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 120, inclusive, resubmitted.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

121 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44826/08]

My Department and the agencies under its remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. My Department has a travel policy which is applicable to all staff and which sets out the policy regarding appropriate means of travel to be used. Foreign travel arrangements are centrally co-ordinated by my Department's Finance Unit which ensures that the travel policy and Department of Finance guidelines are complied with. A designated Travel Officer has responsibility for making all bookings. Procedures are also in place to monitor travel bookings on an ongoing basis to ensure that best value for money is obtained.

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. The Department of Finance circulars and instructions concerning travel, subsistence and associated expenses have been brought to its attention by my Department and arrangements are in place in NESDO to ensure continued compliance with the circulars.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is fully compliant with all Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. The CSO's control mechanisms include a documented travel policy and the use of a centralised booking service with a single point of access within the CSO. There is an emphasis on obtaining value for money and the vast majority of flights booked are economy class. As a control measure, the relevant senior manager is notified in advance of all foreign travel arrangements and costs.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

122 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Taoiseach the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45068/08]

The information requested by the Deputy regarding staff employed in the Private and Constituency Offices of the Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at my Department is detailed in the tables below. The Constituency Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs is based in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Office of the Government Chief Whip — Private Office

Number Employed

Salaries

4

€199,614

Office of the Government Chief Whip — Constituency Office

Number Employed

Salaries

5*

€156,617

*(2 of which work share @ 50%).

Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs —Private Office

Number Employed

Salaries

3

€131,270

Unemployment Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of persons registered unemployed in County Kildare in the 12 months to date and in each 12 month period in the previous five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45311/08]

The Live Register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming Jobseekers Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance and other registrants as registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and each local social welfare office. The most recent information is for November 2008.

The table below contains the number of persons signing on in County Kildare for each month from January 2003 to date.

It should be noted that the Live Register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, and seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance.

Persons on the Live Register (Number) in County Kildare by Social Welfare Office and month, 2003 to date

Persons

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Annual Average

2008

6,606

7,110

7,327

7,330

7,614

8,324

9,096

9,538

9,556

9,851

10,718

2007

5,292

5,359

5,375

5,434

5,411

5,827

6,195

6,187

5,735

5,662

5,731

6,061

5,689

2006

4,817

4,903

4,859

4,840

4,772

5,252

5,471

5,543

4,987

4,950

5,010

5,187

5,049

2005

4,430

4,452

4,432

4,365

4,344

4,684

5,002

5,076

4,543

4,440

4,459

4,662

4,574

2004

4,921

4,832

4,745

4,788

4,708

4,912

5,294

5,212

4,605

4,329

4,216

4,350

4,743

2003

4,600

4,698

4,600

4,723

4,632

4,930

5,182

5,201

4,718

4,657

4,569

4,752

4,772

Source: CSO Live Register Series.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

124 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the person who approved the severance package for the Director General of FÁS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45387/08]

Sanction for the severance package, granted to the former Director General of FÁS, was sought by my Department and was approved by the Department of Finance in the context of its guidelines.

The severance package granted to the former Director General of FÁS is consistent with that available to public servants generally, including to heads of semi-state agencies.

Attachment Orders.

Damien English

Ceist:

125 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on whether the business environment here is hindered from the current structure of attachment orders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45388/08]

The issue of Attachment Orders by the Courts is a matter for the presiding judges. I have no direct responsibility in relation to the execution of, or administrative arrangements applying to Attachment Orders.

Industrial Development.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

126 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts of the Industrial Development Authority over the past two years to attract investment to Dunmanway, County Cork and the surrounding area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44662/08]

While IDA Ireland's primary role is the attraction of high quality FDI to Ireland, an integral and fundamental element of this role is the Agency's mandate to promote sustainable and balanced regional development. However, the marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. While I may give general policy directives to the Agency, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

The National Spatial Strategy provides a backdrop for IDA's regional strategy and the alignment of these strategies is endorsed in the current NDP. As part of this strategy IDA is actively promoting the South West region (which includes locations such as Dunmanway, Bandon, Macroom, Millstreet, Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Bantry) to prospective investors across the full range of IDA targeted sectors. There are currently 134 IDA assisted companies in County Cork employing in excess of 20,000 people. There are several IDA client companies located throughout the West Cork area in sectors such as Pharmaceuticals, Medical Technologies, Information & Communications Technologies (ICT) and Internationally Traded Services.

West Cork does benefit from the presence of foreign direct investment in the broader region. The challenge is to mobilise resources and stakeholders on a regional, rather than on a purely local basis, so as to compete effectively with other city regions. While IDA Ireland continues to host company visits across the region, ultimately it is the investor who decides where to locate.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

127 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Industrial Development Authority operate a policy with regard to the relocation of supported companies within the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44663/08]

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

IDA Ireland works with its existing clients to support the growth, development and mandate extension of their existing operations in Ireland. Their focus is to grow the scale, employment and economic impact of its clients.

IDA may provide financial assistance to companies wishing to locate in Ireland or expand their existing operation in Ireland. The unique characteristics of any proposed project will determine the incentive package, if any, that may be available, taking account of the EU Regional aid rules. While IDA has an objective to promote balanced regional development, ultimately, in respect of each investment, the client makes the final decision on where to locate.

The policy with regards to the provision of grant support for existing clients is that it is made available for expansion projects, taking account of the contingent grant liability associated with the existing base employment level, the individual characteristics of the project and the proposed location of the investment.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

128 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she is satisfied that grants made by FÁS to business representative organisations and trade union organisations for training programmes were used solely for this purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44664/08]

FÁS has informed me that it has made payments to business organisations and trade unions for the provision of training programmes under the Competency Development Programme and under the Community Employment scheme.

As part of the Competency Development Programme, FÁS has contractual agreements or "Strategic Alliances" with a number of business representative organisations and trade unions. These contracts are for the development and delivery of training and for the provision of related supports, examples of which include the establishment of a union learning network and the appointment and subsequent training of individuals to act as local union learning advocates.

There are a number of controls in place to ensure that funds are spent on the purpose for which they were intended. I am informed by FAS that it is standard practice that contracts are the subject of a comprehensive tendering process and are subsequently approved by the Board of FÁS.

In addition, I understand from FAS that normally the amounts paid are based on the value of each contract, and a pre-determined rate per training day is paid in arrears on receipt of an invoice from the trainer for a specific number of training days. The trainer is required to supply the name and PPS number of each individual participant trained along with over 30 other necessary items of information. In addition, in some cases funding is also provided for training resource or course development and other related support mechanisms as detailed in each individual contract.

Furthermore, my Department is currently undertaking a Value for Money review of the FAS Competency Development Programme. This review is examining the various strands of the Competency Development Programme including the Strategic Alliance initiatives detailed above. It is expected that this review will be completed in the first quarter of next year.

I have also been informed by FÁS that they monitor projects under the Community Employment Scheme to ensure that monies are spent appropriately. Under the Community Employment scheme FÁS currently funds 23 Community Employment schemes sponsored by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to assist in running their resource centres for the unemployed. There are a total of 515 participants on these schemes. The budget for these schemes covers allowances, training and materials, and is not paid to ICTU but to the specific project, which has its own Board of Management.

County Enterprise Boards.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

129 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proportion of the budget of each county and city enterprise board which is spent on salaries, administration, overheads and grants to business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44665/08]

The 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) were set up in 1993 to provide support for 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. The CEBs deliver a series of Programmes to underpin this role and they can provide both financial and non-financial assistance to a project promoter. The forms of direct financial assistance (Measure 1), which are available to project promoters, subject to certain restrictions, include Capital Grants, Employment Grants, and Feasibility Study Grants. The forms of non-financial assistance or soft supports (Measure 2) assistance available from CEBs cover such programmes as Business Management, Mentoring, E-commerce, Enterprise Education and Women in Business networks.

The total allocation to cover all 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) in 2008 is €31.7m of which some €18m is available for Capital expenditure while €13.7m is available for Administration (pay and non-pay) purposes of which €13.5m was allocated directly to the Boards. In addition, an extra capital provision of €2.5m has been secured out of money carried over from 2007 under the carryover of unspent capital provision to cover CEBs' enterprise education programmes and Tech-Check activities. The cost of administering the CEB network is primarily made up of payroll costs and associated expenditure such as office accommodation, lighting, heating, stationery supplies etc.

The focus of CEB activity has been increasingly on the provision of "soft" supports — management training, mentoring, advisory and information services, etc. A significant allocation is made to the CEBs each year for the provision of these soft support or Measure 2 activities. These activities are considerably more labour intensive than processing grant applications and a very significant portion of CEB staff time is taken up with the organisation and delivery of such activities. In addition, CEB staff would be engaged on a daily basis in the provision of an informal information and advisory service to local entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.

The statistical information sought by the Deputy is in tabular format below. Figures in relation to grants to business are collated on an annual basis at year-end. Accordingly 2008 figures are not yet available for these activities. I have however set out figures in respect of 2007 for the Deputy's information.

CEB

Administration Allocation 2008

Measure 1 2008

Measure 2 2008

Carlow

415,012

208,901

225,437

Cavan

415,719

255,869

230,049

Clare

389,623

236,770

259,947

Cork City

403,245

210,000

250,000

Cork North

240,375

0

82,197

Cork South

452,067

364,225

319,544

Cork West

380,917

236,583

262,449

Donegal

417,514

349,466

423,027

Dublin City

517,178

474,677

503,051

Dublin South

406,221

332,213

381,337

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

435,000

358,800

332,858

Fingal

408,835

320,000

341,301

Galway

384,049

322,243

300,000

Kerry

341,295

240,000

256,500

Kildare

382,615

230,000

298,998

Kilkenny

334,437

252,078

250,907

Laois

339,996

200,000

200,000

Leitrim

413,643

180,000

215,028

Limerick City

414,833

210,212

213,771

Limerick County

346,477

259,640

220,000

Longford

344,225

198,789

200,000

Louth

453,016

240,000

297,500

Mayo

334,812

314,625

266,000

Meath

421,710

250,000

284,040

Monaghan

410,442

200,000

235,849

Offaly

398,978

240,000

225,289

Roscommon

366,509

210,000

217,690

Sligo

422,846

275,424

230,000

Tipperary North

354,626

226,778

226,000

Tipperary South

366,008

210,000

230,000

Waterford City

314,268

180,000

240,000

Waterford County

290,808

204,743

220,000

Westmeath

383,875

227,062

260,000

Wexford

433,473

240,000

286,400

Wicklow

403,363

286,518

291,214

Total

13,538,010

8,745,616

9,276,383

CEB Measure 1 Grants Paid 2007

CEB

2007

Carlow

230,922.81

Cavan

326,688.56

Clare

240,399.00

Cork City

179,060.56

Cork North

0

Cork South

489,321.05

Cork West

120,347.31

Donegal

555,852.49

Dublin City

853,510.10

DunLaoghaire/Rath

711,911.19

Fingal

534,900.00

Galway County & City.

445,900.00

Kerry

379,840.00

Kildare

444,628.00

Kilkenny

256,843.89

Laois

394,931.05

Leitrim

175,926.69

Limerick City

159,180.89

Limerick Co.

357,199.00

Longford

261,244.00

Louth

216,188.75

Mayo

349,814.00

Meath

252,974.21

Monaghan

250,490.50

Offaly

357,092.00

Roscommon

315,710.40

Sligo

423,450.00

South Dublin

542,500.00

Tipperary NR

252,329.00

Tipperary SR

304,586.70

Waterford City

244,640.08

Waterford Co

295,171.94

Westmeath

466,917.35

Wexford

603,866.56

Wicklow

377,530.98

Totals

12,371,869.06*

*This figure is inclusive of monies derived from CEB repayable grants.

Enterprise Ireland.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

130 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proportion of the budget for Enterprise Ireland that is spent on salaries, administration, overheads and grants to businesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44666/08]

The information sought by the Deputy is below in tabular form.

In relation to administration costs, Enterprise Ireland operates a network of 32 overseas offices and 10 regional offices in Ireland, all actively engaged in assisting clients start their companies, scale their companies, achieve export sales, invest in research and development or drive productivity through its broad suite of programmes. Therefore a high level of the organisation's administration costs is consumed by the delivery of services to client companies.

In addition to the diverse range of R&D supports to firms provided by EI, a service is provided which gives counselling, analysis and support to develop a company's future growth plan. EI's objective is to get more firms involved in R&D activity, to increase the amount of R&D being carried out by existing performers, and to raise the quality of the R&D being undertaken.

Although funding for County Enterprise Boards is routed through Enterprise Ireland, details are not included in the response.

Subhead

Description

Rev Allocation 2008

(€,000)

D1

Grant for Administration and General Expenses

Pay65,630

Non-Pay36,031

Total101,661

D2

Grant to Industry

Current7,970

Capital48,800

Total56,770

D3

Grant for Building Operations

3,400

NTF

National Training Fund

3,000

F

Science & Technology Programmes

Pay6,107

Non-Pay3,106

Total current9,168

Capital120,445

Total129,613

Shannon Development.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

131 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way Shannon Development is funded, with a breakdown of its spending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44667/08]

Shannon Development is funded by a combination of Exchequer funding and own resource income.

My Department provides funding to Shannon Development, through its Estimate to fund grants to industry in the Shannon Free Zone. The allocation for 2007 was €3m but due to the demand led nature of the process just €551,000 of this was drawn down. The allocation for 2008 is €3m. While there is a nominal provision in my Department's Estimate for Shannon Development Pay and Administration, in practice, this is wholly funded from the Company's own resource income and there has been no requirement to draw down funding from this source for the past ten years or so. The Department of Tourism provided grant-in-aid of €845,000 in 2007 for administration and general expenses (tourism development) in 2007 and the corresponding allocation for 2008 is €870,000 towards tourism activities in the region i.e. operation of tourist information offices, tourism marketing and product development.

The Company's own resource income is generated mainly from its management of state property assets in the mid-west region. Rental income and service charge income is generated from the Company's property portfolio and contributed €17m to the overall funding in 2007. The balance of €1.5m of own resource funding is generated from tourist information office sales, deposit interest and other miscellaneous income.

Shannon Castle Banquets & Heritage Ltd, a subsidiary company of Shannon Development generated income of approximately €13m in 2007 with costs of roughly the same amount. This company is essentially in a break even situation.

Shannon Development, in common with all Government Departments and state agencies, were required to effect specified levels of savings in their pay costs, consultancy/advertising etc. Discussions are ongoing between my department and Shannon Development on the mechanisms necessary to achieve these savings. The following table analyses Shannon Development's expenditure for 2007.

Operating Expenditure

Description

’000

Staff Costs

12,964

Property Expenses

Costs of maintaining property in region e.g maintenance, insurance, security etc.

4,697

General Office Expenses

Overheads for Shannon Development occupied properties

1,160

Promotion & Development Costs

Includes promotion and development of region and support costs, including: Tourism Marketing/product development for Shannon Region; Promotion and marketing of Shannon Free Zone; Marketing flagship projects e.g e-Towns and Shannon Broadband;

5,087

Cost of sales

For Tourist Information Offices

451

Other Costs

312

Total operating expenditure

24,671

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

132 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of letters raising concern regarding financial mismanagement in FÁS which were received by her since 1997; the number of these that were passed on to the Garda; the number that were passed on to FÁS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44668/08]

The information requested is currently being compiled and will be communicated to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

133 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has signed off on a severance package for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44669/08]

Sanction for the severance package for the former Director General of FÁS was sought by my Department and was approved by the Department of Finance in the context of its guidelines. The severance package granted is consistent with that available to public servants generally, including to heads of semi-state agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

134 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the visits made by her or other Ministers in her Department to FÁS events abroad since 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44708/08]

The following is a list of all Government Ministers who have attended FÁS events abroad since 2000:

Minister

Event

Minister Noel Treacy

A FÁS Jobs Fair in Newfoundland, 2000

Minister Mary Harney

Jobs Fair in South Africa in 2000

Science Challenge, Florida 2004

Minister Tom Kitt

A FÁS Jobs Fair in New York, 2001

A FÁS Jobs Fair in Berlin, 2001

Minister Micheál Martin

Science Challenge, Florida 2005

Minister Tony Killeen

Science Challenge, Houston, 2005

FÁS Jobs Ireland, New York, 2006

Minister Mary Hanafin

Science Challenge, Florida, 2005

Minister Michael Ahern

Science Challenge, Houston, 2007

Employment Rights.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

135 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action to be taken by her Department following the meeting between the Irish Hotels Federation and Minister of State Kelleher on the matter of joint labour committee pay rates outside Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44765/08]

On 22nd October last I met with representatives of the Irish Hotels Federation where I heard at first hand of the difficulties being experienced by hotels with regard to wage costs and, in particular, the issue of premium payments for Sunday work. At that meeting I advised the Federation to make their concerns known through their representatives at the social partnership table and to pursue the issues actively through the established mechanism of the Hotels Joint Labour Committee, where the terms and conditions of employment for workers in the sector are established.

I welcome the recent agreement by the representative employer and trade union organisations in this sector to establish a Forum to contribute to the development of a sustainable industry providing high quality employment in the Hotel sector. The Forum consists of representatives of IBEC and the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), on behalf of employers in the industry and SIPTU. This Forum will have regard to a wide range of employment and industrial relations issues arising from the current challenges facing the hotels sector, with priority attention to be given to the current challenges as a result of the operation of the JLC system (with particular reference to premium payments in the sector).

I welcome the initiative of the Social Partners in this area and I hope that constructive dialogue will result in practical measures to help address the severe challenges facing those working in the hospitality sector.

Industrial Development.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

136 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the buildings of a company (details supplied) in County Louth; if they are in the ownership of the company or of the Industrial Development Authority; the future expected use of these facilities; the amount of grants awarded to this company in County Louth for each year of operation; if there are ongoing discussions in relation to new industrial use of these facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44804/08]

Coca Cola has ownership of the buildings that housed its former plant in Drogheda, County Louth. I am informed by IDA Ireland that the future expected use of the buildings is currently under review. Discussions are ongoing with appropriate interested parties in relation to the future use of these facilities.

During the period 1972 to 1991 the company was paid €8,965,348 in grant aid by IDA and associated agencies. I understand from IDA that all obligations relating to these grants were met by the company, and that no payments have been made to the company since 1991.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

137 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the expected financial support in grants from Government agencies to a company (details supplied) in County Wexford; the expected timetable for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44805/08]

On 1st July 2008 Coca Cola announced its intention to submit a planning permission application for a combined manufacturing and innovation facility at the IDA Business & Technology Park in Wexford.

Construction of the manufacturing, laboratory and pilot plant facilities is now underway, following the completion of the planning permission process. The new operation will create approximately 60 jobs after one year and in excess of 100 jobs after five years of the plant's operation.

The investment is supported by Government through IDA Ireland. Specific detail on the support provided is commercially sensitive and is a confidential matter between the Company and IDA Ireland.

Job Creation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

138 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress in job creation in County Louth for each year since 2002 by location and amount invested by each State agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44806/08]

The Industrial Development agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, together with the Louth County Enterprise Board are responsible for inward investment and indigenous enterprise development in County Louth.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains in companies supported by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. Data are compiled on an annual basis and are aggregated at County level. Figures for 2008 will not be available until 2009. The number of jobs created by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland supported companies in County Louth for each year from 2002 to 2007 together with the total amount approved for Enterprise Ireland client companies and the amount invested in client companies and property by IDA Ireland are shown in the following table.

In relation to the County Enterprise Board, jobs data are collated by way of the yearly net increase or decrease in the number of full time equivalent jobs created. Details of jobs for the Louth County Enterprise Board together with grants paid are also in the following table.

I am satisfied that the policies and initiatives being adopted will continue to bring jobs and industrial development to the County.

IDA Ireland

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

New full-time jobs

179

39

101

150

289

198

Amount invested in clients and property (€ million)

3.6

4.0

3.4

12.5

1.3

7.4

Enterprise Ireland

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

New full-time jobs

264

219

514

468

409

394

Total amount approved (€ million)

2.4

1.5

1.5

4.8

3.7

3.2

Louth County Enterprise Board

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Net Jobs

188.5

45

78

220

54

-95

Grants Paid (€000)

275.3

178.9

299.7

223.3

305.4

216.2

Job Losses.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

139 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the jobs lost in County Louth for each year since 2002 by location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44807/08]

Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey and published by the CSO. It does not provide data on particular counties but only on Regions. The numbers unemployed in the Border Region, which includes Louth, have increased by 22% (3,500) in the year to Quarter 3 2008 (June-August) compared to an increase of 50% (53,300) in the State overall in the same period.

The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to unemployment benefit. It collects data at county level.

The table below sets out the numbers on the live register by location and the numbers of redundancies in the county in the years 2002 to date.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

**2008

Live Register for November

Total Co Louth

7,222

7,347

6,549

6,274

6,301

6,609

10,746

Ardee

761

867

806

752

731

794

1,374

Drogheda

2,963

3,431

3,081

3,012

3,044

3,092

5,071

Dundalk

3,498

3,049

2,662

2,510

2,526

2,723

4,301

Redundancies for year end

Louth

*960

*606

*464

#422

#659

#532

1,058

*Notified Redundancies by Area 2002-2004.

#Actual Redundancies by Area 2005-2008.

**2008 data is up to end November.

Job Creation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

140 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to improve employment creation in County Louth by location; the plans of each State agency for each location in County Louth; the land banks held; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44808/08]

Two Industrial Development agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, together with Louth Couth Enterprise Board are responsible for inward investment and indigenous enterprise development in County Louth.

The County of Louth has a large concentration of IDA Ireland supported companies with nineteen clients employing nearly 2,200 people. The agency owns a total of 250 acres in the County. In order to cater for the specialised high utility intensive needs of the Biotechnology and ICT sectors, IDA Ireland is in the process of developing a number of large scale, fully-serviced industrial sites throughout the country. One of these sites is at Mullagharlin to the south of Dundalk. The site amounts to 150 acres in two parcels of 110 acres and 40 acres and is particularly targeted at Bio Pharma type activities. A €10m investment programme on the site has been completed. Planning Permission has been sought from Louth County Council for two generic bio Pharma facilities and ancillary offices and a notice of intention to grant planning has been received. In Drogheda, IDA Ireland has completed the development of a 63 acre site and construction of the first office building of approximately 23,000 sq. ft. on the Park has been finished. The agency has planning permission in place for over 120,000 sq. ft. of office facilities on the site.

There are 169 Enterprise Ireland companies employing 4,750 in Co. Louth. So far this year, Enterprise Ireland has approved funding of €4.1m to companies in the County and paid a total of €1.8m. Enterprise Ireland has already provided funding of €2,26m to six Enterprise Centres across the County. In the 2008 Call for Proposals, there were three applicants for funding for new Enterprise Centres in the County. Two Enterprise Centres were approved — one for Drogheda (Drogheda & District Chamber of Commerce, Newsroom and Library Ltd) and one for Dundalk (Louth Craftmark Ltd) to be located in Muirhevnamor, Dundalk.

Louth County Enterprise Board is supporting individuals, firms and community groups where projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support, such as advice, mentoring and training programmes, the CEB remains central in assisting many micro-enterprises in developing their growth potential. I am satisfied that the policies and initiatives being adopted will continue to bring industry and jobs to County Louth.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

141 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her Department and all agencies under her remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44819/08]

Within the last two weeks, my officials have circulated the Department of Finance's main guidelines on foreign travel to the agencies under my Department's remit. All agencies have been asked to confirm by 15 December that the guidelines are being complied with.

It is my intention that the on-going compliance by the agencies with these guidelines will be monitored on a regular basis in accordance with existing liaison arrangements between my Department and its agencies.

Industrial Development.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

142 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she is taking to support enterprise development in the midland and western regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44832/08]

Two Industrial Development agencies under the aegis of my Department, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, together with the relevant County Enterprise Boards (CEBs), are responsible for enterprise development in the areas in question.

At present, there are 47 IDA Ireland supported companies in the Midlands region, employing over 5,300 people. Enterprise Ireland has 33 client companies in the region employing over 4,200 people. During 2007, the CEBs in the region paid out over €1.48m in grant assistance to 109 clients. This assisted in the creation of 236 jobs.

There are 71 IDA Ireland supported companies in the Western region, employing over 12,500 in permanent jobs and 2,500 in temporary and contract employment. Enterprise Ireland has 26 client companies in the region, employing over 3,400 people. During 2007, the CEBs in the region paid out over €1.11m in grant assistance to 104 clients. This assisted in the creation of 328 jobs.

The Industrial Development agencies and the CEBs in the two regions are continuing to support enterprise development through the provision of both direct financial assistance (in the form of capital, feasibility and employment grants) and through indirect or soft support assistance such as management development, capability support and the development and delivery of activities to highlight and promote enterprise. In February of this year, details were announced of Enterprise Ireland's €50m fund to boost regional economic development to be delivered through Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and Athlone Institute of Technology together with 12 other Institutes of Technology. The agency has also approved support for over 30 Community Enterprise Centres (CECs) in both the Western and Midland regions. A further €2m was approved recently by EI for CEC development in the two regions. The agency also recently ran two Enterprise Start Programmes in Tullamore and Galway with a total of 60 potential entrepreneurs participating. These events were designed to promote entrepreneurship and facilitate people thinking about starting a high growth business.

Through its network of overseas offices, IDA Ireland is actively marketing the Midland and Western regions for new inward investment across a range of sectors. In addition, the agency supports enterprise development in the regions through its ongoing strategy of growing and embedding foreign direct investment activity. The agency actively encourages its client companies to add strategic functions to their Irish operations in areas such as research and development and marketing. The agency also works closely with education institutions in the regions, in developing the skills necessary to attract high value added employment and, with the Industrial Training agency FÁS, to provide guidance in developing the skill sets needed by those already in the workforce who are interested in up-skilling.

I am satisfied that the policies and initiatives being adopted will continue to bring jobs and industrial development to these regions.

Small Business Sector.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

143 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she is taking to support small businesses in view of the credit crunch; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44833/08]

The current financial situation is challenging for SMEs. I have met with the SFA and ISME to discuss a range of issues of concern to the SME sector. A primary concern is access to bank credit. The banking sector is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D. My officials and I have been working closely with the Minister and officials of his Department on encouraging the banks to assume their responsibility to provide support to economic development and in particular, to provide credit to SMEs.

The Deputy will no doubt be aware that a number of banks have over the last week, announced significant financial lending packages to assist SMEs. In addition, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has indicated that it is in discussions with four Irish banks in relation to its recently announced €30 billion facility to provide loans to SMEs through commercial banks. I very much welcome these important developments.

My Department and its Agencies will continue to play an important role in working through the current economic situation, and in making sure that we are well positioned to reap the benefits that will undoubtedly arise when the situation improves.

My Department's continuous support for indigenous companies arises through maintaining a positive business environment and through particular interventions from the State development agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, FÁS and the County and City Enterprise Boards. The significant allocations in my Department's Estimates for 2009, will ensure that we continue to build on this strategy for the future.

Enterprise Ireland is the agency with responsibility for supporting the development of Irish companies with ambitions to grow in world markets. Many of its client companies are small to medium in size. Enterprise Ireland recognises the varied challenges facing such companies in the context of the changing economic environment and partners with companies to address their needs in a holistic manner.

In addition to EI, the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards provide support to small businesses or micro-enterprises with 10 employees or less. CEB funding will increase next year by almost €3 million, or 9%, to €34.8 million and this represents a further indication of the Government's commitment to supporting this sector of business.

FÁS through their One Step Up programme is encouraging employees to increase their competency levels and promoting an ethos of lifelong learning in the workplace. Its key intervention in this regard is the Competency Development Programme. It offers workers different types of training programmes directed at various skill levels across major economic sectors. These training programmes are available to employees of SMEs. FÁS also have a number of other training programmes aimed at upskilling SME's namely, Skillnets and FÁS Strategic Alliance programme.

The Government has also made very considerable progress on the implementation of the Small Business Forum Report's recommendations. This progress is reflected through a substantial package of financial measures and schemes introduced to assist the sector over the last two years, including fiscal measures in the 2007 and 2008 Finance Acts.

SMEs are central to our economic development and the range of measures and supports outlined above will continue to help the sector adapt to the current economic climate. These measures will be kept under review to ensure that they remain appropriate to the current circumstances.

Employment Rights.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

144 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will carry out an investigation of a company (details supplied) in Dublin 24 to ensure that the company complies with proper work practices and health and safety standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44846/08]

I have forwarded details of the company to which the Deputy referred to the National Employment Rights Authority, which is responsible for monitoring compliance with Employment Rights Legislation. Details have also been referred to the Health and Safety Authority, which has responsibility for health and safety standards.

North-South Economic Development.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

145 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of times she has met with Minister Arlene Foster in 2008 to discuss the integration of the two commercial zones on this island; her views on the Hain-Ahern 2006 assertion that companies should be encouraged to redesign logistical strategies and treat Ireland as one commercial zone rather than two separate entities; the action her Department has taken in 2008 to progress Strand II of the Good Friday Agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45036/08]

I had one meeting with Minister Foster since my appointment as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment during which we discussed a range of economic issues affecting the economy of both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. These discussions form part of an ongoing process of North/South co-operation to strengthen our economic development in order to gain competitive advantage in response to the ever-changing global opportunities and challenges.

The groundbreaking Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy, to which the Deputy refers, was published in 2006 and sets out a strong rationale for beneficial all-island economic activity. The strategic context for North/South co-operation, which is outlined in the study, highlights the "market widening effect" of a larger market on the island of Ireland, where previously unexplored business opportunities are exploited and companies may redesign their logistical strategies to respond to these business opportunities.

InterTradeIreland, the all-island trade and business development body which is jointly sponsored by my Department and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, has a central role to play in helping businesses North and South to tap into the all-island market place. It is implementing a wide range of North/South programmes, which provide opportunities for businesses to improve their competitive performance, and these include technology transfer, sales and marketing, sectoral business networks and promoting equity finance to accelerate business growth. It also undertakes vital research, provides information and offers advice to companies.

In relation to the Good Friday Agreement, a meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in the trade and business development sector took place on the 29 May to review the ongoing work of InterTradeIreland and to approve its three-year corporate plan and business plan for 2008. In addition there is ongoing co-operation between my Department and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland on enterprise issues. A significant number of North/South initiatives, which were envisaged in the Comprehensive Study, have been implemented such as the launch of the all-island Innovation Voucher Scheme, an all-island approach to labour market skills forecasting, the participation of companies from the North in trade missions organised by Enterprise Ireland and the North West Gateway Initiative, which is a joint strategic approach by both administrations to the development needs of the North West.

I am convinced that mutual benefits will continue to accrue to the economy of both jurisdictions by pursuing the pragmatic co-operation that is outlined in the Comprehensive Study.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

146 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45061/08]

The tables below outline the number of staff employed in the private and constituency offices of the Ministers of State at my Department. The tables also show the totals of the annual salaries payable to the staff in question, based on their current salary points.

Billy Kelleher TD, Minister for Labour Affairs

Offices of Minister Billy Kelleher

No. of staff employed

Total annual salary costs based on current salary points

Private

4

182,690.63

Constituency

3

115,781.77

John McGuinness TD, Minister for Trade and Commerce

Offices of Minister John McGuinness

No. of staff employed

Total annual salary costs based on current salary points

Private

3

144,859.12

Constituency

5

176,002.24

Jimmy Devins TD, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation

Offices of Minister Jimmy Devins

No. of staff employed

Total annual salary costs based on current salary points

Private

4

228,158.08

Constituency

4*

109,495.66*

*There are six people employed in the Constituency office, of which two are employed on a job-sharing basis. The total annual salary costs are based on five whole time equivalents.

Job Losses.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

147 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on correspondence (details supplied); the level of inspection she has in place; if she has ever inspected the company referred to; if the temporary lay off and non-payment of salary are legal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45116/08]

Section 11 of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 provides that the following two conditions must apply for a cessation of work to be regarded as a lay off. Firstly, that it is reasonable in the circumstances for the employer to believe that the cessation of employment will not be permanent, and, secondly, that the employer gives notice to that effect to the employee prior to the cessation. The legislation also provides that disputes in relation to the operation of the Redundancy Payments Acts should be made to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Section 5(6) of the Payment of Wages Act, 1991, states that the non-payment of wages properly payable by an employer on any occasion will be regarded as an unlawful deduction. Complaints in relation to matters under this legislation may be made to the Rights Commissioner Service.

The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), who are responsible for monitoring compliance with Employment Rights Legislation, can provide additional information on employment rights obligations and entitlements. NERA can be contacted by telephone on 1890 80 80 90 (Lo call) while the Authority's website, www.employmentrights.ie, could also be usefully consulted. NERA has confirmed that it has no record of an inspection on this company.

Job Creation.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

148 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Industrial Development Authority backed jobs created in County Roscommon in each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45278/08]

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are clients of the industrial development agencies. Information is collected on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2008 will not be available until early 2009.

The numbers of new jobs created by IDA supported companies in Co Roscommon in each year of the ten year period 1998-2007 are shown on the following tabular statement.

Table showing numbers the number of jobs created in IDA Ireland supported companies in Co. Roscommon over the ten year period 1998-2007

Employment Data

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Gross Gains

70

45

56

9

117

35

45

31

10

17

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

149 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Industrial Development Authority backed jobs created in County Leitrim in each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45279/08]

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are clients of the industrial development agencies. Information is collected on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2008 will not be available until early 2009.

The numbers of new jobs created by IDA supported companies in Co Leitrim in each year of the ten year period 1998-2007 are shown on the following tabular statement.

Table showing numbers the number of jobs created in IDA Ireland supported companies in Co. Leitrim over the 10 year period 1998-2007

Employment Data

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Gross Gains

17

73

4

336

117

575

159

11

9

13

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

150 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Enterprise Ireland backed jobs created in County Roscommon in each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45280/08]

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains in companies that are supported by Enterprise Ireland. Data is compiled on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2008 will not be available until early 2009. The numbers of jobs created by Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Co Roscommon in each year of the ten year period 1998-2007 are shown on the following tabular statement.

Table showing the number of jobs created in Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Co. Roscommon over the 10 year period 1998-2007

Roscommon

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Number

233

155

232

204

133

189

144

156

82

211

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

151 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Enterprise Ireland backed jobs created in County Leitrim in each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45281/08]

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains in companies that are supported by Enterprise Ireland. Data is compiled on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level. Figures for 2008 will not be available until early 2009.

The numbers of jobs created by Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Co Leitrim in each year of the ten year period 1998-2007 are shown on the following tabular statement.

Table showing the number of jobs created in Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Co. Leitrim over the ten year period 1998-2007

Leitrim

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Jobs Created

74

89

62

51

64

26

19

52

61

32

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created in the economy in the 12 months to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45296/08]

Employment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey or QNHS and published by the CSO. The latest release provides data for Quarter 3, June-August 2008 which indicates that there are 2,120,800 in employment. This reflects a decrease in employment in the year of 25,200 or 1.2%.

The drop in employment, while regrettable, must be seen in the light of the unprecedented growth in the economy and in employment in the past number of years. Overall employment growth was driven by significant growth in employment in the construction sector. Such levels of growth could not last indefinitely. The resultant rise in unemployment is now compounded by the downturn in the global economy and a general slowdown in employment in all sectors. Ireland is not alone in finding itself in this position, indeed many countries throughout Europe and around the world are experiencing similar difficulties in their labour markets.

The Government is taking specific measures to address this challenge and to ensure that job losses are minimised as much as possible and for as short a time as possible. The enterprise development agencies, along with FÁS the employment and training authority, are actively engaged in facilitating job opportunities throughout the country.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her intended role for FÁS in the future with particular reference to the need to meet the challenges arising from higher unemployment levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45297/08]

Given the current employment and training challenges facing this country, my intention is that FÁS concentrate on its core mission of providing high quality training and employment services relevant to the needs of the labour market. Specifically, this means addressing the situation affecting redundant apprentices, training for the unemployed, providing supports to people with disabilities, the up-skilling of our workforce and the continued operation of Community Employment Schemes as a means to provide participants with a route into employment.

My Department is also in the process of conducting a review of all labour market programmes provided by both FÁS and Skillnets. The aim of the review is to draw conclusions about the adequacy and balance of resources in the context of current and future labour market policy challenges, including the National Skills Strategy.

Manufacturing and Services Sectors.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to improve the prospects for the manufacturing and service sectors in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45298/08]

The Irish economy is now one of the most globalised in the world. As a consequence, the uncertainty created by the current international financial crisis has had a significant impact on our economy. Our comparative advantage will increasingly lie in the production of knowledge-intensive goods and services. With that in mind, a range of policies are being pursued to enhance competitiveness and improve the business environment for both manufacturing and services.

Maintaining the competitiveness of the enterprise sector in Ireland is a priority issue for my Department and our development agencies. In order to sustain and grow the manufacturing sector, Irish based manufacturing enterprises will be encouraged and assisted to continue the progression to high value added sectors and activities, and continue to increase productivity through investments in human capital, technology and innovation.

The "Report of the High Level Group on Manufacturing", launched earlier this year, identified the focused actions needed by employers, employees and Government to respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities to further develop the sector in Ireland. The report contains 26 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.

The Social Partners agreed, as part of the recently concluded review of "Towards 2016", that a Manufacturing Forum should be established, in line with the recommendations of the High Level Group on Manufacturing. This matter is currently being progressed by my Department in consultation with the Department of An Taoiseach and the Social Partners.

We continue to be one of the world's leading service exporting countries. Over the next ten years, services will be one of the key drivers of Ireland's economic success and job creation. The report of the Services Strategy Group, "Catching the Wave: A Services Strategy for Ireland", sets out new policy proposals on how we can ensure the continued development and growth of Ireland's services sector and outlines how to maximise the future returns to the country from services activities in all enterprises, both current and potential. Implementation of the recommendations of the Services Strategy Group — some of which are already being acted on by the Enterprise Agencies — will enable Irish service companies to exploit new and exciting opportunities, such as eLearning, business and financial services, professional and consultancy services and others.

I recently launched Enterprise Ireland's strategy for the internationalisation of Ireland's services sector, which the agency estimates could yield up to €1.14bn in new export sales for Ireland by 2010, and a doubling of exports sales in this sector to €5.25bn by 2015. I also announced Enterprise Ireland's new "Going Global Fund" — a €3m government fund specifically aimed at locally traded companies that have successfully established businesses in Ireland and wish to explore opportunities to sell abroad.

The economic environment is more challenging than we have seen for many years, however we have the foundations in place for long term economic growth through the adoption of this series of proactive policies and strategies that best serve the interests of the manufacturing and services sectors.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost to the economy in the 12 month period to date; the extent to which this corresponds to the four previous 12 month periods; the number of those jobs in the service and manufacturing sectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45299/08]

Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey or QNHS and published by the Central Statistics Office. The numbers unemployed are not broken down on a sectoral basis. However, data on redundancies is available by sector.

Employment/unemployment fluctuations and redundancy data for the years 2004 to 2008 are set out in the following table. The data above reflect the fact that while there was some increase in unemployment in the years up to end 2007, the increase in employment significantly outweighed it. Also, though redundancies occurred each year, the number of new jobs being created resulted in job losses being absorbed in the buoyant labour market.

The data for 2008 reflects the reality that we are now in a period of economic downturn which is impacting negatively on our labour market.

QNHS Quarter 3

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Yr-on-yr

Employment change

+60,400

+101,200

+82,600

+69,100

-25,200

Unemployment Change

-5,200

+3,500

+9,100

+800

+53,300

Redundancies for year end Up to Nov 08

Services

12,046

10,166

10,165

11,624

20,462

Manufacturing

11,909

12,352

12,676

13,379

16,133

Total (incl Agriculture)

25,041

23,156

23,684

25,459

37,296

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the type of jobs created in the economy in the 12 months to date in both the manufacturing and services sectors; the way these figures compare with the previous 12 month period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45300/08]

Employment data in respect of agency assisted companies are collated on an annual basis and as such it is not possible to supply figures in respect of jobs created to date for 2008. The table below sets out the number of jobs created in enterprise agency assisted firms (IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Shannon Development) broken down by sector for the year 2007.

Over the last number of years we have experienced significant churn in employment particularly in the manufacturing sector which has seen a number of job losses in the more traditional areas of manufacturing. However many of these jobs have been replaced by higher value added activities both in manufacturing and the services sector. The Irish economy is undergoing a certain amount of adjustment and while the rate of employment growth is expected to slow, it must be viewed in the context of historically unprecedented numbers of people in work. Since 1997, over half a million new jobs have been created in Ireland and the number in employment exceeds 2.1 million.

The economic environment is more challenging than we have seen for many years, however we have the foundations in place for long term economic growth through proactive policies such as the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation, the National Skills Strategy and the National Development Plan. Ireland is well placed to tackle the challenges we are facing, with a strong base of modern industry, a highly skilled and flexible workforce and a pro-business culture. We continue to work to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions, and promote new areas of competitive advantage by developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures, in line with the NDP and the Programme for Government.

The social partners agreed as part of the recently concluded review of "Towards 2016", that a Manufacturing Forum should be established in line with the recommendations of the High Level Group on Manufacturing. This matter is currently being progressed by my Department in consultation with the Department of An Taoiseach and the social partners. The implementation of the recommendations set out in this report will help to ensure that manufacturing will remain an integral component of our economy providing high value sustainable employment.

In tandem with our focus on adding value to the manufacturing sector, over the last two decades we have developed a very significant services sector which now employs two out of every three Irish workers. We are one of the world's leading service exporting countries and currently ranked the tenth highest exporter of services in the world. I recently launched the report of the Services Strategy Group, "Catching the Wave: A Services Strategy for Ireland". The report sets out new policy proposals on how we can ensure the continued development and growth of Ireland's services sector. I believe that the implementation of these recommendations will enable Irish service companies to exploit new and exciting opportunities, such as eLearning, business and financial services, professional and consultancy services and others which will lead to significant employment opportunities for our workforce.

Job Gains in Enterprise Agency Assisted Firms in 2007

Manufacturing

International Services

Financial Services

Other Services

Total

17,866

9,589

3,370

1,252

32,077

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way she proposes to improve the competitiveness of the economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45301/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she has taken to identify, isolate and address the most salient issues currently deemed to discourage investment in jobs here, such as the high cost base; her proposals to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45302/08]

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

Ireland is no longer a low cost economy and therefore we must seek to develop economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we continue to work to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions, and promote new areas of competitive advantage. While the economic environment is more challenging than we have seen for many years, we have the foundations in place for long-term economic growth through proactive policies such as the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation, the National Skills Strategy and the National Development Plan. Ireland is well placed to tackle the challenges we are facing, with a strong base of modern industry, a highly skilled and flexible workforce and a pro-business culture.

Innovation and the productivity gains that flow from it are the foundations for maintaining competitiveness. Enhancing productivity growth is the cornerstone of our competitiveness. The Enterprise Development Agencies under my Department (SFI, EI, IDA and CCEBs) have a capital allocation of €495 million in 2009, which will be spent on productivity enhancing investments such as R&D, innovation, better use of ICT, and training and management development. In addition, part of our long term strategy for achieving productivity improvements is to enhance the skills of the Irish workforce, as set out in the National Skills Strategy.

In the shorter term, the next few years can be seen as a period of opportunity as we seek to re-situate ourselves in terms of our national competitiveness, and to place ourselves in the optimal position to benefit from the eventual upturn in the international economy as well as from our longer-term investments.

IDA Ireland has continued to be successful in attracting new investment to Ireland, even in the current economic climate. Since the beginning of November alone, it has made announcements which are expected to provide a total of 1,000 new jobs in a variety of sectors, across a range of skills (such as manufacturing, R&D and European Headquarters operations) and spread throughout the country.

We are working consistently and successfully to build Irish exports in world markets. For example, contracts worth €40 million in new export sales have been signed by Irish companies during the recent Enterprise Ireland trade mission which I led, to the United Arab Emirates.

In order to sustain and grow the manufacturing sector, Irish based manufacturing enterprises will be encouraged and assisted to continue the progression to high value added sectors and activities, and continue to increase productivity through investments in human capital, technology and innovation. I intend to establish shortly a new High Level Manufacturing Forum to progress the recommendations contained in the Manufacturing Report published last April and recently agreed by the Social Partners.

In the future, the major impetus for growth will come from expansion of our services sectors. Last September, I launched the report of the Services Strategy Group, "Catching the Wave: A Services Strategy for Ireland". Ireland is already the tenth highest exporter of services in the world. This report will guide the development of our services policies and strategy into the future, with a view to fully exploiting the opportunities that this sector presents. In particular, the strategy will focus on maximising the performance of companies that are already active on export markets, on encouraging companies that are currently only trading locally to expand their markets abroad, and on fostering a new breed of start-up services companies with exporting potential. My Department is working in conjunction with other Departments to progress the implementation of these recommendations.

While any job losses are regrettable, and are deeply distressing for those concerned, we must remember that we still have a historically high number of people at work today compared to a decade ago — over 2 million — and that we are still creating high-value jobs across the economy. Through our pro-enterprise policies, ongoing investment in critical infrastructure under the NDP, our low taxes on business and workers and our balanced regulatory regime, the government are committed to ensuring that we continue to build an environment for enterprise that remains among the most favourable in the world.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she has taken or will take to discourage the relocation of manufacturing or service jobs to lower cost economies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45303/08]

Decisions to relocate companies or elements of their supply chain are a reality of the modern globalised economic environment. Companies 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 in addition to business takeovers and consolidations. Such decisions inevitably result in flows of investment and employment across borders.

Ireland is no longer a low cost economy and therefore we must seek to develop economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we continue to work to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions, and promote new areas of competitive advantage. The level of foreign direct investment in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, remains one of the highest in the world. While competition from emerging markets for FDI has intensified, Ireland continues to punch above its weight when it comes to attracting overseas investment. The pipeline of new business for which IDA Ireland is competing is strong.

Irish companies also benefit substantially from globalisation as new markets and business opportunities open up. While off-shoring can contribute to job losses for firms in some sectors, productivity gains achieved through off-shoring some activities represents an opportunity to develop higher-end manufacturing and related activities domestically. Irish enterprises are adapting to the changing model of manufacturing in developed countries through increased productivity, technology levels and the enhanced skills of Irish employees. Innovation, and the productivity gains that flow from it are the new foundations for competitiveness.

The "Report of the High-Level Group on Manufacturing" contains some 26 recommendations directed at key areas of innovation and productivity leading to transformational change, reskilling and management development, which will ensure Irish manufacturers, can continue to compete successfully on international markets and provide high value sustainable employment. The group also recommended the establishment of a Manufacturing Forum, to take responsibility for progressing the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the report, this matter is currently being progressed by my Department in consultation with the Department of An Taoiseach and the Social Partners.

We continue to be one of the world's leading service exporting countries. The report of the Services Strategy Group, "Catching the Wave: A Services Strategy for Ireland", sets out new policy proposals on how we can ensure the continued development and growth of Ireland's services sector and outlines how to maximise the future returns to the country from services activities in all enterprises, both current and potential. Implementation of the recommendations– some of which are already being acted on by the Enterprise Agencies — will enable Irish service companies to exploit new and exciting opportunities, such as eLearning, business and financial services, professional and consultancy services and others.

I recently launched Enterprise Ireland's strategy for the internationalisation of Ireland's services sector, which the agency estimates could yield up to €1.14bn in new export sales for Ireland by 2010, and a doubling of exports sales in this sector to €5.25bn by 2015. On the same day I announced Enterprise Ireland's new "Going Global Fund" — a €3m government fund specifically aimed at locally traded companies that have successfully established businesses in Ireland and wish to explore opportunities to sell abroad.

Our priority remains the creation of high quality, sustainable employment, driven by companies with higher profitability, that are more technologically advanced, prove a better fit with the competitive characteristics of our economy, and consequently less likely to move on the basis of simple cost influences.

Irish Exports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the particular economic indicators arising from the growth or fall in imports and exports in the 12 months to date as compared with each 12 month period in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45304/08]

Over the last five years the contribution of net exports to Irish economic growth has fluctuated year on year. In 2003 it was +1.49%; in 2004 +0.43%; in 2005 it was negative, at -1.29%; in 2006 +0.21% and in 2007 net exports contributed +2.64% to economic growth. For the first half of 2008 the relevant figure was +1.42%.

In the calendar years 2003-2007, annual growth in total Irish exports has averaged 6.74%, while imports rose by an average of 8.23%. In relation to merchandise exports, the growth has averaged 2.07%, while services exports grew at an average of 15.33% during this period. The corresponding average figure for the increase in merchandise imports was 7.25%, while services imports averaged an increase of 9.19%.

Services exports have risen steadily from being 31% of total exports in 2003 to 42% in 2007. Of our total exports of €154.73 billion in 2007, our trade surplus was €26,043 billion. This very positive trend was achieved despite poor economic growth in many of our trading partners and also against the backdrop of adverse exchange rate trends in our two biggest export markets, the United States and the United Kingdom, due to the rise of the Euro against both the US Dollar and Sterling.

The latest available merchandise trade data for the period up to August 2008 shows that for January-August this year, when compared to the same period in 2007, exports fell by 4%, with a 7% fall in imports. The CSO's figures also show that services exports for the six months ending June 2008 (latest available), when compared to the same period for 2007, rose by4.65%, while imports were up 8.23%.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she is satisfied that adequate training and re-training places are available to FÁS and similar bodies in the current economic climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45305/08]

FÁS and Skillnets are tailoring their provision to respond to the present economic environment. FÁS is responsible for providing training to people seeking employment and to people already in employment. FÁS training provision can be divided into three main areas: training under FÁS Community Services Division, training provided by FÁS Training Services and training to people in employment provided under the Competency Development Programme.

FÁS Community Services Division provides training to enhance the employability and mobility of disadvantaged and unemployed persons. It currently provides training to approximately 30,000 participants across seven major programmes. These include the Community Employment scheme, which currently has 22,128 participants, training provided by Community Training Centres, which have a national capacity of 2,300 places and currently are providing training to in excess of 1,800 people; training delivered under the Local Training Initiative, which provides community based training and work experience to people who are distant from the labour market and under which, FÁS expect to train approximately 2,800 people this year.

FÁS have informed me that it is budgeting to maintain the same numbers of participants/trainees on its Community Services programmes in 2009 as was budgeted in 2008. Last month the FÁS Board approved two initiatives to enable FÁS Training Services to increase their provision of training so as to meet the increasing demand for their services particularly from those who are now unemployed. Currently, FÁS caters for approximately 8,000 participants through its night classes programme. As a result of last month's Board decision FÁS will provide an additional 16,000 night class places next year and these will be available free of charge to people who are unemployed. These courses will be certified and will enable individuals to quickly upskill, enhance their employability and allow them to re-enter the labour market in another sector.

The FÁS Board also approved an initiative aimed at delivering 6,000 places specifically aimed at short courses next year. These courses, which will be certified are aimed at individuals who have become unemployed and do not wish to avail of the traditional full length FÁS programme. In addition, FÁS Training Services will expand its range and capacity of On-Line and Blended Learning by 8,000 places during 2009 to meet increasing demand.

Last year under the FÁS Competency Development Programme approximately 45,000 people in employment received training. It is expected that a similar number will have received training by the end of this year.

Under the Skillnets Training Network Programme 2009 it is estimated that in excess of 24,000 people in employment will receive training or upskilling across some 117 training networks nationally. This is estimated to result in circa 130,000 training days. The National Training Fund is providing €24.8m under the programme in 2009. An element of this budget has been set aside to address particular training needs in the financial services sector.

As the Skillnets model is enterprise-led and market driven it can react swiftly to changing enterprise needs and prevailing economic circumstances. Skillnets objective is to enhance the skills and employability of more vulnerable members in the workforce with an emphasis on the low skilled. Individual skillnets networks determine the type, form and content of training and development programmes in line with the requirements of the particular sector or region and in response to changing market conditions. This affords the skillnets maximum flexibility in tailoring training to meet particular needs. In this context all skillnets, many of whom comprise small to medium enterprises, are currently fine-tuning their training programmes to meet the prevailing national and global economic circumstances anticipated next year.

Job Losses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost and created in County Kildare in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45306/08]

Employment/unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey (June-August 2008), published by the CSO. It does not provide data on particular counties but only on Regions. Employment in the Mid East Region, which includes Kildare, has dropped by 3,200 and unemployment has increased by 6,600 in the year to Quarter 3 2008 (June-August).

The recent increase in the numbers unemployed is unwelcome and is an indication of the challenges that are now facing the labour market and that are within the economy as a whole.

The Government is taking specific measures to address this challenge and to ensure that job losses are minimised as much as possible and for as short a time as possible. The enterprise development agencies, along with FÁS the employment and training authority, are actively engaged in facilitating job opportunities in Kildare.

At present there are 25 IDA Ireland supported companies in Kildare employing approximately 10,356 people. Kildare has in recent years attracted some world class manufacturing companies including Wyeth Medica, Braun Oral B, Intel and Hewlett Packard. The Millennium Park in Naas has three modern 40,000 sq.ft. advance office buildings which are now available for marketing to inward investors, with all the necessary infrastructure, including ducting for broadband.

New indigenous companies have also been established and have created new employment in the county. The major €22.6 million expansion investment, supported by Enterprise Ireland, is underway and on target in Green Isle Foods. It is expected to lead to the creation of 130 new jobs in the area. A major investment of €28million also is underway in Dawn Farm Foods Ltd. Overall 100 new jobs will be created.

FÁS is providing a number of training and employment programmes in Kildare and has, with the Local Employment Services, geared up its Employment Services further to provide increased capacity for increased referrals from the Live Register.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs relocated from County Kildare to more competitive economies in the 12 months to date and the previous five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45307/08]

There are many factors apart from costs 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 lower cost economies. Decisions to relocate companies or elements of their supply chain are a reality of the modern globalised economic environment. Companies 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, in addition to business takeovers and consolidations. Such decisions inevitably result in flows of investment and employment across borders. In the main, Ireland successfully manages this process, through our policies on enterprise and foreign direct investment. These policies, such as competitive tax rates, investment in skills, education and R&D and investing in critical physical and communications infrastructure, have positioned us to win many prestigious and high value added investments.

Ireland has not been a low cost economy for some time now, and manufacturers in particular have been facing increased competition from producers in lower cost economies. The manufacturing sector in Ireland has evolved noticeably since 2000, in terms of the composition of industry and the nature of activities, and is likely to continue to do so. The model of manufacturing in developed economies has changed and Irish enterprises are adapting to those changes and engaging in higher value added activities in order to compete in the global marketplace. Irish based manufacturing enterprises will have to continue the progression to high value added sectors and activities, and to increase productivity through investments in people, technology and innovation. Innovation, and the productivity gains that flow from it are the new foundations for competitiveness.

The level of foreign direct investment in Ireland, relative to the size of the economy, remains one of the highest in the world. While competition from emerging markets for FDI has intensified, Ireland continues to punch above its weight when it comes to attracting overseas investment. The pipeline of new business for which IDA Ireland is competing is strong.

One of the Government's main tasks is to ensure that Ireland remains an attractive place to do business, and to support the development of economic competencies higher up the value chain. In that regard, we continue to work to maintain and enhance our framework competitive conditions, and promote new areas of competitive advantage by developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures, and promoting tertiary education, lifelong learning and up-skilling to improve labour market flexibility, in line with the NDP and the Programme for Government.

Our priority remains the creation of high quality, sustainable employment, driven by companies with higher profitability, that are more technologically advanced and prove a better fit with the competitive characteristics of our economy, and consequently less likely to move, on the basis of simple cost influences.

Job Creation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her future plans for job creation in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45308/08]

Two Industrial Development agencies under the aegis of my Department, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, together with the local County Enterprise Board (CEB) are responsible for enterprise development in County Kildare.

As recently as last Friday, I was in Maynooth for the formal launch of Sentenial, an Enterprise Ireland client company. This company has grown from some 30 people in a very short time to almost 70 people now and has plans to expand further.

The consumer foods sector has shown rapid growth in the County in recent years. Over the last two years, there have been significant investments by Green Isle Foods and Dawn Farm Foods Ltd, supported by Enterprise Ireland, leading to significant employment increases in both of these facilities. The agency has also supported the development of three Community Enterprise Centres in Clane, Allenwood and Athy. The objective is to enhance the development of an enterprise climate through the provision of infrastructural facilities to support the establishment and expansion of micro enterprises through local community participation. The availability of third level education facilities is a major advantage for the County. Under its campus innovation programme Enterprise Ireland has approved €2.5m towards the cost of an Incubation Centre on the Maynooth Campus.

Through its range of overseas offices, IDA Ireland is marketing County Kildare across a wide range of sectors such as International Services, Software, Financial Services and Pharmaceuticals. In addition, the agency works with its existing client base to expand and grow their activities. The agency is also working with the Industrial Training agency FÁS to provide guidance in developing the skill set needed by those already in the workforce who are interested in upskilling. At present there are 25 IDA Ireland supported companies in the County employing over 10,350 people. The agency's strategy is to promote the County as part of an integrated East Region with access to a population base of 1.5 million people.

The CEB is supporting individuals, firms and community groups where projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support such as advice, mentoring and training programmes, the CEB is central in assisting micro-enterprises to develop their growth potential. I am satisfied that the policies and initiatives being pursued will continue to attract jobs and investment to County Kildare.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

165 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance if a risk assessment (details supplied) has been carried out with particular reference to reducing the risk of a disease. [44775/08

The Commissioners of Public Works are responsible for the health and safety of its own employees in buildings under its direct control. In all other OPW properties, occupied by Government Departments or Agencies, the health and safety of building occupants is in the first instance the responsibility of the occupying body.

Water systems and other building services are designed to current Standards and Codes fully cognisant of the dangers posed by legionella. Proper design practices can virtually eliminate the risk of legionella growth in water systems. The maintenance of such systems is carried out in a manner that ensures that the hazards are controlled and the OPW has a programme of audits on larger buildings and complexes to ensure that the control strategy is effective.

The Safety Statements (Risk Assessments) in OPW buildings are prepared with due regard to the risks posed by legionella.

Taxation Policy.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

166 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the Irish and British Governments’ diverging indirect taxation strategies contradict the Hain-Ahern 2006 assertion that companies should be encouraged to redesign logistical strategies and treat Ireland as one commercial zone rather than two separate entities. [45035/08]

Taxation strategies in general reflect the political choices made by Governments towards meeting the specific needs and requirements of countries. In this regard, Ireland has focused on achieving a low taxation economy, especially in the area of direct taxation, both income and corporation taxes, which has delivered significant advantages in terms of Ireland's competitiveness. In ensuring a relatively low level of direct taxation on income, we have therefore had marginally higher indirect taxation.

Recent developments have seen some widening of the differential arising from indirect taxation as a result of a reduction in the UK VAT rate. However, the UK Government has signalled that this reduction is a temporary measure to be reversed at the end of 2009.

The Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy, to which the Deputy refers, sets out a strong rationale for beneficial all-island economic activity. The study, which was published in 2006, highlights the "market widening effect" of a larger market on the island of Ireland, within which previously unexplored business opportunities can be exploited.

InterTradeIreland, the all-island trade and business development body which is jointly sponsored by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, has a central role to play in helping businesses North and South to tap into the all-island marketplace. I understand that a significant number of North/South initiatives, which were envisaged in the Comprehensive Study, have been implemented.

Departmental Schemes.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

167 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if the cycle to work scheme is available to teachers in primary and second level schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44658/08]

I announced the introduction of the Cycle to Work Scheme in Budget 2009.

The aims of the scheme are to help lower carbon emissions, reduce traffic congestion, encourage more employees to cycle to and from work, and improve health and fitness levels. Participation in the scheme is voluntary for employers. As such, it is a matter for employers to decide whether to make the scheme available to their employees.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

168 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will refund money to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin in view of the fact that their landlord at the time has established to the Revenue Commissioner that they were not overseas for tax purposes for the year in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44700/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an amended Balancing Statement has been dealt with for the year 2006 and a refund of €660 has arisen. A cheque for this amount will issue to the taxpayer shortly. A refund of all tax paid for the year 2007 was repaid on 26 September 2008.

Non-Resident Accounts.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

169 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Finance the responses which were put in place following consideration of the Aide Memoir F255/187, Progress Report On the Non-Resident Accounts/DIRT controversy, dated 28 October 1998 and placed in the Houses of the Oireachtas Library; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44734/08]

The Comptroller and Auditor General and Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (special Provisions) Bill 1998 was enacted on 16 December 1998. The Comptroller and Auditor General carried out an investigation on the matter and prepared a report in July 1999. This was followed by the Committee of Public Accounts Inquiry.

The Revenue Commissioners conducted on-site, DIRT look-back audits on 37 financial institutions during 1999 and 2000. The focus of these audits was the DIRT position of the financial institutions concerned. In the course of this audit programme, many bogus non-resident deposit accounts that belonged to taxpayers were identified. A total of €225 million was collected from 26 of these financial institutions as a consequence of these audits. The amount collected includes DIRT and the related interest and penalties.

The Revenue Commissioners issued Statement of Practice SP-Gen 1/01 in May 2001, which set out a voluntary disclosure incentive scheme for taxpayers who held bogus non-resident deposit accounts and who wished to disclose and pay all their outstanding tax liabilities by 15 November 2001. This approach to the bogus non-resident account problem was very extensively publicised at the time. Many taxpayers took the opportunity that was offered and payments of €227 million were made under the disclosure scheme.

Enquiry work commenced on 16 November 2001 to identify taxpayers who choose not to avail of the voluntary disclosure scheme. Up to the end of October 2008, payments amounting to €411 million have been made to Revenue by taxpayers who held bogus non-resident deposit accounts and who choose not to avail of the voluntary disclosure scheme. This work is now effectively complete except for a very small number of open cases.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

170 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the financial advisers and the legal advisers to Government in the current banking crisis do not overlap with advisers to the various institutions and interested investors; and the measures being taken to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. [44759/08]

In an economy the size of Ireland's it is not unusual that one of the larger financial or legal advisers has to deal with potential conflicts of interest arising from their representation of more than one client in the same sector. I have been assured by Merrill Lynch and Arthur Cox, who are providing financial and legal advice respectively on the banks guarantee scheme, that where potential conflicts arise they are dealt with through the application of well established ‘Chinese Wall' structures which are overseen by their compliance departments. These ‘Chinese Walls' operate as information barriers which ensure that any advice given to the Government is confidential and is provided by a team which is segregated from and independent of their work for other clients.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

171 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support a matter (details supplied). [44772/08]

Any proposed changes in VAT must be considered in the context of EU law, with which Irish law must comply. While Member States can retain the zero rating provisions which they had in existence on 1 January 1991, they cannot introduce any new ones. Since the supply or installation of home insulation materials was not zero-rated in 1991, it is not possible for Ireland to apply a zero rate to such products or to their installation.

However, the reduced VAT rate of 13.5%, to which the Deputy refers, may be applied to home insulation materials where they are provided under a single supply and install contract where the VAT exclusive cost of the goods does not exceed two-thirds of the total VAT exclusive charge to the customer. When supplied outside of such a contract, home insulation materials are subject to the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21.5%.

National Lottery.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

172 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the allocation of national lottery funding for each of the past five years; the projects within each Department that have been financed by national lottery funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44797/08]

Appendix 1 of the Revised Estimates for Public Services for 2004 gives a breakdown by Government Department of expenditure in that year which was funded by the proceeds of the National Lottery while a similar breakdown of expenditure which was part-funded by the proceeds of the National Lottery in the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 is given in Appendix 1 of the Revised Estimates for Public Services for each of the years 2006, 2007 and 2008.

As regards my own Department, the only expenditure of this type is the Charitable Lotteries Scheme under which funding is made available to supplement the income of certain private charitable lotteries whose products are competing directly with National Lottery products.

Payments to the Promoters of certain Charitable Lotteries

Charity

2004 Distribution

2005 Distribution

2006 Distribution

2007 Distribution

REHAB Lotteries

5,951,569.44

5,314,135.75

5,748,664.10

5,504,073.16

Gael Linn

442,993.29

407,161.87

479,224.00

541,587.06

Irish Cancer Society

389,042.97

358,683.57

418,411.48

413,738.27

Polio Fellowship

389,042.97

358,683.57

418,411.48

413,738.27

Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

350,631.91

391,823.88

316,656.75

Asthma Society of Ireland

34,174.11

141,773.42

367,530.85

557,013.55

Irish Lung Foundation Limited

219,885.64

225,301.87

205,152.00

The Hanly Centre

75,625.60

101,179.79

124,999.44

168,343.93

Irish M.E. Trust

176,136.97

100,138.84

98,105.07

Drogheda Community Services Trust

80,640.21

82,042.46

96,003.66

100,742.84

West of Ireland Alzheimer Foundation

92,877.96

80,209.75

94,458.06

104,943.51

Longford Cathedral Circle

50,743.56

50,270.19

60,652.17

62,209.77

Associated Charities Trust

49,410.84

38,426.67

41,942.28

42,214.67

Irish Wheelchair Association

31,997.23

22,063.18

18,697.16

7,615.57

Mulranny Day Centre Housing Co. Ltd.

15,599.46

15,648.87

18,528.59

17,004.60

Cappoquin Community Development Co. Ltd

13,281.15

12,235.58

13,212.12

16,049.06

The Liffey Trust

1,429.69

145.07

Cope Foundation

152.24

Lyreacrompane Community Development

27938.48

Slieve Ardagh Rural Development

20873.44

Totals

7,618,428.48

7,729,466.50

8,618,000.00

8,618,000.00

Payments under the 2008 Scheme have not yet issued.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

173 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with his Department’s guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44821/08]

I am satisfied that my Department complies fully with the guidelines it issued on foreign travel in 1998 and that they are being fully met by the following bodies under my remit: Office of the Revenue Commissioners, State laboratory, Valuation Office, Public Appointments Service, Commission for Public Service Appointments, Office of Public Works, National Treasury Management Agency, National Pensions Reserve Fund, State Claims Agency, and National Development Finance Agency.

On-going adherence to those guidelines is ensured within my Department by requiring any officer proposing to book a flight to fill in an authorisation form which must be approved by an officer of Principal or higher level. All involved are aware of the need to ensure that the flights chosen achieve the best value for money.

All the bodies listed above and the Office of the Ombudsman have confirmed to me that they require flights to be approved at senior level prior to travel being undertaken and operate monitoring procedures to ensure proper adherence to the guidelines.

The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General has informed me that it is in compliance with the guidelines issued by my Department and that appropriate monitoring procedures are in place to ensure adherence to the guidelines.

I am informed that the Special EU Programmes Body (a joint North-South body) in the case of its Monaghan based staff follows the Department's guidelines on foreign travel. Its staff based in Belfast and Omagh operate the guidelines on Foreign Travel contained within the Northern Ireland Civil Service Staff Handbook.

Parking Facilities.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

174 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he will re-negotiate the contracts they have on parking on long-term leases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44839/08]

The provision of parking spaces is usually an integral part of the demise of long-term commercial leases for office accommodation.

As is normally the case, there is no provision in commercial leases which would allow for their terms to be varied during their currency. However, when a lease expires or when an option to break a lease arises, there are opportunities for the OPW either to exit the lease or renegotiate new terms.

The OPW as a matter of standard practice always seeks to negotiate the best possible terms when entering into new commercial leases or when considering the renewal of existing leases.

Disabled Drivers.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

175 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he has received a request for disabled driver concessions from a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44843/08]

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

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

Pension Provisions.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

176 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the value of the National Pension Reserve Fund at 1 January for each of the past five years; the contribution from the taxpayer into this fund each year for each of the past five years; and the value of the fund at 30 November 2008 or the most recent valuation. [44863/08]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund was established on 2 April 2001 with the objective of meeting as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare pensions and public service pensions to be paid from the year 2025 until at least 2055.

The value of the National Pensions Reserve Fund at 31 December for each of the past five years was as follows:

Year

€ million

2003

9,561

2004

11,689

2005

15,419

2006

18,900

2007

21,153

The National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 provides that 1% of GNP is to be paid from the Exchequer into the Fund each year. The transfers to the NPRF from the Exchequer for the past five years were:

Year

€ million

2003

1,103

2004

1,177

2005

1,320

2006

1,446

2007

1,616

The 2008 Exchequer contribution amounts to €1,690 million.

The market value of the Fund at 30 September 2008 was €18,689 million. The report of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission for the third quarter of the year notes that the Fund's returns reflect the widespread decline experienced by global stock markets in September as the credit crisis worsened significantly and fears intensified as to its impact on the real economy, and the difficult year already experienced by global markets, particularly during the first quarter. I understand from the Commission that the Fund's performance since the end of September has reflected the continuing poor market conditions. The Commission expects to publish preliminary results for the full year at the end of December.

The accounts of the Fund are published in the annual reports of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission. Both the annual reports and the quarterly reports are available on the Commission's website www.nprf.ie.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the way he is monitoring and the action he is taking to ensure that section 44 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme SI 411 of 2008, which states that a covered institution shall not pass on the costs of the guarantee to its customers in an unwarranted manner, is being adhered to by financial institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44933/08]

The Scheme is a major benefit not only to the banks but also to their customers and, of course, the economy as a whole. Of course, the Scheme includes the application of strict terms and conditions on covered institutions to ensure that the public interest, which includes the taxpayer, the general consumer and small business sector, is paramount.

As I have stated previously, the cost of the charge to institutions should not be passed on to ordinary customers under the Scheme and that is the meaning and purpose to paragraph 44.

Of course the Scheme itself is only about two months old and I will be monitoring its effects over time. My Department and the Financial Regulator are setting up mechanisms for monitoring the financial institutions in relation to the Guarantee and this issue will form part of the work programme.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Financial Regulator has the power to monitor, review, and approve bank charges pursuant to section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Financial Services Regulation.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

178 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in the appointment of the new Financial Regulator consumer consultative panel in view of the fact that the mandate of the previous panel came to an end in early October 2008; when the new panel will be appointed and will meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44934/08]

The Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel was formally established by the Financial Regulator under the Central Bank Act, 1942 (as amended by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act, 2004), with effect from 1 November 2004.

The term of office of the Consumer Panel expired on 16 October this year. I can assure the Deputy that I fully appreciate the valuable contribution the Consumer Panel makes to the work of the Financial Regulator, in monitoring performance, making suggestions and in highlighting the consumer perspective. The process for appointing the new Panel, which includes consultation with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is underway and I hope to appoint a new Consumer Panel as soon as possible.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

179 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45063/08]

I am advised by the Office of Public Works that the following staff are employed in the Private and Constituency Offices of Minister of State Mansergh:

Private Office

Grade

Number

Annual salary range

Higher Executive Officer

1

€46,558 – €61,082

Executive Officer

1

€32,179 – €53,067

Clerical Officer

2

€24,397 – €40,417

Note: The number of clerical officers employed, when the Minister of State took up office on 13 May was 4, and was shortly thereafter reduced to 2. All 4 of those working in the Private Office are established Civil Servants.

Constituency Office

Grade

Number

Annual salary range

Personal Secretary

1

€30,566 – €50,410

Personal Assistant

1

€46,558 – €55,030

In addition, the Minster of State employs 2 civilian drivers at an annual salary of €34,827 each.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

180 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the holding of the National Pension Reserve Fund, whether held directly or through funds, in banks quoted on the Irish stock exchange, and in banks quoted on international stock exchanges; if he will provide a table of these holdings on 30 September 2007, 31 December 2007 and 30 September 2008; the acquisition cost of each investment; the current market value of each investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45094/08]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund, as a large diversified global investor, has invested in over 2,500 stocks globally. As required by the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission publishes a detailed list of the assets of the Fund at end-year, including its holdings in banking stocks. The Report, which is available on the Fund's website www.nprf.ie, also includes the market valuation of each investment at end-year. Holdings of equities and debt securities of banks represented some 11.4% of the Fund at 31 December 2007. The Commission does not publish details of its investments at end-quarters.

Shares in individual companies are acquired at a variety of prices as and when the Fund invests the Exchequer contributions received on a quarterly basis each year.

More generally, it is worth making the point that the return on an investment portfolio should be assessed on the basis of the overall return, not by reference to an individual investment or class of investments.

Departmental Agencies.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

181 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made for each of the 41 State agencies and bodies which he proposed to merge in his Budget 2009 statement; the timetables set; the anticipated savings to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45096/08]

Implementation of the individual Government agency rationalisation decisions I announced in my 2009 Budget Statement is a matter for the relevant Departments. My Department has requested all relevant Departments to prepare Implementation Plans by the 12th of December. Each Plan should cover the projected savings and the timeframes for implementation.

Further information on individual rationalisations may be sought from the relevant government Departments.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

182 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support a matter (details supplied). [45131/08]

The extension of the deposit guarantee scheme to credit union savers on 20 September 2008, together with the increase in the limit to €100,000 per depositor, is a very important development in safeguarding the interests of credit union savers. This is a clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to protect the whole financial system, secure its stability and ensure that all deposits in all Irish financial institutions are safe.

My role as Minister for Finance is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions continues to be appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions. While this recent action taken by the Government represents very significant progress in relation to savings protection for all credit unions, it is complementary to the continuing discussions between the Registrar of Credit Unions and the representative bodies for credit unions. There is a shared recognition between all stakeholders that the Credit Union Act 1997 needs to be updated and modernised to take account of the evolution of the regulatory and financial environment overall. In this context, it is important that the Registrar of Credit Unions and various representative bodies for credit unions continue to work together to forge a consensus on the appropriate model for credit unions for the future. The expert advisory group on credit union matters under the Credit Union Act 1997, the Credit Union Advisory Committee (CUAC) and my Department will, of course, continue to work with all the key stakeholders to support the achievement of this objective.

Tax Code.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

183 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Finance if the 1% levy recently introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Bill, 2008 will apply to the gross income of family farmers; and if an allowance will be made for depreciation in their case. [45228/08]

The position is that the income levy will apply to gross income but excluding social welfare payments and social welfare type payments such as farm retirement pensions and the rural social scheme, as well as the contributory and non-contributory State pensions.

The income levy will be calculated by applying the appropriate percentage to the farmer's gross income, after deductions of only those expenses directly associated with the performance of the trade, i.e. in accordance with the normal principles of commercial accounting. However, no deduction will be allowed for capital allowances or depreciation.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

184 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the expertise being recruited to help manage the new relationship and protect the taxpayer in view of the dramatically changed relationship between banks and the Government. [45229/08]

Within my Department, arrangements have been made to allocate additional staff to the Financial Services Division to manage the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme and related matters. These staff have been provided from within the existing staff resource allocation. These staff have access to professional financial and legal advice as required and they will be working closely with the Financial Regulator.

The Financial Regulator, who has the primary day to day involvement with the covered institutions, is in the process of recruiting up to twenty additional staff with expertise in credit, treasury and market risk. These staff will be based on-site in the credit institutions covered by the Scheme and will focus on in-depth analysis of banking activities, assessing banking risks and engaging with individual banks on key risk areas and capital adequacy. The Financial Regulator advises me that this recruitment process will be completed as soon as possible.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

185 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the Departmental schemes of performance related rewards have in all cases taken up the entire pool of 10% of the pay bill in each Department since it was instituted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45230/08]

Following a decision by the Government on the implementation of recommendations in Report No. 38 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, schemes of performance-related awards were introduced.

In the case of Government Departments the scheme applies to posts at the levels of Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary. The first payments under the scheme were made in 2002.

The schemes of awards are based on performance by reference to demanding targets. The pool for performance awards is 10% of the pay bill for participating members of the group concerned. Within that overall limit individuals can receive payments of up to 20% of pay (although payments at that level would be very rare).

Since the introduction of the scheme the full pool or close to it has been applied in respect of persons participating in the scheme. The salaries of persons who are eligible to participate in the scheme but choose not to do so are not taken into account in calculating the pool.

I have no role in the decisions on awards. Decisions on awards are made by the Committee for Performance Awards, which includes a majority of private sector members. The main roles of the Committee are to monitor the application of the scheme of performance-related awards and to bring independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the persons covered by the scheme and in approving recommendations for awards.

Details of the procedures, the numbers covered by the schemes, the range of awards and the total amounts paid in Departments are outlined in the annual reports of the Committee (available on the websitewww.finance.gov.ie.).

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

186 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the unexpected shortfall in taxation has led to the placing of additional loans by the National Treasury Management Agency during 2008; the volume and cost premium over the European Central Bank rate in each case; and the schedule of loan placing planned over the next 12 months. [45231/08]

The NTMA has advised me that its annual net funding requirement is determined by the level of the Exchequer Balance and the amount of maturities of existing loans. There were no major maturities in 2008, however the Exchequer Borrowing Requirement increased reflecting the shortfall in tax receipts in 2008.

NTMA net borrowing in 2008 was mainly by way of two major new benchmark bonds: a 10 year bond in April raised €7 billion, and a 3 year bond in November raised €4 billion. The 10 year bond was issued at a yield of 4.5%. The 3 year bond was issued at a yield of 4.02%. The ECB policy rates (main re-financing operations, fixed rate) on the relevant days in April and November were 4% and 3.25% respectively. However, the bond yields and the ECB policy rates are not directly comparable; the ECB rate is an overnight rate, while the bond yields take into account their longer maturities. The remainder of the NTMA's net borrowing this year will be carried out on the short-term commercial paper markets.

Based on Budget 2009 projections, the NTMA has advised the market of its funding plans for 2009 which includes a €5 billion bond repayment in April 2009. As such a gross debt issuance requirement of €18.4 billion next year is currently being planned.

The funding requirement in respect of 2009 will be met by a combination of new syndicated benchmark bond issues and auctions. The NTMA's objective is to further develop a continuous and liquid yield curve for Irish Government bonds. The NTMA has advised me that it is in a comfortable cash position and will decide on the timing of its issuance in the light of market conditions.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

187 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the reason tax relief is not granted on third level tuition fees paid by students to a college (details supplied) in County Kildare; if it is an approved college; if not, the reason for same; if it is fair that students should be left without their tax relief due to no fault of their own in these situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45236/08]

Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides that tax relief at the standard rate of tax (20%) is available in respect of tuition fees paid by an individual in respect of Third Level Education.

A criterion for eligibility for the tax relief is that, for a year of assessment, an individual pays qualifying fees. Qualifying fees means tuition fees in respect of an approved course at an approved college. The maximum limit on such qualifying fees for the academic years 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 is €5,000.

To qualify for the tax relief, the undergraduate courses must be of at least 2 academic years' duration. Some of those courses already approved include certain full-time and part-time courses in publicly funded third level institutions in the State (including institutions providing courses to which the Higher Education Grants Scheme applies) and in private colleges. Undergraduate courses in private colleges must be formally approved by the Minister for Education and Science for the purposes of the tax relief.

As regards colleges in the State, only courses undertaken in an approved college as defined in section 473A Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 are eligible for tax relief. Section 473A defines an approved college in the State as being:

(a) a college or institution of higher education in the State which—

(i) provides courses to which a scheme approved by the Minister under the Local Authorities (Higher Education) Grants Act, 1968 to 1992, applies, or

(ii) operates in accordance with a code of standards which from time to time may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, be laid down by the Minister, and which the Minister approves for the purposes of this section;

The relevant Minister in this context is the Minister for Education & Science.

The College and the course referred to in the details supplied are not currently on the list of approved colleges and courses and, therefore, fees paid for courses undertaken at that College do not qualify for tax relief under Section 473A. In addition, approval of qualifying colleges and courses is a matter for the relevant colleges and the Department of Education and Science, Student Support Services, Portlaoise Road, Tullamore, County Offaly.

Lists of approved colleges and courses are compiled by the Department of Education and Science on an annual basis (in August in advance of the new academic year) and forwarded to the Revenue Commissioners who post them to their website.

Company Closures.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

188 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) went into liquidation; if in these circumstances it is the case that ownership of building lands of such a company including common or green spaces in a Dublin estate transfers to his Department; if his Department can dispose of such lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45241/08]

Under Section 28 (2) of the State Property Act, 1954, the Minister for Finance assumes responsibility for all personal property and land vested in or held in trust by a body corporate immediately prior to its dissolution (other than personal property or land held by such body in trust for another person). Section 29 of the Act deals with vesting of property in the Minister and Section 30 deals with the process whereby the Minister may secure definitive ownership of property.

The effect of Section 28 is that the Minister does not hold the assets of dissolved companies as beneficial owner. He holds them in trust. The State has no title documents and no knowledge of charges or encumbrances attaching to them. The title which the Minister acquires under this section has been described as a defeasible title since, if the dissolved company in question is restored to the Register of Companies, its property is automatically restored to it.

Section 31 of the State Property Act, 1954 provides that the Minister may waive the State's interest (in property which has vested in the State under Section 28 of the Act) in favour of such person and upon such terms (whether including or not including the payment of money) as he thinks proper having regard to all the circumstances of the case.

I am advised that neither my Department nor the Office of Public Works, which carries out much of the administrative work in this area, have been notified of the case to which the Deputy has referred in his question.

Tax Code.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

189 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a query in relation to the application of the income levy on redundancy payments (details supplied). [45286/08]

The position is that an exemption from income tax in respect of statutory redundancy is provided for in section 203 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and this exemption will also apply in relation to the income levy. In addition, section 201 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, provides for a basic exemption on a redundancy package of €10,160 plus €765 for each complete year of service in the office or employment. There is also provision for a further increased exemption of €10,000 in circumstances where the employee is not a member of a pension scheme, or has given up his or her right to entitlement to a lump sum from the scheme.

The income levy will only be applied to that portion of any ex-gratia payment made by an employer on the termination of an office or employment which is in excess of these exemptions.

The income levy will be deducted at the rate applicable on the date of payment. The rate of income levy, operated on a weekly or monthly basis by an employer, is governed by the thresholds of 1% on the first €100,100, 2% on the next €150,020 and 3% thereafter.

Where an individual has an income levy charge in respect of a termination payment and this is deducted at a rate higher than that appropriate to his or her aggregate income for the year of assessment, any excess will be refunded when the full details of his or her circumstances are known at the end of the year of assessment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P21 will issue for 2008 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45320/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of a request for a P21 from the person concerned. A Return of Income for 2008 has been issued to the person today to enable Revenue to deal with the request.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

191 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the way the introduction of an airport exit tax will affect aviation policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40249/08]

As the Deputy is aware, in Budget 2009 I announced that an air travel tax will come into force in respect of passengers departing from Irish airports on and from 30 March 2009. A general rate of €10 per passenger will apply, with a lower rate of €2 for shorter journeys.

The Finance Bill confirms the introduction of an air travel tax from 30 March 2009, however, I have taken account of concerns raised by the regional airports particularly those on the western seaboard. Consequently, the lower rate of €2 will apply to departures from any Irish airport where the destination is 300kms or less from Dublin airport. This means that all Irish departures to locations such as Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow will be subject to the €2 rate. The airlines will be the liable persons for the tax, including paying it to Revenue.

Ireland is not unique in regard to applying a tax on air travel. A number of countries within the EU apply similar taxes including, the UK, France and the Netherlands, as do Australia and New Zealand. The proposed rates for the Irish air travel tax are not unreasonable both for shorter and longer journeys, when compared to rates in other countries. While aviation policy is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Transport, the introduction of the air travel tax should have little, if any, impact on aviation policy.

Asylum Applications.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

192 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on extending the remit of the Ombudsman to the handling of asylum and immigration cases; the reason he did not include these in the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008; if he has had formal discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on this issue; the outcome of this discussion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45365/08]

I have no proposals to extend the remit of the Ombudsman to the areas identified by the Deputy.

Section 5(1)(e) of the Ombudsman Act 1980 provides that "the Ombudsman shall not investigate any action taken . . . in the administration of the law relating to aliens or naturalisation". These actions will continue to be excluded from the remit of the Ombudsman under the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 on the advice of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who considers that their inclusion would have serious implications for Government strategies in this field.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 sets out a legislative framework for the management of inward migration to Ireland and represents a comprehensive overhaul of the State's immigration and protection laws dating back to the Aliens Act 1935. When enacted, it will provide a legislative framework underpinning an enhanced immigration system offering greater clarity and certainty to migrants while at the same time guarding against abuses. The Bill also places the existing visa review process on a statutory basis and introduces a similar statutory review process in relation to decisions to refuse to renew such permission. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform considers that to add a further layer of review by extending the role of the Ombudsman would have a detrimental effect on current workloads in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and would affect processing times for applicants.

While the Ombudsman does not have the power to investigate immigration and naturalisation matters, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service receives correspondence from her Office on such cases and responds to such correspondence giving the factual position on the matter complained about. The Ombudsman's Office, however, has no powers of investigation into the complaints made, in accordance with Section 5 (1) (e) of the Ombudsman Act 1980.

Insurance Industry.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

193 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on reports that he is considering the sale of the State’s stake in VHI. [45367/08]

The sale of its stake in the VHI is not Government policy at this point in time.

Job Protection.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

194 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the significant changes in the international financial services sector resulting from the ongoing upheaval in global finance could pose a risk to thousands of jobs in the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin; if he has a contingency plan to safeguard these jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45369/08]

Notwithstanding the recent problems in the global markets — from which no country could expect to be immune — the development of Ireland as a global financial centre is one of the major success stories of the Irish economy over the past two decades.

Of course, competitiveness is key to success. In that regard, the Clearing House Group, the public sector — industry partnership, which operates under the aegis of Department of the Taoiseach, is currently working on developing new strategic thinking for the future of the industry which we hope to have in place shortly. The Government is fully supportive of all these efforts aimed at maintaining the strength of the industry going forward.

The Taoiseach met with the Clearing House Group on 20th November and restated the Government's commitment to the industry.

The key priorities for building and embedding competitive advantage for Ireland into the future have been established through the strategy statement — "Building on Success" — which was published in September 2006. The Government will continue working to ensure that Ireland has the appropriate regulatory and fiscal structures to facilitate this important part of our economy.

Fiscal Policy.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

195 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a debt ceiling which would limit the national debt to a certain proportion of national income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45380/08]

In line with the provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact, all EU member states, including Ireland, agree to respect a General Government Debt ratio of 60% of GDP. General Government Debt is the standard measurement of gross debt used for comparative purposes within the Union.

Foreign Adoptions.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

196 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if the bilateral arrangement on adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam, due to end in April 2009, will be renewed. [45028/08]

I advised Deputies on the 18th of November and 3rd December last that officials from my Office and the Adoption Board travelled to Vietnam in the previous week to commence discussions on the negotiation of a new bilateral agreement with Vietnam in light of the expiration of the current agreement in May 2009. A report on the visit has been completed and is currently under consideration. I will be discussing any next steps with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the first instance.

Hospital Staff.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

197 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will carry out an inquiry into all aspects of a case (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45535/08]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

211 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will carry out an inquiry into all aspects of a case (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44781/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 211 together.

Issues surrounding this case have been the subject of a number of inquiries. In 1995 the Medical Council instigated a fitness to practice inquiry but this was delayed pending the outcome of separate legal proceedings, including criminal and judicial review proceedings. Following a Supreme Court judgment in July of this year the Medical Council recommenced an Inquiry. The Inquiry recently resulted in the practitioner in question being removed from the Medical Register.

The issue of a further inquiry is not under consideration. The Health Service Executive has made counselling support available to all those who have been in contact with them following the recent Medical Council Inquiry and will continue to provide such assistance as required.

In addition a review of the response to the matter by the Hospital concerned was conducted by an independent review group chaired by Dr. Miriam Hederman O'Brien. The group's report was published in June 1996.

Hospital Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

198 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the delays in obtaining appointments for consultation or orthopaedic treatment in Cork and the fact that general practitioners have been advised that they are unable to obtain an appointment for such treatment; the steps being taken to deal with this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44671/08]

As the provision of orthopaedic services is a matter for the Health Service Executive, the issue has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Ceist:

199 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress being made regarding the provision of a primary care centre in Listowel, County Kerry; the location of this centre; and the stage plans are at. [44678/08]

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Service Staff.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the current staffing services are retained at Health Service Executive headquarters in Manorhamilton and that extra services be centred at this location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44688/08]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

201 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will bring forward her review of the Mental Health Act 2001 in view of the fact that she had to introduce the Mental Health Act 2008 as an emergency measure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44690/08]

A report on the review of the operation of the Mental Health Act 2001 was laid before the Oireachtas in May 2007 in accordance with the provisions of Section 75 of the Act. The report recommended a small number of amendments to the Act and also recommended that given that the full provisions of the Act had only been in operation since the 1st November 2006, a more detailed review be undertaken within 5 years of full implementation i.e. before 1 Nov 2011. In addition, in July 2008, the Mental Health Commission submitted a report on the operation of Part 2 of the Act which made some recommendations for legislative change. Work has commenced on drafting amendments to the Act and it is hoped that Heads of a Bill will be finalised in the New Year.

Given that both reviews which have been undertaken to date involved wide consultation, I am satisfied that there is no need at this stage to bring forward the detailed and comprehensive review planned for 2011. The review of mental health legislation is of course an ongoing process, and in that context, the Mental Health Act 2008 was enacted as an emergency measure to confirm the validity of renewal orders, in light of proceedings which had been taken in the High Court by a detained patient, challenging the validity of her detention on technical grounds.

Medicinal Products.

James Reilly

Ceist:

202 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason wholesale cost of medicines here are higher than the over the counter or retail cost of medicines in Spain; her proposals to obtain a better and more realistic price for such medicines here from manufacturers in particular; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44723/08]

EU member states are the main purchasers of medicines in their domestic markets. They naturally seek to control drug prices, but the extent of this control varies widely. Some countries, such as the UK and Germany, rely more on market forces to set prices. Spain and Portugal, on the other hand, closely regulate and control prices. Ireland's pricing policy is somewhere in the middle of the European league as, with its relatively small market, it must seek to balance value for money in State drug spending with reliability and continuity of supply for essential products.

Price comparison in different markets is difficult. Patent protection in Ireland allows originator companies exclusive rights to the market for ten years for new medicines. In Spain, for example, until 1992 there was no intellectual property protection for medicines and no patent protection for new products. This kept prices down, but may change with patent and intellectual property exclusivity. In addition, some products that are prescription-only in Ireland are available without prescription in some other states.

My Department and the Health Service Executive concluded negotiations in 2006 with pharmaceutical manufacturers on important new agreements setting out the pricing and supply of medicines for the Irish health service.

These agreements provide increased value for money for the State and the consumer through a reduction in the price of existing drugs and medicines coming off patent and through the use of a new mechanism for pricing new drugs. Over the period of the agreements, which run to 2010, it is expected to achieve savings of the order of €260 million across the GMS and community drugs schemes, and in the cost of drugs to hospitals, through off-patent price cuts of 35% for drugs with substitutable alternatives. In addition to the savings quantified, there will be further savings as generic manufacturers respond to the lower price of branded drugs.

There will also be savings through the new pricing mechanism for new medicines, along with two price reviews for new medicines over the term of the agreements. Finally, for the first time, reimbursement of new drugs in Ireland can now be informed by pharmacoeconomic assessment, in line with other EU countries.

I must stress that no single measure will contain the rate of increase in expenditure on medicines and drugs. Indeed, international experience has shown that this is a very difficult task, as the sophistication and range of treatments continue to increase along with increased expectations on the part of patients.

General Medical Services Scheme.

James Reilly

Ceist:

203 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the issue of doctors receiving capitation grants and fees for patients who are deceased more than three months; the system her Department or the Health Service Executive has in place to mitigate against this occurring; if she is satisfied that this is not occurring in practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44724/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the operational and funding responsibility for the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme. My Department is conferring with the HSE in relation to the particular issues raised by the Deputy, and I will revert to him on the matter as quickly as possible.

Nursing Education.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

204 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reverse the cut in undergraduate nurse training places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44732/08]

The O.E.C.D. Public Management Review: IRELAND — Towards an Integrated Public Service (2008) in its case study: Reconfiguration of the Health Services notes—

"One statistical characteristic of Ireland is its very large number of practising nurses (15.2 per 1,000), which is twice the OECD average, just below Norway (15.4) but much higher than UK (9.1) or France (7.7). The number of nurses graduating every year is also high (14.4), above Norway (10.1), UK (8.6) or France (5.9). This contradicts the universal perception of a "shortage" of nurses, held by health actors in Ireland who were interviewed by the OECD. Partial explanations come from the fact that some 40% of nurses in Ireland work part-time (as compared for example with 26% in France for nurses working in hospitals)."

The Deputy will be aware that in arriving at the 2009 Estimates, all Departments were required to deliver economy savings as part of Budget 2008. I announced that the HSE is to deliver economy savings of €115 million in this context. Among other matters this includes a reduction in nurse training expenditure in 2009. The total cost of nurse education to the health services, both undergraduate and post-registration, is currently in excess of €117 million per annum.

The number of places on the undergraduate nursing degree programmes will be reduced by 310 places from next year. This reduction was finalised following consultation between my Department and the Department of Education and Science, and I have no plans to alter this decision.

From next year we will be providing 1,570 undergraduate places in the following courses:

Courses

Number of Places

General Nursing

860 places

Intellectual Disability Nursing

180 places

Psychiatric Nursing

290 places

Midwifery

140 places (no reduction)

Children’s and General Nursing Integrated

100 places (no reduction)

Total

1,570 places

The reduction in places, which will result in savings of €1.65 million approximately in 2009 and €3.3 million from 2010 onwards.

Nurses trained under the apprenticeship and diploma models undertaking part-time degree courses have been able to apply to their employer to have their course fees paid in return for a service commitment to the public health service. This initiative has been in operation since 2001 and was due for completion before now. It will be no longer be available for new entrants from 1 January 2009, resulting in a saving of €2m next year and about €3.8m per annum from 2010 onwards.

Further savings of €1.35m in 2009 will be achieved by reducing places on the various post-registration courses in specialist clinical practice. These three cost saving measures will produce savings of €5m in 2009 and €8.45m in future years.

The investment in the undergraduate nursing degree programmes is a substantial and significant element of health service expenditure. My Department in cooperation with the HSE is initiating a study to review the clinical, educational, contractual and financial arrangements in place for the general, psychiatric and intellectual disability pre-registration nursing programmes established in 2002. (The undergraduate midwifery and integrated children's and general nursing programmes are outside the terms of the review as they are relatively new programmes.)

The review will assess the VFM achieved from monies allocated and utilised in the degree programme and will inform the scope for alternative approaches to nurse education.

The review will also provide a systematic analysis of what is actually being achieved by expenditure under both capital and revenue headings and will provide sound evidence and a critical analysis of the preparation of nurses for practice. The findings will provide a basis to inform decision makers on the future direction of pre-registration nursing education programmes in Ireland.

The review will be carried out in the context of nursing recruitment and retention patterns, future workforce projections and the overarching health service reform agenda.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

205 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a breakdown of the current expenditure and revenue budget allocated to a delivery organisation (details supplied) in 2008. [44737/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Computerisation Programme.

James Reilly

Ceist:

206 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details on the new computer system planned to replace PPARS; the cost to implement this system; the annual running cost of the new system; the way this system will be funded; when it will become operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44743/08]

The Exchequer provides almost €8 billion in funding through the HSE Vote in respect of pay and pensions. The HSE employs some 72,800 staff and funds agencies employing a further 38,000 staff. In line with best practice in the commercial world and other sectors, the effective management of this resource would be greatly facilitated by comprehensive HR systems. Currently the HSE has a number of systems, including PPARS, which it uses to administer HR information and payroll in respect of employees.

The best use of scarce taxpayers' resources for clinical care will only be achieved if payroll and administration costs are managed tightly — and in the modern age, this requires high quality IT systems and, therefore, necessary investment in those systems. The Department is aware that the HSE is considering how best to enhance its HR systems solutions in order to meet its future requirements and expects in due course to receive the HSE's proposals. However, currently no such proposal has been developed by the HSE.

Any proposal which may be submitted by the HSE with regard to its HR systems requirements will, prior to any approval, be given very careful consideration by the Departments of Health and Children and Finance (CMOD) having regard to the need to ensure value for money and other demands on limited ICT capital funds. The consideration will be informed by the experience of delivering large ICT projects.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

James Reilly

Ceist:

207 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and length of time patients have been waiting on outpatient waiting lists in hospital for orthopaedics, cardiology, ophthalmology, dermatology, neurology and oncology; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44744/08]

The management of hospital services generally, including out-patient waiting lists, is a matter for the HSE and the individual hospitals concerned. Therefore, the question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Departmental Correspondence.

James Reilly

Ceist:

208 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she and the chief executive of the Health Service Executive received a letter from a group (details supplied) criticising the proposal to withdraw or limit access to oral nutritional medicines that protect against malnutrition; if she and the chief executive accept that this will have a detrimental effect on patient outcomes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44745/08]

I have recently received correspondence from the organisation mentioned by the Deputy. I understand that this correspondence was also to be forwarded to the Health Service Executive. As the Deputy is aware, my Department and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have been reviewing the pharmaceutical supply chain, with a view to seeking value for money in the State's drugs bill in order to better fund existing and innovative therapies without compromising continuity of supply or patient safety.

The Government remains of the view that the costs of pharmacy services under the GMS and community drugs schemes are not sustainable, a view that is reinforced by the current budgetary challenges. It is clear that there are significant savings capable of being made for taxpayers, presently and in the future.

Expenditure on the medical card, drug payment and other demand-led schemes is approximately €2.6 billion and represents 18% of HSE current expenditure. The average annual increase in expenditure in recent years has been 13%. This rate of increase cannot be sustained.

It has been decided to introduce a range of further measures in 2009 to slow the rate of increase in these schemes and generate savings of €175m. These measures include an increase in the threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme from €90 to €100 a month; new guidelines for GPs on the prescribing of nutritional supplements; and other measures to reduce drug costs. It is therefore not a question of withdrawing nutritional supplements but rather an issue of appropriate prescribing and reducing wastage.

The HSE is developing an information pack for GPs which will include assessment tools and prescribing protocols for a defined group of oral nutritional products (sip feeds) restricted to defined categories of patient, time bound prescriptions (maximum two weeks) and needs monitored every three to six months. By reducing wastage and inappropriate prescribing this measure is expected to result in savings of approximately €7 million per annum.

The HSE is also undertaking competitive tendering arrangements to determine cost effective reimbursement prices for agreed non-drug items where appropriate. The estimated annual savings are approximately €3 million.

A review of demand led schemes is currently being carried out by the HSE with a view to commencing the implementation of targeted improvements at the earliest possible time while taking account of budgetary challenges in the short, medium and long term.

In addition, I established a process under the Chairmanship of Dr. Michael Barry, to develop recommendations for good practice which will secure safe and effective prescribing for patients while maximising the potential for economy in the use of public funds. The initial report from Dr. Barry has been received in my Department and is being considered.

Departmental Reports.

James Reilly

Ceist:

209 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the Dr. Michael Barry report; when she will publish the report; the amount of money expected to be saved if the recommendations of the report are implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44746/08]

The report on Economies in Drug Usage in the Irish Healthcare Setting from Dr Michael Barry has recently been received by me and is being considered.

Legislative Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

210 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if legislation is required to introduce the new health insurance levy to facilitate community rating; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44764/08]

The health insurance levy announced by the Government as part of the interim solution to protect the policy of community rating in the private health insurance market will be charged to the health insurance companies. Legislation to provide for the levy is currently being drafted as a priority by Parliamentary Counsel. It will be published in the current session.

Question No. 211 answered with Question No. 197.

Inter-Country Health Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

212 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the payments received and made for each of the past four years and estimated for 2008 in respect of medical treatment accorded to residents from the UK and other EU countries treated in hospitals here and Irish residents treated in the UK and other EU countries; the recent changes in such payment arrangements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44783/08]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 coordinates health and social security arrangements among EU member states (it also applies in the remaining EEA member states and Switzerland). Under these provisions, persons who are insured with (covered by) the healthcare system of one EU member state are entitled to receive healthcare in the public system of another member state in certain circumstances, at the cost of the member state in which they are insured. Such persons may include

people who are employed in one member state and resident in another and their dependants,

pensioners of one member state who reside in another and their dependants,

visitors to one member state from another, and

persons referred for treatment to another member state.

Ireland has waiver agreements with a number of member states (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Austria, Sweden, and until 2007 Netherlands) which comprehends temporary visitors between the two countries and accordingly charges do not normally arise.

Ireland operates a bilateral healthcare reimbursement agreement with the United Kingdom comprehending such persons as temporary visitors between the two countries; pensioners of one country and their dependants residing in the other country; and the dependant families of persons employed in the other country. Under the terms of the agreement net liability between the two countries is calculated on a lump sum basis rather than an individual basis. The payment made in any one year is determined based upon an estimate of the number of persons falling within categories eligible for reimbursement and for whom each country is liable and an estimate of the average cost of providing healthcare treatment. Total payments in any one year can relate to both final settlements in respect of previous years' liabilities and advance payments in respect of the current year. The net payment received from the UK over the last four years is as follows: 2005 — €448.6 million, 2006 — €396.7 million; 2007 — €450 million; 2008 — €100 million estimated. These amounts represent the actual payments made in cash in these years and do not correspond to the full liability for that particular year. As explained below, only a small portion of these payments relates to UK visitors to Ireland and Irish visitors to the UK. By far the largest part of the payment received from the UK authorities on an annual basis relates to the provision of healthcare to UK pensioners and their dependants residing in Ireland.

The amount payable in any one year attributable to temporary visitors between Ireland and the UK is determined by the estimated number of visitor days and an estimate of the average cost of providing healthcare treatment. The finalisation of accounts is normally some years in arrears to facilitate collation of relevant statistics and for the approval of the average cost prepared by each country for the year concerned at EU level. The last accounts finalised were in respect of the year 2002 in respect of which Ireland's liability to the United Kingdom was calculated at Stg£6,487,402 (€9,455,000 approximately) for 21,084,000 visitor days (Ireland to UK) and the United Kingdom's liability to Ireland was €12,288,014 for 19,602,700 visitor days (UK to Ireland). Accounts for subsequent years have not yet been finalised. However visitor days for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 have been estimated respectively as follows:

2005

2006

2007

Visitor days, Ireland to UK

20,785,500

19,515,100

22,402,500

Visitor days UK to Ireland

18,895,600

20,002,000

19,482,400

The HSE may approve applications from Irish people for treatment in another EU member state, where certain criteria are fulfilled. The HSE is responsible for payments to these member states for the costs of such treatment. The HSE is also operationally responsible for all other payments made to member states other than those governed by the Ireland/United Kingdom bilateral healthcare reimbursement agreement. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have details of such payments compiled and issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Mary O'Rourke

Ceist:

213 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [44787/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Proposed Legislation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

214 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date on the public health (miscellaneous provisions) Bill; when she expects the Bill will be introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44790/08]

My Department is preparing proposals for consideration by Government in relation to a number of matters affecting public health including:

The regulation of sunbeds;

Provision of health advice on labels of alcohol containers and promotional materials;

Graphic warnings on tobacco products;

Minor amendments to the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts.

Pending consideration by Government, I am not in a position to say when these provisions might be introduced.

Medical Cards.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

215 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is a medical card holder is required to pay for medication which up to now they had been receiving free of charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44798/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

216 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department and all agencies under her remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44823/08]

My Department has strict policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with the Department of Finance Guidelines on Foreign Travel. My Department has a limited budget available for foreign travel. Only essential travel is undertaken and officers of the Department are required to ensure the most cost effective options are utilised in line with the Guidelines.

My Department, along with most other Departments, utilises the services of a travel agent who was awarded a contract following a selection process co-ordinated by the Department of Finance. The travel agent is also required to ensure best value for money. My Department has a designated officer who is responsible for making foreign travel arrangements in line with the Guidelines.

Department of Finance circulars on travel and subsistence, including foreign travel, have been re-issued on the 28th November, 2008 to all Agencies established under aegis of this Department. Ongoing compliance with the provisions of these circulars will be monitored as part of the Departments Framework for Corporate and Financial Governance which applies to all of these Agencies.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

217 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of assisted living hours and the number of new hours allocated by the Health Service Executive in 2007 and to date in 2008 respectively in each HSE area; the expenditure on assisted living hours each year respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44844/08]

In the 2008 Budget, €50m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to fund a range of additional services under the Multi Annual Investment Programme for people with a disability, including 200,000 additional personal assistant/home support hours. The Health Service Executive will provide a total of 3.2 million hours of personal assistant/home support this year to people with a disability.

The HSE's National Service Plan for 2009 proposes to provide 3.2 million hours of personal assistant/home support to people with a disability. As the Deputy's questions relate to service matters I have arranged for the questions to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

David Stanton

Ceist:

218 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people with acquired brain injury who have been sent to the UK for treatment through the National Treatment Purchase Fund since its establishment; the cost of same; the number who are currently receiving treatment there; the number of people with ABI who are on a waiting list for treatment abroad as a result of services not being available here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44845/08]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has advised my Department that it has never referred anyone with acquired brain injury abroad for treatment. As the provision of services for persons with acquired brain injury is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for reply.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

219 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted to St. James’s Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44854/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Staff.

James Reilly

Ceist:

220 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of consultants who have signed up to a new contract; the number of consultants who remain on the old contract; the number of consultants engaged in a process of arbitration in respect of the new contract; the reason for this arbitration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44855/08]

James Reilly

Ceist:

221 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 97 of 9 October 2008, the number of new consultants appointed of the 108 new consultant posts approved since the Programme for Government commitment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44856/08]

James Reilly

Ceist:

222 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new hospital and primary, community and continuing care consultants posts approved for 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44857/08]

James Reilly

Ceist:

223 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of existing hospital consultants as per speciality and location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44858/08]

James Reilly

Ceist:

224 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of existing primary, community and continuing care consultants as per speciality and location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44859/08]

James Reilly

Ceist:

225 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has hired a recruitment agency to recruit consultants; the agency to whom the tender was awarded; the duration of this process; the amount the recruitment agency will be paid for the work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44864/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 to 225, inclusive, together.

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Services.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

226 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook, Dublin has decided to close Iona unit which is specially designed and run for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and those suffering from dementia and is a fully secure unit facility, specifically providing for the care of eight patients, that such a closure is due to lack of resources to properly maintain the unit and that as a consequence patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia who require a secure unit will be moved to an open ward which is inappropriate to their condition; and if she will take the necessary action to ensure the resources are provided to the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook for the continued use of the Iona Unit for such patients who require secure care. [44865/08]

The Royal Hospital in Donnybrook is an independent voluntary organisation that provides social care services to the community. Each year, like any voluntary agency publically funded by the Health Services Executive (HSE), the Royal Hospital enters into a Service Level Agreement with the HSE. I understand that it receives an annual budget from the Executive of over €21m. As operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Community Care.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

227 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will approve the Health Service Executive service plan for 2009; if this includes a provision for non-pay costs associated with the running of the new community nursing unit in Tralee, County Kerry in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44871/08]

I received the HSE National Service Plan for 2009 on Tuesday, 18 November. Under the Health Act 2004, I have 21 days within which to approve the Plan or issue a direction to amend it (ie by Tuesday 9 December). As is normal, the Plan will be published after I have approved it. It would be inappropriate for me to disclose details of the draft Plan while it is still subject to this deliberative process.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

228 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in opening a facility (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44877/08]

John Cregan

Ceist:

233 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the paediatric high dependency unit will open at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle, Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45078/08]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

249 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when the paediatric high dependency unit at the Mid Western Regional Hospital Limerick will be opened; and if the extra funding will be provided to take on extra staff for this unit and provide the adequate training which is needed. [45289/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228, 233 and 249 together.

As the matters raised by the Deputies are service issues they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

229 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44936/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

230 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [44940/08]

The Deputy is referring to a recently published planning application to Dublin City Council in respect of the development of out-patient facilities at Beaumount Hospital for persons with cystic fibrosis. My Department has asked the Health Service Executive to advise the Deputy regarding the status of the application. Beaumont Hospital operates as a regional centre in providing services for adults with cystic fibrosis. In the 2008 Budget, €2.5m capital funding was provided to enable the hospital to provide out-patient facilities for patients with cystic fibrosis. It is intended that the facility will be completed in late 2009. Patients with cystic fibrosis will also benefit from additional single room capacity in the new Medical Assessment Unit at Beaumont Hospital, which is due for completion early in 2009.

Integration of Health Services.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

231 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of times she has met with her Northern Ireland ministerial counterpart Michael McGimpsey in 2008 to discuss the integration of health services on this island; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45037/08]

I can confirm to the Deputy that I met Minister McGimpsey in Belfast in May this year at the North South Ministerial Council, Health Sectoral meeting. While a further meeting due to be held in Dublin in November was postponed, I am hopeful that this meeting can be re-arranged for early in the new year. I can also confirm that there is ongoing extensive contact at official level between both our Departments with a view to agreeing a programme of cooperative measures for future North/South engagement in health.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

232 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45065/08]

The information requested by the Deputy, in respect of 2008, is set out in the following table.

2008

Private Secretary

Executive Officer

Staff Officer

Clerical Officer

Special Advisor

Personal Secretary

Personal Assistant

Civilian Driver

Total Staffing

Projected Salary Costs 2008

€m

Minister for Children & Youth Affairs

Private Office

1

1

3

1

6

0.402

Constituency Office

1.6

1

1

3.6

0.237

Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion & Food Safety

Private Office

1

2

3

2

8

0.238

Constituency Office

3

1

1

5

0.280

Minister of State with responsibility for Older People

Private Office

1

1

0.5

2

2

6.5

0.363

Constituency Office

2

1

1

4

0.204

Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Disability Issues & Mental Health

Private Office

1

0.8

2

2

5.8

0.374

Constituency Office

2

1

1

4

0.159

Overall Total

4

4.8

0.5

18.6

1

4

4

6

42.9

2.257

Question No. 233 answered with Question No. 228.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

234 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals in regard to the future of a house (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45084/08]

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter, it has been referred to the H.S.E for direct reply.

Hospital Services.

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

235 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding that was provided for the two replacement linear accelerators that were commissioned at St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin earlier in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45102/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

236 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for the health repayment scheme will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; the reason for the delay in processing this application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45115/08]

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.

Foreign Adoptions.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

237 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it is proposed not to renew the bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam for inter-country adoption; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45117/08]

I advised Deputies on 18 November and 3 December last that officials from my office and the Adoption Board travelled to Vietnam in the previous week to commence discussions on the negotiation of a new bilateral agreement with Vietnam in light of the expiration of the current agreement in May 2009. A report on the visit has been completed and is currently under consideration. I will discuss any further steps with my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the first instance.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

238 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [45132/08]

Medical cards are made available by the Health Service Executive to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner services. In general, eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants — income and relevant outgoings. In assessing a medical card/GP visit card application, the HSE uses guidelines based on people's means which includes their income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. The assessment process also takes account of other factors, such as medical or social need, which may impact on people's ability to meet the cost of GP services. I have no role in the process of determination of eligibility to medical cards or GP visit cards for individual applicants. If an applicant is not content with the outcome of an appeal by the HSE, the matter can be raised with the Office of the Ombudsman for adjudication.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

239 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 was not granted a medical card; if her attention has been drawn to their full medical history which includes being coeliac, having osteoporosis, suffering from thyroid problems and being on a expensive gluten free diet for life when refusing a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45135/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

240 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 was refused a medical card despite their income being only €387 net a week and the fact that out of that they have to pay for their spouse’s medication and their gluten free diet. [45136/08]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

241 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45240/08]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

242 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to engage with a group (details supplied) to address dental health services reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45245/08]

My Department engages with the Irish Dental Association on an ongoing basis on a range of issues, including the forthcoming National Oral Health Policy, which will address the reform of dental health services.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

243 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional speech therapy services will be provided for victims of stroke in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45256/08]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Staff.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

244 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children if provision will be made in the Health Service Executive’s services plan for the additional 50 staff required to make the new Dingle Community Hospital, Dingle, County Kerry, fully operational in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45257/08]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Infectious Diseases.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

245 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a case of botulism presented at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin on 21 November 2008; the steps that have been taken since to increase the public health information aimed at drug abusers to ensure they seek immediate treatment for infected wounds and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45271/08]

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

246 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the dangers associated with botulism; the number of cases that have presented here in the past ten years; and the type of botulism involved and the causes. [45272/08]

Botulism is a potentially fatal disease caused by a botulinum toxin, produced by the bacteriumclostridium botulinum. Prior to 1 January 2004 foodborne botulism was notifiable under the Infectious Disease Regulations. Between 1998 and 2003, no cases of foodborne botulism were notified in Ireland. Since 1 January 2004, when all forms of botulism became notifiable, only six cases of botulism were notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre — one case in 2006 and the remaining five cases in 2008. The five cases notified in 2008, up to 5 December, include one foodborne case of botulism and four cases of presumed wound botulism which occurred among injecting drug users. The source of the infection among injecting drug users has not been identified and investigations are ongoing.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

247 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 123 of 30 October 2008, the proposed level of funding for 2009 as advised to each group in Counties Roscommon and Leitrim; the corresponding figure for each group for 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45283/08]

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) was introduced by my office in January 2008, under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 — 2010. Community-based child care services which, immediately prior to the introduction of the CCSS, were supported under the staffing grant scheme implemented under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, were invited to participate in the CCSS. Services in this category can also avail of the transitional arrangements of the CCSS under which they are guaranteed minimum funding levels based on their Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme grant amount in 2007. As a result, services received at least 95% of their previous funding level in 2008, they will receive at least 85% of that amount in 2009 and they will receive at least 75% of that amount in 2010. Where a service qualifies for an increased funding level under the CCSS, the higher grant payment is made. Given the high number of services now participating in the CCSS, the amount of CCSS funding which each service will qualify for in 2009 will not be determined until January 2009. As a result, to avoid any disruption to services it has been decided to set their level of grant aid for the first quarter of 2009 at the amount for which they qualified in the final quarter of 2008. Any necessary upward or downward adjustment to payments will be made in the second quarterly payment in April 2009.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

248 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will resolve a funding dispute in relation to the provision of a home dialysis unit for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [45288/08]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 249 answered with Question No. 228.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

250 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will furnish a response to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45291/08]

A reply has issued in response to the Deputy's inquiry.

Grant Payments.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

251 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if discretionary funding is available to schools to enable them to encourage more cycling, such as grants to help them install bicycle stands. [44657/08]

My Department provides financial support, through the Dublin Transportation Office, to An Taisce's Green-School's Travel Module, which, in 2009, is planned to encompass 534 schools.

The Travel Module, which seeks to promote a range of alternatives to the private car for school travel, links cycle parking provision to cycle training and cycle promotion. To date, support has been made available, through this funding mechanism, for the provision of cycling infrastructure in 54 schools.

State Airports.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

252 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether by providing grants, with no coherent policy, the Government will undermine all regional airports. [44675/08]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to his question No. 81 of 4 December 2008.

I am satisfied that the scheme is being implemented by my Department on a coherent basis in relation to all of the regional airports, having regard to the level of resources available and the need to comply with the requirements of the EU State Aid guidelines.

Coast Guard Services.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

253 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he will guarantee that Shannon is no longer being considered as a possible site for a new Coast Guard station. [44692/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

254 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding Malin Head Coast Guard station; if he will downgrade the Coast Guard services currently provided from the station; if he will upgrade the technology and infrastructure at the Coast Guard station; if he will build a new Coast Guard station at a new venue on the Irish coast; if he will provide Coast Guard services from the existing Coast Guard stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44693/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

255 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he has made a decision on the futures of Malin Head and Valentia Coast Guard stations; the nature of this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44717/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

256 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the stage the decision-making process relating to the futures of Malin Head and Valentia Coast Guard stations is at. [44718/08]

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

257 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport the stage the decision-making process relating to the futures of Malin Head and Valentia Coast Guard stations is at. [44719/08]

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

258 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport if he made a decision on the futures of Malin Head and Valentia Coast Guard stations; the nature of this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44720/08]

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

259 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that Shannon is no longer being considered as a possible site for a new Coast Guard station. [44721/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 to 259, inclusive, together.

I recently announced that the Government, having considered the matter fully and taken into account the various views expressed has decided to retain the present configuration for the delivery of Marine Rescue Co-ordination. This is based on a Marine Rescue Co-ordination centre in Dublin and two Sub Centres at Malin and Valentia.

The need to urgently upgrade the existing equipment has been recognised and the purchase of three Integrated Communication System (ICS) cores at a cost of approximately €2.5 million has been approved. One will be located at each centre.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

260 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44827/08]

To ensure my Department's compliance with these guidelines on an on-going basis the following safeguards are in place.

My Department's Travel policy outlines the relevant Department of Finance circulars and guidelines and stresses the obligations and responsibilities upon claimants and authorising officers.

Staff are reminded at regular intervals of the Department's policy in relation to foreign travel. All relevant information relating to foreign travel is maintained on the staff intranet site. This site is also updated for new rates and allowances in accordance with the latest Department of Finance instructions.

Travel expenditure is regularly subjected to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General and my Department's own Internal Audit unit to ensure compliance.

Comharthaí Bóithre.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

261 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Fergus O’Dowd den Aire Iompair an ndéanfaidh sé raiteas faoi chomhstádas don Ghaeilge agus don Bhéarla ar ár gcomharthaí bóthair. [44838/08]

Is féidir leis an Aire Iompair, faoí alt 95 den Act um Thrácht ar Bhóithre 1961, ordacháin ghinearálta nó áirithe a thabhairt dos na h-údaráis bóithre maidir le síneacha tráchta.

Tá ordacháin le fáil sa lámhleabhar "Traffic Signs Manual 1996" maidir leis an nGaeilge agus Béarla a úsáid ar shíneacha tráchta. Táim sásta leis na h-ordacháin seo agus níl sé ar intinn agam aon leasú a dhéanamh.

Planning Issues.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

262 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the effect that construction of the proposed metro north line will have on a school (details supplied) in Dublin 1, particularly in terms of noise and access; if he will support the school’s efforts to have conditions placed on the Railway Procurement Agency’s contractors to allow the school to function during construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44882/08]

The RPA placed copies of the Railway Order application on display on 17 September in accordance with the 6 week statutory public notice requirement pursuant to Section 37 of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001. It was open to interested parties to make submissions to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) in relation to the project during that period. I understand that the school in question has made a submission to ABP in relation to the application for a Railway Order.

Under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006, the consideration of the Railway Order application and the submission from the school is a matter solely for ABP and I have no function in the matter.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

263 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45069/08]

The following table provides the information required by the Deputy.

Private Office

Grade

Number

Salary scale per annum

Civilian Driver

2

34,826

Private Secretary

1

46,558 – 59,097 plus allowance of 20,686

Executive Officer

1

32,179 – 51,054

Constituency Office

Grade

Number

Salary scale per annum

Personal Assistant

1

46,558 – 55,030

Personal Secretary

1

444.26 – 825.90 per week

Executive officer

1

32,179 – 51,054

Clerical Officer

2

24,397 – 39,558

Rail Network.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

264 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Transport when he will initiate the promised review of the Transport 21 programme for investment; the way the review will take place and the persons who will be involved in this review; if, in the context of this review, he will ensure that same is properly focused in order to include important projects from a cost benefit perspective such as the reopening of the Mullingar to Athlone railway line which is an asset since the 40 km of railway track is in place, and the reopening of Killucan railway station, which has already been subject to a feasibility study which proved its viability from a commercial, social and environmental view point; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45247/08]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to commence the preparation of a successor to Transport 21 in 2011. The preparatory work for that programme will include a review of Transport 21. This work will be undertaken by my Department in consultation with the implementing agencies.

The re-opening of the Athlone to Mullingar rail line is not provided for in the Transport 21 as it was not identified as a priority in the Strategic Rail Review, carried out on behalf of my Department in 2003. However, the proposal can be examined in the context of the new programme.

With regard to Killucan Station, the location of stations and decisions regarding the re-opening of stations on the rail network is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and not one in which I have a role.

School Transport.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

265 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide an exemption for the owners of eight to 16 seater school buses from the €2,000 charge for tachographs; if he accepts that some Irish school buses have fewer than 18 seats; his views on whether the charge is unfair to school transport providers with several fewer-than-18 seater buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45269/08]

I have no role in relation to the charges payable for the installation of tachographs on vehicles including school buses. Responsibility for tachographs on vehicles is a matter for the Road Safety Authority under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006). The School Transport Scheme is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Science.

Registration of Title.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

266 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the land register should be reformed to record all interests in property and that all property should be mapped using the best available technology; his further views on whether this information should be fully transparent and publicly available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45043/08]

On the first point, the question of whether the land register should be reformed to record all interests in property, is essentially a matter of legislative policy. The issue has been the subject of consideration for some time by a number of interested parties and it is generally accepted that the registration of such rights would be in keeping with moves towards electronic conveyancing.

The proposal would require a repeal and/or considerable recasting of Section 72 of the Registration of Title Act 1964 which sets out in detail the burdens which can affect land, the title to which is registered in the Land Registry, without the registration of those burdens. I am of the view that such a step would require substantial planning and careful review because of the expense which it might cause to affected parties to quantify and register the rights in question.

Secondly on the question of whether all property should be mapped using the best available technology, I understand that the Digital Mapping Project, currently underway in the Property Registration Authority, uses the latest technologies and the highest standards which were recommended by an international consortium of expert consultants in such systems engaged to advise on the project. The most up-to-date Ordnance Survey Ireland maps, from its Irish Transverse Mercator (ITM) projection, are now being used as a backdrop to the Land Registry maps and these are fully GPS compatible for surveying purposes.

I can inform the Deputy that the boundaries of all registered parcels in 15 counties are now available online at the Property Registration Authority's website at www.landdirect.ie and the remaining counties will be released thereon on an incremental basis between now and the completion of the project in 2010. The Digital Mapping system is considered to be a world leader and the system has received several national and international awards.

Finally, with regard to the question of whether this information should be fully transparent and publicly available, the Deputy will be aware that all information on the registers is made available publicly, by payment of the prescribed fee, at public counters, through the post, and by way of internet services to subscribers on www.landdirect.ie. In addition, map related information is available free of charge.

Ministerial Travel.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

267 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expenditure on the Ministers’ car pool for 2008 and for 2009; if, in the context of current economic difficulties, he will make savings on the Ministers’ car pool for 2009 and 2010 by postponing the purchase of new cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45095/08]

I have requested this information from the Garda authorities and I will contact the Deputy when it is to hand.

Garda Remuneration.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

268 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an allowance (details supplied) is being granted; and if so, when it will be granted. [45249/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that an allowance amounting to 7.5% of gross basic pay was introduced in the mid 1930's as an incentive to members of An Garda Síochána to speak Irish in certain Gaeltacht areas in the country. It is payable to members serving in these Gaeltacht areas who perform their duties through the medium of Irish and whose knowledge of the language is certified as adequate for that purpose.

Residency Permits.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

269 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for residency stamp four in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and the expected period of time it will take to complete the processing of same. [44653/08]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from work permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration the person concerned should ensure that his or her permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. Officials in the Long Term Residency section of my Department advise me that the application from the person referred to by the Deputy is currently being processed. As soon as a decision is made in his case, he will be contacted in writing.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

270 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for residency stamp four in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and the expected period of time it will take to complete the processing of same. [44654/08]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that his or her permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. Officials in the Long Term Residency section of my Department advise me that the application from the person referred to by the Deputy is currently being processed. As soon as a decision is made in his case, he will be contacted in writing.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

271 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and the expected period of time it will take to complete the processing of same. [44655/08]

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 November 2006. On examination of the application it was determined that the person concerned did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. A letter informing her of this was issued on 26 March 2007. Further letters were issued via her legal representative on the 18 February 2008 and 9 October 2008. It is open to the individual concerned to lodge a new application if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory residency requirements.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

272 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied). [44768/08]

The Group to which the Deputy refers submitted a request for funding to my Department, which is being considered. A reply will issue to the Group in the coming days.

Anti-Racism Measures.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

273 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied). [44769/08]

I am aware that a list purporting to be the membership of the organisation to which the Deputy refers was posted on the internet recently and included addresses in this country. The Garda authorities are also aware of the matter.

Garda Operations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

274 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of dedicated check points in collaboration with the Road Safety Authority that have been carried out to check heavy good vehicle compliance with safety and driver regulations in the years 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44782/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána have, in addition to the extensive number of checkpoints carried out by the Garda Traffic Corps, carried out the following number of checkpoints, in collaboration with the Road Safety Authority, in the years 2006-2008:

Number of Checkpoints

2006

2007

2008*

123

181

282

*Up to 4 December.

Deportation Orders.

Mary O'Rourke

Ceist:

275 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [44786/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 24 December 2002 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 17 February 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why she should not be deported.

Her case was examined 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. Consideration was given to representations submitted on her behalf for permission to remain in the State. On 22 December 2004, one of my predecessors refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of her. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to present herself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on Thursday 7 April 2005 in order to make travel arrangements for her removal from the State.

The person concerned initially presented as required and was given further presentation dates which she kept. She subsequently failed to present as required on 13 October 2005 and was classified as evading her deportation. Should she come to the notice of the Gardaí, she would be liable to arrest and detention. She should, therefore, present herself to the GNIB without any further delay. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is, and remains, an operational matter for the GNIB.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

276 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44824/08]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department is in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel and there are mechanisms in place to ensure ongoing adherence to these principles. Flights are booked centrally via my Department's travel desk whose staff operate in accordance with the guidelines. Staff in departmental agencies have recently been reminded of the requirement to adhere to these guidelines.

Furthermore, in order to ensure as a general principle that the best value for money is obtained, competitive travel rates are continually sourced. For most flights, web and non-flexible fares are booked and this has resulted in significant savings for my Department.

Sexual Offences.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

277 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in the review being undertaken of the existing arrangements for the management of sex offenders by a group involving his Department, the Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the probation service; if the review has concluded, if he will publish details of the review and the recommendations contained in it; if the review has not concluded, when he expects it will do so; and if he will publish the details of the review and the recommendations made. [44866/08]

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

278 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in the preparation of a new sex offender management policy; and if he will publish the details of the policy. [44867/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 278 together.

I can inform the Deputy that a high level group involving the Garda Síochána, the Prison Service, the Probation Service and Cosc chaired by my Department has been set up to establish an integrated multiagency approach to assessing the risk posed by sex offenders and how to best manage that risk. That group is reviewing the existing situation in Ireland and other jurisdictions and drawing up proposals to ensure that our administrative and legal arrangements will match the best practice found in other countries. I can further inform the Deputy that the outcome of the work undertaken will be made known early in the new year.

Garda Stations.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

279 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied with the level of service at Dunshaughlin Garda station, County Meath; if there are plans to enhance or upgrade this station in view of population trends; if he will provide details of other upgrades provided recently in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44873/08]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that local Garda Management is satisfied that the level of policing in Dunshaughlin is adequate to meet the service demands placed upon it. The station forms part of the Ashbourne Garda District and is open to the public between the hours of 10am to 1pm every day. Patrols of the area are conducted on a 24/7 basis, with additional patrols / assistance being provided from other resources within the Garda District, i.e. the District Detective and Divisional Drugs Units, Community Policing and Garda Mountain Bike Units. The Divisional Traffic Corps is also based at Dunshaughlin Garda Station.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking into account all relevant factors such as population and crime trends etc. The situation is kept under regular review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the Meath Division and Drumshaughlin Garda Station will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda Divisions throughout the country.

In accordance with the 2008 Garda Policing Plan, a new Meath Garda Division was established in June this year. This brings about greater efficiencies and effectiveness in facilitating the establishment and functioning of the Joint Policing Committees. As part of this work, the geographical areas of district and sub-district stations of the new Division were also re-aligned and it is planned that a new Garda district of Laytown will be established on 1st of January next year.

Citizenship Applications.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

280 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 329 of 4 November 2008, when an application will be processed for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44874/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation on behalf of the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in Citizenship Division of my Department in June 2008.

Processing of the applications has been completed and I have reached a decision on each of the files. The persons in question will be informed of those decisions in due course.

Garda Stations.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

281 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied with conditions for gardaí employed at Wexford Garda station; when he expects the new Wexford Garda station to be available for occupation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44880/08]

The position with regard to the matter raised by the Deputy is as outlined in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 388 of 30 September last.

Residency Permits.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

282 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 340 of 11 November 2008, if his Department will re-examine the person’s files. [45048/08]

I have been informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the legal representative of the person referred to by the Deputy made an application for family reunification on 1 December 2008 and that this application is being dealt with as a matter of urgency.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

283 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons employed in the private office of the Minister of State and his constituency office; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45066/08]

The number, grades and salary range of staff employed in the private and constituency offices of my colleague, Mr Conor Lenihan, Minister of State for Integration, are set out in the tables below.

Private Office

Grade

Number

Salary Range

Higher Executive Officer

1

€49,379 – €61,082

Executive Officer

1

€32,179 – €51,054

Clerical Officer

3

€24,397 – €39,558

Constituency Office

Grade

Number

Salary Range

Personal Assistant

1

€46,558 – €59,097

Personal Secretary

1

€44,316 – one point scale

Executive Officer

1

€30,566 – €48,504

Clerical Officer

2

€24,397 – €39,558

Human Trafficking.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

284 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking and sexual exploitation in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45075/08]

It is assumed the Deputy's question refers to prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking in the broadest sense, i.e. for both labour and sexual exploitation.

Section 4 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which came into operation on 7 June, 2008, creates a new offence of trafficking of children for labour exploitation and trafficking of adults for sexual and labour exploitation. No prosecutions have been commenced or convictions recorded for this offence to date.

Section 3 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 (as amended by Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008) created the offence of trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation. To date one person has been charged by the Garda Síochána on four counts of attempting to incite another to commit an offence contrary to Section 3 of this Act. The accused was charged in January 2007 and has already pleaded guilty to one count. The case is listed for sentence hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on 24th February, 2009.

Prior to the enactment of Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, An Garda Síochána utilised the provisions of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, which remains in force. Since September 2000 over one hundred people have been arrested and detained in respect of alleged breaches of Section 2 of this Act. Five persons have been convicted in respect of twenty-five individual breaches of Section 2 Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, which relates to the facilitation/organisation of the illegal entry of persons into this State for gain.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

285 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the operation of the anti-human trafficking unit; the funding provided to it in 2008 and the provision for 2009; if progress has been made on its national action plan; when this will be published; the staff allocation to this unit; the proposed research into the area being commissioned or completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45087/08]

The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit was established in my Department under the stewardship of an Executive Director in February 2008. The role of the Unit is to ensure that the State's response to trafficking in human beings is coordinated, comprehensive and holistic. Three personnel were initially assigned to the Unit in February and the authorised compliment of 8.5 personnel was reached in May 2008.

Funding for human trafficking activities is paid for as part of the general expenditure from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Garda Votes and does not require specific earmarked expenditure.

The drafting of the National Action Plan is at an advanced stage. However a number of issues remain to be addressed with other Government Departments and Agencies before it can be finalised. I expect the Plan to be submitted to me for approval in early 2009, following which Government approval will be sought for the Plan and for its publication.

No formal research has been commissioned by my Department in relation to trafficking in human beings pending structures being finalised to facilitate the ratification in 2009 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Prisons Act.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

286 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who have been arrested on suspicion of an offence under section 36 of the Prisons Act, 2007; the number of convictions that have been secured under this section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45128/08]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Garda Training.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

287 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to dedicated indoor firing range facilities for members of An Garda Síochána. [45243/08]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that there has been considerable investment in training facilities over the past two years including the provision of two Modular Firearms ranges at the Garda College and in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. These prefabricated ranges are newly designed products that facilitate live fire shooting for up to four persons in a carefully contained environment which adheres to all range safety requirements.

In addition, a feasibility study into the measures required to bring the firearms range located at Garda Headquarters up to the highest international standard has been carried out. The upgrade of the Garda HQ range will be considered in the context of the overall Garda Accommodation Strategy that is being developed for An Garda Síochána.

Deportation Orders.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

288 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the decision to deport persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45248/08]

The persons concerned arrived in the State on 20 January, 2005 and sought asylum. Their applications for refugee status were refused in the first instance by the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Deportation orders were signed in respect of each applicant on 23 November, 2005.

Judicial review proceedings were instituted on 13 January, 2006 challenging the decision to make the deportation orders. The proceedings were determined on 30 January, 2008 when all reliefs sought were refused by the High Court. A certificate to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court was sought but this was refused by the High Court on 13 March, 2008.

The applicants submitted applications for subsidiary protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 S.I. No. 518 of 2006 ("the Regulations") on 3 March, 2008. These applicants, as persons in respect of whom deportation orders were signed before the coming into force of the Regulations on 10 October, 2006, are not automatically entitled to apply for subsidiary protection. In such cases, I may exercise discretion pursuant to Regulation 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 S.I. No. 518 to accept and consider an application for subsidiary protection where an individual has identified new facts or circumstances which demonstrate a change of position from that which pertained at the time the deportation order was made.

The persons in question were informed on 19 March, 2008 that my predecessor had decided to refuse to exercise his discretion pursuant to Regulation 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006, S.I. No. 518 of 2006 as no new or altered circumstances had been demonstrated. Judicial review proceedings were instituted on 20 March, 2008 challenging this decision.

In a similar case, Gavryluk, the High Court has determined that I retain the discretion to accept and consider an application for subsidiary protection in situations where an applicant can demonstrate a change of circumstances from the time the deportation order was made. This is in line with the decision that was reached in respect of the applications made by these individuals The decision in Gavryluk is now under appeal, by the applicant, to the Supreme Court.

On 18 November, 2008 the High Court refused an application on behalf of the applicants for an injunction restraining their deportation pending the hearing of the substantive application for judicial review of the decision to refuse to exercise discretion to consider the applications for subsidiary protection.

A case was lodged by the applicants' solicitor to the European Court of Human Rights on 11 September, 2008 under Article 34 seeking a declaration that the decision to deport the applicants represents a violation of their rights under Articles 3, 6, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

My Department was informed on 18 November, 2008 that the President of the Third Chamber of The European Court of Human Rights had indicated that as an interim measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court, the applicants should not be deported before midnight (Irish time) on 10 December, 2008, in order to give the Third Section of the Court the opportunity to consider the applicants' case at its meeting on 9 December 2008. The European Court was informed on 19 November, 2008 that the persons concerned would not be deported while the Rule 39 interim measure remains in place.

The facts of this case have been aired in court on numerous occasions over almost three years and on each occasion the courts have firmly endorsed the validity of the deportation orders made in respect of the applicants. In his decision on 30 January 2008, Feeney J. noted that: "The applicants' applications for asylum were rejected on the basis that the Tribunal found that on the present evidence that there was no substantiation of the alleged risk to the applicant or of her children when considered objectively. The history was not disbelieved but rather, on a forward looking test, it was deemed that it had not been demonstrated that there was a reasonable degree of likelihood of a well founded fear of persecution in the future." The Court was also satisfied that an examination of additional evidence which the applicants sought to put forward did "not in fact materially alter the factual matrix" in the case.

The substantive application for judicial review of the decision to refuse to exercise discretion to consider the applications for subsidiary protection is due to be heard by the High Court on 16 and 17 December, 2008.

My Department was informed on 5 December, 2008 that the applicant has served a Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court on the judgement of Hedigan J. issued on 18 November, 2008. Accordingly, as the matter is nowsub judice, I cannot comment further on the case.

Visa Applications.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

289 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a person (details supplied) with a visa extension in view of the fact that the person suffers from diabetes and severe arthritis and is not in a condition to live without their daughter, who lives here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45266/08]

I have been informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that to date they have not received a formal written request in relation to the person referred to by the Deputy.

A C Visa is granted for visits of less than 90 days. As a consequence it is not the general policy to extend permission to remain to persons who are admitted initially for a period of 90 days or less on a C Visa, save in very exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.

A wrap-around information sheet accompanies every visa application form. That sheet makes it clear to the applicant that, in general, persons granted visas for particular purposes are not permitted to remain in the State for any purpose other than that for which the visa was granted. Every visa applicant is required to state on the application form the dates on which he or she proposes to enter and leave Ireland. He or she is also required to declare that the information supplied is correct and complete.

Asylum Applications.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

290 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will immediately make a decision in relation to the status of persons (details supplied) in County Meath who have been living in Mosney Accommodation Centre in view of the fact that the person’s son is paying full international college fees at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, County Donegal, despite the fact that he completed his junior certificate and leaving certificate here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45267/08]

The first and second named persons referred to by the Deputy are a wife and husband. The third named person referred to is their adult son.

The first named person concerned applied for asylum on 7 August 2002 but later withdrew her application and applied for residency in the State on the basis of her parentage of an Irish citizen child. The first named person concerned was refused residency in the State on the basis of her parentage of an Irish citizen child and this decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 12 March 2004. This communication also informed the first named person concerned that, arising from the refusal of her residency application and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the first named person concerned at that time.

The first named person concerned re-applied for asylum on 1 April 2004 and her application was refused following the investigation of her claims by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, the first named person concerned was informed, by letter dated 6 December 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the first named person concerned.

The first named person concerned again applied for permission to remain in the State on the basis of her parentage of an Irish citizen child, born in the State before 1 January 2005, in accordance with the Revised Arrangements announced by my predecessor on 15 January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 Scheme. Following the consideration of this application, a decision was taken to refuse the application and this decision was conveyed in writing to the first named person concerned by letter dated 12 January 2006.

The first named person concerned was later notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). No such application was submitted.

The case file of the first named person concerned, including all representations submitted, now falls to be considered in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended). All representations submitted by and on behalf of the first named person concerned will be considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file of the first named person concerned is passed to me for decision.

The third named person concerned arrived in the State on 14 April 2003 as an unaccompanied minor but was later reunited with his mother and included as a child dependant on his mother's asylum application.

The Deputy might wish to note that all decisions taken in respect of the first named person concerned applied equally to the third named person concerned. However, given that the third named person concerned has recently become an adult, he was invited, by letter dated 28 November 2008, to submit representations, specific to his circumstances, that he would wish to have considered before the Minister makes a final decision in his case. While I understand that no such representations have yet been received, it is reasonable to assume that any such representations submitted by or on behalf of the third named person concerned will refer to any educational course he is pursuing. The Deputy can be assured that any such representations submitted will be fully considered before a final decision is taken in the case of the third named person concerned.

The second named person concerned applied for asylum on 18 November 2002. He withdrew this application on 10 February 2003 and applied for residency in the State on the basis of his parentage of an Irish citizen child. By letter dated 12 Mach 2004, the second named person concerned was informed 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. The second named person concerned re-applied for asylum on 1 April 2004 and, in light of this fact, the second named person concerned was notified by letter dated 22 April 2004 that his application for residency in the State could not be determined until such time as his asylum application had been finalised.

The asylum application of the second named person concerned was refused following the investigation of his claims by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, the second named person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 December 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the second named person concerned.

The second named person concerned applied for permission to remain in the State on the basis of his parentage of an Irish citizen child, born in the State before 1 January 2005, in accordance with the Revised Arrangements announced by my predecessor on 15 January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 Scheme. Following the consideration of this application, a decision was taken to refuse the application and this decision was conveyed in writing to the second named person concerned by letter dated 12 January 2006.

Arising from the refusal of his application under the IBC/05 Scheme, the second named person concerned was notified, by letter dated 2 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). No such application was submitted.

The case file of the second named person concerned now falls to be considered in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended). All representations submitted by and on behalf of the second named person concerned will be considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file of the second named person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Departmental Applications.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

291 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 119 of 7 November 2007, the position regarding waiting times; the steps taken to address such delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45284/08]

The applications which my Department receives are diverse in nature and the processing time frames vary considerably according to the nature and circumstances of the scheme in question. In all instances, however, processing arrangements are kept under ongoing review and steps are taken to reduce waiting times where this is feasible having regard to available resources and overall priorities. Significant changes are underway, for example, in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, which is developing a new Information Technology System which will considerably improve application times in this area. My Department has also reduced waiting times already in a number of other areas. A comprehensive update of the various processing and waiting times is contained in following tabular statement.

Type of application

Average waiting time to process each application

Steps being taken to speed up processing time

Request made under the Data Protection Acts, 1988 and 2003

Dealt with within the statutory time frames

N/A

Freedom of Information Act

Dealt with within the statutory time frames

N/A

Applications by prisoners to serve their sentences in their own jurisdiction under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts 1995-1997

Applications take approximately 15 months to process

Ongoing liaison with the various parties involved in the process

Applications received by the Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery for the recovery abroad of maintenance under the UN Convention

1-2 working days

N/A

Applications received by the Central Authority for Child Abduction under the Hague and Luxembourg Conventions and the Brussels II bis Regulation

1-2 working days

N/A

Applications from non-resident bookmakers for new Certificates of Personal Fitness

7-10 weeks

The waiting times and procedures are kept under regular review

Applications from non-resident bookmakers for renewals of Certificates of Personal Fitness

2-3 weeks

The waiting times and procedures are kept under regular review

Applications made under the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945/High Court applications

Information on an average waiting time is not readily available. It would be difficult to calculate a meaningful average given the variations in the processing of each case.

Legislative proposals are currently being developed for reform of the system

Applications for payment of fees and costs under the Criminal Legal Aid Schemes

2-3 weeks — calculated on the basis of receipt in the Department of properly completed and certified applications

Procedures are being kept under review

Application to import firearms & ammunition in accordance with Section 17 of the Firearms Act 1925

5 to 10 working days

Processing time is satisfactory

Application for Prior Consent to transfer of firearms & ammunition in accordance with section 6(1) of S.I. 362 of 1993 (European Communities, Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition Regulations, 1993)

5 to 10 working days

Processing time is satisfactory

Application to register as a firearms dealer in accordance with Section 9 of the Firearms Act 1925

Depends on the ability of the applicant to meet certain statutory requirements

N/A

Application for Export Licence for firearms and ammunition in accordance with section 6(1) of S.I. 362 of 1993 (European Communities, Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition Regulations, 1993)

5 to 10 working days

Processing time is satisfactory

Applications to import Explosives as set out in Article 9 of Directive 93/15/EEC

3-4 weeks

There are many factors involved in processing applications relating to explosives. This process can vary in complexity and require considerable supporting documentation. Consultation and input from other statutory regulators and bodies may be required and public hearings and assent processes may also be necessary. Safety and security issues are also of course paramount in this regard. It is therefore not possible to give an average processing time in all instances as this depends on the aforementioned factors, many of which are outside the control of my Department

Applications to import Explosives not subject to S.I. 115 of 1995 (European Communities Placing on the Market and Supervision of Explosives for Civil Uses)

3-4 weeks

Applications for a licence to import fireworks in accordance with the Explosives Act 1875

3-4 weeks

Applications for a licence to manufacture an Ammonium Nitrate Mixture as specified in the Ammonium Nitrate Mixtures Exemption Order, 1997

3-4 weeks

Applications for an explosives magazine or factory licence in accordance with Section 6 of the Explosives Act 1875

See note in right hand column

Applications for a certificate of naturalisation

The average processing time from application to decision for all applications is currently 23 months

All the procedures involved in processing such applications have been developed and refined over a number of years. These procedures are necessary to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process. Consequently, having regard to the resources available, which are kept under constant review, there is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved.

Applications for temporary leave to remain in the State under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended

Each application is decided on its own merits. The huge number of applications and the complexity of the issues to be considered preclude the stating of a time frame for completion of applications.

Development of a new IT system. A common system throughout the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service will increase productivity and assist decision making.Additional staff have been assigned to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Renewal of temporary leave to remain in the State under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended

4-6 weeks

Additional staff have been assigned to the area.Development of a new IT system.

Applications for revocation of Deportation Orders under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended

1-2 weeks

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved.

Applications for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations

Each application is decided on its own merits. The huge number of applications and the complexity of the issues to be considered preclude the stating of a time frame for completion of applications.

Additional staff have been assigned to the area.Training has been provided for staff in-house and by the UNHCR in Dublin.Development of a new IT system.

Applications in accordance with Section 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations for admittance into the Subsidiary Protection process

4-6 weeks

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved.

Applications for readmittance to the asylum process under Section 17(7) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended

4 weeks (assuming all relevant information is available)

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved.

Visas

At present 4-6 weeks for applications referred to Dublin for consideration. Applications are also processed in the overseas Visa offices in London, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi, Cairo and Abuja. On average, the waiting time for such applications would be two weeks.

Visa processing times have reduced significantly in recent years, due to the deployment of additional resources to visa processing and the establishment of the overseas Visa Offices. A computerised visa tracking system (AVATS) is being rolled out at present which will further improve the efficiency of visa applications processing and will include an on-line application facility

Re-entry visas

Applications for re-entry visas can be processed while the applicant waits at the Public Office of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. Applications by post are processed, on average, within four working days.

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved

EU Treaty Rights — Applications for residence by non-EEA family members of EU or EEA citizens. EU Directive 2004/38/EC and SI 656/2006 refers.

6 months (EU law requires that applications be processed within 6 months)

Additional staff were assigned to the area.

Business Permission — Applications from non-EEA nationals for permission to reside in the State for the purposes of establishing and operating a commercial business.

6 -8 months to process from receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved.

Travel Documents — 1951 Convention Travel Document — issued to persons granted a declaration of Refugee status in the State under section 17(1) Refugee Act 1996 and Programme Refugees.Temporary Travel Document -may issue in specific emergency circumstances.

2-8 months to process from receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Foreign Adoption -Immigration Clearance letter issued in respect of approved (by the Irish Adoption Board) Foreign Adoption

Processed within 5 working days of receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Irish Born Child pre-2003 — Family Dependents — Applications made by non-EEA nationals granted residence under pre-2003 conditions for residence in the State for specified minor family dependents.

1-2 months to process from receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Change of Status: Non-EEA national granted a particular permission to remain in the State and seeking an alternative residency status in the State

23 months

Development of a new Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service IT system.

Non-EEA national in relationship with Irish/non-EEA national and seeking permission to remain in the State on that basis

18 months

Non-EEA national previously granted permission to study seeking extension of Student Conditions

23 months

Non-EEA national previously granted permission to remain in the State as a visitor seeking extension of those conditions

23 months

Non-EEA national previously granted permission to remain in the State on work permit conditions seeking extension of those conditions

6 months

Persons admitted to the State for various reasons and subsequently seeking permission to remain for medical treatment

18 months

Persons admitted to the State for various reasons and subsequently seeking permission to remain as a Temporary Registered Doctor

18 months

Turkish nationals seeking permission to remain in the State pursuant to the Turkish Association Agreement

18 months

Non-EEA nationals who have completed 60 months legal residency in the State on work permit/work visa/work authorisation conditions and now seeking permission to remain under the administrative Long Term Residency scheme

22 months

Persons granted refugee status in the State seeking Family Re-unification for other family members

Approximately 24 months

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

292 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 278 of 7 October, 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45290/08]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the installation of the Garda Town Centre CCTV system in Athlone is well under way. The civil engineering company employed to carry out on-street works is completing requirements set out by the Athlone Urban District Council as part of normal procedures prior to issue of a road opening licence. The Office of Public Works is currently addressing installation issues at Athlone Garda Station and this work will be completed by the end of February 2009. The CCTV camera installations will be completed to coincide with the completion of these works.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

293 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for leave to remain on subsidiary protection in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45312/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 21 October 2004. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 17 August 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

294 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current position in relation to an application for asylum in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45313/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 16 June 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, 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 15 February 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

On 14 September 2007, the person concerned submitted an application for re-admittance to the asylum process, in accordance with the provisions of Section 17(7) of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended). Following consideration of this application, a decision was taken to refuse the application and the person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 26 June 2008.

The person concerned has submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

295 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45314/08]

I refer the Deputy to my Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 913 of 24th September 2008. The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in June 2007. I understand that applications received in January 2007 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

296 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45315/08]

I wish to inform the Deputy that both persons concerned received permission to remain under the revised arrangements for the non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1 January 2005, known as the IBC/05 Scheme.

The permission to remain in respect of the first person concerned has been renewed until 8 December 2010. The person was informed of this decision by letter dated 13 December 2007.

The permission to remain in respect of the second person concerned has been renewed until 30 June 2010. The person was informed of this decision by letter dated 23 June 2007.

Human Trafficking.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

297 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Ireland has ratified the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons and ratified the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45333/08]

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 brings Ireland into compliance with the criminal law / law enforcement elements of the second protocol to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime — the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. It is expected that the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, when enacted, and administrative measures currently being implemented by my Department, in conjunction with Governmental and non-Governmental organisations will allow for ratification of this Protocol. Ratification of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime will be necessary before the second Protocol can be ratified. Many of the provisions of that Convention have already been given effect through legislation. Some additional legislation is required before ratification of the Convention can take place. Government approval to proceed with the drafting of the required legislation will be sought early in 2009.

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 criminalised the sale of persons, including children, for any purpose. I am now preparing a Bill which will offer further protection to children against sexual abuse and exploitation and when that Bill is enacted, our laws in that respect, will fully comply with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Crime Statistics.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

298 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cautions, arrests, prosecutions and convictions of both male and females in relation to prostitution here annually for the past eight years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45334/08]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

299 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the perceived size of the sex industry here; the number of people, male and female, involved in the industry; the perceived value of this industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45335/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that due to the secretive and undercover nature of the sex industry it is not possible to estimate, with any degree of accuracy, the size or numbers involved or its value to those involved.

I am further informed that this type of criminality is regularly targeted by An Garda Síochána. A number of joint and international initiatives have taken place, co-ordinated by members of the Organised Crime Unit attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in conjunction with members from the Garda National Immigration Bureau, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Money Laundering Section of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

When incidents relating to the sex industry in general are reported to or uncovered by the Garda authorities as part of investigations into other criminality, those suspected of being involved in the organisation of, or participation in, this type of criminal activity are the subjects of thorough investigation and, where sufficient evidence is adduced, investigation files are submitted to the Law Officers for directions.

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 is fully operational since 7 June, 2008. The Act creates offences of trafficking in children and adults for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs. It also makes it an offence to sell or offer for sale or to purchase or offer to purchase any person for any purpose.

The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of my Department, in conjunction with the interdisciplinary National Referral Mechanism Working Group on Trafficking in Human Beings, is developing a data collection strategy which aims at collating data from a variety of organisations on trafficking in human beings. This information will be used to assess the true extent of the problem, direct policy and plan the allocation of resources. The extent of the problem of human trafficking should become more apparent as An Garda Síochána enforce the Act and as more people recognize the indicators of trafficking.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

300 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of CAB officers stationed in Limerick. [45336/08]

As the Deputy will know the Criminal Assets Bureau is currently centrally organised with very strongly developed links to each Garda Division.

As such all Bureau officers are based at the national bureau in Harcourt Square. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that under this structure there are two members of An Garda Síochána based in Limerick who have been trained as Divisional Assets Profilers by CAB and who work closely with the Bureau. These Assets Profilers work on a full time basis profiling assets of persons suspected of involvement in criminal activities in Limerick City. I am further informed by the Garda Authorities that at present the Criminal Assets Bureau has a large number of targets in the Limerick Division who are being actively investigated under the Proceeds of Crime Act and for offences contrary to Revenue legislation and other breaches relating to Social Welfare issues.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

301 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the budget allocation and expenditure for the Centre of Excellence in Universal Design each year since its establishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45339/08]

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, established under the Disability Act 2005 on 1 January 2007, operates under the budget allocated to the NDA. In its first year of operation (2007), as detailed in the Annual Report of the Authority, the Centre incurred set-up costs of €93,829. A further €36,766 was necessary to revise the 2002 publication ‘Building for Everyone'. Staffing costs for the Centre amounted to €214,696 in 2007.

International Agreements.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

302 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of the working holiday programme that was recently signed with the United States; if the application method has been agreed upon; if so, if any of the first visas have been issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44733/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the United States Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a new Working Holiday Programme between our two countries in Washington on 24 September. Since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, my Department, in consultation with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, has moved quickly to finalise arrangements for US citizens interested in working and travelling in Ireland. A comprehensive step by step guide and application form for US applicants has been prepared and distributed to our Missions in the United States. We are ready to begin accepting applications from US citizens, and will do so as soon as the US State Department has finalised its arrangements for Irish citizens.

At a meeting in Dublin on 17 November, I emphasised to Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte the need to ensure that the Programme is fully operational at the earliest possible date. The State Department has assured the Government that it is actively working to finalise its arrangements and will shortly complete this process.

Departmental Funding.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

303 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [44770/08]

The Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA) is an independent policy research think-tank and forum. The Institute's mandate is to identity and evaluate the strategic policy options for Ireland arising from its membership of the European Union.

The Department of Foreign Affairs pays an annual fee, currently set at €6,000, in respect of its corporate membership of the IIEA.

In addition, in the past the Institute has also received funding from my Department under the Communicating Europe Initiative (CEI). The scheme provides grants to organisations and individuals for projects aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness of the European Union. In 2007, the IIEA received funding of €3,000 under the CEI.

As part of the Department's public information campaign on the Lisbon Treaty, the Institute was paid €23,626 for Consolidated and Annotated versions of the EU Treaties, as amended by the Lisbon Treaty. Copies of these texts, which were published by the Institute, were made available on request to members of the public and were also distributed to all public libraries throughout the State.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

304 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44822/08]

My Department, and the bodies for which it is responsible, are fully compliant with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel.

The Department operates its own internal travel guidelines and practises, in compliance with those issued by the Department of Finance. These guidelines ensure transparent and cost effective travel practises, both in Headquarters and throughout our network of 75 diplomatic missions abroad.

To ensure compliance with the guidelines, on a day to day basis, all travel by Headquarters-based officers must be authorised by a designated travel officer, at Counsellor (Principal Officer) level, while travel by officers based abroad must be authorised by the relevant Head of Mission.

The Department's travel budget, as provided for in the Estimates, will reflect an 11% reduction in 2009 over 2008. In light of this, I have asked my officials to undertake a review of current travel policies to identify even further cost efficiencies, where possible.

Human Rights Issues.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

305 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the humanitarian catastrophe taking place in Gaza; if he has made proposals at EU and UN level in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45038/08]

The Government remain seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has effectively been isolated since the Hamas takeover in June 2007, even during a ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas which was broadly respected from 19 June 2008 until 4 November 2008. The Government have consistently called for an end to the isolation of the people of Gaza, in particular through the re-opening of crossing points for the movement of people and goods.

Since June 2007, Israel has maintained the closure of all border crossings for the movement of people, with limited exceptions. Rafah International Crossing Point, the only border crossing via a country other than Israel, also remains closed since June 2007, with only very limited openings.

Since 4 November, Israel has also effectively closed all border crossings for commercial goods, and even for humanitarian supplies. While there have been some limited openings for humanitarian supplies since 17 November, the volume of supplies remains greatly reduced and insufficient to meet the needs of the local population.

The Government agree with those who state that the effective isolation of Gaza constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international humanitarian law. The population of 1.5 million have been facing unsustainable conditions of daily life, which have been even more acute since 4 November.

Ireland will continue to work with EU partners to ensure that our concerns about these matters are conveyed to the Israeli Government at every appropriate opportunity. I was active in raising the humanitarian situation in Gaza at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels yesterday. The Conclusions adopted by the Council make clear that the humanitarian situation should be addressed with all urgency, that crossings should be opened for the supply of goods and services and that the ability of the UN Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA) to deliver humanitarian assistance should be assured.

Ireland also raised the situation in Gaza during the Universal Periodic Review of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 4 December, calling on Israel to respect its obligations under international human rights instruments and international humanitarian law.

While expressing our humanitarian concerns about Gaza, the Government unreservedly condemn the recent renewal of rocket attacks from Gaza on towns in southern Israel. Our clear message is for an immediate end to all violence. We support the efforts being made through Egyptian facilitation to re-establish the ceasefire in Gaza, and renew it beyond the envisaged expiry date of 18 December.

Finally, I support and commend efforts being made by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab League, to advance reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Success in these discussions is greatly in the interests of the Palestinian people, and can only help to underpin efforts to secure a lasting peace.

Visa Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

306 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in relation to children from Belarus who come here under the Chernobyl children’s charity, there is a facility whereby group rather than individual visas for such children can be issued during 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45047/08]

While visa policy is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I understand that all visitors to Ireland who require visas must hold individual visas. However, special arrangements have been put in place by the visa office in Moscow on the issuing of visas for Belarusian children who travel to Ireland each year. I am pleased to say that these arrangements are working well.

I am delighted to inform the Deputy that an Irish delegation travelled to Minsk yesterday and successfully concluded a bilateral Agreement between Ireland and Belarus on the conditions of recuperation of children from the Republic of Belarus in Ireland. The Belarusian authorities also agreed that children from Belarus can travel to Ireland over the Christmas period. I know that this news will come as a great relief to the many Irish families which welcome Chernobyl children to their homes every year and also to the NGOs which do such important work and whose role is recognised in the Agreement.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

307 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45064/08]

The requested details for my Department are set out in tabular form below:

Private Office

Constituency Office

Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Dick Roche, T.D.*

6.6 (3.6 civil servants, 3 personal appointees)

4.5 (4.5 civil servants)

Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr Peter Power, T.D.

6 (5 civil servants, 1 personal appointee)

5 (3 civil servants, 2 personal appointees)

*The 6.6 staff in the Private Office of Minister of State Roche refers to the number of full-time equivalent staff. This number includes two staff who are each on 80% work patterns (i.e. work four out of five days per week).The 4.5 staff in the Constituency Office of Minister of State Roche includes one staff member on a 50% work pattern.

2008 (estimated for full year)

Private Office

Constituency Office

Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Dick Roche, T.D.

412,400

224,000

Minister of State for Overseas Development: Mr. Michael Kitt T.D. (January-May 2008) Mr Peter Power T.D. (May 2008-present)

269,000

245,500

Each Minister of State has also appointed two civilian drivers, whose salaries are included in the overall figures for Constituency Offices above.

I would point out that the number of staff assigned to Ministers' Offices in the Department of Foreign Affairs complies with the relevant Department of FinaI would point out that the number of staff assigned to Ministers' Offices in the Department of Foreign Affairs complies with the relevant Department of Finance guidelines.

Visa Applications.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

308 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support a matter in relation to a person (details supplied). [45105/08]

Nationals of Moldova who wish to apply for a visa to travel to Ireland should lodge their applications at our Embassy in Bratislava.

Embassy of Ireland

Carlton Savoy Building

Mostova 2

811 02 Bratislava 1

Tel: +421-2-5930-9611

Fax: +421-2-5443-0690

Website : www.embassyofireland.sk

If a visa applicant wishes to stay for six months, they should apply for a ‘D' type visa. A ‘C' visa only covers a shorter stay of less than 90 days and it is not generally possible to extend a stay based on a ‘C' visa beyond that 90 day time frame.

It is the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, rather than my own Department, which has primary responsibility for visa and immigration policy. As such applications for the longer-term ‘D' type visas are referred by our Embassies abroad to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in Dublin for decision.

Further details on the documentation required for ‘D' visa applications is available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.

Arts Funding.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

309 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he is satisfied with the openness, fairness and transparency of a scheme (details supplied) since it was launched in 2004; and his plans to review this scheme. [44676/08]

The scheme in question, when launched, was accompanied by a set of Guidelines to assist with its implementation. The Guidelines included a commitment to review the scheme and this process is currently underway.

An Inter-Departmental Group, chaired by my Department, was convened in September 2007 to review the working and implementation of the Per Cent for Art Guidelines. To date the group, which is representative of a wide range of Government Departments and agencies with construction budgets, as well as the Arts Council and the Local Authority Arts Officer Association, has met on a quarterly basis and significant progress has been made. The Group will continue to meet until the Guidelines have been revised and approved.

The group is also examining ways in which information on public art could be made more easily accessible to the public and their plans on this are at an advanced stage and include a public art website, which is expected to go live in the New Year. In addition the Arts Council, at the request of my Department, have recently convened a Public Art Advisory Panel who will report to and liaise with the Interdepartmental Group.

National Aquatic Centre.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

310 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of the subsidy required by the National Aquatic Centre for its operation throughout 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44760/08]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

311 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a subsidy will be required for the operation of the aquatic centre in Abbotstown for the year 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44761/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 310 and 311 together.

The National Aquatic Centre (NAC) is operated by NSCDA (Operations) Ltd., a subsidiary company of the National Sports Campus Development Authority (NSCDA). All day-to-day operations of the NAC are a matter for the Authority and the operations company. Following the restoration of the NAC to the then Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Ltd., on 1 December 2006, an extensive capital programme was undertaken to restore the Centre to its original condition. Much effort has gone into rebuilding its reputation and increasing its customer base and, in that context, an initial subsidy of €1.8 million was required in its first full year of operation. In 2008 a more positive picture of operational needs has emerged and I am encouraged by the significant increase in both visitor numbers and income which is being achieved to date.

In parallel, the Authority arranged for a financial assessment study, which is benchmarking the NAC against other equivalent facilities, to be carried out. This work is now completed and it is being evaluated by the Authority. This exercise, together with the Centre's performance since it reverted to the direct control of the Authority, will inform my decisions on the funding requirements of the Centre both in the short and longer terms.

National Archives.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

312 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the details of the location chosen for the new building to store the National Archives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44762/08]

The present National Archives premises at Bishop Street is located in the former Jacobs biscuit factory. Currently, the building is shared with the Department of Agriculture and Food (Land Commission Branch). It is understood that the Land Commission Branch will move out as part of the decentralisation of the Department of Agriculture and Food to Portlaoise.

My Department has been investigating the avenues now open for the provision of a new archival building; however, the recent Government decision to merge the National Archives of Ireland, and the Irish Manuscripts Commission into the National Library of Ireland will impact on all three institutions. The possibility of locating all three institutions on the one site will be among the issues to be considered in the roll out of the merging of these institutions.

Sports Funding.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

313 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, in respect of the sports capital grant to a club (details supplied) in County Dublin, he will permit the club to draw down as part of its 2008 allocation, money it was unable to draw down from its 2006 allocation money due to the arrangements by which the facility was brought into being; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44763/08]

An application has recently been received by my Department from the club in question to use part of the 2006 allocation for a different purpose than that for which the grant was originally allocated and this application is currently under consideration.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

314 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44814/08]

My Department is in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel.

I have written to the Chairperson of each of the State Bodies under the aegis of the Department regarding the requirements of the Department of Finance circulars and instructions concerning travel, subsistence and associated expenses. In addition the Secretary General of my Department has also written to the CEO/Director of each of the State Bodies under the aegis of the Department reminding them of the requirements of the Department of Finance circulars and instructions concerning travel, subsistence and associated expenses.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

315 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45056/08]

The Minister of State in this Department, Mr. Martin Mansergh, T.D. does not have private or constituency office facilities at the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism.

Sports Funding.

Brendan Kenneally

Ceist:

316 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason there is a delay in having money granted to a group (details supplied) in view of the fact that the work is completed and the delay in having the money drawn down is causing financial hardship to the voluntary group concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45277/08]

A grant of €40,000 was provisionally allocated to the project in question under the 2007 Sports Capital Programme, bringing the total allocated to the club under the Programme since 2004 to €175,000. The grant allocation was subject to the terms and conditions of the Programme, which includes the execution of a deed of covenant and charge and, where appropriate, a priority agreement.

A deed of covenant and charge provides, inter alia, for a refund of the grant in the event of the facility not continuing to be used for the purpose for which the grant was allocated. Priority agreements are used to ensure that, where the club or organisation has debts to lending institutions or other organisations including local authorities, the Minister's investment and any other debts are listed in order of rank or priority.

The Department's legal adviser, the Chief State Solicitor's Office — CSSO — deals with the grantee's solicitor in ensuring that these issues are satisfactorily resolved before grants can be paid. The current position is that as the club in question has received support from a number of agencies the CSSO is seeking to finalise a Priority Agreement that fully takes account of the various interests.

Harbours and Piers.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

317 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if there are plans at present to proceed with the extension of the pier at Brandon, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45253/08]

The present position is that Kerry County Council recently submitted a proposal to my Department for the provision of financial assistance for the development of Cé Bhréanainn, County Kerry.

The proposal will be evaluated by my Department in the context of existing commitments and future priorities, having regard to the financial resources available for such developments.

Community Development.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

318 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if arrangements will be put in place to continue the support of a group (details supplied) in Dublin 8 despite the suspension of a community development project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44728/08]

I have asked my officials to look into possible alternative supports for the group.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

319 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44816/08]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in compliance with Department of Finance guidelines in relation to foreign travel. My Department has a written policy on official travel, which has been made available to all staff. An element of this policy is that all flights and foreign travel are approved in advance at a senior level. Furthermore, management and staff are reminded from time to time of the Department of Finance guidelines governing foreign travel. In addition, my Department's Internal Audit Unit has provided assurances that the procedures and processes in place in relation to official travel are being complied with.

With regard to bodies under the aegis of my Department, the Department of Finance guidelines in relation to foreign travel have been brought to the attention of the relevant agencies, which have provided written assurances to my Department that they are in compliance with the regulations. It is intended that further updates in this regard will continue to be sought from the agencies on a periodic basis.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

320 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45058/08]

The details requested by the Deputy in relation to the current staffing in the private and constituency offices of Mr John Curran, T.D., Minister of State, are set out in the following table:

Office

Number of Staff *

Total Annual Salaries

Private Office

4.4

193,214

Constituency Office

2

104,047

*Whole-Time Equivalents.

The Deputy will be aware that Mr Conor Lenihan, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Integration, has been assigned to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Education and Science and to my Department. The staffing of his office is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Security of the Elderly.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

321 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the grants available for elderly people living in remote rural areas looking to install an alarm in a home for security reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45114/08]

My Department manages the Scheme of Community Support for Older People, which assists qualifying older people, by means of a community based grant scheme. Funding is provided towards the once-off cost of installing monitored alarm systems, door and window locks, door chains, security lighting, smoke alarms and in the case of qualifying older people living on our offshore islands, interior emergency lighting. The Scheme does not cover intruder alarms.

The Scheme is open to people aged 65 and over who have a genuine need for assistance and is administered by community and voluntary organisations throughout the country, with support provided by my Department.

Maximum individual grants provided under the Scheme are as follows:

€300 in respect of the once-off installation cost of socially monitored alarms;

€200 in respect of physical security equipment;

€200 in respect of security lighting;

€50 in respect of smoke alarms; and

€150 in respect of interior emergency lighting for qualifying older people living on our offshore islands.

Applications under the Scheme are accepted throughout the year and can be made through a local community and voluntary group. Information on such groups is available from my Department and a list of Groups approved under the Scheme in recent years is available on my Department's website — www.pobail.ie.

Pension Provisions.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

322 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the proposals she has in the short term to protect defined benefit pension funds from collapse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44651/08]

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

323 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the strategy she has in the long term to protect pensions and those who have invested in them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44652/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 and 323 together.

The Pensions Act provides for a minimum Funding Standard which defined benefit pension schemes must meet on an ongoing basis. Generally speaking, the Standard requires that schemes maintain sufficient assets to enable them to discharge accrued liabilities in the event of a scheme winding up. Where schemes do not satisfy the Funding Standard the sponsors/trustees must submit a funding proposal to the Pensions Board to restore full funding within three years. The Pensions Board can allow a scheme up to ten years to meet the standard in certain circumstances.

In 2007, 81% of defined benefit schemes reporting to the Pensions Board passed the Funding Standard. Most of those schemes failing the test had a funding proposal in place. It is expected that the number of schemes failing the funding standard will increase significantly in the coming year. However, the extent of the problem will not be fully apparent until schemes carry out end of year actuarial assessments and report the results to the Pensions Board as required under the Pensions Act.

In recognition of the current market difficulties and the difficult decisions that pension schemes will face, the Government has put in place a number of short-term measures to ease the pressure on schemes. It has been agreed with the Pensions Board that an additional six months will be allowed for trustees to prepare funding proposals.

This will mean that schemes will have 18 months to review the situation with sponsoring employers and to formulate proposals for recovery. These actions are being taken to alleviate the current situation. Members of Defined Contribution schemes have also been exposed to investment losses. In such schemes the risk is borne in full by the member. Many of these schemes are relatively immature and for many people there will be adequate time to recoup some or all of the losses which have occurred.

There are particular concerns for those who may be at, or close to, retirement. Good practice would suggest a conservative approach to investments in the last number of years before retirement but anecdotal evidence suggests this may not have been applied in some cases. Members of defined contribution schemes are required to purchase an annuity at the point of retirement. In the current environment, these scheme members could realise a significant loss in the value of their pension fund. In the circumstances, the Minister Finance recently announced a concession in this area which will allow scheme members a period of up to two years to purchase an annuity. There is, of course, the risk that those availing of the deferment option could sustain further losses and this will be clearly outlined in guidance notes.

The Government is working with the Pensions Board, representative organisations and the social partners to find ways to ease the pressure on schemes by striking a balance between the long-term nature of pension savings and the need to ensure short-term security of accrued benefits. As outlined, it has already taken some short-term measures in this area. The long-term response to the situation is being considered in the context of the Green Paper on Pensions and any changes proposed will be announced in the context of the overall framework for pensions which the Government has indicated it will announce in the near future.

Social Welfare Benefits.

John Deasy

Ceist:

324 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance in Waterford city and county; and the number of people in Waterford city and county in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance in each of the years 2003 to 2007. [44696/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The following tabular statement shows the number of recipients of supplementary welfare allowance in Waterford City and County from 2003 to date. The total number of exceptional needs payments issued under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme in Waterford City and County from 2004 to date is also shown. A sub-total of these data in respect of Waterford City is not available.

Number of Recipients of Supplementary Welfare Allowance in Waterford city and county from 2003 to date

Basic SWA

Rent Supplement

Mortgage Interest Supplement

Other Supplements**

2003

953

1,563

80

544

2004

889

1,578

76

464

2005

884

1,804

68

436

2006

689

1,737

76

423

2007

779

1,776

91

412

2008*

870

2,066

204

390

*Up to 28 November 2008.

**Includes Diet, Heating, Travel, etc.

Total Number of Exceptional Needs Payments in Waterford city and county from 2003 to date

Year

Payments

2003

Not Available

2004

6,749

2005

6,671

2006

5,950

2007

5,533

2008*

6,094

*28 November 2008.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

325 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of an appeal for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo relating to jobseeker’s benefit refusal. [44748/08]

Further to my response to PQ 39354/08 on 11 November 2008, I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the person concerned was notified on 1 December 2008 that his case has been referred to an Appeals Officer and that it is proposed to hold an oral appeal hearing. A time and date has not yet been arranged for the hearing, but every effort is being made to have the case dealt with a quickly as possible. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

326 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department and all agencies under her remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44825/08]

All foreign travel booked for delegates representing the Department are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines. A Departmental Travel Policy document, based upon the Department of Finance guidelines, exists to guide staff booking foreign travel. This document is updated on an ongoing basis, in order to ensure continued compliance.

The five statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Pensions Board, the Combat Poverty Agency, the Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle), the Family Support Agency and the Social Welfare Tribunal. In addition the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department.

I have been advised by each of the agencies that they comply with the department of finance guidelines. The details as supplied by each agency are below.

The Pensions Board policy in relation to travel and subsistence costs is based on the relevant Department of Finance circulars and regulations. The over-riding consideration is to ensure that only necessary travel is undertaken and that it is done in the most economical and practicable way. Foreign travel is arranged through the office of the Chief Executive Officer, and as a general rule, economy class is booked except in very exceptional circumstances. The Combat Poverty Agency (CPA) fully adheres to relevant Department of Finance circulars and regulations on foreign travel. Compliance is subject to scrutiny and monitoring by senior management and the CPA Board. Compliance checks are also performed annually by the Agency's internal auditors and the Comptroller and Auditor General's Office (C&AG) as part of the audit of the Agency's annual accounts. The over-riding consideration is to ensure that only necessary travel is undertaken and that it is done in the most economical and practicable way.

The Citizens Information Board is fully compliant with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. The Board implements the payment of travel and subsistence as outlined in the Department of Finance Circular 11/1982: Travelling and Subsistence Regulations, and with regard to Foreign Travel the Board is guided by the Foreign Travel Policy document issued by the Department of Finance in 1998. All foreign travel by members of the Board or staff in respect of Board business requires the prior approval of management. All foreign travel is strictly appraised and monitored in line with the Department of Finance guidelines.

The Family Support Agency is in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. Foreign Travel requires the prior approval of the Chief Executive Officer, and as a general rule, economy class is booked except in very exceptional circumstances.

The Social Welfare Tribunal does not incur expenses in respect of foreign travel.

Foreign travel undertaken by the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman (mostly on business connected with the British and Irish Ombudsman Association) is fully in compliance with Department of Finance guidelines. All travel is authorised by the Pensions Ombudsman or his deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

327 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be facilitated with an earlier appointment for means testing in view of the fact that the duration of their jobseeker’s benefit has expired and they currently have no income. [44848/08]

The person concerned had received his maximum entitlement to 390 days jobseeker's benefit on 22 November 2008. He had been advised to apply for jobseeker's allowance in advance of this date. He informed his local office on 28 October 2008 that he did not wish to do so.

He applied for jobseeker's allowance on 18 November 2008. Arrangements have been made to have an assessment of his means carried out on 9 January 2009. Due to the increase in the numbers signing the live register it is not possible to facilitate him with an earlier appointment.

It is open to the person concerned to contact the Community Welfare Officer at his local Health Centre regarding his possible entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance.

Pension Provisions.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

328 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person who is job sharing, working one week on and one week off, and paying a class D contribution and is working on the farm owned by the person and the spouse on alternate weeks, is entitled to pay a contribution entitling them to a pension for their years working the farm. [44878/08]

Workers are insured under the Social Welfare Acts as either employed or self-employed contributors. All workers, both employed and self-employed, are obliged to pay PRSI contributions as a percentage of their personal reckonable income. These contributions provide entitlement to a range of contingency-based payments under various social insurance schemes — including pensions.

Employments that are insurable at PRSI Class D are classified as modified employments. PRSI Class D provides social insurance coverage for permanent and pensionable employees in the public service — other than those who were recruited after 6 April, 1995, or doctors and dentists employed in the Civil Service, Gardaí, commissioned army officers, and members of the Army Nursing Service.

Contributors insured at PRSI Class D are not eligible for social insurance-based pensions on retirement. Modified employments are covered under Civil Service regulations for both sick pay during illness, and their occupational pensions are covered by a superannuation scheme. As such, social insurance protection for these payments is not provided for.

Under Schedule 1, Part 3, Section 5 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 modified contributors are defined as excepted self-employed contributors. This means that a modified contributor is prohibited from simultaneously paying PRSI Class S contributions on other earnings from other sources. There are no plans to review or alter the arrangements outlined above.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

329 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of clients dealt with or on a waiting list at each Money Advice and Budgeting Service office to date in 2008; the number of clients dealt with at each Money Advice and Budgeting Service office in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44927/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

330 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the waiting times at each Money Advice and Budgeting Service office at present; the waiting times at each Money Advice and Budgeting Service office in November 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44928/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

331 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the Money Advice and Budgeting Service telephone helpline was established; the number of calls received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44929/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

332 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will confirm that the Money Advice and Budgeting Service telephone helpline number is a 1890 number, which charges users a fee of up to 35 cent per minute; her views on whether this is fair and on whether the helpline should be a 1850 callsave number which charges a flat fee of approximately 30 cent irrespective of the length of the call; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44930/08]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

333 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position with regard to putting the Money Advice and Budgeting Service on a statutory footing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44931/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 to 333, inclusive, together.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is the main Government funded service which provides assistance to people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems. There are 53 independent companies with voluntary boards of management and over 240 money advice staff operating the local services throughout the country. Last year, MABS provided services to 12,400 new clients throughout the country. To the end of November 2008 approximately 15,600 new clients have approached the service. Information on the number of new clients dealt with in each MABS company in 2007 and up to the end of September 2008, the latest breakdown available per MABS company, is detailed in the following table.

All MABS Companies operate an appointment system for meeting clients. Information is not available on the MABSIS on the waiting times for appointments at different offices. However, in all cases, clients with urgent difficulties are dealt with promptly. Less urgent cases are referred to the MABS National Telephone Helpline, 1890 382438 available from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and to the MABS website www.mabs.ie available 24 hours for immediate assistance with budgeting and money management issues.

The MABS National Telephone Helpline was launched in October 2007 and has dealt with almost 11,500 calls to date. Over 90% of callers to the Helpline find that their money management and budgeting issues can be resolved with the assistance of the helpline advisor. Some 10% of callers are referred for appointment to the local MABS services.

MABS National Helpline uses an Eircom LoCall 1890 number to ensure that callers can ring from anywhere in Ireland at local call rate. Callers using landlines incur a charge of 1.32 cent per minute after 6pm and 5.17 cent per minute during office hours. Callers ringing from mobile phones incur higher charges, but in such cases it is the practice for the helpline advisor to offer to ring the caller back. The use of 1890 numbers for the MABS Helpline is in line with the practice of other national helplines such as the Financial Regulator, Citizens Information and the Food Safety Authority. The objective is to ensure that there is a low cost accessible service for clients throughout the country while at the same time ensuring value for money for the taxpayer who funds the service.

The MABS provides a high quality personal service to the public and makes a difference to peoples lives. However, it has been recognised for some time that the Service needs a proper legislative basis and structure. The Programme for Government envisaged that such a new structure for the MABS would involve strong national leadership and would maximise the current local voluntary involvement in the service.

The Government has decided that this can best be achieved by placing the MABS with the Citizens Information Board. The MABS and Citizens Information Centres complement each other well as both are involved in providing information, advice and advocacy services to the public.

In addition, the Citizens Information Board has a long association with the MABS at both national and local level and was involved in establishing some of the original MABS pilot projects.

The legislative provisions to give effect to the proposed changes are contained in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008. It is proposed that the legislative provisions will be brought into effect by way of a Commencement Order and that a six months period up to July 2009 will be required to complete the administrative arrangements for the transfer of responsibility for the MABS to the Citizens Information Board.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service — New Clients

Company

New Clients to 31st December 2007

New clients to 30th September 2008

Arklow

183

199

Athlone

140

130

Ballymun

457

416

Blanchardstown

394

332

Bray

379

439

Carlow

698

426

Cavan

230

146

Charleville

83

86

Clare

224

220

Clondalkin

252

239

COMAC

246

310

Cork

596

780

North Cork

224

275

West Cork

221

222

North Donegal

236

210

South Donegal

49

64

West Donegal

27

13

Drogheda

158

99

Dublin 12 Area

232

200

Dublin North City

380

199

Dublin North East

308

294

Dublin South East

155

158

Dundalk

134

135

Dundrum/Rathfarnham

203

236

Dun Laoghaire

290

325

Fingal

219

163

Finglas

432

353

North Galway

256

257

South Galway

486

456

Kerry

520

514

Kildare

376

342

Kilkenny

274

265

Laois

271

319

Leitrim

87

94

Liffey South West

303

223

Limerick

185

468

Longford

106

113

North Mayo

113

85

South Mayo

158

166

Meath

172

133

Monaghan

77

61

Mullingar

174

134

Offaly

147

172

Roscommon

96

108

Sligo

131

165

Tallaght

332

321

North Tipperary

166

155

South Tipperary

357

425

Waterford

443

453

West Waterford

98

94

Wexford

256

234

Social Welfare Benefits.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

334 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin in relation to the refusal to grant rent allowance; if it is the case that while the applicant was previously housed in another jurisdiction but felt unsafe and threatened in that area, they are entitled to be granted public housing or support for housing here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44935/08]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE), as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

The person concerned was refused rent supplement on the grounds that he had voluntarily surrendered local authority accommodation already available to him in Scotland. The HSE's Appeals Office has advised that it recently upheld the decision of a superintendent community welfare officer to refuse payment of rent supplement to the person concerned. However, that office has further advised that it is now reviewing this decision in the light of additional documentary evidence supplied by the person concerned. He will be advised him shortly of the outcome of this review.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

335 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding rent allowance for single people (details supplied). [45041/08]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant may incur. Rent limits are set at levels that enable the different eligible household types to secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation, having regard to the different rental market conditions that prevail in various parts of the State. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation having regard to the size of the household. Rent levels declined by almost 5% by August of this year and continue to decline. The supply of available rental accommodation is also reported to have more than doubled in the last year.

Notwithstanding the current rent limits, under existing arrangements the Health Service Executive may, in certain circumstances, exceed rent limits as an exceptional measure where there are special housing needs related to exceptional circumstances for example disabled persons in specially-adapted accommodation or homeless persons. This discretionary power ensures that individuals with particular needs can be accommodated within the scheme and specifically protects against homelessness.

In recent years, a significant number of people have come to rely on rent supplement for extended periods. There are currently over 72,200 people in receipt of rent supplement. Over 32,000 are getting a supplement for 18 months or more. For this reason, the rent supplement scheme has to be viewed in the context of overall housing policy, particularly in the case of long-term recipients.

One of the measures introduced to address long-term housing needs is the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). RAS gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer-term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more, on a phased implementation basis. Since 2005, over 15,800 rent supplement recipients have been transferred to RAS units and other social housing options.

With regard to the position of a single person, if they have been in receipt of rent supplement for 18 months or more they should register with their local authority for RAS.

Social Welfare Code.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

336 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in context of disability allowance, non-contributory State pension and rent supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, an elderly Irish citizen with a special needs daughter would be subject to the habitual residence condition on returning to reside near family members here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45046/08]

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1 May 2004. All applicants — regardless of nationality — for the following payments are required to be habitually resident in the State:

Jobseeker's Allowance;

State Pension (Non-Contributory for persons aged over 66);

Blind Pension;

Widow's, Widower's and Orphan's Non-Contributory Pensions;

One-parent Family Payment;

Carer's Allowance;

Disability Allowance;

Supplementary Welfare Allowance (including Rent Supplement); and

Child Benefit;

The condition does not apply to:

insurance benefits (which are payable to persons who satisfy the contribution and other conditions) or

once-off exceptional or urgent needs payments payable under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.

Under Social Welfare legislation, decisions in relation to all aspects of claims are made by statutorily appointed Deciding Officers. Each case received for a determination on the Habitual Residence Condition is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of the legislation and guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case. Decisions in relation to Supplementary Welfare Allowance (including Rent Supplement) are made by Community Welfare Officers in the Health Service Executive (HSE). Any applicant who disagrees with the decision on a case has the right to request a review of that decision and/or appeal to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

The question of what is a person's "habitual residence" has been decided in accordance with European Court of Justice case law, which sets out the grounds for assessing individual claims. The restriction is not based on citizenship, nationality, or immigration status. The criteria have been incorporated in social welfare legislation (Section 30 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007) to guide a deciding officer in determination of the habitual residence condition and include an assessment of the claimant's main centre of interest and future intentions as it appears from all the circumstances. The criteria have been drawn from judgments of the European Court of Justice.

Irish nationals returning to live here on a permanent basis should experience no difficulty in meeting the requirements of the Habitual Residence Condition.

The Habitual Residence Condition is being operated in a careful manner to ensure that Ireland's social welfare system is protected, while at the same time ensuring that people whose cases are appropriate to the system have access to it when they need it.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

337 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the professions that are generally covered in the back to work scheme payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45052/08]

The Department provides supports to assist and encourage the long term unemployed, lone parents, people with disabilities and other social welfare recipients to return to the active labour force. The back to work allowance is one of the main supports in this area. It provides a monetary incentive designed to make the return to work for people with long term dependency on social welfare payments financially attractive and viable. It is designed to support people who would not otherwise be able to return to the workforce for financial reasons.

There are two strands to the scheme under which qualified persons can retain their social welfare payments on a sliding scale. The back to work allowance (BTWA) enables people who take up employment to receive a tapered percentage of their social welfare payment over a three year period; 75% in year 1, 50% in year 2, 25% in year 3. Under the back to work enterprise allowance (BTWEA) persons who become self employed receive a tapered payment over a 4 year period; 100% in year 1, 75% in year 2, 50% in year 3, and 25% in year 4.

The nature of the employment or self-employment is not prescribed and, where the other qualifying conditions are met, payment can be made in respect of any occupation.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

338 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the circumstances under which her Department partially fund people to set up in the taxi business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45053/08]

The Department provides supports designed to assist and encourage the long term unemployed, lone parents, people with disabilities and other social welfare recipients to return to the active labour force. The back to work allowance is one of the main supports in this area. It provides a monetary incentive designed to make the return to work for people with long term dependency on social welfare payments financially attractive and viable. It is designed to support people who would not otherwise be able to return to the workforce for financial reasons

There are two strands to the scheme under which qualified persons can retain their social welfare payments on a sliding scale. The back to work allowance (BTWA) enables people who take up employment to receive a tapered percentage of their social welfare payment over a three year period; 75% in year 1, 50% in year 2, 25% in year 3. Under the back to work enterprise allowance (BTWEA), persons who become self employed receive a tapered payment over a 4 year period; 100% in year 1, 75% in year 2, 50% in year 3, and 25% in year 4.

A person in receipt of a social welfare payment who decides to set up as a self employed taxi operator would be eligible to apply for the back to work enterprise allowance. In order to qualify, a person must be in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a certain duration. Those taking up self-employment must first have their self-employment project approved. In partnership areas this will be done by the partnership company. In non-partnership areas this will be done by the department's local facilitator. Approval normally involves an interview with the applicant to assess the viability of the proposed project, to provide advice on funding or on "Start Your Own Business" courses and other relevant aspects.

In the context of the back to work enterprise allowance, the department operates a technical assistance and training scheme (TATS) under which a person may qualify for a grant up to a maximum of €1,000 towards certain start-up expenses. This fund is designed to enhance the person's chances of succeeding in becoming independent of the social welfare system. It is a support for persons in need of assistance for training in the areas of starting a business, book-keeping/accounts, preparation of business plans, marketing, literacy and computer training or assistance with the purchase of small items of equipment. It is administered through the department's facilitator network based in social welfare local offices.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

339 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a carers allowance appeal will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [45054/08]

Further to my response to Question No. 50 on 15 October 2008, I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that they have now received the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal from the Department and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

340 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if she will provide the information in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45067/08]

There has been no Minister of State formally assigned to the Department. However, Minister of State, Ms. Máire Hoctor, who is Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, has special responsibility for older people, areas of which fall within the remit of the Department. There are no staff assigned to her office from the Department.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

341 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and granted disability allowance; and if this case will be expedited in view of the applicant’s illness. [45090/08]

Disability Allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged 16 or over and under age 66. This disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both medical assessment and a means test. The person concerned made application for disability allowance on 22 October 2008. Her case was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector for a means assessment, and she has now been interviewed by the Social Welfare Inspector. His report has been forwarded to the Disability Allowance Section, and a final decision will be given on this person's application upon receipt of this report. In view of this person's illness, her case will be expedited by the Department. She will be notified directly of the outcome.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

342 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved disability allowance. [45091/08]

Disability Allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged 16 or over and under age 66. This disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both medical assessment and a means test. The person concerned made application for Disability Allowance on 30 October 2008. He has been refused disability allowance on the grounds that he was deemed by a Medical Assessor to be not medically suitable for disability allowance. He has been advised of his right to send in further medical evidence and also of his right of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. He is currently in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

343 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on respective justice for women who have reached pension age and find the years they have spent in unpaid care work has not be recognised for pension entitlement, as outlined in the National Women’s Council pension policy, launched in May 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45100/08]

The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties are protected by the home-maker's scheme which was introduced in and took effect from 1994. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a person's social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes. However, the scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance 10 years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate and achieve a yearly average of at least 10 contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age, must also be satisfied.

There is also a number of other ways in which pension entitlements can be protected. People who qualify for payments such as carer's allowance or carer's benefit may, subject to conditions, qualify for credited contributions for the period during which they receive the payment. In addition, over the last 10 years the Government has taken a number of measures to make qualification for contributory pension easier and to provide direct payments to more people. These include a reduction in the yearly contribution rate required for a minimum pension from 20 to 10, and the introduction of special measures such as the pre-53 pension. Also, in the case of pensions awarded from September 2006 qualified adult payments are being made direct to the spouse or partner. These measures are of particular benefit to people with less than complete social insurance records and ensure that more people receive a direct pension payment. Other measures are discussed in the Green Paper on Pensions and decisions in relation to them will be made in the context of the framework for future pension policy, which the Government has indicated it will announce in the near future.

Live Register.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

344 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people on the live register in the area of Cork city and county; the increase in these figures over the past 12 months; the increase in the number of staff employed in social welfare offices to deal with any backlog, and the number of people who are part of this backlog; in Cork city or county. [45260/08]

The Department is committed to providing a quality customer service. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are issued as expeditiously as possible having regard to the eligibility conditions which apply. Every effort is being made to process claims in local offices as quickly as possible. This includes the prioritisation of work, assignment of additional resources including staffing and overtime. Because of the increased number of claims for jobseeker payments, the Department undertook a review of staffing levels in Local Offices in May and June of this year. This resulted in the assignment of an additional 31 staff to some 15 Local Offices. Following on the most recent review of the staffing levels in Local Offices, an additional 115 staff are to be assigned. A separate staffing exercise was carried out for Cork taking into account the opening of the Carrigaline office. This identified the need for an additional 12 staff in Cork City and 4 in Carrigaline.

Branch Offices are operated under a contract for service and decisions on claims taken in Branch Offices are made in its departmental parent Local Office. The following table gives details of the Live Register figures for each of the offices in County Cork together with the number of Jobseeker's Benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance claims awaiting a decision:

Local Office

Branch Office

Live Register Nov 2007

Live Register Nov 2008

Jobseeker’s Pending Decision

Bantry

128

201

32

Bantry

344

582

84

Skibbereen

363

591

105

Carrigaline

665

1,298

194

Bandon

615

1,009

272

Clonakilty

473

773

185

Kinsale

621

954

217

Midleton

1,171

1,875

446

Youghal

812

1,121

158

Cobh

353

626

51

Cork

7,445

11,730

2,682

Mallow

Mallow

845

1,417

205

Fermoy

1,012

1,563

175

Macroom

510

966

198

(Listowel)

Newmarket

489

978

296

15,846

25,684

5,300

National Carers Strategy.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

345 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the national carer’s strategy. [45287/08]

The development of a National Carers' Strategy is a key Government commitment in both the national partnership agreement Towards 2016 and the Programme for Government. A working group, chaired by the Department of An Taoiseach, is working on developing the strategy. My Department provides the secretariat to the working group which also includes representatives of the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Enterprise, Trade and Employment as well as FÁS and the Health Service Executive. Developing the strategy involves consultation with other government departments and bodies not represented on the working group.

The Department has met with a wide range of organisations including the Equality Authority, Combat Poverty Agency, Citizen's Information Board, the National Council on Ageing and Older People, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the National Disability Authority to discuss this issue. A request for submissions from the public was published in regional newspapers in early March. The closing date for submissions was Friday 18 April 2008. There was a good response from individuals and organisations and the submissions received are being examined.

Towards 2016 commits the Department to hosting an annual consultation meeting of carer representative groups and relevant departments and agencies. Such a meeting was held on 23 January 2008. Representatives of 12 groups and 9 government departments and bodies attended. The theme was the National Carers' Strategy and groups were given an opportunity to comment on the draft terms of reference and to raise other issues considered relevant in the context of the strategy. I was very pleased to launch the report, Listening to Carers, Report on a Nationwide Carer Consultation, produced by the Carers Association in partnership with Caring for Carers Ireland and Care Alliance on 30 June this year. The issues raised in this report are currently being considered as part of the development of the strategy.

The commitment to the development of a National Carers Strategy also includes a commitment to appropriate consultation with the social partners. An update in relation to the strategy was provided to the social partners plenary session in February. The first of two consultation meetings with the social partners was held on 8 May 2008. Key issues raised were recognition for carers and their work, access to suitable health services, income support, training, gender issues and balancing employment and care. The interdepartmental group is currently working on bringing the carers strategy to completion.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

346 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a review will be undertaken in the case of an application for supplementary welfare allowance or rent supplement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when the appeal will be heard in this regard; if she will confirm that interim payment will be in place while the appeal is pending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45318/08]

All applicants regardless of nationality, from 1 May 2004, are required to be habitually resident in the State in order to qualify for supplementary welfare allowance. The person concerned was refused supplementary welfare allowance and rent supplement on the grounds that he is not habitually resident in the State. The designated Appeals Office of the Health Service Executive has advised that it has received an appeal from the person concerned. The appeal will be processed as quickly as possible once all appropriate information is available to that office, including additional information requested from the community welfare officer. The Executive has advised that, as an exceptional measure, a payment issued to the person concerned on 3 December 2008.

Commemorative Events.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

347 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding plans for 2016 celebrations; and if he will report on the committee’s work to date. [44767/08]

Nominations in respect of the composition of the Oireachtas Consultation Group are now complete. The party nominations are: Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Joe Costello T.D., Aengus Ó Snodaigh T.D., and Michael Lowry T.D. as a representative of Independent members. A meeting of the Group has been arranged for Tuesday 9 December 2008. The initial meeting of the re-constituted group will be informed of progress on current heritage projects related to the Independence period and the consideration towards a framework for the Centenary commemorative programme. This includes:

Status report on the possibility of development of cultural and amenity use in the GPO complex in O'Connell Street;

Position on the possible restoration of 16 Moore Street;

Progress on the restoration of the Asgard;

Programme of works at Glasnevin Cemetery;

Support for the creation of programmes of events in all cities and towns in Ireland;

The preparation for public access to personal files and records in the Military Archives.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

348 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Defence if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44817/08]

I am satisfied that foreign travel undertaken by my Department and the agencies under the remit of my Department is in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines. Approval for foreign travel in relation to official business is sought in advance from a senior official in my Department and sanction is only authorised when it is established that the travel is essential. In advance of payment, claims made in respect of foreign travel are certified by an authorised official as being in accordance with the provisions of the appropriate Department of Finance travel and subsistence guidelines. The Department of Finance circulars on Foreign Travel are brought to the attention of all staff and are readily available on my Department's intranet site.

Defence Forces Training.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

349 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of Reserve Defence Force personnel who have undergone potential NCO courses in each defence region in each of the past three years; the number of persons who have successfully completed the course in each region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44841/08]

The following table outlines the number of Reserve Defence Force personnel who commenced Potential NCO Courses and the number who have successfully completed such courses from 2006 to 2008 inclusive:

2 E Bde RDF

Commenced

Completed

2006

30

22

2007

38

24

2008

46

27

1 S Bde RDF

Commenced

Completed

2006

56

54

2007

50

12

2008

40

11

4 W Bde RDF

Commenced

Completed

2006

44

42

2007

29

29

2008

42

41

NSR

Commenced

Completed

2006

Nil

Nil

2007

Nil

Nil

2008

12

11

Totals

387

273

The Potential NCO course is run over two Modules of training. Module one is completed over three weekends and Module two is completed over fourteen days full time training. A member of the RDF must successfully complete Module one in order to undergo Module two.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

350 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Defence the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45059/08]

There are two staff members assigned to cover both the private office and the constituency office of the Minister of State in my Department, Mr. Pat Carey, T.D. Both are civil servants. Information in relation to their salaries is set out in the following table:

Number

Salary Scale as at 01/09/2008

1

Higher Executive Officer Standard Scale €46,558 – €59,097.

A ‘Private Secretary to Minister’ allowance of €20,687 is associated with this post.

1

Clerical Officer Higher Scale €24,255 – €38,397

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

351 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce grants for the insulation of houses for older persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44701/08]

My Department's Housing Aid for Older People Scheme, which is administered by local authorities, provides targeted support to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. The types of works which may be grant aided under the Scheme are varied and may include the provision and upgrading of insulation works. In addition, older people living in local authority housing may benefit from the central heating programme introduced by my Department in July 2004. The programme assists local authorities in providing central heating facilities in their rented dwellings and, where necessary, in implementing measures to ensure the energy efficiency of the dwelling. As announced in the context of Budget 2009, an audit of the social housing stock will commence in 2009, in preparation for a programme of retrofitting to deliver improved energy efficiency standards; this programme will be informed by a number of pilot projects for which €5m has been earmarked in 2009.

Sustainable Energy Ireland, under the auspices of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, operates a Low Income Housing Programme, set up to help establish and implement a national plan of action to address the problem of fuel poverty. Core delivery is through the Warmer Homes Scheme, which aims at improving the energy efficiency and comfort conditions of homes occupied by low-income households, and at establishing the systems and growing the capacity in Ireland to install measures including attic insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets, energy efficient lighting, and cavity wall insulation, and to provide energy advice.

Furthermore, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources launched a pilot Home Energy Saving Scheme on 24 April 2008. The scheme is designed to encourage owners of older homes to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, including through improved insulation measures. The regional pilot is designed to inform the roll-out of the full scale €100 million national scheme envisaged in the Programme for Government. The scheme will provide different incentives in each of the regional pilot areas in order to test their impact and effectiveness in encouraging householders to undertake energy efficiency investment works. The incentives will include varying levels of capital grants, advice on works required and information on banks offering reduced rate loans to scheme participants.

Architectural Heritage.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

352 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 1449 of 24 September 2008, the discussions since that date with the local authority and landowners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44726/08]

My Department and the Office of Public Works met with the Roscommon County Manager and other local authority officials on 14 October 2008 to discuss matters relating to the management of the site. Further ongoing contacts are planned.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

353 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 922 of 10 July 2008, the status of the approval process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44727/08]

My Department is awaiting submission of Roscommon County Council's revised Contract Documents for the scheme.

Importation of Snakes.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

354 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to an emerging wild snake population here; if there are plans to curb or regulate the sale of snakes here; the regulations in place for importing or selling snakes; his views on a total ban on snake sales and importing snakes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44736/08]

My relevant responsibilities under the Wildlife Acts relate to control over the importation into the State from outside the European Union of live wild animals, including snakes. Section 52(1) of the Wildlife Act, as amended, prohibits such importation except under licence issued by my Department under Section 52(2). In addition under Section 52(7) any person who wilfully allows or causes to escape any species of exotic wild animal, including snakes or transfers such wild animal to any place in the State for the purposes of establishing it in a wild state unless under licence would be guilty of an offence. I understand that my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service receives occasional reports of escaped snakes but is not aware of any population of snakes living in the wild in Ireland. I do not consider that there is sufficient evidence of a need, at this time for a total ban on the importation of snakes.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

355 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44820/08]

My Department complies with Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. It operates on the basis that only necessary travel should be undertaken, that the number of officers travelling should be kept to a minimum and that economy class should be used wherever possible. All foreign travel undertaken by staff is subject to a system of specific approval, which is designed to ensure that best value for money is obtained. In this context, expenditure on travel and subsistence is monitored on an ongoing basis.

The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, which my Department has sent to agencies under my aegis, provides that the responsibility for ensuring that management operates effective and efficient internal controls rests with the board of directors or a committee of similar status. The code requires each State body to produce as part of its annual reporting and accounts package a statement on the system of internal financial control which operates within the body. This statement is signed by the Chairperson and is subject to audit review. The Agencies within the Department's remit have been reminded of the ongoing requirement to adhere to Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel.

Building Regulations.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

356 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will support proposals (details supplied). [44840/08]

Part L of the Building Regulations, which deals with the Conservation of Fuel and Energy, is kept under ongoing review by my Department. In December 2007 I amended the Regulations to meet the 2007 commitment given in the Programme for Government to provide for a 40% improvement in energy efficiency and a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions for new dwellings. For the first time ever, there is a mandatory requirement for the use of renewables to meet these 40% targets. I believe that these new standards are consistent with the interesting proposals which are the subject of the Question.

Housing Schemes.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

357 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a decision on an application for funding from a council (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44861/08]

Under my Department's funding schemes for voluntary and co-operative housing, grants of up to 100% of the approved cost of projects are available for accommodation provided by approved housing bodies. The administration of the schemes, including the processing and appraisal of new applications, the management of the planning and procurement stages of projects and the certification that projects comply with the terms and conditions of the funding schemes, are the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Cluid Housing Association have submitted seven applications to Cork City Council in respect of housing projects for funding under the Capital Assistance Scheme. My Department has sought additional information from the Council on issues relating to each of these schemes. When this is to hand the applications will be further considered in the light of the available funding.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

358 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [44941/08]

The administration of the Essential Repairs and the Housing Aid for Older People Grant Schemes, including the processing and approval of individual applications, is a matter for the local authority concerned and is one in which my Department has no direct function.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

359 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the provision of 10,000 new social housing units each year for the next three years is necessary to clear the backlog in local authority housing waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45029/08]

Despite the challenges that the current economic situation presents, meeting the relevant targets set out in the Government Programme, the social partnership agreement Towards 2016, and the National Development Plan 2007-2013 continues to be the overriding objective of the Social Housing Investment Programme.

The commitment entered into under Towards 2016 was to achieve 27,000 social housing "starts" over the three year period 2007 to 2009. In terms of delivery, we set out to reach the first one third of this 27,000 unit target — or 9,000 "starts" — in 2007 and we exceeded this target, with a total of 9,061 "starts" achieved across the local authority and voluntary and co-operative housing programmes and the Rental Accommodation Scheme. All the indications available to us at this stage would suggest that 2008 will be another year of significant delivery under the main social housing programmes.

Looking to the future, the results of the 2008 housing needs assessment show a significant increase in overall net housing need, against a background of a significantly more constrained fiscal environment. While this presents a challenging scenario, the €1.66 billion in funding provided for housing in the 2009 Estimates will allow us to maintain strong momentum towards meeting our commitments in Towards 2016 and our longer-term goals under the National Development Plan. In particular, progress will be underpinned by the continued roll-out of the Rental Accommodation Scheme and new initiatives including the sourcing of accommodation for social housing through long-term lease arrangements and the introduction of an incremental purchase scheme through which lower income households can access home ownership.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

360 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will support a matter (details supplied). [45040/08]

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993, made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations. Failure to do so is an offence, subject, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €3,000, or a term of six months in prison or both and €250 for each day of a continuing offence. Responsibility for enforcing the regulations rests with the relevant local authority, supported by a dedicated stream of funding allocated by my Department.

In the Partnership Agreement Towards 2016, the Government committed to updating these minimum standards and recently delivered on this commitment by approving a package of measures. Those elements of the package not requiring primary legislation will be introduced through new regulations to replace those made in 1993. Regulations for this purpose, which will shortly be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, will come into effect generally on 1 February 2009 and will include a provision covering sanitary facilities. This provision will have the effect of removing bedsit accommodation from the rental market. However, taking account of views expressed in wide-ranging consultations during the development of the new standards package, this element of the new regulations, together with the provisions covering heating facilities and food preparation, storage and laundry will not come into effect for existing rental accommodation until 1 February 2013 as it will be necessary to allow time for the carrying out of the significant remedial work that may be involved in achieving compliance. Those aspects will therefore continue to be subject to the relevant provisions of the Housing (Standards for Rented Housing) Regulations 1993 until then, insofar as existing rental accommodation is concerned. However, any rental properties being let for the first time after 1 February 2009 will have to comply with all the requirements of the new Regulations.

A number of specific elements of the package will require primary legislation and will be addressed in the context of the passage through the Oireachtas of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008. These include increased penalties for non-compliance and the introduction of a more robust sanctions regime.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

361 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the situation regarding Clarinbridge sewerage scheme in view of the fact that the brief has been sent to his Department by Galway County Council; the timeframe for a decision on this matter in order that contract documents can be prepared by Galway County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45051/08]

The Clarinbridge Sewerage Scheme is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009.

My Department is finalising its examination of Galway County Council's brief for the appointment of consultants to draw up the Preliminary Report for the scheme and a decision will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

362 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45062/08]

The information requested is set out in the following table:-

Minister of State

No. of staff

Grade/Salary Scale

Private/ConstituencyOffice

Michael Kitt

1

Private Secretary-Higher Executive Officer

Private Office

1

Executive Officer

Private Office

1

Clerical Officer

Private Office

1

Personal Assistant-Higher Executive Officer

Constituency Office

1

Executive Officer

Constituency Office

1

Clerical Officer

Constituency Office

1

Personal Secretary-Executive Officer

Galway Constituency Office

1

Executive Officer

Galway Constituency Office

Michael Finneran

1

Private Secretary-Higher Executive Officer

Private Office

2

Executive Officer

Private Office

2

Clerical Officer

Private Office

1

Personal Assistant-Higher Executive Officer

Constituency Office

2

Clerical Officer

Constituency Office

1

Personal Secretary-Executive Officer

Roscommon/Leitrim Constituency Office

Máire Hoctor*

*Staffing arrangements for the Office of the Minister of State, Máire Hoctor, with responsibility for Older People are dealt with by the Department of Health and Children.

The salary scales for all administrative grades are available on the Department of Finance website (www.finance.gov.ie ).

Planning Issues.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

363 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason that a section of his Department will not meet with or discuss an important item with a group (details supplied) that is necessary for the group to complete its submission; if there is a mechanism available to the group to obtain such a meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45077/08]

As Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I am generally precluded under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 from exercising any power or control in relation to any individual matter with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for my Department to meet with any group to discuss an individual planning application.

Under the Planning Acts, as Minister, I may only intervene in the planning process in respect of heritage matters, i.e., I may comment on planning applications or appeals, or give expert advice to planning authorities or an Bord Pleanála, in relation to the protection of the built and natural heritage only.

On 6 December 2007, on architectural heritage grounds, my Department recommended to Athy Town Council that planning permission for the development in question should be refused, as the proposal was contrary to the proper planning and development of the area. My Department recommended that the developer liaise with the County Kildare Local Authority Conservation Officer in the preparation of any future proposals for this site.

Further comments from my Department were forwarded to Athy Town Council on 20 June 2008, on foot of further information received from the planning authority. My Department again recommended that permission not be granted for the development.

On 9 September 2008 my Department was contacted by a conservation architect acting for the developer, regarding my Department's submission on the planning application. The Department suggested that a meeting be arranged between the conservation architect, the project architect and the County Kildare Local Authority Conservation Officer, with an official from my Department present, to discuss future proposals for the development of the site. I understand that no such meeting has since been requested by or on behalf of the developer concerned.

On 24 October 2008 my Department indicated to the planning authority that its recommendation for refusal still stood on foot of further information received from Athy Town Council.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

364 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the person who has the responsibility for the maintenance of a small works group sewerage scheme subsequent to upgrade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45104/08]

The operation and maintenance of a group water or sewerage scheme is a matter for the trustees of the scheme.

Cross-Border Projects.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

365 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will encourage his Ministerial counterpart at Stormont to commit to jointly funding the North/South Confederation of Councillors in view of the fact that the NSCC was forced to let go two staff in summer 2008 due to a lack of funding from the Northern Ireland Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45130/08]

In line with a commitment given by my predecessor in February 2007 and subsequently reaffirmed by me, funding is available from my Department to support the Confederation of European Councillors in the amount of €150,000 per annum for a period of five years. Such funding is, however, conditional on an equivalent amount being provided by the appropriate authorities in Northern Ireland, who are aware of our readiness to provide funding on this basis.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

366 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the decision of Dublin City Council to proceed with a revised plan for an estate (details supplied) in Dublin; if he will commit to ensuring that the moneys required to build the social housing aspect of the regeneration programme will be forthcoming from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45134/08]

Since the announcement in May 2008 that a number of housing regeneration Public-Private Partnership projects would not be proceeding as planned, my Department has worked closely with Dublin City Council to ensure that all possible avenues for moving these projects forward are examined. I am aware that the multi-disciplinary team, established within the Council to identify the next steps for the regeneration at St. Michael's Estate, has presented revised proposals for consideration by the City Council.

The allocation of public funding to Dublin City Council is made on the basis of overall housing need and it is a matter for the City Council to determine its housing programme within available resources. The allocations for the Social Housing Investment Programme will be issued early in 2009.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

367 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to the provision of a sewerage scheme to service the village of Cloghane, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45255/08]

I understand that Kerry County Council is undertaking a strategic study with a view to optimising the delivery of wastewater infrastructure in up to 90 towns and villages in the county, including Cloghane. My Department will consider any proposals received from Kerry County Council for a Sewerage Scheme at Cloghane, in the light of the study recommendations.

Water Charges.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

368 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a special school (details supplied) in County Donegal will be excused from its water charges in view of the fact that the school’s resources are not sufficient to meet this cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45264/08]

Schools are required to meet a range of public utility and other costs and the provision of resources for schools is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Science. In relation to water charges, the Government decided in January 2008 to introduce transitional arrangements for charging schools for water services. These transitional arrangements will terminate at the end of 2009.

Planning Issues.

Áine Brady

Ceist:

369 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has issued guidelines, will issue guidelines or will offer a view to a local authority in connection with the local criteria planning requirement for a one off rural house, where an applicant lives adjacent to a county boundary and is seeking planning permission on a site which complies with the council’s required distance but where the applicant lives just outside the county boundary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45292/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 218 of 3 December 2008.

I have no plans to issue any further or supplementary guidance to planning authorities on rural housing.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

370 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the Government views on the automatic trigger to increase Europe’s greenhouse gas emission reductions from a 20% to a 30% reduction by 2020 following a global climate deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45433/08]

The Government is fully committed to the EU position in the international negotiations on a global climate agreement, that developed countries should take the lead in action to address climate change by committing collectively to reducing their emissions in the order of 30% by 2020 compared to 1990. In this context, the European Council has endorsed an EU objective of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 as its contribution to a global and comprehensive agreement for the period beyond 2012, provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emissions reductions and that economically more advanced developing countries contribute adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities. In this context, the EU has called on all developed countries to propose, not later than mid-2009, economy-wide medium-term targets that involve a comparable level of effort.

Notwithstanding this international position, the European Council is committed to transforming Europe into a highly energy-efficient and low greenhouse-gas-emitting economy, and has decided, without prejudice to its position in international negotiations, to make a firm, independent commitment to achieve at least a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990. The adjustment to the higher target as part of an international climate agreement needs to be built explicitly into the climate legislative proposals.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

371 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the Government views on the use of funds derived from the auctioning of emission permits within the EU, as part of the EU emissions trading scheme to be spent supporting developing countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45434/08]

Ireland's position, under successive Governments, on the mandatory hypothecation of Exchequer revenues in EU legislation is well known. It is a matter for the EU Member State to determine the use of such revenues. In this context, the Government will determine, in accordance with the relevant legislative and budgetary framework, the use of the revenues generated from the auctioning of allowances in the EU Emissions Trading System. Furthermore, the Government is determined to fulfil its commitments that will be agreed as part of a future global and comprehensive climate agreement for the period beyond 2012 in Copenhagen in 2009.

Bord na Móna Rail Network.

James Bannon

Ceist:

372 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will intervene in the proposed decision to close the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44753/08]

James Bannon

Ceist:

373 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to Bord na Móna’s plan to close the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway, which has attracted over 750,000 visitors in the past 18 years on tours of the Blackwater bog, and the adverse impact such a closure will have on tourism in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44755/08]

James Bannon

Ceist:

374 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the closure of the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway which is based at Bord na Móna’s Blackwater works. [44756/08]

James Bannon

Ceist:

375 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the adverse effect on job creation and current jobs posed by the planned closure of the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44757/08]

James Bannon

Ceist:

381 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has given his support to Bord na Móna’s decision to close the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway; if so, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44754/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 372 to 375, inclusive, and 381 together.

The decision to close the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway is an operational matter for the board of Bord na Móna plc. I do not propose to intervene in the matter. However, as previously stated in the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 550 from Deputy Charles Flanagan on November 11th last, I have obtained information from the company on the issue.

Bord na Móna advises that the company has operated the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway (CWOR) since 1990. It has operated from April to September each year and consisted of a guided rail coach tour around 10 kilometres of Bord na Móna's industrial rail line giving a history of the formation, use and after-use of the area's bog land.

The CWOR has been operated on a section of the Bord na Móna rail network, which serves the West Offaly Power Station at Blackwater Works. This rail line is the transport mechanism for supplying the power station with milled peat for energy generation. Because the power station is now operating to its full capacity, the level of supply-related rail traffic on this line has increased substantially in the last year and is set to continue at this level. Bord na Móna advises that, for legal, health and safety reasons, a passenger service cannot now be operated on the same line as the industrial service operating at full capacity. Therefore, Bord na Móna advises that there is regrettably, no option but to close the CWOR.

Three regular staff were employed seasonally on the CWOR for the duration of the tourism season with two casual staff engaged as needed to cater for peak demand. The regular staff have been offered the opportunity to redeploy to other positions in Bord na Móna.

I am advised that Bord na Móna is already working closely with Fáilte Ireland on developing plans for eco-tourism related projects for cutaway bogs in the Mid-Shannon Region taking account also of the fact that Clonmacnoise is set to become a World Heritage Site.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

376 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the grant aid available from his Department to install insulation in family homes. [44862/08]

Financial supports are available to homeowners under two schemes funded by my Department to improve the energy efficiency of existing houses. For households on low incomes, such as those in receipt of fuel allowance, invalidity or disability benefit, the Warmer Homes Scheme managed by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) will install cavity wall insulation, attic insulation, a boiler lagging jacket, draught-proofing measures and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Advice is also provided to householders on minimising energy use. These measures are provided free or at a token cost. Funding of €10 million has been made available for this Scheme in 2009, which includes a contribution of €5 million from ESB and Bord Gáis.

Householders generally will be in a position to avail of grants for energy efficiency improvement measures under the Home Energy Saving Scheme from next year. I launched the Scheme this year on a pilot basis, in a selected number of areas, and with a budget of €5 million. The pilot Scheme is grant aiding cavity wall insulation, wall lining insulation, external insulation, attic insulation, heating controls and low emission double glazing. This pilot phase is informing the design of the wider roll out of the scheme in 2009 for which provision of €20 million has been made.

Alternative Energy Projects.

John Cregan

Ceist:

377 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the funding available within his Department to research and develop a biomass boiler that uses renewable energy feed stock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44673/08]

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) operates a number of grant schemes in this area, these include the Renewable Energy Research Development and Demonstration programme, which provides grant support for the development of new renewables energy technologies, including the development of advanced biomass energy systems.

In support of the commercial deployment of biomass heating systems, for the domestic user SEI operates the Greener Homes Scheme, which provides fixed grant support for biomass boilers. At the commercial level, SEI operates the Renewable Energy Heating scheme, which provides 30% grant support for boilers up to 1 Mega Watt in size. Boilers at a size larger than this also qualify for grant support with a slightly reduced rate. Both programmes are designed to stimulate the deployment of renewable energy heating in Ireland and will assist the Government in achieving its target of delivering 12% of its heat from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Depending on the nature of the technology, individuals may apply to SEI for support for the development of renewable technology. Other Departments and Agencies may also offer support for research and development programmes.

Decentralisation Programme.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

378 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will respond to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44689/08]

I am assuming the Deputy's question relates to those staff who had indicated a wish to relocate to Cavan but who are unable to do so at present as a result of the recent Government Decision to suspend the relocation of my Department's headquarters to Cavan, pending a formal review in 2011.

There are approximately 10 staff in my Department who are Dublin-based but who had applied through the CAF arrangements to transfer to Cavan. The long-term status of these staff and persons in a similar situation in other departments is the subject of ongoing discussions between the Department of Finance and the various staff associations through the formal industrial relations structures in the Civil Service. My Department's HR Division is keeping affected staff informed of developments.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

379 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the Government views on the automatic trigger to increase Europe’s greenhouse gas emission reductions from a 20% to a 30% reduction by 2020 following a global climate deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44741/08]

The Government is fully committed to the EU position in the international negotiations on a global climate agreement. The EU position is that developed countries should take the lead in action to address climate change by committing to collectively reducing their emissions in the order of 30% by 2020 compared to 1990. In this context, the European Council has endorsed an EU objective of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990, as its contribution to a global and comprehensive agreement for the period beyond 2012, provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emissions reduction and that economically more advanced developing countries contribute adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities. In this context, the EU has called on all developed countries to propose, not later than mid-2009, economy-wide medium-term targets that involve a comparable level of effort.

Notwithstanding this international position, the European Council is committed to transforming Europe into a highly energy-efficient and low greenhouse-gas-emitting economy, and has decided, without prejudice to its position in international negotiations, to make a firm, independent commitment to achieve at least a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990. The adjustment to the higher target as part of an international climate agreement needs to be built explicitly into the climate legislative proposals.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

380 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the Government views on the use of funds derived from the auctioning of emission permits within the EU, as part of the EU emissions trading scheme to be spent supporting developing countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44742/08]

Ireland's position, under successive Governments, on the mandatory hypothecation of Exchequer revenues in EU legislation is well known. It is a matter for the EU Member States to determine the use of such revenues. In this context, the Government will determine, in accordance with the relevant legislative and budgetary framework, the use of the revenues generated from the auctioning of allowances in the EU Emissions Trading System. Furthermore, the Government is determined to fulfil its commitments that will be agreed as part of a future global and comprehensive climate agreement for the period beyond 2012 in Copenhagen in 2009.

Question No. 381 answered with Question No. 372.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

382 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44815/08]

The Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel are made available to all staff in my Department and certification of any claim for payment is contingent on it being in compliance with these guidelines. My Department has recently re-circulated these guidelines to the non-commercial agencies under my remit requesting a report on the matter of their implementation. The guidelines will shortly be circulated to commercial bodies operating under the aegis of the Department on the same basis.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

383 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of persons employed in each of the Ministers of State’s private offices and their constituency offices; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45057/08]

There is only one Minister of State assigned to my Department. The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Office

Number of Staff

Current Salary Cost

Private

5 (including 2 Civilian Drivers)

196,533

Constituency

1

43,989

While there is only one staff member located in the Minister of State's constituency office, two members of staff located in the Minister of State's private office deal with representations from his constituency, from time to time.

Telecommunications Services.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

384 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position in relation to the provision of broadband in an area (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when he expects residents in this location to be able to connect to broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45122/08]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter, in the first instance, 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 providing grant-aid under the now concluded Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) and ongoing investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs). There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. Accordingly, the procurement process for a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is nearing completion. The NBS is designed to deliver broadband to areas where the market has failed to provide services.

On the 25th of November 2008 I announced that 3, a Hutchison Whampoa company, had been selected as the preferred tenderer for the NBS following the conclusion of a comprehensive competitive procurement process. The NBS contract is expected to be signed with 3 by mid-December. 3 will be required to complete the roll out of services within 22 months of the contract award. All requests for a broadband service in the areas to be addressed by the NBS, including any unserved areas in County Tipperary, like Toomevara, will be met.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

385 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position in relation to the provision of broadband in an area (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when he expects residents in this location to be able to connect to broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45123/08]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter, in the first instance, 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.

It is important to note that in addition to fixed landline broadband, otherwise known as digital subscriber line (DSL) or broadband over telephone lines, broadband services are available from competing service providers over multiple platforms including cable, satellite, fixed wireless and increasingly mobile. I understand that Birdhill already has broadband on offer from a number of service providers.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

386 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the funding which is available for the roll out of wireless broadband services in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45270/08]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter, in the first instance, 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.

There are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In this regard, my Department has undertaken to implement a National Broadband Scheme (NBS). The NBS is designed to deliver broadband to areas where the market has failed to provide services. It will bridge the digital divide, create greater equality in terms of social and economic inclusion and remove the disadvantage caused by a lack of broadband services. It will also facilitate competition in the broadband market in the regions leading to greater choice, quality and value for money to the consumer. On the 25th of November 2008 I announced that 3, a Hutchison Whampoa company, had been selected as the preferred tenderer for the NBS following the conclusion of a comprehensive competitive procurement process. The NBS contract is expected to be signed with 3 by mid-December.

Harbours and Piers.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

387 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position in relation to works on Scraggane Pier, Castlegregory, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45254/08]

Scraggane Pier, Co Kerry is in the ownership of Kerry County Council and responsibility for maintenance and upgrade works at the harbour lie with that office. My Department has however this year allocated funding of €75,000 towards works at Scraggane Pier under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme for 2008. All claims in respect of funding allocated under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme for 2008 are currently being processed by my Department.

Farm Inspections.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

388 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the fact that an inspector (details supplied) from his Department made an initial verbal claim that a farm was in breach of animal welfare guidelines as a reason for imposing a penalty and then later on a further visit to the farm changed the nature of the complaint to one concerning good agricultural practice. [44777/08]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

389 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason no letter stating the nature of a complaint (details supplied) was sent. [44778/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 388 and 389 together.

An application under the Single Payment Scheme /Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received in this case on the 15th May 2008. This application was selected for a cross compliance and satellite eligibility inspection. The cross compliance inspection was carried out on 10th October 2008. This inspection raised issues in relation to bovine identification and registration. Under the system for tolerance for minor non-compliances the applicant was requested to resolve the issues. The issues were resolved by the applicant and no financial penalty applied.

However, the satellite inspection raised a number of issues relating to the parcels claimed by the applicant. In accordance with normal procedure, inconclusive satellite results must be subject to a ground inspection. This ground inspection was initiated on the 21st November 2008 but due to the onset of darkness the inspection had to be abandoned and reconvened on the 28th of November. At the reconvened inspection it was found that the applicant was non-compliant with the Nitrates Directive and the provisions of Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions on parts of his holdings.

Initial notice of the findings of this inspection was given verbally to the applicant on the 28th of November. At no point did the Inspecting Officer make reference to animal welfare issues. Written notification of the initial findings was issued to the applicant on the 5th of December. The initial findings indicate a possible 5% Cross Compliance Penalty for non-compliance with the requirements under the Nitrates Directive and the provisions of Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions. A further penalty for over-declaration may also apply in relation to the parcels that were the subject of the ground inspection but the penalty (if any) cannot be determined until the area of ineligible features is calculated and recorded on the land parcel data base.

The applicant may, if he so wishes, forward his comments on the initial finding to the local office of my Department within 14 days. A formal written decision will issue in any event at the end of this period and it will set out the penalty if any applied. If the applicant is not satisfied with the decision, he may seek a review by contacting his Local Office. He also has the right to appeal the outcome of any such review to the Agriculture Appeals Office.

Grant Payments.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

390 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Galway will receive a REP scheme four payment. [44780/08]

REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme 2007–13 and is subject to different EU Regulations from the preceding versions of REPS. Under REPS 4, all payments are to be made in just two instalments. The first payment, of 75%, can be made only when all administrative checks on all 2008 applications for REPS 4 and the Single Payment Scheme are completed. This is why it has not yet been possible to release payments even to farmers who applied for REPS 4 some time before the closing date of 15 May.

Most REPS plans are now prepared using eREPS, the electronic planning system approved and funded by my Department. As the information in these plans is in computerised format, the administrative checks can be carried out quickly. However a substantial minority of plans submitted this year were not prepared using eREPS. Administrative checks on these have to be done manually and are extremely time-consuming. An effect of recent industrial action in my Department's local offices was that this process was delayed. While normal working has resumed in the local offices following the intervention of the Labour Relations Commission, there is still much to be done before the administrative checks are completed. In these circumstances my Department sought some flexibility from the European Commission which would have allowed payment of those REPS 4 cases which had been fully cleared, but the Commission were not prepared to allow this, As a result, it is now apparent that REPS 4 payments cannot issue before the end of 2008.

While I am anxious that the REPS 4 payments should go out as soon as possible, and my Department will make every effort to facilitate this, there are of course still over 48,000 farmers in REPS 3 and just under 16,000 of those have anniversary dates on 1 November and 1 December this year. Staff in my Department's local offices are currently engaged in processing the annual payment applications for these farmers, and I have asked them to make every effort to issue as many payments as possible before Christmas. I have asked senior management in my Department to give me regular updates on the payment situation.

Departmental Travel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

391 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department and all agencies under his remit are in compliance with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel; and the mechanisms in place in each to ensure ongoing compliance with these guidelines. [44813/08]

My Department complies with all relevant Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. All officials engaging in foreign travel in my Department must have their travel approved in advance by an Assistant Secretary or equivalent grade. All foreign travel is booked centrally in the Department and particular attention is paid to ensuring that the least cost option is used where possible and practicable.

Compliance with the Department of Finance Guidelines on foreign travel by Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is in the first instance, a matter for the Bodies themselves as part of the day-to-day activities governing their operation. Under Section 10.2 of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, published by the Department of Finance, in addition to being required to submit to an Annual Report and Accounts, the Chairperson of each State Body is required to submit a separate report covering corporate governance issues including affirmation that all appropriate procedures for financial reporting, internal audit, procurement and asset disposals are being carried out. The Chairperson's statement should be reviewed by the State Bodies external auditor to ensure that it complies with the Corporate Governance Guidelines and should report the findings if they find it is inconsistent with these Guidelines.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

392 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a top-up payment from the national reserve on the single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44836/08]

The person named was allocated a National Reserve Top-Up to his Single Farm Entitlements and supplementary payments fell due under the Single Payment Scheme for each of the scheme years 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Single Farm payment including the supplementary payment due for the scheme year 2006 issued to the person named on 5 November 2008 and the Single Farm payment including the supplementary payment due for the scheme year 2007 issued to the person named on 24 September 2008. The supplementary Single Farm payment, due for the scheme year 2005, issued on 8 December 2008.

Farm Waste Management.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

393 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will follow his counterpart in Northern Ireland and extend the farm waste management scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44876/08]

The deadline of 31 December 2008 for completion of work by farmers under the revised Farm Waste Management Scheme introduced by my Department in March 2006 is a condition of the EU state aid approval for the Scheme. The European Commission has since reaffirmed that it expects Ireland to respect this deadline strictly. I have no plans to approach the European Commission for approval to extend the deadline.

Fishing Industry Development.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

394 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that courses for the re-training of fishermen at a college (details supplied) in County Cork will be made available at another college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45030/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

395 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will permit the establishment of courses for the re-training of fishermen at a college (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the college is willing to run courses for small numbers of people when required; his views on the fact that fees at the college are cheaper than fees at another college; his further views on whether it would be cheaper and more feasible for people from the northern half of the country who are struggling to finance their up-skilling to go to college in Greencastle, County Donegal rather than in Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45031/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

398 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether it is difficult for married fishermen with families from the northern half of the country to spend up to nine weeks up-skilling at a college (details supplied) in County Cork; his views on whether the lecturing staff at another college have the same qualifications as the lecturing staff at Cork; if he will take action to ensure that these courses are made available at the other college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45034/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 394, 395 and 398 together.

BIM's National Fisheries College in Greencastle provides training for the Irish seafood industry and it is an operational matter for Bord Iascaigh Mhara to decide what fisheries training courses it provides for fishermen in the National Fisheries College. I have no remit in relation to the National Maritime College of Ireland.

Harbours and Piers.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

396 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether it is necessary to complete the Greencastle Harbour project, County Donegal, on time, in view of the fact that the partially built breakwater has altered the currents around the harbour area to a dangerous level; his further views on whether the extension of the deadline for completion of construction would endanger vessels approaching and leaving the harbour, including the hourly Greencastle-Magilligan passenger ferry, and that the completion of the breakwater will eliminate this danger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45032/08]

The Breakwater is part of a phased approach to the development of improved harbour facilities at Greencastle, Co. Donegal, which is currently under construction. The extent of the breakwater as currently constructed extends from the shore 125 metres of its planned construction length of 290 metres. The primary function of the breakwater is to shelter the new harbour area and the existing harbour entry from tidal currents and wave attack.

Marine notices have been issued warning seafarers of the construction works at Greencastle, and a further notice was posted in consultation with the Harbour Master asking harbour users to exercise particular caution in relation to changed tidal currents outside the harbour due to the new breakwater under construction. It is incumbent on all vessel owners including the ferry operator to heed these notices and to operate their craft in the vicinity of the partially constructed works and on entering and leaving the harbour in a safe manner. In the context of the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, funding of the development at Greencastle going forward has to be apportioned in the context of the other development projects currently under construction and other prioritised projects coming on stream requiring funding under the programme.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

397 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if money as envisaged for 2009 will be made available by his Department for the ongoing work at Greencastle pier; if he will communicate with Donegal County Council and CLÁR to ascertain if these bodies can provide their 12.5% portions of funding as envisaged; if he will report on these communications; his views on whether a reduction in funding for 2009 would undermine the work that has already been carried out at Greencastle Harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45033/08]

Greencastle Pier is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair, maintenance and development rests with the Local Authority in the first instance. The current development works at Greencastle are however being project managed by my Department's Engineering Division. The Fishery Harbours & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme for 2009 is currently being drafted and no decision has yet been made with regard to the allocation of funding for any individual project. All funding requests will be looked at in the context of available Exchequer funding and overall national priorities going forward.

My Department will in due course be in contact with both Donegal County Council and CLÁR with regard to the co-funding element of the project. Finally, as no decision has yet been made with regard to the extent of individual projects for inclusion in the 2009 Fishery Harbours & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, I am unable to comment on the implications if any, of a reduction in funding.

Question No. 398 answered with Question No. 394.

Ministerial Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

399 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons employed in the private offices and constituency offices of each of the Ministers of State; the annual amount paid in respect of salaries in regard to each such office; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45055/08]

Please find the information below as requested by the Deputy.

Minister of State Tony Killeen

Number of persons employed

Salary Costs

Private Office

3

118,975

Constituency Office

4

158,737

Minister of State Trevor Sargent

Number of persons employed

Salary Costs

Private Office

5.00

273,813.00

Constituency Office

4.98

236,665.21

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

400 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded their disadvantaged area scheme. [45097/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

401 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded their single payment scheme. [45098/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 400 and 401 together.

An application under the Single Payment Scheme /Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 15th May 2008. This application was selected for and was the subject of a ground eligibility and cross compliance inspection. The inspection process is completed and the application has now been fully processed. Full payment has issued on both the Single Payment and Disadvantaged Areas Schemes.

Forestry Sector.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

402 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department has received an application for a felling notice from a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; when his Department will be in a position to issue same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45125/08]

A Limited Felling Licence was issued by the Forest Service of my Department to the person named on the 28th November 2008.

Harbours and Piers.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

403 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will upgrade the pier at Rathmullan, County Donegal, to enable heavy vehicles to use the pier for the loading and unloading of fishing boats; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Rathmullan is one of the deepest ports in Europe and consequently would be suitable for the docking of large boats if the pier were sufficiently strong to facilitate heavy vehicles; his views on whether the pier in its current state is impeding the development of a local industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45129/08]

Rathmullan Pier is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair, maintenance and development rests with the Local Authority in the first instance.

My Department provided €50,625 in funding to Donegal County Council for this location in 2007 as part of the Fishery Harbours & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. However no application for funding was made by Donegal County Council for funding in 2008.

The Fishery Harbours & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme for 2009 is currently being drafted and my Department has recently requested applications for funding from all coastal Local Authorities. Any application from Donegal County Council in respect of the above location will be given due consideration subject to the availability of Exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

Grant Payments.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

404 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the fact that of farmers who apply for grant aid under the farm waste management scheme, 60% are not in fact receiving the 60% grant where grants were previously claimed; and if he will arrange for his Department to inform farmers of this stipulation in the scheme before they proceed with the work. [45227/08]

The terms and conditions of the Farm Waste Management Scheme explicitly provide that—

(a) the grant shall be calculated on the basis of the eligible receipts presented by the farmer or my Department's Standard Costs, whichever is the lesser, and

(b) investments grant-aided under the preceding versions of the Scheme are taken into account in determining the level of eligible investment available to an applicant.

Departmental Staff.

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

405 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of personnel employed in each division in his Department based at Dockgate Office Block, Galway in each of the years from 2004 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45232/08]

The following table shows the staff numbers in my Department based at Dockgate Building, Merchants Road, Galway in the years 2004-2008:

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Agri Environment Schemes

19.0

17.0

20.0

20.00

19.00

District Livestock Office

27.5

26.4

District Veterinary Office

55.0

54.0

57.0

48.96

48.46

Integrated Controls

17.0

16.0

16.0

13.00

15.00

Services Staff

1.0

1.0

1.00

1.00

Total

118.5

114.4

94.0

82.96

83.46

My Department continues to monitor staffing levels in all its local offices with a view to providing the most efficient, cost-effective and professional service to its clients.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

406 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry following their application for a farm waste management grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45233/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. Payment will be made by my Department to the person concerned shortly.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

407 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be issued with their installation aid payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45282/08]

The person concerned is an applicant under the Installation Aid Scheme. His application for payment is currently being examined and a decision will be made in regard to the application as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure.

David Stanton

Ceist:

408 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount allocated and expended each year respectively for the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 since its enactment in 2004 with a breakdown of expenditure each year; the amount allocated for the implementation in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45337/08]

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004 provides a statutory framework for the education of children with special educational needs.

As the Deputy will be aware, a significant number of sections of the EPSEN Act have been commenced, principally those establishing the National Council for Special Education and those promoting an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs. However, in the present financial circumstances the full implementation of the EPSEN Act has been deferred to a date later than originally intended. The Government will keep the matter under review and remains committed to the full implementation of EPSEN at the earliest possible date.

Education provision is not solely constrained within the provisions of the EPSEN Act. Services are provided on a non-statutory basis, and with regard also to other relevant legislation such as the Education Act, 1998, the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, the Equal Status Act, 2000-2004 and the Disability Act, 2005 under the overall umbrella of the Constitution.

Therefore, although a number of provisions of the EPSEN Act remain to be formally commenced, appropriate education services are provided as a central element in the Government's commitment to supporting children with special educational needs.

This support is provided across a wide spectrum of initiatives within the education sector. At school level, in addition to the teachers provided in the classroom, significant additional supports are also provided to enable schools to cater for the needs of students with special educational needs. Such supports include resource teaching support, special needs assistant support, special transport arrangements, enhanced capitation and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.

Expenditure on these services occurs across a range of subheads in the department; there is no separate provision dedicated to the implementation of the EPSEN Act. Even when EPSEN is fully implemented it would not be practical to identify expenditure specifically triggered by the Act. For example, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) will provide a range of services some of which may be provided as a result of the implementation of EPSEN with others being delivered on a non-statutory basis.

When the overall annual spend in 2008 to support persons with special educational needs is considered, my Department will spend an estimated €900m in total by the end of this year. The equivalent spends for 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 are €468m, €605m, €706m and €838m respectively.

I am also pleased to confirm that in excess of €1 billion will be available next year to support children and adults with special educational needs. I am particularly pleased that, in order to strengthen and enhance services, and continue the preparation for the full implementation of the EPSEN Act at a later date, the Government has provided €20m in 2009 — €10m for education services and €10m for health services.

In my Department this additional funding will provide for an expansion of the NEPS service so that all schools in the country will be covered by the service as well as enhancing the capacity of the NCSE to co-ordinate the provision of services to children with special educational needs. In addition teachers and special needs assistants will continue to be deployed to schools to meet children's needs and there will be further investment in teacher training in this area.

An integrated approach is being adopted by the education and health sectors to target these additional resources to the areas of greatest need. Progress in both sectors will be kept under review by the Office for Disability & Mental Health and the Cross-Sectoral Team during 2009.

With the levels of investment outlined, it is clear that significant progress has been made in educational provision for people with special educational needs in recent years. This progress has been achieved through the additional investments made by successive Ministers for Education. Advances in the level of dedicated provision to support children with special educational needs include:

Schools are now allocated extra resource teachers and special needs assistants to enable them meet the special educational needs of students. In the region of 19,000 staff in our schools work solely with children with special needs.

Special Needs Assistant posts have increased from under 300 in 1997 to almost 10,000 in 2008.

Primary schools are staffed up-front with additional teachers to cater for the most prevalent special educational needs — removing the need for assessments and delays in recruitment.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established under the EPSEN Act to co-ordinate the delivery of services for children with special needs. The NCSE is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. This has completely transformed the application process for extra supports for the better.

The level of training available to teachers has improved significantly. The establishment of the Special Education Support Service to provide expert support, professional development and training opportunities in special education for school staff has been very significant. In 2007, the service was in contact with over 15,000 teachers. The range of post-graduate professional training programmes available to professionals in the special needs area has also significantly expanded.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) aims to facilitate, for all students, the development of their potential and maximise the benefits of their educational and other experiences, having particular regard to those with special educational needs. NEPS supports schools and students in the development and delivery of appropriate interventions for children with special educational needs.

Assistive technology, specialist equipment and building adaptations continue to be provided as necessary. Special school transport arrangements are made currently costing €50m per year.

There has been a particular focus in recent years on improving services for children with autism. In the past year alone, about 100 extra special classes for autistic children have been set up, bringing the total number sanctioned to over 340 classes, and

Early educational intervention is now provided for children with autism from 2½ years of age. There are now 35 early intervention classes for children with autism attached to mainstream schools that are funded by my Department. Funding is also provided through the home tuition programme for children with autism aged from 2 ½ years to 5 who are unable to access an early intervention class.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

409 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when a school (details supplied) in County Laois will progress to the next stage under the schools buildings programme; the position regrading the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44656/08]

The proposed building project for the school to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of architectural planning.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

410 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the provision of a new school building at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44661/08]

My Department has been engaged with the school's Patron and his advisers in relation to this project. I am advised that an issue has arisen regarding the ownership of the site for the new school in question and my Department is currently awaiting confirmation that there is good and marketable title to the property.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

411 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science the stage in the planning process a school (details supplied) in County Meath is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44691/08]

The proposed building project for the school to which the Deputy refers is currently awaiting the appointment of a Design Team.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

School Staffing.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

412 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science the staffing appeals process at primary level; the number of appeals that have been lodged for the school year 2007-08 which have been successful, withdrawn, failed and rejected; the amount the appeals office costs on a yearly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44699/08]

It is open to the Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application dates for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule which issues annually to all Boards of Management and is also made available on my Department's website. The criteria are also available in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is also on my Department's website. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

There were a total of 74 appeals considered by the Primary Staffing Appeal Board in relation to the 2007/2008 school year. 16 of the appeals were upheld.

There are five members of the Appeal Board. Three meetings are held annually, generally in May, July and October. The annual cost of the Appeal Board is approximately €2,500. Administrative support to the Board is provided by Department staff.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

413 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a builder (details supplied) employed by his Department has not been paid in accordance with the legally binding contract; the further reason funds from the Dormant Accounts Board have not been made available to pay this invoice; the number of other projects in schools which are waiting to be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44731/08]

In June 2008, the school to which the Deputy refers was approved for a grant of €33,603 under the parent room measure of the Dormant Accounts/ RAPID Leverage Fund Scheme for Disadvantaged Schools. The contractor referred to by the Deputy was contracted by the board of management of the school to refurbish an existing room in the school for use as a parent room.

Under the scheme, where a school is in or serving a RAPID area, as in the case of the school in question, 50% of the grant comes from the Dormant Accounts Fund. The balance of 50% comes from the RAPID Leverage Fund which is provided by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The school submitted a claim to draw down the funds and the 50% Dormant Accounts funding was paid. The balance in respect of the RAPID Leverage fund will be paid shortly.

Grant aid claim forms are received by the Department on an on-going basis, as projects commence and are completed. At present, there are 44 claim forms being processed. The majority of these claims will be paid before the end of December and the balance in early January.

Site Disposals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

414 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to his Department relinquishing its interest in a portion of a site (details supplied) in County Mayo. [44747/08]

My Department has received correspondence from the Diocesan Solicitors in relation to the partial surrender of a portion the school referred to by the Deputy. Officials of my Department have recently written to the patron of the school in question. A response is awaited. My officials will revert to the Solicitors in due course.

Departmental Expenditure.

James Bannon

Ceist:

415 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Science if, on behalf of a school (details supplied) in County Longford he will reverse the cutbacks outlined in budget 2009, which will impact adversely on the weakest in their community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44758/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

416 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the effect of the budget 2009 cutbacks on a secondary school (details supplied) in County Mayo, with particular regard to teacher numbers, book grant and cutbacks in in-service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44774/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

439 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the effect of the budget 2009 cutbacks on a secondary school (details supplied) in County Mayo, with particular regard to teacher numbers, the book grant, cutbacks in in-service, sporting activities, school music, field trips and student exchanges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45076/08]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

466 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science his proposals to meet the concerns of a parents association (details supplied) in County Waterford regarding the education cutbacks in budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45342/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 415, 416, 439 and 466 together.

The 2009 Budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. These decisions were made to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run. In this respect, the education sector, while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure, could not be totally spared. The various impacts at school level were included in the Budget day announcements. Even with the Budget measures in place there will still be a significantly increased borrowing requirement in 2009.

My Department will be advising individual schools in the normal way in relation to their staffing and grant allocations. The preparatory work for this has commenced with the processing of enrolment data that has been received from schools. The staffing allocation processes, including notification to schools, will commence early in the New Year. The allocation process includes appellate mechanisms under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. In addition to the mainstream classroom teachers, my Department also allocates teaching resources to schools for special needs and language support. The final allocation to a school is also a function of the operation of the redeployment panels, which provide for the retention of a teacher in an existing school if a new post is not available within the agreed terms of the scheme.

I have no difficulty in setting out for this House or for the public generally the overall changes on aggregate teacher numbers or on grant levels in schools for the 2009/10 school year. I will do this when the allocation processes have been completed. Furthermore, the staffing schedule will be published; it is a transparent and clear way of ensuring that schools are treated consistently and fairly and know where they stand.

At this time, the priority for my Department within the resources available to it is to carry out those processes in a timely manner. Diverting resources in order to compile either historic information or to create staffing or funding profiles for individual schools requested by the Deputies, information which at this time could only be speculative, could not be justified and would in fact impede the process.

In relation to the school book grant, from 2009 this grant will be available only to schools within the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) scheme. By limiting the school book grant to schools within the DEIS scheme, savings of €7.5m will be achieved.

DEIS is the action plan for educational inclusion and focuses on addressing the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities.

Approximately €7 million was made available in 2008 to DEIS schools at primary and post-primary level for the school book grant scheme; this fund of €7 million will be made available for distribution to schools in the DEIS programme in 2009. The continuation of the school book grant to these schools is testament to the Government's determination to prioritise social inclusion and protect the most vulnerable in our society.

My Department continues to urge schools to implement book rental schemes as a measure to minimise the cost of school books to all parents. This was the recommendation of a consultancy report, submitted to my Department in 1993, which dealt with the factors which contribute to the cost of school text books. The report, copies of which were sent to all schools, contains a number of useful suggestions, including a Code of Good Practice for successful operation of book rental schemes. My Department fully endorses the report's recommendations.

In relation to the provision for teacher in-service education support, €28.8m will be made available in 2009, compared with a 2008 estimate of €33.8m. It is intended to reduce teacher secondments to in-service and, while it will be possible to continue to provide a wide range of services to teachers, the reduced allocation will mean that programmes that are not in an expansionary or prioritised phase will have to be curtailed to a degree.

In relation to sporting activities, school musicals, field trips and student exchanges, I refer the Deputies to my statement to the House on Thursday 4th December 2008 in response to a Priority Parliamentary Question. I believe that the proposal which I outlined to the House will ensure that such activities will continue in our second level schools in 2009 pending a full review of the substitution and supervision scheme in conjunction with the school management bodies and teacher unions.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

417 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the number and percentage of course participants who are in receipt of a VTOS training bonus of €31.80 in view of the fact that they were in receipt of an eligible payment for 12 months directly before the VTOS commencement date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44792/08]

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a second-chance education initiative, funded by my Department, for unemployed persons who are at least 21 years of age and in receipt of certain social welfare payments for at least six months (156 days). It is operated through the Vocational Education Committees (VECs). The aim of the Scheme is to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop and prepare them to go into paid employment, or on to further education opportunities leading to paid employment.

A training allowance is paid by the VECs to students who previously drew unemployment benefit or assistance. The student ceases to receive an unemployment payment and instead receives a VTOS training allowance at a rate equivalent to the maximum rate of unemployment benefit, plus a payment for an adult or child dependant, if appropriate. VTOS students also retain their social welfare secondary benefits.

A training bonus of €31.80 per week is paid to students who have been in receipt of their social welfare payment for at least 12 months (312 days) directly before joining VTOS. The bonus was introduced as an incentive to encourage greater participation of long-term unemployed people to join education and training programmes.

Based on statistics compiled on 1 January 2008 approximately 3,459 VTOS students or 64% of students were in receipt of this training bonus payment.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

418 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will clarify if time spent on a FÁS programme can count towards the 312 day-12 month requirement for the VTOS training bonus of €31.80; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44793/08]

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a second-chance education initiative for unemployed persons who are at least 21 years of age and in receipt of certain social welfare payments for at least six months (156 days) funded by my Department. It is operated through the Vocational Education Committees (VECs). The aim of the Scheme is to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop and prepare them to go into paid employment, or on to further education opportunities leading to paid employment.

A training allowance is paid by the VECs to students who previously drew unemployment benefit or assistance. The student ceases to receive an unemployment payment and instead receives a VTOS training allowance at a rate equivalent to the maximum rate of unemployment benefit, plus a payment for an adult or child dependant, if appropriate. VTOS students also retain their social welfare secondary benefits.

A training bonus of €31.80 per week is paid to students who have been in receipt of their social welfare payment for at least 12 months (312 days) directly before joining VTOS. The bonus was introduced as an incentive to encourage greater participation of long-term unemployed people to join education and training programmes. Time spent on FÁS programmes does not count towards this eligibility requirement.

School Accommodation.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

419 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of prefabs being used by primary schools in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44794/08]

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

420 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of prefabs being used by second level schools in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44795/08]

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

421 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of County Laois school children being taught in prefabs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44796/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 419 to 421, inclusive, together.

A database of temporary accommodation is currently being finalised and will inform my Department's future decision-making in this area. Information is being collated on approximately 900 schools which have received approval from my Department for temporary accommodation including, but not limited to, prefabs.

The information already compiled indicates that there are 41 prefabricated units in primary schools in Co. Laois and 11 in post-primary schools. It is not possible to indicate how many pupils are taught in temporary accommodation in Co. Laois as this will depend on the organisation of classes at individual schools and may vary from year to year.

Schools Building Projects.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

422 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the proposed refurbishment at a school (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44812/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

454 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Carlow will be included in his Department’s next announcement of capital spending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45235/08]