by reducing the amount of mains water used to flush toilets.

Bullying in Schools.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

204 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she has taken to counter bullying in schools here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15826/08]

I can assure the Deputy that supports are in place to enable schools both to prevent bullying and to deal with cases that may arise. There is no requirement for schools to report incidents of bullying to my Department, nor do I believe that this should be the case. Responsibility for tackling bullying falls to the level of the individual school as it is at local level that an effective anti-bullying climate must be established. I am, however, anxious to support schools in tackling bullying and it is for that reason that a number supports have been put in place in recent years.

Each school is required to have in place a policy which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour, within the framework of an overall school Code of Behaviour and Discipline. Such a code, developed through consultation with the whole school community and properly implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools. My Department has issued guidelines as an aid to schools in devising measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness among school management authorities of their responsibilities in this regard. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of school management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of their school. In view of the increasing demands which have been placed on schools as a result of statutory obligations and the requirement for policies in a range of areas, my Department has been working to ensure greater availability of guidelines and template policies to assist schools.

Last year, I announced the publication on my Department's website of policy templates for post-primary schools in five key areas, including anti-bullying, as part of our ongoing efforts in this regard. The template documents are not prescriptive, but rather highlight possible approaches and potential material for inclusion in school policies. The anti-bullying policy template is based primarily on the key document Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour. However, it does take account of more recent legislative and regulatory changes, and reference is also made to issues of contemporary concern such as the need to tackle text bullying, cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is at present developing further guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour, as provided for under section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. Work on the guidelines is at an advanced stage and will be informed by broad consultation. Once the NEWB Guidelines are in place, my Department will commence the process of revising and updating its own "Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour". This review will take into account issues such as legislative developments, the involvement of the support services available to schools, technological advancements such as use of the Internet, e-mail, mobile phones and camera phones and the latest developments in International best practice on dealing with bullying behaviour. My Department, through the National Centre for Technology in Education has also developed Policy Guidelines and Advisory Notes for schools and parents which deal with the issues of internet and mobile phone bullying.

I wish to draw the Deputy's attention to the "think b4 u click" internet safety campaign. This new campaign seeks to raise awareness and promote safe, responsible practice by young people when on-line. The campaign has a strong peer-to-peer perspective and centres on an interactive on-line service, www.watchyourspace.ie developed by the National Centre Technology in Education (NCTE). This site offers practical tips and advice and supports teenagers who use the web. A key feature is the advice given from teenagers to teenagers on how to cope with the fall-out from abuses and misuse of social networking and picture -sharing websites. This new initiative perfectly compliments the other NCTE safety activities that are already up and running successfully such as Webwise, SAFT and the Once projects.

Dealing with bullying has also been incorporated in training for principals through the Leadership Development for Schools programme. I have also stressed to the teacher unions the importance of not just having a written policy on bullying but also ensuring a climate in which it is not tolerated in any form and in which children know that if they make a teacher aware of bullying that it will be dealt with. The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is part of the SPHE curriculum. SPHE is now a compulsory subject both at primary level and in the junior cycle of post-primary schools.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

205 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the details of the design team appointed for a new school (details supplied) in County Cork. [15828/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a Design Team has now been appointed and the process of architectural planning has commenced.

Schools Refurbishment.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

206 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application for the refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Galway; if the existing structure will be demolished; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15833/08]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of a new school building has been received from the school authority referred to by the Deputy. The long term projected staffing assessment and the further progression of the proposed building project will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multi annual School Building and Modernisation programme. In the interim, officials in my Department are in contact with the school management regarding the provision of temporary accommodation and additional information is expected from the management shortly. When this documentation is received the school authority will be notified of the position without delay.

In-service Training.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

207 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans she has to provide inservice training to teachers to support the Health Service Executive Together We Play, Learn and Understand resource pack on integration; the resource support and inservice training for teachers in multi-ethnic classes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15837/08]

The Teacher Education Section of my Department has not received a request from the Health Service Executive to provide inservice training to support Together We Play, Learn and Understand, their resource pack on integration.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when an application under the schools building programme will progress at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the number on waiting lists for 2008 and 2009; if she will confirm that plans will progress in the next three to six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15845/08]

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Naas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country. In this context, the status of all schools in Naas is being assessed. The school referred to by the Deputy will be included in this assessment. As is the case with all large capital projects currently on hand within the Unit, their progression will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

209 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16128/08]

The Athlone element of the decentralisation of my Department will be completed in the summer of this year. The completion of this element of the programme will result in the relocation of 92 posts to Athlone. The Mullingar element of the decentralisation of my Department will take place when new permanent accommodation is ready for occupation. This is likely to be sometime in 2010 and will involve in region of 300 posts. Seven (7) posts will move to Mullingar this year. To date 123 people have transferred out of my Department under the programme of decentralisation. Since 1 January 2008 five people from my Department have transferred out of Dublin under the programme of decentralisation.

Pension Provisions.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

210 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Defence the reason veterans are not included in the 2.5% increase in pay and pension recently awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15787/08]

There are no Veterans of the War of Independence in receipt of pensions from my Department, the last such recipients having died in 2006. Some 500 spouses of deceased Veterans are in receipt of monthly allowances from my Department. These allowances are not increased on the occasion of pay and pension increases granted to serving and retired military personnel. They are specially reviewed from time to time, the most recent review having been undertaken in the context of the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. On that occasion, the payments were increased by 50% from 1 April 2006, having been previously increased by 50% from 1 July 2004 and by 50% from 1 January 2000. Thus, all of these payments have been more than trebled in amount since 1 January 2000, which is a very substantial level of increase by any standard. The 2.5% increase in pay and pensions referred to in the Question is a standard increase under the terms of the Towards 2016 Pay Agreement.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

211 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Defence the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16127/08]

The Government decision on decentralisation provides for the transfer of all of my Department's Dublin based Civil Service staff to Newbridge, Co. Kildare. The number of staff to be relocated to Newbridge is about 200. A total of 338 personnel have applied to decentralise to Newbridge. The vast majority of these are Dublin based applicants. None of the 152 Newbridge bound staff currently serving in my Department have transferred to that location, as the construction of the Department's new headquarters in Newbridge is not expected to be completed until the second half of 2009.

Integration Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

212 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for funding of integration projects in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15838/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, an amount of over €9.2M was allocated to the Office of the Minister for Integration in the Estimates. I will shortly publish a policy statement on the integration of immigrants which will include a future strategy for funding in the integration area. A special emphasis will be placed on funding membership organisations, faith-based groups and building local structures. I expect to allocate around €3M for these areas in 2008.

The Deputy may also be aware that existing integration funding commitments are ongoing throughout 2008. In terms of European funding, €1.2M is available from the European Refugee Fund and a further €1.6M from the European Fund for the integration of Third Country Nationals. Applications for these Funds have been submitted and are currently being evaluated. A total of €250,000 has been committed so far under the European Social Fund in 2008 for employment-related initiatives for vulnerable immigrants. A further sum of around €1.8M has been committed in 2008 by me to other integration-related projects which have been ongoing since 2007. Finally, my Office also provides €500,000 for a small grants scheme to support community and voluntary efforts at a local level.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

213 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the decentralisation of the Land Registry Office to County Roscommon; the number of staff decentralised to date; the numbers to be decentralised; the timetable for same; the status of property acquisition and the cost involved; when the property will be ready for occupation; the number it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15730/08]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 654 on 5th February 2008. I understand that the Office of Public Works has now completed the evaluation of tenders received for the construction of the new permanent offices for the Property Registration Authority and a preferred tenderer has been identified and notified. The Preferred Tenderer will now be required to apply for planning permission and on satisfactory completion of the planning process, the OPW will instruct the Preferred Tenderer to finalise working drawings, specifications and a Bill of Quantities with a view to a contract being placed and construction work commencing on site at the earliest possible date.

Residency Permits.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

214 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15737/08]

I wish to inform the Deputy that a total of 16,693 applicants were granted permission to remain in the State, initially for a period of two years, under the revised arrangements for non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. While applicants were of many nationalities, Nigeria, Romania and China were the most commonly represented. To date, over 14,000 applicants have been granted renewal of their IBC/05 permission for a further three years. In addition some 2,000 Romanian and Bulgarian citizens who were granted permission to remain in the State under the scheme, do not now have to apply to have their permission renewed.

The detailed information sought by the person concerned in relation to the housing, social welfare and medical card costs generated by the persons approved under the IBC/05 Scheme cannot be isolated and aggregated by the various government departments and agencies providing these services. Similarly, the taxes paid by persons approved under the Scheme are not computed separately. There is no IBC booklet as such. Details regarding the IBC/05 renewal scheme can be found on www.inis.gov.ie.

Garda Investigations.

Damien English

Ceist:

215 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 527 of 31 October 2007, if he or his Department has had contact with the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation regarding PIPS, a bogus investment scheme originating from Malaysia, in the past 12 months; the number of times contact has been made between himself or his Department and the GBFI in relation to same; if he is satisfied that this investigation is progressing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15742/08]

Damien English

Ceist:

216 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 527 of 31 October 2007, regarding PIPS, a bogus investment scheme originating from Malaysia, the most recent date An Garda Síochána was in contact with the Malaysian authorities with regard to this matter; his views on whether this line of cooperation is yielding results for this investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15743/08]

Damien English

Ceist:

217 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 527 of 31 October 2007, regarding PIPS, a bogus investment scheme originating from Malaysia, if he will make a statement on the progress of this investigation. [15744/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 217, inclusive, together.

The matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána in which I nor my Department have any direct role.

As the Deputy will be aware, a number of complaints have been received at Kells Garda Station with regard to the operation of a People in Profit System (PIPS — Investment Scheme). I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is continuing to assist local Garda management in Kells in the investigation of these complaints. This investigation includes ongoing international enquiries being made by the Garda authorities with the Malaysian Authorities via Interpol. Finally I am assured by the Garda authorities that this matter continues to receive appropriate policing attention.

Garda Deployment.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

218 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the budget and manpower envisaged for implementing community policing policies by county. [15750/08]

As of 31st March 2008 there were 674 members of the Garda Síochána assigned to community policing. This represents an increase of almost 30% in number over the past year. Garda numbers are allocated on a Garda Divisional rather than county by county basis and the breakdown is set-out in the table.

Division

No. of Garda

DMR South Central

80

DMR Southern

50

DMR Northern

70

DMR West

88

DMR North Central

69

DMR Eastern

54

Louth/Meath

15

Longford/Westmeath

16

Laois/Offaly

6

Carlow/Kildare

4

Wexford/Wicklow

5

Waterford/Kilkenny

20

Tipperary

9

Cork City

28

Cork North

1

Cork West

5

Kerry

7

Limerick

90

Clare

4

Galway West

19

Galway East/Roscommon

Mayo

8

Sligo/Leitrim

5

Donegal

20

Cavan/Monaghan

1

Total

674

The figures can, as with any large organisation, fluctuate from day to day, for example due to promotions, retirements and transfers. Of course, Community Policing involves more than a single unit within the Garda Síochána and all Gardaí have a role to play in addressing community policing issues. It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to decide on the prioritisation and allocation of resources within the Force. I am advised by the Garda authorities that the operational costs for community policing are met from the overall budget allocation for the policing of each Garda Region and Division. Accordingly, a breakdown of these figures is not readily available.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

219 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda reservists who are deployed in Tallaght Garda station; the number that are expected to be deployed in the station over the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15771/08]

As at 31st March 2008, the number of Garda Reserve members assigned to Tallaght Garda Station was 2. As recruitment to the Garda Reserve is voluntary, the deployment of future Reserve members to Tallaght will be dependent on volunteers making themselves available to serve in this area. Recruitment is continuing and regular promotional efforts to attract potential Reserve members are being undertaken. Anybody who wishes to apply to become a Garda Reserve member should contact the Public Appointments Service for further details. The next class of Reserve trainees will commence training on the 7th of June.

Citizenship Applications.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

220 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in respect of an application for citizenship for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15786/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in March 2006. Officials in that section inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Garda Operations.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

221 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of firearms that were seized under the auspices of Operation Anvil in 2007 and to date in 2008; the number of arrests made under the auspices of Operation Anvil in 2007 and to date in 2008; the estimated value of property seized under the auspices of Operation Anvil in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15811/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR), 256 firearms were seized or recovered in 2007 and 77 in 2008 up to 6 April. There were 6,289 arrests in 2007 and 1,863 in 2008 up to 6 April. It is estimated that property to the value of €10.1 million was recovered in 2007 and €2.2 million in 2008 up to 6 April. Outside the DMR, 309 firearms were seized in 2007 and 84 in 2008 up to 6 April. There were 10,638 arrests in 2007 and 2,851 in 2008 up to 6 April. All figures are operational and subject to change.

Outside the DMR, Operation Anvil is significantly different from the DMR, in that operations have a short time focus and are designed to address, in a flexible fashion, the particular needs of specific areas. Figures for the value of property recovered are not readily available and could be obtained only by the disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources.

Residency Permits.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

222 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for long-term residency for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15815/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question (ref 15591/08) of 23 April 2008. The position in relation to long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on the 23 April 2007. I understand that applications received in August 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

223 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois entitles them to apply for naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15857/08]

The Deputy has not provided sufficient information with regard to the person in question to enable me to give a detailed response. Consequently, I can only set out the position generally. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. These conditions are that the applicant must:

be of full age, or by way of exception, be a minor born in the State

be of good characterhave

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

intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation

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

Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that I may, in my absolute discretion, waive some or all of the statutory conditions in certain circumstances i.e. where an applicant is of Irish descent or of Irish associations; where an applicant is a person who is a refugee within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; or where an applicant is a Stateless person within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless persons. It is open to the person in question to lodge an application for a certificate of naturalisation if and when he is in a position to meet the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

224 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15858/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 10 January 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 28 February 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

225 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use his discretion to extend temporary residency in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15859/08]

The persons concerned applied on 8th March, 2005 for permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland before 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 Scheme. As the child in question was born after the cut off date the persons did not meet the criteria of the scheme, and their applications were refused. They were informed of this decision on 29th July, 2005. On the 14th of April, 2008, the persons concerned were invited to make updated representations to my Department under Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, and any representations received will be considered in due course.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

226 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15860/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 13 January 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 24 November 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

227 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15861/08]

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

While it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications, I would point out to the Deputy that delays in finalising cases can occur for a variety of reasons, including giving applicants and appellants the fullest opportunity possible to present their cases and the determination of Judicial Review proceedings, where appellants pursue such a course of action. Where the latter is relevant, the time taken to discharge any proceedings is a matter for the Courts and is not something that I, as Minister, can comment on. It is, of course, open to the applicant or the appellant to withdraw any Judicial Review proceedings which they may have instigated and this would allow for their appeal to be processed in the normal manner. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15862/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on these applications will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the daughter of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 is required to make an application for residency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15863/08]

I have been informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that it has no record of the person referred to by the Deputy or of a daughter of that person. If the person in question wishes to make enquiries regarding her daughter's residency status, she should contact the Immigration Division, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm or extend the residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15864/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 2 April 2004 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 17 January 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

The person concerned also made an application for residency in the State on the basis of being the spouse of an EU National. However, following consideration of this application, under the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006, a decision was made to refuse the application. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 21 August 2006. The case file of the person concerned now falls to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). All representations submitted by and on behalf of the person concerned will be fully considered, under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm or extend the residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15865/08]

The immigration case histories and up to date positions of the two persons concerned, a husband and wife, are almost identical. As a result, for the purposes of the Deputy's Question, I will deal with the two cases as one. Both of the persons concerned arrived in the State on 10 February 2003 along with their two children and applied for asylum. The children were included on their mother's asylum application. Their respective asylum applications were refused following the individual consideration of their cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), both of the persons concerned were informed, he by letter dated 15 September 2005 and she by letter dated 21 September 2005 (re-issued on 13 October 2005), that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them and their children. They were each given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of deportation orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of both of the persons concerned.

Following the individual consideration of their cases under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, as an exceptional measure, the persons concerned and their children were, subject to certain stated conditions, granted temporary leave to remain in the State for a three year period until 16 April 2011. The persons concerned were notified of these decisions by separate letters dated 16 April 2008.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason his Department has calculated that a person (details supplied) in County Louth is deemed not to have the necessary residency qualifications for naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15866/08]

The application for naturalisation for the person concerned is currently being re-examined by officials of my Department and I will be in contact with the Deputy again in this matter in the next week or so.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will issue the necessary travel documents to facilitate travel to Angola to obtain an original passport in order to renew IBC/05 permission to remain in the State in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15867/08]

The person referred to has made an application for a temporary Travel Document in order to travel and obtain their own national passport. This application was not approved as the person does not have current permission to reside in the State. However the person concerned is being granted temporary permission to remain in the State until 7 December, 2008, in order to facilitate the person in obtaining their own national passport. A fresh Travel Document application should be made when the person concerned has been registered with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15868/08]

I would refer the Deputy to the Reply my predecessor gave to his Dail Question No. 133 of Thursday, 29th March, 2007 which clearly stated that the person concerned has been evading his deportation since 31 October, 2003 and should present himself to the Garda Authorities without any further delay. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in the Reply.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15869/08]

The person concerned applied on 4th March, 2005 for permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 Scheme. This application was refused as the person did not meet the criteria of the scheme. Consideration is being given at present under Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as to whether the person concerned should be given temporary permission to remain in the State or returned to his country of origin. On 4th June, 2007 the person made application for Subsidiary Protection under the European Communities ( Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No 518 of 2006). This application is also being considered. The person concerned will be informed of any decisions made regarding his status in the State, in due course.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure to be followed in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15870/08]

As the Deputy is already aware, under Section 9 (4)(a) of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended, an asylum seeker shall not leave or attempt to leave the State without the consent of the Minister. Accordingly, the person concerned should apply in writing for consent to leave the State to the Ministerial Decisions Unit of my Department, at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2. Reasons for the purpose of the journey and details of the destination, duration, proposed travel arrangements and the type of travel documentation to be used should be submitted with the application, documentary evidence will also be required.

The Husband of the person referred to was granted refugee status on 22 August, 2006. My Department issued a 1951 UN Convention Travel Document to him on 8 November, 2006 which will allow him to travel outside the State. This travel document has been renewed and is valid until 8 November, 2008. The travel document does not permit him to travel to Angola.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or proposed residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15871/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 18 June 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 April 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received from the person concerned. The person concerned has also submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15872/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 138 of Wednesday 8 November 2006, No. 178 of Tuesday 5 December 2006 and No. 992 of Wednesday 26 September 2007 and the written Replies to those Questions. The person concerned arrived in the State on 9 September 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 September 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath entitles them to take up employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15873/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of Thursday 10 April 2008 and the written Reply to that Question. The person concerned arrived in the State on 6 January 2003 and applied for asylum. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 31 August 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

Following consideration of her case under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, as an exceptional measure and subject to certain stated conditions, the person concerned was granted temporary leave to remain in the State for one year until 14 April 2009. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 14 April 2008. Once the person concerned completes the necessary registration formalities with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, which are set out in her decision letter, she will be entitled to work without the need for a work permit.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use his discretion to offer an extension of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15874/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 20 March 2003 and claimed asylum. Her application was refused by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. The person concerned was informed by letter dated 8 April 2004 that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her and afforded her three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to submit, within 15 days, written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e why she should not be deported.

On 3 August 2004 my predecessor refused the person in question permission to remain in State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of her. Notice of the order was served by registered post and she was required to present herself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on Thursday 27 January 2005. She failed to present as required and was classified as evading her deportation on 2 February 2005.

Subsequently, the person concerned applied for asylum in the UK on 25 February 2005 under a different name and date of birth. The UK authorities contacted the Dublin Unit in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) on 7 April 2005 in this regard. Following this contact, the Irish authorities agreed to take back the person concerned. A further letter dated 16 February 2006 was sent by the UK Home Office to the ORAC advising of the birth of a baby daughter to the person concerned and requesting that the Irish State accept this child along with its mother. ORAC agreed to this request and mother and baby were due to be transferred to the State from the UK on 28 April 2006. For operational reasons on the UK side, the transfer did not then take place.

A further transfer date of 12 May 2006 was agreed but did not proceed due to the receipt of representations of a medical nature in respect of the person concerned. Following consideration of these representations, mother and baby were finally returned to the State on 6 October 2006. The person concerned presented herself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 16 October 2006 and was given further presentation dates which she kept. She is due to present again on 28 April 2008.

On 11 January 2007 an application for asylum in respect of the minor child of the person concerned was made in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. Said application is now the subject of judicial review proceedings. On foot of correspondence dated 17 January 2007 directed to the GNIB, but which was brought to the attention of officials in my Department, an undertaking by letter dated 19 January 2007 was given to the effect that the deportation order in respect of the person concerned would not be enforced until such time as the application for refugee status in respect of her minor child has been processed. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the GNIB.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath in the matter of family reunification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15875/08]

The person in question made a Family Reunification application in February 2006. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department. This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15876/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in February 2005. The file was forwarded to me for a decision in September 2005 and I decided to refuse the application. A letter disclosing my reasons for refusal was issued to the person concerned on 18 October 2005. It is open to the individual in question to lodge a new application if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

243 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on extending temporary or long-term residency on humanitarian grounds in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15877/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 979 of Wednesday, 26 September 2007 and the written Reply to that Question. The person concerned arrived in the State on 8 December 2003 and applied for asylum. Her two children arrived in the State on 16 April 2005 and 16 May 2005 respectively and were reunited with their mother and included in her application for asylum. The asylum application was refused following consideration of the case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 10 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of her and her children. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of deportation orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she and her children should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned. In addition, the person concerned was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and, following consideration of this application, it was determined that the person concerned was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection in the State. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 22 April 2008.

The case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will now be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

244 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15878/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 13 January 2004 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 2 August 2005 (re-issued on 3 August 2006), that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

245 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use his discretion to allow extended residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15879/08]

I would refer the Deputy to the Reply I gave to his Dáil Question No. 526 of Thursday 17 April 2008. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that Reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15880/08]

The first person concerned submitted an application to my Department on 4th November, 2005 for permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. The closing date for the submission of applications was 31st March, 2005 and the application was received too late for consideration. The refusal of this application is the subject of judicial review proceedings.

Judgements in relation to the IBC/05 scheme were delivered by the Supreme Court on 20th December, 2007 and the implications of these judgements for ongoing judicial review proceedings are currently being assessed by my Department. The second person concerned submitted an application for renewal of her permission to remain in the State which was granted under the IBC/05 scheme. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this permission has been renewed until 13th June, 2010.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is expected procedures in respect of naturalisation will be concluded in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15881/08]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Parliamentary Question Numbers 1249 and 183 for answer on 30 January 2008 and 27 February 2008 respectively. The position remains as stated.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

248 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when procedures in respect of naturalisation will be concluded in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15882/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in October 2007. Officials in that section are currently processing applications received in July 2005 and have approximately 15,200 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. However, I understand the individual in question is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in the first half of 2009. I will inform the Deputy and the individual concerned when I have reached a decision on the application.

Residency Permits.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

249 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the legal status of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; the position in respect of granting long-term residency for this person, including their family; the procedure regarding their applications; if this person has completed five years’ legal residence in the State on work permit conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15897/08]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Parliamentary Question No. 106 of 7th December 2006 and Parliamentary Question No. 610 of 6th July 2006. The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

An application from the person referred to by the Deputy was received by the Immigration Division of my Department on the 5th July 2006 seeking long term residency. This application was refused on the 24th October 2006, as the individual did not meet the minimum criteria of over five years in the State on work permit conditions. On two occasions the Immigration Division of my Department granted the person referred to by the Deputy Stamp 1 conditions for a four month period in order to obtain a work permit. To date the Immigration Division has not received any further applications for long term residency from this person and therefore are unable to confirm if he meets the minimum criteria for the long term residency scheme.

The procedure in relation to applications is as follows. At time of processing, each application is examined to verify the applicant meets the residency criteria (legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions). Passports and other documentation are examined in detail and enquiries with the Garda National Immigration Bureau may also be necessary. Should an applicant meet the residency criteria a character reference check is then carried out. This includes a requirement for all applicants to produce a police clearance certificate from their country of origin and any other country they resided in prior to travelling to this State. The requirement for a police clearance certificate was introduced recently as part of the character clearance aspect of the application process.

Any application received by the Immigration Division which does not have the necessary endorsement stamps showing that they have been legally resident in the State for five years on the basis of work/permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions is automatically refused.

Asylum Applications.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

250 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide asylum statistics (details supplied) in respect of each of the previous 12 months. [15907/08]

The asylum statistics requested by the Deputy in respect of each of the previous 12 months (April 2007 — March 2008), where available, is set out in tabular format as follows.

Table 1: Place of application for asylum

ORAC*

Airports

Prisons

Ports

Other

Total

Apr-07

231

27

11

1

7

277

May-07

265

24

22

2

5

318

Jun-07

259

30

18

2

7

316

Jul-07

297

30

25

1

5

358

Aug-07

239

26

25

2

2

294

Sep-07

265

36

17

0

0

318

Oct-07

303

31

20

0

2

356

Nov-07

291

20

32

0

0

343

Dec-07

288

34

16

2

0

340

Jan-08

298

12

15

2

2

329

Feb-08

255

19

21

0

1

296

Mar-08

257

15

22

0

5

299

Total

3,248

304

244

12

36

3,844

*Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner Asylum applications deemed withdrawn.

The Immigration Act, which was commenced on the 15th September 2003, contained a number of key changes to the Refugee Act, 1996 which included the imposition on applicants of a clear statutory duty to actively pursue their asylum applications and co-operate at all times with the processing agencies or face having their applications deemed withdrawn.

The most common reasons for an application to be deemed withdrawn are where the applicant fails to attend for an interview or oral appeal hearing without reasonable cause; fails to co-operate with the Refugee Applications Commissioner or furnish information relevant to his or her application or appeal; or an applicant fails to notify the Commissioner or Refugee Appeals Tribunal of his or her postal address or change of address.

Table 2: Asylum applications deemed withdrawn at First Instance and Appeal Stage

No. of applications deemed withdrawn at first instance

No. of applications deemed withdrawn at appeal stage

Total no. of applications deemed withdrawn

Apr-07

32

0

32

May-07

86

11

97

Jun-07

38

9

47

Jul-07

33

7

40

Aug-07

59

10

69

Sep-07

59

2

61

Oct-07

59

1

60

Nov-07

58

22

80

Dec-07

49

5

54

Jan-08

75

13

88

Feb-08

44

6

50

Mar-08

54

19

73

Total

646

105

751

Table 3: Recommendations to grant and refuse refugee status at First Instance

Number of recommendations to grant refugee status at first instance

Number of recommendations to refuse refugee status at first instance

Apr-07

36

225

May-07

27

310

Jun-07

20

223

Jul-07

27

310

Aug-07

34

293

Sep-07

35

253

Oct-07

45

306

Nov-07

29

333

Dec-07

22

253

Jan-08

42

324

Feb-08

38

314

Mar-08

33

262

Total

388

3,406

Table 4: Asylum appeals received by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal

Number of asylum appeals received

Apr-07

168

May-07

216

Jun-07

206

Jul-07

232

Aug-07

246

Sep-07

199

Oct-07

192

Nov-07

245

Dec-07

141

Jan-08

290

Feb-08

237

Mar-08

199

Total

2,571

Table 5: Recommendations to grant and refuse refugee status at appeal stage

Number of recommendations to grant refugee status at appeal stage

Number of recommendations to refuse refugee status at appeal stage

Apr-07

14

120

May-07

20

164

Jun-07

19

138

Jul-07

19

149

Aug-07

14

147

Sep-07

21

134

Oct-07

32

142

Nov-07

19

130

Dec-07

13

59

Jan-08

22

162

Feb-08

11

133

Mar-08

21

90

Total

225

1,568

Table 6: Asylum appeals determined on papers and by oral hearings

No. of appeals determined on papers

No. of appeals determined by oral hearings

Apr-07

30

104

May-07

17

167

Jun-07

29

128

Jul-07

37

131

Aug-07

28

133

Sep-07

22

133

Oct-07

21

153

Nov-07

16

133

Dec-07

10

62

Jan-08

33

151

Feb-08

26

118

Mar-08

25

86

Total

294

1,499

Table 7: ORAC — Judicial Reviews in respect of asylum decisions

Applications for leave to apply for Judicial Review

Cases where leave was granted

Substantive cases decided in favour of applicant

Cases Settled

Bills of costs received and authorised

Apr-07

27

5

5

May-07

46

1

1

8

2

Jun-07

32

2

5

5

Jul-07

46

3

18

4

Aug-07

21

4

Sep-07

53

Oct-07

41

1

4

2

Nov-07

29

2

7

5

Dec-07

21

3

6

3

Jan-08

48

1

3

5

Feb-08

45

6

2

Mar-08

21

5

4

Total

430

13

1

67

41

Where ORAC is satisfied that there has been an error or omission in its procedures which might have a bearing on the outcome of an investigation, in the interests of fairness and efficiency, ORAC's policy is to reach a mutually agreeable settlement in relation to judicial review cases without delay. However, where ORAC considers that its procedures have been fully and correctly adhered to, it is prepared to contest judicial review proceedings in order to fulfil its statutory responsibility to protect the integrity of the asylum process.

Where a case is decided by the Courts in favour of the applicant, the Courts usually award costs against the State. There can be a significant gap between the award of costs by the Courts in particular cases and the payment of those costs due to delays in the submitting of bills of costs by the applicant's legal representative. Where the case is settled by the State, the terms of the settlement includes a commitment to reconsider the applicant's application of refugee status.

Table 8: RAT — Judicial Reviews in respect of asylum decisions

Applications for leave to apply for Judicial Review

Cases where leave was granted

Substantive cases decided in favour of applicant

Cases Settled

Bills of costs received

Apr-07

25

0

1

16

14

May-07

25

5

1

19

9

Jun-07

30

5

1

16

13

Jul-07

40

7

0

34

18

Aug-07

25

0

0

0

23

Sep-07

33

0

0

0

0

Oct-07

40

3

0

11

8

Nov-07

43

4

3

14

19

Dec-07

10

1

1

16

13

Jan-08

40

1

1

18

11

Feb-08

39

9

5

21

10

Mar-08

25

0

0

10

5

Total

375

35

13

175

143

Table 9: Deportation orders issued and effected in respect of failed asylum applicants

Deportation orders issued to failed asylum applicants

Deportation orders effected in respect of failed asylum applicants

Apr-07

2

7

May-07

5

8

Jun-07

13

13

Jul-07

2

9

Aug-07

65

10

Sep-07

1

9

Oct-07

60

3

Nov-07

64

5

Dec-07

0

18

Jan-08

0

9

Feb-08

11

4

Mar-08

59

3

Total

282

98

Table 10: Voluntary returns of failed asylum applicants

Number of voluntary returns

Apr-07

11

May-07

9

Jun-07

8

Jul-07

19

Aug-07

9

Sep-07

7

Oct-07

8

Nov-07

9

Dec-07

12

Jan-08

10

Feb-08

9

Mar-08

15

Total

126

Parents of Irish Born Children

In so far as the parents of Irish born children are concerned, the information requested by the Deputy in relation to asylum applications, leave to remain and deportations is not available as statistics are not maintained in such a way that differentiates applications made by parents of Irish born children. The Irish Born Child 2005 Scheme ended in March 2005 and there is no longer any basis for making Permission to Remain applications on the basis of parentage of citizen children.

Leave to Remain in the State

Unsuccessful asylum applicants are afforded the opportunity to apply to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for temporary leave to remain in the State, in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). Every such application is considered under the eleven headings set out in Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999.

Asylum applicants and the right to work

Section 9(4)(b) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) provides that an applicant for asylum shall not seek or enter employment. Asylum seekers only have temporary permission to remain in the State pending the determination of their applications.

Table 11: Asylum applications on hand at First Instance and at Appeal Stage

ORAC

RAT

Total

Less than 6 Months

1,081

1,233

2,314

6 – 12 Months

107

798

905

12 – 18 Months

10

510

520

18 – 24 Months

5

471

476

More than 24 Months

15

357

372

Total cases pending

1,218

3,369

4,587

Statistics are not maintained in a way which provides a precise figure on the number of judicial review cases on hand in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner at the end of March 2008. At the end of 2007, there was a total of 433 judicial reviews on hand in the ORAC. As at 31 March 2008 there was a total of 555 judicial reviews on hand in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Costs recovered by the State in relation to Judicial Reviews

Any costs awarded by the Courts to the State in relation to asylum/immigration judicial reviews are in respect of legal fees incurred and are allocated to the Chief State Solicitors Office. The Deputy may wish to contact that office regarding the information being sought in this area.

Citizenship Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

251 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford who has applied for Irish citizenship; if he will take steps to ensure that this person’s full vouched residency here is taken into account in the context of their application for citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15926/08]

In the light of the additional information provided by the Deputy and correspondence recently received from the persons in question, I have instructed my officials to re-examine this case.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

252 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16133/08]

I can advise the Deputy that since 1st January 2008, thirty-four Dublin based officers have transferred to provincial locations. Since the commencement of my Department's Decentralisation Programme, a total of four hundred and forty staff have decentralised, of whom around two hundred were Dublin based.

Natural Heritage Areas.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

253 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the new areas of bogland that have been designated as special areas of conservation and NHAs and will be exempt from the cutting of turf in County Mayo. [15731/08]

No new areas of bog land have been designated as either Special Areas of Conservation or Natural Heritage Areas in County Mayo since 2002. Details of bogs designated in County Mayo are set out in the reply to Question No. 214 of 10 April 2008.

Fire Service.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

254 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans, in view of the continued concern surrounding the inadequate fire service in Bray, County Wicklow, to provide a full-time fire service; when he will set up a national fire service authority; his views on calls from the five local Deputies for an independent inquiry in respect of the deaths of two firefighters in September 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15752/08]

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs, the provision of a premises and the making of such other provisions as it considers necessary or desirable, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981. The Department's role is one of supporting and assisting local authorities in delivering fire services through the setting of general policy and the provision of capital funding. Under the Fire Services Change Programme a Risk Based Approach to Fire Safety Management is being developed. When this system is available it will assist fire authorities in carrying out a risk analysis in their functional areas which will, inter alia, inform the allocation of resources.

Options for the future development of fire and emergency management services are being reviewed in the Department, including the option of a national fire authority, and the need to continue to bring about real and substantive change so that the fire service in Ireland is in line with international standards. In reaching conclusions on the review, regard must be had to the needs of the fire service and the wider public interest in relation to fire safety matters, and account will be taken of the view of stakeholders. I have asked the key stakeholders to submit their views in writing. Written submissions have been received from the Chief Fire Officers' Association, the County and City Managers' Associations, the Fire Services Council and the Association of County and City Councils.

Three investigations into the Bray fire tragedy are ongoing by An Garda Síochána, the Health and Safety Authority, and Wicklow County Council. I have asked Wicklow County Council to make the findings of its investigation available to the Department. I will consider any necessary change arising from the outcome of these investigations in the work of supporting and developing fire services in my role as Minister. I believe, therefore, that it would be important to await the outcome of the investigations.

Environmental Study.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

255 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on an environmental study of the wildlife, birds and wildfowl which roost and nest in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15753/08]

There is no environmental study in my Department regarding the lagoons in question. Some information has been received from a local gun club in relation to the lagoons but does not constitute an environmental study.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

256 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when his Department will be fully decentralised to County Wexford; the number of people decentralised to date; the sections in his Department that have moved; when advertising will begin for staff; the date he expects that these offices will be operating in the new premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15797/08]

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

262 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16130/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 262 together.

Under the decentralisation programme, all Dublin based operations of my Department are being decentralised, with the exception of Met Éireann, ENFO and a small co-ordination section which it is proposed to retain in Dublin to assist with the Department's Dáil and other business. A total of 682 Dublin based posts will be transferred to four locations in the South East: Wexford (270 posts); Waterford (225 posts); New Ross (125 posts) and Kilkenny (62 posts).

The Department's new Headquarters in Wexford is under construction and is expected to be completed by end December 2008. The accommodation will be ready for occupation from the end of January 2009 and the Department will then transfer the 270 staff into these offices, commencing in Q1 2009 with full occupation completed in the course of the year. An advance office has been operational in Wexford since 25 June, 2007 and it currently has 46 staff assigned to it. The following 9 sub-units are located in this office- Environment Policy, Local Services, Heritage Policy, Waste Policy: Prevention and Recovery, Water Quality, Information Communications Technology (ICT), Corporate Development, Personnel and Urban and Village Development.

The Department is currently in the process of filling the 270 posts required for the Wexford Headquarters and is confident that all of the staff will be available for transfer in 2009. There is likely to be some local recruitment of a small number of services officers.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

257 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if and when he plans to increase the limits on the shared ownership scheme, in view of the huge number of young people struggling to get a foot on the property ladder, and the increase in inflation and cost of living since the last increase was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15807/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 414 of 22 April 2008. The income and loan limits applying in relation to local authority housing loans are currently under review.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

258 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce an incremental purchase scheme for non-council tenants in order to allow people on lower incomes to access home ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15808/08]

The Government's housing policy statement, Building Homes, Sustaining Communities, signalled the intention to introduce an incremental purchase scheme. The objective of the proposed scheme is to make it possible for households with incomes lower than those required for affordable housing to gain access to home ownership, through making new local authority housing available for purchase by existing social housing tenants (local authority, voluntary and Rental Accommodation Scheme) and prospective local authority tenants.

The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which is expected to be published during the present Dáil session, will include provisions to give effect to the incremental purchase scheme. In parallel with this, arrangements for the introduction of the scheme, including the possible piloting of it in certain areas, are being considered.

Local Authority Housing.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

259 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make funding available for the implementation of the recommendations as outlined in the Rathkeale area task force document; and if he will fund the activities of the committee which has been set up to implement the recommendations. [15814/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 557 of 31 October 2007. My Department has not yet received a copy of the report in question.

Planning Issues.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

260 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has plans to remove the exemption on planning permission for mobile phone masts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15827/08]

In general, planning permission must be sought for the erection of an antenna support structure or mast. The Planning and Development Regulations 2001 set out certain exemptions in this area. These include, subject to certain conditions, works carried out by a statutory undertaker authorised to provide a telecommunications service comprising:

the attachment of additional antennae to an existing antenna support structure (subject to a maximum of 12 antennae),

the erection of an antenna support structure in place of an existing antenna support structure, and

the attachment of antennae to certain existing structures, such as lamp posts, flag poles, CCTV poles, electricity pylons and certain public or commercial buildings (other than educational facilities, child care facilities or hospitals).

The exemptions above are conditional on, among other things, the field strength of the non-ionising radiation emissions from the site not exceeding the limits specified by the Commission for Communications Regulation. In addition, in the case of the exemption for the attachment of antennae to certain existing structures, there is a requirement on the statutory undertaker to notify the planning authority, in writing, of the proposed location of any such structure at least 4 weeks before the attachment of the antennae.

The Commission for Communications Regulation is responsible for ensuring that telecommunications operators comply with their licence conditions relating to non-ionising radiation. It is also the function of the Commission to ensure that all operators are compliant with the international guidelines for general exposure to electromagnetic fields from telecommunications masts and antennae. As indicated in the reply to question No. 218 of 23 April, it is my intention to further develop the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structures to take account of the latest developments in telecommunications technology and related issues, including in particular broadband.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

261 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the fact that An Taisce is a listed prescribed body within the planning legislation, which is normally consulted on applications which could have an impact on Ireland’s national heritage, there is a monitoring of the level of efficiency of An Tasice in dealing with the various aspects of a planning application in order that no undue delay can occur, in other words, when An Taisce would make an observation to the local council; if a representative of An Taisce is obliged to visit a site before making an observation, in order to establish the condition of the building on which it is commenting; the reason there is no time limit within which An Taisce must respond to a query from the applicant for planning permission, enabling the applicant to speedily deal with queries from their local authority; when his Department last carried out a review of the operation of this organisation to satisfy itself that it meets all the requirements of being a prescribed organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15835/08]

An Taisce is an independent, voluntary, non-governmental organisation and in general terms it is a matter for such organisations to regulate their own affairs, without Government involvement. I have no role or responsibility in relation to the operation of An Taisce. Section 33 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that regulations regarding applications for permission may be made requiring, inter alia, planning authorities to notify prescribed bodies of proposed development. Article 28 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended by the Planning and Development Regulations 2006) includes An Taisce in the list of bodies prescribed for this purpose.

When submitting observations on planning applications, prescribed bodies such as An Taisce are bound by the statutory time limits set out in the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2006, and associated regulations. An Taisce is given notice of planning applications in circumstances where it appears to the planning authority that the proposed development might impact on matters such as areas of special amenity, protected structures, National Monuments and nature conservation. I will keep the regulations, including the list of prescribed bodies, under regular review, to facilitate delivery of an effective and efficient planning service leading to quality planning decisions.

Question No. 262 answered with Question No. 256.

Building Regulations.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

263 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will introduce a course to ensure that there are sufficient assessors to implement the EU-DEAP regulations under the Building Control Act 2007 particularly relating to existing dwellings and in view of the implementation date of 1 January 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15785/08]

The Building Energy Rating (BER) scheme was established under the European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006, (S.I. No. 666 of 2006). Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has been designated as the Issuing Authority with responsibility for the registration of BER Assessors, logging of BER assessments and ongoing management of the BER scheme.

As part of this process SEI issued a training specification in October 2006, which set out the requirements for training courses dealing with the rating of new dwellings. To date, 21 FETAC/HETAC registered training providers around the country have held training courses on BER for new dwellings. Currently, there are 520 registered BER assessors, with a further 1,127 qualified assessors for BER of new dwellings yet to register.

SEI is currently in discussions with FETAC with regard to extending the FETAC Standard for BER of new dwellings to include existing dwellings. Similar discussions have also commenced with HETAC trainers. It is expected that training courses for BER of existing dwellings will be available from September 2008. A survey of registered assessors has given a positive indication that the majority of registered assessors will be applying to extend their registration to cover both new and existing dwellings.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

264 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16125/08]

As part of the Government's decentralisation programme, the headquarters of my Department is scheduled to relocate to Cavan at the end of 2010. This will involve the relocation of approximately 300 posts. Two staff members have transferred to Cavan since 1st January 2008 bringing the total working there to 47. Current plans envisage that this figure will be increased by up to ten more staff by the middle of the year.