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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 7 Jun 2011

Vol. 734 No. 3

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 14, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 15 to 20, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 21 to 27, inclusive, answered orally.

Fiscal Policy

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

28 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the expected ratio of spending cuts to tax increases expected in budget 2012. [14241/11]

The overall fiscal adjustment for 2012 underpinning the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support is €3.6 billion and this will be implemented through a combination of further reductions to public expenditure and additional revenue raising measures. The Programme agreed in December 2010 provides for the implementation of revenue measures designed to yield €1.5 billion in a full year and for expenditure reductions of €2.1 billion. In terms of the overall fiscal adjustment for the years 2012-2015, the ratio of expenditure-reducing to revenue-raising measures underpinning the technical budgetary forecasts set out in the recently published Stability Programme Update is approximately two to one.

The Stability Programme Update submitted to the European Commission in April forecasts the 2012 General Government deficit at 8.6% of GDP. This target is consistent with this level of fiscal adjustment and is within the terms of the revised Excessive Deficit Procedure recommendation issued by the ECOFIN Council last December.

As stated in the revised programme agreed in April 2011, the budgetary measures set out in the original agreement in December 2010 will be examined by the Government. Therefore the precise nature of the measures to be implemented in 2012 will be decided upon in advance of Budget 2012 in light of more up-to-date economic and fiscal data and the outcome of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, which is currently underway.

National Asset Management Agency

Tom Barry

Ceist:

29 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the establishment of an agricultural review board within the National Asset Management Agency, in view of the fact that it is shutting down viable agricultural industries and forcing the unnecessary slaughter of animals. [10267/11]

I do not consider it necessary to establish an agricultural review body within the National Asset Management Agency. In the particular case which may have prompted the Deputy's question, NAMA did not consider it appropriate that it should manage the loans, which had been advanced for agricultural purposes and where the property development element was not material, even where the loans were eligible by reference to the criteria set out in the Act and in the statutory regulations. Under Section 84 (1) of the NAMA Act, NAMA is not obliged to acquire each and every eligible bank asset. The loans, in this instance, had been acquired in advance of due diligence being carried out and when their purpose became apparent, the NAMA Board made a decision to reverse the transfer. I understand that the loans have now been re-acquired by the bank concerned.

The NAMA Board has established four statutory committees — the Audit Committee, the Credit Committee, the Finance and Operating Risk Committee and the Risk Management Committee — under Section 32 of the Act as well as two advisory committees — the Planning Advisory Committee and the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee — under Section 33. NAMA has acquired the property loans of about 850 debtors. The loans of the largest 180 debtor connections, accounting for €61 billion of debt, will be managed directly by NAMA. The rest will be managed by the institutions under delegated authority. It is expected that nearly all, if not all, debtors who have farming interests or a significant interest in agri-business will fall into the latter category of debtor. Accordingly, at this stage, it is not considered necessary to establish a committee or unit within NAMA dedicated to dealing with agricultural interests. However, NAMA has agreed to review its procedures where farming assets involving livestock are concerned.

With regard to the suggestion that NAMA is shutting down viable businesses, NAMA assures me that it is committed to contributing to the objectives of the National Asset Management Agency Act which, inter alia, require it to contribute to the social and economic development of the State, in addition to protecting the interests of the taxpayer by ensuring that the value of any assets securing its loans is not diminished. Furthermore, as part of the business plan process and ongoing management of the debtor relationship, NAMA is actively engaging with debtors to get their assets to produce income and is approving decisions relating to the underlying security including lease agreements between the debtor and third parties where it makes commercial sense to do so. There is no reluctance on the part of NAMA to approve commercially viable arrangements. NAMA assures me that it is a particular priority for the agency, where it has acquired loans, to minimise the adverse impact on the viability of any business or on the sustainability of any jobs that may be at stake. NAMA fully recognises the importance of ensuring the continued viability of businesses, which can generate cash flow to repay debt and provide sustainable employment.

I am advised by NAMA that it is currently developing sectoral policies which will govern its strategic approach towards key sub-sectors in its loan portfolio. However, its policy will be publicised only after the completion of the debtor business plan process. In that context, NAMA has advised that it has now reviewed the business plans of the largest 40 debtors whose loans it has acquired and that the business plans of most other large debtors are currently at advanced stages of preparation. A debtor's business plan essentially consists of individual asset plans for each of his properties. For those debtors who can satisfy NAMA as to their viability, the agency will agree specific asset plans for each of their assets (whether that involves disposal or completion, etc.). In determining a plan for any asset, NAMA will assess the supply and demand for similar assets in the same area or region. In particular, the Agency will also be very mindful of whatever planning policies have been set by the local authority in each instance.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 27.

Croke Park Agreement

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

31 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the level of savings being achieved under the Croke Park agreement and if they are sufficient to avoid further pay cuts in the public sector. [14162/11]

Clare Daly

Ceist:

64 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance his plans to meet with trade union representatives in view of the review of the Croke Park agreement and the upcoming quarterly EU-IMF review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14216/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

100 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance his plans to meet with the trade union representatives in view of the review of the Croke Park agreement and the upcoming quarterly EU-IMF review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13709/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 64 and 100 together.

Progress under the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 is overseen by the Implementation Body, established in July 2010. In line with paragraph 1.16 of the Agreement, a review of progress is to be conducted on an annual basis by the Body to determine the sustainable savings that have been achieved. The first such review has been completed and the Report of the Body will be presented to Government shortly and published thereafter. The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to discuss the contents of that report in advance of discussion by Government.

The Government considers that the Croke Park Agreement represents a key enabler to meeting its fiscal targets under its obligations under the EU/IMF Joint Programme of Assistance. In the first quarterly return made by the Government under the Programme, the number of public service posts had been reduced by 2,000 in the first three months to end of March 2011. This indicated that progress is being made and we are on track to meet the existing target of 302,000 public service posts by end 2011. Similarly, the Exchequer pay bill return for the first quarter is in line with the 2011 pay bill targets.

The Implementation Body report will also be considered in the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. The Expenditure Review now underway will include a full review of how services are delivered and will provide the scope to achieve further reductions in public service numbers in the coming years. This is reflected in the significant numbers reductions targets set out in the Programme for Government. These are challenging targets and I believe the Croke Park Agreement provides the framework to achieve these ambitious reductions.

In return for the delivery of the necessary savings and full co-operation with the Agreement, the Government gave certain commitments to serving public servants in terms of no further reductions in their pay rates, over and above those implemented in 2009 and 2010, and no compulsory redundancies (where they do not currently apply) as long as public servants co-operate flexibly with necessary redeployments.

The reviews under the Agreement will transparently show whether the Agreement is delivering savings in the costs of public service delivery, primarily through reductions in public service numbers, and with related changes in working practices necessary to ensure that priority public services can continue to be sustained or improved. The Government is on record as saying that we would like to see an accelerated implementation of this agenda and this represents an ongoing collective challenge to all parties to the Agreement. Following publication of the report, my colleague Minister Howlin would intend to engage with the representatives of the Public Service Unions on these issues.

State Assets

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

32 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance when he will make decisions on the recommendations of the review group on State assets and liabilities. [14161/11]

Following publication of the report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities in April, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform asked Departments to give their considered views on the group's recommendations. The Departments are reverting now with their views. After considering these submissions, the Minister intends to bring proposals to Government on the matter.

International Organisations

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

33 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance his plans to meet representatives of the OECD in view of its recent recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13707/11]

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development produces forecasts twice yearly for Ireland and a number of other economies throughout the world. In addition, the OECD Economic Development and Review Committee carries out a review of each member country periodically. In that context the OECD focuses on structural issues of a more medium-term nature. The last such review of Ireland was published in November 2009. The OECD is currently conducting such a review of Ireland and upon its completion they will publish their report later this year. In the context of the 2011 review of the Irish economy, representatives from the organisation will visit Ireland later this month, having done so already in February. When the OECD secretariat visits member countries they generally meet a range of people from across the spectrum. As part of this month's visit — and as would be usual — I and some of my Cabinet colleagues will meet them to discuss, among other things, the prospects for Ireland's economy for both the short and medium term.

European Council Meetings

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

34 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a briefing on the content and decisions of last month’s meeting of the euro group. [14226/11]

The usual meeting of the Eurogroup took place on 16 May 2011. The President of the Eurogroup, Mr. Juncker, outlined at the press conference after the meeting the main items discussed at the meeting. It is usual practice for the President of the Eurogroup to speak on behalf of the Eurogroup after each meeting. The main points at the meeting were that: Ministers unanimously agreed to grant financial assistance to Portugal in response to the Portuguese authorities' request of 7 April 2011. A Eurogroup Press Release on the granting of financial assistance to Portugal was issued after the meeting.

Ministers also discussed the implementation of the Greek adjustment programme. The Commission proposal for a Council decision amending Council decision 2011/77 granting Union financial assistance to Ireland was endorsed. Proposed amendments to the European Financial Stability Facility Framework agreement were briefly discussed with the view to increasing the effective capacity of the Facility. Ministers also unanimously agreed to support Mario Draghi as the successor to Jean-Claude Trichet as President of the European Central Bank.

State Assets

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

35 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the implications for him of the report of the McCarthy committee on State assets. [11492/11]

The State assets examined by the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities fall under the auspices of a number of Government Departments. Following publication of the Review Group's report in April, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform asked Departments to give their considered views on the Group's recommendations. Departments are reverting now with their views. After considering these submissions, the Minister intends to bring proposals to Government on the matter.

Financial Instruments

Stephen S. Donnelly

Ceist:

36 Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance the average interest rate being paid on the outstanding circa €35 billion in unguaranteed senior bank bonds per issuing bank; the highest interest rate being paid for these bonds per issuing bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14106/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that this information is not held by my Department. I have however requested this information from each of the covered institutions and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The Deputy may wish to note that I am advised that the measurement of the average interest rate on bank debt liabilities is not — especially at present — a particularly meaningful or useful measure of bank funding costs. The average will be affected by for example the size of particular debt issues, the maturity profile of the bank's debt and the balance between fixed and floating rate instruments. As the Deputy will be aware, the cost of debt funding for the Irish banks had increased significantly over recent years reflecting such factors as the impact of the international credit conditions, specific concerns regarding the financial condition of Irish banks and the downgrading of Ireland's sovereign credit rating and that international debt markets are currently closed to Irish banks at an affordable and long-term sustainable cost.

Ministerial Meetings

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

37 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he has had discussions with his French and German counterparts and other EU finance Ministers on the economic issues facing Ireland and other EU countries; the extent to which there now exists a clear understanding of Ireland’s position amongst our EU colleagues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14333/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he has had satisfactory dialogue with his French and German colleagues in the context of their acceptance of Ireland’s economic recovery plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14425/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 118 together.

My fellow European finance ministers and I regularly discuss at our meetings the economic situation in the EU, eurozone and in individual member states. Since the new Government has taken office, I have communicated widely with my European colleagues in this forum and in others to foster a deeper understanding of Ireland's economic situation.

Dialogue with our European partners is aimed at developing a common understanding of Ireland's difficulties and repeating that our core strengths — modern infrastructure, a well educated workforce, favourable demographics and a pro-enterprise business environment — remain. I have also outlined steps that Europe can take to help Ireland recover. In particular, I have put forward a case for a lower interest rate on Ireland's external funding package to ease our debt burden and aid our recovery.

In addition, after every quarterly review of the EU-IMF programme, the euro group and ECOFIN consider the revised programme and the compliance report prepared by the European Commission Services. I take the opportunity at euro group and ECOFIN meetings to update my colleagues on any relevant developments while confirming that we are taking all of the necessary steps as well to meet our commitments under the programme.

I also met with the French Finance Minister, Ms Christine Lagarde, in Paris a couple of weeks ago to explain in detail Ireland's economic strategy and the importance of our inward investment programme. I stressed that Ireland would not be making any concession on our corporation tax rate, which is a key pillar of our economic policy.

Our European partners recognise that Ireland is actively pursing an economic programme aimed at restoring sustainable economic growth, underpinned by a healthy banking sector and sound public finances. Dialogue to date has been constructive.

I will remain in regular contact with EU colleagues for the foreseeable future to continue our ongoing work in pursuing the EU, eurozone and individual member states' economic recoveries.

Tax Code

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

38 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether there is a conflict between the EU-IMF programme commitment on reducing tax credits and tax bands and his programme for Government commitment to maintain existing tax credits and bands; and, if so, if he intends to seek an amendment to the EU-IMF programme to make it consistent with his programme. [14242/11]

The issue of maintaining tax credits and bands at their current rates will be a matter for Budget 2012. As the Deputy is aware, the Government has initiated a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) to provide the Government with a set of decision options to meet the overall fiscal consolidation objectives and re-align spending with the Programme for Government priorities. The CRE is due to be completed by end September 2011.

When this review is complete, the Government will examine the findings and based on these findings and consultation with the Troika will if appropriate introduce fiscally neutral changes to the detail of the EU /IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland while maintaining the overall commitment to fiscal consolidation.

Financial Instruments

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

39 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance when the senior bonds held by Anglo Irish Bank will mature and if he will provide an estimate of their value for 2011, 2012 and 2013. [14228/11]

My Department has been advised by the bank that as of 1 June 2011 it has €2.86 billion in unguaranteed senior debt outstanding and €2.96 billion in senior debt guaranteed under the ELG scheme. The table below gives details of the value of this debt maturing in each of the years referenced in the Deputy's question. These securities are valued at par in the bank's financial accounts as the bank is contractually obliged to repay these securities at par on their maturity.

Table

Unguaranteed (€m)

Guaranteed (€m)

2011

769

268

2012

1,950

1,780

2013

88

890

(Post 2013)

53

22

Fiscal Policy

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the use of credit controls as a means of controlling inflation, as opposed to interest rate increases throughout Europe, has been discussed by EU finance Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14332/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he and his EU colleagues have examined the possible use of credit controls as a substitute for interest rate increases to control inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14423/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 116 together.

The recent increase in the rate of inflation across Europe has been discussed at a number of ECOFIN meetings this year. However, I would like to stress that responsibility for monetary policy rests with the ECB and that national Governments do not have any influence on the decision making process.

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

41 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the evidence base used to calculate the assumptions on which the projected return to the bond markets in 2012 and 2013 is based. [14230/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

58 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the assumptions on which the projected return to the bond markets in 2012 and 2013 is based. [14229/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 58 together.

As the Deputy is aware, earlier today, in response to a priority question, I outlined the position in this regard. As I intimated, the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support provides for a total financial package of €85 billion. Within this total amount, €67.5 billion comes from external sources, while the remaining €17.5 billion comes from the State's own resources, namely the National Pensions Reserve Fund and other domestic cash sources.

Some €35 billion of the total €85 billion financial support package was originally set aside for the banking sector with the remaining €50 billion available for the purpose of financing the State. The recent banking stress tests carried out by the Central Bank identified an additional €24 billion in support to the banking sector as being required, including €3 billion of funds which take the form of contingent capital. However, it is anticipated that mitigating actions, such as burden sharing, will mean that up to €5 billion of this €24 billion will not have to be provided by the State.

The budgetary forecasts contained in the recently published Stability Programme Update (SPU) prudently assume that an additional €20 billion in State support to the banking sector will be required. On that basis, therefore, some €15 billion of the funding originally earmarked for the banking sector is now available for use for sovereign purposes, bringing the potential total available under the Programme for sovereign purposes to €65 billion.

Based on the forecasts recently produced in the Stability Programme Update, the combined Exchequer deficits for the years 2011-2013 are estimated at €48.5 billion. Maturing Government debt, both long-term and short-term, over the same period amounts to some €27 billion, including an assumption for some short-term debt funding. In terms of our funding requirements for the individual years, factoring in Exchequer deficits and maturing debt, the State will require approximately €30 billion, €23 billion and €22.5 billion in each of the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.

It is the stated intention of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) to return to sovereign debt markets as soon as market conditions permit. The steps necessary to enable such a return include resolution of the banking sector issues and continued progress in the reduction of the budget deficit in line with the targets agreed in the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support, together with the implementation of policies that will see us return to sustainable economic growth.

A key development in that regard has been the publication of the results of the bank stress tests on 31 March 2011 and the associated recapitalisation exercise which have been well received by investors and rating agencies alike.

The NTMA is in constant contact with market participants and will advise me when it feels that the time is right to re-enter the markets.

I should say that, based on conservative projections of our funding needs and taking account of funding possibilities, there is no urgency about a return to the markets. Indeed, the purpose of a programme such as the EU/IMF Programme for Ireland is to provide the space necessary for economic and fiscal adjustment to take place. Based on current projections and assuming no market access, the State has access to sufficient funds for its needs into the second half of 2013.

Public Service Pensions

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

42 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fact that outgoing Senators will receive lump sum pension payments in excess of €100,000 and €200,000; and the action he will take on the matter. [14240/11]

I understand the Deputy is referring to Members of the previous Seanad and their entitlements on leaving office. These are set out in the following table:

Senator service

Annual Pension(reduced with effect from 1 Jan 2011)

Lump Sum(pre-reduced pension x 3)

5 years

8,766

26,300

10 years

18,253

55,956

15 years

26,900

83,934

20 years

35,386

111,912

If an officeholder for 2 years, a Senator would also be entitled to a pension in respect of that service, amounting to 20% of the officeholder's salary for 2 years service, 40% for 6 years, and 60% for 10 years.

Under current scheme rules, Members of the Oireachtas elected before 1 April 2004 who qualify for pension are eligible to receive the pension from age 50 on leaving office. Those elected from that date are deemed to be "new entrants" under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 and have a minimum pension age of 65.

The Government is reviewing how the programme for Government in regard to the pension benefits of Oireachtas Members will be implemented.

Tax Code

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

43 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to publish the terms of reference for the review into the universal social charge. [14248/11]

The position is that the programme for Government commits to a review of the Universal Social Charge (USC) and I have stated a number of times in the House that I encourage all interested parties to join the review of the USC by way of submission to my Department. My Department is currently accepting submissions from interested parties; however, if changes to the USC are being proposed, I would request well thought-out and workable solutions to fill any revenue gaps created. The focus must be on maintaining the €4 billion yield. It is anticipated that the review will be carried out over the coming months and be completed in time for Budget 2012, and I will provide the terms of reference when they are finalized.

When the review has been completed and the findings and recommendations are presented to me, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken.

Fiscal Policy

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

44 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance if the proposed fiscal correction in 2012 is still €3.6 billion. [14160/11]

The Stability Programme Update submitted to the European Commission and published by my Department at the end of April forecasts the 2012 General Government deficit at 8.6% of GDP, which is in line with the terms of the revised EDP Recommendation issued by the ECOFIN Council in December 2010. This forecast is based on the implementation of a budgetary adjustment of €3.6 billion in 2012. This is consistent with the Joint EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland and is in accordance with this Government's commitment to adhere to the aggregate budgetary adjustment for the combined period 2011/2012, as set out in that Programme.

The 2012 General Government deficit forecast will of course be subject to further revision later this year as more up-to-date economic and fiscal data become available. Taking into account all information — both positive and negative — I will then bring forward my Budget for 2012 in December as is the norm. At this point, I see no reason to change the aggregate amount of consolidation needed.

Jobs Initiative

Stephen S. Donnelly

Ceist:

45 Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance the reason he believes that putting approximately €1 of public money into job creation via the jobs initiative for every approximately €70 going to the remaining unguaranteed senior bondholders is a sustainable path to recovery for Irish economy and society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14105/11]

Taking account of the state of the public finances and the need to repair our banking system, this agreement is committed to ensuring that Ireland is put firmly back on a path to a more sustainable and equitable society. We are only in office a very short time and we have already brought forward a number of initiatives. For instance, the intention of the measures contained in last month's Jobs Initiative was to focus our now more limited resources on measures that offer the greatest potential for expansion and employment creation in the domestic economy. The aim is to target key sectors of the economy that can assist people back to work, provide opportunities for those who have lost their jobs to re-skill and build confidence in order to encourage consumer activity. The Initiative will cost just over €1.8 billion over the period to 2014.

Given our commitments under the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support, and our current public finance difficulties the Jobs Initiative is budgetary neutral, over the period to 2014 and is being paid for through the introduction of a temporary levy on pension funds.

Fixing our banking sector is also a key part of this Government's economic strategy. At the end of March, the Government announced plans to reorganise, recapitalise and deleverage the domestic financial system. Accordingly, the three proposed banks — Bank of Ireland, AIB with EBS and Irish Life & Permanent — should be able to operate in the market place following their reorganisation, including regaining access to normal funding mechanisms. As part of this approach, the Government decided, informed by the reservations of the ECB, that these banks will not burden-share with senior bondholders of their constituent banks, whether guaranteed or unguaranteed.

As for Anglo Irish bank and Irish Nationwide, the Central Bank of Ireland recently reaffirmed the capital assessments made previously for these institutions. The need for further capital would only arise if the stress case arose and the estimate of that stress case is similar to the estimates in their restructuring plan. Should this worse-case scenario ever arise then the Government will agree an approach with our European partners, having regard to the financial stability impacts in Ireland and abroad to determine how any shortfall would be met.

Banks Recapitalisation

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

46 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the control systems he has put in place to ensure that the €20 billion earmarked for loans to small and medium sized business as part of the bank recapitalisation initiative are actually used for that purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14213/11]

The Deputy may be aware that the restructuring plan creates capacity for the Pillar Banks to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the next three years. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16-20bn over this period. In each bank, a team of senior managers will be dedicated to the sole task of ensuring lending continues to grow to support economic growth. Both AIB and Bank of Ireland provide my Department with monthly figures on balance sheet volumes, sanctioned facilities and geographic and industrial breakdowns of their SME lending. In addition, under the terms of the Government recapitalisation, both banks also produce a quarterly report which incorporates figures for sanctions and drawdowns by SMEs. The data contained in these reports will continue to be reviewed and analysed by my Department and the Credit Review Office to ensure that the banks are compliant with the terms of the Government recapitalisation as it relates to the provision of credit for SMEs.

Mortgage Arrears

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

47 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an estimate of the potential liabilities to the covered institutions arising from current levels of mortgage arrears as detailed by the Financial Regulator in April 2011. [14244/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, according to figures published by the Central Bank of Ireland on 19 May 2011, 6.3% of private residential mortgage accounts were in arrears for more than 90 days at the end of March 2011. My Department has been informed by the Central Bank that robust estimates of potential losses cannot be extrapolated from the arrears figures as mortgage loss amounts will depend on a number of factors including the outstanding mortgage amount and the current value of the property. I can, however, inform the Deputy that the Prudential Capital Assessment Review (PCAR) which formed part of the Central Bank of Ireland's Financial Measures Programme (FMP), which was published in March 2011, provides for an annual stress test of the capital resources of the domestic banks under a given stress scenario. The loan loss exercise in the FMP, which includes estimated losses on residential mortgages, measures the loan losses banks might experience under the base and adverse (stress) scenarios over both a three year and a loan-lifetime horizon, stretching out to 2040. The base scenario is in line with EU forecasts for the Irish economy and the adverse scenario represents an unlikely further economic contraction.

The Central Bank's three year projected base loss for the Irish residential mortgage loan book is estimated to be 5.8% (€5.7 billion) while the adverse scenario is 9.2% (€9 billion). BlackRock's lifetime loan losses post-deleveraging for the total mortgage loan books is 10% (€9.7 billion) in the base scenario while the adverse (stress) scenario is 16.7% (€16.3 billion).

It is important to point out that under the PCAR requirements, the banks will be capitalised to meet the projected Central Bank's three year stress losses. This includes a significant proportion of the projected life time losses to 2040.

Finally, these stress loan-loss estimates are not considered likely to materialise; they are an input designed to ensure the associated capital requirements are fully convincing as being sufficient to cover even extreme and improbable losses.

Proposed Legislation

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

48 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance the publication date of the Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011. [14236/11]

The Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011 will be published on Thursday 9 June 2011. It will provide for the necessary taxation changes to the various Taxation Acts arising from the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. I expect the Bill to be enacted before the summer.

Peter Fitzpatrick

Ceist:

49 Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce legislation to regulate the construction sector to ensure that subcontractors are treated in a fair manner and that they are paid in a timely fashion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9058/11]

The programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 was introduced by Senator Feargal Quinn and passed Committee and remaining Stages in the Seanad on 8 March 2011. It is now before the Dáil. I understand that the Seanad debate highlighted a number of matters relating to the Bill that require further consideration and acknowledged that the regulatory impact of such a piece of legislation needs to be fully assessed. This work is currently taking place.

My colleague, Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is now examining the Senator's Bill and a decision will be taken on how best to proceed. It is important that a solution to the problem of non-payment in the construction sector must not place an unnecessary regulatory or cost burden on the parties to the dispute, other parties involved in the project, or the State.

National Anthem

Robert Troy

Ceist:

50 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance, in view of the fact that copyright protection is due to run out on Amhrán na bhFiann in 2012, his plans for protecting the national anthem; and if he has given consideration to the setting up of a cross-party working group to introduce legislation protecting the national anthem from being tampered with, replaced or used for commercial purposes. [10945/11]

Copyright protection in relation to the National Anthem will run out in December 2012. The main purpose of ownership by the State of the copyright to the original version of the National Anthem was to ensure that it was freely available for general use. This situation will remain unchanged on the expiry of the copyright.

Public Procurement

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

51 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the barriers that have been identified to date which restrict access to procurement opportunities for small and medium enterprise; if these and other barriers are likely to be addressed in increments or in a more comprehensive way; when we are likely to see practical initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14155/11]

The Government recognises that the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is very important to the economy and that public procurement can be an important source of business for SMEs. In this regard, my Department recently issued guidelines addressed to public bodies and aimed at facilitating small and medium-sized enterprises in competing for public procurement opportunities. The guidance sets out positive measures that public contracting authorities are required to take to promote SME involvement in a manner that is consistent with the principles and rules of the existing public procurement regulatory regime. The guidance also highlights practices that are to be avoided because they can unjustifiably hinder small businesses in competing for public contracts. Some of the key features of the guidance include:

Encouraging SME participation in public procurement competition by requiring that contracts for supplies and general services with an estimated value of €25,000 or more are now to be advertised on the www.etenders.gov.ie website;

Opening up the tender process to SMEs by requiring contracting authorities to use more open, rather than restrictive, tendering procedures;

Accepting "self-declaration" of a tenderer's capacity to undertake a project and only seeking documentary evidence when a tenderer is short-listed or being considered for the award of a contract; and,

Removing unnecessarily high suitability criteria by instructing contracting authorities to ensure that the capacity levels they set for tendering competitions are relevant and proportionate to the needs of the contract. Measures such as these will increase the opportunities for SMEs to compete for public contracts and will reduce the up-front administration burden for them.

In addition to the above, the guidance advises that the sub-dividing of procurement requirements into "lots" may be considered by contracting authorities where it would be appropriate and practical and can be done without compromising efficiency and value for money. Such approaches can facilitate SMEs.

The guidance also provides that in establishing framework agreements, contracting authorities are to consider how proposed arrangements will impact on SMEs. They are required to ensure that the terms of the framework facilitate the inclusion of smaller enterprises if these can meet requirements or compete for particular lots. Also, smaller companies can combine with others to make a joint bid for a contract that they might not be in a position to perform on their own.

The Government will continue to review the situation in regard to SME participation in public procurement and, where consistent with achieving value for money, probity and transparency, will seek to address any further issues that might be identified.

Banking Sector

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

52 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Finance the value of domestic and foreign deposits held in the covered institutions for each month of 2011. [14245/11]

The information the Deputy has requested is available from the Money and Banking Statistics published by the Central Bank of Ireland and can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie. The Central Bank of Ireland has, however, informed me that the value of deposits from Irish residents and deposits from non-residents at the end of April 2011 is as follows:

Month

Deposits from Irish Residents

Deposits from non-residents

Euro area

Rest of the world

April 2011

€235,207m

€3,376m

€72,560m

The Central Bank of Ireland has advised that the value of deposits in the Money and Banking Statistics is not consolidated (i.e., it includes affiliates) and only includes the resident offices of the banks; it does not include foreign branches and subsidiaries.

Credit Unions

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

53 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the future of the credit union sector here. [14157/11]

The Government's position with regard to the credit union sector set out in the Programme for National Government 2011-2016 recognises the importance of credit unions as a volunteer co-operative movement and distinguishes between them and other financial institutions. The programme for Government agreed that a Commission on Credit Unions would be established to review the future of the movement and make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for it. In carrying out its work, the Commission will take into account their not-for-profit mandate, their volunteer ethos and community focus, while paying due regard to the need to fully protect depositors’ savings and financial stability.

The Deputy will also be aware that we have certain commitments in relation to the credit union sector under the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland. Under this agreement diagnostic and stress tests on credit unions have been completed by the Central Bank and in light of these I have prepared a plan to underpin the solvency and viability of undercapitalised credit unions. The Government has also agreed the Terms of Reference for the Commission on Credit Unions. Having regard to the particular nature of the credit union sector, the Commission will examine this Strategy as a priority and make recommendations to me, as Minister for Finance, regarding the implementation of the proposals contained therein. By the end of 2011, and in line with the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland, we will submit legislation to the Houses of the Oireachtas to assist the credit unions with a strengthened regulatory framework including more effective governance and regulatory requirements.

I will not pre-empt the outcome of the deliberations of the Commission on Credit Unions regarding the future evolution of the sector. The Commission will make recommendations to strengthen the regulatory framework for credit unions by 30 September 2011. A final report will be submitted to me by 31 March 2012. I will shortly make an announcement regarding the establishment and membership of this Commission so that it may begin this important body of work.

Mortgage Arrears

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

54 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date in developing solutions to mortgage holders currently in mortgage distress; and the date on which he will publish the relevant legislation. [14243/11]

The Deputy will be aware of the work of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt (the Group) which produced its Final Report in November 2010. All of the Group's recommendations are listed in Chapter 2 of the Final Report. They can be accessed at www.finance.gov.ie.

Since publication of the Final Report, the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) has been revised by the Central Bank to reflect many of the recommendations of the Group, including key recommendations relating to the introduction by all regulated lenders of a standardised Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The most significant changes in the revised CCMA include:

Penalty interest charges may not be imposed on borrowers in arrears who co-operate with the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process,

Harassment of borrowers through unsolicited communications is outlawed,

Borrowers in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP,

When determining the 12-month waiting period, the lender must wait before applying to the courts to commence legal action, and the lender must exclude any time period during which a borrower is complying with the terms of an alternative repayment arrangement, making an appeal to the internal appeals board or making a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman under the CCMA.

The revised CCMA was published on 6 December 2010 and came into effect on 1 January 2011. The revised CCMA can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie. Lenders are required to comply with the CCMA as a matter of law but have been given a period of six months ending on 30 June 2011 to put in place the requisite systems and training of staff necessary to support the implementation of the MARP.

With input from the National Consumer Agency, the Central Bank has produced a consumer guide to assist consumers in understanding the new process under the revised Code that they should expect from lenders. That guide, together with a number of questions and answers, is also available on the Central Bank's website.

The recommendation of the Group to amend the local authority needs assessment process has been implemented by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG). Local authorities have been provided with guidance on the treatment of applicants for social housing support whose mortgages have been deemed unsustainable. Discussions are ongoing between the DECLG and the Irish Bankers' Federation to enable borrowers whose properties are to be repossessed to remain in their homes for a period of time, pending the sourcing of appropriate accommodation by the housing authority.

As regards the recommendations of the Group in relation to the mortgage interest supplement scheme, I have been informed by the Department of Social Protection that the implementation of these recommendations will require changes to both primary and secondary legislation. That Department is currently finalising an implementation plan that will set out a framework for the future of the mortgage interest supplement scheme.

Banks Recapitalisation

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

55 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance, in view of certain comments (details supplied), if he can reassure the public that no more taxpayers’ money is going to go into the banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14215/11]

A fundamental element of Government Strategy has been to restore a functioning banking system and the Government has made particular commitments to recapitalising the banks and restructuring the banking sector as part of its Programme for Government. The Prudential Capital Assessment Review in the Central Bank of Ireland's Financial Measures Programme was published on 31 March 2011. The PCAR provides that €24 billion, which includes €3 billion in contingency funds, is required by the banks for capital purposes to ensure the banks maintain a minimum of Core Tier 1 capital ratio of 10.5 per cent at all times in the base case scenario and do not fall below a minimum Core Tier 1 capital ratio of 6 per cent even in an extreme stress scenario. It should be noted that €3 billion of any recapitalisation will be on a contingent basis and if it is not required, it must be returned to the State.

While the Government is committed to ensuring that the banks meet the PCAR target, the Government will seek direct contributions to solving the capital issues of the banking system by looking for further significant contributions from subordinated debt holders, by the sale of assets to generate capital, and where possible, by seeking private sector investors. It is expected that the effect of these actions will be to reduce the amount of capital required very significantly.

Mortgage Arrears

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

56 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance his views on Allied Irish Bank’s recent statement that it would consider debt forgiveness in certain cases on its mortgage book. [14158/11]

The Deputy will be aware of the work of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt (the Group) which produced its final report in November 2010. The Group, during the period of its research, could not identify any arrangements internationally that could be characterised as mortgage debt forgiveness schemes, with the exception of parts of the US where non-recourse mortgage lending applies. The Group did not recommend a formal debt forgiveness scheme having regard to the broad range of policy considerations which are outlined in the main body of its final report.

Any lenders considering debt forgiveness should discuss their proposals in advance with the Central Bank and the Department of Finance.

The Programme for Government contains a number of proposals aimed at helping mortgage holders in genuine difficulties. The Government is progressing the issues and decisions will be made as soon as practicable.

State Assets

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

57 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the progress of the ongoing review of the report of the McCarthy review group on State assets and liabilities, which is to be presented to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform by May. [10940/11]

Following the publication of the Report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities in April, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform requested Government Departments to give their considered views of the proposals set out in the Report. Departments are now reverting with their views. After giving their submissions full consideration, the Minister intends to bring a Memorandum to Government proposing next steps.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 41.

Tax Code

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

59 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce a site valuation tax, with specific reference to the way in which such valuations will be assessed; and the date on which the relevant legislation will be published. [14247/11]

The programme for National Government contains a commitment to "consider, arising from the previous Government's deal with the IMF, various options for a site valuation tax. Any site valuation tax must take into account the significant number of households in mortgage distress and provide local government with a reliable stream of revenue". Initial consultation on the implications of a recurrent annual tax on property has taken place with relevant stakeholders. The theory behind site value tax — or land value tax, as it is often called — is that tax is calculated by reference to the value of the land or site irrespective of whether there is a property on the site, or of what type of property is in place.

At this stage, a decision has yet to be taken on the precise legal mechanism to be used to introduce a site value tax and whether this will be done in tax legislation such as the Finance Bill or through other legislation which may fall within the ambit of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.

It is not customary for the Minister for Finance to comment on possible taxation measures or the detail of their implementation prior to their introduction.

Job Protection

Joe O'Reilly

Ceist:

60 Deputy Joe O’Reilly asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the assurances given on job retention in the proposed Liberty Mutual/Anglo deal on Quinn Direct Insurance. [10025/11]

At the outset the Deputy should note that as Minister for Finance I have had no direct dealings with Liberty Mutual in relation to this transaction including the issue of the future of all existing job-holders. However, I have been informed by the Joint Administrators that aside from the redundancies in Manchester, all the 1570 jobs in Quinn Insurance Ltd (QIL) have been protected for at least two years. I also understand that they will transfer to Liberty Mutual Direct Insurance Company Ltd under the Protection of Employees Rights on Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, thereby protecting their current terms and conditions. It is important to keep in mind that in assessing the bids for the business of QIL, the Joint Administrators were required to consider how best the interests of policyholders could be protected and how the company could be returned to a sound commercial footing. This was their primary responsibility under the powers given to them by the 1983 Insurance (No. 2) Act. While the retention and protection of employment was important, it was very much subject to the aforementioned responsibilities. In the circumstances therefore, the proposed Liberty Mutual/Anglo deal in my view represents an excellent outcome because it provides a commitment to maintain jobs for at least two years, as well as achieving its primary objective of protecting policyholders.

While no indication has been provided by Liberty Mutual as to what will happen at the end of the two year period in relation to jobs, I remain hopeful that they will be maintained. The main reason is that the QIL business has been purchased by a company which has an impressive track record in the insurance industry and which is also very conscious of the importance of ensuring competition in the Irish insurance market and appreciates its role in providing employment and economic development in the Border region and further afield.

The decision to appoint the Share Receiver to the Quinn Group by Anglo was very much a commercial one, into which I had no direct input, and also gives the Group grounds for hope of a viable future. In this regard, it should be noted that a Share Receiver is fundamentally different from a company receiver as it will not involve the sale of businesses or assets.

An agreement was also reached between Anglo and the senior lenders to the Quinn Group whereby the latter's €1.3 billion euro of debt is being restructured. This results in the removal of a long-running and significant uncertainty over these businesses, which are very strong businesses but which were over-indebted, and their lending facilities were in breach of covenant for some time. This will result in all or almost all manufacturing jobs being retained.

It is important to state clearly to the House that a viable future however depends to a large degree on the willingness by everybody, particularly those engaged in recent negative events, to engage wholeheartedly with the new ownership arrangements, and to begin to put their energies into growing the business and contributing to getting jobs back into the local economy on both sides of the border. This is very important because if this does not happen then, over time there is very likely to be a negative impact on the performance of the Group and consequences for jobs. None of us in the House want to see this.

EU-IMF Fund

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

61 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed report on his ongoing discussions with his ECOFIN colleagues regarding the renegotiation of the EU-IMF austerity programme. [14225/11]

Following the formal review mission from the European Commission Services, the IMF and the ECB, which took place between 5 and 15 April 2011, the EU/IMF Programme was updated to take account of implementation and developments since the programme was first agreed in November 2010. It was also amended to reflect Government policy priorities. The revisions were approved by Eurogroup on 16 May 2011, ECOFIN on 16 and 17 May 2011 and by the IMF Executive Board on 16 May 2011. The procedure for further amendments to the EU/IMF Programme will mirror the process that we have just gone through as outlined in the paragraph above. In other words, negotiations on changes to the conditionality take place, in the first instance, during the formal quarterly review missions. These missions also assess the level of compliance with the Programme. The output from these missions consists of: — a full set of revised Programme documents that reflect the delivery of conditions to date and amendments if any that are made, on an agreed basis, to conditions with future delivery deadlines. It should also be noted that new conditions may be added, particularly as follow-on conditions that flow from delivered conditions; and — compliance reports that are prepared separately by the IMF and the European Commission Services.

After each quarterly mission, the IMF Executive Board considers the revised Programme and the compliance report prepared by their staff. Similarly, Eurogroup and ECOFIN, after it has already been through various working groups, consider the revised Programme and the compliance report prepared by the European Commission Services. Any outstanding issues relating to conditions, i.e. conditions that had not been agreed during the review mission or at the subsequent working group meetings preparing items for the Eurogroup and ECOFIN agendas, would be considered by Eurogroup and ECOFIN. This has not been necessary in relation to the EU/IMF Programme for Ireland.

However, I do take the opportunity at Eurogroup and ECOFIN to update my colleagues on any relevant developments while confirming that we are taking all of the necessary steps as well to meet our commitments under the programme.

State Assets

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

62 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a timeframe for the sale of State assets. [10942/11]

The programme for Government provides for the sale of non-strategic assets up to a value of €2 billion. This will occur when market conditions are right and when adequate regulatory structures have been established to protect consumer interests. The recent report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities cautions against hastiness in selling such assets. On foot of the report, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has asked Government Department to give their considered views of the Group's recommendations. After considering these views, the Minister will bring proposals to Government on the matter.

Tax Code

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

63 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if his support for Christine Lagarde’s candidacy as head of the IMF was conditional on Ireland’s corporation tax being left untouched. [14163/11]

The question of Ireland's corporation tax rate is an entirely separate matter to the appointment of a new head of the IMF. The Government's position on our corporation tax strategy is unambiguous and it is not at risk. The programme for Government clearly states that the Government will ‘keep the corporate tax rate at 12.5%' and that commitment is protected, in an EU context, by the principle of unanimity in taxation matters. Our Corporation Tax rate is a cornerstone of our industrial policy and it will remain unchanged. The selection process for the position of Managing Director of the IMF is currently under way, with nominations closing on June 10, and it is expected that the selection process will be completed by the IMF Executive Board on June 30. I look forward to a fruitful working relationship with the new Managing Director.

I think it is important that candidates will have demonstrated strong capacities and commitment to multilateral co-ordination and extensive knowledge of international economic, financial and monetary affairs. As I indicated recently, I consider that Christine Lagarde is an excellent candidate who has all the capabilities of being a very good head of the IMF. She combines extensive experience as French Finance Minister with the experience of operating in the commercial world. She has adopted a very pragmatic approach to addressing the current economic difficulties and has always been available for discussion with Irish Ministers.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 31.

Company Administration

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

65 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance the consideration that was given to the Quinn proposals to re-establish Quinn ownership. [9942/11]

At the outset you should be aware that the sale of the QIL business is a matter for the Joint Administrators. It is important to be clear that neither I as Minister for Finance nor the Government had any input into the decision to select Liberty Mutual/Anglo as the preferred bidder. In relation to what consideration was given to the Quinn proposals to re-establish Quinn ownership, the Joint Administrators have indicated to my Department that the Quinn proposal was only received several weeks ahead of the recent announcement on the sale of Quinn Insurance and several months after the closing date for submission of interest. They say that the proposal was highly conditional in nature as it depended, amongst other things, on the State intervening to facilitate the transfer of €2.8 billion of debt from Anglo to one of the viable banks and to require that bank to provide a further €500 million loan to the Quinn Group, as well as agreement with the bondholders. As such they saw no likelihood for such a proposal being facilitated in the current economic climate, as the taking on of such loans by other banks was likely to compound their already difficult position and in addition would also be likely to contravene European State Aid rules. They were also of the view that reaching agreement with the bondholders in relation to the releasing of the guarantees over QIL assets was going to be extremely difficult if not close to impossible.

Tax Reliefs

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

66 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, according to the 2009 ESRI research series No. 14 on pension policy, 82% of all pension tax relief goes to the top 20% of income earners; his views on the accuracy of this figure; and his further views that this is an appropriate outcome of his current pension tax relief policy. [14234/11]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the ESRI report entitled "Pension Policy: New Evidence on Key Issues" which was published in November 2009. I am not in a position to question the data on which the Report based its findings. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a breakdown of official data on contributions to pension saving arrangements across income ranges is available only to a limited extent. With regard to occupational pensions (that is, schemes set up by the employer), the figures in respect of employee and employer contributions are available only in aggregate form on a tentative basis. Information on such contributions is not required to be provided on an individual basis and is therefore not captured in such a way as to make it possible to provide disaggregated figures.

Actual data is available in respect of the cost of tax relief across income ranges on pension contributions made to Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs) and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) by self-employed individuals and individuals in non-pensionable employment, to the extent that such individuals submit claims for tax relief to the Revenue Commissioners in their annual income tax returns. The latest relevant information is in respect of the income tax year 2008.

The information set out in the tables below provides the number of cases, amount of deduction and reduction in tax for tax relief for RACs and PRSAs for the various contribution ranges. The information is based on income returns contained in Revenue records at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes, representing in the region of 90% of all returns expected. A married couple who have elected or are deemed to have elected for joint assessment are counted as one tax unit.

On the basis of the tabulated figures the highest earning 20% of claimants for tax relief on contributions to RACs obtain 69% of the tax relief. The corresponding position in respect of PRSAs is that the top 20% of highest earning claimants obtain 59% of the tax relief.

The value of tax relief on pension contributions that an individual can obtain in any year is a function, among other things, of the amount of contributions he or she can afford to make and the individual's marginal income tax rate. The level of tax relief is also limited for higher earners, in particular, by the operation of an annual earnings cap which operates in conjunction with age-related percentage limits to determine the maximum annual tax-relievable contributions for pension purposes. Since 2009, that annual earnings cap for pension tax relief purposes has been reduced by over 58% from over €275,000 per annum to €115,000. Moreover, the maximum allowable pension fund for tax purposes that an individual can avail of over their lifetime was reduced by about an equivalent amount in Budget and Finance Act 2011 from just over €5.4 million to €2.3 million.

The Deputy might also bear in mind, as the ESRI report itself states, that tax relief on pension contributions is of greatest value to those with incomes high enough to pay the top rate of tax. An individual does not have to be a significantly high earner to be obtaining tax relief at the higher rate at the present time. Information is provided in the following tables.

INCOME TAX 2008

Retirement Annuity — by range of Gross Income

Range of gross income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Tax due for payment

Gross Tax*

Reduction in tax as % of Gross Tax

%

9,000

729

935,680

2,158

862

3,020

71.5

9,000

10,000

161

252,188

4,363

2,794

7,157

61.0

10,000

12,000

469

692,196

62,292

9,792

72,084

86.4

12,000

15,000

965

1,715,589

211,979

104,404

316,383

67.0

15,000

17,000

861

1,644,685

226,399

215,080

441,479

51.3

17,000

20,000

1,593

3,257,558

459,515

580,464

1,039,979

44.2

20,000

25,000

3,627

7,721,316

1,326,962

2,165,207

3,492,169

38.0

25,000

27,000

1,825

3,883,592

721,470

1,665,100

2,386,570

30.2

27,000

30,000

2,854

6,320,653

1,194,756

3,158,134

4,352,890

27.4

30,000

35,000

5,405

13,202,577

2,539,146

8,304,315

10,843,461

23.4

35,000

40,000

5,717

14,936,372

3,393,999

12,307,956

15,701,955

21.6

40,000

50,000

11,061

33,310,086

9,136,198

36,059,362

45,195,560

20.2

50,000

60,000

9,786

34,659,100

10,308,802

47,786,903

58,095,705

17.7

60,000

75,000

12,189

52,071,320

15,589,445

87,220,962

102,810,407

15.2

75,000

100,000

13,538

80,155,139

29,424,857

156,042,140

185,466,997

15.9

100,000

150,000

10,851

112,484,386

45,223,507

222,365,488

267,588,995

16.9

150,000

200,000

3,939

76,541,767

31,252,568

138,475,988

169,728,556

18.4

200,000

250,000

2,155

58,968,353

24,130,324

109,459,691

133,590,015

18.1

Over 250,000

5,881

300,312,429

122,942,865

755,255,795

878,198,660

14.0

Totals

93,606

803,064,986

298,151,606

1,581,180,437

1,879,332,043

15.9

* "Gross tax" means the tax that would be due before relief is allowed for retirement annuity deductions.

The figures do not include contributions made by employees through employers' payroll systems and in respect of which tax relief is provided on the net pay basis. Information on such contributions is not captured in such a way as to make it possible to provide disaggregated figures.

INCOME TAX 2008

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts — by range of Gross Income

Range of gross income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Tax due for payment

Gross Tax*

Reduction in tax as % of Gross Tax

%

9,000

218

390,933

480

606

1,086

44.2

9,000

10,000

53

80,754

1,597

0

1,597

100.0

10,000

12,000

112

190,650

16,956

3,829

20,785

81.6

12,000

15,000

222

397,037

57,499

21,158

78,657

73.1

15,000

17,000

180

358,438

51,164

33,625

84,789

60.3

17,000

20,000

380

733,763

117,994

75,174

193,168

61.1

20,000

25,000

1,049

2,186,524

405,513

524,191

929,704

43.6

25,000

27,000

520

1,150,449

221,324

447,893

669,217

33.1

27,000

30,000

823

1,704,076

331,440

1,031,041

1,362,481

24.3

30,000

35,000

1,462

3,449,540

673,504

2,622,798

3,296,302

20.4

35,000

40,000

1,388

3,595,442

941,130

3,413,295

4,354,425

21.6

40,000

50,000

2,493

7,735,525

2,446,619

9,654,079

12,100,698

20.2

50,000

60,000

2,045

7,461,700

2,400,586

11,467,718

13,868,304

17.3

60,000

75,000

2,394

10,602,822

3,313,582

18,879,808

22,193,390

14.9

75,000

100,000

2,408

14,392,596

5,538,149

30,377,341

35,915,490

15.4

100,000

150,000

1,733

16,036,385

6,525,859

38,865,170

45,391,029

14.4

150,000

200,000

573

8,729,884

3,578,202

22,268,882

25,847,084

13.8

200,000

250,000

302

6,639,572

2,715,634

16,646,411

19,362,045

14.0

Over 250,000

553

18,902,557

7,737,064

70,814,502

78,551,566

9.8

Totals

18,908

104,738,647

37,074,296

227,147,521

264,221,817

14.0

* "Gross tax" means the tax that would be due before relief is allowed for PRSA deductions.

The figures do not include contributions made by employees through employers' payroll systems and in respect of which tax relief is provided on the net pay basis. Information on such contributions is not captured in such a way as to make it possible to provide disaggregated figures.

Banks Restructuring

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

67 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of job losses he expects in the Irish banking sector arising from the restructuring of the sector. [14156/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, a profound restructuring of the Irish banking system is underway. The two most distressed institutions in the market — Anglo and INBS — are being merged and their remaining loans will be worked out over an extended period of time. Under the Government's strategy for reorganising the Irish banking system and consistent with the terms of the EU/ IMF Programme all of the other institutions are implementing very substantial deleveraging plans under which they will dispose of or run down very substantial volumes of non-core assets. The sector is also being consolidated with the acquisition of EBS by AIB. Each institution will be required to produce a detailed restructuring plan for submission to the European Commission by the end of July 2011 to demonstrate how they intend to return to viability to ensure their long-term sustainability and stability in the market. Each institution will carefully examine its future human resource needs in the context of the preparation of their restructuring plans. It is, of course, a matter for the boards and senior management teams of the bank to determine their future employment levels. In view of the importance of maintaining an appropriate arms length relationship between the State and the banks insofar as such matters are concerned, I trust the Deputy will understand that it would not be appropriate for me to speculate on the outcome of this process.

Pension Provisions

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

68 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance his view on whether the cost of the pension levy should not be passed on to savers by their pension fund managers; and the steps he will take to ensure that this does not happen. [14233/11]

I take the view that there is scope for the pension fund industry to absorb the impact of the temporary pension scheme levy by way of a reduction in the fees and charges made on those schemes. I have made that clear in this House and I have conveyed that view to representatives of the pension fund industry at face-to-face meetings. I have also written to the main representative organisations of the industry in this matter and I am awaiting a response from them.

Fiscal Policy

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

69 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the bond yield that he believes would prohibit the Government from returning to the bond markets in 2012 and 2013. [14232/11]

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) is in constant contact with market participants and will advise me when it feels that the time is right to re-enter the markets. While the interest rates at which we can borrow will obviously be a key determinant in this decision, they will not be the only factor. In any event, it would not be wise to speculate about what these rates may be as this would harm the State's ability to access funds at the most competitive rate possible. The best means to ensure that we can re-enter financial markets at favourable rates is to continue to demonstrate our determination to restore stability to our public finances and implement policies that will see us return to sustainable economic growth. In this regard, the Government is committed to implementing the measures necessary to bring our deficit below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015. Last month's Jobs Initiative underlines our commitment to a policy of consolidating the fiscal position while also providing support to the labour market, thereby assisting both household and business confidence which will in turn help support economic recovery. We all know that success will not come overnight and difficult decisions have been taken. We will have to continue to make such decisions and this Government is determined to take the right course of action.

Personal Debt

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

70 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance when he expects financial institutions to implement the recommendation for a deferred interest scheme in the final report of the expert group on mortgage arrears and personal debt. [14159/11]

The Central Bank has advised me that the following lenders have notified the Bank of their intention to implement the recommendation of a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS), as set out in the final report of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt:

Allied Irish Banks

AIB Mortgage Bank

Bank of Ireland

ICS Building Society

EBS

Haven Mortgages

Irish Nationwide Building Society

Permanent TSB

Springboard Mortgages

Start Mortgages.

The date on which lenders will be in a position to offer a DIS to borrowers varies. Some institutions expect to be in a position to offer the scheme by the middle of 2011. I have asked the Central Bank to ascertain the up-to-date position with regard to each lender and I will provide this information to the Deputy when it is made available to me.

It is important to note that the DIS is a voluntary scheme, and as such all lenders do not have to sign up to it.

Job Creation

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

71 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Finance the total number of permanent full-time jobs he believes will be created as a result of the jobs initiative. [14237/11]

The Irish labour market remains very weak, with the latest figures revealing that the number of people on the live register and the standardised unemployment rate increased in May. These are obviously very disappointing developments, particularly as previous data had suggested that the unemployment rate had stabilised in the first four months of the year. Against this backdrop, the measures announced in last month's Jobs Initiative will provide modest support to the labour market by assisting in employment generation and creating an additional 21,000 places for training, education and upskilling. In particular, it will assist in employment generation in the services and construction sectors by improving our competitiveness position, stimulating demand and increasing sentiment. The introduction of a second reduced rate of VAT, for example, should have a significant impact on confidence and costs in the high value labour intensive tourism industry. Overall the measures should support the economic recovery by restoring morale, boosting confidence and encouraging consumers to spend.

It is very difficult to quantify the exact number of jobs that the Initiative will create, but the measures will play a role in supporting the labour markets recovery in the coming years. Positive net employment growth is forecast to return next year according to the most recent forecasts published by my Department. In total, net employment growth of around 100,000 is expected in the years 2012 to 2015.

Pension Provisions

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

72 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance, with regard to the programme for Government commitment on political pensions — that is, that no retired politician will get a political pension until the national retirement age — if this commitment will apply to all current Deputies and Senators. [14239/11]

Under current scheme rules, Members of the Oireachtas elected before 1 April 2004 who qualify for pension are eligible to receive the pension from age 50 on leaving office. Those elected from that date are deemed to be "new entrants" under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 and have a minimum pension age of 65.

The Government is reviewing how the Programme for Government in regard to the pension benefits of Oireachtas Members will be implemented.

National Asset Management Agency

Tom Barry

Ceist:

73 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for Finance if he will seek to appoint a Minister of State with specific responsibility for the National Asset Management Agency. [14107/11]

The National Asset Management Agency has been established as a body corporate and is independent in the performance of its functions under the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009. NAMA has a Board of Directors and a commercial remit under the legislation. The role assigned to the Minister is set out in the legislation. The desirability or otherwise of having a Minister of State with specific responsibility for NAMA is a matter for the Taoiseach.

National Pensions Reserve Fund

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

74 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance the total funds currently contained in the National Pensions Reserve Fund; and his plans for these funds. [14235/11]

The total value of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), according to its most recently published figures, was €23.2 billion at 31 March 2011. Of this,

€7.9 billion is invested in Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks on the direction of the Minister for Finance;

€5.5 billion is held in cash on foot of a direction from the Minister for Finance in February 2011. This will form part of the contribution required from the Exchequer under the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland;

€8.4 billion represented the value of investments held by the NPRF Commission, and

€1.4 billion was held in cash by the NPRF Commission.

The NPRF Commission was directed to realise a further €4.5 billion in April 2011, bringing the amount set aside from the Fund for the EU/IMF Support Programme from €5.5 billion to the full €10 billion envisaged.

The Government is currently examining the role which the NPRF may play in assisting economic growth having regard to the provisions of the Programme for Government.

Census of Population

Eoghan Murphy

Ceist:

75 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Taoiseach the steps he will take to ascertain the number of people affected by autism; and the reason a provision for collecting this information was not included in the recent census. [14044/11]

As part of the preparatory work for the 2011 census, the CSO conducted a public consultation on the topics to be covered; all Government Departments were contacted for their input and a notice calling for submissions was published in the national press. Over 90 submissions covering 31 topics were received in total, among them submissions on the subject of disability, and in particular on the subject of autism. All submissions were considered by a specially convened Census Advisory Group which was representative of central and local government, the social partners, universities, research bodies and other users of census data along with the relevant CSO personnel. A specific sub-group was convened to consider the disability questions on the census form. This sub-group was composed of representatives from the National Disability Authority, the Equality Authority, the Disability Federation of Ireland and the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies.

The proposal to list specific disabilities within the disability question, namely to make specific reference to autistic spectrum disorder, or Down's syndrome, in the category ‘A learning or intellectual disability' was considered at the second meeting of the group. The group concluded that it would not be appropriate, nor would there be enough room on the census form, to list all individual disabilities. However, in order to go some way towards accommodating this request the existing (2006 census) category ‘A learning or intellectual disability' was split into two categories ‘An intellectual disability' and separately ‘A difficulty with learning, remembering or concentrating'. The group felt that this approach narrowed the categories and thus helped address the issue of autism, while allowing the question to remain as inclusive as possible.

The topics that were ultimately included in the recent census were agreed by Government at its meeting on 11 December 2009 and Question 16 of the 2011 census distinguished the two categories as described above.

The National Disability Survey, which was carried out in 2006 following the Census of Population that year, found a prevalence rate for autism of approximately 4 per 1,000 among children aged 0-17 years. However, international clinical studies generally find higher prevalence rates and this is indicative of the difficulty in measuring autism by means of household surveys or censuses. There are no plans for the CSO to repeat the 2006 National Disability Survey.

Passport Applications

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

76 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps, if any, a person (details supplied) in County Laois can take to obtain an Irish passport in circumstances in which they cannot produce a birth certificate in view of the fact that they have fled their country of birth seeking asylum and have been granted naturalisation status in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14355/11]

It is the normal practice of the Passport Service to seek original copies of birth certificates as part of applicant's proof of identity and, in many cases, to demonstrate his/her entitlement to Irish citizenship. The Department is aware that some Irish citizens who were granted refugee status by the State may have difficulty in locating a record of their birth and thus providing these certificates. The Department will consider this on a case by case basis where it arises in a passport application. However, such consideration must be mindful of the Department's clear statutory obligation under the Passport Act 2008 to satisfy itself as to the identity of each passport applicant. As regards the person in question, there is no record of a passport application having been made to the Department.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

77 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [14297/11]

In the case of the person in question, an application for a passport was made to the Passport Office in Balbriggan through the ordinary post passport service on 26 April, 2011. Applications made through this service do not have a guaranteed turnaround service, as is the case for the Passport Express service. I am pleased to confirm that a passport issued to the applicant on 1 June.

Public Service Remuneration

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

78 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance, in view of the worsening of pay and conditions for persons on low pay that are now being signalled, his views on whether it is reasonable and justified that more than 650 senior public servants continue to enjoy an exemption from the full impact of pay cuts in the public sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14117/11]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the decision made by the previous Minister for Finance, in determining the appropriate reduction in basic salary to apply to Assistant Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries and related grades in other areas of the public service, including groups at comparable levels in the local authorities, HSE, some State Bodies, Garda Síochána and Defence Forces, to take account of the reduction in their remuneration caused by the termination of the scheme of performance-related pay in 2009. These cuts formed part of the overall measures taken to reduce the cost of the public service pay bill significantly in order to help restore Ireland's budgetary position. I understand that the then Minister exercised his powers under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 to modify the reduction in salary. This avoided applying a total reduction in remuneration for these grades which would have been greater than those for other public servants including higher paid groups at the level of Secretary General or above. The resulting adjustments including the effect of the termination of the scheme of performance-related pay produced significant reductions in remuneration of 14% in the case of the grade of Deputy Secretary (or of over 27% when the effect of the pension-related deduction is included) and 11.8% in the case of the grade of Assistant Secretary (or of over 24% when the effect of the pension levy is included).

Having regard to the decision taken by Government at its first Cabinet meeting to reduce the salary of the Taoiseach to €200,000 and apply a pro-rata reduction to all members of the Government, I am reviewing the salaries payable to the highest paid public servants and intend to bring proposals on this matter to Government shortly.

The proposals being pursued by my colleague the Minster for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation are aimed at securing appropriate reform in those wage-setting mechanisms which affect key sectors of our economy, in order to protect existing jobs and encourage employment growth, in accordance with the terms of the EU/IMF programme. I understand that he intends, following completion of discussions with relevant parties shortly, to submit a final action plan for consideration by Government before the end of the month.

Coastal Erosion

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

79 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance, following the recent landslide at Strandhill beach in County Sligo caused by coastal erosion, if he will provide Sligo County Council with any funding towards emergency works to make safe sections of walkways or, in the long term, provide funding for other coastal areas vulnerable to erosion in County Sligo. [14361/11]

It is open to Sligo County Council to submit an application to the Office of Public Works seeking funding under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme. If an application is received from the Council, it will be assessed in accordance with the scheme criteria and also having regard to the overall availability of resources.

Banks Recapitalisation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

80 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount by which he expects the €24 billion bank recapitalisation bill arising from the stress test results to be reduced by the imposition of losses on subordinated bondholders, debt for equity swaps and other liability management exercises. [14411/11]

The Prudential Capital Assessment Review in the Central Bank of Ireland's Financial Measures Programme was published on 31 March 2011. The PCAR provides that €24 billion, which includes €3 billion in contingency funds, is required by the banks for capital purposes to ensure the banks maintain a minimum of Core Tier 1 capital ratio of 10.5 per cent at all times in the base case scenario and do not fall below a minimum Core Tier 1 capital ratio of 6 per cent even in an extreme stress scenario. It should be noted that €3 billion of any recapitalisation will be on a contingent basis and if it is not required, it must be returned to the State. While the Government is committed to ensuring that the banks meet the PCAR target, the Government will seek direct contributions to solving the capital issues of the banking system by looking for further significant contributions from subordinated debt holders, by the sale of assets to generate capital, and where possible, by seeking private sector investors. It is expected that the effect of these actions will be to reduce the amount of capital required very significantly.

In addition, under the Programme agreement with the IMF and EU, the Irish authorities are required to make arrangements for a claw back of any injection of capital by the State. Subject to approval by the Central Bank of Ireland, this mechanism will require the banks to repay any such capital in excess of their regulatory obligations when these financial institutions again have stable access to the wholesale funding market or have otherwise stabilised that funding including through a normal reliance on central bank funding.

The Deputy will be aware that along with the sale or run-off over time of the bank's non-core businesses, Bank of Ireland, Irish Life and Permanent, EBS Building Society and Allied Irish Bank have all recently confirmed plans to make subordinated bond holders help with the cost of recapitalisation thus reducing the cost to the taxpayer. In addition, the announcement of Bank of Ireland's plans for a rights issue is also another very important step. I understand that the precise size of the rights issue will be announced shortly after completion of its liability management exercise.

It would not be appropriate for me in my role as Minister for Finance to speculate on the amount the banks will raise from these actions.

Proposed Legislation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

81 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce the public service pensions (single scheme) Bill and the pension arrangements that currently apply for new entrants into the public service. [14110/11]

It is planned to introduce a new single pension scheme for all new entrants to the public service. The scheme will link pension age to the social welfare pension age, while entitlements will be based on average career earnings and will be linked to consumer price inflation. The scheme will considerably and credibly strengthen our public finances over the long term. It is intended to publish the necessary legislation, the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) Bill, in the current Dáil session, with a view to having the scheme legislated for by the end of the third quarter this year. At present, before approval of the legislation by the Oireachtas and the introduction of the new single scheme, new entrants to the public service become members of the existing pension schemes and will retain that membership during the course of their employment.

National Solidarity Bond

Damien English

Ceist:

82 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance the total cash value of investments in the national solidarity ten-year bond as offered by the National Treasury Management Agency; the plans that are in place to increase the uptake of this bond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14123/11]

"NTMA State Savings" is the brand name used by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) to describe the range of savings products offered by the NTMA to personal savers. The 4-year and 10-year National Solidarity Bonds are part of this range of NTMA State Savings products which also includes Prize Bonds, Savings Bonds, Savings Certificates, Instalment Savings, and Deposit Accounts (such as the Ordinary Deposit Account and the Deposit Account Plus) and are available through the post office network.

The 10-year National Solidarity Bond was launched a year ago in May 2010 and the 4-year National Solidarity Bond was launched four months ago in February 2011.

I understand from the NTMA that, as of Friday 03 June 2011, 22,000 customers have purchased the National Solidarity Bonds to the value of €479 million, of which €421 million was placed in the 10 year bond and €58 million in the 4 year bond.

The NTMA have indicated that it will continue to encourage personal savers to purchase the National Solidarity Bonds and all the other NTMA State Savings products.

Tax Code

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

83 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered imposing a levy on bondholders as an alternative revenue-collecting measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14138/11]

I have no plans to impose such a levy at this time. However, all taxes and potential taxation measures are constantly reviewed in the context of the Budget and Finance Bill.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

84 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the weekly social welfare payments that are subject to income tax. [14150/11]

The following Social Welfare Payments are taxable:

State Pension (Contributory)

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

State Pension (Transition)

Illness Benefit**

Invalidity Pension

Occupational Injury Benefit**

Interim Disability Benefit**

Disablement Benefit*

Death Benefit Pension

Widow/er's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension

Widow/er's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension

Deserted Wife's Benefit

Deserted Wife's Allowance

Prisoner's Wife's Allowance

One-Parent Family Payment (Unmarried parent, Separated Spouse, Prisoner's Spouse)

Guardian's Payment (Contributory)

Guardian's Payment ( Non-Contributory)

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Benefit

Jobseeker's Benefit and Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (first €13 per week excluded)***

Unemployability Supplement (payable with Disablement Pension)

Blind Pension

Constant Attendance Allowance (payable with Disablement Pension)

*When payable in the form of a pension rather than a once-off payment.

**Illness/Interim/Injury Benefit payable for the first 6 weeks of each year and any child dependent element of benefit is exempt from tax.

***Jobseeker's Benefit paid to systematic short-term workers is exempt.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

85 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if public sector employees in commercial State bodies have been subject to the public service pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14153/11]

Persons employed in commercial State bodies have not been and are not subject to the public service pension-related deduction. The deduction applies to persons employed in bodies defined as a "public service body" in the relevant legislation, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. The commercial State bodies to which the definition of "public service body" does not apply are set out in the Schedule to that Act and are listed hereunder. The pension-related deduction does not apply to the staff of these organisations. The organisations concerned are:

1. Any body corporate established by Act of Parliament before 6 December 1922 that, upon its establishment, was of a commercial character.

2. Dublin Airport Authority, public limited company.

3. Cork Airport Authority, public limited company.

4. Shannon Airport Authority, public limited company.

5. Bord Gáis Éireann.

6. Bord na gCon.

7. Bord na Móna.

8. Córas Iompair Éireann.

9. Coillte Teoranta.

10. Electricity Supply Board.

11. EirGrid.

12. A harbour authority within the meaning of the Harbours Act 1946 or company to which section 7 of the Harbours Act 1996 relates.

13. Horse Racing Ireland.

14. Irish National Stud Company Limited.

15. Irish Aviation Authority.

16. An Post.

17. An Post National Lottery Company.

18. Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

19. Teilifís na Gaeilge.

20. Railway Procurement Agency.

21. Voluntary Health Insurance Board.

22. A subsidiary of a body to which the Schedule to the Act relates, including a subsidiary of any such subsidiary.

Proposed Legislation

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

86 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a date for the publication of legislation reversing the effects of the Abbeylara judgment. [13633/11]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

90 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the process to be followed in developing the proposal to be voted on in a referendum on the Abbeylara judgment. [9868/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 90 together.

It is a priority of this Government to put to the people a proposal to amend the Constitution to reverse the effects of the Abbeylara judgement.

As the Deputy will be aware, the holding of a referendum will require the enactment of a Constitutional Amendment Bill by the Oireachtas. Once passed, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government by order appoints the day and time for the referendum. Polling must be not earlier than 30 days and not later than 90 days after the date of the order.

Before any constitutional amendment is drafted there needs to be detailed consideration of the complex legal issues involved. The matter will be progressed as quickly as possible.

Tax Code

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

87 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance his position on the common consolidated corporate tax base. [13632/11]

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

94 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he stands by his comments that a common consolidated corporate tax base, CCCTB, is tax harmonisation by the back door. [12839/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 94 together.

The Government's position on the CCCTB is clear and unambiguous.

On 16 March this year the European Commission, which has the right of initiation in terms of bringing forward legislative proposals, published its proposal for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. This represents the beginning of a protracted process that will involve a detailed examination of the Proposal, line by line, by all Member States at Council. Both I and the Government have made it clear that Ireland, like all other Member States, intend to actively engage in that process because only in that way can we absolutely ensure that all of the arguments are brought to the table.

I want to assure the Deputy that it is clearly understood that our engagement is strictly on the basis that taxation is a matter of national competence and that the principle of unanimity in taxation is fully respected.

The explanatory memorandum attached to the Proposal explicitly states that there is no intention to extend harmonisation to the tax rates applied in Member States; however, the Proposal does involve the introduction of common rules for the computation of the tax base. The introduction of common rules across all Member States for the calculation of the tax base of companies is of course tax harmonisation in any language.

Banking Sector Regulation

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

88 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the changes in the leadership of regulators and banks to which the Taoiseach referred to in his London speech on 18 April 2011. [9559/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, a number of changes have taken place at senior level within the Central Bank of Ireland in recent times:

Professor Patrick Honohan became Governor in 2009;

Matthew Elderfield became Head of Financial Regulation in 2010;

Gerry Quinn became Chief Operations Officer in 2011.

A number of other senior appointments have been made at the Central Bank in the areas of market supervision, financial institution supervision and enforcement. Also, the two Pillar Banks have recently announced that eight of their remaining pre-September 2008-appointed directors will be stepping down.

The Deputy will also be aware that in my statement on the Nyberg report in this House on 20 April 2011, I set out a number of measures designed to strengthen bank boards and management. These measures provide that the Chairman of each applicable institution provides me and the NTMA with a Board Renewal Plan, each institution will also be asked to provide a Management Renewal Plan. The Board Renewal Plan will set out for each institution the steps to ensure that the skills and competence levels of board members are fully adequate to meet the demands of the current and future banking system. In this regard, a programme of rotation of board members, commencing with board members appointed before September 2008 will be expected as part of the plan. This will ensure a smooth process which will ensure the succession of incumbent board members who were in place before September 2008. I expect this succession to be completed by 2012.

In addition, the Head of Financial Regulation, Mr. Matthew Elderfield, recently announced that the Central Bank is planning to review the fitness and probity of all existing executive and non-executive directors of banks which have received State support. The Central Bank will assess any incumbent directors who plan to be in post after 1 January 2012 against the new standards, including competence and track record in the period leading up to the financial crisis.

On the 22 March 2011, the Central Bank of Ireland published a consultation paper proposing the implementation of new statutory fitness and probity powers for the financial services industry. In this regard, the Central Bank is seeking views on proposed new statutory grounds which are identified in the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 and will set the requirements for entry into and removal from a senior position within regulated firms. This Act provides additional criteria on when the Central Bank can use its powers to refuse an application to appoint an individual to a senior position or remove someone, views have been sought on what senior positions should be subject to the new regime. The Central Bank expects the new regulations and statutory standards implementing the regime will come into effect from a proposed effective date of September 2011.

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

89 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the new banking expertise that is available to him as a result of changes implemented by the Government in the past two months. [9560/11]

My Department works in close liaison with all relevant agencies, particularly the Central Bank and the NTMA, on banking sector issues. Mr. John Moran, who is on secondment to the Department from the Central Bank of Ireland, has been assigned to oversee the recently announced restructuring of the banking sector and associated issues. He leads the relevant team within the Department of Finance and reports directly to the Secretary General.

Over time, a number of specialist staff have been recruited to supplement the in-house expertise of the Department in banking matters and I anticipate that more such staff will be required. I will therefore be reviewing and adding, where appropriate, to the banking expertise within the Department on an ongoing basis.

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 86.

Departmental Responsibilities

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

91 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will detail all transfers of responsibilities which have been completed to date as a result of his departmental reorganisation announced on 9 March 2011; and the timeframe for all remaining transfers. [9872/11]

The process of transferring functions from one Department to another is carried out by means of Government Orders under powers contained in section 6(1) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939, while in some cases primary legislation may be needed. Each order is carefully drafted so that all relevant legislation is listed in the Schedule to the order. The Departments which held the functions which are being transferred to other Departments have been fully engaged in this task since the Taoiseach's announcements on 9 March. Orders to implement the majority of the changes have already been made. On 29 March the Government made an order transferring responsibility for the functions of the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs in relation to Equality, Integration, Disability and Human Rights to the Minister of Justice and Law Reform with effect from 1 April 2011. A second order was made to change the title of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to the Minister for Justice and Equality — and a similar name change for the Minister's Department, with effect from 2 April 2011.

At the same Government meeting an order transferring responsibility for the functions of the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in relation to Tourism and Sport to the Minister for Transport with effect from 1 April 2011 was made. A further order was made to change the title of the Minister for Transport to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and a similar name change for the Minister's Department, with effect from 2 April 2011.

On 5 April the Government made orders to transfer the functions of the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs in relation to Marine Tourism to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the functions in relation to the National Drug Strategy to the Minister for Health and Children, the functions in relation to Social Inclusion to the Minister for Social Protection, and the functions in relation to Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands to the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport. Each of these transfers came into effect on 1 May 2011.

On 19 April the Government made orders transferring the heritage functions from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport with effect from 1 May 2011. The Department became the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on 2 May 2011. The Taoiseach also signed orders on 19 April transferring further functions from the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs. These functions included the Community functions, Waterways Ireland and the Charities functions.

On 10 May the Government made orders transferring functions of the Minister for Education and Skills regarding the National Educational Welfare Board to the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs. Residual functions of the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs were transferred to the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport. The resulting ‘shell' of the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, which has been left containing only Family Affairs and the Family Support Agency, has permitted an order to be signed with effect from 2 June 2011 renaming the Department as the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

On May 10 the Government also signed an order transferring the Office of the Minister for Children functions, with effect from 3 June 2011, from the Minister for Health and Children to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. This in turn allowed an order to be signed renaming, with effect from 4 June 2011, the Minister for Health and Children and the Department of Health and Children as the Minister for Health and the Department of Health respectively.

The Taoiseach also signed an order on 10 May transferring, with effect from 1 June 2011, the residual functions of the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in relation to Tourism and Sport to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. This has allowed an order to be signed renaming, with effect from 2 June 2011, the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport as the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht respectively.

On 24 May an order was signed transferring, with effect from 1 June 2011, the functions of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation in relation to foreign trade to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This has allowed these departments to be renamed, with effect from 2 June, as the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade respectively.

The Department of Justice and Equality has indicated that they are in discussion with the Attorney General's Office regarding the necessary legislative instruments to give effect to the transfer of certain functions of the Irish Youth Justice Service to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is also in discussion with the Attorney General's Office regarding the necessary legislative instruments to give effect to the transfer of the Irish Coast Guard to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (which will subsequently be renamed the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine).

The implementation of these various changes may well require primary legislation. Primary legislation will be necessary to facilitate further transfer of functions in relation to child care to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and is at an advanced stage. The Second Stage debate on the legislation to establish the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was concluded on 2 June. It is proposed to hold the Committee Stage Debate shortly.

At this stage, I cannot give a precise date for the completion of all of the changes to the structures of Government Departments as this depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the legislation governing the particular functions. I can assure the Deputy that everyone involved in the process, both in my own Department, in the Office of the Attorney General and in the other Departments concerned, is making every effort to complete all of the changes at the earliest possible date.

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

92 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a date for the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform. [10721/11]

I am pleased to advise that the Second Stage debate on the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011, which will provide a legislative basis to allow for the formal establishment of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and for the transfer of certain functions from the Minister for Finance, was concluded on 2 June 2011. I am hopeful that all stages will be concluded in the Houses over the coming weeks.

Croke Park Agreement

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

93 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the progress of the Croke Park agreement. [12838/11]

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

109 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the €1 billion in savings promised in the public sector under the Croke Park agreement; the savings and reforms from this agreement; the savings and reforms of the Croke Park agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14306/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 109 together.

The National Recovery Plan 2010 — 2014 commits to savings of about €1.2 billion in the Public Service Exchequer Pay Bill in the four years between 2010 and 2014, to be achieved, inter alia, by reducing the number of public servants by 24,750 over 2008 levels and by leveraging the mechanisms of the Public Service Agreement to secure efficiencies in all areas. Under that Plan, the Exchequer Pay Bill for 2011 is some €223m less than for 2010. Given the pressing need to cut expenditure, it is clear that we must ensure that the public service is leaner, more productive and more efficient. At the same time, we must make every effort to maintain and improve services to the public and to business.

The framework provided by the Public Service Agreement will be critical to achieving these objectives and the Government is on record as saying that it would like to see an accelerated implementation of the reform agenda set out in the Agreement. Paragraph 1.16 of the Agreement provides for annual reviews, focusing on the "sustainable savings generated from the implementation of the Agreement and of the agreements in each sector". In addition, it was envisaged that there would be regular reporting of progress on the implementation of the Action Plans developed for each sector.

Over recent weeks, the Implementation Body, chaired by P.J. Fitzpatrick, has been overseeing the first such review of progress to date under the Agreement to determine the sustainable savings that have been achieved and the progress made across the public service on delivering the reform agenda set out in sectoral Action Plans. I intend to submit the Report of the Body to Government shortly and publish it thereafter. As the Deputy will appreciate, it would be inappropriate to comment further on these issues pending Government's consideration of the Implementation Body's report.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 87.

Departmental Staff

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

95 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the instructions he has issued to staff, both permanent and non-established, in his Department regarding the handling of lobbying by persons and organisations; and his plans to issue any such instructions in advance of any statutory framework being instituted. [11798/11]

The most recent notification issued to staff of my Department was Office Notice 20/2009, which concerned lobbying NAMA on behalf of another. A copy is included for the Deputy's information. It is expected that central guidelines on the handling of lobbying will be issued by my Department in the coming months. Further instructions issued to the staff within the Department will, of course, have regard to such guidelines.

Office Notice: 20/2009

NAMA Lobbying

The National Asset Management Agency Act 2009 (Section 221) makes it an offence for a person to lobby NAMA on behalf of another (copy attached).

Lobbying occurs where a person communicates on behalf of another person with the intention of influencing a NAMA decision.Staff must not in any circumstances lobby or seek to influence NAMA in favour of another person.

There is an exemption from the lobbying offence where representations on behalf of a person are made in a professional capacity in the ordinary course of employment. Barring regular contacts through the NAMA Unit, Department communications with NAMA in the course of official business related to individual cases would happen only in exceptional circumstances. Care will have to be taken in the management of any communications with NAMA.

The following guidelines apply:

Representations dealing with general policy matters, relating to the performance of NAMA, or within the broad range of accountability for which the Department is responsible, should be referred through the Department's NAMA Unit to NAMA and may be answered in full.

Representations relating to the particular circumstances of individuals or companies should not be referred to NAMA. A standard response indicating the issue is a matter for NAMA and referring to the offence of lobbying NAMA will be prepared for issue in such cases.

Certain representations may raise significant policy issues based on specific cases. In such cases the policy issue should be referred through the Department's NAMA Unit to NAMA for views, but without identifying the individual case concerned. Any such referral to NAMA should be cleared by the AP in the NAMA Unit.

In limited cases it may be necessary to discuss individual details with NAMA in order to prepare an informed policy response. Such cases should only be dealt with by the NAMA Unit. In such cases individual details can be referred to NAMA, but only after clearance by the PO in the NAMA Unit.

Representations on tax issues related to NAMA can be referred to Revenue as normal. The Act provides for the full exchange of information between Revenue and NAMA.

A PQ protocol will be prepared shortly setting out the roles of the Department and of NAMA in formulating PQ responses. If you have any general queries on the NAMA lobbying offence please direct them to Mr. Brian Finn, NAMA Unit.

CSD

16 December 2009

Extract from National Asset Management Agency Act 2009

221.—(1) Subject to subsections (3) and (4), if a person communicates, on behalf of another person, with NAMA, a NAMA group entity or a person providing services or advice to NAMA or a NAMA group entity with the intention of influencing the making of a decision in relation to the performance of the functions of NAMA or the NAMA group entity, the person commits an offence.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), a reference in that subsection to a decision relating to the performance of the functions of NAMA includes a decision relating to—

(a) the lending of money,

(b) the initiation of legal proceedings,

(c) legal proceedings in being,

(d) the engagement of the services of an expert adviser or other service provider,

(e) any other matter that could give rise to an advantage or benefit to a person other than NAMA,

(f) a tender, or

(g) the purchase or sale of property.

(3) It is not an offence pursuant to subsection (1) if the communication concerned—

(a) is made public at the time of the communication,

(b) is made without an intention to benefit, or confer an advantage on, any specific person, or

(c) is made in the public interest.

(4) It is not an offence pursuant to subsection (1) if the person who makes the communication concerned—

(a) is acting in his or her professional capacity or in the course of his or her employment, and

(b) does so in that capacity.

(5) A person who believes that he or she has been communicated with in contravention of subsection (1) shall, as soon as may be, report—

(a) that the communication was made,

(b) the details of the communication made, and

(c) the name of the person who communicated with him or her,

to a member of the Garda Síochána.

(6) A person who fails to comply with subsection (5) commits an offence.

(7) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both.

Ministerial Meetings

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

96 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will detail any meetings he held with the EU-IMF delegation during its recent quarterly review. [9864/11]

On Tuesday 12 April 2011, I, together with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, met with Messrs. Szekely and Langedijk from the European Commission Services, Messrs. Chopra and Beaumont from the IMF and Messrs. Masuch and Fell from the ECB. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance, Mr. Kevin Cardiff, and a number of other senior officials also attended the meeting. Minister Howlin and I also held a wrap-up meeting with Messrs. Szekely, Chopra, Masuch on Friday 15 April 2011.

National Asset Management Agency

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

97 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide an itemised list of all bonuses paid to staff of the National Asset Management Agency since its establishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14169/11]

All officers of NAMA, including the Chief Executive Officer, are employees of the National Treasury Management Agency. I am advised by the NTMA that the remuneration packages of all NTMA staff are negotiated on an individual contract basis and are confidential. During the appearance of the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of NAMA before the Committee of Public Accounts on 13 January 2011, the Committee was informed that the salary of the Chief Executive Officer of NAMA was €430,000 per annum with a maximum bonus of 60% of salary. I am advised by the Chairman of the NTMA Advisory Committee that the Chief Executive Officer of NAMA waived his bonus for the year 2010.

Tax Code

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

98 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the total sum lost to the Exchequer in 2010 due to below-cost selling of alcohol, which allows retailers to claim VAT refunds due to losses they make on the sale; his plans to close this VAT subsidisation loophole; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14173/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that under EU and domestic VAT rules traders who are registered for VAT collect VAT on the goods and services that they sell. In turn such traders are entitled to recover the VAT they incur on their business inputs used in the purchase or production of goods or delivery of services. VAT is a tax on the value added to a supply and the collection and recovery of VAT takes place at each stage of the chain of supply from manufacturing to retailer. Consequently, if there is a decrease in value at any stage in the process the trader is entitled to a refund of the excess of VAT incurred over that collected. Separate figures are not available for input VAT on goods that were subsequently sold at a discount because traders' VAT returns show only the total input VAT and the total output VAT for the period covered by the return.

International Meetings

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

99 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a secret meeting was held in Luxembourg on Friday, 6 May 2011 of the larger countries of the European Union with the European Central Bank and the European Commission. [11690/11]

I am aware that a meeting of the Euro area member states who are also members of the G20 group took place in Luxembourg on Friday, 6 May 2011. This meeting was not notified in advance to Eurozone members who are not members of G20. The following statement, which was issued after the meeting by the President of the Eurogroup, Mr. Juncker, explains its purpose. "In the follow-up of the Annual meeting in Washington in April, Minister Lagarde, in the function of French Presidency of the G20, and Prime Minister Juncker, as President of the Eurogroup, had decided to convene the Euro Area Ministers of the G20 to an informal meeting to discuss a number of G20 matters. The meeting took place today 6 May in Luxembourg in the late afternoon.

As Greece had been the subject of extensive discussions in Washington, Prime Minister Juncker decided to also invite the Greek Minister of Finance, Mr. Papaconstantinou, to join the other Ministers for a brief exchange on the current situation."

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 31.

Job Creation

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

101 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a public works programme as an immediate measure to combat unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9934/11]

The Jobs Initiative, announced in the Dáil in early May, included a range of expenditure measures designed to help in getting people back to work. Investing in public infrastructure was a substantial component of the overall Initiative. Public capital investment can play an important role in promoting employment. It can stimulate economic activity as well as providing direct employment. Additionally, well targeted investment in infrastructure can have significantly higher indirect job creation impacts in the medium term. As part of the Jobs Initiative, the Government has refocused part of its capital expenditure to boost jobs in the construction sector. Specifically, there will be further investment in schools, local and regional roads and the national energy retrofitting programme.

In this regard, a number of changes to the capital envelope were announced:

An additional €30 million will be made available for school works this year,

There will be investment of an additional €60 million in regional and local roads to carry out much needed repair and restoration work and investment of an additional €15 million in local sustainable transport projects such as cycle lanes, pedestrian routes and park-and-ride facilities;

There will also be investment of an additional €30 million in the national energy retrofitting programme; and furthermore,

Two additional PPP schools bundles will be commenced in areas where additional infrastructure is required post-2016.

In April of this year the Government agreed that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would carry out a major review of the public capital programme for 2012 to 2016; this review is currently underway. Capital programmes and projects that support economic recovery and achieve the highest sustainable employment impact in the short to medium term will be at the core of the review.

National Lottery

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

102 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the licence for the national lottery should again be made the subject of open competition, with the possibility of the licence being granted to a private operator. [10950/11]

The current licence to operate the National Lottery expires at the end of 2011. Arrangements for the future licensing are being considered and a decision on this will be taken following such consideration.

State Assets

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

103 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recommendation of the McCarthy report on State assets and liabilities that the proceeds of the sale of State assets should be used to reduce the State’s very high level of indebtedness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10938/11]

Following publication of the Report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities in April, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr. Howlin, asked Departments to give their considered views on the Group's recommendations. Departments are reverting now with their views. After considering these submissions, Minister Howlin intends to bring proposals to Government on the matter. Under the EU/IMF Programme, the Government has agreed to discuss its plans with the European Commission, the IMF and the ECB when it has finalised its response to the Review. This is to take place by the end of the year.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

104 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he concurs with the view of SIPTU president that the recommendations of the review group on State assets and liabilities regarding the sale of State assets constitutes a recipe for disaster. [10948/11]

I do not concur with that view. The Government is considering the State assets review group report as part of its overall consideration of State assets and in the context of the commitments made in the Programme for Government.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

105 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he will define the term “non-strategic” in the context of the proposed sale of €2 billion of State assets contained in the programme for Government. [10949/11]

I understand that following the recent publication of the report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform intends to bring proposals to Government on the matter. This will be done in the context of the commitments made in the Programme for Government to fund investment in key networks of the economy through the sale of non-strategic assets. In identifying which assets can be regarded as non-strategic, the Minister will be guided, inter alia, by the detailed sectoral analysis contained in the report of the State Assets Review Group.

Flood Relief

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

106 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the Office of Public Works survey work on a river (details supplied) in County Kerry which causes flooding in the locality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14253/11]

The Office of Public Works is not engaged in a survey of the river concerned. However, this office allocated total funding of €27,000 to Kerry County Council under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme to undertake a flood assessment and hydraulic study of the Sneem and Ardsheelhane River catchment areas in order to assess the flooding problem. A pre-feasibility study has now been completed by the consultants appointed by Kerry County Council for this purpose, and the resultant final report is currently being examined by the Council.

Tax Code

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

107 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the price of diesel for coach and bus companies should be lowered to help offset the negative impacts on the industry brought about by the abolition of the excise duty rebate in 2006, which added 34.5 cent to the cost of a litre of diesel; his further views on whether a cost-benefit analysis should be carried out to determine whether lowering the price of diesel for coach and bus companies would generate activity in the sector that might lead to an overall increase in revenue for the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13596/11]

A derogation under EU Directive 2003/96 on energy taxation allowed the application of a reduced rate of Mineral Oil Tax to fuel used for the purposes of certain road passenger services. That derogation has expired and the arrangement was, therefore, terminated by the Finance Act 2008. It would not be possible, having regard to the relevant provisions of EU law, to reintroduce a scheme of that nature for those services.

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

108 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Finance, in respect of the Finance (No. 2) Bill 2011, when it is expected that tax provisions will be made for couples in civil partnerships; if it is expected that there will be another finance Bill dealing specifically with civil partnerships, and that tax provisions for civil partnerships will be dealt with as a matter of urgency. [14302/11]

The Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011 will be published on Thursday 9 June 2011. It will provide for the necessary taxation changes to the various Taxation Acts arising from the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. I expect the Bill to be enacted before the summer.

Question No. 109 answered with Question No. 93.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

110 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) is obliged to pay the universal social charge on their pension entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14311/11]

The position is that the Universal Social Charge, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, is a tax payable on gross income, including notional pay, after any relief for certain trading losses and capital allowances, but before pension contributions. All individuals are liable to pay the Universal Social Charge if their gross income exceeds the threshold of €4,004 per annum (€77 per week). However, there is an exemption for social welfare pensions, whether paid by the Department of Social Protection or by a similar authority in another country. There is no exemption for private pensions such as an occupational pension. While there is no age-related exemption, individuals aged over 70 years will pay USC at a maximum rate of 4% on any non-social welfare income that exceeds an annual threshold of €10,036, unlike other individuals who move to a top rate of USC of 7% on the part of their income that exceeds an annual threshold of €16,016.

A pension is chargeable to USC in respect of the amount of the pension paid in a tax year. Accordingly, if a pension is not in payment in a particular tax year, USC will not be payable in that year in respect of that pension. However, once the pension starts to be paid the full amount of the pension paid in the tax year and in each subsequent year is liable to USC.

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

111 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance the analysis he has carried out of the common consolidated corporate tax base proposal; the effect this proposal will have on enterprise and inward investment if it is adopted here; the effect this proposal will have on enterprise and inward investment if it is adopted not here but in other European states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10011/11]

The Department of Finance commissioned an Economic Impact Assessment of the proposed CCCTB from Ernst and Young in the US during 2008 and 2009. The purpose of the study was to analyse the budgetary and economic implications for the European Union and individual member states of the introduction of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. The potential impacts were estimated for three different scenarios: a voluntary CCCTB in all twenty-seven member states, a mandatory CCCTB in all twenty-seven member states and a mandatory CCCTB in nine member states (the Enhanced Co-operation option).

The results of the study point to a reduction in foreign direct investment in Ireland in the order of 1.4% under a voluntary CCCTB and 4.5% under a mandatory CCCTB. Whereas the scope of the study did include the impacts of a mandatory CCCTB on the nine participating member states, it did not cover the resultant impacts on member states that did not participate. Whilst it is far too early to speculate on the prospects of a CCCTB proceeding by way of enhanced cooperation, I want to assure the Deputy that there is provision in the Treaties to ensure that the spillover effects on non-participating member states are minimised.

National Parks

Tom Barry

Ceist:

112 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the 50,000 visitors per annum who come to Doneraile Court, County Cork, he will consider opening a facility that could capitalise on and increase those visitor numbers, such as an interpretative or visitors’ centre or café. [13513/11]

An ongoing programme of maintenance and improvement works is being carried out to the range of historic buildings in Doneraile Park, including Doneraile House (Court) and adjoining structures. The House has been secured and weather-proofed but opening to the public would require further substantial works and funding is not currently available. The welcome increase in visitor numbers to the Park in the past two years is largely due to the success of the programme of improvements and the provision of a playground and additional parking area.

Tax Collection

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

113 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if there is evidence of tax being collected from a car repair and sales business operating at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 22 since the 1970s; and what, if any, is the evidence. [14336/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it has noted the matter raised by the Deputy but, for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality, it is unable to comment further on an individual case.

Government Debt

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

114 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the size of the Government debt between 2006 and 2011 as a percentage of GDP and in monetary terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14393/11]

The figures for National Debt and General Government debt for the years 2006-2010 as well as the latest estimates of each for 2011 are set out in the following table. National debt is defined as the total outstanding amount of principal borrowed by Central Government and not repaid to date less liquid assets available for redemption of those liabilities at the same date.

General Government debt is the standard measure used within the EU for comparative purposes. It includes the National debt as well as Local Government debt and some other minor liabilities of Government. In addition, General Government debt is a gross measure and it does not allow for the netting off of cash balances, which had been built up considerably in recent years, so adding greatly to General Government debt. The main reason for the large increase in the gap between National debt and General Government debt at end-2010 is the €31 billion in Promissory Notes committed to financial institutions in 2010. Due to the fact that the General Government debt operates on an accruals basis, this amount was added in full to the General Government debt in 2010 but the cash borrowing to fund these payments will only take place on a phased basis, beginning in 2011, and so only adds to the National debt on a phased basis also.

As the General Government debt is the standard measurement of gross indebtedness used for comparative purposes within the EU, it is often referenced as a percentage of GDP. The debt/GDP ratios for the years 2006-2011 are also shown in the following table.

Revisions to the GDP level could impact on the General Government debt/GDP ratios

National Deb

General Government Deb

€ billion

€ billion

% of GDP

2006

35.9

44.1

25

2007

37.6

47.4

25

2008

50.4

79.8

44

2009

75.2

104.8

66

2010

93.4

148.1

96

2011 (Forecast)

122.0

173.0

111

Budget Deficit

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

115 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the size of the Exchequer deficit in national budgets between 2006 and 2011 as a percentage of GDP and in monetary terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14399/11]

The figures for the Exchequer Balance for the years 2006-2010 as well as the latest estimate for 2011 are set out in the following table, along with nominal GDP figures for the years 2006-2010 as well as the latest estimate for 2011. The Deputy may wish to note that the Exchequer Balance figures for the years 2006-2009 are available from the September 2010 edition of my Department's Budgetary and Economic Statistics publication. The 2010 figure is from the end-December 2010 Exchequer Statement. The 2011 figure is the Department of Finance forecast from the recently published Stability Programme Update (SPU). These documents are available on my Department's website.

The nominal GDP figures for the years 2006-2010 are from the CSO Quarter 4 2010 Quarterly National Accounts publication, which is available on the CSO website. The 2011 figure is the Department of Finance forecast from the recently published SPU.

Revisions to the GDP level could affect the Exchequer Balance/GDP ratios

Exchequer Balance

Nominal GDP

Exchequer Balance

€ million

€ million

% of GDP

2006

+2,264

177,342

+1.3

2007

-1,619

189,374

-0.9

2008

-12,714

179,988

-7.1

2009

-24,641

159,647

-15.4

2010

-18,745

153,939

-12.2

2011 (Forecast)

-18,165

156,075

-11.6

Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 40.

Economic Growth

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

117 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the discussions he has had with EU colleagues on the issue of economic recovery throughout the eurozone; the extent to which various concepts and methods have been examined, pursued or adopted; if such measures are likely to take cognisance of the needs of smaller open economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14424/11]

At our regular meetings, my fellow European finance ministers and I discuss the economic situation in the eurozone and in individual Member States. Such discussions draw on the work of the various technical and policy committees that feed into the Council. At these meetings, we explore all available avenues that will accelerate economic recovery across the Euro zone. An example of this is provided by the ‘Euro-Plus Pact' aimed at improving competitiveness and the fiscal rules of Member States. Competitiveness is a fundamental pillar of economic growth for any small economy such as Ireland and is an area in which we are actively seeking to improve to boost our growth prospects.

My ministerial colleagues are aware of the importance of promoting an environment that will foster growth in Ireland. Our aim is to develop a common understanding of Ireland's economic strategy and repeat that our core strengths remain — modern infrastructure, well-educated workforce, favourable demographics and a pro-enterprise business environment.

Our European partners recognise that Ireland is actively pursing an economic programme aimed at restoring sustainable economic growth, underpinned by a healthy banking sector and sound public finances.

I will remain in regular contact with EU colleagues for the foreseeable future to continue our ongoing work in pursuing the eurozone's economic recovery.

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 37.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the discernible trends emerging in respect of economic growth throughout the current year and thereafter; the factors most likely to affect this; the extent to which he has in mind measures to respond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14426/11]

The Irish economy is expected to return to growth this year. On the back of a strong export performance, my Department is forecasting that GDP will grow by around 0.75% in 2011 and 2.5% in 2012. In the second half of 2010 we witnessed some easing in the annual rate of decline of GDP activity. Exports are expected to continue supporting economic activity over the medium-term, with a gradual pick-up in domestic demand also foreseen as the recovery broadens out and spills over to the labour market. For the period 2013-15, the economy is forecast to grow by 3% per annum on average. Unemployment is forecast to increase further this year, to around 14.5%. While the numbers out of work should start to decline next year and gradually come down over the medium-term, the unemployment rate is projected to stay high over the forecast horizon.

The unprecedented turmoil that the Irish economy is still going through means that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding macroeconomic projections at this time and a number of risks to this outlook have been identified as recently as the end of April in the Irish Stability Programme Update. These risks include the speed of balance sheet repair, fiscal consolidation and credit availability. The balance of risks in respect of these domestic factors is largely to the downside. On the other hand, risks to the outlook for net exports are to the upside.

The Government is taking positive steps to shore up economic activity exemplified by delivering a number of innovative policies and structural reforms as outlined in the Programme for Government and the Jobs Initiative. These should assist in supporting economic activity in the period ahead.

The Department of Finance's GDP forecast for 2011 is broadly in line with that of the European Commission (0.6%), the Central Bank (0.9%) and the IMF (0.6%). In fact, the most recent Reuters consensus forecast for GDP growth has been revised upwards. Furthermore, I note that the ESRI recently published a forecast of 2% for GDP growth in 2011.

Banking Sector

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if banking staff, including middle to senior management, receive performance-related income arising from the manner in which they are expected to deal with account holders; if any particular trends have been identified amongst certain financial institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14427/11]

The Central Bank of Ireland published the findings of its review of remuneration policies and practices in a number of Irish retail banks on its website on 1 December 2010. The review assessed whether banks have changed how they remunerate employees, particularly those in senior executive positions, to reflect incoming regulatory standards and the lessons of the financial crisis. In particular, it examined whether banks have ended remuneration practices which fostered inappropriate risk-taking or inadequate risk management. The review found that while the majority of banks have started to reform their remuneration policies and practices, the balance of the Central Bank's findings were discouraging. For example, there is little evidence that banks have self-consciously made a link between their risk appetite and their incentive structures, exposing the banks, and by extension the State, to the consequences of inappropriate risk-taking; the governance and oversight of remuneration practices is poor; and in the majority of banks, procedures to determine remuneration are not clear, well documented or internally transparent. There was little evidence of consideration of risk or collaboration with risk management functions to ensure remuneration policies are aligned with long-term strategic plans.

Issues identified in the review are being followed up individually with institutions by the Central Bank. Detailed EU requirements on remuneration policies in credit institutions have come into force in Irish law since 1 January 2011 through amendments made in the capital requirements directive. These obligations are supplemented by extensive guidelines issued by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors, which is now known as the European Banking Authority, compliance with which will be closely monitored by the Central Bank of Ireland in assessing adherence with each institution's legal responsibilities. Enforcement action can be taken by the Central Bank in case of non-compliance. These measures will address the significant issues disclosed in the Central Bank's review of remuneration policies and practices which were also highlighted as significant contributors to Ireland's banking crisis in the recent Nyberg report.

Following a request from my Department, the National Treasury Management Agency, which has legal responsibility for managing the State's shareholder relationship with the banks, has recently written to the covered institutions requesting that they undertake a review of remuneration practice, that they have further discussion with the Department of Finance ahead of any commitment to additional redundancy payments and that the bank does not commit to further termination payments until the review is completed. An analysis of severance entitlements has also being requested.

Finally, if the Deputy has any concerns relating to the manner in which bank staff deal with customers which he believes reflects the design of their remuneration arrangements, he should certainly bring this information to the attention of my Department.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if banks have attracted sufficient deposits to facilitate lending for productive purposes, thereby contributing to economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14428/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, restoring the funding position of the Irish banks to health is a major priority of the programme agreement concluded with the IMF and EU. Significant elements of the programme are intended to contribute to this objective. This includes the right-sizing of the Irish banking system through the implementation of the bank deleverage plans to ensure that in the future the banks can be adequately funded from the market — both from deposits and the international debt markets. In addition, a central element of the programme agreement requires the banks to achieve long-term sustainable loan-to-deposits ratios aligned with good practice international standards and consistent with the new regulatory standards for bank liquidity being put in place internationally. These initiatives will be implemented in a way that fully supports the lending required by the economy. The Government's Plan for the restructuring of the Irish banking system announced at the end of March last creates capacity for the pillar banks to lend in excess of €30bn. over the next three years. The Central Bank has estimated that SME and mortgage credit of up to €16.5bn will be required over that period. The bank system will, therefore, be equipped to facilitate the lending highlighted in the Deputy's question to underpin economic recovery.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he has identified insufficiency of lending to business, including small and medium-sized enterprises; the steps he will take to address this issue as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14429/11]

Both AIB and Bank of Ireland provide my Department with monthly figures on balance sheet volumes, sanctioned facilities and geographic and sectoral breakdowns of their SME lending. In addition, under the terms of the government recapitalisation, both banks also produce a quarterly report which incorporates figures for sanctions and drawdowns by SMEs. The data contained in these reports will continue to be reviewed and analysed by my Department and the Credit Review Office to ensure that the banks are compliant with the terms of the Government recapitalisation as it relates to the provision of credit for SMEs. The Deputy may be aware that the restructuring plan creates capacity for the Pillar Banks to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the next three years. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16 billion to €20 billion over this period. In each bank, a team of senior managers will be dedicated to the sole task of ensuring lending continues to grow to support economic growth.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the total number of business enterprises in the manufacturing and service sectors whose applications for overdraft or working capital have been refused by the banks or transferred into a term loan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14430/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if any information has been made available to him regarding the number of instances in which financial institutions have refused to provide lending facilities for the business or job creation sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14432/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 125 together.

On 23 May last, the CSO published data in "Access to Finance" which showed that 74% of firms were successful or partially successful in applying for bank loans in the twelve-month period to September 2010. Clearly, it is important that the banks continue to make credit available to support economic recovery. However, it is not in the interest of the banks, businesses or the economy for banks to lend unless the business is viable and has the capacity to meet the interest payments and repay the sum borrowed.

As I have said before, the Credit Review Office will, on application from the borrower, carry out an independent and impartial review of a bank's decision to refuse or reduce credit. I would strongly advise anyone who has unsuccessfully appealed through the bank's own internal appeals process to seek a review by the Credit Review Office. In addition, both Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank provide information on an aggregate basis on loan approval rates as part of their monthly and quarterly reporting to my Department in relation to credit.

Tax Yield

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which the returns under the various taxation headings are on target with the projection at budget time in December 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14431/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department publishes the Exchequer statement on its website two working days following the end of the month. The most recent Exchequer statement was published last Thursday, 2 June, and this contains details of the tax revenue performance in the first five months of the year. During this period, €12.8 billion in tax revenue was collected, an increase of €677 million or 5.6% on the corresponding period in 2010. As is always the case, my Department will make a statement on the matter in light of the mid-year returns. The cumulative position at the end of May 2011 is that, in overall terms, tax revenues were broadly in line with target at about €70 million or 0.5% below expectations. The table below sets out the detail under the various tax headings.

Performance against Profile

Exchequer Tax Receipts

End-May Target

End-May Outturn

Excess/ Shortfall

Excess/ Shortfall

€m

€m

€m

%

Income Tax (including USC)

5,062

5,061

-1

0.0

VAT

4,959

4,867

-92

-1.9

Corporation Tax

669

599

-70

-10.4

Excise

1,741

1,791

50

2.9

Stamps

235

235

0

0.0

Capital Gains Tax

83

83

0

0.3

Capital Acquisitions Tax

28

39

11

40.8

Customs

88

98

10

11.7

Levies

0

0

-

-

Unallocated Tax Deposits

0

21

-

-

Total

12,865

12,795

-70

-0.5%

Question No. 125 answered with Question No. 123.

Drainage Schemes

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which it is intended to complete or continue drainage works at various identified locations in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14433/11]

The Commissioners of Public Works are continuing to work closely with Kildare County Council in their efforts to alleviate fluvial flooding throughout County Kildare. The Office of Public Works is currently carrying out a programme of flood relief works in the Johnstown area. These works are well advanced and it is expected that the scheme will be completed late in 2011 or early in 2012. The Office of Public Works has also approved funding for Flood Relief Works under the Minor Works Scheme in a number of areas in Co. Kildare for the current year. The most recent developments in relation to these schemes can be outlined as follows:

Sallins:

In addition to the emergency flood relief works, which were carried out by the Local Authority in Sallins, the OPW has approved funding for further flood alleviation works in this area. Kildare County Council is currently completing the procurement process for this work and hope to be on site in October 2011.

Butterstream, Clane:

The OPW approved funding for a flood alleviation scheme in this area and works were successfully completed earlier this year.

Ardclough:

A scheme has been approved for Ardclough and it anticipated that works will be on site late in 2011.

Newtown:

A programme of flood alleviation measures has been completed in the Newtown area.

Confey, Leixlip:

Works at Confey have been completed.

Kildare County Council has recently submitted a further application to the OPW for funding under the Minor Works Scheme to complete works in Rathmore, Dun Carraig in Leixlip and the Mooney Stream in Newbridge. The OPW is considering this application in conjunction with the many other applications that have been received under the Minor Works Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if all outstanding works in respect of restoration of the landscape arising from the Boyne drainage scheme have been completed in accordance with original agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14434/11]

The Boyne Drainage Scheme was completed in 1986 and all rehabilitation was completed in accordance with scheme requirements. A certificate of completion for the scheme was attained. The Office of Public Works continues to maintain this scheme in line with the requirements of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945.

Energy Efficiency

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he encourages the use of alternative energy technology in the heating of all public buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14435/11]

The EU's Energy Performance Building Directive (Recast) 2010 requires that a technical, environmental and economic feasibility study for high-efficiency alternative energy systems be carried out for all new buildings and buildings undergoing major renovation. Alternative energy systems include those from renewable energy sources e.g. biomass heating, solar water heating, etc., district heating systems where they are based entirely or partially on energy from renewable sources, cogeneration (combined heat and power) and heat pumps.

The Building Regulations 2008, Technical Guidance Document, Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy — Buildings other than Dwellings), requires consideration to be given to the use of renewable energy, e.g. solar water heating, and to heat recovery from other processes, where applicable.

Across the entire range of procurement processes, including Public Private Partnership (PPP), Design and Build and also traditional procurement, for the past number of years, the Office of Public Works (OPW) requires that the use of alternative energy technologies is considered and utilised where technically and economically feasible. The requirement to consider alternative energy sources now forms an integral part of the design process.

As a result of these requirements, there have been a number of recently constructed buildings which have had alternative energy systems installed. These systems have included biomass boilers (both centralised and decentralised) using wood chip or wood pellet, Solar Heating systems for Domestic Hot Water, heat pumps and heat recovery ventilation systems. There are also a number of cogeneration systems installed in several buildings.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he can identify and rectify areas of inflation throughout the economy; the extent to which corrective measures can be taken, having regard to the need to maintain economic competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14436/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the CSO produces detailed sub-indices of the CPI and HICP components and it is relatively easy to identify particular sectors where the rate of inflation is significant. Most recently, these include increases in energy-related, insurance and mortgage interest components. With regard to energy, given that Ireland is a price taker in the international energy markets, it is not surprising to see the recent surge in commodity prices reflected in consumer prices. There is an independent Energy Regulator who sets tariffs for both electricity and gas prices and the Government has no role in the decision making process.

Similarly, both insurance premiums and mortgage rates are set by participants in the private sector and the ECB and the Government has no specific role to play in regulating these prices. However, I am acutely aware of the difficulties faced by families on foot of the recent mortgage rate increases. In that regard, I would like to remind the Deputy that there are a number of measures in place or in train to assist these homeowners, which include the following:

A Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears has been in place since 1 January last, which helps to keep repossessions to a minimum, and mandates a co-operative approach on the part of banks;

Review of the Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme;

Introduction of the deferred interest scheme in banks covering over 70% of the market;

The Department of Justice is working on bankruptcy and debt law issues; a commitment to legislation forms part of the agreement with the EU-IMF.

Looking to the future, it should be noted that inflation is projected to decline next year as the rise in commodities and the recent increase in mortgages fall out. It is also worth noting that on an EU-harmonised basis, Ireland has had the lowest rate of inflation in the euro area over the last two years, which represents a significant improvement in our relative cost competitiveness. Indeed, inflation this year and next year will be lower than in the euro area.

As our recovery will be export-led, it is crucial that the competitiveness gains made in the last number of years be sustained to take advantage of the global economic recovery. To this end, both the Programme for Government and the EU/IMF Programme outline a series of structural reforms, which will help to further restore competitiveness and support economic growth.

Flood Relief

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

130 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if funding will be provided to repair the Glosha Sea embankment at Cromane, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14487/11]

The Office of Public Works received a number of funding applications from Kerry County Council on 31 May 2011 under the Minor Flood Works and Coastal Protection Scheme. These applications include a request for funding to undertake embankment strengthening works at Cromane. The proposals received are currently being assessed in accordance with the scheme criteria and having regard to the overall availability of resources for flood risk management.

Fiscal Policy

Stephen S. Donnelly

Ceist:

131 Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance the specific threats, as referenced explicitly by the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland on national television, that were made by the European institutions to him or the Irish Central Bank or their officials by the ECB, the IMF or European officials or politicians with regard to not paying back unguaranteed senior bonds in the Irish banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14537/11]

I am not aware of any such reference that the Governor may have made on national television. In principle, the Government is in favour of burden-sharing with bondholders in banks and there are strong arguments for doing so, particularly in circumstances in which a bank has been provided with significant taxpayer support. The question of burden-sharing with senior unguaranteed bondholders of Irish financial institutions was raised by the previous Government in the programme negotiations with the EU-IMF and rejected. It was also discussed with the EU, IMF and ECB in the context of this Government's approach to restructuring the banking system as set out in my Statement to the House on Banking Matters on 31 March last. There was a serious concern that a unilateral move on Ireland's part would provoke great uncertainty in financial markets and create a contagion effect with the potential to seriously damage other banks and member states.

In my 31 March Statement on Banking Matters, I emphasised that it is vital that the proposed three banks (Bank of Ireland, AIB with EBS and IL&P) are able to operate in the market place following their reorganisation, including regaining access to normal funding mechanisms in due course. The Government therefore decided, informed by the reservations of the ECB, that these banks will not burden-share with senior bondholders of their constituent banks, whether guaranteed or unguaranteed. As the Deputy will be aware, work is underway to ensure appropriate burden-sharing by subordinated bondholders in AIB, EBS, IL&P and Bank of Ireland.

The ECB has been an essential source of funding to the Irish banking system since wholesale markets first saw disruption over three years ago, and particularly since these markets were closed off to the Irish banks. This support has been crucial for keeping the country open for business, and is provided by the ECB at an exceptionally low interest rate of 1.25%. The ECB announced, on foot of our stress test results, that the basis on which it provides this funding — in other words, how it regards and values the collateral it accepts — would not change even in the event of a downgrade by ratings agencies. This is a significant commitment which reassures markets about the funding position of the Irish banks.

Our radical downsizing and restructuring of the banking sector is intended to provide a secure financial system that will protect deposits and ensure the flow of credit to Irish consumers and businesses. This will result in a smaller, fit-for-purpose banking sector, that will be viable and independent from the State and in time will have a more normalised reliance on Eurosystem support.

Higher Education Grants

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

132 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if mature students attending an institute of technology (details supplied), who are receiving the back to education allowance and maintenance grants from the vocational education committee while studying courses such as construction management, will continue to receive these payments to enable them to finish their studies. [14111/11]

From September 2010, all new applicants who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance are ineligible for the maintenance element of the student grant. However, the cost of the student contribution and any fees payable to colleges will continue to be met, for eligible students, by the Exchequer on their behalf. Students should apply to their local grant awarding authority, i.e. their local authority or Vocational Education Committee, to have their eligibility assessed in this regard.

Students who were in receipt of the BTEA and the maintenance grant for the 2009/10 academic year will continue to be eligible for both payments for the duration of their current course, provided they meet the terms and conditions of the relevant grant scheme, which again is assessed by their local grant awarding authority.

School Accommodation

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

133 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a submission to the building unit capital appraisal section of his Department from a school (details supplied) in County Kerry will be successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14135/11]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department seeking funding to provide additional accommodation. The application is currently being assessed and my Department will convey a decision on the application to the school authority when the assessment process has been completed.

Third Level Fees

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

134 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a non-EU citizen, resident in County Cork since 2007, can qualify for fees under the Irish rate in third level college. [14136/11]

The position is that where undergraduate students do not meet the eligibility criteria of the free fees schemes, it is the higher education institution concerned that determines, in accordance with its criteria, the appropriate tuition fee payable by students. It would be advisable for the student to contact the college she hopes to study in to receive clarification on which fee rate they would deem appropriate. Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides tax relief, at the standard rate of tax, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including certain approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU member states and non-EU countries.

School Accommodation

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

135 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision in respect of its application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14212/11]

The school referred to by the Deputy was allocated devolved funding for the provision of a mainstream classroom under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme in 2010. The school authorities subsequently sought additional funding towards this building project.

My Department sought further clarification from the school in relation to the application for additional funding and this information was provided last week. This information is current being considered and a decision will be forwarded to the school authority as soon as possible.

Special Educational Needs

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

136 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to appoint special needs assistants at a school (details supplied) for the coming year beginning September 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14223/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools. The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18 March 2011, and intends to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible, in advance of the coming school year. However, while this process is ongoing it is not possible to predict the numbers of Special Needs Assistants that will be allocated to any school, including the school referred to by the Deputy in Ballinteer.

School Services Staff

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

137 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person employed by a school as a cook and paid by the board of management should be subject to the public service pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14224/11]

The public service pensions-related deduction applies to public servants working in public service bodies who contribute to a pension scheme, or who receive a payment in lieu of such a contribution. Employees who do not contribute to a public service pension scheme are not subject to the public service pensions-related deduction.

Redundancy Payments

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

138 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 105 of 19 April 2011, when a breakdown of the calculation of the redundancy payment will be provided to a person (details supplied). [14286/11]

A letter setting out the background and the details of the redundancy payment issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on 6 May. The issues raised in the details supplied with the Parliamentary Question are being examined by my Department and a response will issue directly to the person.

Departmental Expenditure

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

139 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the terms of the settlement with Chambers Ireland with regard to the competency development programme are confidential; if he will detail the amount that was outstanding before the settlement agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14290/11]

In accordance with normal practice for settlements of this type and to protect the commercial interests of the parties involved, the settlement agreement contained a confidentiality clause.

The settlement agreement was negotiated between the parties with legal advice and involved a number of claims and counterclaims on each side. As a result the outstanding amounts due by both parties were in dispute. A schedule of payments was agreed by both parties under the settlement agreement and both parties are in full compliance with the terms of settlement.

Special Educational Needs

Seán Kenny

Ceist:

140 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that the special needs class at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17 will be retained for the next primary school year. [14292/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports. This includes the allocation of resource teaching hours to schools as well as the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required and the discontinuation of such classes where the need no longer exists. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such supports.

In respect of special classes, schools are required to observe Department policy in enrolling children to these classes. This includes having a professional assessment confirming that the child's attainment levels meets the Department's criteria and a recommendation for special class placement. Schools are eligible for resources for special classes when the pupils enrolled meet the Department's criteria.

Schools are required to liaise with their local SENO in the context of any proposed placements in such classes. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. I have arranged to have your query forwarded to the NCSE for its attention and direct reply.

State Examinations

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

141 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he will introduce to reform the points system at post-primary level and address the current demands that are placed on both teachers and students as they prepare for the leaving certificate examination. [14301/11]

Legally, the entry criteria for programmes of higher education are matters for decision by the institutions themselves. I have asked the higher education interests to examine the scope of reform of the CAO points system to address some of the negative effects on students' learning in senior cycle. I look forward with interest to the debate on this important area.

Special Educational Needs

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

142 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rights of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow regarding education. [14319/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating special needs resources to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. The NCSE will continue to support schools, parents, children and teachers and special needs assistants will continue to be deployed to schools to meet children's needs in line with my Department's policy. SENOs with their local knowledge and expertise are a valuable resource to parents in sourcing an educational placement. I have arranged to have your query forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Higher Education Grants

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

143 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14326/11]

While the student grant schemes do not extend to postgraduate study outside Ireland, Section 473A, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, as amended by Section 11 of the Finance Act 2011, provides for tax relief, at the standard rate of tax, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including certain approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. The student in question will be able to obtain details on how to claim this relief on the Revenue Commissioners' website at www.revenue.ie.

School Staffing

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

144 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the changes he will make to criteria governing the appointment of posts in the home school community liaison scheme and the clarifications that are being made to vacant HSCL posts that are to be filled in the forthcoming school year. [14334/11]

The current provision of Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) services will remain in the 200 post-primary and 345 urban primary schools participating in DEIS.

The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for the 2011/12 school year and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching positions takes place in the context of the Programme for National Recovery, the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014. It is necessary for my Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure that the number of teachers employed in schools is consistent with those programmes.

Schools can only fill their vacancies from the surplus permanent and CID holding teachers. It is not possible to permit schools to fill vacancies in any other manner until the surplus permanent teachers are redeployed.

Schools with HSCL co-ordinator vacancies were requested to hold off making new appointments. Although HSCL co-ordinator appointments are made internally from among the staff of schools, the filling of the replacement post for the teacher deployed to undertake HSCL duties may have implications with regard to panel arrangements.

Given that there are currently 248 surplus permanent and CID holding teachers remaining on panels, my Department will not decide until 10 June 2011 (at the earliest) on giving schools authority to commence recruitment in any other manner. My Department may decide at that stage to prioritise schools that have fully co-operated with the redeployment process.

Discussions with the relevant education partners also include devising whatever additional arrangements are necessary to facilitate the redeployment of any remaining permanent and CID holding teachers (including 21 surplus permanent teachers that do not currently have access to a redeployment panel).

Third Level Staff

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

145 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an audit has ever been conducted to ascertain the average number of contact hours per week lecturers in publicly funded third level institutions are engaging in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14344/11]

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

146 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills, if there has never been an audit to ascertain the average number of contact hours per week lecturers in publicly funded third level institutions are engaging in, if he will give an explanation; and his plans to carry out any such audit. [14345/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.

The standard contract for lecturers in the IoT sector commits them to deliver a maximum of 560 teaching contact hours per year, with a norm of 16 teaching contact hours per week. There is no specified contact hours in the contracts of university lecturers. I am not aware of any audit to ascertain the average number of contact hours per week lecturers provide and I do not propose to carry out such an audit. It is a matter for management in Higher Education institutions to manage their staff resources so as to maximise efficient and effective delivery of services. In line with the reforms required under the Croke Park agreement the new Strategy for Higher Education recommends a comprehensive review of existing contracts with a view to achieving a more modern employment contract for academic staff.

Under the terms of the Croke Park Agreement, academic staff in Universities are required to provide an additional hour per week to facilitate teaching and learning. The Agreement also requires academic staff to cooperate with the introduction of academic workload management and full economic costing models which will improve the quality of information available for resource management in universities.

Following discussions with the Teachers Union of Ireland under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, agreement was reached that lecturing staff would, where required by management, deliver up to an additional two hours lecturing per week above the current weekly norms. In addition to this, lecturing staff would also deliver an additional hour per week by way of structured timetabled periods of availability of lecturers to students.

Implementation of the provisions of the Croke Park Agreement is proceeding following their acceptance by the unions in the Higher Education sector, and my Department has directed that all the provisions be in operation by the start of the 2011/12 academic year.

EU Funding

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of his meeting with workers (details supplied) about retraining programmes funded by the globalisation fund; when he plans to meet workers about retraining schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14350/11]

Since the beginning of the EGF programme in support of redundant workers at the Dell computer manufacturing plant in Co. Limerick, both Ministers and officials of the relevant Departments have met representatives of the workers on a number of occasions. I met with a delegation of the Dell Redundant Workers Association to discuss their proposals for further measures under the programme as recently as 21 April 2011.

In relation to the EGF programme in support of redundant workers at the SR Technics aircraft maintenance facility at Dublin Airport, there have to date been two public meeting held for redundant workers to highlight the range of EGF co-financed measures available in the areas of training, education and enterprise supports. In addition, a number of meetings have been held by Department officials with a delegation of the redundant SR Technics workers to discuss various EGF related issues. The most recent meeting was held on 12 April 2011.

Details of all training and other EGF co-financed supports are available from the relevant service providers in the first instance. In this context I have no plans to meet workers about retraining schemes at this time.

Schools Building Projects

Michael Conaghan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Michael Conaghan asked the Minister for Education and Skills, in view of the difficulties faced by the construction sector, the measures that exist to ensure that essential works to schools are completed on schedule in circumstances in which the appointed contractor ceases to operate or is otherwise unable to fulfil or complete a contract. [14363/11]

I am aware of the difficulties currently faced by the construction sector. The purpose of requiring contractors engaged on school building projects to have a Performance Bond in place is to provide security for the State in the event of a Contractor becoming insolvent and no longer in a position to complete the contract. Should difficulties arise on any school building project, my Department will manage the situation in conjunction with the relevant third parties, including the Design Team and the Board of Management. My Department's priority will always be to have the school building projects back on site as soon as possible, in accordance with public procurement procedures.

Michael Conaghan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Michael Conaghan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that essential works due to be completed at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8 will be completed on schedule, in view of the fact that work has now ceased due to difficulties faced by the contractor. [14364/11]

I am aware of the situation to which the Deputy refers, in which a receiver has been appointed over the contractors originally engaged on the school building project. Officials in my Department are liaising with the receiver with regard to next steps.

Teaching Qualifications

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

150 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the redeployment of primary school teachers should take into account the specific needs of gaelscoileanna; his further views that there should be some mechanism to ensure that teachers redeployed to an all-Irish primary school have adequate ability in the language and also adequate training in immersion education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14375/11]

Teacher qualifications, including those relating to Irish, are designed to equip teachers to teach in all publicly funded posts, and it is important that we do not construct barriers to redeployment. Flexible redeployment arrangements are required in order to ensure all surplus permanent teachers are redeployed into vacancies. The country simply cannot afford to have surplus teachers in a school while permitting recruitment to take place in another school.

Special Educational Needs

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

151 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14390/11]

Department Circular 30/2011 sets out the arrangements for the deployment of resource teaching posts in schools for the 2011/12 school year. The purpose of this circular is to inform schools of the arrangements that are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year in respect of their NCSE approved resource hours so that posts are deployed in line with authorised allocations. The Department's approach has allowed schools to roll over all their existing full-time posts on the condition that any surplus capacity in these posts is shared with other local schools. If the roll-over arrangements are not sufficient to meet a school's NCSE approved allocation they must firstly contact their local schools for any surplus capacity and then, if necessary, there is an application process to the Department under the circular. The introduction of a pause, earlier this year, in the processing of applications for resource teaching support for children with special needs was to allow the Department and the NCSE to quantify the level of demand and to devise a revised allocation process to ensure that Employment Control Framework obligations were not breached.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

152 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14391/11]

The Deputy will be aware that participation in my Department's July Provision Scheme is an option for all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism or severe to profound general learning disability that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. Home-based tuition of ten hours per week for the four weeks in question is provided to children who attend schools which choose not to participate in the scheme.

The Deputy will also be aware that educational provision at post primary level for all pupils, including those with special needs, is structured differently to that at primary level, which is one of the reasons the July Provision Scheme is at a pilot stage in a limited number of post-primary schools. However, children eligible for support attending other post-primary schools are allocated ten hours per week home based tuition for the four weeks of July. The Scheme is currently under review and in the interim it has been decided not to expand the current level of provision, which includes limiting the pilot at post-primary level to that of 2009 and 2010.

Rural Schools

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

153 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that he has no plans to close a school (details supplied) in County Donegal and other small schools of similar size in rural Ireland; and if he will reaffirm his commitment to retain the fabric of small rural parishes. [14395/11]

I take it the Deputy's question relates to this school in the context of the value for money review on small schools which is under way at present. The value for money review on small schools is part of the normal review processes undertaken by all Departments on an annual basis on selected areas of expenditure and is being conducted in line with the standard procedure for value for money reviews. These procedures require that the views of stakeholders be obtained and the public consultations were designed to achieve this aim. This was done by issuing a direct invitation to relevant interest groups to provide a submission. The interest groups included the school patron bodies, management bodies, teacher unions, national parents' council, Irish language groups and other groups who operate in the area of social inclusion.

The review will attempt to explore the general policy options for re-organisation of small schools including the sharing of resources and clustering arrangements towards small schools. I think it is important to clarify that this study is part of an overall requirement across all Government Departments to have a rolling programme of such studies. This review was initiated last October by the previous Fianna Fail-Green Party Government and is not driven by any ideology. The study is simply about ascertaining the facts to inform future policy. It does not mean that any policy decision has been taken at this point or that any particular outcome is sought. Given that the Government has recently announced a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, all Government expenditure and programmes will come under similar scrutiny.

The terms of reference acknowledge the important role primary schools play in their local communities. In considering any policy change in relation to small schools, the Department of Education and Skills is conscious that there is a wider dimension to be considered in addition to the cost of maintaining small schools. Among the issues that will need to be taken into account are questions such as availability of diversity of provision, ethos of schools, parental choice, language of instruction, travel distances, transport costs and the impact of schools on dispersed rural communities. The review will examine the locations of small schools relative to each other and to other schools of a similar type. It will also examine the costs of running small schools and the educational outcomes associated with small schools.

Educational quality for the students must be one of the main criteria in any consideration of primary school size. We must also consider the needs of local communities and wider social and cultural factors. Decisions on school provision and reorganisation must be widely perceived to be cost-effective, equitable and reasonable. These decisions need to be based on a rigorous evaluation of requirements and needs, not just at a local level but also at both regional and national levels.

With regard to the specific school referred to by the Deputy the existing rules and current sustainability limits will continue to apply and there are no plans at this time to close this school.

Services for People with Disabilities

Clare Daly

Ceist:

154 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is the case that the new Springboard programme is not open to persons in receipt of disability benefit; the reason this is the case, in view of the fact that it is standard practice throughout the higher education sector that educational opportunities be equally available to persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14397/11]

Springboard is not a general education measure. It is a specific initiative targeted at unemployed people who have lost jobs in sectors where employment will not return to previous levels and who will need new qualifications and skills to re-enter employment. It is not targeted at people who have never been in employment or at those who may have lost their job as a result of an illness or disability and who may be able to return to work in their chosen profession when their illness or disability has ended. It is fully accepted that people with disabilities may also have lost their jobs as a result of the recession and may need reskilling to re-enter employment. It is open to any person with a disability who meets the eligibility criteria to apply for a place on a Springboard programme. Providers have also been reminded of their obligations to ensure that appropriate facilities are in place to support the participation of people with disabilities.

Schools Building Projects

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

155 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a tender at a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14403/11]

The school to which the Deputy refers attended a briefing in my Department in February regarding the tendering process for design team appointment. It is intended that the tendering process for this school building project will commence shortly. Officials from my Department will contact the school authority when the tendering process is about to commence.

Higher Education Grants

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

156 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of mature students in receipt of the full rate of the higher education grant for the 2010-11 academic year; the number of those students who will complete their courses in the 2010-2011 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14415/11]

The annual statistical returns for the 2010/11 academic year, which are made to my Department by the 66 grant awarding authorities, are not due to be filed until later in the Summer. However, without prejudice to the content of those returns and based on previous trends, it is estimated that some 30% of the student grant cohort is likely to be in the mature student category. This would equate to some 21,600 students, all of whom would be in receipt of the non-adjacent rate of grant currently. Statistical information is not collated on the number of mature students in each year of study.

Special Educational Needs

Pat Breen

Ceist:

157 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14442/11]

An official from my Department has been in contact with the school referred to by the Deputy. The Principal has confirmed that a pupil with the same name as the pupil in question will be attending the school in September 2011. However, the pupil's date of birth differs from that supplied by the Deputy.

A report provided to the school in support of a request for assistive technology did not suggest that the pupil qualified for Assistive Technology specifically for his own use. The school is satisfied that its existing technology is adequate to meet his needs. Accordingly, the school has not made an application for additional equipment to the school's Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO). However, if additional relevant supporting documentation is provided, the school will refer the application to the school's SENO for consideration.

European Globalisation Fund

Niall Collins

Ceist:

158 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the location at which a person (details supplied) may lodge a complaint regarding the European Globalisation Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14445/11]

Complaints on EGF operational issues should be addressed in the first instance to the relevant service provider or, alternatively, to the EGF Coordination Unit, The Granary, Michael Street, Limerick. Complaints on EGF policy issues should be addressed to the Department of Education and Skills as the managing authority for the EGF nationally.

School Transport

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

159 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding school transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14486/11]

The changes to school transport services were announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and derive from a recommendation in the Value for Money Review of the scheme. These changes include the requirement that a minimum of ten eligible pupils, residing in a distinct locality, will be required to retain or establish a school transport service from 2011/12 school year. As is currently the position, families of eligible pupils for whom there is no school transport service available may apply for the remote area grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

Decisions in relation to the retention or establishment of school transport services will be made when all applications for school transport for the 2011/12 school year have been received and assessed.

School Staffing

Ceist:

160 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made to retain a learning support teacher at a school (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14490/11]

Department Circular 30/2011 sets out the arrangements for the deployment of resource teaching posts in schools for the 2011/12 school year. The purpose of this circular is to inform schools of the arrangements that are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year in respect of their NCSE-approved resource hours so that posts are deployed in line with authorised allocations. As an interim arrangement for 2011/12, the Department's approach has allowed schools to roll over all their existing full-time posts on the condition that any surplus capacity in these posts is shared with other local schools. The full-time resource teaching post has been rolled over in the school referred to by the Deputy. If the roll-over arrangements are not sufficient to meet a school's NCSE approved allocation, they must firstly contact their local schools for any surplus capacity and then, if necessary, there is an application process to the Department under the circular.

Teaching Qualifications

Ceist:

161 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to concerns about the failure rate in Irish for primary teacher training for students who studied in Great Britain in 2010 and 2011 (details supplied). [14491/11]

I am not aware of any concerns identified in relation to the failure rates in the S.C.G. examination. The examination process for the S.C.G in the academic year 2010/11 is not yet complete as supplemental examinations are yet to be undertaken in August 2011. After supplemental results have been finalised, my Department will be in a position to give complete and accurate statistics for the current academic year.

The SCG and OCG are administered under contract from my Department by Marino Institute of Education. Strict quality assurance procedures for reliability and validity are applied to assessment and examinations for the SCG. In the academic year 2010/11, no change was made to the examination format nor to the criteria of assessment and the standards required to be successful in the examination.

Teaching Irish in primary education requires a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading and writing Irish. Candidates for the SCG who received their teaching qualification abroad are required to reach a similar level of competence in speaking, reading and writing the Irish language as teachers who receive their qualification in a College of Education in Ireland.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

162 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will examine the pupil-teacher ratio at a school (details supplied) in County Waterford with a view to retaining the existing number of teachers due to the increased numbers of pupils enrolled for the year 2011-2012. [14518/11]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools are published annually on my Department's website. The key factor in determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedule for the 2011-2012 school year was published on my Department's website in March 2011.

The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. It is open to any Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, circular 0019/2011. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed for mainstream classroom teachers and any appeals to the Staffing Appeals Boards will have been considered.

Wage-setting Mechanisms

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if any of the advice he has received in the process of formulating policy with regard to reform of the rate-setting mechanisms for low-paid workers, the joint labour committees, has come from members of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants; if so, if he considers advice from that source to be credible in this policy area in view of the exemption the members of this association were granted from the cut in basic pay that affected all other civil and public servants form January 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14118/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

164 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the unwillingness of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants to make public the extent of the remuneration package enjoyed by its General Secretary; and, in view of that, his views on whether it is appropriate that members of the association be involved in policy formulation regarding lower-paid workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14119/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

I have no functional responsibility for the remuneration of officials of trade unions or staff associations. All policy, whether in relation to wage setting or otherwise, is made by the Government.

EU Directives

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

165 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he will publish legislation to effect the transposition of the EU directive on the establishment of a European works council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees (2009/38/EC) into Irish law. [14252/11]

Directive 2009/38/EC of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees makes minor amendments to the existing legislative provisions regarding transnational information and consultation of employees. It aims to improve provisions relating to the establishment of information and consultation arrangements for employees in transnational undertakings or groups that have 1,000 or more employees across two or more member states. Directive 2009/38/EC repeals previous directives on the issue and the transposition of the new directive into Irish law requires amendments to the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996.

It is intended to transpose the directive by ministerial regulations. My Department is currently finalising regulations with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel with the intention of bringing these into effect very shortly.

Wage-setting Mechanisms

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

166 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the measures he is considering in conjunction with the Department of Finance and the Department of Education and Skills to counterbalance the negative impact of abolishing or changing joint labour committee wage agreements for students working part-time at weekends who rely on their current rates of pay to fund rental accommodation and student registration fees. [14265/11]

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

168 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the Duffy-Walsh report; the social partnerships with which he is having discussions; the persons involved; the lengths of time they have held these positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14305/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 168 together.

On 24 May last, the Government decided to publish the Report of the Independent Review of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreement Wage Setting Mechanisms. The review is a commitment under the EU/IMF programme, which provided not only for agreement with the European Commission on the terms of reference but also for follow up discussions on the programme of actions arising.

The Report's overall finding that the basic framework of the current JLC/REA regulatory system requires radical overhaul so as to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions is consistent with the relevant commitment in the Programme for Government.

I am anxious to pursue the agenda for radical overhaul of the ERO/REA system as a matter of urgency, including proposals dealt with in the report and other issues raised by the report. To this end, I have set out an outline of my proposals for that agenda to the Social Partners, and these have already been the subject of discussion with the Construction Industry Federation, IBEC and ICTU. The membership of delegations from these representative bodies, as well as details of their tenure within these organisations, is a matter for the bodies themselves.

These discussions afforded me the opportunity to hear at first hand the views of the main representative bodies of employers and trade unions on how a meaningful and overdue reform might be implemented in these wage-setting mechanisms, which affect key sectors of our economy, in order to protect existing jobs and encourage employment growth.

In accordance with the terms of the EU/IMF programme, discussions have also taken place with the Commission Services in this regard.

It is my intention to complete discussions with relevant parties by Friday 10 June with a view to submitting a final action plan for consideration by Government before the end of the month.

Job Creation

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

167 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will set up a jobs task force immediately for County Kerry in view of the recent job losses in Castleisland and Caherciveen, which are a continuation of dramatic job reductions in the county; and whether persons appointed on the task force will be named and made available to communicate with all interested bodies at an early date. [14280/11]

Job creation is central to our economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and increase our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. The Jobs Initiative announced on 10 May focuses our limited resources on measures that offer the greatest potential for expansion and employment creation in the domestic economy. The focus on tourism in the Jobs Initiative will benefit Kerry, in particular. Supports under the Initiative include the introduction of a new temporary second reduced rate of VAT of 9%, with effect from 1 July 2011 until end December 2013, which will mainly apply to restaurant and catering services, hotel and holiday accommodation and various entertainment services; the abolition of the air travel tax; and the short-term visa waiver programme, which will apply to short-stay visitors of 14 nationalities who ordinarily require a visa to enter the State and will apply over a period from July 2011 to October 2012.

The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving economic growth by promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and driving our smart economy. The allocation of €508 million in funding for 2011 will ensure that the core programmes of the enterprise agencies are sustained and targeted as well as driving investment in research and development. This investment in the Enterprise Development agencies will drive recovery in the economy by facilitating the winning of foreign direct investments, the growth of indigenous exports and the creation of sustainable jobs.

IDA Ireland promotes Kerry for new inward investment across the ICT, International Financial Services and Globally Traded Business sectors. As well as attracting new foreign direct investment, IDA works closely with its existing clients in Kerry to encourage them to expand their operations in the county. At present there are 15 IDA Ireland-supported companies in County Kerry employing more than 1,300 people.

Enterprise Ireland continues to support job creation through a number of interventions, such as supporting the establishment and growth of high potential start-up companies and supporting companies to target new opportunities in overseas markets. At present there are 133 Enterprise Ireland client companies in County Kerry employing more than 3,000 people. In 2010, Enterprise Ireland paid out over €3.2 million in financial support to its client companies in County Kerry. In addition, the agency has been providing support to seven community enterprise centres.

Kerry County Enterprise Board continues to be actively involved in the economic development of the Castleisland and Caherciveen areas and the county as a whole. Since its inception in 1993 to end 2010, Kerry CEB has issued almost €7.1 million in grant assistance to 888 clients. So far this year, Kerry CEB has approved €153,000 in grant support to 16 micro-enterprise projects in the county, supporting the generation of 44 new jobs. There are approximately 1,300 people employed in companies assisted by Kerry CEB.

In the past, task forces have been used as part of a response to a sudden loss of large numbers of industrial jobs, often in one major employer. However, in recent years other initiatives are increasingly used as an alternative. The State Enterprise Development agencies, together with the Kerry County Enterprise Board, continue to work together with other stakeholders in relation to industrial development in County Kerry. Should any further co-ordination be required, Kerry County Development Board would be the body best placed to undertake such a role. With the advent of regional structures such as the County Development Boards, the practice of establishing task forces has been largely discontinued.

Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 166.

Enterprise Support Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

169 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of itineraries he has, through the Industrial Development Agency, hosted by potential investors in each county to date in 2011 and for each year since 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14337/11]

I have been informed by IDA Ireland that the number of itineraries that have been hosted by them in each county to date in 2011 and for each year since 2003 is as set out in the following tabular statement.

However, I would ask the Deputy to note that these figures are not indicative of the number of companies that visited the country. Companies may visit more than one region and more than one location within a county. Therefore, these figures indicate the number of individual site visits made to various sites around the country.

County

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

To date2011

Carlow

0

0

7

6

7

1

1

0

1

Cavan

0

1

2

4

1

1

0

1

0

Clare

6

3

1

3

3

2

10

10

0

Cork

38

39

35

16

27

41

29

26

7

Donegal

3

16

4

9

3

3

3

1

1

Dublin

32

45

71

90

91

92

90

129

57

Galway

30

17

14

20

15

14

22

28

8

Kerry

2

3

4

2

3

4

3

2

0

Kildare

2

0

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

Kilkenny

0

0

0

0

2

1

2

0

0

Laois

4

1

7

5

6

6

1

0

0

Leitrim

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Limerick

15

21

19

24

35

9

18

27

15

Longford

3

1

1

0

2

1

0

0

0

Louth

26

30

47

47

24

23

28

22

10

Mayo

7

8

2

3

4

3

1

4

0

Meath

10

8

12

2

0

3

2

0

0

Monaghan

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

Offaly

15

12

7

1

4

11

6

6

0

Roscommon

4

3

2

0

1

0

0

0

0

Sligo

11

11

6

5

6

2

5

7

0

Tipperary

2

1

1

0

0

0

1

1

0

Waterford

8

13

10

12

9

12

8

9

1

Westmeath

36

31

14

16

18

18

14

14

7

Wexford

8

3

2

0

1

0

0

1

0

Wicklow

1

1

0

0

0

2

2

1

0

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

170 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of Industrial Development Agency companies based in County Monaghan; the years in which they were established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14338/11]

I have been informed by IDA Ireland that the number of IDA supported companies based in County Monaghan is six, employing 367 permanent employees in total. These companies were established in County Monaghan over the period 1969 to 2002.

While IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on location is taken in all cases by the promoting company.

Industrial Development

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

171 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will direct the Industrial Development Agency to increase the number of itineraries for potential investors in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14339/11]

IDA's strategy document, entitled "Horizon 2020", sets out the Agency's targets for the period 2010 to 2014. The investment targets set out in this strategy include the creation of 62,000 direct new jobs with 105,000 total jobs impact in Ireland during that period and also includes a target of 50% of these investments to be based in locations outside of Dublin and Cork.

Typically, a company is shown three or four selected locations which can meet its requirements for skills, labour, site or buildings, infrastructure, etc. In selecting locations to show companies, IDA Ireland seeks to include those which have been affected by closures and job losses and also gives priority to the Border, Midlands and West regions. While IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on location is taken in all cases by the promoting company.

IDA Ireland's focus in the county is the town of Monaghan and this focus extends to all target sectors under Horizon 2020. The improvement in access to Monaghan with the completion of the Carrickmacross bypass and Castleblayney bypass together with major improvements on the N2 nearer Dublin will help to enhance the attractiveness of County Monaghan for Foreign Direct Investment.

IDA is aware of the developments to take place in Monaghan with the development of the VEC education campus with possible enterprise space linked to Project Kelvin. This has the potential to be attractive to new clients of IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

Employment Rights

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

172 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on a matter (details supplied) with regard to changes in wages for seasonal workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14485/11]

On 24 May last, the Government decided to publish the Report of the Independent Review of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreement Wage Setting Mechanisms.

The review is a commitment under the EU/IMF programme, which provided not only for agreement with the European Commission on the terms of reference but also for follow up discussions on the programme of actions arising.

The Report's overall finding that the basic framework of the current JLC/REA regulatory system requires radical overhaul so as to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions is consistent with the relevant commitment in the Programme for Government.

I am anxious to pursue the agenda for radical overhaul of the ERO/REA system as a matter of urgency, including proposals dealt with in the report and other issues raised by the report. To this end, I have set out an outline of my proposals for that agenda to the Social Partners, and these have already been the subject of discussion with the Construction Industry Federation, IBEC and ICTU. In accordance with the terms of the EU/IMF programme, discussions have also taken place with the Commission Services in this regard.

It is my intention to complete discussions with relevant parties by Friday, 10 June with a view to submitting a final action plan for consideration by Government before the end of the month. The detailed plan will implement far-reaching reforms of the current system including making any legislative changes that may be necessary.

Private Rented Accommodation

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

173 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will introduce criteria for refusal of rent assistance on the basis of criminal or anti-social behaviour in line with the criteria used by local authorities in the allocation of houses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14308/11]

Social Welfare legislation already provides the Health Service Executive with the authority to refuse payment of a rent supplement in the case of a person who has been required to deliver up possession of a dwelling provided by a housing authority or an approved body where the reasons for that requirement include anti-social behaviour or the interests of good estate management.

In the case of private rented accommodation, tenancy arrangements involve a contract between the landlord and tenant and tenant behaviour is a matter for the landlord in the first instance. There are a number of avenues open to landlords in such cases, including the mediation service for landlords and tenants operated by the Private Residential Tenancies Board and/or recourse to the Garda Síochána and/or the Courts in relation to the enforcement of the law in dealing with anti-social or criminal behaviour. If necessary, the landlord may seek termination of the tenancy which, if effected, would result in the termination of rent supplement.

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, it is intended to review the operation of the rent supplement scheme with a view to introducing a code of conduct for rent supplement eligibility similar to that which operates for local authority tenants.

FÁS Training Programmes

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

174 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will investigate the participation of a person (details supplied) on a FÁS community employment scheme. [14349/11]

As Minister for Social Protection I do not have a role in the administration of individual cases in regard to the operation of the Community Employment programme. The administration of individual cases under CE is a day-to-day matter for FÁS as part of its responsibility under the Labour Services Act, 1987, as amended by Part 3 of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2010.

FÁS has informed me that in instances where a person on a CE project is found to be ineligible to participate, their participation is terminated. It is the responsibility of a person, in the first instance, to ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria.

Free Travel Scheme

Shane Ross

Ceist:

175 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a company (details supplied) does not accept the free bus pass on the new route passing through Ballinteer, Dundrum, Rathfarnham and Templeogue, Dublin, based on the high number of old age pensioners serviced by these routes; and if the non-acceptance of the free bus pass will apply to any new routes operated by Dublin Bus. [14382/11]

The free travel scheme permits free travel on most CIE public transport services, Luas and a range of services offered by over 90 private operators in various parts of the country at an annual cost to the Exchequer of some €74 million in 2010.

The Department received an application under the free travel scheme for the new route referred to by the Deputy in March 2011. The Department is not in a position to consider applications for additional routes to the free travel scheme at this time as the scheme expenditure has been frozen at 2010 levels in line with the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014. Free travel customers can avail of alternative free transport services under the scheme to reach Dublin Airport.

The Department pays the CIE Group centrally in respect of transport services provided by the group for pensioners and other categories of eligible customers under the free travel scheme. The apportionment of payment between the three constituent companies, Bus Éireann, Bus Átha Cliath and Iarnród Éireann, is a matter for the CIE group to determine. Prior to the current freeze on expenditure under this scheme, the rate of payment to CIE was adjusted on the basis of changes in fares and numbers of eligible customers. The level of service provided by Dublin Bus does not feature in the method of calculation of payment.

National Carers Strategy

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

176 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to implement the national carers strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14439/11]

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

187 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an estimation of the cost involved in introducing a carers strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14264/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 187 together.

The Government is committed in the Programme for Government to developing a carers' strategy. It will consider how best to progress the development of the strategy, taking into account the prevailing economic realities and the work that was carried out previously.

The Department of the Taoiseach chaired an interdepartmental group in 2008 which undertook work, to develop a National Carers' Strategy. The Departments of Finance, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Health and Children, and Social and Family Affairs, as well as the Health Services Executive (HSE) and FÁS were represented on the group.

As my Department is responsible for providing income supports for carers, it will of course have a role in developing and implementing the strategy. However, many of the issues of most concern to carers are the responsibility of other Departments, in particular the Department of Health.

As the strategy has not yet been developed, it is not possible at this time to give any estimation as to the cost or the plans for implementation; however, it will have to be developed within existing available resources. In developing and implementing the strategy, the Government will take account of our IMF and EU commitments, as well the outcomes of the comprehensive review of expenditure currently being undertaken by each Department.

Social Welfare Benefits

John McGuinness

Ceist:

177 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if domiciliary care allowance will be approved as a matter of urgency in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [14131/11]

Applications for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) were received on the 13th May 2011 in respect of the children in question. These applications have been forwarded to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for a medical opinion. Upon receipt of these opinions a decision will issue to the customer.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Ceist:

178 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal for domiciliary care allowance will be processed and approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [14134/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 7 February 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 12 March 2011, and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

179 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal against a decision not to award a carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14142/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of this case took place on 17 February 2011. Following the hearing the Appeals Officer referred the case to a Social Welfare Inspector for further investigation into the means of the person concerned.

The case has recently been referred back to the Appeals Officer who is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the oral hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal on disability allowance will be decided in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14146/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 13 May 2011 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of the Social Welfare services on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the correct amount of rent support payable in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14147/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has been awarded rent supplement of €196 per month which is his full entitlement based on his personal circumstances.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when a decision will issue in respect of an oral hearing in the matter of carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14148/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an oral hearing will be heard for a carer’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if and when carer’s allowance will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14330/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 192 together.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but she will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

183 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for disability benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14174/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21 September 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 6 May 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

184 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the outcome of an oral appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry seeking farm assist payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14208/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, allowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of an oral hearing. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

185 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal has been submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; when the appeal was received; when it will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14221/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 9 March 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 28 May 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Schemes

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

186 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to amend the entry conditions to labour activation schemes such as community employment, Tús and the rural social scheme for persons who are long-term unemployed but not in receipt of a social welfare payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14261/11]

Activation and support for those who are unemployed is a key priority for Government. The community employment programme and the rural social scheme make important contributions to the delivery of local services to communities across the country and provide significant employment and training opportunities for those engaged. The community employment scheme remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment and/or further education and training. The programme is managed within this context, subject to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community.

The purpose of the rural social scheme (RSS) is to provide income support for farmers and fishermen who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19.5 hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 men and women and 130 supervisory staff.

Tús will also be an important element in the development and delivery of employment and community services and will aim to provide quality work opportunities to the unemployed and beneficial outcomes to the community. As the purpose of Tús is to focus on those people who are long-term unemployed, it is for this reason eligibility is at present confined to those on the Live Register for 12 months and in receipt of jobseeker's allowance. These provisions are to ensure a targeted approach to those currently affected by long-term unemployment.

While I have no plans at present to amend the entry conditions to the above schemes, their operation, including eligibility criteria, will be kept under review and will inform the evaluation process in due course.

Question No. 187 answered with Question No. 176.

Question No. 188 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Code

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

189 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm if she is serious about making the fuel allowance available for persons with A1-rated houses, which is the highest rating in terms of energy efficiency, and making no support available for houses with a G rating, as some reports suggest. [14278/11]

I am not aware of the reports referred to by the Deputy.

The national fuel allowance scheme is a means tested scheme; it is not based on the BER rating of a house. It assists householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the additional cost of their heating needs during the winter season. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's heating expenses. It is not intended to meet those costs in full and must be seen in the context of the overall level of income available to the family.

Of course proper household insulation is vital in tacking energy poverty. Initiatives such as the Warmer Homes Scheme, operated by Sustainable Energy Ireland, under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources have a very valuable role to play in that regard, as does funding from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to improve the quality of existing local authority housing and the Housing Adaptation Grants for older people and people with disabilities. Considerable progress has been made in this area in recent years.

In addition and in line with the programme for Government, I am working with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to bring forward a strategy on affordable energy to tackle energy poverty.

Energy affordability is a cross-cutting policy issue. Tackling the root causes of energy affordability or energy poverty requires action on a number of fronts. Energy poverty is caused by the interaction between energy prices, thermal inefficiency of the home and income. Considerable work has been undertaken by the interdepartmental-agency group on affordable energy which is chaired by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and represents all key Departments, agencies and energy suppliers, as well as the energy regulator and NGOs. I understand the group will finalise its work shortly. Its analysis and recommendations will form the basis of a strategy to be agreed and brought to the Government as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Appeals

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

190 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an application for disability benefit will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14281/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

191 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if the cost of a hearing device will be covered in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14321/11]

The medical appliance benefit scheme offers assistance towards the cost of a hearing aid. The Department will pay up to half the cost of a hearing aid or repairs to a hearing aid, subject to a fixed maximum contribution of €760 per aid.

To qualify for medical appliance benefit an individual must satisfy certain PRSI conditions. A person aged 66 or over must have a total of 260 paid PRSI contributions since first starting work and either:

(i) 39 paid or credited PRSI contributions in the relevant tax year on which the claim is based, or

(ii) 26 paid PRSI contributions in both the relevant tax year and the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year.

An individual who satisfies the PRSI conditions at age 60 will remain qualified for life.

The Department's records indicate that the person concerned has a total PRSI contribution of 258, which is 2 short of the 260 required, and consequently he would not qualify for medical appliance benefit on his Irish insurance record alone.

However, in further correspondence with the Department the stated that he worked in the UK between 1956 and 1961. The Department has therefore contacted the UK authorities to confirm this information. On receipt of the reply, the claim for medical appliance benefit will be decided and the person will be notified.

Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 182.

Health Service Allowances

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

193 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if social welfare entitlements will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14340/11]

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

204 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if social welfare entitlements will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14417/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 204 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has advised that payment of a basic supplementary welfare allowance to the person concerned was suspended due to a change in the person's family circumstances. The HSE has requested further documentation from the person concerned and will be in position to make a decision on the claim once this documentation has been received.

Social Welfare Benefits

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

194 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for family income supplement will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; when payment will issue; when she will expedite the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14346/11]

The person concerned made an application for family income supplement (FIS) in January 2011. As part of the process to establish household means for FIS purposes, in this case, it was referred to the social welfare inspectorate for investigation.

In view of the lapse of time, this investigation has been prioritised and will be completed shortly. The person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

FÁS Training Programmes

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

195 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if any changes are being made to the J1 scheme; if redundancies are currently being made; and if so, if all are voluntary. [14352/11]

There are no plans under consideration to introduce changes or a redundancy programme for participants on the FÁS Job Initiative programme. From time to time, due to operational reasons, individuals and Job Initiative team leaders have been offered redundancy on a voluntary basis. This is only done on an exceptional basis and occurs when the number of participants or team leaders is reduced, leaving the particular scheme no longer viable, and where participants could not be facilitated on any other programmes in their area.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

196 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork to have their application for rent supplement backdated to March 2011, along with their request to be provided with assistance towards their rent deposit under the supplementary income scheme, can be favourably responded to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14356/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned was initially refused rent supplement as she vacated accommodation provided by a Local Authority without just cause for doing so. The HSE further advised that the person concerned was refused payment of an Exceptional Needs Payment in respect of a rent deposit. The person concerned appealed the decision to refuse rent supplement to the HSE Appeals Office who overturned the decision and awarded rent supplement to the person concerned from 1 May 2011.

The HSE Appeals Office has advised that the person concerned has now appealed the decision not to award rent supplement from February 2011 to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. The Social Welfare Appeals Office will contact the person concerned when a decision has been made on her appeal. The HSE Appeals Office further advised that there is no record of an appeal against the refusal of payment of an Exceptional Needs Payment in respect of a deposit.

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

197 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; when a decision will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14362/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing on 14 June 2011. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

198 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 has had no social welfare payments or rent allowance for some time. [14366/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it awarded an interim weekly supplementary welfare allowance to the person concerned pending a decision by this Department concerning her entitlement to a one-parent family payment. Payment of the weekly supplementary welfare allowance was suspended following the decision by this Department not to award a one-parent family payment on the grounds of cohabitation.

The HSE has advised that decisions on entitlement for both a weekly supplementary welfare allowance and rent supplement are pending receipt of documentation from the person concerned. The documentation required includes satisfactory evidence verifying the current address of her partner and a statement from her bank verifying that the bank account in question has been closed.

Social Welfare Code

Shane Ross

Ceist:

199 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is any scheme in place to allow directors of a company who are searching for work or contracts in a dormant industry to avail of welfare payments without having to first put their company into liquidation; and if there is no such scheme, if she will consider the merits or otherwise of such a scheme. [14384/11]

Self-employed people can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. Self-employed customers do not have to de-register as self-employed persons in order to claim jobseeker's allowance.

Legislation provides for the assessment of "all income in cash and any non-cash benefits which the person or his or her spouse may reasonably expect to receive during the succeeding year". While income from the previous twelve months is used as an indication in estimating likely future earnings, it is not simply assumed that the previous year's earnings will be received in the coming year. Instead, account is taken of the potential for significant upward or downward variations in income from one year to the next.

It is recognised that the present downturn in the economy is having a significant impact on many self-employed persons and the consequent reduction in their income and activity levels would be reflected in any assessment of their means from self-employment for jobseeker's allowance purposes.

If a self-employed person's situation changes after they have made an initial claim for jobseeker's allowance, the person can apply to have his or her means reviewed in the light of these changed circumstances.

Social Welfare Appeals

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

200 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [14385/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the carer's allowance appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

With regard to the second person mentioned, the Appeals Office has advised me that her disability allowance claim was disallowed on the grounds that following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that she was medically unsuitable for the allowance and also did not satisfy the habitual residence conditions. An appeal was registered and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments of the Social Welfare services on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Entitlement to a basic SWA payment is based on a number of conditions including a habitual residency condition.

The HSE has advised that the persons concerned were in receipt of a basic SWA payment for the period May 2010 to April 2011. The Executive have further advised that following a review of their entitlement it was decided that they were no longer entitled to the payment as they were not considered to be habitually resident in the State.

The HSE further advised that the persons concerned were informed of this decision in writing and have appealed the decision to the HSE Appeals Office. The HSE Appeals Office will contact the persons concerned when a decision has been made on their case.

Job Creation

Niall Collins

Ceist:

201 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide any financial grant aid assistance towards the establishment and operation of a jobs club in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14387/11]

I am advised by FÁS that there are already two Job Clubs in County Limerick which are operated by the partnership companies Ballyhoura Development Company and West Limerick Resources, and are funded through FÁS Community Services. In addition there is a Rural Employment Service operated in West Limerick by West Limerick Resources, the local partnership/local development company.

Social Welfare Benefits

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

202 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will arrange financial assistance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan. [14392/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Apart from a number of excluded categories, anyone in the State who satisfies a habitual residency condition and a means test, has registered for employment, unless they have a physical or mental disability, and can prove unemployment may qualify for a weekly payment of SWA.

The HSE has advised that the person concerned was refused SWA on the grounds that he was not considered to be habitually resident in the State. The HSE further advised that the person concerned appealed the decision to the HSE Appeals Office and that the decision was upheld by the HSE Appeals Officer.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

203 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection when the oral hearing for carer’s allowance will be scheduled in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14401/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but she will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 204 answered with Question No. 193.

Social Welfare Benefits

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

205 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the waiting times for family income supplement claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14419/11]

The average waiting time for family income supplement (FIS) claims at the end of April is 15 weeks. At the end of April, there were approximately 7,508 new FIS applications and approximately 5,348 renewal applications awaiting approval.

The volume of FIS claims on hand and the delays in processing are a consequence of continued strong claim intake.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection why it is perceived that a person (details supplied) in County Kildare does not qualify for disability allowance or invalidity pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14438/11]

Invalidity pension is a payment made to people who satisfy the social insurance contribution conditions and who are permanently incapable of work. The claimant was awarded an invalidity pension from 24 January 2008. Following a review of the customer's medical eligibility, it was decided in 2009 that she no longer satisfied the medical criteria for invalidity pension. Accordingly, her invalidity pension payment was terminated from 5 November 2009.

The claimant appealed this decision and following a second medical examination and having considered all the evidence, the appeals officer disallowed the appeal for the person concerned. The decision of an appeals officer is final and conclusive in the absence of fresh facts or evidence.

If the person concerned feels she would now satisfy the eligibility criteria for invalidity pension she may reapply and her claim will be assessed and she will be notified directly of the outcome.

Disability allowance is a weekly payment for persons aged between 16 and 65 with a disability that is expected to last for at least one year. To get the payment, a person must satisfy the medical and means conditions and be habitually resident in Ireland. Eligibility for disability allowance is established upon the making of an application by means of the submission of a fully completed claim form. To date, my department has not received a disability allowance application from the person in question.

Social Welfare Appeals

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [14489/11]

The jobseeker's allowance appeal for the person concerned will be forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for consideration this week. That office will be in touch with her in due course.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Ceist:

208 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent supplement application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14495/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned applied for rent supplement on 4 February 2011. The HSE requested further information from the person concerned on 31 March in order to make a decision on his application but the person concerned has not provided the requested information. A decision will be made on his application when the information has been provided.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

209 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent supplement payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14497/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the persons concerned have been paid their full entitlements under the rent supplement scheme. If these individuals consider there is an outstanding payment they should contact the Community Welfare Service to discuss this matter.

Inland Fisheries

David Stanton

Ceist:

210 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to studies carried out in rivers here in recent years by him or State agencies with a view to ascertaining the numbers of salmon in the rivers; if he will provide details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14141/11]

The performance of some 141 salmon rivers is assessed on an annual basis by the Salmon Standing Scientific Committee (SSC). This information is published annually. The reports for the years 2005 to 2009 are available on the Department's website at www.dcenr.gov.ie/natural. The report on the performance of the 2010 fishery will be published shortly and will be made available to download from the Department’s website.

The scientists have provided advice in respect of each river indicating the status of stocks. Inland Fisheries Ireland, based on the scientific advice, has recommended the management approach to be adopted in each river. In summary, the position for 2011, compared to the previous 5 years, is as follows:

2011

2010

2009*

2008*

2007*

2006*

Total No. of Rivers

141

141

143

153

153

153

No. of Rivers Opened

52

50

48

56

43

153

No. of Rivers on Catch and Release

29

11

13

21

7

0

No. of Rivers Closed

60

80

82

76

103

0

Total allowable catch for all rivers

91,338

85,251

78,792

81,766

64,011

91,367

Commercial Catch*

**

14,154***

6,757

8,903

8,843

86,200

Angling Catch*

**

22,336***

17,521

22,215

19,430

22,485

*Source: Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Statistics (published by CFB (now Inland Fisheries Ireland)).

** The share of the TAC will be allocated between Commercial and Recreational fishermen by the Chief Executive Officer of IFI in accordance with Regulation 11 of the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme Regulations for the 2011 season.

*** While generally there appeared to be improved runs in some rivers (e.g. Corrib and Moy) in 2010, there were still some rivers which did not meet conservation limits. Initial indications from monitored rivers, such as the Marine Institute's salmon research facility in Newport, County Mayo, suggest that marine survival is still low.

The number of rivers open for fishing in 2011 is 52; two more than in 2010. Twenty-nine rivers are open for catch and release, 18 more than 2010, and 60 rivers are closed as they have no surplus of fish available for harvest in them. This is 20 less than in 2010.

Alternative Energy Projects

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

211 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will introduce the new REFIT tariff on renewable energy, which was announced by the previous Government in May 2010 but was never put into practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14488/11]

The proposed REFIT support scheme, which was announced in May 2010, was submitted to the EU Commission in Brussels for State Aid clearance in November 2010. This scheme, which is aimed at supporting the use of biomass in electricity generation and heat production, incorporates a proposed range of tariffs for different technologies and requires State Aid clearance before it can open for applications.

My Department has been in constant contact with the Commission on this matter and is confident that the final stages of the clearance process are now close.

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

212 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if ESB Electric Ireland plans to offer the same terms for microgeneration of wind energy North and South of the Border; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that microgeneration of energy could be of value as an enterprise for small farmers and landowners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14176/11]

The electricity market in Ireland is now fully deregulated. It is a commercial decision for the company concerned as to what terms and conditions they offer in the competitive market; I have no function in the matter.

I am aware of the benefits of microgeneration. The programme for Government commits to consideration of a feed-in tariff for microgenerators producing electricity for their own homes, farms and businesses and selling surplus electricity to the grid that is not significantly above the single energy market price for electricity. In line with this commitment, my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are finalising a cost-benefit analysis of a feed-in tariff programme for microgeneration. I expect their assessment to be submitted to me shortly for consideration.

Energy Efficiency

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

213 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the level of funding allocated to home energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes; and the percentage rate of increase to the funding that will be allocated to these programmes for each year until 2013. [14179/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

214 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce an energy efficiency obligation for suppliers. [14180/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

215 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to insulate all public buildings in the State; the buildings which have been insulated so far; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14181/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 to 215, inclusive, together.

My Department funds a number of energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes, the total capital allocations of which are broken down as follows:

Programme/Project

2011 Total (€m)

Better Energy: The National Upgrade Programme

91.405

Reheat Deployment

0.500

CHP Deployment

2.347

Electric Vehicles

5.000

The largest of these programmes is ’Better Energy: The National Upgrade Programme’, which I launched on Wednesday, 11 May 2011, on foot of the Jobs Initiative. Better Energy will replace three energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes: the Home Energy Savings Scheme (HES), the Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) and the Greener Homes Scheme (GHS). Future capital allocations will be decided in the context of the relevant Budgets.

The obligations strand of Better Energy brings 25 energy suppliers on board as partners, in fulfilment of our obligations under the Energy End-Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive. These companies have been asked to finalise voluntary agreements with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which will deliver 200GWh of energy saving measures in 2011. Energy companies can meet their target by directly offering upgrade services, or by subcontracting the work to third parties.

In the public sector, the most significant cost-cutting and energy saving potential lies in improving the energy performance of new and existing buildings and facilities. This will be a key focus of Better Energy, which will seek to raise financing from institutional investors for retrofit work in the public sector.

The Public Sector Programme of SEAI is the main delivery mechanism for energy efficiency actions by public sector bodies. This comprehensive programme includes a Public Sector support programme, which provides assessments and training to all public sector bodies and a grant programme to support energy efficiency measures.

As part of the SEAI's energy cost reduction services for the public sector, €5.9 million of financial support was made available in 2009 through the Supports for Exemplar Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEEP) for the implementation of 69 exemplar energy efficiency projects in the public sector. The estimated annual savings achieved was 30 GWh.

In 2010, the SEAI provided a further €5.3 million of grant support to 30 public sector projects through the national Energy Efficiency Fund, which targeted upgrades to buildings, services and facilities involving ambitious packages of energy efficiency investment actions aimed at achieving ongoing and lasting energy savings of 33 GWh per annum.

In addition, the SEAI is working closely with an increasing number of public sector bodies including An Garda Síochána and the HSE to accelerate development of their energy efficiency strategies. The work already under way has highlighted the very significant energy savings achievable across the public sector with commensurate reduction in energy costs for all public bodies.

I will be publishing a new National Energy Efficiency Action Plan over the summer which will set out the measures we will take to deliver on our overall national targets in line with the European Commission's ambition for energy efficiency. This may include a target for the refurbishment of public buildings.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

216 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to make Ireland a centre of excellence in the management of carbon; and his plans to work with his Northern counterpart in doing so. [14182/11]

I have no role in this matter, which is the responsibility of the Department of the Taoiseach in conjunction with the Department of Finance and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Broadcasting Services

John Lyons

Ceist:

217 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a percentage breakdown of spending on programming by RTE, including domestic programming, foreign imports and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14293/11]

RTÉ is an independent national public service broadcaster whose remit and obligations are set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009.

The principal objects and associated powers of RTÉ are set out in Section 114(1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009. Section 98 provides that RTÉ shall be independent in the pursuance of these objects subject to the requirements of the Act. As such I, as Minister, have no function in RTÉ's management of their day to day affairs. This includes programming matters and the breakdown of spending on same.

To be of assistance to the Deputy, however, I have asked RTÉ to forward directly to him such information as it can provide in this matter, subject, of course, to whatever commercial constraints as may apply.

Telecommunications Services

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

218 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason the newly announced rural broadband scheme does not cover areas which were covered under the previous scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are parts of Kilkerley in County Louth which are in the mapped area for the previous rural broadband scheme but still cannot avail of broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14376/11]

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS), which I announced last month, aims to provide a basic broadband service to individual un-served rural premises outside of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) areas.

The RBS, as a targeted State intervention into the broadband market, is subject to strict rules set by the EU Commission and it is therefore strictly prohibited from being used to displace existing operators, including the NBS service provider. To do so would be a breach of EU State Aid's rules.

As the area referred to by the Deputy is outside of the NBS area, anyone living in this location, who is unable to obtain a broadband service from existing commercial operators, can make an application to be included in the Rural Broadband Scheme. Details of the Scheme are available on my Department's website at www.dcenr.ie and applications can be made online or by telephone at 01-6782020 or Callsave 1850678100. Broadband is now available in all NBS areas, including the Creggan Upper ED in County Louth. 3, the NBS service provider, is obliged to provide broadband to anyone in a NBS area who requires a service.

Broadcasting Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

219 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding television reception in areas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14422/11]

RTÉ is an independent national public service broadcaster whose remit and obligations are set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009. Section 114(1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 states the principal objects and associated powers of RTÉ, including the power to build and operate digital multiplexes under section 114(1)(j).

Under Section 130, RTÉ is required to build and operate digital multiplexes and to make these available to the same extent as the existing analogue network, which is available to 98% of the population. RTÉ has informed me it plans to provide the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) network to 98% of the population in fulfilment of its statutory obligations. I have also been informed that RTÉ proposes to offer a free to air satellite service to provide coverage to the last 2% of the population.

The RTÉ decision to provide a satellite service is being made by RTÉ on a commercial basis. I have been assured that the national TV services will be available over satellite free to air. RTÉ has indicated that this service in conjunction with the DTT network will provide coverage to virtually 100% of the population. The satellite, which will be used to provide this service, launched in late 2010 and is currently undergoing tests.

Offshore Exploration

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

220 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on concerns that have been expressed regarding the type of mining known as fracking, which it is proposed to use at Lough Allen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14443/11]

Earlier this year, my Department granted onshore Petroleum Licensing Options to three companies over parts of the North West Carboniferous and the Clare Basins. The Licensing Options specifically exclude exploration drilling but may include shallow geological sampling. The options are designed to allow the companies to assess the natural gas potential of their acreage largely based on desktop studies of existing data from previous petroleum exploration activity.

Exploration activity under these authorisations is at an early stage and there is no certainty that it will lead to applications for follow-on exploration licences that would be required before exploration wells could be drilled. In the event hydraulic fracturing was envisaged as part of a possible future exploration or production programme, then that activity would be subject to an environmental impact assessment, including an appropriate public consultation phase.

Íocaíochtaí Deontas

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

221 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha, i bhfianaise an fhreagra a fuair sé ón Aire Talmhaíochta, Mara agus Bia, uimhir 277, an bhfuil i gceist aige athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an iarratas óna Roinn gan aon deontais eile a cheadú d’fheirmeacha bradán go dtí go mbeidh tuilleadh dul chun cinn déanta ó thaobh míolta mara a chur faoi smacht, ainneoin an dul chun cinn atá déanta sa treo sin cheana féin; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [14484/11]

Is ceisteanna iad feirmeoireacht éisc a fhorbairt agus Clár Oibriúcháin an Bhia Mara maraon le géilliúntas don Treoir maidir le Gnáthóga agus le reachtaíocht eile de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh don Aire Talmhaíochta, Bia agus na Mara nach bhfuil feidhm agam iontu. Bheinn go hiomlán taobh thiar de thionscal na hiascaireachta agus de dhobharshaothrú a fhorbairt. Tacaím go láidir le síor-shaothar de chuid an Aire, a Roinne-sin agus na ngíomhaireachtaí a oibríonn faoina scáth chun féachaint chuige go bhfreagraíonn gach a dhéanann siad dár gcuid dualgas faoi réir na Treorach maidir le Gnáthóga agus na reachtaíochta eile de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh arna ndearadh leis an gcomhshaol a chaomhnú.

Sa bhreis ar na gceisteanna suntasacha idir comhshaoil agus reachtúil de, beidh fios ag an Teachta gur measadh luach ionchasach turasóireachta an tslat-iascaire a thagann chugainn ón iasacht a bheith sa bhreis ar €100 milliún in aghaidh na bliana dar le Fáilte Ireland agus le hIascach Intíre na hÉireann agus go ndéantar mórchuid den iascaireacht sin faoin dtuath agus cois chósta. Sna cúinsí úd, táim cinnte de go mbeidh an tAire agus an Teachta ar chomhmhian go dtabharfar an caomhnú is gá do stoic na mbradán fiáin dúchasach agus d'earnáil luachmhar na slat-iascaireachta bradáin, earnáil a chothaíonn poist sna pobail cois chósta agus sna pobail tuaithe.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Jack Wall

Ceist:

222 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a club (details supplied) in County Kildare can apply for funding to meet its development proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14130/11]

The Dormant Accounts Acts provide for an annual transfer by credit institutions and insurance undertakings of monies in accounts determined to be dormant into the Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF). The process in place with regard to support from the Dormant Accounts Fund provides for consideration of applications received on foot of advertised measures. I regret that there are currently no measures open under the DAF to which this organisation could apply for funding. My Department has also provided funding under the RAPID Programme Sports Capital Top-Up Scheme, but applications under this scheme are also now closed.

Local Authority Housing

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

223 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of local authority housing loans which have been approved, on a county basis, since January 2011; if he collects data on the length of time taken by local authorities, on a county basis, to process local authority loans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14114/11]

A total of 183 applications for housing loans have been referred by local authorities to the central loan processing unit in the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency. Of these, 31 were recommended for approval, 104 were recommended for decline, 3 were withdrawn and 45 applications are in progress. The further detailed information sought in the question in relation to time taken to process loans and volume of approvals by county is not available in my Department.

Voluntary Sector Funding

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

224 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans regarding the long-term core funding of an organisation (details supplied) to help facilitate its work in providing support and support mechanisms for practitioners working with young persons at risk; his plans to extend its short-term funding beyond June 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14115/11]

The Scheme to Support National Organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector, under which the organisation referred to by the Deputy has been funded, commenced in 2008 with the aim of providing multi-annual funding to national organisations which provide coalface services to disadvantaged target groups. The three-year contracts were concluded at the end of 2010.

On 2 December 2010, organisations funded under this Scheme were offered an extension to their contract until 31 March 2011. In light of the transfer of the community function to my Department on 1 May, I have decided to roll over the current interim funding until the end of June 2011, in order to allow for a final decision on the assessment process of the new Scheme. Delays in the announcement have been necessitated by the change of Government in March and by the changes in Departmental functions which has occurred under the new Government. The new funding scheme will be in operation from 1 July 2011.

Road Network

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

225 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the repeated road surface settlement occurring at bus stops throughout the city from wear and tear by heavy duty traffic; if there are specific design standards or specifications for the sub-surface at bus stops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14122/11]

The quality of road surfaces, and associated design standards and road traffic implications, including in regard to bus stops, are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Community Development

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

226 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to move community employment and enterprise supports back to local government. [14183/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

236 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to merge the local enterprise and job support functions of local, regional and national agencies into a single business and enterprise unit within local authorities. [14193/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 236 together.

Local authorities play a central role in supporting economic development and enterprise at local level. They do this in a number of ways, including through their capital and current budgets, economic planning and development and the provision of goods and services as well as community infrastructure. Business Support Units (or similar arrangements) have been put in place in all county and city councils. These Units provide a dedicated one-stop-shop approach for businesses in areas such as planning, water services and roads. In addition, the local government-led County/City Development Boards are engaged in economic development and the promotion of enterprise in their areas.

The Programme for Government provides for an expanded role for local authorities in local enterprise and community development. This in turn will assist in maximising the impact of investment to produce jobs at local level. The assignment of the community brief to my Department is important in this regard. Against this background my Department is working closely with local government and local development interests to achieve the alignment of both sectors under democratic leadership to the benefit of the local communities which they serve.

Local Authority Charges

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

227 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to ensure all property-related revenues are part of the income stream of local government. [14184/11]

The EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland under its fiscal consolidation measures commits to the introduction of a property tax for 2012 and to an increase in the property tax for 2013. The Programme reflects the need, in the context of the State's overall financial position, to put the funding of locally delivered services on a sound financial footing, improve accountability and better align the cost of providing services with the demand for such services.

In light of the complex issues involved, a property tax, requiring a comprehensive property valuation system, would take time to introduce and accordingly, to meet the revenue measure in the EU/IMF Programme, I have already indicated my intention to introduce a household charge in 2012.

It is my intention that the revenues from the charge will support the provision of locally based services and will in turn reduce local government's requirement for Exchequer support for the funding of such services.

I will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future on the legislative and administrative requirements necessary to implement the household charge.

Legislative Programme

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

228 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will abolish the position of county manager and replace it with a chief executive; and if he will outline the limited range of executive functions that this new chief executive will hold. [14185/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

230 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will introduce legislation that will provide councillors with a legal power to seek reports from and question in public all providers of public services in their area. [14187/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

231 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will introduce legislation that will provide councillors with a legal power to seek reports from, and question in public, private sector service providers such as internet and digital TV providers, local banks and private schools on their public service remit. [14188/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

234 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to fundamentally reorganise local governance structures to allow for devolution of much greater decision making to local persons. [14191/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228, 230, 231 and 234 together.

Government for National Recovery 2011-2016 contains a range of proposals in relation to local government which provide the basis for a substantial programme for the development and reform of the local government system. These include proposals relating to the position and role of local authority managers; the powers of councillors; and the reorganisation of local government structures.

Key objectives in this context include devolution of greater decision-making to local level; strengthening the powers and functions of local authorities; enhancing the development and leadership role of local government; and strengthening its structures and funding arrangements. I intend publishing a policy statement that will outline settled Government policy in this area and I will be bringing proposals to Government on the measures needed to develop the sector, improve its capacity to meet current and future challenges and make a substantial contribution to the national recovery effort.

Relevant proposals in recent reports including the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes and the local government efficiency review group will be taken into account in the development of policy in this area. The report of the review group includes recommendations for efficiency and other savings in the local government system and I have recently established an independent implementation group to drive forward relevant recommendations of the report, with a focus on key recommendations that will remove costs and yield early savings.

Planning Issues

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

229 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to amend the strategic planning guideline model. [14186/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

240 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to ensure more co-ordinated development and planning that supports local communities instead of the current system, which favours developer-led planning. [14197/11]

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

241 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will introduce a mechanism to require all local authorities to develop a transport plan in conjunction with their county or city development plans and local areas plans. [14198/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229, 240 and 241 together.

The regional planning guidelines 2010-2022, adopted during 2010 by each of the regional authorities, are in the first year of their 12-year life-span and, as a key implementation mechanism for the national spatial strategy, the RPGs provide a long-term strategic and sustainable planning framework for each region. The coherence and consistency between the national and regional strategic planning frameworks, the delivery of which is underpinned by development plans and local area plans at the local level, are central to enhancing our competitiveness and economic recovery and to the promotion of development which is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The NSS update and outlook report, published in October 2010, re-affirms the importance of implementing long-term planning frameworks such as the NSS and outlines new priorities and objectives, taking account of experience since its inception in 2002 and the changed environmental, budgetary and economic challenges.

In addition, the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 introduced a number of reforms to the development plan process to provide for greater consistency of plans at regional, city/county and local area levels, to require a core strategy to be incorporated into development plans and to reinforce the practice of developing evidence-based policy objectives into future development plans. These new provisions are currently being reflected and implemented in new development plans and in variations to existing plans.

Within the above policy context, my Department is currently examining, inter alia, the specific commitments in the programme for Government regarding better co-ordination of national, regional and local planning laws to achieve better and more coordinated development that supports local communities, and the development by local authorities of transport plans in conjunction with their development plans and local area plans, with a view to further progressing matters as necessary over the term of the Government.

Questions Nos. 230 and 231 answered with Question No. 228.

Local Government Audit Service

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

232 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has implemented a requirement that the Local Government Director of Audit publish an annual report covering all his functions, to be provided to the Oireachtas Committee on the environment; and the date on which the committee will receive the first report. [14189/11]

In accordance with the recommendation in the report of the local government efficiency review group, the annual report of the director of audit of the local government audit service, covering local authority accounts for the year 2009, will be submitted to the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government as soon as possible.

Building Inspectorate

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

233 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a single State building inspectorate service. [14190/11]

The local government efficiency review group recommended that a single building inspectorate service could be established on a regional basis to streamline the approach to the inspection of property. The introduction of a single inspectorate will be considered in the context of the work now under way in my Department to strengthen the system of building control.

Question No. 234 answered with Question No. 228.

Local Authority Services

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

235 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the State or any agency of the State owns a domain name (details supplied) and the date on which this website will be up and running for the public to use. [14192/11]

In the context of the commitment in the Programme for Government, my Department is working with local authorities in developing options for the enhancement of the arrangements and applications in place which facilitate citizens in making complaints or suggestions or in reporting problems through the various mediums, including by post, phone, text, fax, e-mail and on-line through their websites. Local authorities have a range of web-based customer service arrangements. Further developments in this regard and in the context of the Programme for Government are being advanced. The question of an appropriate domain name does not arise at this stage.

Question No. 236 answered with Question No. 226.

Urban Regeneration

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

237 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to initiate urban regeneration projects and the locations of same. [14194/11]

My Department currently supports an ambitious programme of regeneration projects which seek to address the causes of disadvantage in the country's most disadvantaged estates through a holistic programme of physical, social and economic regeneration. The national regeneration programme includes a wide variety of projects ranging from large-scale urban regeneration projects such as those in Ballymun, now moving towards completion, and Limerick City, to smaller estate-wide regeneration projects in regional towns around the country. Funding of almost €125 million has been set aside in 2011 to support projects through master planning, construction and completion phases of regeneration.

The following table sets out the major projects at master planning/early implementation stages:

Project

Project Status

Dublin City — Regeneration Projects at St. Michael’s Estate, O’Devaney Gardens, Dominick Street, Croke Villas, St. Teresa’s Gardens and Dolphin House

St. Michael’s Estate — ongoing — demolition and construction work underway.O’Devaney Gardens — detailed plans in preparation — relocation of tenants underway — some demolitions.On all the other projects, Dublin City Council is progressing a programme of relocation to facilitate future regeneration and is progressing the master planning, process.Dolphin House — Dublin City Council is undertaking remedial works to alleviate damp and condensation issues in some flats.

Cork City — Knocknaheeny

Knocknaheeny — review of the master plan underway, regeneration relocation programme to facilitate the next phases of the regeneration, some community and social amenity projects being advanced in 2011.

Limerick Regeneration

Phase 1 plans, involving 26 capital projects, approved by Government in June, 2010. Social inclusion and research projects ongoing. New housing developments to commence construction shortly.

Sligo Borough — Cranmore

Master plan process ongoing. Enabling works and community projects to commence this year.

Dundalk Town — Cox’s Demesne

Master plan process ongoing. Estate improvement works ongoing.

Energy Efficiency

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

238 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to move towards zero-carbon homes and the timeframe in which he envisages this happening. [14195/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to further improve the energy efficiency of new buildings with a view to moving towards carbon neutral homes in the longer term. In tandem with this commitment, Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings requires EU Member States, inter alia, to ensure that all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy by 31 December 2020 (or by 31 December 2018 in the case of new buildings owned and occupied by public authorities). The Directive broadly defines a ‘nearly zero-energy building’ as a building with a high energy performance where the very low amount of energy required should, to a very significant extent, be met by energy from renewable sources, including renewable energy produced on-site or nearby.

Against this background, Ireland has been making significant progress in terms of both improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions within the built environment. Taking the energy efficiency requirements established in 2005 as the benchmark, the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2007 set the requirements necessary to achieve a 40% improvement (over the 2005 standards) in the energy and carbon performance of new dwellings. These regulations came into effect on 1 July 2008 subject to certain transitional arrangements.

Furthermore, I have recently signed the new Building Regulations (Part L Amendment) Regulations 2011 and will be publishing the accompanying Technical Guidance Document L — Conservation of Fuel and Energy — Dwellings 2011 shortly. The new regulations aim to build on the substantial improvements already introduced under the 2007 regulations and will deliver a 60% aggregate improvement (relative to 2005 standards) in both the energy and carbon performance of new buildings when the regulations take effect on 1 December 2011.

The new regulations mark an important step on the road to carbon neutrality and put Ireland at the forefront of EU Member States in terms of energy efficiency standards for new dwellings. Already there are signs that Irish builders and manufacturers are innovating and adapting their approaches and products to meet the standards of the proposed regulations. This is important in terms of continuing the development of the market for energy efficient buildings and products domestically while also increasing the considerable potential that exists for high energy efficiency products in export markets. The proposed regulations are important in maintaining the momentum that has been created in this regard.

My Department is also working on the development of a strategy for achieving a carbon neutral framework for dwellings in order to meet our obligations under Directive 2010/31/EU within the prescribed timeframe. It is anticipated that a carbon neutral framework will require further amendments to the building regulations over and above the recently introduced requirements.

Waste Management

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

239 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to drive a waste reduction programme through extension of producer responsibility initiatives and a levy on packaging. [14196/11]

In line with the Programme for Government commitment, my Department, as part of a waste reduction strategy, wishes to examine options regarding the possible introduction of a packaging levy. I have, therefore, recently announced the commencement of a consultation process with the aim of seeking the views of industry, interested stakeholders and the public on how this levy might be operated.

The main areas to be covered in this consultation are:

The overall views of stakeholders on a packaging levy;

How a packaging levy might be operated;

International experiences of similar levies; and

How a possible packaging levy might be structured in order to contribute to a reduction in packaging waste.

No decisions have been taken on this matter yet and I look forward to considering the responses received. Further details about the consultation are available at my Department's website —www.environ.ie.

Questions Nos. 240 and 241 answered with Question No. 229.

Proposed Legislation

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

242 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will introduce legislation to allow local authorities to take housing estates in charge after three years. [14199/11]

Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) provides that, where estates have not been completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority and enforcement proceedings have not been commenced within the relevant period, the planning authority must, if requested to do so by the majority of owners, initiate the procedures for taking the estate in charge. The decision as whether to take an estate in charge is ultimately one for the elected members of a local authority.

A further provision was added in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 to provide that a planning authority may take in charge an unfinished estate, at the request of the owners of the housing units, at any time after the expiration of the planning permission, in situations where enforcement actions have commenced or where the planning authority consider that enforcement action will not result in the satisfactory completion of the estate by the developer. Planning authorities have also been empowered to take in charge part of an estate or some, but not all, of the facilities in an estate.

I am considering whether further measures are warranted in the context of the specific commitment in the programme for Government.

Planning Issues

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

243 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will introduce a mechanism to require all local authorities to carry out an educational impact assessment for all new zoning for residential development to ensure an adequate supply of school places. [14200/11]

The Provision of Schools and the Planning System — A Code of Practice was jointly published, in August 2008, by my Department and the Department of Education and Skills. The Code of Practice sets out co-ordinated actions to be taken in relation to forecasting future demand for school places by the Department of Education and Skills and planning for the provision of school sites within the planning system, as well as the efficient handling of planning applications and associated consultations by the relevant planning authorities to expedite school delivery.

With regard to assessing the implications of local authority development planning on the issue of schools and school provision in a given area, local authorities are obliged under the Code of Practice to take this matter into account in preparing and finalising their plans, working in conjunction with the relevant forward planning and new school sections of the Department of Education and Skills.

Furthermore, section 10(2)(l) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 requires a development plan to include objectives for "the provision, or facilitation of the provision, of services for the community including, in particular, schools, crèches and other education and childcare facilities". This requirement is restated in my Department's 2007 Development Plan Guidelines for Planning Authorities which together with the Code of Practice are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Implementation of the Code of Practice is a matter for local authorities, working in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills. I believe that the Code is working satisfactorily as evidenced by the many development plans and local area plans that have addressed the schools issue more comprehensively than in the past and as facilitated by detailed forecasting on school requirements now available from the Department of Education and Skills.

Both I and the Minister for Education and Skills are statutory consultees for the purposes of local authority development plans. My Department will continue to work pro-actively with the Department of Education and Skills in ensuring the issue of schools provision is properly addressed both in local authority plans and in assisting the Department of Education and Skills in ensuring that new schools are delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner and in line with the proper planning and sustainable development of the areas in which they are needed.

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

244 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will introduce a planning and development (amendment) Bill to allow for detailed public submissions on zoning. [14201/11]

It remains open to the public to make detailed submissions on zoning for consideration by the planning authority in respect of draft development plans and draft variations to such plans under sections 12 and 13 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), with similar provisions applying in the case of draft local area plans under section 20 of the Act.

Notwithstanding these provisions, under section 11 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended by section 8 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010), the manager's report, summarising issues raised in submissions or observations made to the planning authority in respect of its notice to review the existing development plan and prepare a new plan, shall not refer to any submission relating to a request or proposal for zoning of particular land for any purpose. This is to ensure that the manager's report is focused on strategic considerations and policies at this early stage of the development plan review process rather than on specific zoning proposals which can be made during the consultation period when the draft plan has been published.

In delivering on the specific commitments in the Programme for Government, I intend to keep the planning code under regular review to ensure that there continues to be adequate access and participation both by the public and by public representatives in decision-making and policy formulation.

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

245 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will introduce a mechanism to require local authorities to carry out a flood risk report in the preparation of their city and county development plans and when he will introduce a legal requirement for local authorities to manage flood risk through sustainable planning and development. [14202/11]

My Department's Guidelines to Planning Authorities on the Planning System and Flood Risk Management, which were published on 30 November 2009, are aimed at ensuring a more consistent, rigorous and systematic approach to flood risk assessment and management in the planning system. The Guidelines were issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) which requires planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to them in the performance of their functions. These measures have been further embedded in legislation through the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010.

As part of my statutory observation role in respect of development plans and local area plans, my Department is monitoring implementation of the Guidelines in conjunction with the relevant legislative provisions in the planning code, to determine, inter alia, whether the existing provisions continue to provide a sound basis for planning authorities to identify, assess and take appropriate steps to manage flood risk in a sustainable manner within their area.

Waste Management

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

246 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to ensure specific producer responsibility requirements for construction and demolition projects over certain thresholds, with recycling and waste management requirements enforced through mandatory compliance bonds. [14203/11]

An initiative has been in place to promote environmentally sustainable management of construction and demolition waste for a number of years and Best Practice Guidelines on the Preparation of Waste Management Plans for Construction & Demolition Projects were published in 2006. The purpose of the Guidelines is to promote an integrated approach to construction and demolition waste management throughout the duration of a project. They are designed to promote sustainable development, environmental protection and the optimum use of resources.

To address the Programme for Government objective, I recently announced that I intend to carry out a review of the performance of the existing producer responsibility schemes to ensure that they are delivering effectively both for their members and for Ireland. This review will include the construction and demolition waste stream and it is hoped that it will assist in determining how the management and recovery of this waste can be further improved.

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

247 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans, in the absence of a publicly provided waste collection system, to introduce a public service obligation for private operators which would require a fee waiver scheme for low-income households. [14204/11]

The Programme for Government indicates that the Government will introduce competitive tendering for local household waste collection services. It is envisaged that service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service, including a public service obligation in respect of a waiver scheme for low income households. Such a restructuring of household waste collection markets will strengthen competition, enhance service levels and improve environmental outcomes. In addition, the introduction of competitive tendering will broaden the scope to achieve other goals, including in respect of a waste collection charge waiver scheme for low-income households.

I will shortly publish a discussion document on the introduction of competitive tendering, seeking the views of householders, businesses, service providers and other participants in the waste industry, to help inform policy development.

Election Management System

Seán Kenny

Ceist:

248 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the storage and possible disposal of the electoral voting machines. [14205/11]

In addressing the legacy of the electronic voting project, my priority is to see that the equipment is disposed of as soon as possible.

I have asked the Task Force that was established to oversee the cessation of the project to consider proposals for the disposal of the equipment, with a view towards immediately progressing arrangements. The Task Force met on 12 April 2011, and the necessary preliminary and background work to enable the disposal of the equipment to proceed is currently underway. This is to be completed as soon as possible.

In considering options for disposal of the equipment, the priority is to pursue the most economically advantageous approach, with a view to achieving the maximum recovery of cost possible in the circumstances, consistent with environmental and other obligations.

In 2007, over 60% of the machines (4,762 in total) were moved from 12 local storage locations to a central facility at Gormanston Army Camp. There are no ongoing rental costs in respect of the use of this property. A further 14 machines are held in the Custom House. The remaining machines are stored at 13 local premises that were originally identified by Returning Officers for this purpose. It is intended that all machines will be removed from their present locations when arrangements for disposal are implemented. Work on termination of local lease arrangements is proceeding in this context.

Based on information received in my Department from Returning Officers, the total cost in respect of storage of the electronic voting equipment in 2010 was €144,320.

Local Authority Housing

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

249 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will review the guidelines for the construction of local authority housing that permit tenants to live in council apartments with steep concrete stairs and no fire escape provision; and if he is satisfied that all apartments in local authority ownership are compliant with health and safety requirements. [14218/11]

The Building Regulations 1997-2010 provide for the health, safety and welfare of persons in and around buildings and set out the legal requirements for the design and construction of new buildings, including houses, extensions and material alterations and certain changes of use to existing buildings. The related Technical Guidance Documents provide technical guidance on how to achieve compliance with the Regulations. All buildings, including local authority housing, must comply with the Building Regulations that are in force at the time of their construction. The Regulations are continuously updated to ensure that they remain in line with best practice.

Part B (Fire Safety) of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations sets out the legal requirements for dealing with the means of escape in the case of fire in buildings, Part B 1 states: "A building shall be so designed and constructed that there are adequate means of escape in case of fire from the building to a place of safety outside the building, capable of being safely and effectively used".

Part K of the Building Regulations 1997 sets out the legal requirements in respect of Stairways, Ladders, Ramps and Guards in buildings. It covers issues such as safe passage for users of the building, protection from falling from floors, balconies and roofs.

Part M of the Building Regulations 2010 requires adequate provision to be made for people regarding access and use to a building, its facilities and its environs. These regulations were signed in November 2010 and, in general, the regulations apply to works which will commence on or after 1 January 2012 subject to certain transitional arrangements.

Compliance with the Regulations is the responsibility of the owner or builder of a building and in the case of social housing the local authority itself.

My Department has also provided additional guidance to local authorities in the form of Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities Design Guidelines. The aim of these Guidelines is to identify principles and criteria that are important in the design of housing and cover such issues as energy efficiency, environmental protection, access for people with disabilities, meeting varied needs of occupants through their lifetime, durability and continued performance of buildings.

In addition, my Department is committed to ensuring that the existing stock of 130,000 social houses is maintained and improved to the highest standard possible. To deliver on this objective, local authorities receive exchequer funding to undertake a wide range of improvement works, from works to adapt individual units to meet the needs of a particular household to broad programmes to improve the energy efficiency of units in estates across the country. Furthermore, my Department also funds regeneration and remedial works programme under which housing in the public realm is improved for the benefit of the communities living there. In 2011, I have made over €200 million available to local authorities to undertake this important work.

Eamonn Maloney

Ceist:

250 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the commencement order has been signed in respect of the local authority tenant purchase scheme for apartments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14284/11]

My Department has been working for some time on the necessary statutory provisions to enable the tenant purchase scheme for local authority apartments under Part 4 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 to be given effect as soon as possible. I am committed to maximising the potential for tenant purchase in the context of the implementation of sustainable communities policies and measures.

Departmental Contracts

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

251 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown of the costs to date of the recent abstraction of water from Lough Ennell, County Westmeath, for the purposes of upgrading the Royal Canal, with particular reference to consultancy fees; his views in respect of the value for money delivered by this project to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14322/11]

My Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, includes the two contracts to advance to construction to improve the Mullingar Regional Water Supply Scheme. One of these is the Lough Ennell abstraction.

One of the fundamental considerations of any capital expenditure is that it must deliver value for money. The procurement option chosen for any scheme under the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-012 is based on an assessment of the best value for money from a whole life perspective. Westmeath County Council are currently undertaking an Environmental Impact Study in relation to abstraction of water from Lough Ennell. The Department's assessment of the project appraisal will not take place until after this study is completed and a report has been submitted.

The costs recouped by the Department to date in relation to this project, which amount to €311,000, have been in relation to planning only.

Rural Development

Robert Troy

Ceist:

252 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is funding from him for a community to secure the boundary wall of an old cemetery which is not in the charge of the county council. [14358/11]

The Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 has funding of €427 million available to be allocated to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. The main objectives of the RDP are to improve the quality of life in rural areas and facilitate the diversification of the rural economy. As part of the suite of measures available under the RDP to achieve these aims the Conservation and Upgrading of the Rural Heritage measure provides funding for initiatives that support conservation actions including conservation and protection actions for the natural, cultural, social and vernacular heritage. Any initiatives considered under this measure should support the maintenance, restoration and upgrading of the cultural heritage such as the cultural features of a village or the rural landscape. In this context, there is a possibility that the restoration of an unused graveyard for conservation purposes may be eligible under the RDP.

There are 36 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver the RDP throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations. Contact details for these groups can be found on the website of the National Rural Network at www.nrn.ie.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

253 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the grants available for households to update or replace their septic tanks; if there are additional grants available for pensioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14359/11]

In October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland failed to adopt the necessary legislation to comply with Articles 4 and 8 of Council Directive 75/442/EEC, known as the Waste Directive, regarding domestic waste waters disposed of in the countryside through septic tanks and other individual waste water treatment systems. The Government recently approved the urgent drafting of a Bill to provide for the establishment of a new system for the inspection and monitoring of the performance of all septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems. The Bill will be published as soon as possible and my intention will be to pursue its early enactment.

Insofar as support for the upgrading of septic tanks is concerned, the introduction of a grants scheme for any purpose must be managed within current budgetary constraints. The matter is being considered by my Department in the context of developing the overall response to the ECJ judgment.

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

254 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, under the water services programme 2010/2012, the further projects proposed for counties Sligo and Leitrim in 2011; and the level of funding that will be provided in both counties under this programme. [14360/11]

A comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure has been approved for County Sligo and County Leitrim in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library. The total value of contracts underway and those proposed for commencement during the period of the Programme is some €49.6 million in County Sligo and €29 million in County Leitrim.

An integral part of the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 is the annual review process under which the Programme will be reviewed and updated annually to allow for any re-prioritisation required. My Department wrote to all local authorities at the end of March 2011 in relation to the annual review. The deadline for receipt of returns was 21 April 2011. Given the short time which has passed since the extensive review of the Programme was completed in 2009/2010, and having regard to the ongoing pressure on Exchequer funding generally, it is anticipated that only minor adjustments will be made to the Programme at this stage.

As part of this review, Sligo County Council and Leitrim County Council have proposed some additional contracts for inclusion in the programme and these are currently being evaluated by the Department. It is envisaged that a decision will be conveyed to both Councils in relation to their proposals by the end of June 2011.

Departmental Correspondence

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

255 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 234 of 31 May 2011, if he will forward a copy of the response referred to therein to this Deputy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14398/11]

As this matter is the subject of continuing correspondence between Ireland and the European Commission it would not be appropriate to place an element of that correspondence in the public domain pending the conclusion of the process.

Rural Development

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

256 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is a source of funding available for a community hall (details supplied) in County Kerry, which the local community hope to restore and reopen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14420/11]

Funding of €427 million is available under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 for allocation to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. One of the objectives of the RDP is to identify and provide appropriate amenity and leisure facilities to local communities not otherwise available to them. Accordingly, in this context it may be possible to obtain funding for a project of the nature referred to in the question under the RDP.

There are 36 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver the RDP throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations. Contact details for these groups can be found on the website of the National Rural Network at www.nrn.ie.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

257 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding staged payments of the non-principal private residence charge (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14440/11]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities.

The charge is levied on a fixed liability date in each calendar year and payment becomes due two months after that date. There is then a further month's grace period to pay the charge, giving a total of three months during which the charge may be paid before penalties for late payment commence. Given this length of time and the relatively modest nature of the charge, it is not considered that an instalment payment plan is merited in this case.

The Act places collection of the charge under the care and management of the relevant local authority, and interpretation and implementation of the legislation is a matter for the local authorities in the first instance.

I have no plans to amend the payment arrangements with regard to the charge on non-principal private residences at present but I will take the views of the Deputy into account in any future assessment of the charge.

Water Charges

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

258 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of water meters or water connections that have been installed in the four Dublin counties and in each local authority area across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14496/11]

For a number of years now, domestic water meters have been installed on group water supplies which were being upgraded under the Rural Water Programme. In addition, non-domestic water customers are required to be metered and I understand that the local authorities have now largely completed the installation of water meters in the non-domestic sector. However, my Department does not collect information on the number of meters that have been installed under either the Rural Water Programme or the non-domestic metering programme.

Information on the numbers of meters installed under both programmes should be available from individual local authorities.

Proposed Legislation

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

259 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, in view of the report by the Joint Committee on the Constitution of the Oireachtas published in July 2010, which recognised that legislation that would promote female candidates as a condition of public funding might prove constitutionally frail and recommended that the Attorney General be asked to examine the constitutional implications of such legislation, if he has obtained such advice from the Attorney General regarding proposed legislation on party funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14517/11]

On 31 May 2011, I announced that the Government had approved measures to be contained within the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 that is currently being prepared. In line with the Government's commitment to significantly reform political funding in Ireland, this Bill will implement commitments from the Programme for Government and recommendations made in the Moriarty Tribunal Report Into Payments to Politicians and Related Matters. The Government have agreed that the Bill will, inter alia, address the Programme for Government commitment that: “Public funding for political parties will be tied to the level of participation by women as candidates those parties achieve”.

The Bill is to include a requirement that to qualify for full State funding under Part III of the Electoral Act 1997 a qualified political party will have to have at least 30% women candidates and at least 30% men candidates at the next General Election. This is to rise to 40% after seven years. Half of every payment to a qualified political party is to be made contingent on meeting these new requirements. I have received the advice of the Attorney General in respect of these intended provisions and I do not envisage constitutional difficulties arising.

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

260 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation to regulate the charity sector, which raises more than €500 million a year; if he will consider bringing forward a provision in any statutory code for the sector that all salaries over a certain limit paid for from charity funds should be disclosed publicly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14165/11]

The Charities Act 2009, which was enacted in February 2009, provides for an integrated system of mandatory registration and proportionate regulation and supervision of the charities sector for the first time in Ireland. While the Charities Act 2009 is designed to regulate the charities sector, it is not prescriptive in terms of issues such as remuneration of charity employees, which will continue to be a matter for individual charities, though it should be noted that charity trustees cannot be remunerated for carrying out trustee duties.

Whilst I accept the principle that charity employees should not be excessively remunerated, I believe it is important that employment in the charities sector is regarded as an attractive option for high quality candidates. The issue of the appropriate remuneration for employees in the charities sector, as with other sectors, would depend on the size of the charity, the range and level of duties of the employee in question, and his or her qualifications and experience.

Where the Charities Act will make a difference in the area of interest to the Deputy though is through the financial and activity related information that charities will have to provide to the new Charities Regulatory Authority, and which will in turn be available to the public. Through this approach, the public will be able to see how charities utilise their resources, including donations, and thus make more informed choices as to which charities operate most efficiently and effectively, and on that basis decide on which charities they will, or will not, support. In that regard, I would expect that donors will favour those charities that focus their resources principally on their charitable purposes rather than on administration, though it must be accepted that a charity will have overheads, like any other business.

Though the Charities Act was passed in 2009, it did not come immediately into force. Any sections that it is possible to commence in advance of the establishment of the Authority have been commenced. The remainder will be commenced on establishment of the new Authority. There is a considerable body of work being undertaken before the bulk of the Act can be commenced. In other jurisdictions, such as Scotland, it has taken a number of years after the enactment of the legislation for the new regulatory system for charities to be formally established and this will be the case in Ireland also, though it should be noted that all of my Department's expenditure programmes are currently being examined in the context of the comprehensive Review of Expenditure currently being undertaken across all Government Departments and Agencies.

Garda Stations

Damien English

Ceist:

261 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the provision of a new Garda station at a location (details supplied) in County Cavan; if a preferred site has been identified to house An Garda Síochána there; if he has investigated if there are cost benefits to be obtained by leasing a building for An Garda Síochána there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14316/11]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation around the country is progressed by the Garda Authorities working in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), who have the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Office of Public Works is currently examining options for the provision of a new Garda station at the location referred to by the Deputy. This matter will be progressed in the context of An Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and in the light of available resources.

House Prices

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

262 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a timeframe for the establishment of the new property database which is intended to track and record market trends and house prices. [14167/11]

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

263 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the contact he has had with any groups representing estate agents, auctioneers or valuers with regard to the establishment of a property database to track and record market trends and house prices. [14168/11]

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

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to improve the quality of information available on the Irish housing market by requiring that the selling price of all dwellings is recorded in a publicly available national housing price database. I intend to give effect to this commitment by assigning statutory responsibility for publishing details of residential property sales prices to the Property Services Regulatory Authority.

The Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009, which provides for establishment of the Authority, is currently awaiting Dáil Committee Stage. I intend to table amendments to the Bill which will have the effect of expanding the Authority's statutory functions to include the publication of residential property sales prices. This information will be supplied to the Authority on an ongoing basis by the Revenue Commissioners who are in receipt of it for stamp duty purposes.

As regards the commercial property market, the issue of confidential side agreements, and the impact which these may have on rent reviews, was considered by the Working Group on transparency in commercial rent reviews which was established by my predecessor. That Group recommended the establishment of a public database which would include relevant details of letting agreements and rent reviews. In the amendments to the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 to which I have already referred, I intend also to allocate responsibility for establishing and maintaining this database to the Property Services Regulatory Authority.

While I have not had contact with groups representing estate agents, auctioneers or valuers in relation to these proposals, I understand that there is broad support on the part of the property services sector for the Government's objective of improving transparency in the residential and commercial property markets.

Citizenship Applications

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

264 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [14170/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in July, 2008. The application is at an advanced stage of processing and will be finalised as expeditiously as possible.

As I outlined in response to Parliamentary Question Number 69 of 7 April last, I can inform the Deputy that I have initiated steps within my Department to provide for speedier processing of applications to bring about a substantial reduction in the processing timescale. The new arrangements will be publicly announced once my Department is in a position to implement them. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Garda Strength

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

265 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí who retired from the Mayo Garda division in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14254/11]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

266 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí who have retired from each Garda division in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14255/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 and 266 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of gardaí who retired in 2007-2010 and the number of gardaí who have retired or indicated that they will retire by the end of 2011 is as set out in the table hereunder:

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

184

259

722

362

147

A breakdown of retirees on a divisional basis is not readily available and the gathering and compilation of the information, as requested, would require a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

267 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí who were appointed to the Mayo Garda division in 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14256/11]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

268 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí who were appointed to each Garda division 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14257/11]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

269 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current strength of the Garda for each district in the Mayo Garda division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14258/11]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

270 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current strength of the Garda in each Garda division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14259/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 to 270, inclusive, together.

Responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends, other demands made on An Garda Síochána and of course the fluctuation in numbers arising from retirements and promotions. The situation is kept under continuing review to ensure optimum use is made of all resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of each Garda Division as at 31 December 2008-2010 and 30 April 2011 was as set out in the tables. Also included is the current personnel strength of each Garda District in the Mayo Garda Division. Divisions marked with an asterisk have had their boundaries realigned in recent years.

31 December 2008

31 December 2009

31 December 2010

30 April 2011

Division

Strength

Strength

Strength

Strength

Carlow/Kildare*

375

Cavan/Monaghan

418

406

391

382

Clare

337

336

320

316

Cork City

678

700

698

695

Cork North

300

303

309

308

Cork West

313

305

318

318

DMR East

477

483

473

463

DMR North

790

832

803

796

DMR North Central

725

719

693

674

DMR South

648

642

632

619

DMR South Central

793

776

771

757

DMR West

794

789

788

788

Donegal

488

468

466

464

Galway*

453

600

601

607

Kerry

341

339

334

333

Kildare*

321

323

324

Kilkenny/Carlow*

314

317

312

Laois/Offaly

337

327

320

318

Limerick

635

635

643

649

Longford/Westmeath*

342

Louth

296

306

314

312

Mayo

331

309

311

313

Meath

299

315

313

308

Roscommon/East Galway*

294

Roscommon/Longford*

292

301

303

Sligo/Leitrim

318

313

320

324

Tipperary

384

395

383

383

Waterford

309

302

302

Waterford/Kilkenny*

457

Westmeath*

258

262

262

Wexford

280

286

281

278

Wicklow

343

360

355

350

30 April 2011

Division

District

Total

Mayo

Ballina

57

Belmullet

25

Castlebar

82

Claremorris

52

Swinford

57

Westport

40

Total

313

Visa Applications

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

271 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an appeal for a study visa in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [14287/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application was received in the Department from the person referred to by the Deputy. However, the person concerned subsequently attended the Immigration Office on the 1 June 2011 and requested and was granted a Stamp 2 permission for six months as a timed out student. Full details of this scheme can be found on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Citizenship Applications

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

272 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the legal status of a child born in this country to Chinese parents who are here on study visas. [14288/11]

Foreign national children under the age of 16 are not required to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Prior to 1 January 2005 a child born on the island of Ireland was automatically entitled to Irish citizenship. Since January 2005 the status of a child born to non-Irish parents is dependent on the residency status of the parents. Section 6A of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended by Section 4 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, provides that a person born on the island of Ireland is entitled to Irish nationality if a parent of that person has been resident on the island of Ireland for an aggregate of at least three years during the four year period immediately preceding the person's birth.

However, Section 6B(4) provides that periods of residence by a parent on foot of a permission to study shall not qualify as eligible residence under Section 6A. Consequently children born after 1 January 2005 to foreign national parents resident in Ireland as students are not eligible for Irish citizenship.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

273 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding a visa application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14291/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in July, 2008. The application is at an advanced stage of processing and will be finalised as expeditiously as possible.

As I outlined in response to Parliamentary Question Number 69 of 7 April last, I can inform the Deputy that I have initiated steps within my Department to provide for speedier processing of applications to bring about a substantial reduction in the processing timescale. The new arrangements will be publicly announced once my Department is in a position to implement them.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Proposed Legislation

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

274 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he plans to have legislation enacted to remove restrictions to competition in the legal profession, as set out in the memorandum of understanding with the EU and IMF and in line with the recommendations of the legal costs working group. [14296/11]

The Programme of the Government for National Recovery 2011-2016 undertakes to "establish independent regulation of the legal profession to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints". These undertakings complement those structural reforms in the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland aimed at removing restrictions to trade and competition relating to the legal professions and legal costs, namely:

to establish an independent regulator for the legal professions and implement the recommendations of the Legal Costs Working Group; and

to implement the outstanding Competition Authority recommendations to reduce legal costs.

I intend to give effect to the various commitments I have mentioned by way of the Legal Services Bill that is referred to in the Government Legislation Programme announced by the Chief Whip on 5 April 2011.

The commitment of the Government is to a strategy that is comprehensive, provides more independent regulation of the legal professions, better regulates legal costs and will ensure that the complaints procedures are as effective as possible. The strategy, when implemented, will improve the overall system of delivery of legal services in the State.

Garda Reserve

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

275 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will reconsider the issue of Garda Reserve members who wish to wear a turban. [14304/11]

As I am awaiting a ruling from the Equality Tribunal related to this matter, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it at this time.

Courthouse Refurbishments

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

276 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when funds will be allocated for the restoration and repair of Tipperary Courthouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14310/11]

The Courts Service is not in a position to allocate funding for the extensive remedial works necessary for the courthouse in Tipperary. However, in view of the historic nature of the building, my Department has agreed to fund some limited repair work by the Office of Public Works in order to prevent further deterioration.

Garda Stations

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

277 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider revoking the closure order on the Garda station at Fitzgibbon Street, Dublin 1, which is providing a very valuable service to the community, in view of the fact that there is no indication when funding will be secured for its refurbishment; and if he will consider an assessment of the building to ascertain if it can continue in its current state for the foreseeable future in order that the community is not at a loss. [14312/11]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation around the country is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and it is progressed in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that, due to its condition, it is necessary to temporarily vacate Fitzgibbon Street Garda station to facilitate refurbishment of the premises.

I am also informed that work on the refurbishment of Mountjoy Garda station is currently under way. It is anticipated that this work will be completed in the near future and that the refurbished building will accommodate the station party from Fitzgibbon Street while refurbishment works are carried out at that station. Arrangements are currently being progressed to ensure that a Garda service will be maintained at Fitzgibbon Street during the period the relevant members are stationed at Mountjoy.

In the circumstances the Deputy will appreciate that the question of closing the station at Fitzgibbon Street does not arise.

Missing Persons

Jack Wall

Ceist:

278 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to establish the 116000 EU hotline number for missing children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14341/11]

I am informed that the telephone number to which the Deputy refers has been reserved by the European Commission as a common missing children telephone hotline for the entire EU. It is made available by national telecoms regulators to organisations capable of providing such a service. The allocation of the number in Ireland is therefore a matter in the first instance for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

I am informed that ComReg has published an information note on its website which makes all relevant information available to potential applicants who may wish to provide the 116000 service. It also issued corresponding national press advertisements inviting applications. To date no applications have been received.

Garda Reserve

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

279 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda Reserve members operating in County Donegal; the areas in which they are operating; if there are any plans to increase the numbers in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14348/11]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of the Garda Reserve in Donegal Garda Division, broken down by station on 30 April 2011, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

Strength

Letterkenny

11

Buncrana

4

Donegal

1

Ballybofey

6

Total

22

The target strength of the Garda Reserve remains at 10% of the full-time force. On 30 April 2011, the number of attested members of the Garda Reserve was 761, with approximately a further 140 in training. The Government are fully committed to the Garda Reserve and recruitment to it is ongoing.

Naturalisation Certificates

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

280 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will make the necessary changes to ensure that certificates of naturalisation issued under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 are issued in the English language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14354/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 114 of 2 June 2011. The position is unchanged since then.

Mine Disaster

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

281 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider issuing an apology on behalf of the State to the families of the people killed in the Ballymanus mine disaster in 1943 in west Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14386/11]

The Deputy is referring to a tragic incident that occurred on Ballymanus Strand, Donegal, on 10 May 1943, in which 18 people tragically lost their lives when a wartime mine floated ashore and exploded. This tragic incident was previously raised in this House in Parliamentary Question No. 512 of 13 May 2008. In an adjournment debate in the Seanad on 23 April 2008, the details of the incident were outlined based on the files from the National Archives. In October 2010, my predecessor met with Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill and the son of one of the men who tragically lost his life that day.

An inquest was held the day after the incident and the proceedings were adjourned while consideration was given to holding an inquiry. However, it seems from the file that there was little local demand for an inquiry into the matter at the time. It was noted that a number of local representatives were of the view that nothing would be gained from an inquiry. A meeting of local clergy apparently also came to the same conclusion. A report on file states that a meeting of the next-of-kin of the deceased was held on the 24 May 1943 and it was decided unanimously by them that no demand be made for an inquiry. The Departments of Defence and Justice came to the conclusion that an inquiry would not serve any useful purpose. The coroner was informed that no official inquiry was proposed and the inquest was reconvened on the 28 May 1943.

This was an appalling tragedy for the community of Ballymanus and for the whole country, but it must be questionable whether, 68 years after the event, it would be practical to inquire into whether anything more should have been done to prevent the dreadful loss of life, or to apportion blame or pass judgement on the actions of the individuals or organisations involved. I am of course deeply saddened by what happened, and offer my personal sympathies to all those who lost loved ones on that dreadful day in 1943.

Visa Applications

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

282 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision on a visa application will issue in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14400/11]

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Dublin, on 15 December 2010. Following consideration by a visa officer, it was refused on the 21 January 2011 for the following reasons:

1. The evidence of finances provided was deemed insufficient; specifically, the documentation provided was of poor quality, lump-sum lodgments were evident and the finances were deemed to be insufficient;

2. Insufficient documentation was submitted in support of the application; specifically, a copy of the applicant's cousin's Garda registration card or passport was not provided;

3. It was the opinion of the visa officer that the applicant did not have sufficient obligations to return to the country of origin and may not observe the conditions of a visa where one was granted;

4. No clear link was established between the applicant and the contact or host in Ireland.

The applicant appealed the refusal to grant a visa. The decision of the visa officer was upheld by an Appeals Officer on 3 March 2011. Each visa application is entitled to one appeal only. It is, however, open to the applicant to submit a fresh visa application at any time. Information on the visa application process is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie).

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Litter Pollution

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

283 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will amend the Data Protection Act to allow local authorities to name and shame those convicted of littering offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14418/11]

The position is that adoption of a policy of naming and shaming those convicted of littering offences under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2009 is in the first instance a policy matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. Subject to Government approval to proceed with such a policy, the required statutory provisions could be enacted by means of an appropriate amendment to the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 or the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2009.

In the case of tax defaulters, for example, specific provision has already been made in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for the publication of the names of such defaulters. Section 1086 of that Act contains detailed provisions which allow for the compilation of lists of those on whom fines or other penalties have been imposed and for the publication of each such list. The principal advantage of this approach is that the specific features of the offences in question can be taken more readily and conveniently into account than under a more general amendment of the Data Protection Acts.

Citizenship Applications

Niall Collins

Ceist:

284 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied). [14441/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in September, 2007.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

In that context, as I outlined in response to Parliamentary Question Number 69 of 7 April last, I can inform the Deputy that I have initiated steps within my Department to provide for speedier processing of applications to bring about a substantial reduction in the processing timescale. The new arrangements will be publicly announced once my Department is in a position to implement them.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Garda Resources

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

285 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will be in a position to supply a figure; and if an additional estimate for the Garda is anticipated. [14520/11]

I am currently awaiting information from the Garda authorities in relation to the matters raised by the Deputy and I will revert to him as soon as the relevant material has been provided.

Milk Quota

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

286 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding an appeal for milk quota in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14166/11]

The named person contacted my Department to request a meeting with regard to an application for an allocation of milk quota under the 2010 Scheme for New Entrants to Dairying.

Department officials met with the named person and his Teagasc adviser in February of this year. Having given full consideration to the case put forward, it was the decision of the Department that the appeal should be denied.

Question No. 287 withdrawn.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Tom Barry

Ceist:

288 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will endeavour to move payments under the agri-environment options scheme forward from August as persons who are anxious to join the scheme are put off by the late payments because they find themselves in a situation of very tight finances. [14207/11]

Under the EU Regulations governing the Agri-Environment Options Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. This work is ongoing and I expect that payments to participants in the scheme in respect of 2010 will commence in August and that payments in respect of 2011 for AEOS participants will commence in October.

With regard to further applications to join AEOS, it is important to note that the closing date for receipt of applications was Monday, 16 May. Accordingly, the scheme is now closed to new applicants.

Fur Farming

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

289 Deputy Maureen O’