Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Thursday, 11 Mar 2010

Written Answers.

Beef Quality Assurance Scheme.

Ceisteanna (11)

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

11 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is monitoring the operation of the quality payments system in meat factories; if an evaluation has been undertaken of the grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11972/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Beef carcases are classified or graded in accordance with EU Regulations using the EUROP scale for conformation and a scale of 1 to 5 to indicate fat cover. Mechanical grading, which was introduced by the meat industry in 2004, facilitated the use of sub-classes within each main class for both conformation and fat cover in order to give a more precise grade for a beef carcase. Studies at Teagasc Grange have shown that the use of sub-classes, to determine the price paid per kg of carcase, is justified. Indeed, the use of sub-classes, when paying for cattle, sends a clear message back to the farmer on the type of carcase required for the market.

The new quality payment system was introduced in December following intensive negotiations between Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the IFA. The payment system, which is cost neutral, makes use of sub-classes to determine the price paid. While the price paid for cattle is a commercial matter for the meat industry and the farmers who supply cattle, it is recognised, however, that, for trading purposes, there are variations in the specification required in different markets. The introduction of price differentials, to reward farmers for quality production, sends a strong signal to the supply chain on the need to produce to high standards in line with market demand. It should also contribute to realising an overall improvement in the quality of carcases produced, to providing more animals for the high-priced EU markets and to underpinning Bord Bia's marketing and promotional strategies.

Officials of my Department conduct regular unannounced inspections of meat plants to monitor the accuracy and performance of the grading machines. A total of 472 control visits in meat plants were conducted during 2009, with 45,266 carcases checked during these visits. All data concerning machine checks are stored electronically, which facilitates accurate and comprehensive monitoring of the machine performance. Officials also conduct regular unannounced inspections of meat plants to ensure that the prices paid for cattle are reported accurately in accordance with EU Regulations to my Department.

Afforestation Programme.

Ceisteanna (12)

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

12 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he will take to meet the target of planting 10,000 hectares of forestry per year; when he now expects to reach this target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11988/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My Department promotes the planting of new forests through a range of attractive support measures — the Afforestation Grant Scheme, the Forest Environment Protection Scheme and the Native Woodland Scheme. These schemes provide 100% establishment grants and annual premiums for up to 20 years. In addition, my Department undertakes promotional activities to encourage farmer participation in forestry. Funding is also provided to Teagasc who play an important role in the development of forestry in Ireland through promotion, training and advice. Forestry Advisers at Teagasc offices run a number of training courses, information evenings and field days and provide free and independent advice on all aspects of forestry to farmers.

The Renewed Programme for Government, agreed in October 2009, commits the Government to increasing the level of planting to 10,000 hectares per annum. A positive step in this direction is the allocation for forestry in the 2010 Budget of over €119 million that will facilitate a higher level of planting, in the region of 7,000 hectares, this year. Increasing the level of funding available for forestry at this time is clear evidence of the Government's continued commitment to forestry. The Government further committed in its Programme to review State forest policy. To organise the work of the review I have formed three separate groups, firstly an overarching group with wide representation dealing with national forestry policy, secondly an interdepartmental group dealing with the funding of forestry schemes and finally an interdepartmental group with Coillte representation dealing exclusively with the role, functions and operations of Coillte.

This review process is now underway with a request for submissions from interested parties published in the national press this week. It is proposed to complete the reviews later this year and their conclusions will contribute to the achievement of the objectives set out in the Programme for Government. I believe that the combination of the very attractive financial package available and the significant supporting promotional efforts being undertaken will assist in furthering our afforestation programme and thereby enabling us to meet our planting target.

Official Engagements.

Ceisteanna (13)

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

13 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the meetings and discussions he has had with his counterpart in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2009; the main items discussed and the response he has given to these communications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11986/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I have regular contact with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, Michelle Gildernew. In 2009, I met with Minister Gildernew at the North South Ministerial Council Agriculture sectoral meetings on the 20th March, 21st July and 18th November. I also met with her in a bi-lateral meeting on the 21st January 2009 and have often met the Minister for discussions at many European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meetings. We have wide ranging discussions on matters of mutual interest affecting the development of the agriculture and food sector in both jurisdictions. In the North / South Ministerial meetings the issues discussed included co-operation on animal health and welfare, plant health and pesticides, issues relating to the Common Agriculture Policy and W.T.O. as well as the dioxin contamination incident.

A particular focus of attention is the development of the all island Animal Health Strategy and this, as well as the Animal Health and Welfare Bill, was discussed at a bilateral meeting which took place in Dublin on Thursday last, March 4th and in this regard a conference involving key stakeholders from both jurisdictions is scheduled for 12th April 2010 to discuss delivery of the strategy. A further North/South Ministerial meeting is also scheduled for 31st March.

Grant Payments.

Ceisteanna (14)

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

14 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason there is continuing delay in the making of REP scheme payments; when all outstanding payments will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11804/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

To meet the requirements of EU regulations, applications for REPS payments have to go through an exhaustive series of administrative checks before payment can be released. In a significant number of cases, these checks raised issues and queries which required further detailed examination. My officials are working to resolve these as quickly as possible. Many of these cases will, however, require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally. The persons concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans. In a small number of local offices, the processing of payments has been delayed by staffing issues arising from the moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the public service and I am attempting to resolve these difficulties. My objective remains to ensure that all outstanding claims are processed to payment stage as quickly as possible.

Restructuring of Sugar Industry.

Ceisteanna (15)

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

15 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in view of the overhaul of the EU sugar regime, the amount of money which was sanctioned by the European Union to upskill and retrain workers in the Mallow and Carlow areas; the funding that was made available; if that fund was drawn down from the EU; the way in which that fund has been spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12039/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The temporary scheme for the restructuring of the sugar industry, introduced as part of the reform of the EU sugar regime in 2006, provided for payment of EU restructuring aid to three groups of stakeholders: sugar processors, beet growers and specialized beet machinery contractors. The overall amount of aid available was calculated at the rate of €730 per tonne of sugar quota renounced, which in Ireland's case was approximately 200,000 tonnes. To draw down the aid, the sugar processor was required to prepare and implement a restructuring plan, which had to include an environmental plan covering factory demolition and site remediation and a social plan detailing ‘the actions planned with respect to re-training, redeployment and early retirement' of the factory workers concerned. The EU regulations did not specify how the aid was to be allocated amongst the various costs in the restructuring plan.

The restructuring plan submitted by Greencore duly incorporated a social plan in respect of the former Mallow factory workers. The plan did not apply to the former employees of the Carlow factory, which had already closed prior to the reform of the EU sugar regime. In addition to early retirement and redundancy packages, the social plan included support services for the departing Mallow workers such as career counselling, financial advice including pension advice, pre-retirement programmes for those aged over 50 years, job-seeking support and ‘Start your own business' programmes. In accordance with the EU regulations, the restructuring aid for the Irish beneficiaries was drawn down in full and paid in two instalments in 2007 and 2008.

Food Industry.

Ceisteanna (16)

Damien English

Ceist:

16 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has studied the Equity for Farmers in the Food Supply Chain report by the IFA; the steps he will take to address the issues raised in this document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11985/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The report refers to the need for equity for farmers in the food supply chain and as I have pointed out repeatedly, I believe that there is a need for considerable improvement so that all players, including producers and consumers, receive fair treatment. The concentration of retail power in the hands of a few large supermarket chains is an international phenomenon, which has fundamentally changed the balance of market negotiating power in the food chain.

I have emphasised consistently at EU and national level the necessity for a reasonable balance between granting price reductions to consumers and giving a fair return to suppliers and producers to ensure fair play in trading conditions and sustainability of food supply within the EU. I am very pleased that the Spanish Presidency had committed itself to progressing the whole issue of improving the functioning of the food chain, and the Tánaiste has also signalled her intention to introduce a national Code of Practice, initially on a voluntary basis, for doing business in the Grocery Goods sector with a view to ensuring a fair trading relationship between retailers and their suppliers.

Farm Waste Management.

Ceisteanna (17)

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

17 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers paid under the farm waste management scheme; the number yet to be paid; the number of penalties imposed; and the level of penalty imposed. [12038/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Total expenditure under the Farm Waste Management Scheme, to date since January 2007, has been €1.015 billion. 12,847 payments totalling €413.7 million were made under the Farm Waste Management Scheme in 2008 compared to 4,748 payments totalling €113.9 million in 2007. In 2009, the Government agreed to make the remaining payments under the Scheme on a phased basis and 17,361 farmers received their first instalment of grant-aid under the Farm Waste Management Scheme in 2009 whilst 3,683 farmers received their second instalment of grant-aid under the Scheme in the same year, which brought total expenditure under the Scheme in 2009 to €292.76 million. Expenditure under the Scheme, to date in 2010, has been €194.3 million comprised mainly of further payments of the second instalment due to farmers under the Scheme. The final instalment of grant-aid will be paid to farmers in 2011.

In a small number of cases (estimated at substantially less than 1 per cent), no grant payment has yet been approved for applicants under the Scheme (i) as applicants have not yet submitted the necessary tax clearance documentation or have not provided the required documentary proof of payment of the contractors concerned, or (ii) due to technical issues having arisen in relation to the standard of the completed buildings. Between January-November 2009, 81 penalties totalling €46,683 were applied in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme. More up-to-date figures are not available at present due to industrial action by staff in my Department.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Ceisteanna (18)

David Stanton

Ceist:

18 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the incentives provided by his Department to grow myscanthus grass as an energy crop; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10156/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The cultivation of miscanthus is a relatively new activity on Irish farms. Interest can be attributed to the decoupling of farm subsidies and Government targets and policies in the bioenergy sector. The Department has been grant-aiding farmers to plant miscanthus and willow since 2007 under the pilot Bioenergy Scheme. The key objectives of the Scheme were:

To increase the production of miscanthus and willow in Ireland by grant aiding establishment costs.

To contribute to GHG emissions reduction and carbon sequestration in the Agriculture sector by encouraging farmers to grow carbon neutral fuels.

To increase the supply of biomass feedstock in line with Government targets.

To complement other Government measures in the area of renewable energy.

To provide alternative land use opportunities for farm diversification and rural employment.

The Scheme provided farmers with a grant to cover 50% of the costs of establishment up to a maximum payment of €1,450 per hectare. Eligible costs include those associated with ground preparation, fencing, vegetation control, the purchase of planting stock and planting. The Scheme supported the planting of 2,100 hectares of miscanthus to the end of 2009. The average payment made to miscanthus growers was €9,800. In addition to establishment grants, areas planted with miscanthus qualify for the Single Farm Payment and for payments under REPS and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, subject to some restrictions on the areas planted.

The Department reviewed the operation of the pilot Bioenergy Scheme in 2009 to assess the need for a new Scheme from 2010 onwards. A new Bioenergy Scheme was announced in February 2010 to consolidate progress made during the pilot phase. The new Scheme will support miscanthus and willow cultivation to the end of 2012. €1 million is being made available to support the planting of a further 1,000 hectares in 2010. Farmers can avail of establishment grants worth €1,300 per hectare to cover 50% of the costs of establishment. The maximum payment per hectare has been reduced by €150 per hectare on the pilot Scheme to take account of lower establishment costs in 2010 and to comply with EU requirements that aid is based on the actual costs of establishment.

My Department and Teagasc continue to work with stakeholders to maximize the potential to grow miscanthus in Ireland. In 2008, Teagasc published a ‘Farm Diversification Manual' providing detailed technical advice to farmers on growing miscanthus and willow in Ireland. Together with Teagasc and Sustainable Energy Ireland, my Department co-funded an educational DVD ‘Willow and Miscanthus — from Field to Furnace'. My Department has also made available ‘Best Practice Guidelines' for growing miscanthus and willow under the Bioenergy Scheme. The guide provides advice to growers on planting and harvesting operations to maximise crop yield and improve the economic viability of the crop.

The Bioenergy Scheme has ignited considerable interest among farmers in growing miscanthus and willow. It has helped bring some scale to the sector and raised awareness of the potential to grow these crops under Irish conditions. Working in consultation with industry stakeholders and other government agencies, my Department will play its role in assisting the development of the sector.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Ceisteanna (19)

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

19 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding ongoing European Commission discussions in relation to the review of eligibility criteria for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11952/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Court of Auditors has criticised the procedures for the designation of intermediate Disadvantaged Areas in the European Union. These criticisms are based on the number and variety of criteria used to designate such areas — Member States have used more than one hundred criteria — and the lack of transparency. The Commission has made a number of attempts to address these criticisms:

During 2004/2005, the Commission proposed these areas be designated using criteria based on area classification, reflecting poor soil qualities and climate conditions (e.g. average cereal yields, stocking density, percentage of permanent grassland, etc.) but this approach was rejected by the Council of Ministers.

In 2007, the Commission commenced working with its Joint Research Centre (JRC) to establish a common soil and climate criteria that would support the delineation of Disadvantaged Areas. The intention was that a Commission proposal would be submitted to the Council in early 2009 for adoption by the Council of Ministers by the end of 2009. However, this was also abandoned by the Commission, in favour of the current approach, using biophysical criteria such as soil and climatic criteria to designate areas of natural handicap.

Currently there are three categories of Disadvantaged Areas in the EU viz:

Mountain Areas — none in Ireland but covers 16% of land area across the EU;

ntermediate Less Favoured Areas — over 99% of Ireland's Least Favoured Areas (LFAs);

Areas of Specific Handicap — 0.4% of Ireland's LFAs (Coastal Regions).

The areas, which are subject to the current review, consist of almost all of the Disadvantaged Area in Ireland.

The Disadvantaged Areas, which, according to the Commission's suggestion, are to be re-titled as Areas of Natural Handicap, would be delineated by Member States using soil and climatic criteria, based on the following:

Climate, including Low Temperature and Heat Stress;

Soil, including Drainage, Texture and Stoniness, Rooting Depth and Chemical Properties;

Soil and Climate, including Soil Moisture Balance and Soil Moisture Deficit;

Terrain, including Slope.

The discussions on this matter are still at the preliminary stage. The Commission have asked each Member States to use the suggested biophysical criteria that is relevant to farming in its territory to delineate, on a preliminary basis, the areas identified as Areas Of Natural Handicap. The Commission's intention is to submit a proposal to the Council some time in the second half of 2011 with a view to adopting it in advance of 2014 when it will come into force. Council Conclusions were unanimously agreed at Council in June, which essentially summarise the work carried out to date on the revision of intermediate LFAs and the objectives, basis and methodology for future work.

This is a very important issue for Ireland as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions in Ireland.

Sheep Production.

Ceisteanna (20)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

20 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the funding that is allocated to the new grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11847/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

While the major farming enterprises in Ireland — dairying, beef, and cereals have been under pressure over the last two years, the sheep sector has been in decline over a longer period that those other sectors. With the introduction of the Single Farm Payment and full decoupling, the sheep sector has seen a significant decline in recent years by way of reduced sheep numbers and flocks. Consequently, there have been reductions in slaughterings and exports. In view of the continuing decline, it was decided that some form of income support measures should be introduced to assist sheep farmers and underpin an important economic activity.

Mindful of the particular difficulties being experienced by the Irish sheep sector, late last year I decided on a two-fold approach to address the situation. In the first instance, I decided to allocate approximately €7 million from the Single Payment National Reserve to 14,000 sheep farmers, the only funds to which I had access in 2009. Subject to a maximum payable area of 15 hectares, this Aid was payable to farmers who declared their sheep under the 2007 and 2008 Sheep Census, declared Mountain Type Grazing under the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and who were eligible for, and were in receipt of payment under, the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. Payments began in December 2009 and, to date, payments worth almost €4.8 million have issued to 13,500 farmers.

Secondly, I decided to use €18 million of the €25 million in additional unused SPS funding, for each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, to which Ireland gained access following the agreement reached under the CAP Health Check, on a Grassland Scheme to support incomes in the sheep sector. The finer details of this €54 million scheme are currently being finalised and I expect shortly to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard.

Food Industry.

Ceisteanna (21)

Máire Hoctor

Ceist:

21 Deputy Máire Hoctor asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether there is a need to improve the functioning of the food supply chain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11862/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The increasing concentration of retail power in the hands of a few large supermarket chains is an international phenomenon, which has fundamentally changed the balance of market negotiating power in the food chain. I have emphasised at EU and national level the necessity for a reasonable balance between granting price reductions to consumers and giving a fair return to suppliers and producers to ensure fair play in trading conditions and sustainability of food supply within the EU. I am very pleased that the Spanish Presidency had committed itself to progressing the whole issue of improving the functioning of the food chain. There is a need for considerable improvement so that all players, including producers and consumers, receive fair treatment.

Porcine Salmonella.

Ceisteanna (22)

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

22 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to reduce the level of salmonella infection in the pig herd here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12034/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

A revised National Pig Salmonella Control Programme came into effect from 1 January 2010. The programme is the result of a collaborative effort involving the main industry stakeholders, the relevant State agencies and my Department. The programme includes the following measures aimed at reducing pig salmonella levels in pigs being slaughtered for human consumption:

Pig herds supplying more than 200 pigs annually will be sampled every month

These samples will be tested at my Department's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory and on the basis of the results obtained a salmonella prevalence for the herd will be established

Herds with a prevalence of 50% or higher based on the three most recent results will be excluded from the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme after a 12-month lead-in period and will be separated at the lairage and slaughtered at the end of a day's production to reduce risk of cross-contamination

Every pig farmer is required to have a pig salmonella control plan in place which must be drawn up in consultation with their private veterinary practitioner

The control plan must address such issues as biosecurity, managerial practices, restocking policy and transport arrangements and be reviewed at least once annually

Advice has issued to all herdowners on how to draw up a control plan

Additional requirements have been set down for breeding herds in order to minimise the introduction and recycling of infection into herds.

My Department will engage with herdowners and their private veterinary practitioners to drive the programme in particular in the case of those farms with ongoing salmonella problems. At present the programme is in a lead-in phase during which herd categorisations obtained under the old salmonella programme will continue to apply. Farmers have six months from the commencement of the programme to submit the control plans described above.

Cereal Sector.

Ceisteanna (23)

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

23 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way he proposes to assist recovery in the grain sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11967/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Since Ireland is a deficit market for cereals, prices here are greatly influenced by world market conditions. In 2007, for example, when world grain market prices were driven up by increased demand from the biofuels sector and from the new emerging markets like China and India, prices in Ireland also increased to record levels. Growers here reacted to the high prices by increasing the acreage sown and this resulted in a bumper harvest in 2008.Similarly when world prices subsequently declined, this trend was mirrored in Ireland. Despite a significant drop in Irish grain production in 2009, grain prices also declined and on average were 30% lower than the 2008 level.

Within the EU, market management policy for the cereals market is determined within the framework of the CAP. The intervention mechanism provides a safety-net in the event that market prices go below the intervention price but in Ireland market prices have remained well above the intervention level and there have been no offers into intervention in recent years, in contrast to the situation in many other Member States.

The maintenance of an efficient and viable cereals sector in Ireland is clearly very important. Not only does the sector generate an income for our tillage farmers but it is also a key source of feedingstuffs for our livestock sector. Annual cereals production in Ireland has fluctuated around 2 million tonnes in recent years and it is desirable to try to sustain this level of production in order to avoid over-dependence on imported cereals. To that end, the State supports the development of the cereals sector in a number of ways.

My Department operates a range of services aimed at improving the efficiency, quality and viability of cereal production. These services include seed certification, seed testing and recommended lists of varieties. In addition, Teagasc provides research, training and advisory services for cereal producers. The value of all these support services is reflected in the fact that Irish cereal producers have consistently achieved some of the highest yields in the world. Last month I launched a major initiative to draw up a long-term strategy for the agri-food, forestry and fisheries sectors and the position of the cereals sector will be examined in this context.

Despite the current economic down turn across the world, the ever-increasing demand for grain within the biofuel industry and growing consumption patterns in developing countries is likely to continue over the coming years. While the various price spikes experienced in recent times are unlikely to be repeated in the short term, it is certainly possible that average world grain prices will grow over the next decade at a faster rate than over the previous one. In the wider sense at least there is cause for cautious optimism in the grain-producing sector. While it is too early to speculate about the prospects for the 2010 harvest in Ireland, there will be some recovery in returns for growers due to very significant reductions in the main input costs but clearly this still leaves the tillage sector some way to go to achieving acceptable margins. Nevertheless, I believe that Irish cereal producers in the main are well positioned to meet the competitive challenges ahead.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Ceisteanna (24)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

24 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress that he is making in meeting bioenergy scheme targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11937/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The cultivation of miscanthus and willow is a relatively new activity on Irish farms. In 2007, the Department launched a Bioenergy Scheme on a pilot basis to encourage farmers to grow willow and miscanthus as a renewable source of energy. Under the Scheme, farmers were paid a once off capital grant to cover 50% of establishment costs. The pilot Scheme generated considerable interest from farmers in growing miscanthus and to a lesser extent willow. Overall it supported the planting of 362 ha of willow and 2,150 ha of miscanthus to the end of 2009.

The Department launched a new Bioenergy Scheme in February 2010 to grant aid miscanthus and willow planting to the end of 2012. €1 million is available to support the planting of a further 1,000 hectares in 2010. Approved costs will be grant aided up to 50%, subject to a maximum grant of €1,300 per hectare for both crops. It was evident from the response to the pilot Bioenergy Scheme that there is considerable interest in growing miscanthus and willow in Ireland. The crops are new to Irish farmers and it will take time and investment to develop the sector. The new Bioenergy Scheme aims to consolidate progress made during the pilot phase and bring some scale to the sector. The Department will continue to monitor the level of uptake over the lifetime of the Scheme.

Departmental Committees.

Ceisteanna (25, 26, 27)

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

25 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the process of public consultation that will be undertaken by the 2020 committee; when he expects the committee to complete its work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11865/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

58 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the timescale that he has given the recently established 2020 committee to complete its work to draw up a long term strategy for the agri-food, forestry and fisheries sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11864/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

62 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for a comprehensive and strategic agricultural development plan to include the beef, dairy, cereal, pigmeat, lamb, food processing and the bio-fuel sectors with particular reference to maximising Ireland’s impact within the EU and world markets; the extent to which various factors are likely to affect this industry, negatively and positively, currently and in the future; the steps taken or proposed to address the emerging issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11917/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 58 and 62 together.

Work on the development of a strategy to further the growth of the agri-food, fisheries and forestry sectors to 2020 is well advanced. The initial analysis has already been completed by my Department in collaboration with five State Bodies, Teagasc, Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, BIM, Marine Institute. On 16 February last, I announced the composition of the 2020 Committee and asked them to produce by June a short, sharp document which sets out the key strategies required for the future development of the sector. I believe that the very high calibre of the committee members will ensure that the output from this exercise will be both bold and practical and will set a clear path forward for the sector.

On 16 February, I also launched a web based public consultation process seeking submissions from interested bodies on strategies and policies to guide the work of the 2020 Committee. To facilitate and target consideration of the key issues involved, the comprehensive sectoral analysis, mentioned above, has been published on the Department‘s website http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/2020Strategy, in the form of 5 Discussion Papers and 18 Background Papers. Submissions are welcome until the end of this month and will be publicly available on the web.

Dairy Sector.

Ceisteanna (28)

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

26 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that the European Commission will not release dairy intervention stocks in a manner that will jeopardise fragile recovery in global markets for dairy produce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11947/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I have continually pressed the Commission to take all appropriate measures to deal with the dairy market situation, and in 2009 Market Intervention, Aids to Private Storage and Export Refunds helped to stabilise the market for dairy products. With regard to intervention for butter and skimmed milk powder, last October Commissioner Fischer Boel gave a commitment to manage the release of stocks from intervention in a prudent manner. I also raised this issue with the new Commissioner when I met him recently in Brussels. I will continue to maintain close contact with the EU Commission and the Council to ensure that support measures are activated when required and that the release of intervention stocks is managed in a manner that is sensitive to the market pressures at the time.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Ceisteanna (29, 30)

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

27 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of hectares planted in the production of biofuels; the breakdown of the crops planted; the number of hectares of each he expects to plant in 2010; the breakdown of the crops planted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11983/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the area of land currently dedicated to the growing of various forms of biofuels; the degree to which production is in line with projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12182/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 196 together.

Less than 0.2% of the agricultural land in Ireland is under non-food crops made up of oilseeds, miscanthus, willow and small quantities of wheat and oats used for energy purposes. The table below details the areas sown between 2007 and 2009 in hectares.

Year

Willow

Miscanthus

Oilseed rape

Hemp & switch grass

Total Hectares

2007

65

630

7,959

90

8,744

2008

127

780

3,087

137

4,131

2009

170

740

2,300

100

3,310

As the table shows, production has concentrated on the cultivation of oilseeds, willow and miscanthus. Oilseed rape is traditionally grown in Ireland as a break crop in a one-in-four year rotation for use in the biofuel, food and animal feed markets. Willow and miscanthus crops produce pellet and wood chip materials to generate heat and power in the domestic and commercial sectors. It is anticipated that 1,000 ha of willow and miscanthus will be planted in 2010 under the new round of the Bioenergy Scheme.

The sector is still in the early stages of development. In general, the production of energy crops will be sustainable in the longer term if the economic returns are comparable with those offered by traditional farm enterprises. Much will depend on profitability at farm level and on the rate of development of production and consumption patterns for bioenergy feedstocks.

Proposed Legislation.

Ceisteanna (31)

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

28 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the animal welfare Bill will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11978/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Animal Health and Welfare Bill which gives effect to commitments in the Programme for Government and the Renewed Programme for Government on issues relating to animal health and welfare is being prepared in my Department. The new legislation will amend and consolidate legislation in the area of animal health, particularly to reflect the changed disease status of our animals. Existing legislation will also be updated to ensure that the welfare of all animals, including non-farm animals is properly protected and that the penalties for offenders are increased significantly. The Bill also provides for the consolidation of responsibility for the welfare of all animals (including non-farm animals) within my Department. I intend to submit the proposed heads of this Bill to the Government at an early date this year.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Ceisteanna (32)

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

29 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason that putting in clover is not part of the agri-environment options scheme in view of the fact that it mitigates greenhouse gas emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12019/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The practice of incorporating clover into suitable grassland in order to reduce dependency on fertilizers was one of the actions in my Department's initial proposals for the new agri-environment measure. In negotiations with the European Commission on the terms of the new scheme, the Commission took the view that this action was not an eligible measure and it cannot be included in the new scheme.

Dairy Industry.

Ceisteanna (33)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

30 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress that has been made to date by the high level group on milk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11858/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The EU Commission set up the High Level Expert Group on milk last October, following a special Council of Ministers meeting to discuss measures to manage the dairy market in the period up to and beyond quota abolition in 2015. The Group includes representatives from all member states, is chaired by the Commission's Director General of Agriculture, and is examining the type of arrangements that might be put in place.

The work programme of the High Level Group has been divided into four discussion blocks. Block 1 deals with contractual relations, the bargaining power of producers and price transparency, taking into account the experience of systems in place outside the EU. Block 2 examines the appropriateness of existing market instruments and the possibility of a futures market for dairy, again in the context of experiences in 3rd countries. Block 3 covers information on markets and products (quality, health and labelling issues). Block 4 deals with innovation and research with a view to improving competitiveness.

There have been six meetings to date out of a total of about ten planned. In addition to exchanges of views between Member States, the group has heard presentations from representative organisations for producers, processors, distributors, retailers and consumers, and from non-EU countries. It has also had exchanges with leading academics and with representatives from DG Competition and national competition authorities. The next meeting on the 16th March will look at Block 3 issues. The Group is scheduled to report on its deliberations no later than June 2010.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Ceisteanna (34)

John Deasy

Ceist:

31 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way the roll-out by his Department of the electronic tagging system for sheep is progressing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11969/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The introduction of EID for sheep was agreed at EU level in late 2003. At that time, it was agreed to defer the implementation date until January 2008. The Council of Agriculture Ministers revisited this issue in December 2007 when it was agreed that the deadline for the compulsory introduction of EID should be set for 31 December 2009, six years after the original decision was taken. The prevailing view at EU level is that Member States should now proceed with implementation and other Member States have proceeded with implementation of EID on a mandatory basis. I, therefore, have no discretion as regards the date of implementation for electronic identification (EID) and there can be no question of deferring its introduction for a further period.

My Department has circulated a technical document outlining the proposed changes to the National Sheep Identification System (NSIS II) to farm organisations and other stakeholders for comments. This is part of a consultative process, which has been ongoing for some time. The stakeholders have been asked to examine this document carefully and engage with my officials so that whatever revisions are made to the NSIS best suit Irish conditions and minimise the burden on farmers within the parameters of the new legislation.

Our existing system has up until now provided adequate assurances in terms of animal identification and traceability. Indeed, it is partly with that in mind that I have decided to minimise the impact on farmers by confining electronic tagging to mainly breeding sheep. I am also striving however to minimise the change to the existing National Sheep Identification System (NSIS). When the consultation process with stakeholders is completed it is my intention to proceed with the introduction of EID for sheep.

Official Engagements.

Ceisteanna (35, 36, 37, 38, 39)

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

32 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if there are plans for the newly appointed Agriculture Commissioner to visit Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11941/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Liz McManus

Ceist:

44 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if an invitation to visit has been extended to the new European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos. [12025/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Browne

Ceist:

55 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he impressed upon the new EU Agriculture Commissioner the need for a properly funded CAP in 2013; if he supports the continuation of decoupled payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11861/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Connick

Ceist:

68 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has plans to meet the new EU Fisheries Commissioner to discuss the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11866/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Browne

Ceist:

85 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the outcome of his recent meeting with the new EU Agriculture Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11860/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 44, 55, 68 and 85 together.

The new Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos, took up office on 10 February. I was in telephone contact with him the day following his appointment and I had a bi-lateral meeting with him on 22 February. We discussed a number of current issues including the future of the CAP. While it is relatively early stages in the negotiations on the future shape of the CAP I took the opportunity to set out my position in broad terms.

I impressed on the Commissioner my overall objective of ensuring a robust and adequately resourced CAP founded on the twin goals of competitiveness and sustainability. On the specifics I outlined my commitment to a two-pillar structure based on the continuation of full decoupling. I emphasised strongly the need for CAP income supports to preserve the small family farm structure of Irish and European agriculture both of which are essential to foster competitiveness. I also raised the issue of market management measures which have proven to be essential in addressing price volatility particularly in the dairy sector and which in my view, will continue to have a value in the future post 2013. We also touched on the question of security of food supplies and the challenge this would pose in the future. I explained that in my view agriculture has a significant role to play in boosting the EU economy and in achieving growth and jobs.

The Commissioner agreed on the need for a strong budget for the future CAP — a view he had already expressed during his hearing with the European Parliament when he said that he would defend the current CAP budget in order to meet policy goals which include providing European food security, meeting the needs of the market, ensuring environmental protection, fighting climate change and providing a decent standard of living for farmers. Commissioner Ciolos also agreed on the continuation of the two-pillar structure expressing the view that Pillar 1 supports are essential to support income and to finance public goods. He favours the retention of market management measures as a safety net that could be mobilised to assist sectors in trouble. I invited Commissioner Ciolos to visit Ireland as soon as possible. He accepted and said he is looking forward to visiting probably in the first half of the year.

Turning to the question of fisheries, the European Commission issued a Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in April 2009 and sought responses to their proposals. My colleague, Minister Killeen, who has responsibility for the Fisheries portfolio, appointed Dr. Noel Cawley to chair a nationwide wide public consultation process. The result of these consultations contributed in no small way to Ireland's response to the Green Paper which issued on 23rd of February.

Our submission on the CFP reform sets down a number of informed recommendations which we believe must be incorporated into the new Common Fisheries Policy. They take a pragmatic approach, which promote measures that collectively take account of economic, social, environmental and sustainability factors. In this context Minister Killeen is scheduled later this month to meet with the new Fisheries Commissioner, Ms Maria Damanaki, to outline the key elements of Ireland's CFP Review submission and explain the changes that we consider are essential. This meeting is scheduled to take place on the 29th March.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (40, 41)

Michael Creed

Ceist:

33 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the eligibility criteria for applications to the new agri-environment scheme in view of the fact that the contracts for many REP scheme participants will expire following the 17 May 2010 deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11918/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The deadline for applications of 17 May is in accordance with EU Regulations. It is not possible to accept applications for the new scheme from farmers who will still be participating in REPS on that date. I will be reviewing the situation in relation to those participants in REPS whose contracts expire after the closing date of 17 May to determine when they can apply for entry into the new scheme.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

34 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers that will achieve €5,000 maximum payment under new agri-environment options scheme. [12020/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The level of payment available to each farmer who joins the new agri-environment will depend on his or her particular circumstances and the actions that he or she can or chooses to undertake. I am satisfied, however, that a payment of up to €5,000 can be achieved by a wide range of participants.

Farm Household Incomes.

Ceisteanna (42)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

35 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives that he is introducing to tackle the collapse in off farm employment for part time farmers reported by Teagasc; the way he will assist those farmers who have lost significant levels of income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11949/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The main focus of the report in question is on the impact of the economic downturn on off-farm employment patterns among farmers. It also reports briefly on employment trends in the agriculture sector in the period 2004-2009 as reported in the Quarterly National Household Survey. Using this source, the report finds that the number employed in the sector declined in the period 2004 to 2005, then remained stable until the third quarter of 2007, increased from this point to the end of 2008, and declined again in 2009.

The availability of off-farm employment has of course been affected by the difficulties in the broader economy. This is clearly leading to difficulties for those farm families who were previously dependent on off-farm employment, particularly in the construction sector, in a similar way to non-farm families also affected by unemployment. The impact of this on participation in farming itself are not yet clear — and this is perhaps reflected in the fluctuations in the figures mentioned above. Despite the downturn in our economy the Irish Government's commitment to the farming sector remains strong. My Department remains very active in assisting the entire sector including those farmers who have experienced reductions in income. In 2009 direct payments to farmers totalled over €1.9 billion. This figure does not take account of capital investment and other grant payments, which amounted to an additional €420 million.

With regard to those in the farming sector directly experiencing financial difficulties, there are a number of targeted schemes, which offer assistance. The Farm Assist is a means tested scheme aimed at low-income farm families, which is administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. At the end of May 2009, there were approximately 9,365 participants on the scheme, an increase of approximately 20% on the previous year. The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was launched in May 2004 to provide an income supplement to low income farmers and fisher persons while at the same time harnessing their skills for the benefit of rural communities. The scheme requires participants to work 19.5 hours per week and is administered in a farmer/fisher friendly manner allowing participants to work flexible hours.

Furthermore, a key requirement is the need to continually develop the existing (formal and informal) skills of all farmers to enable them to participate in the development of both the agriculture sector as well as the wider rural economy. In this respect Teagasc continues to play a vital role in terms of providing training that meets the skill needs of the agri-food sector.

Common Fisheries Policy.

Ceisteanna (43, 44, 45)

Seán Connick

Ceist:

36 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the principal features of his proposals on the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11867/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Christy O'Sullivan

Ceist:

43 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the organisations with which he consulted in the preparation of his proposal on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11869/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Christy O'Sullivan

Ceist:

66 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the process for further negotiations on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11868/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 43 and 66 together.

Following the launch of the EU Commission's Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), last April, Minister Killeen appointed Dr Noel Cawley to co-ordinate and oversee an extensive, nationwide public consultation process which involved meetings around the coast and a seminar organised by the Federation of Irish Fishermen, and an open call for submissions. In addition, Minister Killeen met individually industry organisations and other stakeholders involving the Federation of Irish Fishermen, the Irish Fishermen's Organisation , the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association, IFA Aquaculture and the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership. Advertisements were placed in national and relevant fishing newspapers seeking submissions from interested parties. All of the submissions received by Dr. Noel Cawley have been evaluated and have contributed to the formulation of Ireland’s response to the European Commission which issued on February 23rd.

The report in its entirety and all formal submissions received during the public consultation process are available on www.fishingnet.ie. In brief Ireland's submission on the CFP reform sets down a number of informed recommendations to be incorporated into the new Common Fisheries Policy. The changes cover:

New focus on addressing discarding of fish at sea with a complete ban being introduced for stocks in a depleted state;

The retention of a management system based on national quotas supported by increased flexibility and a rejection of the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas or the introduction of international trading of fish quotas;

Access to coastal waters to be re-examined with a view to an extension of the coastal limit to 20 miles with new management arrangements in place to strengthen coastal communities dependant on inshore coastal fisheries;

New measures to strengthen the market for EU producers and increase quay side prices;

Reinvigoration of European aquaculture with continued structural support and a road map that establishes a route for growth in harmony with Community environmental law.

New regional structure to decision making at EU level with increasing industry responsibility and the development of a culture of compliance.

Under the planned EU timetable for the review, a summary of the consultation process will be published in 2010. It will be followed by a legislative proposal to the Council and the European Parliament to be adopted in 2011, with a view to its entering into force in 2012.

Consultation at European level continues with an exchange of views at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council scheduled for the 19th/20th April 2010. Following on from that meeting a working document concerning reform options will be prepared by the Commission and presented at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council scheduled for the 28th/29th June 2010. In addition, an informal meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers to discuss the reform is scheduled to be held in Vigo, Spain on the 4th/5th May 2010. Minister Killeen has also agreed a meeting with the new fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki to outline the key elements of Ireland's CFP Review submission and explain the changes that we consider are essential. Nationally, I intend to continue my close collaboration with the Federation of Irish Fishermen and the other stakeholders, to put Ireland's case forward and convince our Member State colleagues and the Commission to strengthen the current policy in line with Ireland's submission on the reform of the CFP.

Common Agricultural Policy.

Ceisteanna (46, 47, 48)

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

37 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the negotiating process in relation to the future of the CAP after 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11857/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

67 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the need for an adequately funded CAP after 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11855/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

77 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the emerging issues in relation to the negotiations of the CAP post-2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11856/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 67 and 77 together.

Broad discussions on the future of the CAP have been underway since the second half of 2008 when the French Presidency held a first policy debate at the Informal Agriculture Council. Since then, every Presidency has contributed to the debate with the Czech Presidency focusing, in particular, on the issue of direct payments to farmers and the Swedish Presidency on rural development issues. The Spanish Presidency is taking the debate forward with discussions on the role of market management measures. In addition to these discussions at Council, both I and my officials continue to engage with other Member States and the Commission bilaterally on the future of the CAP. In this regard I met recently with the new Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos, and outlined my objectives including the need for a robust and properly funded CAP.

Notwithstanding the discussions to date, concrete proposals have yet to emerge on the shape of EU agriculture policy beyond 2013. The Commission is expected to bring forward a formal Communication later this year on the future of the CAP, followed by legislative proposals in mid 2011. A first round of formal negotiations will commence on the Communication, leading possibly to the agreement of Council Conclusions, while the more intense phase of formal negotiations will commence once the legal proposals are tabled.

I launched a consultation process in July last year with stakeholders to obtain their views on what EU agriculture policies would serve Ireland and the EU best in the years to come. I am very pleased with the responses received. These responses will help to inform our position in the very important negotiations that lie ahead. Even though no formal proposals have been tabled a number of issues are already emerging, including:

CAP as a guarantor of food security, income supports and EU family farming and/or a supplier of environmental and other public goods,

Equalisation of payment rates between and within Member States and/or differentiating according to historical uptake, land use, land quality, land value, production costs etc.

Keeping rural development as a pillar of CAP or integration with cohesion policy, and

EU and/or national funding

My overarching view, which I have expressed at meetings of the Council and bilaterally to my Ministerial colleagues, is that we need a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013. This is a point I have pressed strongly in discussions to date and for which there is good support in the Agriculture Council. We must maintain a strong agricultural production base in the European Union in the future to take account of the challenges ahead in meeting increased demands for food. Any reduction in food production in the EU would be taken up elsewhere, where less efficient production systems exist, and would result in a heavier carbon footprint. We must also undertake food production and distribution in a manner that is sustainable in all its dimensions — economically, socially and environmentally.

I am realistic about the pressure for redistribution of funds between Member States. I am prepared to look at all options on this, but I will also require our partners in Europe to be equally realistic in their expectations. The current debate, which focuses solely on the distribution of direct payments, without any reference to other EU funding, is not balanced. As regards rural development I support the continuation of the current two-pillar structure. The core purpose of rural development policy is to support farmers in developing their productive capacity while securing the environment and ensuring the well being of the wider rural society. The recent revised RDP from Ireland showed a clear focus on competitiveness in the form of targeted investments and sustainability in the form of an agri-environment scheme with clear benefits for all. This points the way forward for that pillar.

I have a particular concern at the notion of co-financing of direct payments. In current circumstances, this would obviously be unaffordable for Ireland, and also for many other Member States. More fundamentally, it would arguably represent re-nationalisation of the only real common policy of the EU.

Dairy Industry.

Ceisteanna (49)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

38 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he supports the continuing need for the use of market vegetable measures to deal with a volatile dairy market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11859/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The EU Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) provides a range of measures that can be used to assist the dairy market, and these were modified in the CAP reforms of 1999 and 2003. In the Health Check negotiations in 2008 there was pressure to remove or weaken the support measures significantly. At that time I fought hard to keep the key market instruments in place and the importance of the retention of these support measures was proven last year when the dairy market experienced a dramatic decline. I have continually pressed the Commission to take all appropriate measures to deal with the dairy market situation, and there is no doubt that the implementation of a range of support measures helped to stabilise the market in 2009. I will continue to maintain close contact with the EU Commission and the Council to ensure that support measures are activated at levels that will make a real impact on the market.

Sheep Production.

Ceisteanna (50)

Ceist:

39 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the new grassland sheep scheme will include both upland and lowland sheep farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11848/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Mindful of the particular difficulties being experienced by the Irish sheep sector, late last year I decided on a two-fold approach to address the situation. In the first instance, I decided to allocate approximately €7 million from the Single Payment National Reserve to 14,000 sheep farmers, the only funds to which I had access in 2009. Subject to a maximum payable area of 15 hectares, this Aid was payable to farmers who declared their sheep under the 2007 and 2008 Sheep Census, declared Mountain Type Grazing under the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and who were eligible for, and were in receipt of payment under, the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. Payments began in December 2009 and, to date, payments worth almost €4.8 million have issued to 13,500 farmers.

Secondly, I decided to use €18 million of the €25 million in additional unused SPS funding, for each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, to which Ireland gained access following the agreement reached under the CAP Health Check, on a Grassland Scheme to support incomes in the sheep sector. The finer details of this €54 million scheme are currently being finalised and I expect shortly to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard.

Beef Imports.

Ceisteanna (51)

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the level of Brazilian beef imports imported here in 2009; if he is satisfied that such imports pose no threat to consumer health in view of reports of falsified documentation by Brazilian processors regarding imports destined for Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11926/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Central Statistics Office is responsible for the collection of statistics in relation to imports of meat and meat products. Information on imports for 2009 is available on a provisional basis for the period up to the end of October 2009 during which a total of 1,274 tonnes was imported from Brazil.

Brazilian beef must be sourced from holdings in regions of the country approved for export to the EU that can provide for animal traceability. It must come from approved establishments meeting the requirements of EU food hygiene Regulations. Import is required to be pre-notified and accompanied by EU model health certification that is signed off by the competent authority of the country of export. On entry on to the territory of the EU all consignments are required to undergo documentary, identity and physical checks at an EU approved Border Inspection Post (BIP) before they can be approved for placing on to the market. Where a consignment fails these checks it is rejected and returned to the country or is destroyed. Where the rejection indicates a possible breach of food hygiene, or any other matter indicating a standard below that required for EU entry, notification of the rejection is immediately made to EU Commission and to the Member States through the Rapid Alert System for Food & Feed (RASFF).

The matter of use of fraudulent or improper health certification is under ongoing investigation by the EU Commission with the help of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). In co-operation with the Brazilian Authorities 11 exported consignments have been identified and notified to the Member States as possibly accompanied by fraudulent certification. None of these entered the EU through Ireland. Following on from these investigations two Brazilian export establishments have been removed from the approval list. My Department carries out checks on all consignments of products of animal origin directly imported into this country from third countries.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (52)

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

41 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the cost of planners will be covered in Natura and commonage areas for farmers who apply for the new agri-environment options scheme. [12018/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The payment rate in the new scheme for farmers with Natura or commonage land, which like all rates in the scheme was approved by the European Commission, includes an element to reflect the cost of having a sustainable management plan prepared.

Proposed Legislation.

Ceisteanna (53)

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

42 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the proposed forestry Bill; the legal issues still to be addressed; when he will be in a position to publish the Bill; the timetable to enact this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11982/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Following a comprehensive review of the Forestry Act, 1946, the Government approved the Heads of a new Forestry Bill in March 2009. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is drafting the new Bill and will deal with all legal issues arising. It is intended that the Bill will be published at the earliest possible date with a view to enacting it as soon as possible thereafter.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 36.
Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 32.

Sheep Production.

Ceisteanna (54, 55)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

45 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to support the sheep industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11806/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ceist:

50 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the supports that he plans putting in place to support the sheep sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11849/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 50 together.

The sheep sector is a valuable part of the overall agri-food sector and its future depends on its ability to meet the needs of the market. My Department already provides significant support to the sector through the Single Farm Payment, the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and REPS. In addition this year Bord Bia will spend up to €1 million on the promotion of sheep and lamb at home and abroad, and Teagasc has allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research.

Last year, I assigned €7 million from the 2009 Single Farm Payment National Reserve to 13,000 hill sheep farmers, under the Uplands Sheep Payment Scheme. I also took the needs of the sheep sector into account in deciding how to use unspent CAP funds for the next three years. Of the €25 million or so available annually from this year, I decided to allocate €18 million per year to sheep farmers, under a new Grassland Scheme. I will be announcing details of this Scheme shortly. Also, under the proposed amendments to the Rural Development Programme, Ireland 2007 -2013, an indicative figure of €8 million has been allocated for sheep fencing and mobile handling facilities to assist sheep farmers in reducing labour input.

All of these supports complement the work being undertaken by my Department, its state agencies and the industry, on foot of the recommendations of the Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group — "the Malone Report". I believe this report provides a clear framework for progress. While the responsibility for implementing most of the group's recommendations fall on the industry itself, a number are within the remit of my Department and the state agencies under its aegis, who have made significant progress in implementing them.

‘Sheep Ireland' has been established to take over the Department's current breed improvement programme and develop a new one. An interim Sheep Board, comprising representatives of farming organisations and breeders will oversee this process, with the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF) providing the technical and professional service required.

The Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme was established in 2007. This Scheme is operated by Bord Bia and now has approximately 7,500 participants.

Bord Bia has also intensified its efforts to promote lamb on the home and export markets. Together with its UK and French counterparts, it is part of a generic promotion campaign on the important French market.

Teagasc has developed a comprehensive plan to restructure its sheep support services, including a Better Farm Programme for sheep, which aims to establish focal points for the on-farm implementation, development and evaluation of technology that is relevant to the sheep sector. This approach provides an opportunity to engage with sheep farmers on the use of the latest management practices and to identify research and development needs.

I am confident that every effort is being made to support this sector and that it will benefit considerably from all of these initiatives.

Harbours and Piers.

Ceisteanna (56)

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

46 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress that has been made for the provision of a new pier at Cromane, County Kerry; the amount that has been spent to date on this project; if an access route has been decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11981/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Due to Industrial Action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Beef Imports.

Ceisteanna (57)

Michael Creed

Ceist:

47 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the level of Brazilian beef imports here in 2009; if he is satisfied that such imports pose no threat to consumer health in view of reports of falsified documentation by Brazilian processors regarding imports destined for Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11919/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Central Statistics Office is responsible for the collection of statistics in relation to imports of meat and meat products. Information on imports for 2009 is available on a provisional basis for the period up to the end of October 2009 during which a total of 1,274 tonnes was imported from Brazil.

Brazilian beef must be sourced from holdings in regions of the country approved for export to the EU that can provide for animal traceability. It must come from approved establishments meeting the requirements of EU food hygiene Regulations. Import is required to be pre-notified and accompanied by EU model health certification that is signed off by the competent authority of the country of export. On entry on to the territory of the EU all consignments are required to undergo documentary, identity and physical checks at an EU approved Border Inspection Post (BIP) before they can be approved for placing on to the market. Where a consignment fails these checks it is rejected and returned to the country or is destroyed. Where the rejection indicates a possible breach of food hygiene, or any other matter indicating a standard below that required for EU entry, notification of the rejection is immediately made to EU Commission and to the Member States through the Rapid Alert System for Food & Feed (RASFF).

The matter of use of fraudulent or improper health certification is under ongoing investigation by the EU Commission with the help of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). In co-operation with the Brazilian Authorities 11 exported consignments have been identified and notified to the Member States as possibly accompanied by fraudulent certification. None of these entered the EU through Ireland. Following on from these investigations two Brazilian export establishments have been removed from the approval list. My Department carries out checks on all consignments of products of animal origin directly imported into this country from third countries.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (58)

Joe Costello

Ceist:

48 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers he expects will join the new agri-environment options scheme. [12016/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Minister for Finance is committed to providing funding for the acceptance initially of up to 10,000 participants into the new scheme at a maximum payment of €5,000 per participant.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Ceisteanna (59, 60)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

49 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the average grant available per acre for miscanthus growers; and if he will provide financial incentives for these. [12029/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

84 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way in which he is supporting farmers and other producers who wish to grow miscanthus grass as an energy crop; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11990/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 84 together.

The Department launched a new Bioenergy Scheme in February 2010 to grant aid miscanthus and willow planting to the end of 2012. This succeeds the pilot scheme in place since 2007. Approved costs will be grant aided up to 50% of establishment costs, subject to a maximum grant of €1,300 per hectare (€526.31/acre) for both crops. In addition to establishment grants, areas planted with miscanthus also qualify for the Single Farm Payment and payments under the REPS and Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, subject to some restrictions on the areas planted.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 45.

Food Industry.

Ceisteanna (61)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

51 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to combat food price inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12031/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Changes in food prices are primarily a function of market forces operating at international, EU and national levels. The food price index as measured by the CSO is currently at a level similar to that which existed prior to the significant increases in food prices evidenced throughout late 2007 and into much of 2008. Numerous factors on both the demand and supply side of the global world food equation, as well as some local factors served to contribute to these increases. Many of these factors have been offset by the global recession and falling commodity prices.

The most recent annual data available from the Central Statistics Office relates to 2009 when food and non-alcoholic beverages prices, as measured by the food price index, decreased by 3.4% on average for that year. The overall annual rate of deflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index was -4.5% during the same year. More recent monthly data, for January 2010, indicates that food and non-alcoholic beverage prices decreased by 8.2% when compared to January 2009.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (62)

Noel Treacy

Ceist:

52 Deputy Noel Treacy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he anticipates the formal approval of the EU Commission for the new agri-environment options scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11852/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The amendment to the Rural Development Programme 2007–13, which includes the new agri-environment scheme, received a favourable vote at a meeting of the EU Rural Development Management Committee in January. I expect to receive the formal approval of the European Commission very shortly. I am planning to launch the new scheme as soon as the Commission approval has been received.

Food Labelling.

Ceisteanna (63)

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

53 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action he is taking to regulate the labelling of food as Irish when anecdotal evidence suggests that tenuous connections to Ireland are being used to avail of such. [12037/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for the enforcement of this legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (F.S.A.I.). Under the general labelling Directive (2000/13/EC), the place of origin of the foodstuff must be given if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degree. It should also be noted that any evidence of contravention of this requirement should be brought to the attention of the F.S.A.I.

The European Commission is currently undertaking a major review of all food labelling legislation. In this context the Commission has prepared draft revised labelling regulations and these are being discussed at Council Working Party level in Brussels. These draft regulations will be considered by the EU Council of Health Ministers in due course. Bord Bia`s Quality Assurance Schemes for products such as beef, lamb and horticulture are well known and provide information on origin to consumers.

Departmental Reports.

Ceisteanna (64)

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

54 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to publish the interdepartmental group report on the coastal sector; the resources that will be allocated to the implementation of any recommendations arising from this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11980/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has no proposals to publish an inter-departmental group report on the coastal sector. The Department has recently published and submitted to the European Commission the National Response to the EU Green Paper on Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. That report can be obtained at www.fishingnet.ie or www.agriculture.gov.ie. The Report is a policy response document for the purpose of contributing to the debate on the Reform of the CFP and hence the issue of resources to implement the Report does not arise.

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 32.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (65, 66)

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

56 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the eligibility criteria for applications to the new agri-environment options scheme in view of the fact that contracts for many REP scheme participants will expire following the 17 May 2010 deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11921/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The deadline for applications of 17 May is in accordance with EU Regulations. It is not possible to accept applications for the new scheme from farmers who will still be participating in REPS on that date. I will be reviewing the situation in relation to those participants in REPS whose contracts expire after the closing date of 17 May to determine when they can apply for entry into the new scheme.

Johnny Brady

Ceist:

57 Deputy Johnny Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the funding that will be provided for 2010 in respect of the new agri-environment options scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11851/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Minister for Finance has committed to provide funding for the acceptance initially of up to 10,000 participants into the new scheme at a maximum payment of €5,000 per participant.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 25.

Food Industry.

Ceisteanna (67)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

59 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will, in conjunction with the Department of Education and Science, seek to put in place incentives for those within the agriculture industry to avail of further education to maintain the high standard of Irish food products. [12013/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My Department has no direct role in the provision of further education programmes in the agri-food sector. However, Teagasc, the Agriculture, Food and Development Authority delivers a wide range of agricultural education and training services to the agriculture industry. They receive substantial Exchequer resources each year from my Department to fund these activities. The total grant in aid funding provided in 2010 is €126 million.

Currently, Teagasc delivers its education and training programme through a network of 8 colleges, 80 local Teagasc centres and the Teagasc eCollege. Further education and training courses are available in agriculture, horticulture and forestry at the agricultural and horticultural colleges. In addition, higher-level education courses in agriculture, horticulture, agri-business, agricultural mechanisation and equine studies are provided jointly with Institutes of Technology. All of Teagasc's education and training programmes are accredited within the National Framework under the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland. Over the past three years, the number of new applicants for full-time courses at colleges has increased from 618 in 2006 to 1, 129 in 2009.

Primary responsibility for the standards of Irish food products rests with the food industry itself and with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland who has statutory responsibility for ensuring that all food produced, distributed or marketed in the State meets the highest standards of food safety and hygiene.

Beef Exports.

Ceisteanna (68)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

60 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to enhance the live cattle trade to Britain; the numbers exported in 2009; the reason this was proportionately smaller than the increase to other destinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11805/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The live export trade is an important component of our meat and livestock industry and provides a complement to the beef trade. The following table shows data on live cattle exports in 2009 along with the corresponding figures for 2008.

Destination

2009

2008

United Kingdom

89,503

34,577

Northern Ireland

79,430

32,712

Great Britain

10,073

1,865

Other Destinations

196,781

113,159

Total

286,284

147,736

Overall live exports in 2009 increased by 94% on 2008 levels. In the period covered, exports to the UK increased by 159%, with those to Great Britain increasing by 440% and those to other destinations by 74%. While the purchasing policy of UK meat plants is a commercial decision for those plants, Bord Bia continues to work closely with the industry in developing emerging opportunities for Irish livestock in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This includes contact with processors and retailers in Britain to establish their interest in live Irish exports and cattle born in Ireland and finished in Britain.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (69)

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

61 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of funding that was spent on the agri-environment options scheme in 2010. [12017/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

As the agri-environment Options Scheme has not yet been launched, no funds have been spent on it so far. I intend to launch the scheme in the very near future. The Minister for Finance has committed to provide funding for the acceptance initially of up to 10,000 participants into the new scheme at a maximum payment of €5,000 per participant.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 25.

Horticulture Sector.

Ceisteanna (70)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

63 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the actions that are being taken to promote consumption of the potato which has dropped amongst younger consumers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12032/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Bord Bia, the agency responsible for the promotion of potatoes, is aware of the reduced consumption of potatoes by younger consumers, primarily because potatoes are not regarded as a ‘convenient food' in terms of meal preparation. To redress this trend, Bord Bia has engaged in various promotions, including a ‘Best in Season' campaign, and a specific initiative at the end of 2009 to promote potato consumption.

In addition, all of the main stakeholders in the potato sector have been involved, since 2008, in campaigns to encourage primary schools to grow potatoes. The "Incredible Edibles" Programme which was introduced in 2009 and is co-funded by Bord Bia, was re-launched last month. The Programme aims to positively promote the role of fruit and vegetables in a balanced diet and to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables. Over 70% of primary schools have registered to participate in this year's programme.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Ceisteanna (71)

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

64 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of farmers that have been paid REPS 4 to date on a county by county basis. [12024/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (72)

Noel Treacy

Ceist:

65 Deputy Noel Treacy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the basis on which applicants for the new agri-environment options scheme will be classified into category 1 and category 2 applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11853/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Applicants for the new agri-environment scheme are classified into two categories for the purposes of applying for the scheme for the purposes of the selection process. Category 1 will be those with commonage or Natura land on their holdings while other applicants will fall into category 2. Category 1 applicants will have a higher priority for acceptance into the scheme.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 36.
Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 37.
Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 32.

Sheep Production.

Ceisteanna (73)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

69 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will confirm details of the grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11846/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Mindful of the particular difficulties being experienced by the Irish sheep sector, late last year I decided on a two-fold approach to address the situation. In the first instance, I decided to allocate approximately €7 million from the Single Payment National Reserve to 14,000 sheep farmers, the only funds to which I had access in 2009. Subject to a maximum payable area of 15 hectares, this Aid was payable to farmers who declared their sheep under the 2007 and 2008 Sheep Census, declared Mountain Type Grazing under the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and who were eligible for, and were in receipt of payment under, the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. Payments began in December 2009 and, to date, payments worth almost €4.8 million have issued to 13,500 farmers.

Secondly, I decided to use €18 million of the €25 million in additional unused SPS funding, for each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, to which Ireland gained access following the agreement reached under the CAP Health Check, on a Grassland Scheme to support incomes in the sheep sector. The finer details of this €54 million scheme are currently being finalised and I expect shortly to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Ceisteanna (74)

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

70 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his reaction to Belgium’s request to raise the cattle age limit for BSE testing from 48 to 60 months. [12027/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Belgian delegation brought its request to increase the age of BSE testing to 60 months or phase out testing for animals born from 1 January 2004, to the Agriculture Council meeting of 22 February, 2010. The Commission, in its response confirmed that new strategic guidelines on tackling BSE will be released by the Commission by the summer and acknowledged that the EU is now at a stage to consider amendments of certain measures without jeopardizing consumer health. Commissioner Dalli also warned that any changes to current BSE testing rules, as requested by the Member State, would have to be strictly based on scientific criteria and analysis and in line with the work of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Ireland supports the Commission's stance on this matter. Any changes in the testing regime must be science-based and in accordance with the opinion of EFSA. Compatibility with international trade rules under the OIE is a key factor, bearing in mind the value to the economy of Ireland's beef exports.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (75)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

71 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will allow a farmer finishing his REP scheme three contract in September to join the new agri-environment options scheme by 15 May 2010. [12022/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The deadline for applications of 17 May is in accordance with EU Regulations. It is not possible to accept applications for the new scheme from farmers who will still be participating in REPS on that date. I will be reviewing the situation in relation to those participants in REPS whose contracts expire after the closing date of 17 May to determine when they can apply for entry into the new scheme.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Ceisteanna (76)

Liz McManus

Ceist:

72 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects the ban on specific fluke treatment in dairy cows to be lifted. [12026/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Responsibility for the authorisation of veterinary medicines rests with the Irish Medicines Board. Accordingly, it will be a matter for that body, on the basis of applications to vary marketing authorisations from pharmaceutical companies, to determine in specific cases if and when the restrictions, which have recently been placed on the use of certain flukicides in dairy cows producing milk for human consumption, can be lifted. However, any restrictions cannot be lifted until maximum residue limits for the substances concerned in milk have been fixed at EU level. I understand that IMB has already engaged with the pharmaceutical companies concerned and with the relevant EU agency (the European Medicines Agency) with a view to advancing this process.

Animal Welfare Regulation.

Ceisteanna (77)

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

73 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide an update with regard to animal transport regulation proposals at EU level; and his policy regarding same. [12040/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The transport of animals is governed by Council Regulation (EC) No 1 of 2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations. The Commission is undertaking a review of this legislation. However it may take some time before the Commission prepares a proposal. A draft proposal developed in 2009 failed to obtain the agreement of the outgoing Commission. I wish to assure the Deputy that I will continue to participate fully in the discussions on any proposals that may emerge to ensure that account is taken of Ireland's interests.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Ceisteanna (78)

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

74 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to provide high rope adventure courses in any of our forests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11989/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am unable to provide a reply to this question.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (79)

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

75 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the new agri-environment options scheme specifications will be issued; and his plans to have discussions with the farm organisations before this scheme is implemented. [12021/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The preparation of documents relating to the new agri-environment scheme is at an advanced stage and I hope to be in a position to publish them and to launch the scheme shortly. My officials have already had discussions with the farming organisations and I envisage that there will be further consultation before the final details are determined.

Food Industry.

Ceisteanna (80)

Joe Costello

Ceist:

76 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the report of the Irish Farming Association entitled Equity in the Food Chain. [12015/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The increasing concentration of retail power in the hands of a few large supermarket chains is an international phenomenon, which has fundamentally changed the balance of market negotiating power in the food chain. I have emphasised at EU and national level the necessity for a reasonable balance between granting price reductions to consumers and giving a fair return to suppliers and producers to ensure fair play in trading conditions and sustainability of food supply within the EU. I am very pleased that the Spanish Presidency had committed itself to progressing the whole issue of improving the functioning of the food chain. There is a need for considerable improvement so that all players, including producers and consumers, receive fair treatment.

Question No. 77 answered with Question No. 37.

Afforestation Programme.

Ceisteanna (81)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

78 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the initiatives that he is undertaking to promote farmer participation in forestry in view of the new opportunities presented by the emerging wood energy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12030/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My Department promotes the planting of new forests through a range of attractive support measures — the Afforestation Grant Scheme, the Forest Environment Protection Scheme and the Native Woodland Scheme. These schemes provide 100% establishment grants and annual premiums for up to 20 years. In addition, my Department also provides grants to encourage forest owners to actively manage their forests and improve the quality of the final crop. The increased allocation for forestry in the 2010 Budget will facilitate a higher level of planting, in the region of 7,000 hectares this year and is evidence of the Government's continued commitment to forestry.

My Department also provided start-up funding to a number of initiatives around the country aimed at encouraging local farmer foresters to work together to manage their plantations and to market the timber produced. Projects in South Kerry, Clare, Galway, Cork, Donegal and the South East received funding. The groups focused on different aspects of the forestry chain. For instance the Donegal group set up a cooperative to manage the members' woodlands and to market the timber produced while South Kerry and Clare concentrated on creating a demand for wood energy by promoting the installation of biomass boilers by large energy users in their local area and creating a reliable woodchip supply chain. The Forestry Development Unit of Teagasc has played a significant role in the development of these producer groups and I understand that it is planned to develop further groups in the future.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (82)

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

79 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason he has deviated from the whole farm approach in the new agri-environment options scheme on lowland farms. [12023/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

To secure the agreement of the European Commission to the new agri-environment scheme, it was necessary to design it for land other than Natura or commonage as a menu of closely targeted actions which would contribute in a measurable and verifiable way towards the targets of biodiversity, water quality and climate change as set out in the CAP Health Check. It was not possible to negotiate a whole-farm approach for the new scheme. For Natura and commonage land, the new scheme includes a requirement to have sustainable management plans drawn up reflecting the particular environmental conditions of each such area and any restrictions on farming activity.

Food Labelling.

Ceisteanna (83)

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

80 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures that are in place to ensure that non-organic food is not mislabelled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12043/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I am fully committed to ensuring that consumers have full confidence in the organic food they buy. For that reason, since 2007 my Department has assigned additional resources to the Organic Unit and the staff involved are now systematically inspecting retail outlets, including supermarkets, shops and farmers markets, checking to ensure that all product identified as organic has been produced fully in accordance with the organic regulations.

The introduction of the European Communities (Organic Farming) Regulation 2004 (S.I. No. 112 of 2004) gave my Department powers to prosecute contraventions of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91 on organic production and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs. In October, 2007, SI No. 698 of 2007 amended this Statutory Instrument to grant significant additional powers to my Department officials to enable them to carry out their work in a more effective manner. To date three prosecutions have been successfully brought for labelling product in contravention of these Regulations. In addition, there have been three seizures of incorrectly labelled produce.

Agri-environment Scheme.

Ceisteanna (84)

Johnny Brady

Ceist:

81 Deputy Johnny Brady asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to announce details of a new agri-environment scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11850/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The preparation of documents relating to the new agri-environment scheme is at an advanced stage and I hope to be in a position to launch the scheme and to publish all relevant documentation shortly.

Grant Payments.

Ceisteanna (85)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

82 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on recent suggestions of the introduction of a flat rate single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11854/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Formal negotiations have yet to commence on the future of the CAP and in that respect there are no proposals as yet to change the calculation method of the single farm payment. However policy debates have begun in a number of Member States, including Ireland, and at EU level on the shape and direction of future EU agricultural policy. Among the issues that are being debated are the shape and format of the future single farm payment.

There is active debate about the credibility of the current historic payment model, based on average coupled payments received between 2000 and 2002, and the current differentiation of direct payment rates between and within Member States. In part this debate is about the distribution key for national envelopes, that provide the financing for the Single Payment, and in part it relates to the models used by individual Member States to allocate their national envelopes among individual farmers.

There is a view on the part of some Member States that the rates of payment should be equalised between Member States by applying an EU-wide flat rate. Some others believe that payments should continue to be differentiated according to historical uptake, land use, land quality, production costs and so on. A large number of potential payment models have been suggested in the formal and informal discussions to date.

As to my own position, I am opposed to an EU-wide flat rate payment and I continue to see significant advantages to the historic model. While this view is supported by some others, there is little doubt that the number of Member States that actively support the historic model is reducing. In this context, it is important that we look carefully at all the alternatives so that we can play a full part in the debate as it evolves. Some useful research has already been done on other payment systems but this work will need to be extended and intensified with greater stakeholder involvement.

In this regard I launched a public consultation process last July inviting interested stakeholders to let me have their views on what EU agriculture policies would serve Ireland and the EU best in the years to come. I was pleased with the number and quality of the submissions received. In continuation of stakeholder involvement, I intend to establish a consultative group to advise on the best policy options for Ireland in the forthcoming negotiations, including with reference to direct payment models.

It is very early days in these negotiations. I have already conveyed my overall position on the future of the CAP to the new Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos when I met him last month. I will be meeting with him again well in advance of any proposals being tabled to outline among other things my position as regards the type of payment system that will best serve the interests of Irish farmers. I will also continue to keep in close contact with my colleagues in other Member States on these matters. My overarching view is that first and foremost we need a strong and adequately resourced CAP after 2013. This is a point I have pressed strongly in discussions to date and for which there is good support in the Agriculture Council.

Departmental Correspondence.

Ceisteanna (86)

Damien English

Ceist:

83 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he or Coillte have had any meetings, discussions or correspondence with organisations (details supplied); the nature of these discussions and/or correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11984/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am unable to provide a reply to this question.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 49.
Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 32.

Grant Payments.

Ceisteanna (87)

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

86 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 331 of 13 November 2007, the number of applications and the amount applied for in grants under the farm improvement grants scheme to each of the offices and sub-offices of his Department from 22 October 2007 to the end of October 2007; if any of these applications will now be included for processing and payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11987/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Farm Improvement Scheme was launched by my Department in July 2007 with funding of €79 million as agreed under the 2006 Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, as part of an overall programme of investment in the agri-food sector. It was indicated, at the time of its launch, that the Scheme would be terminated when this financial ceiling had been reached and this was also specifically provided for in the terms and conditions of the Scheme.

12,675 applications were received under the Scheme prior to its suspension on 31 October 2007, of which 5,328 were received between 22-31 October 2007. A breakdown of these applications by local Department office is not available at present due to industrial action by staff in my Department. As the funding made available for the Scheme has now been allocated to the eligible applications received up to 21 October 2007, I have no plans at present to re-commence processing of the applications received between 22-31 October 2007.

Beef Sector.

Ceisteanna (88)

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

87 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will support the call by the ICMSA to give suckler discussion groups equal support to that awarded to dairy discussion groups. [12028/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Government is committed to working with the beef sector, including suckler farmers, to meet evolving market challenges and to provide a sound framework for the development of the sector. To this end a number of policy initiatives are being implemented. In terms of direct aid to suckler farmers, and notwithstanding the current constraints of the public finances, I am continuing to make provision for the Suckler Cow Animal Welfare and Breeding Scheme, which will involve the payment of up to €250 million directly to farmers in the period to 2013, and is intended to lead to an improvement in the quality of the Irish suckler herd through improved welfare and by improving the flow of genetic information to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF).

In addition my Department provides more than €2.5 million per annum to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation to enable beef farmers to avail of world class breed improvement information, and Teagasc is making a valuable contribution to improving efficiency, competitiveness and profitability on suckler farms through its work in this area. Furthermore, my Department will be completing its investment of more than €1 billion in farm waste infrastructure on Irish farms in 2011, and of course many of the 34,000 applicants receiving assistance under this scheme are suckler farmers. These measures are complemented by a range of other initiatives, including the Beef and Sheepmeat Capital Investment Scheme at processor level, the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme and other marketing and promotion strategies, all of which are designed to contribute to a more efficient and competitive industry, to promote high quality Irish beef in domestic and overseas markets, and ultimately to ensure a sustainable and profitable future for suckler farmers and others operating in the sector.

I am an admirer of the very valuable work carried out by discussion groups and indeed it is in the interests of all progressive farmers to participate in such groups and to share information and develop best practice models with their peers in the industry. With regard to further funding, my department is continuing its very significant investment in suckler farms and in the beef sector generally, and therefore for the present, and having regard to the exigencies of the public finances, I am not in a position to make additional funding available at this time.

Work Permits.

Ceisteanna (89)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

88 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits that have been approved every year since 2005; the areas of work in which these permits have been approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12068/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. Permits were issued in respect of the following sectors: agriculture and fisheries, catering, domestic, education, entertainment industry, medical and nursing, service industry, and sport.

Employment Permits 2005 to end February 2010

New Permits

Renewals

Group

Issued

2005

7,354

18,970

812

27,136

2006

7298

16,600

956

24,854

2007

10,134

13,457

13

23,604

2008

8,481

5,086

13,567

2009

4,024

3,938

7,962

2010 end Feb

635

806

1,441

FÁS Training Programmes.

Ceisteanna (90, 91)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

89 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the nature of training programmes provided in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in tabular form; the breakdown by training programme type in each year and for each programme type; the duration of the programme; if it is provided on a full-time or part-time basis; the accreditation results; the progression into employment and into further education or training that is achieved, by age group, of participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12044/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

The information requested by the Deputy is being collated and will be communicated to him as soon as possible.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

90 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the uptake of training or education options by young persons under the age of 25 years since the imposition of cuts in their social welfare entitlements; the types of training programmes undertaken by young persons; if she is satisfied that such participation is making a meaningful contribution to improving employment prospects for these young persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12045/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The information requested by the Deputy is being collated and will be communicated to him as soon as possible.

Industrial Development.

Ceisteanna (92)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

91 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of enterprises built at a location (details supplied) in County Donegal; if the units are complete or when it is expected that they will be complete; the funding that has been provided by the Industrial Development Authority, Forbairt, the county enterprise board or any other State financing agency; when it is expected that these units will be occupied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12050/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

In the time available it is not possible to provide the information requested.

Employment Support Services.

Ceisteanna (93)

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

92 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if an application will be made by an employer to enter the employment subsidy scheme where that employer was not in a position to apply in 2009 but can provide employment if admitted to the scheme at this point; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12069/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

I formally launched the Second Call of the Employment Subsidy Scheme on 4 December. The deadline for applications was 23 December. No applications for the Scheme can be received after this deadline.

Redundancy Payments.

Ceisteanna (94)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

93 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding redundancy payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12098/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

As indicated in my previous reply of 12 November, 2009, there is no record in my Department of a claim for redundancy payment in respect of the individual concerned. The time limit for an employee to make application for a redundancy payment or to make a claim to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in a situation where the employer disputes payment of redundancy is 52 weeks of ceasing employment. However, the EAT has the power to extend the deadline from 52 weeks to 104 weeks if satisfied that the delay by the employee in making the claim arose through reasonable cause.

I understand that in the present instance application was made by the individual for a hearing before the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The EAT is an independent body under the aegis of my Department and as such, I have no role in its day-to-day operations. However, I understand that the possibility for the individual to obtain recourse before the EAT has already been exhausted. In that sense, my Department is not aware of any change in the situation from that outlined in my previous reply.

Industrial Relations.

Ceisteanna (95)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

94 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the delay in having claims processed by the Employment Appeals Tribunal in respect of County Offaly; if she will take the necessary steps by the appointment of additional vice chairpersons to the Employment Appeals Tribunal to have the process of these appeals determined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12113/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I am aware of the unprecedented level of increase in the numbers of claims to the Tribunal, from 3,173 in 2007 to 5,457 in 2008, up to 9,458 in 2009. This has placed considerable pressure on case processing timeframes. A number of steps have been taken to relieve this pressure. These include increasing the allocation of administrative resources to the Tribunal in the past two years, increasing the numbers of sittings per day, to a total of 924 in 2007, 1,304 in 2008, up to a total of 1,437 in 2009.

Efficiencies introduced in the Tribunal have increased the rate of throughput of claims from 2,807 in 2007 to 4,007 in 2008 and up to 4,680 in 2009. In addition, I have increased the pool of people available to sit on Tribunal Hearings by nine. Work is under way in relation to the IT system operated by the Tribunal in order to upgrade it and consideration is being given to the possible installation of a new IT system. The situation in the Tribunal is under constant review and further action will be taken, as necessary, within the constraints that exist in relation to resources. On a wider scale, I am also looking at the current operation of the industrial relations and employment rights under the aegis of my Department to see what scope there might be for practical steps to be taken across the bodies to deliver greater efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.

EU Funding.

Ceisteanna (96)

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

95 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position and timeframe regarding the European globalisation fund for the former workers at a company (details supplied) when some of these workers who are nearly a year unemployed have started or are hoping to start third level courses and the funding from the European globalisation fund has not been released; if funding will be made available to these persons to enable them to start or continue their training and education while funding from the EGF is being finalised; the length of time that the globalisation fund will be available, that is, from the date it was applied for or from the date the fund becomes available or is sanctioned. [12161/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise)

I refer to the answer to Questions Nos. 53 and 108 of 8 March 2010. The EGF application process from initiation to final decision is a lengthy procedure involving not just the European Commission but also the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. In the case of the EGF application in relation to redundant workers at the DELL plant in Co. Limerick the approval process took some six months. Strict eligibility criteria apply and there is no guarantee of success if a sustainable case for EGF assistance cannot be made in support of a Member State's application. My Department is seeking to ensure that such a robust case is made and sustained. In this context Department officials are currently preparing a response to a request from the European Commission for further information in relation to the SR Technics application and it is hoped to complete this process in the next couple of weeks.

In the interim State agencies such as FÁS and Enterprise Ireland have made, and continue to make, the full range of their employment, training, guidance and advisory services available to all workers made redundant at SR Technics. Furthermore, with a view to ascertaining those interventions, including in further and third level education, that redundant SR Technics workers might avail of in the event of a successful EGF application being made, an information event was held by a wide range of service providers in Dublin Airport in December 2009. I know that the full range of education programmes provided by the VEC and third level sector are also available to redundant SR Technics workers and that the education sector is also working to develop additional upskilling responses in anticipation of the approval of the EGF application. However, while every effort is being made to ensure such programmes can proceed as soon as possible, the further progression of any interventions to be funded specifically by the EGF must await the completion of the EGF application process.

In relation to the length of time that EGF funding is available the timeframe permitted for eligible expenditure under the Fund is 24 months from the date of submission of an application, or from the date of commencement of relevant measures provided this is no later than 3 months after the application's submission.

Tobacco Smuggling.

Ceisteanna (97, 98, 99)

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

96 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement confirming reports in a newspaper (details supplied) on 22 February 2010 that the customs service is seriously concerned about a rise in detections of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes in mainstream shops; if there have been a significant rise in detections of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes in mainstream stores since the introduction of the point of sale display ban. [12051/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

97 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the number of detections of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes in mainstream shops for 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12052/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

98 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement regarding the figures on smuggled cigarettes as quoted in a newspaper (details supplied) on 22 February 2010 which claim that 25% of cigarettes are imported illegally into this country compared to 3% in France and 2% in Spain; if he will release statistics that compare the levels of cigarette smuggling into this country to the rest of Europe; if the figures quoted in this newspaper have been made available to him by customs officials in the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will publish the report which highlights these figures in view of the fact that they have now entered the public domain. [12053/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 to 98, inclusive, together.

As I have outlined in response to numerous questions on this issue, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax and tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, that they are concerned at the current level of cigarette smuggling and the illicit trade in cigarettes. It is acknowledged that tobacco taxes in Ireland are currently the highest in the EU and unfortunately this means that despite the comparative small size of the Irish market, significant profits can be made by fraudsters who engage in this type of illicit activity.

While precise information regarding the number of detections made in mainstream shops is not available, I can advise the Deputy that a total of 284 seizures, amounting to 9.7m cigarettes, were made in 2009 at various inland locations, including retail outlets, markets and other distribution centres. There has been no noticeable trend in the rise of detections of illegal cigarettes in mainstream shops, which can be directly attributed to the introduction of the point of sale display ban on 1st July 2009. It should be noted that both prior to and after the introduction of the point of sale display ban, checks on suspect premises involved a thorough search of the premises concerned, including cigarette-dispensing cabinets.

Revenue's overall results of enforcement activities and operations in 2009 show that 218.5m cigarettes were seized and 165 convictions were obtained for smuggling and selling untaxed cigarettes, a significant increase on previous years. Of the 165 convictions recorded during 2009, 146 related to cigarette smuggling and 19 related to the sale of untaxed cigarettes. Revenue Enforcement Officers carry out checks, both random and intelligence driven, at retail outlets, markets and other distribution centres, in an ongoing operation codenamed Operation Downstream since December 2007 which targets contraband cigarettes that evaded detection at the point of importation.

The number of detections of illegal cigarettes (both contraband and counterfeit) made at inland locations under Operation Downstream is outlined in the following table:

Year

Number of seizures

Number of cigarettes seized

2007 (December only)

12

1.0m

2008

128

6.4m

2009

284

9.7m

2010 (to date)

47

1.2m

As I have stated previously, a report commissioned by a major cigarette manufacturer has been compiled annually over the past three years and contains estimates of the illicit trade in each Member State based on various research carried out. Officials from my Department receive a copy of this report simultaneously as do the Revenue Commissioners. This report is provided strictly on a confidential basis to the individual tax authorities of each Member State in respect of themselves only. Despite the appearance of varying media articles as to the level of the illegal trade across Europe, it would not be appropriate for my Department or I to put the general findings of the confidential report into the public domain.

Carbon Costs.

Ceisteanna (100)

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

99 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if the cost of carbon is included in the budget allocations for specific capital investments; if so, the capital investments that are included in the cost of carbon; the shadow price of carbon that his Department is using; the shadow price that his Department plans to use in the years 2010 to 2050 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12076/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The Budget allocations for 2010 set out the capital allocations for each area. All costs related to infrastructural provision, including carbon costs where relevant, are to be met within these allocations. These are to be found in the Revised Estimates Volume. Regarding the price of carbon, the analysis undertaken by the Interdepartmental Working Group: Reflecting the cost of carbon emissions in Cost Benefit Analyses, which reported in October 2008, formed the basis of the updated guidance note for including the cost of CO2e in the appraisals of capital projects issued by the Department of Finance in June 2009. The guidance note is available on the Department of Finance’s website along the following pathway:

http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/guidelines/CO2capapprais.pdf

An update to take account of the introduction of the carbon tax will be issued by the Department of Finance following the enactment of the Finance Act 2010. Updates on price of CO2e to be used in CBAs will be issued annually and will be posted on the Department's website.

Capital Investment Programme.

Ceisteanna (101)

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

100 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance when the review of the capital investments programme promised in the revised programme for Government 2009 is due to start; the duration of that review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12077/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The Government undertook in its Revised Programme for Government to publish its revised investment priorities. A substantial amount of work has been carried out by the Department of Finance, in consultation with other Departments to review capital investment, to take account of the new economic and budgetary realities. The process is near completion and the Government will be considering all aspects of the review in the context of its commitment to publish its revised investment priorities.

National Asset Management Agency.

Ceisteanna (102)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

101 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support a matter (details supplied). [12090/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The Deputy is referring to a submission on NAMA that was sent to me in September 2009. It was given every consideration at that time, as were all submissions on NAMA that I received. I did not consider the proposal to be the appropriate response.

Tax Code.

Ceisteanna (103, 104)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

102 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the application of VAT to e-books; the annual Exchequer revenue derived from the application of VAT on e-books; if he plans to bring forward legislation which would see equal treatment, as regards the application of VAT, between books and e-books; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12092/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the supply of e-books is subject to VAT at the standard rate of 21% when sold by Irish based suppliers to consumers in Ireland or in any other EU Member State. The Irish rate applies also to sales of e-books into Ireland from suppliers outside the EU. However, when an Irish consumer purchases e-books from a supplier in another Member State the VAT rate is the applicable rate in the supplier's Member State.

EU Directive 2008/8/EC contains a provision that deals with the VAT treatment of the supply of electronic services supplied to consumers. It provides that, with effect from 1 January 2015, the place of taxation of these services will change to where the consumer resides. This means that VAT will be chargeable in the consumer's Member State. All business-to-business sales of e-books are already taxed in the business customer's Member State.

VAT returns do not require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of trade to be identified and the VAT yield from sales of e-books cannot therefore be provided. Printed books, excluding newspapers, periodicals and certain other printed matter, are subject to the zero VAT rate. Under EU VAT law, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. Consequently, it is not possible to apply zero-rating to e-books.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

103 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the position in regard to mortgage tax relief or other tax relief on borrowings, specifically, if mortgage relief can be awarded to only one taxpayer on a particular property; if mortgage relief can be awarded in respect of same house to the applicant and their parents who took out a separate €25,000 deposit loan; and if any other tax relief is available to the parents against their loan. [12136/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The position is that tax relief — at varying rates and subject to certain ceilings — is available in respect of interest payable on a qualifying home loan. A qualifying home loan is a loan used by an individual in the purchase, repair, development or improvement of his or her principal private residence. On the assumption that the Deputy's Question relates to a scenario wherein the parents took out a loan of €25,000 and used that loan to assist a son or daughter in the purchase of a private residence, then—

(a) if the residence purchased by the son/daughter is the principal private residence of both the parents and the son/daughter (i.e. the parents live with the son/daughter in that residence), then—

(i) the parents may claim tax relief on the interest paid by them on the loan of €25,000; and

(ii) the son/daughter may claim tax relief on the interest paid on the loan taken out by him/her to purchase the residence,

(b) if the residence purchased by the son/daughter is not the principal private residence of the parents but is the principal private residence of the son/daughter, then –

(i) the parents may not claim tax relief on the interest paid by them on the loan of €25,000; and

(ii) the son/daughter may claim tax relief on the interest paid on the loan taken out by him/her to purchase the residence.

Where the parents cannot claim tax relief on the interest paid on a loan used to assist a son/daughter to purchase of a private residence, I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Income Tax Acts do not provide for any other tax relief in respect of either the loan or the interest paid on that loan.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Ceisteanna (105)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

104 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the guidance or instructions that have been given to financial institutions regarding bonus payments to staff; if such guidance or instruction is being adhered to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12137/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

Under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008, each covered institution was required to submit a report to the Covered Institutions Remuneration Oversight Committee (CIROC) demonstrating how its remuneration policies for the year 2009 were to comply with paragraph 47 of the Scheme. CIROC in its report, submitted to me on 13 March 2009, then made recommendations on whether the covered institutions were in compliance with the terms of that paragraph. Having considered the CIROC report, I could direct the covered institution to amend the remuneration plan so that compliance would be achieved, if the covered institution had not complied with the relevant requirements.

The Government considered the CIROC recommendations in light of the further downturn in the wider economy, the prevailing financial position of the covered institutions and the fact that larger economies such as the United States and Germany had set lower caps on the salaries of Government aided financial institutions than those suggested by CIROC. In that regard, the Government considered that the CIROC recommendations regarding bonuses, pensions, long term incentive plans and board sub-committees were appropriate but that remuneration terms should be lower than those recommended by CIROC. Therefore, I sought a salary cap of €500,000 or the amount recommended by CIROC, whichever was the lesser. Any deviation from this should take place only in very exceptional circumstances and with my agreement.[ Furthermore, CIROC noted that the Financial Regulator's primary focus in this area is on ensuring that the regulated entities are incentivised to behave in a way that promotes compliance with regulatory requirements and encourages entities towards acting in the best interests of their customers. In this context, it noted that a focus on short-term profit or sales targets does not achieve this outcome and reward systems require adjustment towards more sustainable growth.

Remuneration committees are in place in the covered institutions. The Combined Code on Corporate Governance describes the functions of such remuneration committees. CIROC also dealt with the matter of performance-related bonus schemes for chief executives and executive directors and recommended that they should not lead to payments in respect of performance in 2008 or in 2009 and for the period of the Government guarantee. While CIROC considered that bonuses should not be payable now or for the immediate future, it acknowledged that it will be appropriate to introduce new bonus arrangements at a future date taking account of any long-term incentive initiatives but that this should arise only where an institution is no longer part of a Government guarantee scheme.

At European level, the Deputy will also be aware that the European Commission published a Recommendation on 30 April 2009 on remuneration policies in the financial services sector as a whole, and not just the banking sector. The Department of Finance has asked the Financial Regulator to implement the Commission Recommendation in Ireland in respect of institutions that it regulates. The Financial Regulator wrote to all credit institutions, insurance undertakings and investment firms as well as relevant industry representative bodies in November 2009 seeking views on the implementation of the Recommendation in order to inform the Regulator's approach to implementation of the Commission Recommendation in Ireland.

These views have now been received. The Financial Regulator now proposes to introduce requirements in this area and will engage in a public consultation process in the coming months. In the meantime, the Financial Regulator has written to all credit institutions, insurance undertakings and investment firms advising them of the Regulator's expectation that each institution follow the Commission's recommendations.

Departmental Staff.

Ceisteanna (106)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

105 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the granting of term time this year to civil servants or to staff in various State agencies, specifically, if a decision not to allow term time has been made; the reason such a decision will be made not to allow this family friendly option which is cost neutral at worst; if Departments have freedom outside of a general instruction from him to discontinue term time. [12144/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

The Term time scheme has been superseded by the new modernised and updated format Shorter Working Year scheme (Circular 14/2009 of 30 April 2009). This new scheme, which was included in the Supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009, has been applicable from 30 April 2009. Subsequently, all Government Departments were asked to extend the terms of the scheme to bodies under their aegis. The purpose of the scheme is to allow staff to balance their working arrangements with outside commitments, including the school holiday periods for children. Under the terms of the scheme, special leave is available as a period of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 13 consecutive weeks. The leave may be taken as one continuous period, or as a maximum of 3 separate periods each consisting of not less than 2 weeks and not exceeding 13 weeks in total.

The operation of the new scheme, as with the old, is subject to the business needs of Departments/bodies not being adversely affected. While Departments/bodies are asked as far as possible to grant applications for special leave under the terms of the Shorter Working Year scheme, the needs of the work may require that some or all applications will have to be refused. It is also important that the absence of staff does not place an undue burden on the staff remaining in the workplace. The final decision as to granting/refusing applications remains with the Personnel Officer in each Department/body.

Pension Provisions.

Ceisteanna (107)

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

106 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the way a public service pension will be calculated for a person who has approximately seven to eight years service prior to 1995 and approximately 11 years service from 1997; the approximate amount of public service pension payable at today’s pro rata rate; the age that the preserved pension will be available in view of the fact this person had service prior to 1 April 2004 which normally allows retirement at any age between 60 years and 65 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12150/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

It is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy without having the details of the public servant's superannuation scheme and employment terms. It would then be a matter for the Minister responsible for the relevant body to consider. The Deputy might note that the employee is entitled under the Disclosure Regulations under the Pensions Act to receive the information on request from the employer.

Tax Code.

Ceisteanna (108)

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

107 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the reduction in excise duty on alcohol as announced in budget 2010 has been passed on to the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12155/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Finance)

As there was significant price discounting of some alcohol products taking place in the months prior to Christmas, especially in certain supermarkets, it is difficult to measure the degree to which the excise reductions announced in the Budget have been reflected in alcohol prices. However, taking a somewhat longer timeframe it would appear that the excise reductions have generally been reflected in the price of alcohol products. While not all due to the reduction in excise duty, there has also been a narrowing of price differentials relative to Northern Ireland for alcohol products.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ceisteanna (109)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

108 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if an agreement is in place to administer the back to school clothing and footwear allowance in 2010; and if not, the deadline she is working to finalise arrangements. [12158/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Centres.

Ceisteanna (110)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

109 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed primary health care centre (details supplied) in County Donegal. [12049/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Ceisteanna (111, 112)

Joe Costello

Ceist:

110 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the medical card renewal application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12058/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

111 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been informed that they do not hold a valid medical card even though their card is not due to expire until end of March 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12062/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Service Agencies.

Ceisteanna (113)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

112 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 155 of 20 January 2010, the reason Health Service Executive section 39 funded organisations have implemented pay cuts; the steps which are being taken to have this situation addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12066/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

Grant aided agencies (funded under Section 39 of the Health Act 2004) are not directly affected by the pay adjustments provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No 2) Act 2009. Section 39 agencies are not public service bodies as defined in that Act and their employees are not public servants. However, the grant funding of Section 39 Agencies is subject to the general efficiency savings for the health sector provided for in the Budget. Accordingly, it is entirely appropriate that Section 39 Agencies and other HSE funded voluntary providers take appropriate measures to ensure that they continue to provide the same level of service in 2010 as previously, notwithstanding the reductions in their funding. It is the responsibility of each individual employer to decide exactly what mix of actions should be taken to achieve this goal, to take appropriate legal and other advice, to consult and inform its employees/trade unions as necessary and to manage the HR and industrial relations implications of its decisions.

Children in Care.

Ceisteanna (114)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

113 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if relevant information will be supplied to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12078/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ceisteanna (115)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

114 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if patients who have established rights to beds in public long stay nursing homes are subvented beds in private nursing homes, can apply to move to other nursing homes and retain their right to remain on this more favourable payment system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12082/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

People who were resident in public nursing homes prior to the introduction of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme are not required to pay charges under section 33 of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009. This safeguard applies even if the person moves to another public nursing home. Similarly, subvented residents in private nursing homes may retain their subvention payment and do not have to apply for the new scheme if they do not wish to do so. Should they wish to move to another private nursing home, they may apply to have their subvention payment transferred in accordance with the relevant subvention legislation (i.e. Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Act 2007) and the HSE subvention guidelines.

Health Services.

Ceisteanna (116)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

115 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there has been a delay in recognising the rights of dental technicians to deal directly with the public in the provision of dental prosthetic services; if she has now recognised a system under which these skilled service providers can have their experience recognised and be certified as eligible to provide services directly to the public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12084/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Ceisteanna (117)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

116 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in circumstances where a child has purchased a home jointly with their parent but the parent has undertaken none of the payments towards the mortgage, the assessment under the fair deal will regard the parent as owning a 50% share, or would that share be reduced to take into account the fact that the parent had made no contribution towards the purchase costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12085/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

Under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, the financial assessment takes all the applicant's income and assets into account, including items which were transferred within five years of making an initial application for the scheme. The definition of asset extends to all forms of property in which the applicant has a beneficial interest. Furthermore, the legislation provides that, where there are multiple owners of an asset, each owner shall be assumed to have an equal interest in the asset unless the HSE is satisfied that this is not the case. Accordingly, in the circumstances outlined above, the applicant would be assumed to own 50% of the asset in question unless he or she satisfied the HSE that this was not the case.

Medical Cards.

Ceisteanna (118)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

117 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to proposals in relation to cutbacks in the medical card scheme (details supplied); if so, the decision that has been made in relation to these proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12097/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Services.

Ceisteanna (119)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

118 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 126 of 3 December 2009, when the applicant will be facilitated at another hospital to have their operation under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12100/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Adoption Services.

Ceisteanna (120)

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

119 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if adoptions from Hague ratified contracting states, when such adoptions are legislated for and administered in line with the Hague Convention good practice guidelines, will be recognised following the passing of the Adoption Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12102/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The Adoption Bill, 2009, is designed to give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. The new legislation, which incorporates the provisions of the Hague Convention, is designed to provide a framework to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed and that all adoptions are effected in the best interests of the child. Future intercountry adoption arrangements will be governed by the terms of the Adoption Bill 2009 when enacted.

Article 23 of the Hague Convention provides that an adoption certified by the competent authority of the state of the adoption as having been made in accordance with the Convention shall be recognised by operation of law in the other contracting states. Article 24 deals with the refusal of recognition of adoption in a contracting State and states that the recognition of an adoption may be refused in a contracting State only if the adoption is manifestly contrary to its public policy, taking into account the best interests of the child. In this regard, each application for an entry into the register for foreign adoptions will be examined on an individual basis by the Adoption Authority, to be established under the terms of the Adoption Bill 2009

Misuse of Drugs.

Ceisteanna (121)

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

120 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the need for protocols governing the administering of methadone to persons in Garda custody; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12103/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The Misuse of Drugs (Supervision of Prescription and Supply of Methadone) Regulations 1998 set out specific requirements for the prescribing and dispensing of methadone, the keeping of records, the maintenance of a central treatment list of patients treated with methadone and certain exemptions from the protocol where methadone is used in hospitals or for the treatment of conditions other than opiate dependence.  The position in relation to the administration of methadone to persons in Garda custody will be reviewed as part of a forthcoming review of the Regulations.

Nursing Home Inspections.

Ceisteanna (122)

Michael Creed

Ceist:

121 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has conducted an audit of public long stay geriatric facilities, including community hospitals, regarding their compliance with Health Information and Quality Authority standards; the estimated capital investment required to bring these facilities up to the appropriate acceptable standard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12106/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Departmental Staff.

Ceisteanna (123)

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

122 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the post of senior community development officer is not being retained in south Tipperary; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the absence of this post will be detrimental to the many community groups in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12118/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Accommodation.

Ceisteanna (124)

James Bannon

Ceist:

123 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide additional beds and employ extra nurses at Longford/Westmeath Hospital, Mullingar, County Westmeath, to cater for the demands at the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12120/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Prescription Charges.

Ceisteanna (125)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

124 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding plans for a 50 cent prescription charge; and when these plans will be implemented. [12138/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Community Care.

Ceisteanna (126)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

125 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the services which patients with multiple sclerosis are entitled to in relation to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 who is confined to a wheelchair; if the district nurse can be scheduled to call on them regularly; if the health services are involved in providing or supporting changes to their driveway ramp; if funding has been provided to a special medical bed costing approximately €3000; and if an amended correct medical card can be provided. [12141/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Ceisteanna (127)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

126 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 whose application for an over 70 years medical card took ten months to process and who has medical expenses of €1,817 during the seven months he would have been eligible for a card, and has submitted same to the Health Service Executive; if a refund will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12142/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Mental Health Services.

Ceisteanna (128)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

127 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the psychiatric services operating on Dublin’s northside; the structural or organisational changes that are taking place; if she will outline the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9, who is a patient for six years and has developed confidence with the medical team and physical location which they visit, is being moved to a new team and location; if they are being moved because of their medical condition, category, location of their home address or other; and if it can be arranged that they be allowed to continue with the current team and location. [12143/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Service Staff.

Ceisteanna (129)

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

128 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the position of an orthodontist is vacant in the Kilkenny area for the past three years; when this appointment is likely to be reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12153/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Ceisteanna (130, 131)

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

129 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork was correctly assessed in view of their income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12154/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

130 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will issue the Health (Amendment) Act card to a sector of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12162/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Child Care Services.

Ceisteanna (132, 133, 134)

David Stanton

Ceist:

131 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of pre-school services in operation here; the number of pre-school providers participating in the free pre-school year in the early childhood care and education scheme; the breakdown of same in each child care committee area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12168/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

132 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children who are enrolled with pre-school education services across the country; the number who are receiving a free pre-school year from the early childhood care and education services in each county child care area; the breakdown of these children that is available per age group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12169/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

133 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of pre-school services offering the free pre-school year in the early childhood care and education scheme which came into operation in January 2010; the number of these providers who are seeking optional extra charges or voluntary donations from parents to cover additional costs such as extra hours, food and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12170/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 to 133, inclusive, together.

I have responsibility for the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which was introduced in January of this year. Approximately 4,700 pre-school services in the State are notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE). Some 4,000 of these, or 85%, are participating in the ECCE scheme. Over 51,000 children, or 80%, of children in the year before school year, are availing of a free pre-school year place. This rises to over 53,500 (almost 85%) of children in the year before school, when account is taken of those availing of a pre-school year under the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) which is also implemented by my Office. The Table attached sets out the number of pre-school services participating in the ECCE scheme and the number of children enrolled in the ECCE scheme, broken down by City and County Childcare Committee area.

I must advise the Deputy that my Office does not have details in regard to the number of children attending pre-school services which are not participating in the ECCE scheme, whether in the qualifying age range for the scheme or not, as they would be attending on the basis of private arrangements between parents and providers. The age range in which children qualify for the scheme spans a period of almost 17 months and includes all children aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months in September of each year.

With regard to the number of participating services which offer optional extra services, including additional hours, each participating service is required to provide a fee policy to its local City or County Childcare Committee including fees charged in respect of non-qualified children, and details in regard to optional additional fees. This information is important, in individual cases, to ensure that services are compliant with the terms and conditions of the scheme, and information concerning the fees charged of parents outside the scheme is collated, in summary form. However, the nature of the details concerning optional extras does not lend itself to summary data, and is not, therefore, collated on a national basis.

Services

Children enrolled

Carlow

53

691

Cavan

69

970

Clare

152

1,433

Cork City

86

1,093

Cork County

333

4,756

Donegal

132

1,869

Dublin City

342

3,255

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

184

1,814

Fingal

330

3,358

Galway

288

2,815

Kerry

129

1,518

Kildare

244

2,774

Kilkenny

114

1,163

Laois

82

996

Leitrim

34

414

Limerick City

47

597

Limerick County

140

1,645

Longford

45

494

Louth

139

1,514

Mayo

128

1,427

Meath

219

2,618

Monaghan

57

881

Offaly

67

951

Roscommon

61

713

Sligo

67

643

South Dublin

240

2,684

Tipperary North

79

857

Tipperary South

81

1,068

Waterford City

44

628

Waterford County

51

690

Westmeath

97

1,152

Wexford

135

1846

Wicklow

147

1,677

NB. The figures for services include those where two services are co-located e.g. a 50 week creche and 38 week playschool on the same premises. The figures for children are subject to ongoing process, whereincomplete returns were made by services.

Care of the Elderly.

Ceisteanna (135)

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

134 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding day care services at a home (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will give assurances that the services will continue at the level available before recent cut backs. [12175/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The issue raised in this Parliamentary Question was dealt with and answered in the reply to a Dail Adjournment Debate from the same Deputy on Tuesday 9 March 2010. The situation has not changed in the meantime.

Departmental Reports.

Ceisteanna (136)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

135 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to her letter of 4 February 2010 in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 357 of 16 September 2009, when the Health Service Executive’s progress report will issue. [12176/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Harbours and Piers.

Ceisteanna (137)

Brendan Kenneally

Ceist:

136 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the provision of a pontoon at a location (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12099/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

My Department has recently received an application for funding for repair or replacement of the pontoon at Glengarriff, a pier that is under the control of the local authority. Under the 1946 Harbours Act, I have responsibility for six regional harbours only and I have no function in the provision of finance for this matter.

Road Network.

Ceisteanna (138)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

137 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the review of road spending (details supplied) as outlined in the Renewed Programme for Government 2009; when this review will start and the duration of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12115/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

The review is being undertaken by the National Roads Authority, as the body with statutory responsibility for the improvement and maintenance of national roads, including the allocation of funding to individual projects. The review has already commenced and will be completed later this year.

State Airports.

Ceisteanna (139)

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

138 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Transport if Aer Lingus has any plans to have the maintenance work that is currently being done on Aer Lingus aircraft in France brought to and done in hangar 6 in Dublin; and the timeframe regarding same. [12156/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

This is an operational issue for Aer Lingus and I have no function in the matter.

Garda Recruitment.

Ceisteanna (140)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

139 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 257 and 259 of 2 March 2010, if the Intergovernmental Agreement on Police Co-operation will have to be confirmed with the Northern Ireland Assembly in the post-devolution context; and if he will consider using that as an opportunity to apply the agreement to ranks lower than inspector. [12059/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The Intergovernmental Agreement on Police Co-operation continues in force, but a technical amendment to Article 3 of the Agreement to take account of the appointment of a Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland is currently under consideration.

Vetting of Personnel.

Ceisteanna (141, 142)

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

140 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in processing a Garda vetting application in the vetting unit in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8, and the estimated timeframe for this application to be processed. [12060/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for a large number of organisations in Ireland registered with the Gardaí for this purpose and which employ persons in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or training capacity to positions where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that when checked against the details supplied the GCVU has no record of an application for vetting having been received in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

141 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in processing a Garda vetting application in respect of a group (details supplied) in Dublin 8 in the vetting unit; and an estimated timeframe for these applications to be processed.. [12061/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for a large number of organisations in Ireland registered with the Gardaí for this purpose and which employ persons in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or training capacity to positions where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the group to which the Deputy refers is not registered with the GCVU for vetting purposes and that the GCVU has no record of a vetting request from the group in question.

Garda Stations.

Ceisteanna (143)

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

142 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a Garda station (details supplied) in County Mayo; the progress that has been made in constructing a new station in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12079/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The Garda accommodation programme is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and it is brought forward in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. The relevant requirements are considered in the context of the Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and in the light of available resources. I regret that the information with regard to the Garda station referred to by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Registration of Title.

Ceisteanna (144)

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

143 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the proposal by the Property Registration Authority to destroy hundreds of thousands of documents, some dating from the 19th century, as part of the authority’s move towards e-conveyancing; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns about the plan expressed by historians and archivists at the loss of these documents; the discussions he has had with the authority on the plan; his views on asking the authority to review the plan and to consider the transfer of the documents to some other location, as an alternative to destruction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12095/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I would like to refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 366 of 2 February, 2010 which sets out the position in relation to this matter.

Visa Applications.

Ceisteanna (145)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

144 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will renew the visa of a person (details supplied) in view of the fact that the Labour Court ordered that they be reinstated. [12101/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question has been granted permission to remain in the State on Stamp 4 conditions for a one year period until 8 March 2011. Stamp 4 conditions entitle the person concerned to take up employment without the need for a work permit or to set up a business without the need for permission from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Citizenship Applications.

Ceisteanna (146)

Michael Ring

Ceist:

145 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved. [12110/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

Information in relation to the application lodged by the person referred to in the Deputy's question is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Garda Reserve.

Ceisteanna (147)

David Stanton

Ceist:

146 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons serving in the Garda Reserve; when he plans to hold the next recruitment drive for new Garda reserves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12167/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I regret that the statistical information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available. However, I can assure the Deputy that recruitment to the Garda Reserve is ongoing. The moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the public service does not apply to the Garda Reserve, as members are volunteers and do not draw a salary.

Human Rights Issues.

Ceisteanna (148)

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

147 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the matter of the detention of a person (details supplied) with the Chinese Government. [12096/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

As stated in the House on 9 February last, in reply to a Parliamentary Question relating to the same case, I am deeply concerned about the disappearance of Mr. Gao Zhisheng, a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer. I note with deep concern that Mr. Gao Zhisheng has now been missing for over a year from his home in Shaanxi province and that on the two occasions on which he has been sighted since that time, the last of which was June 2009, he was accompanied by police officers. Since June, it has not been possible for either members of his family or his professional colleagues to make contact with him.

Human rights issues in China, including individual cases, are regularly discussed on a bilateral basis with the Chinese Government, both in Beijing and in Dublin. The Government continues to stress at such meetings the great importance attached by Ireland to human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, and to urge the Chinese authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A broad-ranging EU-China human rights dialogue enables the EU to engage with China on such issues as freedom of expression, the death penalty, the independence of the judiciary, prison conditions, freedom of religion and minority rights. It also provides an opportunity for the EU to raise individual cases, such as that of Mr. Gao.

In the period since the disappearance of Mr. Gao, the EU has repeatedly called on the Chinese authorities to reveal his whereabouts. His case has been raised during the last two meetings of the EU-China Human Rights dialogue, held in Prague on 14 May 2009 and in Beijing on 20 November 2009 respectively. We have called on the Chinese authorities to give Mr. Gao access to legal advice and to allow him to maintain contact with his family. We have urged them to clarify without delay his present situation and to open a fully independent and transparent investigation into his disappearance.

Since I last referred to this case in the House on 9 February, there have been press reports, based on information supplied by the Chinese Government, that Mr. Gao has been working in the city of Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and that he has been in contact with his wife in the US and relatives in China. However, sources close to Mr. Gao's family have advised that Mr. Gao's wife has not yet had contact with her husband. Mr. Gao's current location and physical condition, therefore, remain unconfirmed, a year after contact with him was first lost. I am very concerned about this case and have instructed that it be raised bilaterally with the Chinese authorities.

National Theatre.

Ceisteanna (149)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

148 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding discussions between Abbey Theatre staff on the possible closure of its workshops, specifically the number of positions that will be transferred to the UK; the reason the National Theatre is being allowed to consider such action; the lease terms of current workshops and the financial expense that will be faced with an empty building; and if he will order this idea and such examination to be scrapped. [12134/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

As I have informed the Deputy previously on this matter, I have no direct involvement in the day to day operations of the Abbey Theatre. Decisions made in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy are a matter for the Board and management of the Abbey Theatre, which operates independently of my Department.

National Drugs Strategy.

Ceisteanna (150)

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

149 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money that has been given by his Department to local and regional drugs task forces since they were first established in 1997; if he is satisfied this has had a positive impact on tackling the drug problem here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12104/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community)

From the establishment of my Department in 2002 up to 2009, in the region of €197m has been made available for drugs initiatives which, in the main, have been delivered through Local and Regional Drugs Task Forces. This figure excludes expenditure under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund, responsibility for which transferred to the Department of Education & Science with effect from 1st January 2009.

I am satisfied that the Drugs Task Forces continue to make a positive impact on the drugs problem in Ireland through their community-based approach and a further €31m will be made available to support and enhance their work in 2010. In this regard, it should be noted that the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 recognised the key role that the Task Forces have played in addressing the drug problem in Ireland in recent years and believes that they will continue to play a strong role in the coming years.

Community Support for Older People.

Ceisteanna (151)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

150 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the organisations in Dublin operating the scheme of community support for older people. [12165/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community)

Almost €4.4m has been paid to 104 community and voluntary organisations operating the Scheme of Community Support for Older People in the Dublin area since January 2004. Information on the level of grants paid to each of these groups is available on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie. For the convenience of the Deputy, I am arranging to have the relevant details forwarded to her directly.

Social Welfare Code.

Ceisteanna (152, 153)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

151 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if it is the case that a person who has paid the health levy for the initial part of the year is entitled to a refund of the health levy if later in the year they become entitled to a medical card; if the same applies to other exemption categories such as those in receipt of widow or widower’s pension, deserted wife’s pension, one-parent family payment and so on; and if the same applies to a person who was paying the health levy in the initial part of the year when they were aged 69 years when they turn 70 years later that year. [12164/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

152 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is paying the full adult rate of social welfare payments where a young person has expressed interest in undertaking training or education but no place is available; if not, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12046/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Receiving the full adult rate of a jobseekers payment at a young age, without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training, can lead to welfare dependency. In order to incentivise young jobseekers to avail of education and training opportunities, so that they can avoid becoming welfare dependent from a young age, changes have been made to the Jobseeker's Allowance scheme. Currently, for new entrants, the rate of Jobseeker's Allowance is now €100 per week for 18-21 year olds and €150 per week for those aged 22-24, inclusive, who are not in training or education. In tandem with these changes, my colleagues in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Education and Science have significantly enhanced the provision of education and training opportunities.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ceisteanna (154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162)

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

153 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the records of jobseeker’s allowance awarded to a person (details supplied) since January 2008. [12070/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

Due to the staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

154 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an application for lone parent allowance has been successful in respect of a person (details supplied). [12072/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to the staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

155 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when child benefit payments will be resumed in respect of a person (details supplied). [12073/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

156 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the target period of delay while her Department conducts a means test for a person whose entitlement to jobseeker’s benefit has expired and whose spouse is working; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12081/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

157 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a decision on habitual residence will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12089/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

158 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12093/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

159 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a jobseeker’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be expedited. [12114/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

James Bannon

Ceist:

160 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford should have to wait three months for a jobseeker’s allowance; if this delay will be reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12124/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

161 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of recipients of the one parent family payment by the age of their youngest child. [12130/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The details of the number of recipients of the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) by the age of their youngest child as at September, 2009, is set out in the attached table.

Age of the youngest child

Number of OFP recipients

0

5,098

1

8,920

2

8,420

3

7,319

4

6,896

5

6,372

6

6,027

7

5,570

8

5,005

9

4,485

10

4,088

11

3,699

12

3,376

13

2,802

14

2,597

15

2,301

16

2,234

17

2,140

18

1,022

19

533

20

353

21

159

22

52

Total

89,468

Community Employment Schemes.

Ceisteanna (163)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

162 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason an exemption on rehabilitation grounds was not extended to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 to allow them continue on their community employment scheme until September 2011; if she will clarify the regulations and confirm it is in order to carry on after your 65th birthday when an exemption exists; and if exemption can be granted again to allow them continue on the scheme. [12133/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ceisteanna (164, 165, 166)

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

163 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will provide details for each of the past 12 months of the number of persons who were on jobseeker’s benefit for 12 to 15 months who were refused jobseeker’s allowance or granted a weekly personal allowance of less than €100 per week; if a report on the status of such persons has been undertaken; the numbers in education or on disability benefit; the numbers without payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12135/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

164 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding applications for household benefits package in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 and specifically if the package has been approved and the claimant notified; when a decision will be made; and if she will confirm if it will be backdated to their 66th birthday. [12139/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

165 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the payments that are being made to persons (details supplied) in Dublin 11, namely, the basis of his payment, if based on his contribution record; if she will give details of same and if the method of calculation has been changed since the rate was first established and if any other calculation is possible; if there is any record of a non-contributory pension application. [12140/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Ceisteanna (167)

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

166 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person who has eligibility for a partial public service pension from approximately seven to eight years service prior to 1995 and a further period of approximately 11 years from 1997, and also has full eligibility for a State pension, can avail of the full rate of State pension in addition to the partial public service pension; or if any abatement will apply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12149/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

The State Pension (Contributory) is paid to people from the age of 66 who have enough Irish social insurance contributions. To qualify for this pension, a person must have paid social insurance contributions before a certain age, have a certain number of social insurance contributions paid, and have a certain average number over the years since the person first started to pay social insurance.

Qualification for the State Pension (Contributory) is not affected by the level of public service pension to which a person is entitled. Qualification is based upon a person's social insurance record and the rate at which social insurance was paid. Since 1991, a State Pension (Contributory) may be payable on a pro-rata basis to people with mixed insurance, that is where the person has paid at the full and modified rates of social insurance. Public servants recruited before 1995 pay social insurance at the modified rate.

Social Welfare Offices.

Ceisteanna (168)

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

167 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the security that is in place at the Hanover Street social welfare office, Cork, to protect customers and staff from disorderly and disruptive behaviour by some customers of the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12152/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

Due to staff action currently being taken. I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ceisteanna (169, 170, 171, 172, 173)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

168 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average time taken by her Department to process claims for jobseeker’s allowance or benefit to completion; the way she plans to ensure that claimants receive their entitlements within a reasonable period of time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12159/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

The average processing times for jobseeker claims decided during February 2010 were 2.32 weeks for jobseeker's benefit and 7.67 weeks for jobseeker's allowance. Processing times can vary from office to office due to the extent of the increased claim load, the number of staff vacancies, the duration of such vacancies and the turnover of staff in the office which impacts on the overall level of experience in the office. At week ending 6 March the total number of jobseeker claims awaiting a decision stood at 49,099. This represents 10% of the total claim load. It is worth noting that when the live register was at it lowest 10% was the normal level of claims awaiting a decision at any time.

To deal with the increased live register, since May 2008, some 400 extra staff have been assigned to local offices, new Central Support Units and the Department's Inspectorate. At the same time the Department has been examining procedures surrounding the claim acceptance and decisions process with a view to streamlining them and achieving greater efficiencies where possible.

The following are some of the initiatives introduced to improve processing times:

A more streamlined procedure for claimants moving to jobseekers allowance when their jobseekers benefit expires.

A streamlined process for people who had a claim in the previous two years.

Application forms for the jobseeker schemes are now available on the Department's website. This means that anyone who wants to make a claim can print the form at home and bring it to the local office completed. This helps reduce queuing times.

More straight-forward procedures for providing evidence of identity and address have been introduced.

An appointment system whereby claimants can have their claim taken and decided during the appointment. This particular initiative has helped greatly in reducing waiting times. We have this system in operation in 33 local offices and plan to extend it to further offices.

A further initiative, which is being trialled at present, relates to customers who are applying for jobseekers allowance on the termination of their jobseekers benefit entitlement. In any of these cases where there are no elements of self-employment or property involved in the means assessment, the person will self-certify the various components of their means and a decision will be made by the Deciding Officer without the need to refer the claim to an Inspector. As a control measure a certain proportion of these claims will be selected at random and will be referred to an inspector for verification of the declaration of means in advance of the decision being made. It is expected that this initiative will be rolled out to the network of local offices in the coming months.

While every effort is made to ensure that applications are processed as quickly as possible, anyone who is under financial pressure while awaiting a decision on their claim for a jobseekers payment can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is subject to a means test and other qualifying conditions.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

169 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a disability allowance application submitted approximately 16 weeks ago by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12160/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

170 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) who applied for jobseeker’s benefit prior to Christmas 2009 is still awaiting a decision on their claim; when this claim will be processed to completion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12163/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

171 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on an application for jobseeker’s payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [12172/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

172 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an application for lone parents will be completed in respect of a person (details supplied). [12173/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Defence Forces Property.

Ceisteanna (174)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

173 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has sanctioned evictions of residents of his Department’s housing (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of statements (details supplied) that no evictions of residents, especially widows or widowers, would be undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12116/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

A limited number of Married Quarters are available for serving members of the Permanent Defence Force. Defence Forces Regulations specify that the quarters must be vacated within 15 days of leaving the service. It is standing policy for some years now that the use of Married Quarters should be discontinued in a managed and orderly fashion.

The persons occupying these quarters are currently in illegal occupation of Departmental property and the issue of eviction does not arise as they have no right to occupy these properties. My Department is seeking vacant possession of these properties. However, in a very limited number of cases the occupiers will be allowed to remain subject to an agreement being put in place that there will be no succession rights to family members. My Department will be contacting all individual occupiers by the end of May at the latest to outline its position in relation to their occupation. Whilst it is essential that the quarters be vacated, the Department is prepared to allow a reasonable period of time for the occupiers in question to make alternative arrangements.

My Department has been in contact with Kildare County Council on a number of occasions to outline the steps that it will take to resolve this matter. It is now in the best interests of all occupiers of these quarters to apply to the local authority for housing or to make alternative arrangements for their accommodation.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Ceisteanna (175)

David Stanton

Ceist:

174 Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of any forthcoming recruitment campaigns for the Permanent Defence Force in 2010; when they will occur; the numbers he is seeking to recruit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12166/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

Within the available resources, the Government is committed to maintaining the strength of the Defence Forces at a level of 10,000 all ranks, for which Government approval has been secured in the context of Budget 2010. This reflects the reductions in personnel recommended in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes. I am advised by the Military authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force as at 31 January, 2010 was 9,906 comprising 8,070 Army, 805 Air Corps and 1,031 Naval Service personnel.

As the numbers in the Permanent Defence Force have dropped below 10,000, recruitment will be carried out in 2010 in order to bring the numbers back to this level. Details of the recruitment campaign for 2010 in relation to the numbers of general service recruits and the commencement of any such recruitment campaigns are not yet available. Planning for this process is underway. I intend, with the support of the Chief of Staff and within the resources available, to retain the capacity of the organisation to operate effectively across all roles while contributing to the necessary public service economies. I am advised that at this time the Defence Forces retain the capacity to undertake the tasks laid down by Government at home and overseas.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Ceisteanna (176, 177)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

175 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the erection of wind turbines, for commercial and industrial purposes; the restrictions and/or the prohibitions of such commercial turbines being erected in built-up or residential areas; if height restrictions apply to the erection of such industrial and commercial wind turbines; if restrictions apply to their proximity to dwelling houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12112/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

181 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the relevant regulations which pertain to applications for planning permission to erect commercial and industrial wind turbines with particular reference to the location and the proximity to areas of significant housing populations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12111/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 175 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 586 of 2 February, 2010. Planning applications, including applications for planning permission to erect wind turbines, must comply with the requirements of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and the Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2008.

My Department's Wind Energy Development Guidelines, issued to planning authorities in June 2006, offers advice on determining applications for wind energy including various aspects of planning and site selection. One of the aims of these guidelines is to ensure consistency of approach throughout the country in the identification of suitable locations for wind energy developments, having regard to, inter alia, proximity to existing dwellings and settlements, noise and safety aspects, as well as impacts on the natural, built and geological heritage. The guidelines also clearly state that the relevant development plan policies should inform and be taken into account in assessing appropriate locations for wind energy developments.

Parts 1 and 2 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2008 provide for certain exemptions from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Classes 2(b) and 56(c) of Part 1 and Class 18(b) of Part 2 of the Regulations provide for exemptions in relation to wind turbines, in homes and in the industrial, business and agricultural sectors, subject to conditions. A summary of the conditions relating to these exemptions is provided as follows.

Planning and Development Regulations 2007

Wind turbines within the curtilage of a domestic property

No exemption for building-mounted turbines

Max height up to 13m

Rotor diameter up to 6m

Ground clearance of at least 3m

Must be turbine height (including the blade of the turbine at the highest point of its arc) plus 1m from nearest party boundary

Consent of Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) required if within 5 km of an airfield, etc

Noise levels must be less than 43 db(A) during normal operation

Only 1 per site

No structure constructed, erected or placed forward of the front wall of a house

No logos and non-reflective finish

Planning and Development Regulations 2008

Wind turbines within the curtilage of a commercial, industrial or agricultural property

No exemption for building-mounted turbines

Max height up to 20m

Rotor diameter up to 8m

Ground clearance of at least 3m

Must be turbine height plus 5m from nearest party boundary and non-electrical overhead cables

Must be turbine height plus 20 m from 38 kV lines or own height plus 30 m from lines of 110 kV or more

Consent of IAA required if within 5 km of an airfield, etc

Noise levels must be less than 43 db(A) at site boundary

Only 1 per site, and not within an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA)

No logos and non-reflective finish

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Ceisteanna (178, 179, 180)

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

176 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding a proposed scheme (details supplied) in County Donegal. [12047/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

177 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding a proposed scheme (details supplied) in County Donegal. [12048/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 177 together.

The Dungloe and Glenties Sewerage Schemes were to advance as a joint scheme and were included my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 -2009, while the Burtonport Sewerage Scheme was also included in the Programme. Donegal County Council submitted Tender Documents for the Design/Build/Operate contract for the Dungloe/Glenties scheme to my Department in the first half of 2009. During the course of my Department's assessment of these documents, the Council suggested to my Department that the Burtonport Sewerage Scheme be progressed as part of the Dungloe/Glenties joint scheme. Additional information was requested from the Council in relation to the Burtonport proposal to enable a decision on this grouping of the schemes to be made. This information has recently been received and is currently under examination. When this examination is complete a decision will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible in light of the finalisation of the Water Services Investment Programme for the period 2010 to 2012. I expect to publish the new Programme shortly.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

178 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding an application by Kildare County Council for the construction of a new waste water collection network for Kildare town; if this application will be approved expeditiously; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12056/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I refer to the reply to Question No. 353 of 9 March 2010.

Planning Issues.

Ceisteanna (181)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

179 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a person applying for planning permission must establish peer title to the lands before planning permission is obtained; if a subsequent dispute about ownership arises would this invalidate the permission granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12087/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, as amended, a planning application is required to be accompanied by the written consent of the owner to make the application, where the applicant is not the legal owner of the land concerned. My Department's 2007 Development Management Guidelines state that where, in making an application, a person asserts that he/she is the owner of the land or structure in question, and where there is nothing to cast doubt on the bona fides of that assertion, the planning authority is not required to inquire further into the matter.

It would be a matter for the courts to decide whether the fact that an applicant obtained permission to develop land in which he/she did not have a legal interest, without the consent of the owner, would invalidate the planning permission. It should also be noted that, as section 34(13) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 states, a person is not entitled, solely by reason of a permission, to carry out any development.

Building Regulations.

Ceisteanna (182)

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

180 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that all measures relating to consumer protection regarding housing construction are appropriate to the current difficulties in the housing market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12107/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

My Department is aware of the concerns of consumers of housing services in current market conditions, including in regard to unfinished or partially completed residential developments. The Department is working with other stakeholders to develop a fuller picture of the scale of these difficulties in terms of mapping such developments on a county by county basis, setting out the range of statutory powers at the disposal of the relevant agencies and determining what further measures might need to be considered.

Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 175.

Special Areas of Conservation.

Ceisteanna (183)

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

182 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding turf cutting on bogs in special areas of conservation in counties Roscommon and Leitrim; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the turf cutting season has already begun; and when the report from the special committee will be available. [12174/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The derogation allowing a continuation of turf cutting on 32 Raised Bog SACs that were notified for designation in 1999 has now expired. A further 23 raised bog SACs were notified for designation in 2002. I have included a list of the bogs affected. The Working Group on the Cessation of Turf Cutting in Designated Areas is nearing completion of its deliberations and I expect to receive its report very shortly. I will conclude my consideration of the report and any recommendations it contains as rapidly as possible, and will then be in touch with affected individuals and representative groups in regard to the position.

SAC 1999 — Raised Bog

No#

Year

Site Code

Site Name

County

1

1997

000006

Killyconny Bog (Cloghbally)

Cavan/Meath

2

1997

000231

Barroughter Bog

Galway

3

1997

000248

Cloonmoylan Bog

Galway

4

1997

000285

Kilsallagh Bog

Galway

5

1997

000296

Lisnageeragh Bog and Ballinstack Turlough

Galway

6

1997

000301

Lough Lurgeen Bog/ Glenamaddy Turlough

Galway

7

1997

000326

Shankill West Bog

Galway

8

1997

000382

Sheheree (Ardagh) Bog

Kerry

9

1997

000391

Ballynafagh Bog

Kildare

10

1997

000440

Lough Ree Ros

LD/WM

11

1997

000457

Derrynabrock Bog Mayo

Roscommon

12

1997

000497

Flughany Bog

Mayo/Sligo

13

1997

000547

Tawnaghbeg Bog

Mayo

14

1997

000566

All Saints Bog and Esker

Offaly

15

1997

000572

Clara Bog

Offaly

16

1997

000575

Ferbane Bog

Offaly

17

1997

000580

Mongan Bog

Offaly

18

1997

000581

Moyclare Bog

Offaly

19

1997

000582

Raheenmore Bog

Offaly

20

1997

000585

Sharavogue Bog

Offaly

21

1997

000592

Bellanagare Bog

Roscommon

22

1997

000597

Carrowbehy/Caher Bog

Roscommon

23

1997

000600

Cloonchambers Bog

Roscommon

24

1997

000604

Derrinea Bog

Roscommon

25

1997

000614

Cloonshanville Bog

Roscommon

26

1997

000641

Ballyduff/Clonfinane Bog

Tipperary

27

1997

000647

Kilcarren-Firville Bog

Tipperary

28

1997

000679

Garriskil Bog

Westmeath

29

1997

001242

Carrownagappul Bog

Galway

30

1997

001818

Lough Forbes Complex

Longford/Ros

31

1997

002110

Corliskea/Trien/Cloonfelliv Bog

Galway/Ros

32

1999

000297

Lough Corrib

Galway/Mayo

SAC 2002 — Raised Bog

No#

Year

Site Code

Site Name

County

33

2002

000595

Callow Bog

Roscommon

34

2002

002298

River Moy

Mayo/Ros/Sligo

35

2002

002331

Mouds Bog

Kildare

36

2002

002332

Coolrain Bog

Laois

37

2002

002333

Knockacoller Bog

Laois

38

2002

002336

Carn Park Bog

Westmeath

39

2002

002337

Crosswood Bog

Westmeath

40

2002

002338

Drumalough Bog

Roscommon

41

2002

002339

Ballynamona Bog and Corkip Lough

Roscommon

42

2002

002340

Moneybeg and Clareisland Bogs

Meath/Westmeath

43

2002

002341

Ardagullion Bog

Longford

44

2002

002342

Mount Hevey Bog

Meath/Westmeath

45

2002

002343

Tullaher Lough and Bog

Clare

46

2002

002346

Brown Bog

Longford

47

2002

002347

Camderry Bog

Galway

48

2002

002348

Clooneen Bog

Longford

49

2002

002349

Corbo Bog

Roscommon

50

2002

002350

Curraghlehanagh Bog

Galway

51

2002

002351

Moanveanlagh Bog

Kerry

52

2002

002352

Monivea Bog

Galway

53

2002

002353

Redwood Bog

Tipperary

54

2002

002354

Tullaghanrock Bog

Roscommon

55

2002

002356

Ardgraigue Bog

Galway

Horse Racing Industry.

Ceisteanna (184)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

183 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the number of thoroughbred horses here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12055/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

In relation to the number of thoroughbred horses in Ireland and having regard to statistics published by Horse Racing Ireland, I am aware there has been a reduction in the number of mares being covered from a peak of 20,700 in 2007 to 18,851 in 2009. In relation to the numbers of stallions registered for thoroughbred breeding, the number for 2009 is not finalised, but for the period from 2007 to 2008, the number of stallions declined from 416 to 312. The number of foals born has declined from a peak of 12,633 in 2007 to 10,167 in 2009. This decline is an indication of the market conditions that currently prevail in the sector in the context of balancing supply with demand.

Grant Payments.

Ceisteanna (185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

184 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when REP scheme payments will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [12074/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

185 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a REPS 4 payment will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied). [12075/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

186 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the cost of processing a single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12105/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

It is not possible to isolate the cost of processing an individual Single Farm Payment. However, my Department operates an extremely efficient processing system for the payment of the Single Farm Payment and other area-based Schemes. Payment is generally made to the vast majority of farmers in the immediate time period following the earliest date for the commencement of payments. In a study to assess the administrative burden on farms arising from the CAP, consultants employed by the Commission, established that Ireland has the lowest administrative cost of the five Member States involved in the study (Germany, Ireland, France, Italy and Denmark).

It should be appreciated that staff of my Department who are involved in the processing of applications under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) are also involved in many other areas of activity not necessarily directly involved in the basic processing of those applications, including policy development, EU negotiations, development and maintenance of computer systems, required inspection regimes, in addition to processing applications under the various measures associated with the Single Payment Scheme viz National Reserve, Trading of Entitlements, Inheritance, Consolidation. Furthermore, they are also involved in numerous other Schemes: for example, in addition to those listed below, these staff have recently also been involved in the Sugar Reform Package measures, Dairy Premium Scheme, Scheme of Aid for Damaged Fodder, Scheme of Aid for Crops Damaged by Frost.

It should also be noted that farmers who applied for any of the following Schemes in 2009 were required to submit a 2009 Single Payment Scheme application form to my Department:

Single Payment Scheme;

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme;

Uplands Sheep Payment;

Energy Crops Scheme;

Bio-energy Establishment Scheme;

Proteins Premium Scheme;

Rural Environment Protection Scheme;

The Organic Farming Scheme;

Scheme of Investment Aid for the Improvement of Dairy Hygiene Standards;

Animal Welfare, Recording and Breeding Scheme for Suckler Herds.

As previously stated, this level of complexity makes it impossible to isolate the processing cost of an individual Single Farm Payment.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

187 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment under their REPS 4 application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12108/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

188 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment under their REPS 4 application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12109/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

James Bannon

Ceist:

189 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will receive their single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12122/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Payments due in respect of the 2009 Single Payment Scheme application of the person named have issued as per the Attachment Order lodged with my Department.

Teagasc Training Services.

Ceisteanna (191)

James Bannon

Ceist:

190 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason agriculture students on work experience to obtain a green certificate in farming are expected to live on €3.20 per hour since the cutbacks of the matching funds by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12123/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The provision of training courses in the agriculture sector is a matter for Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority. Subject to the provisions of the Act, and other requirements it is the responsibility of the Teagasc Authority to exercise full and effective control over the organisation including the level of allowances paid to agriculture students. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and the Minister does not interfere in the day-to-day operations of Teagasc.

The Department does not pay matching funds to Teagasc for training services. Teagasc receive an annual grant in aid allocation from the Department to deliver an approved programme of activities in the advisory, research and training areas. It is a matter for Teagasc to allocate expenditure between the different programmes.

I understand from Teagasc that students undertaking all Teagasc programmes are required to undergo a 12-week practical learning period. The practical learning period is designed to facilitate students to become proficient in the skills required to achieve their qualifications. Up to last year, students were paid the equivalent of the minimum agricultural wage by their practical learning host. In 2009, Teagasc was unable to place all students because the practical learning hosts could not afford to pay this amount to students. Accordingly, it was decided to reduce the allowance to students to €122 per week. This was deemed to be a round sum expenses allowance to cover the cost of travel and subsistence. This mirrors the situation in many other educational fields where students on practical work experience are not paid at all.

Grant Payments.

Ceisteanna (192, 193, 194)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps that he has taken to clear all outstanding payments due to farmers arising from various schemes; if his attention has been drawn to the credit problems affecting all sectors in the community and the absolute necessity for due payment to issue without any further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12177/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the negative knock-on effect on the local economy arising from failure to pay farm support grants on time; when he expects this issue to be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12189/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding payment of various farm supports payments; if he will state by category the degree of delay affecting payments to each category; when he expects the payments to issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12190/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191, 203 and 204 together.

Due to Industrial Action in my Department I am not in a position to provide a reply to these questions.

Food Industry.

Ceisteanna (195)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent that he has compared the prices paid to the beef, dairy, lamb and pig producers here to the prices charged to the consumer for the same products throughout the EU and US markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12178/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Agricultural production in Ireland and the EU must be viewed in the context of a reformed and evolving Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with much more competitive EU and world commodity markets. As a result of the reformed CAP farmers can now take advantage of the freedom to farm exclusively for the market. They can focus on meeting the requirements of the consumer in a competitive manner.

The latest price index data from the CSO indicates that overall output prices fell by approximately 15% in 2009. There were declines in the output prices for cattle, milk and pigs of10%, 30% and 9% respectively. There was a marginal increase in the output prices for sheep. This followed increases in output prices across the majority of sectors in 2008. With regards to the prices paid by consumers abroad, these will primarily remain a function of prevailing market and competitive forces in those countries. Eurostat data indicates that there was a 0.9% increase in food prices to consumers across the EU-25 in 2009 following on from the 6.7% increase experienced in 2008.

I have emphasised at EU and national level the necessity for a reasonable balance between granting price reductions to consumers and giving a fair return to suppliers and producers to ensure fair play in trading conditions and sustainability of food supply within the EU. The Commission has issued a Communication on "a better functioning food supply chain in Europe" and I am very pleased that the Spanish Presidency had committed itself to progressing the whole issue.

Among other challenges identified in the Commission communication, it seeks to ‘increase transparency along the food supply chain to encourage competition and improve its resilience to price volatility'. Eurostat is currently developing systems to monitor prices at various stages in the food chain through harnessing available data on price developments in the different steps of the supply chain and comparing price developments for the relevant agricultural commodities, for the relevant food industries as well as for the chosen consumer goods.

Livestock Numbers.

Ceisteanna (196, 197, 198)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of animals in the dairy herd; the degree to which this has fluctuated over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12179/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of animals in the beef herd; the degree to which this has fluctuated over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12180/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of cattle, sheep and pigs in the country; the extent to which this has fluctuated over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12181/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 to 195, inclusive, together.

The CSO publishes detailed statistics with regards to livestock numbers in Ireland. The December Livestock Survey is available on the CSO website at www.cso.ie and presents estimates of numbers of livestock in December 2008 at State level. The table below present the data from the last 5 December 2008 Livestock Surveys outlining absolute numbers of livestock over the period and the total percentage change over the period.

Farm Animals in December (Thousand) by Type of Animal and Year

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

% Change 2004-2008

Dairy cows1

1121.8

1101.1

1087.1

1087.5

1104.8

-1.5%

Dairy heifers in calf2

238

236.3

220.5

212.9

218.1

-8.4%

Other cows

1150.8

1150

1128.8

1117.4

1115.1

-3.1%

Other heifers in calf

143.6

146.3

144.4

147.5

131.3

-8.6%

Bulls

58.7

59.6

58.1

58.6

57.9

-1.4%

Other cattle

3498.6

3498.5

3362.8

3278.3

3307.6

-5.5%

Total cattle

6211.5

6191.7

6001.6

5902.2

5934.7

-4.5%

Total sheep

4556.7

4257

3826.3

3530.5

3422.9

-24.9%

Total pigs

1754.3

1670.8

1620

1574.6

1604.6

-8.5%

1 Dairy cows are those kept principally to produce milk for human consumption.

2 Dairy heifers in calf are intended for the dairy herd.

The table below present the fluctuations in total numbers of livestock presented as a % change over the previous year.

Changes in number of Livestock (% compared to previous year) by Type of Animal and Year

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Dairy cows1

-1.2%

-1.8%

-1.3%

0.0%

1.6%

Dairy heifers in calf2

5.5%

-0.7%

-6.7%

-3.4%

2.4%

Other cows

0.6%

-0.1%

-1.8%

-1.0%

-0.2%

Other heifers in calf

1.9%

1.9%

-1.3%

2.1%

-11.0%

Bulls

3.7%

1.5%

-2.5%

0.9%

-1.2%

Other cattle

-0.6%

0.0%

-3.9%

-2.5%

0.9%

Total cattle

-0.2%

-0.3%

-3.1%

-1.7%

0.6%

Total sheep

-6.0%

-6.6%

-10.1%

-7.7%

-3.0%

Total pigs

1.3%

-4.8%

-3.0%

-2.8%

1.9%

1Dairy cows are those kept principally to produce milk for human consumption.

2Dairy heifers in calf are intended for the dairy herd.

Question No. 196 answered with Question No. 27.

Afforestation Programme.

Ceisteanna (199)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the land under forestry in this country on 31 December in each of the past five years; the extent to which further afforestation is planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12183/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am unable to provide a reply to this question.

Dairy Industry.

Ceisteanna (200)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has compared prices paid to the producer in the dairy sector here to those prevailing in other EU member states in each of the past three years; his plans to address any issues arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12184/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Dairy farmers' incomes comprise the market price paid for milk and direct income support from the EU. The Single Farm Payment for dairy producers includes a dairy premium of 3.6c per litre. Market forces have a major influence on the price paid to farmers for milk. World market prices determine the returns received by dairy processors and these in turn are reflected in the price paid to farmers. In essence, farm gate prices normally reflect the returns from international markets of dairy product sales.

Ireland's peripheral geographic location and highly seasonal grass based production curve has resulted in a dairy production profile heavily based on storable product. Those commodity products, such as butter and milk powders, are low margin products and this is reflected in the milk price. Milk prices vary across the EU member states and Ireland is generally close to the average EU price. The following table shows the average milk prices for Ireland and the EU over the past seven years.

Milk Price €/100kgs

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

Ireland

24.73

35.54

34.95

27.22

28.42

28.87

27.55

EU average

26.82

35.19

31.82

28.24

28.91

29.10

28.40

Prices increased at the end of 2009, and by December the Irish milk price was €27.50/100kg, close to the EU average of €28.30. The Irish price in January 2010 was €27.08/100kg, and is the latest official price. The EU average price for January is not yet available.

Farm Input Costs.

Ceisteanna (201)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the degree to which he has compared farm input costs here to those in other EU member states with particular reference to fuel oil, fertilisers, sprays or electricity; the extent to which divergence has occurred in each of the past three years to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12185/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The most recent information regarding comparative data for prevailing farm input costs prices across the European Union is contained in an EU Commission report published last year entitled "Agriculture in the European Union — Statistical and economic information 2008". This provides details of farm input costs for a range of inputs in various Member States over the 3-year period from 2005-2007 inclusive. The information on input prices is at Section 3.3.5.1 of the report, which may be accessed at the following:

website: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/agrista/2008/table_en/index.htm.

Price indices for input costs provide indicative trends across a range of input costs. The CSO tracks input costs in Ireland on an ongoing basis and these are reported through CSO via various publications and on their website (www.cso.ie) as well as Departmental Publications such as the Annual Review and Outlook (see "Publications" section of website: www.agriculture.gov.ie ). Input prices also receive detailed examination each year at the Teagasc outlook conference. Irish input price indices based on CSO data for the years 2007-2009 are outlined in the following table.

Input Price Indices (Base 2005=100)

Index/Year

2007

2008

2009

Total Index

111

132

121

All Fertilisers

110

177

149

Motor Fuels

112

132

109

Electricity

116

118

123

Plant Protection Products

99

100

102

Source: CSO Data (rebased to 2005=100).

Cereal Sector.

Ceisteanna (202)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the extent to which cereal prices to the producer here are comparable to the prices prevailing in other EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12186/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Details of prevailing producer prices for cereals across Member States are not readily available. The most recent information is contained in an EU Commission report published last year entitled ‘Agriculture in the European Union — Statistical and economic information 2008'. This provides details of producer prices for certain cereals in some Member States over 4 years. The information on cereals prices is at Section 4.1.5.1 of the report, which may be accessed at the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/agrista/2008/table_en/index.htm. Since Ireland is a deficit market for cereals, prices here are greatly influenced by EU and world market conditions. In 2007, for example, when world grain market prices were driven up by increased demand from the biofuels sector and from the new emerging markets like China and India, prices in Ireland also increased to record levels. Growers here reacted to the high prices by increasing the acreage sown and this resulted in a bumper harvest in 2008.

Similarly when world prices subsequently declined, this trend was mirrored in Ireland. Despite a significant drop in Irish grain production in 2009, grain prices also declined and on average were 30% lower than the 2008 level. Within the EU, market management policy for the cereals market is determined within the framework of the CAP. The intervention mechanism provides a safety-net in the event that market prices go below the intervention price. In Ireland market prices have remained well above the intervention level and there have been no offers into intervention in recent years, in contrast to the situation in many other Member States.

Food Labelling.

Ceisteanna (203, 204)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of instances in respect of which checks by his Department have uncovered labelling or other documentation which appears to subvert traceability regulations in each of the past three years; the number of such checks carried out in this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12187/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of checks initiated by his Department to verify food labelling with particular reference to the country of origin and compliance with Irish and EU regulations in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12188/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) through its service contracts with my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency, the Health Services Executive, the Local Authorities and the National Consumer Agency. As far as my Department is concerned, labelling checks are carried out as part of the routine official checks at meat plants where there is a permanent presence of DAFF Veterinary or Technical staff. Checks are conducted on a random, risk based frequency and cover labelling, traceability/origin, identification of cattle, labelling of carcasses, meat, mince meat and meat products.

Questions Nos. 203 and 204 answered with Question No. 191.

Schools Building Projects.

Ceisteanna (205, 206)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

205 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science when the construction of a new school (details supplied), already planned, will now be expedited in view of its total destruction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12054/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

As the Deputy will be aware, the incident to which he refers only took place at the weekend. In the circumstances, my Department, with the assistance of the VEC, is currently concentrating efforts on providing alternative accommodation for the school to ensure that it can re-commence operation as quickly as possible. In this regard, I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the VEC has offered to make accommodation available to the school in its new post primary building. My Department is appreciative of this offer and it is now working with the school to provide it with the necessary supports for its start up in this accommodation. Plans for a permanent home for the school will be considered in due course.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

206 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the need for refurbishment and the provision of additional permanent accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; his views on whether that there are particular expectations that these works will be permitted in view of the realignment of education provision which is planned for the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12057/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the project for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, as the Deputy will be aware, the progression of all large scale building projects, including the project for the school in question, from initial design stage through to construction will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme. However, in view of the level of demand on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

School Accommodation.

Ceisteanna (207)

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

207 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on plans for a secondary school for the Stepaside Leopardstown area of County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12080/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of carrying out detailed analysis of over 40 locations of highest population growth in order to identify the school accommodation requirements up to and including the school year 2014/2015. Given the increase in the birth rate in recent years the initial focus of this analysis is on primary school accommodation requirements and this will be followed by a more detailed analysis of post-primary school accommodation requirements. When the required reports have been completed for these initial areas selected the Forward Planning Section will continue to work on preparing reports on a priority basis for the remainder of the country. Overall accommodation requirements in the Stepaside area will be considered in this regard.

School Enrolment.

Ceisteanna (208)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

208 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has plans to alter the age at which pupils may enrol in primary schools now that the provision of a pre-school year up to the age of 4.5 years has been put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12083/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The compulsory school starting age in a National School is 6 years of age and the Rules for National Schools provide that a child must be at least 4 years of age before she/he may be enrolled in a National School. The primary school curriculum is designed as an eight year course, including a two year infant cycle followed by six years in standards from first to sixth, with children progressing to the next grade at the end of each school year. Pupils commencing school for the first time should be enrolled at the commencement of the school year in order to complete the full primary school course.

I have been informed by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) that under the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, which started in January 2010 children will normally qualify to participate in the scheme where they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September of each year. Exceptions to the upper age limit will be allowed where children are assessed by the HSE as having special needs or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of the local primary school. The provision of a 15 month age range for eligibility is designed to give flexibility to parents to access the scheme at the most appropriate time for their children prior to commencing school and the majority of children who participate in the scheme would be expected to commence primary school between the age of 4 years 3 months and 5 years 6 months.

School Property.

Ceisteanna (209)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

209 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if schools are at liberty to dispose of lands for purposes other than education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12086/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The Deputy may be aware that the vast majority of schools are privately owned and publicly-funded institutions with the interests of the State in the buildings constructed on these sites protected by way of long term leases. Generally, on foot of a request from the property owner and where my Department has determined that part of the school property is not required for educational purposes, the State interest can be surrendered. The future use of that portion of the property will then be a matter for the owners.

Schools Building Projects.

Ceisteanna (210, 211)

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

210 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if the contract has been signed for the recommencement of the building of the national school at a location (details supplied) in County Kildare; and when the contractor will be on site. [12088/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details on the school referred to by the Deputy.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

211 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the time scale for the funding of the main building project at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 16 where the original building is a 1940s preventorium for children in the early stage of tuberculosis and the condition of the building now constitutes a serious health and safety risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12091/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

A major capital project at the school to which the Deputy refers is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction is dependent on the prioritisation of competing demands on the funding available under the Department's capital budget. The proposed building project will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the delivery of the project at this time.

In the meantime, however, it is open to the school authority to apply to the Planning and Building Unit of my Department for emergency works funding for capital works of an urgent nature. Grants from this fund are available for very urgent works, primarily of a major health and safety nature, to schools that require them.

Departmental Correspondence.

Ceisteanna (212)

Mary Upton

Ceist:

212 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12094/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give details of the case referred to by the Deputy.

Vocational Education Committees.

Ceisteanna (213, 214)

James Bannon

Ceist:

213 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding Longford Vocational Education Committee, which has played a major role in the education of the persons of County Longford for generations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12119/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

James Bannon

Ceist:

215 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding Longford, Westmeath, Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo vocational education committees, which have played a major role in the education of persons in these counties for generations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12125/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 215 together.

I assume the Deputy is referring to the recommendations contained in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes to reduce, from 33 to 22, the number of Vocational Education Committees. In September when I spoke at the annual conference of the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) I indicated publicly my general intentions in relation to the future organisation of the VEC system. I invited the IVEA and other interested parties to make written submissions if they wished that I would consider in finalising proposals. Furthermore the Programme for Government includes a specific commitment to develop proposals for the reorganisation of the number of Vocational Education Committees. The Deputy will appreciate that in advance of bringing the matter before Government, which I expect to do in the coming period, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any particular element of the reorganisation.

State Examinations.

Ceisteanna (215)

James Bannon

Ceist:

214 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford who is sitting their leaving certificate in 2010 has been refused a reader and scribe for all their examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12121/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations. I can inform the Deputy that the Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students. In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Question No. 215 answered with Question No. 213.

School Accommodation.

Ceisteanna (216)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

216 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the results of the demographics of the determination of the number of placements needed for a catchment area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12126/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give the details requested by the Deputy. However, I can say that a new state of the art post primary school building with capacity for 400 pupils will be opening in the area concerned shortly. In accordance with my Department's policy, the post primary schools in the area, between them, should have sufficient capacity.

School Placement.

Ceisteanna (217, 218)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

217 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria for the right of a child to obtain a placement in a secondary school within the area of the child’s own place of birth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12127/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Wall

Ceist:

218 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if he is satisfied that a lottery system is the best means of determining entry to secondary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12128/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 218 together.

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. In this regard a Board of Management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances are a matter for the schools themselves. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. Under section 15(2)(d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the rights of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a Board of Management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Vocational Educational Committee or to the Secretary General of my Department. The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB advises parents to apply to more than one school in order to assist in securing a school placement. The Board can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

Schools Building Projects.

Ceisteanna (219)

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

219 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the 78 projects announced as commencing construction in 2009 which have completed the tendering process; the number on which construction will begin in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12129/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The current position with regard to the 78 projects I announced is as follows:

11 projects have been completed and handed over to the school authorities

25 projects are currently under construction

30 projects are at tender stage

12 projects are at pre-tender stage.

I expect the 30 projects currently at tender stage to progress to construction in 2010. The 12 projects currently at pre-tender stage will proceed to tender and construction as soon as possible.

Higher Education Grants.

Ceisteanna (220)

Jack Wall

Ceist:

220 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has a residence card here has not received an education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12132/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give details of the case referred to by the Deputy.

School Accommodation.

Ceisteanna (221)

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

221 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide funding in respect of the monthly cost of renting prefabs for a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [12171/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the school referred to by the Deputy. However, I can confirm to the Deputy that schools seeking approval to acquire additional temporary accommodation can apply to my Department on the appropriate form. Such applications are then processed in the normal fashion.

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