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.

Consumer Protection.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

10 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the contact he has had with the National Consumer Agency regarding the large price differences for the same goods sold in the UK and here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16694/08]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

21 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to reports that reductions in the cost of goods imported from outside the euro area, which should have followed on from the increase in the value of the euro, especially against sterling and the dollar, are not being passed on to consumers; the action he will take to ensure that such savings are passed on; if he will provide additional statutory powers for the National Consumer Agency to deal with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16545/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 21 together.

I am aware of the concerns expressed by some commentators that the benefits of ongoing movements in exchange rates between the Euro and Sterling and the Euro and the Dollar are not being passed on to consumers.

The National Consumer Agency has raised these concerns in bilateral discussions with retailers. In the course of those discussions, retailers have advised that the benefits of recent exchange rate movements may not be fully reflected in their prices as in many instances they are tied into long term hedging arrangements, which do not make it possible for them to respond to short-term exchange rate fluctuations. As such, it may take some time for exchange rate movements to be reflected in pricing. This is also likely to be the case for goods that are pre-labelled, often far in advance of hitting the shops.

Notwithstanding such considerations, I understand that the Agency remains concerned that in some instances the price charged by retailers reflects a price level that the retailer anticipates the Irish market will bear, and this may or may not take into account movements in exchange rates. In this regard, the Agency has undertaken various initiatives to raise awareness among consumers in relation to the price they pay for goods and services and in particular the importance of consumers achieving the best value for money when purchasing such goods and services.

The Agency recently published the results of a Grocery Price Comparison Survey in the area of food prices. Amongst its conclusions, the Agency was of the view that consumers can force more competition in the grocery sector by informing themselves of the prices of products charged by different retailers and to shop around if they have sufficient choice. I understand that following the publication of its survey, research carried out by the Agency indicated that a significant number of consumers have already changed their shopping behaviour based on the survey's results. This clearly demonstrates the importance of price surveys and information campaigns of this nature in providing consumers with the necessary information so that they can make informed choices as to where they wish to purchase goods and services.

I would like to advise the Deputy that the Agency intends to continue to exert pressure on retailers in the coming months to adjust their prices to reflect the benefits accruing from exchange rate movements, particularly in terms of the Euro's appreciation against sterling and the dollar. In this regard, the Agency will continue, through its Price Awareness Surveys, to provide consumers with the necessary information so that they can make informed choices as to how to get the best value for money.

It is clear that the appreciation in the Euro's value against sterling and the dollar has meant that the relative cost of goods sourced in the UK and the US has decreased and whilst some retailers may enter into long term hedging arrangements, consumers are entitled to benefit from these cost reductions. In this regard, I fully support the work of the National Consumer Agency in raising consumers awareness of prices to identify those retailers offering them a fair deal.

State Bodies.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

11 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff employed by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; if he has an outstanding request for additional staff or resources for the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16555/08]

Last year my Department responded to the Director's request for additional staffing resources by increasing the approved Departmental staff complement from 30 to 38. Approved Garda staff numbers were also increased by one in 2007 bringing the total approved staffing complement of the ODCE to 46 posts.

Four of these extra staff were provided to the ODCE in 2007, and my Departmental commitment to providing a further four will be fully met in the first half of this year with two of the four having already been provided. The Director indicated to my Department in late 2007 that having integrated these additional staff, he would review his request for further extra staff at the end of the 2008 and advise my Department at that stage of the results of that review.

Economic Competitiveness.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

12 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the growing strength of the euro, which is projected by economists to reach above $1.60 in the months ahead, is having an impact on Ireland’s trade links with the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16608/08]

In 2007 Ireland's total merchandise trade (exports and imports) with the United States, totalled €22.81 billion, virtually unchanged from the 2006 figure of €22.99 billion. The value of our merchandise exports to the United States reached €15.78 billion, down 2.49% on the 2006 level of €16.18 billion. The value of our merchandise imports reached €7.03 billion, up from €6.81 billion in 2006, a rise of 3.23%. Overall Ireland had a merchandise trade surplus with the United States of €8.75 billion.

The evolving nature of the Irish economy has led to an increasing emphasis on our services trade, which represents an important part of our overall trade with the United States. In 2006, the last full year for which individual country statistics are available, while the level of our imports from the United States rose to €21.31 billion, a 7.21% increase on 2005, noticeably our services exports rose to €8.31 billion, an increase of 101% on 2005.

Considering the possible trading difficulties posed by the decline in the exchange rate of the US Dollar against the Euro, a factor which is outside the control of Government, these levels of trade are, I believe, commendable, and a credit to the Irish exporting sector. I am acutely aware of the difficulties we face, and it is likely that if present US dollar/Euro currency trends continue, 2008 will also be a difficult period for trade between Ireland and the United States. However, my Department and Enterprise Ireland (EI) will continue in their efforts to ensure that our overall level of exports, not just to the United States, which is our single biggest merchandise export market destination, are maintained.

In September last year I led a Trade Mission of 34 Irish companies to New York, Boston and Washington. The outcome was very satisfactory and the companies announced over $40 million in new business sales and partnership deals with US customers, during that mission.

To maximise their efforts, Enterprise Ireland have five offices in the United States and their primary focus is to increase sales and partnership deals for their client companies in the United States market. There are over 200 EI client companies in 1,300 locations across the US. These companies employ over 80,000 people in all 50 States. Enterprise Ireland's work is facilitated through client-buyer introductions, market intelligence support in market entry/validation and an extensive range of focused group projects, targeted at specific industries or regional areas. In the coming years, EI will work intensively with its client companies to grow their business.

The value of EI's export promotional activities is illustrated by the fact that exports from EI supported companies to the Americas region increased by approximately 10% between 2006 and 2007. The vast majority of these exports are to the United States.

Employment Rights.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

13 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by SIPTU that the treatment of some foreign workers employed as domestic workers amounts to forced slavery and that the union is taking three cases per month on behalf of foreign domestic workers to the Labour Court; his views on this development; if he is satisfied that adequate safeguards are in place to protect such vulnerable workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16556/08]

Ireland's comprehensive body of employment rights legislation, which protects employees against arbitrary behaviour by employers, applies to all workers employed on an employer-employee basis in Ireland. The Protection of Employee's (Part-Time) Work Act, 2001 provides that all employee protection legislation applies to a person, irrespective of his or her nationality or place of residence, who has entered into a contract of employment that provides for his or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment.

Inspectors from the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the Inspection Services seek redress for the individual/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated. Employers are required to maintain records in respect of employees and these records, together with other substantiating evidence, for example, a statement from an employee, provide the essentials of a basis for legal proceedings. Failure to maintain adequate records by an employer is an offence.

A Code of Practice for Protecting Persons Employed in other People's Homes was introduced in May, 2007. The Code of Practice follows from agreement by the social partners, within the framework of Towards 2016, on the need for special measures to support the employment rights of those people who are employed in the homes of others.

The Code provides a comprehensive framework for an agreed understanding of rights and responsibilities for the protection of those who can, potentially, be very vulnerable workers. The Code emphasises that employees in other people's homes have an equal entitlement to the employment rights and protections available to any other employee. It highlights a number of these rights and includes provisions relating to protections that have particular relevance to these employers and employees.

It is intended that NERA will include the Code in the arrangements it is making to give greater visibility to the employment rights of workers. The Code is also made available to workers employed in other people's homes where such workers have contact with the Employment Permits Section of my Department.

To facilitate NERA's monitoring of compliance with the employment rights of such workers, a provision has been included in the recently published Employment Rights Compliance Bill enabling NERA to apply to the District Court for a warrant to enter a private dwelling to carry out an inspection where the owner refuses permission.

Domestic workers are protected by the full range of employment rights legislation under which they can seek redress by referring their cases to the Rights Commissioners, the Labour Court or the Employment Appeals Tribunal. I urge anyone who has evidence of the mistreatment of persons employed as domestic workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the NERA's Inspection Services in the first instance with a view to pursuing the matter.

Job Losses.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

14 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the breakdown of types of employment that account for the job losses since the start of 2008; the way he accounts for the equal number of male and females made unemployed in the past weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16761/08]

The numbers of actual redundancies notified to my Department for 1 January — 31 March 2008 broken down by sector and gender are as follows:

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Actual Redundancies received under the Redundancy Scheme during the period, 1st January to 31st March 2008

Industrial Group

Number of Employees

Male

Female

Total

Agriculture/Forestry and Fisheries

168

44

212

Energy and Water

15

7

22

Extraction Industry (Chemical Products)

44

5

49

Metal Manufacturing and Engineering

291

69

360

Other Manufacturing

1,267

752

2,019

Building and Civil Engineering

1,892

130

2,022

Distributive Trades

232

203

435

Transport and Communications

226

65

291

Other Services

1,134

1,186

2,320

Banking, Finance & Insurance

90

148

238

Total

5,359

2,609

7,968

These figures show the number of employees on whose behalf claims were submitted for statutory redundancy lump sum payments. They do not reflect those who lost their jobs with less than two years service in an employment.

These figures show that slightly more than twice as many males were made redundant in the first quarter of this year as females, with the largest number of male redundancies occurring in the building and engineering sector, where 1,892 males were made redundant versus a figure of 130 for females. I have no control over the number of redundancies that occur at any given time. However, it must be remembered that redundancy — as recorded in these statistics — does not equate with unemployment.

Employment/unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, collated and published by the Central Statistics Office. The most recent Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 4, 2007 (Sept-Nov) indicates that employment has increased by 66,800 or 3.2% in the year. The unemployment rate is currently at 4.5%. Data for Quarter 1 2008 (December-February) will not be available until May/June 2008.

Employment has increased in the year in most sectors, apart from other production industries and construction, when comparing data year on year (Q4, 2006 to Q4, 2007).

The Department of Social and Family Affairs maintains the live register. The total number of people recorded on the live register for March 2008 is 197,992. The live register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit.

The live register has increased over the past number of months with the increase, pro rata, being higher among males. However, the live register results for March reflected an almost even split between the increase for both males and females. The fact that Easter fell in March is a contributing factor to the increase. The live register normally rises due to temporary lay-offs during the 2 week period of school holidays. The numbers employed in the educational sector is split unevenly between males and females with 35,500 males and 103,600 females.

Financial Regulation.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

15 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that there are adequate legislative measures in place to deal with the issue of insider trading, especially as a result of the €40 million settlement following a case involving two major public companies (details supplied); if he has plans to introduce new legislative measures or provide additional powers for the Director of Corporate Enforcement in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16554/08]

The insider dealing in question took place in 2000, and it is a matter of public record that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation investigated these events at the time. Any decision to initiate a criminal prosecution arising out of those events is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions who is an independent officer of the State.

The recent Court proceedings which have now ended were launched in 2002. It was the first civil insider dealing case taken in the State under the Companies Act 1990. The Director of Corporate Enforcement (whose office was established in November 2001) recently intervened in the case before both the Supreme Court and the High Court to draw to attention the power available to each court in Section 160 of the Companies Act 1990 to disqualify any person in any proceedings if satisfied that certain serious misconduct had occurred. Both Courts subsequently declined to utilise this legal power in this case.

It now falls to the Director to consider if he can pursue the matter further. The Deputy will be aware that the Director is a statutory officer who is independent in the performance of his compliance and enforcement duties under the Companies Acts.

It is relevant that the origins of the case to which the Deputy refers dates back to the year 2000 as subsequent to this, market abuse law has been fully overhauled. In addition to broadening the definition of market abuse and bringing in a system of market abuse administrative sanctions, the new law has appointed the Financial Regulator as the competent authority for market abuse.

The Financial Regulator has put in place a range of additional rules governing these matters and is currently well advanced in developing ambitious new systems for monitoring share trading. The Financial Regulator's published strategy sets out the extensive work they are undertaking to build up their capacity to police this area and their 2007 Annual Report just published sets out the work they have already done in this area.

I believe companies generally take their responsibilities in this regard very seriously and I am also confident that the Financial Regulator will make full use of its powers in the event that any company does not act responsibly.

Unemployment Levels.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

16 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will revise the projected unemployment figures for 2008; his views on the scale of increase in unemployment; his views on whether inaccurate projections impedes proper policy creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16744/08]

In the Budget Outlook unemployment is forecast to average at around 5.5% over the period 2008-2010. The Department of Finance will publish a revised forecast with its Pre-Budget Outlook in October. Ireland compares favourably with the EU27 average of 6.7%. The current rate of unemployment is 4.5% as published by the Central Statistics Office in its Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 4 2007.

Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, published and collated by the CSO, rather than the Live Register which is not designed to measure unemployment. The Live Register includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit.

The Live Register figures for the first three months of 2008 are showing a steady increase and this was not unexpected following on particularly from the slowdown in the construction industry. This increase in unemployment must be seen in the context of the substantial increase in employment by 242,500 in the three-year period since 2004. The number of people currently in employment is 2,138,900. It is generally accepted that the strong rate of growth experienced over the past few years could not continue and the economy is now entering a period of adjustment. Employment is forecast to grow by over 1% (24,000) in 2008 for all sectors.

The high demand for labour in the past resulted in increased participation by many who might otherwise not have sought a job and in the need for sourcing labour from outside the State to fill the new jobs being created due to not having sufficient indigenous nationals available to meet the needs of employers.

The actual rise in unemployment over the coming months will be determined by a number of factors including a possible decrease in participation and the response of migrants to the slowdown. In regard to the latter the ESRI expects inward migration to fall from 70,000 in 2007 to 20,000 in 2008. The trend in PPS numbers issued to persons from the EU12 continues to reflect a decline in the numbers entering the State.

The most recent FÁS/ESRI Employment and Vacancies Survey for March 2008 shows that the percentage of firms reporting vacancies across all sectors is 10%, indicating that there is not a collapse in employment opportunities.

The range of integrated support services provided by FÁS involves information sessions, skills analysis, training/retraining courses and job placement will be available for those who become redundant because of company restructuring or closures. In the delivery of these services, FÁS liaises with other relevant agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the City/County Enterprise Boards and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There is also active engagement with the unemployed after 3 months on the live register to assist them progress towards employment, training or active labour market programmes.

Policy is not fixed on predictions made in the past but is constantly evolving taking into account a very wide range of up-to-date factors that affect and influence the labour market.

In this regard, FÁS is currently developing a strategy in response to the current slowdown in the construction sector. This strategy will contain a range of initiatives such as working in close collaboration with the Construction Industry Federation and other key stakeholders to encourage redundant construction workers to seek re-training in skills which are in short supply in the economy.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

17 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to retrain the significant number of recently unemployed construction workers; if he has a strategy to migrate them into other industry areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16747/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

18 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that all appropriate retraining opportunities are available for workers who lose their jobs, especially in the construction sector; if he has plans to provide additional training opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16553/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 18 together.

FÁS, as the national training and employment authority, has the remit to provide a range of proactive job-related services, supports and programmes, to assist individuals remain in and return to the labour market. The Agency also promotes workforce development by upgrading the competencies and qualifications of individuals and by providing and facilitating targeted training programmes and services to both employers and employees.

FÁS has a specific policy in place to deal with redundancies and/or company closures. It offers a tailored approach as early as possible to the workers affected with a view to assisting them access alternative employment. This applies to workers in all sectors, including construction.

FÁS has a fast track redundancy notification system in place with my Department, to ensure a speedy and appropriate response is provided to redundant workers. Each response is tailored on a case-by-case basis. As part of the consultation process (in the case of company closures/major redundancies), FÁS establishes the scale of the redundancies, the skills profile of the employees affected, the number of years service/experience of the employees, level of education and any other information deemed relevant to the particular case in question.

FÁS is currently developing a strategy in response to the current slowdown in the construction sector and any anticipated future redundancies. This strategy will contain a number of initiatives/measures such as working in close collaboration with the Construction Industry Federation and other key stakeholders to encourage redundant construction workers to seek retraining in skills that are in short supply in the economy.

In addressing the issue of redundancies, FÁS liaises with other relevant agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the City/County Enterprise Boards and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. It also works closely with the agencies to identify and support individuals who wish to start their own business.

While the slowdown in new house building has resulted in an increase in unemployment, overall employment is forecast to continue to grow, albeit at a reduced rate than heretofore, thereby providing new job opportunities. The Government is giving priority to fully implementing the National Development Plan in order to boost the productive capacity of the economy. Infrastructural spending under the Plan will help to absorb some of the excess capacity that is emerging from the new house building sector.

Services Sector.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

19 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the figures showing a decline in business activity in the services sector in the first three months of 2008, especially having regard to the potential impact on employment; if he will take steps to ensure that this trend is reversed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16552/08]

The recent data published by NCB Stockbroker's Services Purchasing Managers Index (SPMI) showed that business activity in the services sector experienced a slight decline in March — the first such contraction in 56 months. More specifically activity increased in the Business Services and Financial Services Sectors while decreases in activity were recorded in Transport, Travel, Tourism and Leisure. Any slowdown in services activity must also be placed in the context of a global economic downturn. In fact, the Irish services sector has been a stellar performer over recent years and continues to perform strongly vis-à-vis key competitors.

Within the services sectors, financial and other business services have been the primary drivers of employment growth. Employment in this sector grew by 21,000 in 2007. This reflects a longer-term trend — the sector experienced growth in employment of 68 percent over the past decade. The overall employment picture also remains quite strong with staffing levels in the Irish service sector continuing to expand. This mirrors the findings of the CSO's QNHS which recorded an increase in services employment from 1.37 million in Q4 2006 to 1.45 million in Q4 2007.

Amongst the developed economies the service sector is becoming increasingly prominent and Ireland is no exception — employment in services increased by approximately 480,000 between 1997 and 2007. Recent figures have shown that services now represent approximately 67 percent of total employment in Ireland compared to 62 percent in 1997.

Ireland has been one of the leading countries in terms of services exports and Ireland is now ranked as the 12th highest exporter of services in the world. Between 2000 and 2006, the contribution of services to total Irish exports increased from 21 percent to 39.7 percent.

Recognising the increased importance of services worldwide and for Ireland, as well as the increased international tradability of services, Forfás established a dedicated Services Strategy Group. From the work of this group we intend to prepare and position Irish enterprise to adapt to the globalisation of services with the aim of achieving sustainable and competitive services enterprise in Ireland. The report, which is expected to be finalised shortly, will outline a vision and strategy on how to achieve sustainable and competitive services provision in Ireland based on three strategic imperatives:

(i) Increasing Ireland's services export base;

(ii) Growing a cadre of Irish services companies that can expand into international markets (Overseas Direct Investment); and

(iii) Developing productive and competitive locally traded services including their globalisation potential.

In considering the problems impacting on economic activity, be it on a sectoral or global basis, the ability to compete is recognised by all as being central to any strategy for future success. Innovation and the productivity gains that flow from it are the new foundations for that competitiveness. "The Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation" is clear about the types and levels of support that must be given to the most significant drivers of our economic well being, namely manufacturing and internationally traded services firms. Whilst different challenges face enterprises in both sectors, our development agencies are committed to bringing about a transformational change to company attitudes to R&D and we are focussing on an ambitious target to grow business expenditure on R&D to €2.5bn by 2013.

World Trade Negotiations.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

20 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he is taking to ensure a positive outcome for Ireland in the current World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16465/08]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

36 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions he or his Department has engaged in at European level to advance Ireland’s interests in the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16466/08]

Áine Brady

Ceist:

41 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on meetings undertaken by him or his Department with European counterparts in advance of the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16457/08]

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

51 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he is taking to defend Irish economic interests in the World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16467/08]

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

74 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will report on the discussions he or his Department have had with Commissioner Mandelson on the World Trade Organisation talks; if the Commissioner’s understanding of Irish concerns with regard to the World Trade Organisation talks was adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16464/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 36, 41, 51 and 74 together.

Discussions on the WTO's Doha Development round have been continuing since 2001. The aim of the negotiations is to liberalise trade, that is, improve access to the markets of WTO members in areas such as agriculture, manufactured goods and internationally traded services as well as examining ways of streamlining and strengthening WTO rules. What should not be lost sight of in public debate about the talks, is the overriding objective of the Round to ensure a strong development dimension to help poorer countries develop faster and help raise the living standards of all developing economies. On behalf of the EU, the Commission has the lead role in negotiating on behalf of Member States.

The talks have been making slow progress, in fits and starts for the past 7 years. At every step of the negotiating process we have made it patently clear that we support a successful conclusion of the Round, but only on the basis of a fair and balanced outcome for all sides. This includes a deal that recognises and respects our national interests. It must be remembered that previous WTO rounds of trade liberalization have greatly benefited our economy and have provided an encouraging, stable and predictable trading environment for our exporters.

Earlier this year, the Government noticed a tangible change in both the pace of progress on the talks and the mood of ambition to complete the Round this year. With the talks likely to enter a new and critical phase, I and other Government Ministers, especially my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food accelerated and intensified our engagement, discussions and direct contact with those who represent us at the negotiations in Geneva or who could in any way influence the process in areas where we have vital concerns and interests to promote.

I would like to set out some of the extensive Ministerial, diplomatic and official activities underway to keep our vital economic and agriculture interests at the top of the negotiators list of considerations. Over the past 3 months I have met with the Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy and with each the chairmen of three key negotiating groups within the talks, namely Ambassadors Falconer, Stephenson and De Mateo covering Agriculture, NAMA and Services, respectively. I also travelled to meet trade Ministers in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia (because that important country is President of the EU Council) and I have discussed our concerns with the UK's Trade Minister. Along with Minister Coughlan we also had a very useful meeting with the French Agriculture Minister to cement our strong mutual WTO interests on the agriculture front.

At the end of February, I met with Commissioner Mandelson and told him in straight terms that the direction of the talks he is spearheading for the EU, is not delivering a fair and balanced outcome for us. Furthermore Minister Coughlan has more recently met with her Ministerial counterparts in other EU Member States such as Poland, France and Germany and at Agriculture Council meetings, to forge alliances with others who share our concerns about where the talks are leading. Ministers are at the forefront in presenting and pressing our vital WTO interests at every opportunity and only yesterday Minister Coughlan met with Commissioner Mandelson to further express our perspective about the agriculture issues emerging from the WTO.

Recently at official visits to the country of Chancellor Merkel and Commissioner Barroso, the Taoiseach clearly set out our concerns about how any WTO agreement, as structured, would affect our economy and employment prospects in the agriculture sector.

The WTO negotiations were also on the agenda of the March meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, when EU Foreign Ministers reconfirmed the importance of achieving a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced final outcome to the negotiations. It is important that the Deputy is also aware that my Department's officials take every opportunity, almost on a weekly basis in relevant trade committees, to reinforce our deep concern at the way the negotiations are headed and the likely impact they will have on us. Our diplomatic representations abroad, particularly at the WTO in Geneva are actively engaged in presenting our case for a balanced and ambitious conclusion to the Doha Development Round. We are using all opportunities open to us and are taking, with determination and forceful diplomacy, the discussion of an ambitious, fair and balanced WTO conclusion into every available forum.

Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 10.

Employment Rights.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

22 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the national employment rights authority will be established on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16559/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

68 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress to date in regard to the work of the national employment rights authority; when the authority will be placed on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16563/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 68 together.

The National Employment Rights Authority, or NERA, has been established on an interim basis since February 2007. The Authority will be established on a statutory basis on the enactment of new Employment Law Compliance Bill which was published on 18th March this year and will be enacted in the coming months. Department of Finance sanction was secured for a total staff complement for NERA of 141, including an increased complement of 90 Inspectors.

The Director of NERA was appointed and took up duty on 12 February 2007. The Director is supported in his role by a management team including legal and accounting expertise and an administrative staff which are now fully in place.

Considerable progress has been made in the recruitment and deployment of Inspectors over the past year with 56 of the additional 59 inspector positions now filled. The appointment of inspectors to fill the 3 remaining posts is progressing. A budget allocation of €10.8 million has been provided for NERA for 2008.

Grocery Industry.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

23 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied that the abolition of the groceries order has resulted in the reduction in prices that were forecast by his Department when the decision was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16546/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

28 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has examined the extent of food price increases since the abolition of the minimum prices order; if he has come to any conclusions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16667/08]

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

45 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on reports of recent substantial increases in prices of a range of food and forecasts that food prices will rise further by the end of 2008; if he is satisfied that sufficient protection is available to protect consumers against unwarranted price increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16565/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is considering legislative changes in view of the rapidly increasing food prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16938/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

117 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the steady increase in food process since the abolition of the minimum price groceries order; if he has proposals to address the issues arising in the short or medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16939/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 28, 45, 116 and 117 together.

Following the enactment of the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 which revoked the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 with effect from 20th March 2006, I asked the Competition Authority to review and monitor developments in the grocery sector in light of the new regulatory environment.

The Authority published two Reports earlier this month — Report No. 1 "A Description of the Structure and Operation of Grocery Retailing and Wholesaling in Ireland: 2001 to 2006" and Report No.2 "Price Trends in the Irish Retail Grocery Sector: A Description of the Evolution of Retail Grocery Prices between 2001 and 2007". The latter Report considers the impact of the removal of the Groceries Order through an examination of the evolution of aggregate retail grocery price trends between 2001 and 2007 by analysis of price data published by the CSO.

The Authority reports that during the initial nine month period, April to December 2006, following the removal of the Groceries Order, the price trends for Groceries Order items and Non-Groceries Order items behave very differently. The price trends move in opposite directions, with the price of Groceries Order items falling and the price of Non-Groceries Order items rising.

This is the first time that such a divergence between the Groceries Order items and non-Groceries Order items has occurred since 2001. The Authority's view is that this may indicate that a structural change has occurred in the price trends for Groceries Order items and Non-Groceries Order items and may reflect a period of price adjustment by retailers who were free to use price enticements to compete.

However, since the beginning of 2007 the price trends for Groceries Order items and Non-Groceries Order items appear to behave similarly, with both trends rising. Towards the end of 2007, the rise in the price of Groceries Order items is steeper and this has been attributed to the rise in world commodity prices of certain agricultural products such as wheat.

In summary, since the removal of the Groceries Order in March 2006, CSO figures for the period April 2006 to November 2007, indicate that:

the CPI (consumer price index), covering prices of all consumer goods and services, increased by 7.6%;

the price of Groceries Order items, i.e. items which were covered by the Groceries Order, increased by 3.8%;

the price of Non-Groceries Order items, i.e. items not covered by the Groceries Order, increased by 4.0%; and

the price of all grocery items (Groceries Order and Non-Groceries Order items) increased by 3.6%.

The March 2008 CPI, as published by the CSO, shows that the annual rate of inflation increased to 5% in March up from 4.8% in February and the price of food and non alcoholic beverages increased by 9.3% in the past 12 months. The price of Groceries Order and Non-Groceries Order food increased by 7.2% in the past 12 months. While the price of food covered by the Order increased by 8.4% and the price of food not covered by the Order increased by 4.0%, both categories increased by 0.8% in the month.

During the debate that surrounded the removal of the Order, I indicated that increased competition in the market should lead to prices being cheaper than they would be if the Order remained in place. I am very aware of the increase in a range of food items over the past number of months. This is not an issue particular to Ireland as rising food prices are being experienced across the world due to a number of factors including climatic, economic and demand reasons. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation has identified that the rapid expansion of the global bio fuel industry is causing fundamental changes to agricultural markets and is likely to keep the prices of agricultural commodities high over the next decade. A rise in input and transportation costs consequent on increased fuel and energy prices has also contributed to the increase in biofuel production.

Government policy insofar as the price of food to Irish consumers is concerned, is focused on promoting a competitive grocery market and raising consumer awareness in relation to the need to get the best value for money when doing their grocery shopping. In this regard, the National Consumer Agency recently carried out a Grocery Price Comparison Survey in the area of food prices. The results of the survey found that food prices are on a strong upward trend primarily due to international factors. The Agency concluded that consumers can force more competition in the grocery sector by informing themselves of the prices of products charged by different retailers and shopping around, if they have sufficient choice, and not necessarily doing a "weekly shop" in the one outlet. I understand that following the publication of its Grocery Price Comparison Survey, research carried out by the Agency indicated that a significant number of consumers have already changed their shopping behaviour based on the Survey's results. This clearly demonstrates the importance of price surveys and information campaigns of this nature in providing consumers with the necessary information so that they can make informed choices as to where they wish to purchase goods and services.

I am confident that the initiatives being undertaken by the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency, together with the vigilance of consumers themselves, will have the effect of ensuring that Irish consumers do not pay unnecessarily high prices when doing their grocery shopping.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

24 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of manufacturing and service jobs lost in each of the past five years to date in 2008; the number lost due to a lack of competitiveness or other reasons; the action taken or proposed to address the underlying causes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16668/08]

The following Table lists the number of Enterprise Agency assisted (Enterprise Ireland, IDA, Shannon Development and Údarás na Gaeltachta) full-time jobs gained and lost in the manufacturing and services sectors in each of the last five years. The data shows that while 128,913 jobs were lost in that period, 131,136 new jobs were created giving a net increase in employment of 2,223 jobs.

There are many factors that influence a firm's decision to relocate, therefore, it is not possible to determine the number of jobs which have been lost due to a loss of competitiveness. Firms adjust their plant location and utilisation strategies to address matters such as accessing new markets, moving production nearer to customers, meeting firm or market specific customer relationship issues, accessing technology and also includes business takeovers, consolidations. This results in flows of investment and employment across borders. Ireland successfully manages this process, through our policies on enterprise and foreign direct investment. These policies have enabled us to win many prestigious and value added investments, and have enabled us to replace lost jobs with others of equal or higher value in the economy.

The offshoring of lower value-added functions is, however, part of the reality of modern global manufacturing for a highly developed economy such as Ireland. While off-shoring can contribute to job losses for firms in some sectors, productivity gains achieved through off-shoring some activities also represents an opportunity to develop higher-end manufacturing and related activities domestically. The manufacturing sector in Ireland has achieved very significant increases in output, reflecting growing productivity in the sector.

Earlier this month I launched the "Report of the High Level Group on Manufacturing", on foot of a "Towards 2016" agreement to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector. The Group's report contains some 27 recommendations directed at key areas of innovation and productivity leading to transformational change, reskilling and management development for the innovative firm, increasing awareness and take up of existing supports. Innovation and the productivity gains that flow from it are the new foundations for competitiveness.

Forfás established a group to look at the challenges and opportunities faced by the services sector. From the work of this group we intend to prepare and position Irish enterprise to adapt to the globalisation of services with the aim of achieving sustainable and competitive services enterprise in Ireland. A report outlining how to maximise the future returns to Ireland from services activities in all enterprises, both current and potential, is due to be completed in the near future.

The "Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation" is clear about the types and levels of support that must be given to the most significant drivers of our economic well being, namely manufacturing and internationally traded services firms. Whilst different challenges face enterprises in both sectors, our development agencies are committed to bringing about a transformational change to company attitudes to R&D and we are focussing on an ambitious target to grow business expenditure on R&D to €2.5bn by 2013. Such an achievement will be very much in line with the terms of the EU's Lisbon Strategy goals and will place Ireland in the vanguard of countries addressing knowledge issues.

The Government is fully committed to further strengthening the competitiveness and productive capacity of the economy. Our economic policy is designed to promote competition with the co-operation of the social partners. Doing this should allow us to keep the burden of taxation low, thus helping to maintain competitiveness and to maximise our economic potential.

Employment in Enterprise Agency assisted firms

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Fulltime Jobs lost

Services

-8,884

-8,063

-7,986

-6,433

-7,385

-38,751

Manufacturing

-22,660

-18,536

-16,436

-15,675

-16,855

-90,162

All sectors

-31,544

-26,599

-24,422

-22,108

-24,240

-128,913

Fulltime jobs created

Services

8,960

11,086

11,892

13,215

11,430

56,583

Manufacturing

14,662

14,367

15,623

15,976

13,925

74,553

All sectors

23,622

25,453

27,515

29,191

25,355

131,136

Work Permits.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

25 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the proposed EU blue card scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16738/08]

The proposed Blue Card Directive is one of five complementary instruments in the area of legal migration and aims to put in place arrangements that will attract high skilled workers to the EU. Whereas at present high skills workers come to individual member States, this scheme deals with the EU essentially as a single destination.

While initiatives such as this that are designed to enhance labour market mobility within the EU are to be commended, discussions on the proposed directive are still at an early stage. My Department and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform are participating in relevant working groups in Brussels, in consultation with the Departments of Education and Science, Social and Family Affairs and Environment, Heritage and Local Government. A complete reading of the original proposal concluded recently, and a revised proposal is due to issue shortly which will reflect the views express by Member States during the working group discussions. Indications are that the proposal could be finalised by the end of this year and Government will, at that stage, make a decision on whether Ireland will adopt the Directive. In the meantime, officials of my Department will continue to take a full part in the ongoing negotiations at the working group.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

26 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will amend the green card system to encourage more highly skilled and highly qualified workers to enter the labour force here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16734/08]

According to the European Commission, Ireland is one of only ten Member States who have specific schemes for admitting highly qualified workers into its labour market. Our principal initiative in this respect is the Green Card Scheme, which I introduced in January 2007. Green Cards are granted initially for a period of 2 years, and then may be renewed indefinitely. The benefit package includes immediate family reunification, the right of access to employment for spouses and normally a pathway to long-term residency after two years. The Green Card system gives effect to an economic migration policy the purpose of which is to attract and retain the highly skilled workers needed in developing a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy.

In its first 13 months of operation (February 2007 to the end of March 2008), a total of 3,729 permits issued under the Scheme. By comparison, 2,713 permits issued in 2006 under the Work Visa/Work Authorisation Scheme, which the Green Card Scheme replaced. These figures indicate a positive take-up of the new scheme, which has enabled employers across key sectors of the Irish economy to successfully place in their enterprises highly skilled and professionally qualified employees sourced from outside of the EEA region.

The list of occupations eligible for a Green Card was identified after taking advice from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. The list includes professional and associate professional occupations where Ireland experiences skills shortages, such as in the Information and Communications Technology, Health Care, Construction, Engineering, Financial Services and Research sectors. My Department continues to work with FÁS and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs to monitor skills needs in Ireland so as to ensure that the designation of those occupational categories for the purposes of the Green Card Scheme is consistent with changing labour market requirements.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

27 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason FÁS failed to train enough people to allow the safety certificate requirement to be implemented on time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16729/08]

In 2007 FÁS provided Safe Pass Registration to 188,469 people and 17,000 people were registered under the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). FÁS has developed a number of new programmes under the CSCS including Steel Fixing, Mobile Access Tower, Shot Firing, Signing, Lighting and Guarding at Road Works, and the Location of Underground Services.

FÁS was unable to complete the development of the necessary training material for the Signing, Lighting and Guarding at Road Works programme until Chapter 8 of the Road Signage Standards was finalised in November 2007, by the National Roads Authority, the Department of Transport and the Ashbourne Roads Group. This new standard will come into full effect in October 2008. FÁS has trained over 1,500 people using the current standard. Over 80 trainers/assessors have been trained in the new standard and they are currently delivering Chapter 8 standard training throughout the country.

Over 600 participants have been trained to date in the Location of Underground Services Occupation and this training is ongoing. 200 people have been trained on Mobile Access Tower training programmes since March 2007. Training for Shot Firing has commenced; the number for training in this occupation is anticipated to be low.

FÁS is working closely with the relevant industry and regulatory bodies to minimise any delays, which may occur and to continue the development and promotion of these programmes

Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 23.

Consumer Protection.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

29 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is satisfied with the work to date of the National Consumer Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16547/08]

The National Consumer Agency was established on a statutory basis on the commencement of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 on the 1st May 2007. The Act gave the Agency a significantly expanded remit with specific functions in areas such as consumer advocacy, research, information, education and awareness and enforcement.

In the 12 months since its establishment, the Agency has been very active in the exercise of its expanded remit. For example, in the area of consumer information, the Agency has undertaken high profile campaigns to inform consumers about their rights, including the Shoppers' Rights Card and the Know your Rights campaigns which have resulted in a doubling of calls to the Agency's dedicated helpline to almost 70,000 calls in 2007 alone. In addition the Agency has produced a range of booklets to advise consumers of their rights including advice in relation to Toy Safety, Buying a Car etc.

In the area of consumer awareness, the Agency has dedicated considerable resources in the last year to raising the awareness of consumers in relation to the price that they pay for goods and services, particularly in relation to the price of grocery items. The Agency's latest Grocery Price Survey, the results of which were published at the end of February 2008, represented the most comprehensive survey of grocery prices and retail grocery outlets conducted in Ireland with the exception of the surveys carried out by the Central Statistics Office. Research carried out by the Agency has found that a significant number of consumers have already changed their shopping behaviour on the basis of the results of the Agency's surveys. The Agency is committed to continue to conduct such surveys so as to provide consumers with the necessary information to enable them to make informed choices in relation to where they can get the best value for the goods that they buy.

In the area of advocacy, the Agency has been particularly active in advocating the consumer's case on a range of issues and with a number of different traders. In this regard, the Agency successfully negotiated on behalf of 2,500 concertgoers with the promoter of a concert for varying levels of compensation arising out of difficulties experienced at that concert. The Agency also successfully intervened to advocate on behalf of consumers who had booked flights to the USA at a particular price which the airline was not prepared to honour. The Agency is currently advocating on behalf of broadband users and is working in co-operation with the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland and the Communications Regulator to address difficulties in relation to the manner in which broadband services are advertised, particularly in the areas of service delivery and performance. Another advocacy initiative undertaken by the Agency was the establishment of its Stakeholder Forum on Multi Unit Developments. The aim of the Forum is, through the involvement of the various stakeholders, to try to address some of the problems being experienced by dwellers of Multi Unit Developments. As a result of the work of the Forum, the Agency hopes to publish specific Guidance and Educational material to assist Multi Unit Development dwellers.

In the area of research, the Agency has commissioned a major piece of research in relation to the home construction industry and the problems faced by consumers in relation to certain aspects of that industry. The Agency expects to publish the results of this research before the end of the year.

As regards enforcement, the Agency has sought to concentrate its enforcement efforts in those areas where there is greatest consumer detriment. A particular focus has been placed on the area of "car clocking" which is of serious concern. The Agency successfully prosecuted one car dealer and obtained a formal undertaking from another dealer to cease the practice of car clocking and to compensate customers who had been adversely affected by the practice. The Agency intends that car clocking will continue to be a priority. The Agency has also been very active in the area of product safety and in particular in relation to the process of product recalls. The Agency has focused particularly on toy safety and in this regard recently convened a major seminar on toy safety.

As regards other enforcement activity, the Agency has successfully prosecuted 11 traders for breaches of Consumer legislation and served 12 fixed payment notices since the commencement of the Consumer Protection Act in May 2007.

I am satisfied that the Agency is embracing the full breadth of its statutory remit and is acting as a forceful advocate on behalf of consumers. I wish to pay tribute to the Agency and its staff for the manner in which they are redressing the balance of power more towards the consumers. I am confident that the Agency, working on behalf of Irish consumers, will ensure that the consumers' interests will continue to be at the forefront of the national agenda.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

30 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility, remaining to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; the number of reasoned opinions received from the EU Commission since 2002 regarding delays or non-implementation of such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16564/08]

There are currently a total of fifteen Directives due to be transposed by my Department up to 2012. Four of these Directives are currently overdue.

Directive 2005/56/EC on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies is scheduled to be transposed by 30 May 2008.

Directive 2007/13/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to common provisions for both measuring instruments and methods of metrological control is scheduled for transposition by 11 May 2008.

Directives 2007/3/EC and 2007/4/EC on textile names are being transposed by a pair of statutory instruments. This transposition should be complete by 2 May 2008.

My Department has received 24 Reasoned Opinions from the European Commission related to Directives since 2002. The outstanding issues concerning all but one of these Directives have been resolved satisfactorily.

On 23 October 2007, twelve Member States, including Ireland, received a Reasoned Opinion concerning the implementation of Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances as amended by Directive 2003/105/EC (known as the Seveso Directive). Since then considerable progress has been achieved and reported to the EU Commission. Measures are being taken to ensure full compliance as soon as possible.

Economic Competitiveness.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

31 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he is taking to ensure that price competitiveness of industry here is improved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16718/08]

Tackling high and increasing costs is a challenge and there are no simple solutions. International commodity prices such as oil and gas are outside our control. It is important, however, to ensure that our domestic cost base does not undermine competitiveness.

The Government's last three budgets have been clearly non inflationary as a measure to help the cost environment for business. The pursuit of 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. The Government is playing its part in influencing inflationary trends by implementing responsible fiscal policies, promoting stronger competition and strengthening consumer protection.

In the context of the Social Partnership pay talks, wage price increases can severely damage competitiveness, therefore it will be critical to ensure that labour costs are managed so as to enhance productivity, support employment creation and to safeguard competitiveness.

Strengthened resources and a firm mandate for the Competition Authority is helping deliver more competition in the economy, particularly as the Authority's investigation activities begin to make an impact on sectors where competition is not as keen as required by a modern economy.

Enhancing competition in domestic services sectors is important to improve cost competitiveness. With regard to broadband costs, government policy, e.g. MANs and the Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) has assisted the stimulation of competition in the provision of internet services. There is strong cross-platform competition within the Irish broadband market and there are currently an estimated 80 (ISPs) Internet Service Providers.

Government energy policy envisages a programme of prioritised change to the electricity industry aimed at enhancing competitiveness, sustainability and market operations. My colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has asked the management of ESB to engage with the Group of Unions on the closure and/or divestment of power stations as agreed in the CER-ESB Asset Strategy. This measure will have the effect of reducing ESB's market share of the generation market to under 40% on an all-island basis and thus ensure the development of a competitive electricity market across the island of Ireland.

The enterprise development agencies are pursuing a number of initiatives aimed at facilitating client companies to reduce their energy costs by adopting economically sound energy efficiency systems.

Representatives of my Department have established a forum with the Commission for Energy Regulation that includes the Enterprise Development Agencies. The forum seeks to ensure that the issues of concern to enterprise are identified and communicated to the Regulator.

Regarding international price competitiveness, because much of Ireland's trade is outside the euro area, our enterprise development agencies are providing specialised assistance to Irish exporters to focus on developing into the euro-area and emerging markets to win new export sales. Our export promotion policies are exerting a direct and positive influence on the ability of Irish exporters to grow their overseas business. Active measures are also being taken to improve the capabilities of indigenous firms in meeting global competition by greater investment in innovation and other value enhancing activities. Becoming more innovation intensive on the basis of a clear market and customer focus leads to products and services that are better able to withstand purely cost based competitive pressures.

The Government will publish an Innovation Policy Statement shortly, highlighting progress made on a broad range of innovation policy areas, both technological and non-technological, and emphasising how innovative policies will be advanced in the coming years. The Statement complements the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation launched in 2006.

Productivity growth is essential to enabling pay increases in firms while maintaining cost competitiveness. To support the continued growth of productivity, our policies are aimed at improving productivity across a range of platforms (human capital, R&D and innovation, infrastructure investment, skills and education). Examples of policies include Enterprise Ireland's Growth Fund and the County Enterprise Board's Tech Check Programme.

The Growth Fund launched in early 2008 is the successor to the Productivity Improvement Fund. The Growth Fund supports Enterprise Ireland SME clients taking on an innovative market-led development plan to increase sales and develop exports through improving their productivity and competitiveness. Funding is available to support a range of activities.

The "Tech-Check" Programme launched in April 2007, provides small businesses with the opportunity to access a highly subsidised independent technology check-up and help them to identify ways to boost their productivity and profitability through the better use of technology. This Programme is being delivered by the County and City Enterprise Board and some 850 of these have been carried out up to the end of 2007.

The Government is very conscious of the need to control costs in order to maintain competitiveness. Through the National Development Plan, our taxation and regulatory policies, the government are committed to putting in place an environment for enterprise that remains among the most favourable in the world. We have the advantage of still being one of the most competitive small countries in the world.

Job Losses.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

32 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of redundancies notified to his Department during 2007; the way this compares with the same period in each year from 2002 to 2006; the numbers notified to date in 2008; if he is concerned at the reported increase in the number of redundancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16544/08]

The numbers of actual redundancies notified to my Department for the years 2002-2008 are as follows:

Actual Redundancies 2002-2008

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Actual

24,432

25,769

25,041

23,156

23,684

25,459

7,968

% Increase/Decrease on previous year

51.9%

5.5%

-2.8%

-7.5%

2.3%

7.5%

These figures show the number of employees on whose behalf claims were submitted for statutory redundancy lump sum payments. They do not reflect those who lost their jobs with less than two years service in an employment.

I have no control over the number of redundancies that occur at any given time. Naturally I am concerned at any trend that indicates greater than normal volatility in the labour market. However, it must be remembered that redundancy — as recorded in these statistics — does not equate with unemployment.

The number of redundancies over the period in question has fluctuated year on year. The number of people in employment has increased significantly since 2002. Redundancy is a risk associated with employment and the risk has increased from an average annual risk prior to 2002 of 0.787% to 1.34% for the period 2002-2006.

Tax Code.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

33 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the lengthening of the ten year look back period for the research and development tax credit that applies to the pharmaceutical industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16764/08]

The Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013 sets out ambitious targets for placing Ireland firmly on the global map in terms of the excellence of our research and its application for the benefit of our people and our economy. We are investing in Ireland's R&D infrastructure and human capital as the cornerstone underpinning our future competitive place in the world. It is a challenging goal given that we were starting from a relatively low base vis-à-vis EU and OECD peers. The Strategy provides us with the means to achieve convergence, coherence and complementarity in our national innovation system and to ensure maximum economic and social benefits are derived from the Government's commitment of €8.2 billion to this area under the National Development Plan. This Strategy is a critical vehicle to enhance Ireland's R&D performance which will contribute positively to the overall Lisbon goal of approaching 3% of EU GDP spend on R&D, two thirds of which should come from industry.

One of the most important mechanisms in encouraging R&D within industry is the R&D tax credit scheme. The R&D tax credit scheme is specifically designed to reward increased expenditure on R&D by allowing companies a tax credit of 20% of the increase in qualifying R&D spend as compared with such expenditure in a base year. The base year has been set as 2003.

It is a general tax measure and applies equally to all companies regardless of sector, including the pharmaceutical sector. Following further improvements to the scheme in Finance Act 2008, which fixed the 2003 base year for a further 4 years to 2013, qualifying R&D expenditure incurred by a company in any year to 2013 will qualify for a tax credit where it represents an increase over the amount incurred in the 2003 base year. This change provides an additional incentive for incremental expenditure on R&D in future years and offers more certainty to industry in relation to the tax credit scheme.

For the years after 2013, the base year will move forward by one year and there will be a 10-year gap on a "look back" basis between the year in which the tax credit is claimed and the base year expenditure used for calculating the credit. Thus, for claims made under the scheme in respect of 2014, the base year will be 2004 and for 2015 the base year will be 2005 and so on.

The planning period for R&D is likely to vary from sector to sector: the average R&D cycle for product research programmes can extend to 8 years and a longer period can apply in certain industries such as in the pharmaceutical sector. Recognising this reality, the enhanced ten-year look-back period is intended to provide a reasonable timeframe for incremental R&D spend for enterprise to be rewarded through the tax system. Greater certainty is created for the investment decisions of companies and a realistic time period for R&D projects is also offered, which is important given that such projects often take a number of years to develop. This will encourage companies to invest more in R&D. This ten-year look-back period provides certainty critical to longer-term investment decisions, which is particularly important for research in the pharmaceutical sector. I believe that the ten-year period is an important enhancement to the overall support for R&D in companies and will accommodate the planning of most R&D cycles.

More generally, the R&D tax credit scheme now assists, along with other incentives, in making Ireland a more attractive location for companies to carry out additional business and also helps Ireland retain existing activities in an increasingly competitive international environment. It can have a key role to play in developing and attracting high value-added projects, which are essential to the development of a knowledge-based economy.

Joint Labour Committees.

Damien English

Ceist:

34 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the impact the recent High Court settlement between the Labour Court and the Irish Hotel’s Federation will have on joint labour committees and registered employment agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16711/08]

Liz McManus

Ceist:

59 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the implications for the operation of the Joint Labour Committees of the decision of the High Court to quash the order made by the Joint Committee for the Hotel Industry fixing minimum wage levels for workers in that sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16558/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 59 together.

I have noted the decision reached in the High Court on 7 February to quash the Employment Regulation Order, relating to minimum remuneration of workers, made by the Labour Court on foot of proposals from the Hotel Joint Labour Committee on 5 November 2007, and to remit the matter back to the Joint Labour Committee.

The implications of the issues raised during the course of the action have required further reflection by the Hotels Joint Labour Committee, the Labour Court and by my Department. I understand that Draft proposals for a new Employment Regulation Order for the Hotels sector were published on 16th April. A three week period is allowed for representations to the Hotels Joint Labour Committee with regard to the proposals, and a meeting of the Committee to consider any representations has been arranged for 8th May next.

Active consideration of any legislative changes that may be necessary to protect the integrity of the JLC system and that of Registered Employment Agreements is also under way in my Department.

I would like to assure Deputies of the Government's ongoing commitment to ensuring that there are adequate systems and processes in place to underpin employment standards.

Competition Authority.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

35 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of recommendations made to Government by the Competition Authority since 2002 to date in 2008; the number of recommendations that were enacted in full by Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16754/08]

In addition to its law enforcement and merger regulation functions under the Competition Act 2002, the Competition Authority has a duty to promote competition. One way in which the Authority fulfils this statutory duty is by studying how competition operates in the economy and making recommendations as it considers appropriate.

In reports by the Competition Authority between 2002 and 2008, relating to formal studies undertaken, the Authority has made 54 recommendations to specific Government Ministers/Departments. Of these:

7 recommendations have been implemented,

14 recommendations are being progressed,

5 recommendations do not require action at this time (because they are contingent on particular circumstances which have not arisen), and

28 other recommendations are outstanding/under consideration.

The Authority keeps progress on the implementation of its recommendations under review and as part of this process it engages with those bodies to whom the recommendations are directed with a view to their future implementation. I would advise the Deputy that not all Authority recommendations are directed to Government or to specific Ministers. Many of the recommendations are directed to Statutory Regulators or to non-Governmental bodies and have been implemented.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 20.

World Trade Negotiations.

Niall Collins

Ceist:

37 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the main obstacles to a comprehensive World Trade Organisation agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16451/08]

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

44 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether a balanced outcome is possible at the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16463/08]

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

54 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the European Union External Trade Commissioner has exceeded his mandate in relation to World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16470/08]

Margaret Conlon

Ceist:

66 Deputy Margaret Conlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is concern at developments relating to the World Trade Organisation and that, specifically, there is dismay at the negotiating position being adopted by Commissioner Mandelson; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16468/08]

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

70 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on developments with regard to the World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16469/08]

Niall Collins

Ceist:

73 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has confidence in the stance taken by European Trade Commissioner, Mr. Peter Mandelson, with regard to the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16452/08]

Áine Brady

Ceist:

75 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he agrees with the views of the Irish Farmer’s Association on the threat posed to the economy here by the stance being taken by Commissioner Mandelson on the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16456/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 44, 54, 66, 70, 73 and 75 together.

Talks on the WTO Doha Development Round have been making slow progress since they commenced in 2001. The process inevitably extends over a very lengthy timeframe because of the multiple concerns that 151 WTO members bring to the process and where the outcome is based on consensus. Negotiations are exceptionally complicated not only because of the huge number of countries involved, but also because of the different interests, needs and expectations each of them bring to the table. In addition to compromises that have to be worked out in the key negotiating pillars on agriculture, industrial products, services, trade facilitation etc., considerable trade-offs and agreements have to be reached on concessions by both developed and developing economies. This Round is distinctively different from earlier ones because the development needs of less well off countries are given a special priority.

While there is a tangible change in the mood for and ambition to complete the round this year, negotiations are still very far from complete. In two of the most critical aspects of the talks, on agricultural and non agricultural produce, new texts and options will be issued by the chairs of these negotiating groups later this month or in early May. Whether the round will be completed this year or not I cannot say because there is an enormous amount of work still to be undertaken. The complete round includes other elements that are important to help reduce or remove obstacles that inhibit moving a small step closer to the type of free trade that our exporters benefit from for example in EU trade. It is only when all aspects of the talks have been agreed as a single undertaking will we see how effective our negotiators have been in securing a fair and balanced outcome for both Ireland and the other 26 Member States of the EU.

The talks have to make more progress on delivering better market access opportunities for our broad enterprise sector. The success of our manufacturing and services exporters have made an enormous contribution to economic growth. Much of our trade is with markets in developed countries where trade liberalization has been more advanced. Our exporters are increasingly looking to strong, emerging economies where there is significant dynamic growth. We are looking to the WTO negotiations to help support our well established enterprise policy objectives by bringing about important tariff reductions and providing our manufacturing and services entrepreneurs with greater market access opportunities with lower costs.

In this context the EU's Trade Commissioner Mr. Peter Mandelson conducts trade negotiations on behalf of the European union on the basis of a mandate given to him by the Council of Ministers. In addition to meeting him personally to present our interests in the round, he attends EU Council of Ministers meetings at which the WTO talks are discussed. I know he understands very well the problems Ireland faces given the current direction of the negotiations because the Government uses every public and private opportunity to reiterate forcefully the needs for an equitable and balanced outcome from the Geneva talks.

At the moment, however, there is considerable uncertainty about what could eventually be agreed in Geneva. While there has been extensive public comment about what the WTO talks will mean for Ireland, I think it is too early to be precise about the impact on either the economy generally or many of its important sectors, including agriculture. If, however, some of the proposals circulating in Geneva were to arise I am very concerned about what this would mean for our farming sector. While I have not seen the assumptions underlying the analysis prepared by the Irish Farmers Association, I share their overall interest in wanting a Doha Round that does not irreparably damage Irish agriculture, recognizes the structural reforms that have already taken place under CAP Reform and ensures that the sacrifices already made by the EU agri sector are acknowledged.

I and my Government colleagues, have consistently and vigorously urged the EU Commission to work for a balanced agreement that is not at the expense of either EU or Irish agriculture. We believe this is possible if moderation can be applied to the extreme impacts that some Geneva ideas could mean for us and if the Commission aims for ambitious opportunities in other areas such as wider ranging market access and lower trade barriers for services and non agricultural products. However as things stand I cannot see the necessary, critical balance of benefits that would bring us the broader benefits we hope for. I would hope that the new texts promised by the Chairmen of Agriculture and NAMA negotiating groups will reduce our concerns about where the negotiations are currently taking us in terms of the direct and significant agricultural impact for Ireland, while setting a more exciting and liberal trading environment for the main drivers of our economy in manufacturing and services.

National Minimum Wage.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

38 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the decline from 2002 in 2006 to 1750 in 2007 in the number of inspections to check that the minimum wage was being paid; if there are plans to increase the number of such inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16568/08]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

39 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of labour inspectors employed by the National Employment Rights Authority; the number of labour inspectors available for assignment on normal duties; the number of labour inspectors in training following recruitment; the status of the recruitment campaign to increase the labour inspectorate to 90 inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16566/08]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

60 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for the 9% decline in the number of workplace inspections carried out by labour inspectors in 2007, compared to 2006; the plans to increase the number of such inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16567/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 39 and 60 together.

In accordance with commitments given under Towards 2016, the Social Partnership Agreement, the number of Inspectors was scheduled to increase from 31 to 90 inspectors by the end of 2007.

Competitions were held in 2007 for the recruitment of the additional fifty-nine Inspectors provided for under the Social Partnership Agreement Towards 2016. Fifty- six inspectors have been assigned to NERA from these competitions.

All fifty-six inspectors have completed NERA Inspection Services Introductory Training Programme and are currently undertaking further training, including on-the-job training with experienced inspectors. This involves working with experienced inspectors in carrying out inspections and other associated enquiries at places of work with a view to determining compliance with certain employment rights legislation.

Assignment of the three remaining Inspectors selected in the competitions is ongoing and it is intended that these Inspectors will commence training immediately upon arrival. Five of the original 31 inspectors have left NERA either on promotion or as a result of internal and external Departmental transfers. As a result, the total number of NERA inspectors currently stands at eighty-two. A further recruitment process is being organised to replace the five inspectors and to fill other vacancies as they arise.

The number of calls/visits/inspections undertaken by NERA inspectors to check compliance in 2007 amounted to 14,425. Of these inspections no breaches were detected in 8,556 cases while breaches were detected in 2,353 cases. The number of calls/visits/inspections in 2006 amounted to 15,855. Of these inspections, no breaches were detected in 10,113 cases while breaches were detected in 2,108 cases.

The number of inspections undertaken by NERA inspectors to check compliance with National Minimum Wage legislation in 2007 amounted to 1,942. Of these inspections no breaches were detected in 1,750 cases while breaches were detected in 192 cases. The number of inspections in 2006 amounted to 2,002. Of these inspections, no breaches were detected in 1,898 cases while breaches were detected in 104 cases.

Insofar as comparisons with 2006 and previous years are concerned, I am advised by the National Employment Rights Authority that there are three main reasons for the comparatively lower number of inspections generally carried out in 2007.

Firstly, NERA Inspection Services undertook a comprehensive and extensive employment rights compliance campaign in the construction sector during June and July of 2007. The nature of the Construction Sector in terms of mobility, places of employment (headquarters and sites) and numbers of employees dictated a specific approach from NERA Inspection Services in order to optimise effectiveness. This approach was resource intensive in terms of inspector numbers, planning, intelligence gathering and liaison with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs in relation to joint investigations and the exchange of data. This campaign necessarily resulted in the diversion of resources for a considerable period from inspection activity in sectors that would be less demanding in terms of inspection planning, liaison and duration. However, the approach adopted for the Construction Campaign was extremely successful. Some €1.3 million was secured by NERA Inspection Services for employees arising from breaches detected.

Secondly, recruitment processes and training plans had to be put in place for the recruitment of 59 new inspectors in line with the commitment given under Towards 2016, the Social Partnership Agreement. Successful candidates were identified for the 59 additional posts and twenty new inspectors were assigned during 2007. Again, this recruitment and training was resource intensive and the influx of the 20 new inspectors within such a short timeframe required a strong commitment from existing inspectors in terms of training, mentoring and other supports and diverted resources from inspection activity during that period.

Thirdly, there has been a substantial training investment in existing inspectors which has limited somewhat their availability for day to day inspection work. This investment will continue in 2008, but it is not expected to impact on the overall service in terms of inspection activity.

Notwithstanding the reduction in the number of employment rights inspections/visits compared to the same period in 2006, it should be noted that the outcomes in a number of respects are extremely positive. Firstly, over €2.5 million in arrears due to employees was recovered by NERA Inspection Services in 2007 compared to €1.4 million for 2006. Secondly, 2,353 breaches were detected by Inspection Services in 2007 compared to 2,108 for 2006. Thirdly, 28 prosecutions were initiated by Inspection Services in 2007 compared to 8 for 2006. These outcomes point to the value of the more focused and targeted activities being undertaken by NERA in relation to employment rights promotion and compliance.

Job Creation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs he expects to be created during 2008 in regard to manufacturing and other sectors; the way these compare to figures for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16548/08]

Employment growth, i.e. the excess of jobs created over jobs lost, is expected to continue to be positive in 2008, though growing at a slower pace than in previous years. In the Budget Outlook employment is forecast to grow by over 1% (24,000) in 2008 for all sectors. Employment increased by 66,800 year on year in 2007 (CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 4) and the number of people in employment is now 2,138,900. It is generally accepted that the rate of growth experienced over the past few years could not continue and the economy is now entering a period of adjustment.

Employment has increased in most sectors, apart from other production industries and construction, when comparing data year on year (Q4, 2006 to Q4, 2007) as per the following table.

Sector

Q3 2007

Q4, 2007

Qtr on Qtr changes

Q4 2006

Year on year changes

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

116,700

118,700

+2,000

114,700

+4,000

Other production industries

301,700

290,700

-11,000

294,900

-4,200

Construction

283,200

279,000

-4,200

284,600

-5,600

Wholesale and retail trade

310,400

311,600

+1,200

287,800

+23,800

Hotels and restaurants

138,400

132,300

-6,100

124,000

+8,300

Transport, storage and communication

121,700

120,800

-900

116,800

+4,000

Financial and other business services

294,200

297,100

+2,900

276,200

+20,900

Public administration and defence

109,100

105,000

-4,100

102,500

+2,500

Education

129,200

139,100

+9,900

138,100

+1,000

Health

219,300

221,300

+2,000

210,700

+10,600

Other services

122,100

123,300

+1,200

121,800

+1,500

Total

2,146,000

2,138,900

-7,100

2,072,100

+66,800

Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q4, 2007.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 20.

Official Engagements.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

42 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Government Ministers from non-OECD countries he has met in an official capacity since his appointment as Minister; the date of the meeting; the location of the meeting; if he raised concerns regarding human rights or lack of democracy with them in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16771/08]

Table 1 and Table 2 as follows list the Ministers from non-OECD countries that I have met in my official capacity as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The tables also list the dates and locations of these meetings.

These meetings were arranged to discuss specific issues, including some of the following topics, depending on the circumstances, i.e. Bilateral Trade, Economic cooperation, World Trade Organisation matters, EU issues, Scientific and Technological cooperation, Foreign Direct Investment, Joint Initiatives between Governments, Legislative initiatives and other related matters which come within my remit as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Issues such as Human Rights or lack of democracy in other countries were not raised at these Ministerial meetings.

Table 1: Non OECD Ministers met by Minister Martin during outward visits.

Minister Met

Date

Location

H.E Bo Xilai, Minister for Commerce

18/01/05

China

H.E Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.

18/01/05

China

H.E Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China.

19/01/05

China

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India

19/01/06

India

H.E Mandisi Mphahlwa, Minister for Trade and Industry.

20/09/06

South Africa

H.E Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Minister for Trade and Industry.

06/11/07

Egypt

H.E Dr. Tarek Kamel, Minister for Communications and IT.

07/11/07

Egypt

H.E Hany Mahfouz Hilal, Minister for Higher Education.

07/11/07

Egypt

H.E Al Yamani, Minister for Commerce.

15/01/07

United Arab Emirates

H.E Sheikha Lubna Al Quasimi, Minister for Economy & Planning

17/01/07

United Arab Emirates

Table 2: Non OECD Ministers met by Minister Martin during Inward visits to Ireland.

Minister Met

Date

Location

H.E. Boris Tarasyuk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

08/02/06

Ireland

H.E Luiz Fernando Furlan, Minister for Development, Industry and Foreign Trade of Brazil.

09/05/06

Ireland

H.E Omar Davies, Jamaican Minister for Finance

5/07/06

Ireland

H.E Hassan Fakhro, Minister for Industry and Commerce of Bahrain.

26/07/06

Ireland

H.E Emilia Maslarova, Minister for Labour and Social Policy of Bulgaria.

01/11/06

Ireland

H.E Petras Vaitiekunas, Lithuanian Foreign Minister

21/11/06

Ireland

H.E Ma Xiuhong, Vice Minister of MOFCOM, People’s Republic of China.

26/06/06

Ireland

H.E YU Guangzhou, First Vice Minister of Commerce, People’s Republic of China.

13/12/07

Ireland

H.E Branko Vukelic, Minister for Economy, Labour and Entrepreneurship of Croatia.

25/04/06

Ireland

H.E Romain Murenzi, Minister for Science and Technology of Rwanda. H.E Rosemary Museminali, Minister of State for Development Co-operation

05/03/08

Ireland

H.E Hashim bin Abdullah bin Hashim Al-Yamani,Minister for Commerce and Industry of Saudi Arabia.

27/06/07

Ireland

EU Directives.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

43 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the EU Directive on the Posting of Workers, as referenced in the recent European Court of Justice ruling on a case in Lower Saxony, Germany, could have a negative impact on the protection of the minimum wage here. [16604/08]

On 3 April 2008, the European Court of Justice issued a judgement in a case between Mr Dirk Rüffert, a company liquidator, and Land Niedersachsen, a public authority in Germany.

The background to this case is that a public construction contract was awarded to a German company, of which Mr Dirk Rüffert is the liquidator, by the public authority. The German company undertook to abide by relevant collective agreements and to ensure that sub-contractors did likewise. The company engaged a Polish sub-contractor PKZ that was subsequently found to be in breach of a collective agreement relating to public sector construction contracts. The works contract was terminated following a criminal investigation and legal proceedings commenced between the public authority and Mr Rüffert to determine whether the German company was required to pay a contractual penalty amounting to €849,343 for breach of its undertaking concerning rates of pay.

The Regional Court held that a contractual penalty of €84,934 applied, but this was appealed to the Higher Regional Court, which referred certain issues to the European Court of Justice.

The Posted Workers Directive requires a Member State to ensure that a worker posted to its territory from an undertaking in another Member State is guaranteed the terms and conditions of employment, in respect of certain matters, that employees are guaranteed under the law of that Member State. The European Court of Justice found that the rate of pay provided for in the collective agreement relating to public sector construction contracts was not fixed in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Posted Workers Directive. Although Germany has a system for declaring collective agreements to be of universal application, no such declaration appears to have been made in respect of the collective agreement in question.

The judgement, which issued on 3 April last, is currently being considered by Member States. It appears that the judgement is quite case-specific and hinged on the failure of the German authorities to give universal application status to the collective agreement, even though procedures for doing so existed. I am satisfied that the transposition of the Posted Workers Directive in Ireland — through the Protection of Employees (Part-time Work) Act 2001 — is robust in its protection of the employment rights, including minimum wage requirements, of posted workers in Ireland.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 37.
Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 23.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

46 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice in the Ruffert case in Lower Saxony, Germany. [16603/08]

On 3 April 2008, the European Court of Justice issued a judgement in a case between Mr Dirk Rüffert, a company liquidator, and Land Niedersachsen, a public authority in Germany.

The background to this case is that a public construction contract was awarded by the public authority to a German company called Objekt und Bauregie, of which Mr Dirk Rüffert is the liquidator. The German company undertook to abide by relevant collective agreements and to ensure that sub-contractors did likewise. The company engaged a Polish sub-contractor called ‘PKZ that was subsequently found to be in breach of a collective agreement relating to public sector construction contracts. The works contract was terminated following a criminal investigation and legal proceedings commenced between the public authority and Mr Rüffert to determine whether the German company was required to pay a contractual penalty amounting to €849,343 for breach of its undertaking concerning rates of pay.

The Regional Court held that a contractual penalty of €84,934 applied, but this was appealed to the Higher Regional Court, which referred certain issues to the European Court of Justice.

The European Court of Justice found that the rate of pay provided for in the collective agreement relating to public sector construction contracts was not fixed in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Posted Workers Directive. The Posted Workers Directive requires a Member State to ensure that a worker posted to its territory from an undertaking in another Member State is guaranteed the terms and conditions of employment, in respect of certain matters, that employees are guaranteed under the law of that Member State.

The judgement, which issued on 3 April last, is currently being considered by Member States. It appears that the judgement is quite case-specific and hinged on the failure of the German authorities to give universal application status to the collective agreement, even though procedures for doing so existed. I am satisfied that the transposition of the Posted Workers Directive in Ireland — through the Protection of Employees (Part-time Work) Act 2001 — is robust in its protection of the employment rights, including minimum wage requirements, of posted workers in Ireland.

Employment Rights.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

47 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to reduce waiting times for hearings at the Employment Appeals Tribunal ; if he has had a request for additional personnel or resources from the tribunal; if these requests have been met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16562/08]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent body under the aegis of the Department. As an independent body, I have no role in relation to the day-to-day operation of the Tribunal.

I understand that the Tribunal continues to target areas of the country where the waiting time is longest. Progress has been made in reducing the waiting period. Currently the average waiting period for areas outside Dublin is 36 weeks compared to a high of 54 weeks in early 2007. The waiting period in Dublin is currently 14 weeks compared to a high of 27 weeks in early 2007. I understand the Tribunal will continue to target areas of the country with particular regard to the volume of cases on hand.

Extra resources have been assigned by the Department to the Tribunal in line with the Social Partnership Agreement, "Towards 2016" where the Government undertook to increase resources to the employment rights bodies. An increase of 8 staff was agreed for the Tribunal. To date 5 extra staff has been deployed and a further 1 will be assigned on 12 May. The direct effect of these extra staff has been to allow an increase from 5 Tribunal divisions per day each week in early 2007 to 7 and 8 Tribunal divisions per day per week since January 2008.

The Tribunal Chairperson has drawn attention at meetings with the Department to the need for full staff resources. I am pleased to say that the Department will be in a position to assign the remaining staff to the Tribunal in the near future, which will address the resources issue.

Workplace Accidents.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

48 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the significant increase in the number of deaths recorded in workplace accidents in the construction sector during 2007; the proposals he has to ensure a reduction in the number of construction accidents and deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16561/08]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

65 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the 34% increase in the number of deaths recorded in workplace accidents during 2007; the proposals he has to ensure a reduction in the number of workplace accidents and deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16560/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 65 together.

The number of deaths recorded in workplace accidents during 2007 was 67 compared to 51 fatalities in 2006. Of these, 18 occurred in the construction sector in 2007, an increase of 5 on the 2006 figures.

In terms of injuries, there were over 7,000 non-fatal work injuries overall reported to the Health and Safety Authority in 2007. The most common non-fatal accident triggers for all sectors were handling, lifting and carrying (34%), and slips, trips and falls (18%). These have repeatedly been the two most common categories every year since 2000. However, there has been a steady decrease in the number of injuries reported to the Authority each year since 2004. Construction is one of the sectors which is repeatedly in the top three sectors which suffer the most accidents.

I am on record as having voiced the Government's concerns at the increase in fatalities in the construction sector. The Health and Safety Authority shares those concern and continues to focus its inspection and awareness campaigns on this and other high-risk sectors. Also, the Authority continues to work with employer and employee organisations to make workplace safety, health and welfare an integral part of doing business in every workplace.

The Authority's programme of work for 2008 sets out its key priorities and activities and targets a 10% increase in the number of workplace inspections this year to 17,500. In relation to the construction sector the Authority has plans to carry out 7,000 construction site inspections in 2008. Also, the Authority will continue to implement the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 and the Safe System of Work Plan (SSWP).

The Safe System of Work Plan is a system that was designed in Ireland and is aimed at reducing injuries and deaths on construction sites. The system was first introduced by the Health and Safety Authority in 2005. The initiative is based on pictograms to explain and clarify hazards and controls, thereby creating a wordless document where safety can be communicated to all workers regardless of literacy or language skills. The Safe System of Work Plan aims to focus on those in the construction industry who are most at risk, allowing them to ensure that all necessary safety controls are in place prior to the commencement of planned work. This system recently received a Taoiseach's Award for Excellence in the Public Service.

Together with the above, the Authority, following consultation with its stakeholders, has launched a comprehensive Construction Safety Code of Practice for Contractors with Three or Less Employees, which is a further tool in advocating safe practice in the workplace. I also understand that a Code of Practice on scaffolding safety is due for publication shortly.

In addition to this in 2008 the Authority plans to develop, consult on and publish codes of practice on construction anchors, pre-cast concrete and roof work.

Economic Competitiveness.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

49 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way he will support small to medium enterprises here to adapt to the changing economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16720/08]

The Irish economy continues to perform strongly in the global marketplace in an ever increasingly competitive world. Ireland's enterprise strategy is to create and sustain an environment conducive to business and to offer targeted support for enterprises to promote innovation, growth and competitiveness. Small to medium enterprises are a key component of this strategy.

Growth in global markets through the internationalisation of Irish companies is the key to wealth and employment creation in Ireland. Central to the attainment of continuous growth in exports is innovation which impacts on every facet of a business. Technological progress and new ways of doing business set new standards and make new demands of firms. A natural consequence of this change will be the introduction of new business models and the emergence of new markets. A particular focus must be on developing new knowledge and new ways of doing things as recognised in Government policies, particularly the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and the Strategy for Science, Technology & Innovation.

My Department and its agencies support small to medium enterprises in a number of direct ways. Enterprise Ireland (EI) recognises the varied challenges facing SMEs in the context of the changing environment and partners with companies to address their needs. In line with its strategy "Transforming Irish Industry 2008-2010", EI provides supports — financial and advice — aimed at developing all aspects of the critical business functions. Financial supports focus on supporting start-ups with a high potential to grow, providing comprehensive funding for R+D, driving growth and innovation capabilities and supporting major projects for large-scale development. Key programmes include:

the Innovative High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) Offer;

the R+D Funding Offer covering Stimulating Research and Innovation, the R+D Fund, Collaboration and Innovation Expertise;

the Growth Fund aimed at increasing the competitiveness of SMEs through business innovation and covering capital investment, recruitment of key managers, management development and staff training and business innovation consultancy;

the Innovation Vouchers Initiative aimed at encouraging a transfer of knowledge between Ireland's public knowledge providers and small business;

Large scale projects with significant R+D projects requiring funding in excess of €3m

Seed and Venture Capital Fund

In addition to EI, the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) provide support to small businesses or micro-enterprises with 10 employees or fewer in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at local level throughout the country. The specific types of formal CEB assistance available to micro-enterprise is broken down between financial assistance such as grants for feasibility studies, employment grants and capital grants and non-financial assistance ("soft supports") such as programmes covering business management, mentoring, e-commerce, enterprise education and women in business networks. The Tech Check Programme introduced last year is also a valuable assistance to small firms carrying out IT audits.

In 2008, the Capital allocation for the 35 CEBs stands at over €20m. This funding will enable the Boards to continue to be actively involved in the area of economic development and ensure that available funds are targeted to maximise entrepreneurial development.

The Report of the Small Business Forum highlighted the extraordinary contribution that the small business sector is making to our economy with some 250,000 small businesses operating in the economy and employing about 800,000 people. The Report contained a detailed analysis of the factors that drive the small business sector and has provided a blueprint for the further development of the sector. Considerable progress has been made on the implementation of the Report's findings, and their ongoing implementation remains a priority for Government.

I am satisfied that all of the above measures and supports will help small to medium enterprises adapt to changing economic circumstances.

Consumer Protection.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

50 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to implement the commitment in the programme for Government that steps would be taken to ensure that consumer codes of conduct are published by businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16573/08]

The Consumer Protection Act 2007 empowers the National Consumer Agency to prepare and publish Guidelines to traders in relation to matters of consumer welfare and protection and matters related to commercial practices. The Act also entitles the Agency to review or approve Codes of Practice voluntarily submitted to it by traders or their trade associations where the Agency is satisfied that the Code of Practice protects consumer interests.

As part of its stated intention to establish a strong relationship with business in order to promote a high standard of consumer protection and voluntary compliance by business with consumer law, the Agency is currently discussing the development of possible Codes of Practice with a number of businesses and their representative bodies. The Agency is also preparing Guidelines to businesses in two specific areas namely, the Retail Sector and the Health and Fitness Sector. I am advised that once it has concluded its consultations in relation to these matters, the Agency hopes to publish its final Guidelines to these sectors as soon as possible thereafter.

I very much welcome the positive approach of the National Consumer Agency in working with traders and their representative associations to develop a strong consumer culture amongst Irish business. I am confident that the development and promotion of such a culture through the initiatives embarked upon by the Agency will benefit not only consumers but businesses and the economy as a whole.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 20.

Site Investigations.

David Stanton

Ceist:

52 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 691 of 30 January 2008, the further progress that has been made with the future redevelopment of the former Irish ISPAT site in Haulbowline; if decisions have been taken on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16620/08]

In the context of the further development of the former ISPAT site, the Department of Defence has requested further consultations on the requirements of the Naval Service at Haulbowline. That consultation is proceeding.

EU Directives.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

53 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in regard to the proposed EU Directive on Agency Workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16557/08]

As the Deputy will recall, the Portuguese Presidency tabled for consideration, at the ESPHCA Council, on 5th. December 2007, proposed Directives on Temporary Agency Work and the Organisation of Working Time in its efforts to fashion an overall compromise solution by way of an integrated approach to discussions of two sensitive dossiers. Having identified the remaining issues of concern to various Member States, the Presidency was unable to progress these dossiers to a successful conclusion and concluded that the best option was to postpone a final decision on these matters.

The Government have at all times indicated that we fully support the thrust of the proposed Directive but that we are concerned that any such instrument must be balanced and respect the different traditions and practices at the national level. Thus if flexibility is to be permitted in the proposed Directive in relation to the principle of equal treatment for those countries with collective agreements which tend to be more binding in nature or legally enforceable, then other means for providing appropriate flexibility should be allowed for those Member States with a tradition of more voluntarist approaches to collective agreements.

The Slovene Presidency share the view that the Draft Directive on Temporary Agency Work is an important legislative proposal and have indicated that they are willing to take the work forward but the Presidency is not in a position to estimate when the Council's Common position on this proposal might be agreed. We understand that it may be discussed at the Council this June but there are no firm indications in this regard.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 37.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

55 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the programme of decentralisation in respect of his Department and State bodies under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16574/08]

Department Decentralisation

My Department has been making good progress in the relocation of the required 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. The following business units/Offices of my Department are earmarked for decentralisation:

Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies

National Employment Rights Authority (NERA)

Work Permits

Redundancy Payments Section

Insolvency Payments Section

Officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units opened an advance office in Carlow on July 30th 2007. The number of posts in this decentralised advance office is 100.

As well as staff already decentralised, there are 48 staff within my Department due to decentralise in the substantive move scheduled for 2009, with a further 37 Carlow-bound applicants yet to be assigned from other Departments. With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the OPW completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre for the construction of my Department's permanent office in Carlow. My colleague Minister of State Noel Ahern TD, announced on 13th December 2007 that the OPW has invited The Macquarie Partnership as the consortium to become the ‘Successful Tenderer' in respect of this decentralisation project. This forms part of a major PPP project, which also involves the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Portlaoise and the Department of Education and Science in Mullingar.

The OPW has advised my Department that the formal application for planning permission was lodged with Carlow Town Council on Friday 18th April 2008. I am hopeful, subject to no planning issues arising, that the completion of construction of the permanent office will be in late 2009.

Agency Decentralisation

Under the Government Decentralisation Programme, announced in December 2003, six of the Agencies under the aegis of my Department are due to decentralise or have already been decentralised, as follows:

FÁS

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, FÁS is due to transfer its head office including some 383 posts to Birr, County Offaly. FÁS has completed the purchase of 5.59 acres (approximately) in Birr, Co Offaly. A Planning Application for the FÁS portion of the site access road and site entrance is currently being progressed on behalf of FÁS by the vendor's Consultant Engineers and Architects, in discussion with the Consulting Engineers and Architects representing FÁS. In the meantime, since 6 May 2007 FÁS has leased a floor of a building within the Birr Technology Centre to accommodate staff in the decentralised location pending the construction and fitting out of a permanent Headquarters.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland (EI) is to move 300 posts to Shannon under the decentralisation programme. Progress on the full transfer of EI's HQ to Shannon, within the Government decentralisation programme, will be influenced by factors (many external to EI) such as the level of interest in the Shannon location expressed by CAF applicants and by progress made in discussions at a central level on various issues central to Agency decentralisation. EI's latest understanding is that there are 7 internal applicants interested in moving to Shannon. None of these has yet re-located.

In parallel with the decentralisation programme, EI has been strengthening its regional focus in recent years. EI now has a major new presence in the Shannon region in addition to its nine other regional offices. In July 2007 EI officially opened its new National Regional Development Headquarters in Shannon and has based the new County Enterprise Support Unit there. Currently there are 40 staff working in the new Shannon office and it is expected that approximately 65 EI staff will be in place there over the coming months. EI has leased high-spec office space in Westpark, Shannon, to accommodate this new Regional HQ.

In terms of acquiring a building, Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW) has identified, but not yet acquired, a preferred site for the construction of a suitably sized new HQ building in Shannon. The preferred site is a 13-acre site owned by Shannon Development. In co-operation with Shannon Development and the OPW, the site was valued and a feasibility study carried out. The site occupies a prime position in Shannon and is considered suitable for a major landmark building or civic structure.

Health and Safety Authority

The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co Kilkenny as part of the decentralisation programme. To date a total of 65 civil and public servants, including 12 Authority staff, have expressed an interest through the Central Application Facility (CAF) process in transferring to Thomastown.

In advance of decentralising to Thomastown, the Authority established an interim office in Kilkenny city. Currently, 27 staff, including 3 of the 12 internal HSA Thomastown applicants, are based in Kilkenny; it also includes new staff recruited for the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) strategy. All staff currently accommodated in the interim office will move to Thomastown once the new premises are ready for occupation.

The Commissioners of Public Works have signed a contract for sale in respect of the site in Thomastown. A condition of the contract is that the vendor obtains the appropriate zoning for the site so that the Commissioners' planned development can take place. The required change of zoning has now been granted and the sale should close shortly.

When the purchase is completed, expressions of interest for the design and build phase, will be invited from interested parties. It will be a matter for the successful tenderer to apply for planning permission at that stage. The current estimated timeline for availability for occupancy is 2009/2010.

NSAI

Under the Government's decentralisation programme the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is due to relocate to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. The number required to decentralise from the NSAI is 132. A total of 10 Dublin based staff of the NSAI have applied to decentralise to Arklow. In addition a further 86 Dublin based civil and public servants have applied for decentralisation to Arklow. No member of staff from the NSAI has transferred to Arklow to date. The accommodation requirements for the NSAI in Arklow are being addressed by the OPW. To date no progress has been made by the OPW in identifying or securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area. The current NSAI implementation plan anticipates a target date of April 2009 as the completion date.

National Consumer Agency (NCA)

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) was formally established on 1st May 2007 and inherited the functions of the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs (ODCA). The Agency will have a headquarters in Cork City. The Department of Finance has granted sanction for an overall complement of 80 members of staff. It is expected that there will be a high percentage of staff turnover as many of the existing staff, who formerly worked in ODCA and are on secondment from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, return to the Department. Decentralisation plans are being progressed with a view to the Agency relocating to Cork in the course of 2009. The Agency has recently forwarded details of its accommodation requirements to the OPW.

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA)

In the case of the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA), a decision was made prior to its establishment that it would be located in Naas, Co Kildare. Having been established in December, 2005 it moved to new offices at Naas, in January 2006. All IAASA staff have been based in its offices in Naas since its establishment, and as such the Authority is fully decentralised.

Job Protection.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

56 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the decision he has made on the request that the Government should guarantee a loan in respect of Waterford Crystal; the criteria according to which the decision was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16731/08]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

63 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals under consideration by him with respect to financial support or guarantees for a company (details supplied); his views on whether such proposals would be consistent with EU State aid legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15616/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 63 together.

This matter is under consideration by Government and I cannot comment further. The issue of compliance with State aid rules will be pursued with the European Commission, if necessary.

Job Creation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

57 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created by multinational companies which have located here for each year since 2005 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16725/08]

Over the three year period 2005- 2007, a total of 65 multinational companies set up operations in this country with support from IDA Ireland and Shannon Development and with the potential to create 1,827 jobs.

In the same period, the total number of new jobs created in multinational companies supported by IDA Ireland and Shannon Development was 34,406. Many of these jobs were associated with projects announced prior to the period in question or with projects that were not announced at all. Figures in relation to 2008 will not be available until early 2009. The annual breakdown of these figures is set out in tabular statement 1. This information is taken from the Forfás Annual Employment Survey. Information on job numbers is gathered on a confidential basis for statistical purposes only.

Since the beginning of 2008 there have been 5 announcements relating to new multinational, greenfield start-ups with a potential to create 595 new jobs with IDA support, while in the same period, 9 companies have announced expansions with a potential to create an additional 1,016 jobs. The names of these companies, together with the location and estimated job numbers that have been announced, are set out in tabular statements 2 and 3.

Table 1: Number of Full-Time Jobs Created In Each Year 2005-2007

IDA Ireland Foreign Owned Firms

Shannon Development Foreign owned firms

2005

12,095

344

2006

12,033

483

2007

9,190

261

Table 2: Announcements To Date in 2008 In Relation to New Multinational, Greenfield Start Ups

Month of Announcement

Company Name

Location

Jobs

February 2008

Zimmer

Shannon

250

February 2008

Channel Advisor,

Limerick

15

February 2008

Unum

Carlow

200

March 2008

EyeWonder

Dublin

30

April 2008

Lancaster Labs

Waterford

100

Table 3: Job Expansion Announcements To Date in 2008

Company Name

Location

Potential Jobs

Citeo

Co. Cork

150

Service Source

Co. Dublin

100

Teva

Co. Waterford

165

De Puy

Co. Cork

20

IBM

Co. Dublin

21

Genzyme

Co. Waterford

170

Eli Lily

Co. Cork

200

Cameron

Co. Longford

140

GlaxoSmithKline

Co. Waterford

50

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 7.
Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 34.
Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 38

Industrial Disputes.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

61 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will intervene in a dispute at a hotel (details supplied) in Dublin where workers have been let go because of dispute between management and the owners. [16610/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

67 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the situation at a hotel (details supplied) in Dublin where 65 workers have lost their jobs following a dispute between management and the owners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16609/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 67 together.

Responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes is a matter for the parties involved. The State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement machinery free of charge to assist this process, which, in line with the general principles of industrial relations in Ireland, is voluntary in nature. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing an extensive set of legislative conditions on parties to an industrial dispute.

I understand that neither the Labour Relations Commission nor the Labour Court has been asked by any of the parties to assist in resolving any issues relating to this hotel that may be in dispute.

Consumer Protection.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

62 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his proposals for a consultation process regarding the prohibition of credit card and other relevant methods of payment surcharges to consumers; when he expects the process to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16570/08]

The issues raised by the Deputy relate to Sections 48 & 49 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007. The Deputy will recall that my Department conducted a public consultation process in relation to the commencement of these provisions of the Act in the summer of 2007. The Department received a total of almost 50 responses to the public consultation. These responses raised a number of specific issues upon which the Department sought the advice of the Attorney General.

The issues referred to the Office of the Attorney General essentially related to the compatibility of Sections 48 & 49 with E.U. law, specifically with the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices (UCPD) and the EU Payment Services Directive (PSD). The Attorney General advised that Sections 48 & 49 are not compatible with EU law and accordingly, I have decided not to commence these provisions.

Nevertheless I remain concerned in relation to the manner in which payment charges are being imposed and particularly in relation to the importance of customers being aware of the fact that a trader imposes an additional charge based on the method of payment before transacting with that trader. My Department is, therefore, currently examining the possibility of making Regulations under the Consumer Protection Act obliging traders who impose payment method charges to include information in relation to those charges in any advertisements for their goods and services.

Whilst the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 prohibiting payment method charges will not be commenced, it is my intention to ensure in so far as possible that those small number of traders who do impose such charges do so in a totally transparent manner.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 56.

Job Losses

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

64 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is a dedicated section within his Department responsible for identifying plants that may be at risk, in order that there can be early intervention with a view, to where possible, saving jobs at risk or otherwise minimising the number of job losses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16549/08]

My Department operates an early warning system of firms in difficulty and where jobs are at risk. The system applies to firms that have been assisted by the Industrial Development agencies operating under the aegis of my Department. Notifications of firms in difficulty and where jobs are at risk are received from these agencies as soon as the agencies become aware of the situation.

I should point out that the information is provided on a confidential basis and it must remain confidential as, invariably, it is commercially sensitive information. Such information could be of benefit to national or international competitors in the context of industrial projects already established in this country and our ability to attract further projects in the future.

I know that the Industrial Development agencies are in regular contact with their clients. The agencies would look to anticipate potential problems and are always prepared and available to assist companies in whatever way they can in order to minimise or avoid job losses if at all possible.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 48.
Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 37.
Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 61.
Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 22.

Equality Issues.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

69 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average industrial wage earned by a male worker and female worker respectively; the average male earnings and average female earnings generally; if he plans additional measures to help bridge the male-female earnings gap; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16569/08]

Data from the CSO quarterly industrial survey shows that average industrial earnings per hour for male industrial workers on adult rates in June 2007 was €16.62. For female industrial workers the average rate was €12.73.

From the CSO National Employment Survey for March 2006, average hourly earnings were €20.59 for males and €18.22 for females. These latter figures cover the entire economy in March 2006 (excluding employees in agriculture, forestry and fishing).

The gender pay gap has fallen consistently and is now below the EU average of 15%. The most recent official figures from Eurostat (2005) put the Irish gender pay gap at 9%, placing us fourth lowest among the EU27. This compares with a rate of 14% in 2003, showing a drop of 5% in two years.

Primary responsibility for policy in relation to the gender pay gap is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Addressing the factors behind the gender pay gap is, however, a multi faceted task involving a number of Government Departments and agencies as outlined in the National Women's Strategy, 2007-2016. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and is responsible for a number of actions.

As Minister for Labour Affairs, I am responsible for the National Minimum Wage legislation. The national minimum wage was introduced in Ireland in April 2000. Since its introduction there have been six increases to the minimum rate. The most recent increase saw the minimum wage increase to €8.65 per hour, which is the second highest in the EU. The introduction of the national minimum wage in 2000 has had a positive impact on women who previously were more likely to have received very low wages in sectors which were predominantly female. Prior to the introduction of the minimum wage, the gender pay gap was at 22%.

My Department is responsible for chairing and providing the secretariat for the National Framework Committee on Work/life Balance Policies. This Committee, which was established under the social partnership process, comprises representatives from IBEC, ICTU, the Equality Authority and a number of Government Departments. The Committee has undertaken and continues to undertake a range of activities to raise awareness and encourage the provision of work/life balance at the level of the enterprise and these can help to encourage greater female participation in the workforce, including at senior levels which in turn can help narrow the earnings gap.

Similarly, "Expanding the Workforce", which is run by FÁS, is aimed at proactively encouraging women to return to work. The initiative facilitates women returnees by ensuring that training is provided in a flexible manner and is tailored to meet business requirements and skills needs of employers.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 37.

Unemployment Levels.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

71 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is concerned that according to figures published by the Central Statistics Office that 18 of the 28 towns with a population of 10,000 or more are suffering very high levels of unemployment, with Newbridge having 21.5% of the population on the live register; if he has plans to ensure that such towns are given particular priority in regard to the search for new jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16551/08]

The Department of Social and Family Affairs maintains the Live Register. The total number of people recorded on the Live Register for March 2008 is 197,992. The number of people signing on the live register for March 2008 in Newbridge is 3,987. The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit.

Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, collated and published by the Central Statistics Office. The most recent Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 4, 2007 (September-November) indicates that employment has increased by 66,800 in the year. The unemployment rate is currently at 4.5%.

The increase in the live register figures, while unwelcome, must be seen in the context of the major increase in employment over the last number of years, with the anticipated period of adjustment now being experienced. The predictions for the medium term are for continued employment growth, albeit at a slower pace than that experienced to date.

The most recent FÁS/ESRI Employment and Vacancies Survey for March 2008 shows that the percentage of firms reporting vacancies across all sectors is 10%, indicating that there are employment opportunities. The range of integrated support services provided by FÁS, which involves information sessions, skills analysis, training/retraining courses and job placement will be available for those who become redundant because of company restructuring or closures. In the delivery of these services, FÁS liaises with other relevant agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the City/County Enterprise Boards and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There is also active engagement with the unemployed after 3 months on the live register to assist them to progress towards employment, training or active labour market programmes.

Regional development is a major commitment in the National Development Plan that is being delivered through the National Spatial Strategy (NSS). The enterprise development agencies are playing a significant role in promoting balanced regional development and there is now a strong focus on encouraging investors to explore and locate in the Gateway and Hub locations, in line with the NSS.

In relation to Kildare, there are 25 multinationals operating in the county employing 11,042 people. It is most encouraging that despite recent global concern these jobs have steadily increased over the last 10 years. Specifically, Wyeth's investment of over €24 million in the establishment of a new Pharmaceutical Development Centre at its Wyeth Medica Ireland facility in Newbridge is a very positive sign of confidence in the area. It will create 20 high-calibre R&D positions over three years for people with PhD, MSc and BSc qualifications. The new Centre will be at the forefront of Wyeth's development pipeline and will assist Newbridge in attracting a significant number of the new products coming out of the corporate R&D pipeline.

Consumer Protection.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

72 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action being taken to implement the commitment in the programme for Government that steps would be taken to ensure that prices of goods are labelled and transparent in order that the consumer is well informed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16571/08]

Price display law is covered by Orders made under Section 19 of the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 and under the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, Statutory Instrument No. 639 of 2002. The various Price Display Orders made under the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 cover Drinks Display in Licensed Premises, Hairdressing Services, Petrol and Diesel and Restaurants. The European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 require retailers to display the selling and, where appropriate, the unit price (the price per litre or kilo) for all products covered by the scope of the Regulations. The Commission will be reviewing the Directive upon which these Regulations are based and I will support measures to enhance the information to be made available to consumers. This review is part of the general review of the Consumer Acquis.

The National Consumer Agency whose function it is to enforce consumer laws, regularly undertakes surveillance with a view to securing voluntary compliance on the part of traders.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 37.
Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 20.
Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 37.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

76 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of on-the-spot fines for breaches of consumer law imposed to date under the terms of the Consumer Protection (Fixed Payment Notice) Regulations 2007; the type of breaches in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16572/08]

The Consumer Protection (Fixed Payment Notice) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 689 of 2007) came into effect on 13 October 2007. Responsibility for the enforcement of these Regulations is a matter for the National Consumer Agency and I have no direct function in the matter. I am informed that, to date, authorised officers of the National Consumer Agency have served twelve fixed payment notices. Eleven of the notices were in respect of alleged offences under the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 639 of 2002) and one was in respect of an alleged offence under the Retail Price (Beverages in Licensed Premises) Display Order 1999 (S.I. No. 263 of 1999).

The twenty-eight day period within which a person served with a fixed payment notice may make the stipulated payment to the National Consumer Agency has yet to elapse in the case of four of the notices served to date. Of the remaining eight cases, payment was made in accordance with the terms of the notice in five cases, the National Consumer Agency is initiating a prosecution in one case and, on legal advice, is not proceeding with a prosecution in two cases.

Employment Support Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

77 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 34 and 36 of 28 February 2008, if the reviews of the wage subsidy scheme and supported employment programme commissioned by his Department and by FÁS have been completed and the findings of same; if not, when he expects them to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16619/08]

The reviews of the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Supported Employment Programme, that have been commissioned respectively by my Department and FÁS, are nearing completion and are expected to be concluded very shortly. Copies of these reviews will be made available to relevant interest groups in due course.

Financial Services Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

78 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the extent to which mortgage protection insurance policies are monitored by his Department with a view to ensuring that opt out clauses are not used particularly by individual insurance companies to avoid having to meet legitimate claims; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16934/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

79 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the get out clause applied by insurance companies where a claim relates to the estate of a person deemed to have committed suicide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16937/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.

The authorisation and supervision of insurance companies, including the monitoring of mortgage protection policies and insurance policies is the responsibility of the Financial Regulator. The Financial Regulator has advised my Department that while individual issues relating to the terms and conditions of such policies arise from time to time, the Financial Regulator is not aware of any general or system wide issue relating to the issues raised by the Deputy.

The Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code (CPC) contains safeguards for individuals and/or their families where they are concerned about the interpretation and application of the terms and conditions in this area. The Code came into full effect on 1 July 2007. Under the general principles set out in the Code all regulated entities must act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of their customers. This would, of course, include the handling of life assurance claims. Regulated entities must all ensure that all the information they provide to consumers on individual products is clear and comprehensible. This requirement would include terms and conditions and other marketing information provided to consumers in relation to mortgage protection policies. Clearly, the type of conduct referred to in the Deputy's question would not be consistent with the CPC and any information relating to instances where such behaviour may have taken place should, therefore, be provided to the Financial Regulator.

Moreover, the CPC includes a specific section dealing with handling complaints. Amongst other requirements, the Code requires that regulated entities advise complainants in writing, within 5 business days of the completion of the investigation of a complaint and the outcome of the complaint. Where a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, the matter can be referred to the Financial Services Ombudsman. There is, therefore, a comprehensive system of redress available to consumers of financial services where they are dissatisfied with their treatment by a financial institution.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

80 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there is a reason, other than budgetary, the reforms of residential stamp duty contained in budget 2008 did not include incentives to those owner occupiers who wish to trade down to a more manageable home; the consideration that is being given to such a policy change; if his attention has been drawn to the need to increase housing capacity and population density in Dublin city suburbs and that such an incentive has the potential to release thousands of under used family homes in established Dublin suburbs; and his views on such a policy change. [16815/08]

The Stamp Duty changes that I announced in Budget 2008 introduced a complete reform of the Stamp Duty payable on residential property. The benefits of this reform accrue to all home purchasers who have a Stamp Duty liability, including those wishing to downsize.

Consolidating the physical growth of Dublin is a core objective of the National Spatial Strategy and the Regional Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area. This can best be achieved by increasing housing densities at appropriate locations in the metropolitan area, such as locations close to good public transport, while developing the population growth capacity of strategic locations in the hinterland of Dublin.

My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published, on 10 February 2008, draft Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas for a period of public consultation which closes on 6 May. These draft guidelines address the potential of in-fill development and the sub-division of dwellings to increase residential densities in cities and larger towns, and suggest that they should be promoted and facilitated by planning authorities subject to high quality design, preservation of open space, and other considerations. When finalised, these guidelines will replace the 1999 Residential Density Guidelines.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

81 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the details of his efforts to complete a double taxation agreement with Egypt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16890/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that negotiations to conclude a Double Taxation Agreement with Egypt are in progress. A number of issues have still to be resolved, and this may take some time. However, the two sides are in contact with a view to making progress in relation to these remaining issues.

Health Service Allowances.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

82 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 has been declined domiciliary care allowance; the appeal procedures applying to this case in view of the recent legislative changes made to put the scheme on a statutory basis; the guidelines applying to deciding officers and medical officers; and the efforts that are being made to draw up qualifying criteria that are clear to applicants from the time of their application. [16783/08]

Domiciliary Care Allowance is a monthly allowance administered by the Health Service Executive. The allowance is paid in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16 who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention which is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age. Eligibility is determined primarily by reference to the degree of additional care and attention required by the child, as assessed by the Health Service Executive's Medical Officer, rather than the nature of the disability/illness involved.

The Deputy's question refers to the recent legislative changes made to put the scheme on a statutory basis. While the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2008 contains the statutory basis for the administration of the Domiciliary Care Allowance by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, this has not yet commenced. Therefore, the Domiciliary Care Allowance Scheme remains under the remit of the Health Services Executive (HSE) and no changes have been made to the scheme or the appeals procedure relating to the case in question. It is anticipated that responsibility for the scheme will be transferred from the HSE to the Department of Social and Family Affairs in mid-2009. My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to investigate the case raised and to have a reply issue directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

83 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding allocated for short-term respite care in budgets 2007 and 2008; the amount of the funds allotted to 2008 that have been used to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16782/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

84 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of investments made and the services they have been invested in, in a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo in each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008. [16798/08]

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.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

85 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of investments made and the services they have been invested in, in facilities at a location (details supplied) in County Mayo in each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008. [16799/08]

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.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

86 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children her policy regarding financial assistance under the primary care reimbursement scheme for the medical examination required for the driving licence application for people over 70 with a medical card; and if she will amend the primary care reimbursement scheme to take into account the payment of the medical examination required for the drivers licence by people over 70. [16806/08]

The Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) is part of the Health Service Executive (HSE). It makes payments to Primary Care contractors (General Practitioners, Pharmacists, Dentists and Optometrists/Ophthalmologists) who have contracts with the HSE to provide services to members of the public. In addition, the PCRS also reimburses contractors for services provided to eligible recipients under a variety of community schemes, including the Drugs Payment Scheme, the Long Term Illness Scheme, the Dental Treatment Services Scheme, the Primary Childhood Immunisation Scheme, the High Tech Drugs Scheme, the Methadone Treatment Scheme and the Community Ophthalmic Services Scheme.

The contract between the HSE and General Practitioners for the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme stipulates that the fees are not paid to GPs by the HSE in respect of certain medical certificates which may be required, for example, "under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences". There are no proposals to alter this provision.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

87 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the circumstances surrounding the death of a child (details supplied); if she or her representatives will meet with the family of the child; if counselling services will be made available to relatives affected by this death. [16813/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. In January of this year the HSE forwarded a report on this particular case to a Deputy in response to a similar Parliamentary question. I will arrange to have a copy of this report forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Service Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

88 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that carers working in a nursing home (details supplied) in County Donegal have been asked to multitask as a result of financial constraints and that this requires them to work in the kitchen preparing food in addition to caring for the patients at the nursing home, two of whom have MRSA; her views on whether this practice is acceptable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16853/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

89 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for a refund of nursing home charges by a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16901/08]

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 Service Staff.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

90 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for a transfer within the Health Service Executive to either Galway or Roscommon by a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16904/08]

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

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of the 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 to the Deputy.

Pharmacy Training.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

91 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties facing graduate pharmacists in securing pre-registration employment here; her plans to tackle this issue, particularly in view of the Governments decision to substantially increase the number of college places in pharmacy over the past number of years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16912/08]

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) has statutory responsibility for overseeing pharmacy education and training. Pharmacy graduates are obliged under national and EU law to undertake one year of post graduation practical training, of which a minimum of 6 months must be in the community or hospital sectors. This period of "pre-registration" training is supervised by a practising tutor pharmacist. The one year's pre-registration training must be completed prior to the PSI's "Registration" examinations in November, i.e. November 2009 for this year's pharmacy graduates.

I understand that certain difficulties have been experienced by pharmacy graduates this year in securing pre-registration training placements in the case of the community pharmacy sector. I understand that the primary reason for this is because of the withdrawal of such places by a large number of tutors\pharmacies operating in that sector.

The public hospital sector has traditionally provided up to 28 such training placements, each of one year's duration. I understand that a number of hospitals have notified pharmacy graduates that they will not be offering training placements in 2008/09. My Department has raised this issue with the HSE and is awaiting a response.

Health Service Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

92 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she received first or subsequent drafts 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. [16922/08]

As I previously indicated to the Deputy I received a briefing recently from the Health Service Executive and the consultants who prepared the report on the key findings of the independent study which it commissioned on a possible location for the new Regional Hospital. My Department and I did not receive a draft copy of the report.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

93 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money being paid to private companies pursuant to an act (details supplied) giving details on an annual basis. [16923/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE have informed my Department that the scheme administrator and other private companies were paid €2,030,802 in 2006, €2,760,513 in 2007 and €2,448,600 to 31 March 2008 totalling €7,239,915.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

94 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16928/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

95 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made by the Health Service Executive working group, which includes representatives from disability organisations, in developing a framework to support people with disabilities in developing and demonstrating vocational and employment skills; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16930/08]

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.

David Stanton

Ceist:

96 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for an assessment of need that have been received following the commencement of Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 for children under five years; the number of same which have been carried out; if service statements have been issued for all those assessed; the number of liaison officers appointed to do same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16931/08]

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.

State Bodies.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

97 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the number of staff, and the operational cost of the taxi regulator’s office. [16807/08]

The Commission for Taxi Regulation was established under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and is an independent public body. The Commission has a current approved staff complement of 22 staff in addition to which, at 31 March 2008, the Commission employs 13 staff on a contract basis.

The operational cost of the Commission in 2007 was €8,812,838, which was funded primarily from small public service vehicle licence fee revenue. The Commission is financially independent of the Department and receives no Exchequer funding for its activities.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

98 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport his views on the fact that only three of the 16-strong advisory council established under Part 4 of the Taxi Regulations Act 2003 are drawn from the ranks of those who have taxi driving experience. [16808/08]

The Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation was established under section 54 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 with effect from 4 November 2003. The role of the Council is to advise the Commission for Taxi Regulation and the Minister for Transport, as appropriate, in relation to issues relevant to small public service vehicles and their drivers.

The Advisory Council consists of a chairperson and 17 ordinary members, appointed for a three year period, representing the taxi, hackney and limousine industry, local authorities, An Garda Síochána, consumer, disability, tourism and business interests and other relevant sectors, in accordance with the membership structure set out in the 2003 Act. Nominations from a range of interests were considered when decisions on the Council's membership were being made. The term of appointment of the current members of the Advisory Council will expire on 3 November 2009.

Five members of the Council were appointed to represent the interests of small public service vehicle operators and drivers. Of those, three are members of organisations that specifically represent the interests of taxi operators and drivers. I understand that five members of the Council have taxi driving experience. There is currently one ordinary member vacancy on the Council. I am satisfied that the current membership of the Advisory Council adequately reflects the representational structure envisaged under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003.

Taxi Regulations.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

99 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if, in the powers delegated to the taxi regulator, it was understood that taxi driving would be a sustainable livelihood; if further such a livelihood was envisaged as being a full-time occupation for the majority of taxi drivers; and if it was envisaged that training in the skills necessary for a full-time occupation would be provided. [16809/08]

The Commission for Taxi Regulation was established under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 and is the independent public body responsible for the development and maintenance of the regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles, taxis, hackneys and limousines, and their drivers. In exercising its principal function, the Commission is guided by a range of objectives outlined in section 9 of the 2003 Act. In addition, under the Act, the Commission has specific regulatory powers in relation to a range of issues including issues of quality and level of service, driver knowledge, training and entry requirements for licence applicants generally. It is a matter for the Commission to decide the most appropriate manner in which to exercise its various regulatory powers under the Act. I understand from the Commission that it proposes to undertake an economic review of the small public service vehicle industry later in 2008.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

100 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the results of a visit by an investigative group from the European Parliament some time ago which examined the impact and consequences of deregulation in the Irish case. [16810/08]

The EU Committee on Petitions carried out a fact-finding mission in Ireland on 3 and 4 April 2003 in connection with the effects of taxi liberalisation. The then Minister for Transport met with the delegation from the Committee on 4 April 2003 and outlined the background to taxi liberalisation and the establishment of the Taxi Hardship Panel to them. It was also explained that based on legal precedent there can be no legal duty on the State to compensate taxi licence holders in relation to open market licence values that may have existed prior to liberalisation.

The EU Committee on Petitions did not provide any detailed analysis or study of the taxi situation in Ireland post-liberalisation but it made three recommendations arising from this fact-finding visit. The Committee recommended that:

1. The proposals of the Taxi Hardship Panel should be reviewed by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and by the Minister for Transport in the light of the Petitions Committee report findings, and new proposals made to Government;

2. Urgent consideration be given to providing redress to the families involved on a case by case basis which pays due respect to their individual rights and which relates to, and recognises, the full costs involved in the acquisition and payment of a taxi licence prior to November 2000;

3. The Commission for Taxi Regulation be established without further delay to uphold and safeguard the proper standards and licensing of taxis in the context of an integrated public transport system.

The Petitions Committee was advised of subsequent developments, including the establishment of the Taxi Hardship Payments Scheme. The Department also reiterated its position that there are no proposals for an independent review of the Taxi Hardship Panel Report and its findings, no proposals for hardship payments above those recommended by the Taxi Hardship Panel, and no proposals to re-open the terms of the Panel Report, the Taxi Hardship Payments Scheme, or the Government's decision in relation to the matter. In this regard, it might be noted that hardship payments totalling €17,449,000 were paid between December 2003 and September 2005 in respect of 1,517 qualifying persons under the Taxi Hardship Payments Scheme.

With regard to the third recommendation of the EU Committee Report, the Petitions Committee was also informed of the enactment of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 which provided for the establishment of the independent Commission for Taxi Regulation and the Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

Road Network.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

101 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if he has made applications for INTERREG III for funding for roads in County Donegal; and if so, the roads for which funding applications were made. [16863/08]

I assume the question relates to the INTERREG IVA Programme 2007-2013. This Programme is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The submission of applications to the SEUPB is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) in the case of national roads. My Department has not submitted any regional or local road projects in any of the Border counties for aid under the Programme.

International Agreements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

102 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his views on an air transport agreement with Egypt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16889/08]

It is Government policy is to facilitate and encourage as wide a range as possible of reliable, regular and competitive commercial air services for Irish tourism, trade and industry.

My Department is currently consulting with the relevant authorities in Egypt with a view to commencing formal negotiations on a bilateral Air Services Agreement between Ireland and Egypt in the coming months.

Accidents Overseas.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

103 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish citizens who have died while on holidays abroad in each of the past three years; the number who died from drowning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16792/08]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

104 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish citizens who have been injured while on holidays abroad and were brought home by air ambulance in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16793/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 104 together.

Over the past decade, the number of Irish citizens travelling and living abroad has increased dramatically. For instance, Irish residents made almost 8 million visits abroad in 2007. As a result, the number of requests to my Department for consular assistance and support has increased significantly. While the vast majority of visits abroad are trouble free, some, unfortunately, result in death or serious injury.

A review of statistics shows that so far in 2008, assistance has been sought from my Department in over 60 cases of deaths abroad. In 2007, the total figure was some 130. Figures for 2006 are not readily available. In many of these cases, deaths have occurred in very traumatic and difficult situations. The Department does not break down the fatalities by cause of death, including drowning, as the circumstances can sometimes be in dispute.

Our Missions also provide a wide range of practical assistance where Irish citizens experience serious injury abroad. This includes the provision of details of English speaking doctors and appropriate local medical facilities, transferring funds from family and friends and liaising with insurance or medical evacuation companies. Detailed statistics on the number of Irish citizens repatriated by air ambulance are not available as such transportation is usually organised directly between the family concerned and their travel insurance company.

We have recently completed a tendering process for a comprehensive new electronic consular database and, once fully operational, the new system will enable us to further enhance the service we provide to citizens and our capacity to provide detailed statistics.

I am very pleased also, to report that in the overwhelming number of cases, citizens indicate that they are extremely appreciative of the quality of the support and advice they receive from the Department and our missions overseas in these, often tragic circumstances.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

105 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will clarify Ireland’s position regarding recent revelations in relation to Colombian politicians being closely associated with right-wing death squads; and if he will raise this with the Colombian Government and at the United Nations. [16803/08]

Together with our European Union partners, Ireland is closely monitoring developments in regard to Colombian Supreme Court investigations in connection with the alleged association of members of Congress and Government officials with paramilitary groups in Colombia. We respect the fact that the due process of law is being applied. Any association between elected representatives and officials and paramilitary groups is a matter of serious concern in itself, and also has the capacity further to destabilise the Colombian peace process, the success of which is essential for that country's future development. In conjunction with our European Union partners, we will continue to examine how we may, as appropriate, contribute to the peace process in Colombia.

Extraordinary Rendition.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

106 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has sought written assurances from the US Secretary of State to confirm that no unlawful combatants or prisoners of war have been transferred through an airport here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15310/08]

The issue of extraordinary rendition has been raised on numerous occasions in this House. As has been made repeatedly clear, the Government are completely opposed to the practice of the extraordinary rendition of prisoners. The Government has received specific assurances from the US authorities that such prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission. These assurances have been confirmed at the highest level, including by Secretary of State Rice to myself and by President Bush to the Taoiseach. The assurances are of a clear and categoric nature, relating to facts and circumstances within the full control of the US Government. I am satisfied that it is appropriate for the Government to rely fully on these assurances and that it is not necessary, in the context of the normal conduct of international relations, to seek them in written form from Secretary Rice.

Diplomatic Representation.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

107 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if persons (details supplied) will be assisted. [16907/08]

The Irish Embassy in Paris was first advised of the arrest of the person referred to by the Deputy by a member of his family on 10 April.

The person concerned was travelling on a British passport and, at his request, has been receiving considerable consular assistance from the British authorities. However, our Embassy in Paris is following the case closely. Officials from the Embassy are in regular contact with the British Consulate General in Lille and have also been liaising with the family concerned.

I can assure the Deputy that our Embassy will continue to engage in active and ongoing contact with the relevant officials in the British Consulate General in relation to this case, and, if requested, would be happy to provide additional assistance to the family.

Passport Applications.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

108 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when a passport was issued to a person (details supplied); if the passport was issued through the Passport Office in Dublin or an Irish embassy abroad; if the application was processed through the office of a Government Minister or Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas; the basis on which the person was entitled to an Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16914/08]

A passport was issued to the person in question on 11 August, 2006. The application for this passport was submitted by the applicant through the Irish Embassy in New Delhi. It was not processed through the office of any Government Minister or Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The applicant submitted a certificate of post-nuptial citizenship, as his evidence of his Irish citizenship.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

109 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding employment opportunities for people with a physical disability. [16870/08]

Consistent with best practice internationally, labour market services for people with disabilities that are administered by FÁS on behalf of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, are mainstreamed.

The objective of the Government's mainstreaming policy is the systematic integration of people with disabilities into the open labour market. FÁS seeks to create the conditions whereby people with disabilities can operate and compete in the labour market on the same basis as their non-disabled peers.

All people with disabilities wishing to avail of work opportunities in the open labour market may call into their local FÁS Employment Service Office to meet with an Employment Services Officer who will provide them with full information, advice and guidance in relation to training and employment. The Employment Services Office is the access point to all FÁS training and employment services for job seekers.

To enhance employment opportunities for this cohort of its customers, every person with a disability registering with FÁS is case-loaded. This allows for the person to be assisted by a named Employment Services Officer to facilitate access and progression. Caseloading will also allow the person to access a series of employment supports that FÁS has in place specifically for people with disabilities.

All vacancies advertised by FÁS are open to people with disabilities to apply for, and they are encouraged to do so. Job-seekers with a disability who are finding it difficult to secure a job are encouraged to avail of the Supported Employment Programme.

FÁS provide a range of grants and schemes to enhance the employment opportunities of people with disabilities, namely:

Wage Subsidy Scheme — this scheme provides financial incentives to employers outside the public sector, to employ people with disabilities who work more than 20 hours per week, up to a maximum of 39 hours.

Supported Employment Programme — this is an open labour market initiative that works towards the placement, and support of people with different types and varying degrees of disability who need the initial support of a Job Coach to obtain, or maintain employment.

Employee Retention Grant Scheme — this scheme is available to private sector employers when an employee develops a disability whether occupational or not. It provides funding to identify accommodation or training to enable the employees to remain in their current position, or to re-train them to take up another position within the organisation.

Disability Awareness Training Support Scheme — grants under this scheme are available for employers to cover the cost of disability awareness training for their organisation's staff and personnel.

Personal Reader Grant — this grant is available to people who are blind or visually impaired and who may need assistance with job related reading.

Job Interview Interpreter Grant — this grant is available to people with a hearing or speech impairment attending job interviews.

Work Equipment/Adaptation Grant — this grant is available for employers who have to adapt their workplace or equipment for an employee with a disability.

People with disabilities may also avail of the Community Employment Programme (CE). CE is an employment and training programme to help long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine.

Economic Competitiveness.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

110 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his assessment on the way the strength of the euro is affecting Irish exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16950/08]

A total of 41% of Ireland's merchandise exports were to other Eurozone countries in 2007. The most significant non-Eurozone destinations are the United States and the UK. There has been a significant rise in the value of the Euro against many currencies over recent times and this has been particularly evident in relation to its exchange rate with the United States Dollar and the Pound Sterling.

The United States and Great Britain are very significant markets for Ireland's merchandise exports, accounting for about 18% and 17% of the total in 2007, respectively. Our merchandise exports to the United Stated States have risen from €15.5bn in 2005 to €15.8bn last year. Our Merchandise exports to Britain have risen from €13.8bn in 2005 to €14.8bn last year.

In relation to Services Exports, while country-specific data for 2007 are not yet available, statistics show that our services exports to the United States have risen from €5.0bn in 2004 to €8.3bn in 2006. Our Services Exports to Britain fell somewhat, from €10.7bn to €9.6bn in the same period. Our overall exports, including both Merchandise and Services, to all countries, increased by 5% between 2005 and 2006 and by 8% between 2006 and 2007.

The annual Trade Surplus for all exports (Merchandise and Services) in 2007 was €22.4bn, an increase of 21% on the previous year. It is also notable that in the most recent data published by the Central Statistics Office just last week, the monthly merchandise trade surplus for February, 2008 at €2.5bn, is over €0.4bn higher than the surplus in January and almost double the surplus for December last.

It is obvious from these data that despite the significant change in the value of the Euro against these two currencies, Irish exporters have achieved a very impressive export performance. While we cannot be complacent regarding future challenges and although there is obvious uncertainty as to how exchange rates will fluctuate in the future, I am optimistic that our strong export performance of recent years will be maintained.

EU Funding.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

111 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on Ireland’s contribution to funding EU embryonic stem cell research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16818/08]

The EU's 7th Framework Research Programme provides support for R&D across the whole spectrum of research. In the particular area of stem cell research, specific conditions and safeguards apply. In line with our support for ethical subsidiarity, we insist that no Community funding shall be allowed for embryonic stem cell research in Ireland. The corollary of this is that we have to respect the right of other Member States to follow their own ethical principles in this matter.

Ireland's contribution to the EU budget is disbursed on a wide range of EU funded activities. Community resources are collected and distributed under the legal Framework of the EU Treaties. National funds are not specifically linked with the funding of individual EU projects. A Member State cannot unilaterally decide to apply a principle of hypothecation to its contribution.

I am aware of the recent Opinion of the Irish Bioethics Council in the area of stem cell research and also the earlier report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR). The CAHR report is currently being considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children who will report in due course on its views of the recommendations of the Commission.

In the meantime, cognisant of the amount of work required, I understand that the Minister for Health and Children has instructed her Department to begin work on the development of an appropriate regulatory framework for the area of human assisted reproduction and related matters.

Industrial Development.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

112 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has plans to tackle the growing unemployment rate in County Donegal; if he has investigated the possibility of attracting new businesses to the county in addition to providing extra incentives for new indigenous businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16925/08]

Donegal is a target location for the IDA with the County now competing for a different type of business to labour intensive manufacturing, which IDA so successfully won over the past four decades. The overseas investor is now seeking locations for more advanced manufacturing or office based solutions, to a great extent depending on high skill and high value work. While this has required a significant change of strategy by the IDA, progress has been made in securing new high value investments from Pacificare, Pramerica, SITA and Abbott Diabetes, with some 1,200 new jobs being added in the County by overseas firms over the last five years. These companies continue to recruit and are actively seeking new staff.

As regards Enterprise Ireland, which serves the indigenous sector, it provides a wide range of supports for high potential start-up companies including financial supports, business and marketing advice, mentoring, product development etc. As part of its infrastructural support for start-up companies, Enterprise Ireland has approved some €3.5m in recent years for developments at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, which is an important aspect of supporting and attracting business to the region.

Enterprise Ireland's results for jobs created in client companies in County Donegal for 2007 show a net gain for the third year in a row with a net increase of over 440 jobs. A growth of 15% over the last three years reflects the investment Donegal companies are making in competing successfully both at home and abroad. During the 3 year period to December 2007, Enterprise Ireland approved over €14m to companies in County Donegal to support the development of new sales, exports and jobs.

Enterprise Ireland has also been very active in supporting the development of community enterprise centres in the North West Region, which are critical to continued enterprise development in rural areas and to the development of an entrepreneurial culture. Nine Community Enterprise Centres in County Donegal have received funding of approx. €2m under the Community Enterprise Centre Scheme to date.

The role of the Donegal County Enterprise Board, is to provide support to micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support, the Board supports individuals, firms and community groups, provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Financial support is available in the form of Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study grants. In relation to non-financial support, Donegal CEB engages in a range of activities to stimulate enterprise and to support small businesses.

Despite past difficulties in County Donegal, due to the demise of traditional industries such as agriculture, fishing and textiles, there is clear evidence that the county is successfully engaged in a transition to the new economy.

I can assure the Deputy that funding support and initiatives for enterprises in County Donegal is, and will remain, a priority for the State development agencies under the auspices of my Department.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

113 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on setting up a cross-Border business park, between Counties Derry and Donegal; if he has contacted his Northern counterpart to discuss such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16926/08]

The potential of a cross border business and technology park to attract and grow high-value enterprise in the Letterkenny/Derry corridor was recognised by both IDA Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland. Discussion between the development agencies and relevant stakeholders concluded at the time that the most appropriate solution was the creation of a Virtual Cross Border Technology Park.

This has been one of the most significant developments in recent years and has been brought about by the close cooperation between IDA and INI. This process commenced in 2000 when both State agencies worked together to market the North West of Ireland, namely Donegal and Derry to prospective Foreign Direct Investment as a Cross Border Park. This cross border project was approved EU Structural funding of €10 million by the Interreg Steering Committee, under the Interreg IIIA Programme for Ireland and Northern Ireland, 2000 to 2006.

The fundamental concept of the virtual park is to capitalise on the combined strengths of Letterkenny and Derry as an economic corridor. The aim of the park initiative is to exploit the improved political environment in Northern Ireland to develop an economic corridor of scale in the Letterkenny — Derry area that would act as a catalyst for the economic development of the entire North-West region.

A key focus of the virtual park has been to generate an urban location of scale by developing initiatives that allow Letterkenny and Derry to effectively operate, as much as is practical, as one economic entity. The corridor has a population of circa 120,000 with a hinterland of 300-400,000. In addition, it aims to build a substantial resource of new high quality property solutions on both sides of the border and to develop an integrated, high quality, high capacity and resilient telecoms network, capable of meeting the most demanding needs of both existing and new prospective FDI and indigenous industry companies. In Letterkenny the property solutions consist of a 44 hectares Business Park together with a range of office and technology facilities. Equally there are an excellent range of office and related facilities in Derry.

The project also aims to develop a strong level of participation by the various Third Level Education and research Institutions within the Letterkenny-Derry Corridor, in initiatives and projects that form close collaborative links with industry and build R&D capability in targeted areas. Improvements to the road infrastructure connecting the properties are being conducted as part of the virtual park in both Letterkenny and Derry.

Some key elements of the virtual park initiative have yet to be completed, such as the completion of the property elements by both IDA Ireland and INI before the end-2008 Interreg deadline and the finalisation and implementation of a marketing and promotional strategy that maximises the image of the virtual park.

It is a common goal for IDA and INI that the ongoing development of the business environment is critical and that a common working agenda in the areas of skills enhancement and infrastructure provision should be pursued in the interests of attracting FDI to the island.

I am satisfied that the continued co-operation of the Agencies on the ground together with the continued co-operation of both Governments North and South will lead to renewed economic growth and development in the Donegal/Derry area.

Regulatory Functions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of regulatory systems under the aegis of or in any way accountable to or created by legislation sponsored by his Department; the annual cost of such groups, bodies or agencies in 2008; the extent to which each is accountable to his Department and ultimately to the Houses of the Oireachtas; the future expected cost increases arising from such bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16935/08]

Under the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924, my Department prepares and administers legislation in areas such as commerce, employment rights, occupational safety health and welfare, competition and consumer rights, chemicals and intellectual property. Naturally, in that regard, we exercise many regulatory functions.

The information requested by the Deputy, insofar as it relates to the ten Offices and Agencies which come within my Department's remit, and which have significant regulatory powers is as follows:

The Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) is Ireland's national body within a European network of accreditation bodies with responsibility for accreditation in accordance with the harmonised EN 45000 series of European standards and the relevant International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards and guides.

INAB is the national body for the accreditation of certification bodies, laboratories and inspection bodies. It is the national statutory monitoring authority for Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). INAB is a division of Forfás, the national policy and advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation. The Manager of INAB reports directly to the Chief Executive officer of Forfás. INAB has a staff of 13 and has an independent Board of 12 members, which is appointed by the Board of Forfás. Forfás itself is responsible to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Houses of the Oireachtas. The expenditure for INAB in 2008 is estimated at €1.747m.

Costs usually increase for INAB annually in line with inflation. However, demands for accreditation in the regulated area (for example, in support of implementation of SI 360, 2005 on the safety of blood and blood products; implementation of the Organic Farming Directive; implementation of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail) have increased significantly. This, along with impending changes resulting from the European Parliament's recognition of the importance of accreditation in the European market makes it difficult to predict the extent of future demands. It is possible to recover costs for the increased demand through charging direct fees to the users of the service; however, in certain instances the cost of maintaining schemes with a low client base may need to be supported by State subvention.

The Legal Metrology Service (LMS) is a statutory body established under the Metrology Act 1996 whose functions were subsequently transferred to the National Standards Authority of Ireland. Under the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1998, the Director of the LMS exercises regulation making and control functions with regard to measurements, in particular those used for the purpose of trade. The estimated gross cost in 2008 is €4.191m. Gross operating costs for the LMS are expected to increase by approximately 2% in 2009 and 4% in 2010.

The Legal Metrology Service forms part of the functions of the National Standards Authority of Ireland. Under the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996, the Authority is accountable to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule to that Act.

The Labour Court provides a comprehensive service for the resolution of disputes about industrial relations, equality, organisation of working time, national minimum wage, part-time work and fixed-term work matters. Some aspects of the Labour Court's responsibilities have a regulatory function, e.g. in relation to Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements. There are 30 staff assigned to the Labour Court, including four shared with the Labour Relations Commission.

The Court is independent of the Department in the performance of its functions. The Secretary General of my Department is the Accounting Officer for the Court.

The expenditure for in 2008 is estimated at €4.029m. There are no additional costs envisaged (other than standard increases to be provided for under annual estimates process).

The National Consumer Agency was established on a statutory basis under the Consumer Protection Act 2007 (‘the Act') on the 1st May 2007. The Agency which incorporated the existing Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs, was given a wider statutory mandate with additional powers and functions in areas of consumer advocacy, research, education and awareness, information and enforcement. The Agency enforces a wide range of consumer protection laws, including laws on deceptive trading practices (these include unfair, misleading and aggressive practices), consumer credit, package travel, unfair contract terms, timeshare, food labelling, textile labelling, unit pricing and price displays. The Agency has been allocated a budget of €10 million for 2008. The budget for the Agency in future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.

In terms of accountability, section 7(3) of the Act provides that the Agency shall be independent in the performance of its functions. Notwithstanding this, section 16 of the Act provides that the Chief Executive shall, when required, give evidence to the Committee of Dáil Éireann established to examine appropriation accounts and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Section 17 provides for accountability of the Chief Executive to Oireachtas Committees other than the Public Accounts Committee and Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil and Seanad Éireann. Section 20 obliges the Agency to prepare and submit to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, strategy statements every 3 years and annual work programmes at least 2 months before the commencement of the financial year. As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I am obliged to lay the strategy statement before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as practicable after it has been submitted to me. Section 22 provides that the Agency shall present its annual report to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, within six months of the end of the financial year. Section 23 provides that when audited, a copy of the accounts and a copy of the Comptroller's report shall be presented to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I must lay copies of them before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as practicable but no later than 3 months after receiving them.

The Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies is a statutory independent office responsible for the registration of Industrial and Provident Societies, Friendly Societies and Trade Unions, to ensure that various societies and trade unions comply with their statutory obligations under the Acts and the provision of accurate information to the public about registered societies and unions.

The annual report submitted by the Registrar of Friendly Societies to me, as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The annual costs of the Registry are included in those of the Companies Registration Office.

The Companies Registration Office (CRO) is the statutory authority responsible for ensuring the filing of returns under the Companies Acts, provision of public access to accurate company information, the issue of certificates of incorporation for new companies, the maintenance of a register of mortgages and charges and the registration of business names and limited partnerships.

The Registrar of Companies is independent in the exercise of his Statutory functions under the Companies Acts. The Secretary General of my Department is the Accounting Officer for the Office. The total operating budget for the CRO for 2008 amounts to €10.091 million. This includes the 2008 provision for the Registry of Friendly Societies. The budget for the Registries in future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.

The Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) was established pursuant to the provisions of Part 2 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act, 2003 to supervise the regulation by the accountancy bodies of their members. IAASA is independent in the discharge of the functions. The Act requires it to make an annual report, not later than 4 months after the end of each financial year, of its activities during that year. Furthermore, the Act provides that I, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, shall ensure that a copy of the annual report is laid before each House of the Oireachtas not later than 6 months after the end of the financial year to which the report relates.

Total operating budget for 2008 is €2.555m of which 40% is by way of grant from the Exchequer and 60% by way of a levy on the prescribed accountancy bodies. The Exchequer element of the budget for future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement was established in 2001 and is responsible for encouraging compliance with the Companies Acts and investigating and enforcing suspected breaches of the legislation.

In accordance with the legislation establishing the Office, the Director is required to be independent in the performance of his functions. However, the Director is obliged to present a Report to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, within 3 months of the end of each year, about the performance of his functions and other activities during the year. As Minister, I must lay this Report before the Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, I am entitled to require the Director to provide information from time to time, provided the information is required for the performance of the my functions. Finally, the Director may be required to account for the performance of his functions directly to a Committee of either House of the Oireachtas. However, he is not obliged to provide information or answer any questions that could prejudice him in the performance of his functions.

The budget for the Office for 2008 is €4.957m. The budget for the Office in future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise.

The Irish Takeover Panel, established by the Irish Takeover Panel Act 1997, is the statutory body responsible for monitoring and supervising takeovers and other relevant transactions in Ireland.

Under that Act, the Panel is required, as soon as may be, but not later than 4 months, after the end of each financial year, to make a report in writing to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, of its activities during that year and I shall cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas not later than 6 months after the end of that year. The Panel does not receive funding from the Exchequer.

The Competition Authority is an independent statutory body responsible for enforcing competition law in the State. Its budget allocation for 2008 is €6.776 million. The Authority's budget for future years will be determined as part of the annual estimates exercise. Section 29(3) of the Competition Act 2002 states that the Authority shall be independent in the performance of its functions. Notwithstanding this the Act sets out the occasions on which the Authority is obliged to report to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Authority is required to submit its accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General. A copy of the accounts and the auditor's report are required to be presented to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I must lay copies of them before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Authority is required to submit an Annual Report both to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Authority is also required to present its Strategic Plan every three years to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I am required to lay it before each House of the Oireachtas. The Authority must also submit a work programme for the following year to me, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, at the end of each year. The Chairperson, whenever required to do so, shall attend the Public Accounts Committee or any Oireachtas Committee to discuss the general activities of the Authority.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the costs incurred to date by his Department arising from the Governments decentralisation proposals; the extent of further or expected costs in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16936/08]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has primary responsibility for the procurement of suitable accommodation for both the advance and permanent re-location of decentralising Departments, including my Department's staff to Carlow. 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. It is my understanding from the OPW that the yearly rental costs for this office are in the region of €369,000 and the fit-out costs were approximately €2,068,000.

With regard to the property costs for the Department's permanent move to Carlow, the OPW completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre for the construction of my Department's permanent office. I understand from the OPW that the site acquisition costs were €1,440,000. My colleague, Minister of State Noel Ahern TD, announced on 13th December 2007 that the OPW has invited The Macquarie Partnership as the consortium to become the ‘Successful Tenderer' in respect of this decentralisation project. This forms part of a major PPP project, which also involves the provision of office accommodation for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Portlaoise and the Department of Education and Science in Mullingar. The OPW is responsible for costs in relation to this entire project.

With regard to non-property decentralisation costs incurred to date, the most recent figure for such costs for my Department, as submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service, via the Department of Finance, relates to the period January 2004 to December 2007. These amount to €184,647, broken down as follows — (Travel and Subsistence €11,298, Incidental €1,247, Postal & Telecom €306, Office Machinery €129,854, Office Premises €15,322 and Consultancy €26,620). In respect of future costs, it is not possible to give any indication at this point in time.

Questions Nos. 116 and 117 answered with Question No. 23.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs in the service sector lost throughout County Kildare to more competitive economies in the past five years; the number of replacement jobs in the same period in the service sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16940/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector lost throughout County Kildare to more competitive economies in the past five years; the number of replacement jobs in the same period in the manufacturing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16943/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 121 together.

There are many factors that influence a firm's decision to relocate, therefore, it is not possible to determine the number of jobs which may have been lost to more competitive economies. Firms adjust their plant location and utilisation strategies to address matters such as accessing new markets, moving production nearer to customers, meeting firm or market specific customer relationship issues, accessing technology. These adjustments also include business takeovers and consolidations. The result is flows of investment and employment across borders. Ireland successfully manages this process, through our policies on enterprise and foreign direct investment. These policies have enabled us to win many prestigious and value added investments, and have also enabled us to replace lost jobs with others of equal or higher value in the economy.

In the five year period between 2003 and 2007, 3,858 new full time manufacturing jobs were created in Co Kildare by enterprise agency supported firms. In the same period 3,805 manufacturing jobs were lost giving a net increase in the period of 53 new jobs. In the services sector 857 new full time jobs were created by enterprise agency assisted firms in the period while 452 jobs were lost, giving a net increase of 405 new full time jobs in the services sector.

The enterprise development agencies are committed to promoting Kildare as a location for investment as part of an integrated East Region, with access to a population base of 1.5 million people, as well as supporting and developing businesses already present in the county. Through IDA Ireland, Kildare has in recent years attracted some world class manufacturing companies such as Intel, Braun Oral-B and Hewlett Packard. These companies continue to invest in the area, as evidenced by Hewlett-Packard Financial Services' proposed expansion of their EMEA headquarters in Leixlip and Intel's plans to establish the Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) Centre in Ireland. Approximately $30 million will be invested in the TRIL Centre over a period of three years and Intel will collaborate with several leading Irish universities, including UCD, TCD and NUI Galway to create one of the largest research efforts of this type in the world. IDA Ireland is also working to attract the International Services, Software, Financial Services and Pharmaceuticals sectors.

Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies who are setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies. Since the beginning of 2003, EI has approved over €12m in support to companies in Kildare to help them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation and new product development in order that they can compete on world markets. The consumer foods sector in particular, has shown rapid growth in recent years. Over the last two years we have seen significant investment by Green Isle Foods and Dawn Farm Foods Ltd, both supported by Enterprise Ireland, leading to significant employment increases in both of these state of the art facilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs in the service sector lost throughout the country to more competitive economies in the past five years; the number of replacement jobs in the same period in the service sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16941/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector lost throughout the country to more competitive economies in the past five years; the number of replacement jobs in the same period in the manufacturing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16942/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 120 together.

There are a variety of differing and complex factors and not just cost related, which might influence a decision to relocate all or part of a firm's functions. Therefore, it is not possible to determine the number of jobs which may have been lost to more competitive economies. In addition to relative wage rates and other cost factors, these may include business takeovers, consolidations and changes in product or market focus. The offshoring of lower value-added functions is, however, part of the reality of the modern global economy for a highly developed economy such as Ireland.

While off-shoring can contribute to job losses for firms in some sectors, productivity gains achieved through off-shoring some activities also represents an opportunity to develop higher-end manufacturing and related activities domestically. Where job losses have occurred, these have for the most part been in low cost manufacturing. Other sectors, especially the services sector, are providing significant new employment opportunities. Since 1997, over half a million new jobs were created in Ireland and the numbers in employment now exceed 2 million.

In the five year period between 2003 and 2007, 74,553 new full-time manufacturing jobs were created in firms supported by the enterprise agencies while 90,162 manufacturing jobs were lost giving a net decrease in manufacturing employment over the period of 15,609. In the services sector 56,583 new full time jobs were created by enterprise agency assisted firms in the same period while 38,751 jobs were lost, giving a net increase of 17,832 new full time jobs in the services sector. Overall between Manufacturing and Services there was a net gain of 2,223 jobs.

Earlier this month I launched the "Report of the High Level Group on Manufacturing", in response to the Towards 2016 agreement to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector. The Group's report contains some 27 recommendations directed at key areas of innovation and productivity leading to transformational change, reskilling and management development for the innovative firm, increasing awareness and take up of existing supports. Innovation and the productivity gains that flow from it are the new foundations for competitiveness.

In 2007 Forfás established a group to look at the challenges and opportunities faced by the services sector. From the work of this group we intend to prepare and position Irish enterprise to adapt to the globalisation of services with the aim of achieving sustainable and competitive services enterprise in Ireland. A report outlining how to maximise the future returns to Ireland from services activities in all enterprises, both current and potential, is due to be completed shortly.

The Government is fully committed to strengthening the competitiveness and productive capacity of the economy. Our economic policy is designed to be pro-business and pro-competitiveness. Doing this should allow us to maximise our economic potential.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 118.

National Aquatic Centre.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

122 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a subsidy has been paid to date in 2008 to the National Aquatic Centre for running costs and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16794/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Aquatic Centre reverted to the control of CSID (now the National Sports Campus Development Authority) on 1 December 2006 following High Court proceedings against the previous operators for failure to comply with the terms of their lease. As part of the contingency planning for the repossession of the Centre, the Authority established a subsidiary company, NSCDA (Operations) Ltd. to operate the Centre.

Notwithstanding the need to provide initial subsidies to the Centre to meet the costs of a comprehensive "health check" on the Centre and maintenance required to bring the facility back to standard, I have previously stated my view that the Centre should in time be able to operate on a self-financing basis. Following the first full year of operation under the new arrangements, a clearer picture of the operational needs of the Centre is emerging. However, I am encouraged by the significant increase in both visitor numbers and income which have already been achieved.

The National Sports Campus Development Authority have arranged for a financial assessment study which will benchmark the National Aquatic Centre against other equivalent facilities to be carried out. Work commenced in February and at present the contracted consultants are reviewing documentation on the operation of comparable facilities elsewhere. This exercise, together with the Centre's performance since it reverted to the direct control of the Authority, will inform the need for an operating subsidy for 2008 as well as any longer-term funding structure which may be required. I look forward to receiving a report from the Authority on completion of the benchmarking review.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

123 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the final certificate in respect of the construction work at the National Aquatic Centre has been issued; if so, when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16795/08]

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

124 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the final retention has been released to a company (details supplied) under the design and build project agreement of 7 February 2002; if so, when and the amount in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16796/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 124 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Aquatic Centre reverted to the control of CSID (now the National Sports Campus Development Authority) on 1 December 2006 following High Court proceedings against the previous operators for failure to comply with the terms of their lease. As part of the contingency planning for the repossession of the Centre, the Authority established a subsidiary company, NSCDA (Operations) Ltd. to operate the Centre.

Immediately on repossession of the Centre a full ‘health check' was instituted covering all aspects of the facility — including maintenance, mechanical and electrical, and water quality issues. It also dealt with financial systems, human resources, marketing and sales. In parallel with these elements a comprehensive maintenance programme was undertaken throughout 2007 to bring the facility back to an acceptable standard.

As a consequence of the remedial works required at the facility after it reverted to the possession of the Authority, completion of the snagging process was delayed. However, I am advised that a contract administrator is at present working through all remaining items on the snagging list and hopes to have the process completed shortly. After the process is complete the final certificate will be issued and final retention will be paid over.

Sports Capital Programme.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

125 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will look favourably on an application for grant aid under the 2008 sports capital programme for a club (details supplied). [16924/08]

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

126 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a decision will be made on a national lottery grant to a sports club (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [16944/08]

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

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The 2008 programme was advertised on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for online applications.

All applications received before the deadline, including the ones 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.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

127 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded child benefit; and if this payment will be backdated to the date their entitlement commenced. [16822/08]

A child benefit claim was received from the person concerned in February 2007 in respect of his children residing with their mother in Bulgaria. Additional information was requested and obtained from the person concerned in April 2007 and again in February 2008. Following receipt of the latest information, correspondence issued to the Bulgarian authorities in April concerning any entitlements to child benefit in Bulgaria. When all the necessary information has been received, the person's claim will be decided. If the claim is awarded, all arrears due from the date of entitlement will be paid.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

128 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded their contributory pension backdated to their 66th birthday. [16874/08]

The person concerned applied for a State Pension (Contributory) on 12th January 1996, a period of 20 months after his 66th birthday, which was on 11th May 1994. In accordance with legislation in place at the time, his State Pension (Contributory) was backdated by 6 months to 14th July 1995.

Subsequently, revised guidelines were issued relating to late applications, and in 1998 a review of all claims received by my office prior to January 1st 1997 was carried out. This customer's date of award of State Pension (Contributory) was re-examined as part of this review and a revised date of award of 31st March 1995 was determined. The customer was paid arrears for this additional backdated period in October 1999.

The person concerned has received his full backdated pension entitlement and no further backdating can be considered.

Advocacy Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

129 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a director has been appointed to the new personal advocacy service provided for under the Citizens Information Act 2007; when this service will begin operating; if the staffing and structures are in place; the amount of money that has been allocated to Comhairle for the development of the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16929/08]

The Citizens Information Board began a process in 2004 of engaging the community and voluntary sector in the provision of advocacy services to people with disabilities and also produced advocacy guidelines to inform and guide organisations in the development of advocacy services. Funding of €1million was allocated to the Citizens Information Board in 2005 to enable the introduction of the new service, an additional €1.4 million was allocated in 2006 to develop the work further and additional funding of €1.9 million was allocated in 2007 for the development of a personal advocacy service and for the implementation of the Disability Sectoral Plan.

An organisational structure has been developed by the Citizens Information Board to meet the needs of the Personal Advocacy Service. Discussions between my Department, the Department of Finance and the Citizens Information Board are ongoing in relation to these structures and the additional staffing resources required for the provision of the service.

The post of Director of the Personal Advocacy Service was advertised in December 2007 and the Board is currently in the final phases of the recruitment process. It is envisaged that the new service will be up and running in 2008.

Community Development.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

130 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason for the delay in providing local partnerships with formal approval to extend their boundaries; and when he expects the boundary changes to formally take effect. [16819/08]

I refer the Deputy to my previous responses to questions on this issue, in particular Question Nos. 10 and 11 of 3rd of April 2008.

As indicated to the House, the core objective of the cohesion process is to simplify and improve local delivery of programmes through the integration and alignment of local delivery structures. The intention is that for the future there will be one company in any given area and fewer local development companies overall.

Following an extensive consultation phase, Government decided last year on the revised areas of coverage for local development groups. The realigned areas of coverage comprise 17 urban operational areas and 38 rural operational areas. Arrangements are being made at local level to establish working integrated delivery structures and urban partnership bodies in the new coverage areas. In some cases, arrangements have been finalised and funding has been made available through the local development programme to extend the coverage of services. I hope that arrangements in other areas will be concluded shortly.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

131 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extra resources that will be made available to local partnerships to allow them provide services and financial assistance to people and areas into which their boundaries will be extended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16820/08]

The National Development Plan 2007-2013 commits €49.6 billion for social inclusion measures including some €417 million for the Local Development and Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP). This funding will be provided over the period of the Plan to support a range of locally based social inclusion actions.

The 2008 voted allocation for the LDSIP is €57.44m. To date, some €49m has been allocated to Partnerships. Transitional arrangements are being made for 2008 to enable the new integrated structures and partnerships to extend their areas of coverage and to embed their operations. Additional funds can be made available during 2008 from the voted allocation as the new integrated structures and partnerships become operational.

Foreshore Licences.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

132 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on a case (details supplied). [16906/08]

The proposal referred to by the Deputy would require an appropriate foreshore consent under the Foreshore Acts. In line with normal procedures, my Department requires that planning permission be obtained before consideration is given to an application for a foreshore consent. This requirement is of general application.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

133 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a slatted shed grant will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16902/08]

The person concerned was paid grant-aid under the Farm Waste Management Scheme by my Department on 15 April 2008.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

134 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the entitlements of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the person has been granted 10.52 entitlements despite the fact that the provisional entitlements were originally assessed at 25.09; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16903/08]

As advised in reply to previous questions from the Deputy, an application was received on 4 May 2007 requesting the transfer of 10.68 standard entitlements from the second person named to the first person named. While it was necessary to request clarification and additional documentation, the final application, signed by both parties and witnessed by a solicitor, clearly instructed my Department to transfer 10.68 entitlements from the second person named to the first person named.

The land that formed part of this transaction amounted to 10.52 hectares and consequently 10.52 entitlements were transferred with land while the remaining 0.16 of an entitlement was transferred without land. As the first person named declared 10.52 hectares on his Single Payment Scheme application for 2007, he received payment in full on 10.52 entitlements.

My Department has received no instruction from the second person named to transfer any other entitlements to the first person named.

Fisheries Protection.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

135 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of verbal warnings and written warnings issued by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority since 1 January 2008. [16909/08]

This is a matter for the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), an independent authority, which was established under Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 on January 1st 2007. The Act clearly provides that the Authority is independent in the exercise of its functions and as such I have no remit as to its work programme or its strategic deployment of resources.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

136 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of vessels detained since 1 January 2008; and the origins of each vessel. [16910/08]

This is a matter for the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), an independent authority, which was established under Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 on January 1st 2007. The Act clearly provides that the Authority is independent in the exercise of its functions and as such I have no remit as to its work programme or its strategic deployment of resources.

Third Level Education.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

137 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No.180 of 24 April 2008, if assistance is available for crew members of decommissioned boats to return to education in a recognised college and not just through Bord Iascaigh Mhara and FÁS training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16921/08]

The training provided by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is for the delivery of further education and statutory training courses to the seafood industry. Funds are not allocated to cover fees for courses in Higher Education or Third Level institutions. There are several grant schemes available in this regard via the Department of Education and Science and further information is available from that Department.

Schools Building Projects.

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

138 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to having work commence on two school building projects (details supplied) in County Donegal; if there is a time limit to commencing the works; if her attention has been drawn to the impediments to beginning the building; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16784/08]

The schools referred to by the Deputy were included in my announcement of 1st February 2008 which outlined details of large scale building projects that are authorised to proceed to construction. At the end of February the school authorities were instructed to proceed with the acceptance of a tender for the project and it is envisaged that construction on the project will commence shortly.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

139 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Science the stage a school building project at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is currently at; if she will expedite the construction of new classrooms and a much needed sports hall, which have been promised since 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16797/08]

The Department is in receipt of an application for major capital funding for general classroom accommodation and a PE hall, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and has been assigned a band 2 rating. Progress on the project will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

140 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science when a design team will be sanctioned for a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16801/08]

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.

Grant Payments.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

141 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will respond to a query in relation to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16817/08]

I am pleased to inform the deputy that following the receipt of additional information requested a grant was sanctioned and paid to the school in question last December.

1916 Proclamation.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

142 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on making a framed copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic available to all primary and secondary schools here which are not already in possession of such an item. [16855/08]

My Department has no plans to provide a framed copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic to all primary and secondary schools who are not already in possession of such an item. The provision of such an item for schools is entirely a matter for boards of management of individual schools.

Costs pressures on schools are taken into account by my Department in determining the levels of annual increases in the capitation grants paid to schools to meet their day to day running costs. Primary schools are now getting €178 per pupil to meet their day to day running costs — an increase of nearly 70% on the 2002 rate of €105 and €15 more per child than they got last year. Post-primary schools have also received this increase and now receive €331 per pupil. As the Deputy will be aware, we are committed to doubling the capitation grant for primary schools over the next five years.

School Staffing.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

143 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of additional teachers which would need to be employed in order to ensure that class sizes are reduced by one in primary schools in the 2008/2009 school year; and the costs associated with same. [16856/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. However, the reduction to the staffing schedule in the current school year resulted in the provision of circa 850 additional posts at an estimated annual cost of €49m.

School Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

144 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the list, on a county basis, of all schools that are currently using prefabs as classrooms; and the age of these prefabs. [16857/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

145 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools currently using prefabs. [16858/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

146 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the annual cost associated with the rental of prefabs for both primary and secondary schools. [16859/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 to 146, inclusive, together.

While comprehensive information is held on individual school files, my Department does not yet have these details available in a format that provides readily accessible cumulative information on the overall position regarding temporary accommodation. However, this issue is being addressed as a matter of urgency and work on compiling a comprehensive database of such information is well advanced. This work is part of a general review of rental policy being undertaken. Information is being collated on approximately 900 schools which have received approval from the Department for temporary accommodation, including but not limited to prefabs. This will be used to produce a database of information which will be maintained on an ongoing basis and will inform my Department's future decision-making in this area. I anticipate this work will be completed shortly.

The Deputy will be aware that demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years, with the appointment of 6,000 extra teachers in the primary sector alone since 2002. In considering the need to provide extra resource and other teachers to schools in recent years, the Government could have decided to make children wait until permanent accommodation could be provided. However, we prioritised putting the extra teachers into schools as soon as possible.

Against this background, my Department has nonetheless managed to keep expenditure on temporary accommodation low. My Department spent €4.3m on the purchase and €35.5m on the rental of temporary accommodation in 2007. It should be noted that the amount spent on rental and purchased accommodation in 2007 was only 6.2% of the total investment in school buildings in 2007. This compares with 10.8% in 2003. It should also be noted that temporary accommodation is not limited to prefabs and can also involve the rental of high quality buildings.

Schools Building Projects.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the list of all schools, on a county basis, that have applied to her Department for extensions to their existing facilities. [16860/08]

The Deputy will appreciate that the number of applications for building projects under consideration can change on a day to day basis as new applications are received and existing applications are progressed within my Department. These projects are assessed and prioritised in accordance with the prioritisation criteria agreed with the Education Partners. A project's banding, or classification, can be subject to reassessment having regard to demographic developments in the area served by the school and also, for example, if on foot of a technical examination of the school it was found that the proposed project put forward by the school was not an appropriate design solution to meet the accommodation requirements.

My Department would have in the region of 1,300 applications for building works on the main building programme. Applications range from small scale projects in existing schools to new schools. A number of schools may have applications for more than one project.

The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme in which the main focus at present is to deliver school places within rapidly developing areas.

For the past number of years, it has been my Department's practice to announce large scale building projects in phased groups. Details of these announcements are available on my Department's website at www.education.ie

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress on the construction of a new school (details supplied) in County Donegal. [16861/08]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) who acts on behalf of my Department generally in the acquisition of sites for schools has been asked to source a suitable site for the school in question. A suitable site has been identified and the acquisition of same is at an advanced stage. The purchase of the site and the proposed building project for this school will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures being taken to address the serious issue of overcrowding at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal. [16862/08]

The school in question submitted an application under the Small Schools Scheme 2007 for additional accommodation/ refurbishment. Due to the volume of applications received in my Department at the time it was not possible to allocate funding to all proposed projects and the application from this school was not successful. My Department recently approved the provision of temporary accommodation and the school has been informed accordingly.

Pre-School Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

150 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a play-school on the grounds of a national school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16875/08]

The Chief State Solicitors Office have been instructed to draft a Deed of Partial Surrender for the portion of land on the grounds of the school referred to by the Deputy.

Site Acquisitions.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

151 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the timeframe for the delivery of a secondary school (details supplied) in County Dublin; the status of the application for this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16876/08]

Based on current demographic trends, my Department anticipates that there will be a need for a further post-primary school in the area referred to by the Deputy in the medium term and it has asked the local 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.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

152 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will give consideration to an application by the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Galway to build a permanent modular school building to the same specifications as would the plans for prefabricated buildings; if her attention has been drawn to the dilapidated and dangerous condition of the existing school, the fact that the manufacturer of the prefabricated buildings could and would supply modular school buildings to the same specifications as the prefabs at little extra cost, and that such buildings would be better value for money to her Department and space wise to the teachers and pupils; if she will give further consideration to providing a devolved grant to the school; the amount of the grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16905/08]

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.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

153 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to deal with the accommodation needs of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16915/08]

The project at the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage (Stage 2b — Detailed Design and Bill of Quantities) of the architectural planning process.

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.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

154 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science the envisaged timescale for the provision of a new school at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the recent appointment by her Department of a design team to this project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16916/08]

The commencement and progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project, is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to ensure that building projects such as the one in question will be commenced and delivered within the earliest possible timeframes.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

155 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been achieved to date in respect of the provision of the new post primary school for Kildare town, which is to be delivered under the public private partnership process; when an announcement will be made in respect of the bundle of schools which includes Kildare; the timescale envisaged for the delivery of this vital school project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16917/08]

Kildare Town Community School is one of six schools that make up the Second Bundle of the Department's current Public Private Partnership Programme. This bundle consists of Bantry Community College, Abbeyfeale Community College, Athboy Community School, Wicklow Town Community College, Gaelscoil Bheanntrai and the school in question.

Pre-procurement work consisting of the preparation of Output Specifications, Public Services Benchmark (PSB) has been completed and Outline Planning Permission has been obtained for all six schools.

It is envisaged that this second bundle will be handed over to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) shortly to commence the procurement process. The estimated timescale for the delivery of this Bundle is mid 2011.

Schools Amalgamation.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

156 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been achieved to date towards the rationalisation of primary schools (details supplied); when she will approve the appointment of a design team for one of these schools in a situation where a design team is already in place in respect of the other school involved in the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16918/08]

The development of building projects to facilitate the rationalisation of the schools in question is at an early stage. Further progression will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Asylum Applications.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

157 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the response he gave to the mass application by Iraqi Chaldean Christians for asylum here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16871/08]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

158 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views of the German Government’s proposal to look favourably on Iraqi Christians applying for asylum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16872/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 158 together.

I am not aware of any mass application for asylum in this country, as suggested by the Deputy. However, the Deputy may wish to note that as at 31 March, 2008 there had been 61 applications for asylum received by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner from Iraqi nationals in 2008.

While I am aware that the German Government is putting in place its own national programme for Iraqi refugees, I am not aware of any formal proposals at European level in this regard at this time. The Deputy might be aware that Ireland is one of 22 countries worldwide and one of 9 European countries that participate in the UNHCR Refugee Resettlement Programme. In 2005 the Government increased the number of such refugees accepted annually from 10 cases (approximately 40 persons) per year to 200 persons per year. The decision as to the nationalities and source countries of refugees accepted by Ireland for resettlement is taken following close consultation between the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

For the Deputy's information, under the 2007 quota, 97 Karen refugees from Thailand and 71 Sudanese refugees from Uganda were accepted for resettlement and 180 Iranian Kurds from Jordan were accepted for resettlement under the 2006 quota. Some 20% of the quota is reserved for countries where selection missions cannot take place and refugees are accepted on a dossier basis.

No decision has yet been made in relation to the nationalities to be accepted under the Government's 2008 resettlement quota.

Courts Service.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

159 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are service sectors excluded from the remit of the Small Claims Court; if the rules operating in the Small Claims Court need to modify in respect of not handling the recovery of overpaid subscriptions in that a common source of complaint can be the failure of the service providers to properly terminate direct debit arrangements when instructions are made by customers; when it is proposed to increase the threshold for the Small Claims Court to the level promised in the consumer strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16891/08]

The Small Claims procedure is an alternative method of dealing with a civil proceeding in respect of a small claim and is provided for under the District Court (Small Claims Procedure) Rules, 1997 and 1999. It is a service provided in local District Court Offices and is designed to handle consumer claims cheaply without involving a solicitor.

In the small claims court, the following claims can be dealt with:

A claim in respect of goods or services bought for private use from someone selling them in the course of a business (consumer claims);

A claim in respect of minor damage to property (but excluding personal injuries) or

A claim in respect of the non-return of a rent deposit, provided that a claim does not exceed €2,000.

The terms of an agreement between a service provider and a customer would be a factor in determining whether or not the circumstances described by the Deputy would come within the scope of the Small Claims procedure.

The Small Claims limit was increased from €1,269.74 to €2,000 with effect from 7th February 2006 (S.I. No. 4 of 2006). The rules governing the procedure, including the question of increasing the limit further, are being kept under review in my Department.

Asylum Support Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

160 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to or if he will inquire, of the Reception and Integration Agency, the details of the case of a person (details supplied); the steps he will take to ensure that warning letters, when withdrawn, are deleted from a resident’s file; when the person will be returned to the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16780/08]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. The RIA's portfolio of accommodation comprises 63 centres across 22 counties with over 6,850 residents at present.

The day to day operation of centres is governed by House Rules and Procedures, incorporating a Complaints Procedure, which clearly outline the obligations placed both on residents and centre management. These rules were agreed in 2002 and are the subject of an ongoing review involving, inter alia, RIA, representatives of centre managers, the Refugee Information Services and the Irish Refugee Council. This review group is expected to conclude its deliberations within the next few months.

I am informed by RIA that this case has been, and is being, dealt with in the context of the aforementioned House Rules.

A distinction needs to be drawn between the withdrawn warning letter referred to in the question, and the decision made to transfer the individual concerned to another centre.

In relation to the first matter, following correspondence to the RIA from the relevant centre manager about the conduct of a party at the centre involving, inter alia, excessive late night noise, a warning letter issued from RIA to a number of residents, including the individual referred to by the Deputy. It was subsequently noted that a procedural error had taken place and the warning letters were withdrawn. The difficulty in physically deleting the correspondence from the file is that it is constantly referred to by the person himself and by various support groups acting on his behalf and, administratively, it would be impossible to deal properly with said representations in the absence of the correspondence. It is important to stress that the effect of the withdrawal is to negate the original warning letter and no adverse conclusions can be drawn in relation to any of the recipients of the warning letters.

The subsequent decision to transfer this person arose from an incident unrelated to the one referred to above and where RIA accepted that a clear and present requirement to effect the transfer arose. On the basis of the information to hand, RIA does not intend to send the person back to his original centre.

It should be noted that the above incidents have been the subject of many representations from the residents' committee in the centre, assisted by support groups such as Integrating Ireland. It is not in the interests of RIA, centre management or the residents themselves that any resident is treated unfairly and RIA is satisfied that fair procedures have been applied in this case.

Proposed Legislation.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

161 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to deal with the issues raised by the Mental Capacity and Guardianship Bill 2007. [16787/08]

The Mental Capacity and Guardianship Bill 2007, a Private Member's Bill (Seanad), was withdrawn in response to a commitment by the Government to bring forward its own detailed legislative proposals to give effect to the Law Reform Commission's recommendations contained in its Report ‘Vulnerable Adults and the Law'.

Proposals for a Mental Capacity Bill are at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department in line with a commitment in the Government's Legislative Programme. The proposed Bill will give effect to the Law Reform Commission's recommendations and will facilitate ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities insofar as requirements relating to legal capacity are concerned. I expect to be in a position to announce the details of the Bill in the near future, subject to the approval of Government.

Garda Deployment.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

162 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the review of Garda boundaries and divisions, as to the boundaries and divisions that will be considered for review in 2008; and if a public consultation process is planned. [16788/08]

In accordance with the provisions of the Garda Síochána Acts 2005 to 2007 proposals, inter alia, to alter the boundaries of a divisional geographical area are a matter in the first instance for the Garda Commissioner in the context of the Annual Policing Plan. The 2008 Policing Plan, which I laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, contains the Commissioner's proposals to realign Garda boundaries in a number of areas around the country to make them coterminous with the functional boundaries of local authorities.

The planned changes will bring about greater efficiencies and effectiveness in facilitating the establishment and functioning of Joint Policing Committees. I am advised by the Garda authorities that a detailed programme of work is currently being developed by the Garda Síochána to implement these planned changes for various Garda Divisions and this includes consultation with various stakeholders. This programme of work will also examine the geographical areas of district and sub-district stations arising from the boundary realignments set out in the plan and set out a timetable for the establishment of the new Divisions.

The Commissioner has also indicated in the Policing Plan that an examination of Divisions and Districts within the Dublin Metropolitan Region will be conducted in 2008 for the purposes of alignment with the local authority areas and in light of demographic and infrastructural changes in the region.

Citizenship Applications.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for naturalisation will be processed for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16814/08]

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 September 2007.

The average processing time for naturalisation is 30 months. However, I understand that the person concerned is married to an Irish national and every effort is made to ensure those applications are dealt with as quickly as possible, having regard to the general volume of applications on hand. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in the coming months.

I will inform the Deputy and the individual in question when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Garda Deployment.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

164 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in each individual garda station in the Carlow-Kildare division who are assigned to normal policing duties and those assigned to the traffic corps duties. [16816/08]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of each Garda Station in the Carlow/Kildare Garda Division on 31 March, 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the following table:

District/Station

Strength

Naas

Naas

103

Celbridge

21

Clane

7

Kill

3

Maynooth

16

Kildare

Kildare

29

Robertstown

5

Kilcullen

4

Monasterevin

5

Newbridge

33

Rathangan

4

Carbury

4

Carlow

Carlow

72

Leighlinbridge

1

Ballon

1

Myshall

1

Muinebheag

10

Athy

19

Castledermot

2

Baltinglass

32

Blessington

15

Dunlavin

1

Hollywood

1

Donard

1

Shillelagh

1

Tinahely

2

Hacketstown

1

Rathvilly

1

Ballymore Eustace

1

Tullow

11

Ballytore

1

Total

408

The personnel strength of the Traffic Corps broken down by station on 31 March, 2008 was as set out in the following table:

Station

Strength

Naas

28

Carlow

19

Baltinglass

5

Total

52

The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual divisions and stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers.

Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The allocation of Garda personnel is determined by a number of factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Division.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. In that regard, the needs of Garda Stations throughout Carlow/Kildare Division will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda Stations and Divisions throughout the country.

Visa Applications.

Beverley Flynn

Ceist:

165 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the further documentation and verification of work experience required for the application to be granted for a visa application (details supplied). [16852/08]

Before a visa can issue the Visa Officer must be satisfied as to the source, authenticity and quality of any documentation submitted. Further any reference named should be contactable in the event that the Visa Officer deems it necessary to do so. In this instance the Visa Officer had concerns surrounding the quality of the documentation and several attempts were made to contact the references without success.

Residency Permits.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

166 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give consideration to the application by a person (details supplied) for leave to remain in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16893/08]

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006, (S.I. 518 of 2006) to my Department on 1st November, 2007. Following consideration of the person's application, it was determined that he was not a person eligible for Subsidiary Protection, and he was informed of this decision by letter, dated 7th April, 2008.

The person concerned is the father of a child born in Ireland prior to 1st January, 2005. The revised arrangements for the processing of applications from the non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly known as the IBC/05 scheme, ended on 31st March, 2005. The person did not make application under the scheme. There is no separate procedure or free-standing right of any person to apply for permission to remain on this basis and such applications can only be considered in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended).

Consideration is now being given to the representations made by the person concerned under section 3 of the Immigration Act,1999 and he will be notified of any decisions made regarding his status in the State, in due course.

Good Friday Agreement.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

167 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners currently in prison who have at any stage made an application for their release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement; and the status of their applications. [16894/08]

There are no persons remaining in custody who have been deemed to be qualifying prisoners under Section 3 (2) of the Criminal Justice (Release of Prisoners) Act, 1998. Other than the prisoners referred to by the Deputy, there are 4 prisoners who remain in custody who have applied and who are deemed as not being qualifying prisoners under Section 3 (2) of the Criminal Justice (Release of Prisoners) Act, 1998. There is also one prisoner in custody who applied during a previous sentence and was deemed not to qualify.

Asylum Applications.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

168 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application for asylum by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16897/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 888 of Wednesday 2 April 2008 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 16 February 2005 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 8 August 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of 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.

Citizenship Applications.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

169 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 859 of 2 April 2008, when an application will be processed for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16911/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have approved the applications of the persons in question.

The Citizenship Section of my Department has written to the persons concerned requesting certain documentation. When the documentation is received, certificates of naturalisation will issue to them as soon as possible thereafter.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

170 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of funding allocated in budget 2008 to the housing aid for the elderly scheme in total and to each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16781/08]

Capital funding of €49.656 million is provided in the 2008 Revised Estimates for Public Services for the combined funding of the Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability. This represents the amount available for recoupment to local authorities in respect of individual grants paid under the Schemes. The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme is funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority.

The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme will also, in due course, be funded from monies previously allocated to the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly Grant Scheme, following the transfer of the Scheme from the HSE to the local authorities. Notification of capital allocations for 2008 in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability will shortly issue to local authorities.

Peter Power

Ceist:

171 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to release funds to Limerick County Council to award grants under the new housing aid for older persons scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16804/08]

Notification of combined capital allocations for 2008 in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability Schemes will shortly issue to local authorities.

It is a matter for local authorities to decide on the level of funding to be provided for the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme in their area, from within the combined allocation notified to them by my Department for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability Schemes, and to manage the operation of the scheme from within this allocation.

Proposed Legislation.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

172 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he is introducing new legislation on dog breeding establishments as secondary legislation when it was to be primary legislation. [16812/08]

On foot of the recommendations of the Working Group on the Management of Dog Breeding Establishments, I propose shortly to introduce a set of regulations under the provisions of the Control of Dogs Acts 1986-1992 in respect of registration, inspection and minimum standards applying to such premises.

Turbary Rights.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

173 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a person (details supplied) in County Galway will receive payment for the sale of bog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16898/08]

I understand that the Chief State Solicitor's Office is awaiting replies from the vendor's solicitor on pre-contract queries in this case.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

174 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason Sustainable Energy Ireland is not renewing its contract with a partnership (details supplied) particularly as officers in SEI recognised the achievements of the project involved and recommended its application for renewal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16821/08]

The Warmer Homes Scheme which is funded through Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), provides insulation and other energy efficiency solutions to low income homes across Ireland. The scheme is overseen and coordinated by SEI and is delivered principally through community based organisations.

I can advise the Deputy that Wexford Area Partnership was informed that their contract would be renewed on 16 April 2008.

Telecommunications Services.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

175 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the status of the proposed national broadband scheme. [16789/08]

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

The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services by competing private sector service providers.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These included the provision of grant-aid under the Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) and ongoing investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).Although broadband is now widely available in Ireland there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. These areas are being addressed by the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which will provide broadband services to areas that are currently unserved and will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband are met.

The first phase of the NBS procurement process (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)) is now complete, and four candidates pre-qualified to enter the next phase of the procurement process. Following the withdrawal of the IFA/Motorola Consortium as a candidate, the remaining three candidates are engaged in "Competitive Dialogue" with my Department and are finalising their proposed solutions to meet my Department's requirements for the delivery of broadband to the unserved areas of the country. It is anticipated that a preferred bidder will be selected in July 2008, with roll-out to commence as soon as possible thereafter.

My Department has recently received notice of Judicial Review proceedings regarding certain elements of the NBS mapping process. These proceedings are currently before the Commercial Court and due for hearing on 10 June 2008. A speedy conclusion of the matter has been requested in order to advance the NBS as quickly as possible.

Fisheries Protection.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

176 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if it is envisaged that seafood processors will be eligible for compensation via the wild salmon community support scheme; and if so, the way they should apply. [16790/08]

The Community Support Scheme, amounting to €5 million, details of which were published on 7 March 2008 and can be viewed on the Department's website, will be made available to those affected by the cessation of the mixed stock salmon fishery.

The Scheme is directed at the development of additional economic opportunities for crews and employees in the processing and ancillary sectors in the communities where commercial salmon fishing has been a well-established activity and where its withdrawal demonstrably impacts on the economic and social fabric. It will focus on retraining of the affected labour force, diversification into non-salmon fishing activity and projects to promote the quality of the local environment.

The scheme is to be administered in 16 fishery districts through 15 LEADER companies and Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, in respect of island communities and Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta, in respect of the Gaeltacht areas.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the State, through the Northern Regional Fisheries Board, hold fishing rights on the Gweebarra River, County Donegal. [16854/08]

I am advised that the State through the Central Fisheries Board owns a large part of the Gweebarra fishery, which was acquired by the Land Commission. Other stretches are owned by the Department for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility for the management, conservation, protection and development of the inland fisheries resource rests with the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards. The Northern Regional Fisheries Board manages the Gweebarra Fishery.

Appointments to State Boards.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

178 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the date on which each member of the board of the ESB was first appointed; when they were subsequently reappointed if applicable; the members of the board appointed by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16873/08]

The Chairman and Members of the Board of ESB are appointed by Government in accordance with Section 2 of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1927. Elected Employee Members are appointed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in accordance with the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Acts, 1977 to 1993. The dates of appointment and reappointment of all members of the Board of ESB and the appointing authority in each case are set out in the following table.

Board Members

Appointment Date

Re-Appointment Date

Expiry Date

Appointing Authority

Lochlann Quinn (Chairman with effect from 22/01/08)

22/01/2008

22/01/2013

Government

Padraig McManus (Chief Executive)

17/07/2002

11/07/2007

01/05/2009

Government

Georgina Kenny

11/04/2000

18/05/2005 (2nd term)

17/05/2010

Government

Eoin Fahy

22/01/2001

21/02/2006 (2nd term)

20/02/2011

Government

Brendan Byrne

01/09/2004

31/08/2009

Government

Garry Keegan

06/06/2007

05/06/2012

Government

Seán Conlan

23/10/2007

22/10/2012

Government

Seamus Mallon

21/02/2006

20/02/2011

Government

Elected Employee Members

John Coleman

01/01/2007

31/12/2010

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Tony Merriman

01/01/2007

31/12/2010

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

John Nugent

01/01/2007

31/12/2010

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Bob Yeates

01/01/2007

31/12/2010

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources