Dáil Éireann

18/Feb/1992

Prelude

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Arts Development.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Taoiseach's Leadership Style.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Referendum on Maastricht Treaty.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Dáil Reform.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - National Heritage Council.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Discussions on Northern Ireland.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Medical Staff Pay Awards.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Commission on Health Funding.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Rights of the Disabled.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Dublin Neurosurgery Services.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Preventive Health Policy.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Request for Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 30.

Order of Business.

Ban on Termination of Young Girl's Pregnancy: Statements.

Criminal Evidence Bill, 1992: Order for Second Stage.

Roads Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).

Private Members' Business. - ESF Funding for Third Level Education: Motion.

Adjournment Debate. - County Donegal Knitwear Factory Closure.

Adjournment Debate. - Legal Aid Scheme Suspension.

Adjournment Debate. - Wexford Town Vocational School.

Adjournment Debate. - Education Matters.

Written Answers. - Health Agencies Funding.

Written Answers. - Nursing Homes Subvention.

Written Answers. - Mental Health Legislation.

Written Answers. - Cot Deaths.

Written Answers. - Rape Crisis Centre Funding.

Written Answers. - Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome Treatment.

Written Answers. - Hip Replacement Operations.

Written Answers. - Drugs Refund Scheme.

Written Answers. - Child Care Act Implementation Costs.

Written Answers. - Cork Regional Hospital.

Written Answers. - Deductions from Nurses' Salaries.

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Treatment.

Written Answers. - County Donegal Kidney Dialysis Patients.

Written Answers. - Health Services for Women.

Written Answers. - Tralee (Kerry) Family Planning Clinic.

Written Answers. - Reorganisation of Health Services.

Written Answers. - Foreign Adoption Assessments.

Written Answers. - Suicide Statistics.

Written Answers. - Dublin Dental Hospital.

Written Answers. - Eligibility for Medical Cards.

Written Answers. - Castlebar (Mayo) Hospital.

Written Answers. - Use of Generic Drugs.

Written Answers. - Southern Health Board Property.

Written Answers. - Kilkenny Health Project.

Written Answers. - Rehabilitative Care.

Written Answers. - Promotion of Healthy Lifestyle.

Written Answers. - Patients' Complaints.

Written Answers. - Out-Patient Charge.

Written Answers. - Drugs Expenditure.

Written Answers. - School Medical Service.

Written Answers. - Adoption Contact Register.

Written Answers. - Community Care Guidelines.

Written Answers. - Speech Therapy Service.

Written Answers. - Adult Dental Services.

Written Answers. - Cardiac Services.

Written Answers. - Pneumonia Mortalities.

Written Answers. - GMS Scheme.

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Treatment.

Written Answers. - Ambulance Services.

Written Answers. - Swords (Dublin) Health Centre.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funds.

Written Answers. - Naas (Kildare) Hospital.

Written Answers. - Waterford Community Care Offices.

Written Answers. - Drugs Subsidisation Scheme.

Written Answers. - Meningitis Statistics.

Written Answers. - Brucellosis Victims.

Written Answers. - Mortality Statistics.

Written Answers. - Subvention to Nursing Homes.

Written Answers. - Cork Hospital Services.

Written Answers. - Dublin Accident and Emergency Services.

Written Answers. - Portrane (Dublin) Hospital Funding.

Written Answers. - Cork Suicide Statistics.

Written Answers. - Dungarvan (Waterford) Hospital Project.

Written Answers. - Tobacco Advertising Ban.

Written Answers. - Green 2000 Report.

Written Answers. - Council of Regions.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Recycled Products.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Army Pensions.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Recycled Products.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - EC Internal Market.

Written Answers. - Trade Balance Statistics.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Department Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Eolas Funding.

Written Answers. - Consumer's Association Funding.

Written Answers. - Time Sharing.

Written Answers. - Distance Selling.

Written Answers. - Cross-Selling.

Written Answers. - Product Safety.

Written Answers. - Dangerous Products.

Written Answers. - Alumina Imports.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Recycled Products.

Written Answers. - EC Funding.

Written Answers. - EC Structural Aid.

Written Answers. - Cohesion Fund.

Written Answers. - National Debt.

Written Answers. - Approximation of Indirect Taxes.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing Statistics.

Written Answers. - Withholding Tax on Doctors' Fees.

Written Answers. - Supervision of Banks.

Written Answers. - Warrants Issued to Sheriffs.

Written Answers. - Border Road Maintenance.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Coleraine Street Fines Office.

Written Answers. - Areas of Scientific Interest.

Written Answers. - County Limerick Castle Reconstruction.

Written Answers. - Kerry Monument Preservation.

Written Answers. - OPW Proposals for Dublin Lands.

Written Answers. - Radio-Active Waste.

Written Answers. - Radon Measurements.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing Statistics.

Written Answers. - Energy Conservation Funding.

Written Answers. - Inspection of Nuclear Installations.

Written Answers. - EC Directive on Use of Gas.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Recycled Products.

Written Answers. - Ferry Port Transfer.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing Statistics.

Written Answers. - Port of Registry.

Written Answers. - RNLI Funding.

Written Answers. - Fishing Licence Allocations.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation Implementation.

Written Answers. - Use of Recycled Paper.

Written Answers. - Development of Common Contract Law.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job-Sharing.

Written Answers. - Applications for Political Asylum.

Written Answers. - Garda Station Repairs.

Written Answers. - Implementation of EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - University Examination Fees.

Written Answers. - Examination Correction Fees.

Written Answers. - Repeat Examination Fees.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job-Sharing.

Written Answers. - Cost of New School.

Written Answers. - Computer Studies Status.

Written Answers. - School Repairs.

Written Answers. - County Offaly School Extension.

Written Answers. - ESF Maintenance Grants.

Written Answers. - Rosscahill (Galway) School Extension.

Written Answers. - Subsidisation of School Text Books.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Illegal Radio Stations.

Written Answers. - Freight Forwarders Registration.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job-Sharing.

Written Answers. - Training for Road Hauliers.

Written Answers. - Transportation of Dangerous Substances.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - County Kildare Hospital Admission Delay.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - EC Funding for Sheltered Workshops.

Written Answers. - Registration of Medical Practitioners.

Written Answers. - Sheltered Workshops.

Written Answers. - Cost of Beaumont Inquiry.

Written Answers. - General Medical Services Contract.

Written Answers. - Voluntary Agencies' Allocation.

Written Answers. - Nursing Homes Subventions.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Use of Recycled Paper.

Written Answers. - Stabilisation of CO 2 Emissions.

Written Answers. - Lead Content of Petrol.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Recycling of Paper Products.

Written Answers. - Cork Sewerage Schemes Funding.

Written Answers. - Mayo Sewage Treatment Facilities.

Written Answers. - Untreated Sewage Discharges.

Written Answers. - Waterworks Projects Funding.

Written Answers. - Parking of Heavy Vehicles.

Written Answers. - County Westmeath Taxi Ranks.

Written Answers. - Fire Safety.

Written Answers. - Access to Environmental Data.

Written Answers. - Environmental Pollution.

Written Answers. - Environmental Improvement Targets.

Written Answers. - Funding for Fire Fighting Equipment.

Written Answers. - Dangerous Waste Damage Liability.

Written Answers. - EC Funding for Environmental Measures.

Written Answers. - Directive on Nitrates.

Written Answers. - EC Regulations on Environmental Damage.

Written Answers. - Chromium Concentrates in Soil.

Written Answers. - Laboratory Waste Disposal.

Written Answers. - Use of Agricultural Chemicals.

Written Answers. - Environmental Protection.

Written Answers. - Envireg Programme Proposals.

Written Answers. - Ecological Labelling System.

Written Answers. - Elimination of CFCs.

Written Answers. - Automobile Catalytic Convertors.

Written Answers. - Waste Incineration Plants.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Written Answers. - Claremorris (Mayo) Water Supply.

Written Answers. - Claremorris (Mayo) Sewerage Scheme.

Written Answers. - Effluent Discharges.

Written Answers. - Banning of Asbestos.

Written Answers. - Elimination of PCBs/PCTs.

Written Answers. - Waste Packaging Recycling.

Written Answers. - EC Diesel Emission Standards.

Written Answers. - Conference on Water and the Environment.

Written Answers. - Rathmore (Kerry) Water Scheme.

Written Answers. - Vehicle Testing.

Written Answers. - EC Regulations.

Written Answers. - Location of European Environment Protection Agency.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Personnel.

Written Answers. - Job-Sharing

Written Answers. - PLO Status.

Written Answers. - Revision of EC Treaties.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Use of Recycled Paper.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Food Imports.

Written Answers. - Farm Statistics.

Written Answers. - Farm Income.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job-Sharing.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Compensation for Mulder Farmers.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Poultry Grant Scheme.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Intervention Beef Stock.

Written Answers. - Grant payments.

Written Answers. - Stock Number Details.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Land Improvement Scheme Applications.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - EC Agricultural Aid.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation Implementation.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

Written Answers. - Pension Entitlement.

Written Answers. - Labelling of Dangerous Substances.

Written Answers. - Departmental Vacancies.

Written Answers. - Departmental Employees.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Agricultural Industry Fatalities.

Written Answers. - Sheltered Workshops Funding.

Written Answers. - EC Legislation.

[1953] Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.

Paidir.

Prayer.

  1.  Mr. Spring    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline his plans for the development of the arts in Ireland.

The Taoiseach:  The development of the arts in Ireland will be a major concern of my Administration. The appointment of a Minister of State in my Department, with formal responsibility for arts and culture, is indicative of that concern.

The Minister of State for Arts and Culture, with my full support, will be concerned, within the necessary constraints of the public finances, to aid the development of the arts, to improve access and participation for the general public and to advance the status of the artist in our society.

A particular concern he and I will have is to ensure that the new responsibilities of the European Community in the area of culture provided for under the Maastricht Treaty are fully developed and funded so as to complement our national activities in this area.

[1954]Mr. Spring:  While I have absolute confidence in the Minister of State with responsibility for Arts and Culture, it is unfortunate that he has also many other heavy responsibilities for European Affairs and Womens' Affairs. Therefore, I would have thought the Taoiseach might have considered it incumbent on him to appoint a Minister with sole responsibility for the arts.

May I put two questions to the Taoiseach: first, I am sure he is aware of the severe crisis obtaining vis-à-vis the Cork Opera House. Can he give the House some guarantee that his Department will intervene to ensure it does not close, which appears likely at present? Second, would he not consider that accessibility to the arts, on the part of schoolchildren in particular, is severely limited?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy has raised a specific matter worthy of a separate question.

Mr. Quinn:  Put it to music.

Mr. Spring:  After all, it is supposed to be “open Government”.

Mr. Currie:  The shutters have been slammed back again.

Mr. Spring:  I regret that we have got no clarity with regard to the Cork Opera House on this occasion; be that as it may. May I ask the Taoiseach again whether he does not consider that lack of accessibility to the arts on the part of schoolchildren in particular is indeed regrettable and that there is need for something urgent to be done about that matter?

The Taoiseach:  I am sure the Deputy will be fully aware that the question of the Cork Opera House is a matter for the Arts Council. Second, there will be plenty of scope for the development of the arts. The Maastricht Treaty includes the following Article (No. IX) on culture:

1. The Community shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their [1955] national and regional diversity, and at the same time bringing their common cultural heritage to the fore.

2. Action by the Community shall encourage co-operation between Member States and, if necessary, support and supplement their action in the following areas:

— improvement of the knowledge and dissemination of the culture and history of the European peoples;

— conservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage of European significance;

— non-commercial cultural exchanges;

— artistic and literary creation, including in the audiovisual sector.

I am sure the House will welcome those opportunities which provide plenty of scope for development.

Mr. J. Bruton:  Would the Taoiseach agree that the Arts constitute an area of enormous potential for employment growth and provision? Would he ensure that his Government's arts policy emphasises this and emphasises also access, in the regions outside Dublin, to the full range of artistic endeavour at present avialable in the capital city?

The Taoiseach:  I agree with the Deputy that there is a large potential for employment growth in the area of the arts. I can assure him that all regions of the country will be given fair consideration in that respect.

Mr. McCartan:  This being the first occasion on which the new Taoiseach has answered questions in this area, would he confirm that it is his intention to continue to develop and maintain an independent Arts Council with primary responsibility for development of the arts?. In that context would he indicate to the House whether his Government will continue to seek to achieve a full and satisfactory funding of the Arts Council, [1956] in particular, to increase and achieve the present goal set of the order of a £13 million annual budget?

The Taoiseach:  The answer to both questions raised by the Deputy is “yes”.

Mr. Spring:  Is it the intention of the Taoiseach to retain his predecessor's arts adviser?

The Taoiseach:  The arts adviser is in place in my Department.

Mr. Spring:  Same person.

Mr. Nealon:  Arising our of the Taoisech's reply and his reference to the Maastricht Treaty, can he give the House an assurance he will have machinery put in place to prevent the loss of heritage material on the coming into effect of the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty?

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy can be assured that every possible effort and initiative to develop the arts, utilising all the resources that will accrue to us when the Maastricht Treaty provisions are in place, will be made. Moreover, its provisions are not yet in place.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): The Taoiseach made no reference to the Irish language and its place in the artistic world here. Does it remain the policy of Fianna Fáil and of this Government to restore the Irish language as the vernacular here?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Sin ceist eile.

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy should know the answer without asking.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am calling Question No. 2.

  2.  Mr. Spring    asked the Taoiseach    if he will elaborate on media reports (details supplied) of a statement he made that he will introduce a more open and honest style of leadership.

[1957]The Taoiseach:  It is my intention to answer as many questions as are appropriate to me in this House.

I also propose to be accessible to the press and the media, within reason, consistent with the time that I need to carry out my principal functions. In addition, it is my intention that there should be weekly Government press briefings with political correspondents, except during holiday periods so that there will not be long periods of inaccessibility to the media as used to happen some years ago.

With regard to my own actions and decisions I intend to be open and transparent about the background and the reasons for them, giving as much information as possible, provided that adequate notice is given of the information requested, except where certain sensitive areas of Government familiar to the Deputy which require the maintenance of secrecy and confidentiality are concerned.

Mr. Spring:  I welcome that very reasoned response but there are two aspects on which I seek clarification. First, as regards the intention to have weekly Government press briefings, can I take it there will be a ministerial presence or that the Taoiseach will attend those meetings? Second, as regards the announcement made by the Taoiseach yesterday, while I understand the roles of two of the advisers — the Government press secretary and the head of the Government Information Services — perhaps the Taoiseach will explain the role of the third person, the Government media adviser?

The Taoiseach:  I relation to the first part of the question, yes, it is my intention to have a weekly press briefing with the political correspondents at 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoons, not necessarily the Taoiseach attending each one but perhaps the Minister or Ministers in whose areas major developments have taken place within that week. In relation to the second part of the question, it is my intention to improve communications [1958] throughout the whole area of Government and public service to try to get as much information as possible out there. I have appointed an adviser to look at the overall operations and interaction of information between Departments and information officers in Departments to see how we can improve the position.

Mr. Shatter:  Is the Taoiseach suggesting that the Government in which he participated for four and a half years and which was led by his predecessor, was a dishonest style of Government?

The Taoiseach:  Certainly not. I am looking forward and not looking backwards.

Mr. Quinn:  While welcoming the Taoiseach's assurance that he intends to provide openness in response to questions, may I ask him to give the House two assurances: first, that the Ministers will be as forthcoming in the House as undoubtedly they will be with the political journalists and, second, he will ensure that each Minister will maintain the same level of openness he has just enunciated, and that that would be conveyed to the people who write the parliamentary replies in each Department.

The Taoiseach:  The Deputies opposite have much experience in Government themselves and it is regrettable they did not practise what they are trying to impart to others at this stage. In all the Ministries in which I served I was as forthcoming with answers as I could be in relation to every matter raised in this House. The members of my Cabinet will be equally forthcoming as far as that is possible. Hopefully, Deputies opposite will take that on board recognising they were not very forthcoming when in Government.

Mr. Farrelly:  I thought the Taoiseach said to forget the past.

Mr. J. Bruton:  What will be the relationship between the Government press office and the press office of the [1959] political parties forming the Government? In particular, is there anything unusual with the fax in the Taoiseach's office being used to issue statements on behalf of a party official of one of the two parties forming the Government?

The Taoiseach:  The press offices of the various parties operate on their own. I have asked for an explanation of the incident raised by the Deputy.

Mr. McCartan:  May I ask the Taoiseach if, central to his proposals for open Government, he will make a vigorous effort to bring forward and implement in full the proposals on Dáil reform contained in the joint Programme for Government?

The Taoiseach:  That is a separate question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is a separate matter altogether. Please Deputy that matter is worthy of a separate question.

Mr. J. Bruton:  There is a question down on Dáil reform — Question No. 10.

Mr. McCartan:  Will the Taoiseach ensure that the practice heretofore of major Government initiatives being announced outside the House will cease and that such announcements will be made in the House in the first instance, particularly where there are interests or questions pending in that regard?

The Taoiseach:  That is a separate question.

Mr. G. Mitchell:  Arising from the Taoiseach's new found glasnost and perestroika, would he consider introducing a freedom of information Bill?

The Taoiseach:  That is a separate question.

[1960]An Ceann Comhairle:  Can we proceed to Question No. 3?

  3.  Mr. Spring    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline (a) the number and (b) nature of any referenda which the Government intend holding during 1992.

  4.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the proposals, if any, he intends to bring forward for the reform of the Constitution.

  5.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline his plans for the referendum for ratification of the Maastricht Treaty.

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 3, 4 and 5 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, a constitutional referendum must be held this year to enable us to ratify the Maastricht Treaty on European Union. Beyond this, and bearing in mind that the new Government came into office only last week, I am sure that the House will accept that it would serve no useful purpose at this early stage for me to speculate or to anticipate proposals on matters of fundamental constitutional importance, pending a through examination by the Government of the issues and considerations involved.

Mr. Spring:  In relation to the referendum on Maastricht, may I put it to the Taoiseach that the delay in producing the White Paper will cause serious problems? Would he give a commitment in this House in relation to the date of publication of that White Paper? Second, in relation to the promised White Paper on marital breakdown, perhaps he could give us an indication today when that will be published and whether he envisages a referendum on that in the course of this 12 months?

The Taoiseach:  In relation to the White Paper for the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, it will be published as soon [1961] as possible. I have asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department to expedite it. There is major work involved and I can assure Deputies that it is being given top priority. It will be comprehensive and thorough in outlining the issues and assessing their implications. Work on the necessary legislative proposals to enable a referendum to take place is proceeding in parallel, and is also being given top priority.

While I must of necessity avoid specific timetable commitments as of now, recognising that we are only a few days in office, I am satisfied that it will be produced in ample time for consideration and that time will be provided for debate on it. In relation to the White Paper on marital breakdown, I have already asked the Minister for Justice to expedite its completion and bring it forward as soon as possible.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Would the Taoiseach agree that it is increasingly clear that a major review of the Constitution is required in view of all the issues now arising with regard to the need for change — the abortion issue is clearly one which must be dealt with urgently. In the course of the last few days, has the Taoiseach initiated any internal discussions or review of the constitutional provision on this issue given that it is untenable at this time in view of recent events?

The Taoiseach:  I am surprised at the Deputy raising that matter at this stage. I am sure he is well aware that later today time will be made available for statements on this matter. Second, there are many other aspects which will be considered by the Government in relation to that referendum. There is the agreement between the EC and EFTA, the Community Patent Convention, protocols, conventions and contractual obligations, EC bankruptcy, etc. and a whole range of areas. We want to be extremely careful. This is a very important referendum so far as this country is concerned and that is why it has to be considered on its own. The Government will be considering the whole range of [1962] areas that need consideration before we finally make a decision.

Mr. J. Bruton:  Will the Maastricht referendum take place before or after the Dáil summer recess? Have the Government, at this point, ruled out or ruled in the possibility of dealing with other constitutional amendments that might be considered on the same day, for example, divorce or the possibility of allowing emigrants to have votes in Seanad elections?

The Taoiseach:  As I have already stated, it would be most unwise for me, after only four days in office, to give specific undertakings about what will or will not be in the referendum. I have already said the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Department have been asked to expedite the work on the White Paper for the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, beyond that I am not prepared to go further today.

Mr. J. Bruton:  May I ask the Taoiseach about the timing?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I want to call Deputy De Rossa.

Mr. J. Bruton:  May I ask the Taoiseach whether the referendum will be held before or after the summer recess?

The Taoiseach:  I have already said I would not be specific and after only four days in office, it would be unwise to give a specific date. It will be done as soon as possible.

Mr. J. Bruton:  The work had been started before the Taoiseach came into office.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Taoiseach expressed surprise that I would raise the question of the abortion amendment to the Constitution. As I understand it, the statements to be made in this House, after the Order of Business, relate to the particular incident that has occurred in the courts.

[1963]An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us not anticipate the statements now.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I am raising a specific question with regard to the constitutional provision which prohibits abortion in this State and which is now being applied by our courts to other states as well. I am asking the Taoiseach if the Attorney General has, at any time, either since he took up office or before, raised at Government level the question of how that particular provision in the Constitution could be or should be applied or if he had any concerns about how it ought to be applied. I do not want the Taoiseach to say that we are going to have statements on it——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy need not elaborate now.

Proinsias De Rossa:  ——because the statements do not provide for the Taoiseach to answer questions.

The Taoiseach:  I have nothing further to add to what I have already said in relation to the forthcoming referendum on the Maastricht Treaty which is the subject of the questions here today.

Mr. Enright:  Is the Taoiseach in a position to outline to the House whether his predecessor and the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs had the work almost completed on the White Paper? Could he outline to us exactly what stage the work was at? Is he aware that the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is present in the House, gave an assurance to the House in a debate that the White Paper would be published early in the New Year? Can the Taoiseach say when the White Paper will be published in view of the fact that some of our EC partners have already published White Papers and that we are just dragging along last?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Brevity, please.

The Taoiseach:  I can confirm for the Deputy that a considerable amount of [1964] work had already been done on the White Paper and that the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs was quite correct. I would remind the Deputy that we are still early in the New Year and that it will be published as soon as possible and that other events which have taken place in the meantime set it back by a matter of weeks.

Mr. G. Mitchell:  Is the Taoiseach aware that a predecessor of his, Seán Lemass, suggested that the Constitution should be reviewed every 25 years? In view of the fact that it is now exactly 25 years since the last all-party committee on the Constitution reported, would the Taoiseach consider setting up an all-party committee to review the contents of the Constitution at this time?

The Taoiseach:  That is a separate question. If the Deputy puts it down we will be only too glad to answer it. Indeed, it could be seen to form part of the next group of questions.

Mr. G. Mitchell:  It is not a separate question but I will put it down.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Question No. 6, please.

  6.  Mr. Spring    asked the Taoiseach    if he intends to introduce regulations providing for a register of Member's interests in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

  7.  Mr. Spring    asked the Taoiseach    if he intends to propose the expansion of the committee system in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

  8.  Mr. Spring    asked the Taoiseach    if, in view of the very complex and changing nature of Irish foreign policy, he will propose the establishment of a committee of the Oireachtas to allow Members to have an input into policy making.

[1965]

  9.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    when it is intended to propose the establishment of an all-party Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs.

  10.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he has any plans for fundamental reform of Dáil Éireann.

  11.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he will introduce an explicit ethics code for serving politicians with an accompanying institution to enforce such a code.

  12.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he will propose the establishment of a comprehensive Dáil committee system, covering all Government Departments, which will be able to deal with spending Estimates and Committee Stages of Bills sponsored by these Departments on a line by line basis.

  13.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline his plans for (1) a foreign affairs committee, (2) a European affairs committee, and (3) the existing Committee on EC Secondary Legislation.

  14.  Mr. Shatter    asked the Taoiseach    whether he will propose the establishment of an all-party committee to review the Constitution.

  15.  Mr. Shatter    asked the Taoiseach    whether it is intended to propose the establishment of a foreign affairs committee; and, if so, when.

  16.  Mr. Shatter    asked the Taoiseach    whether he has any proposals for Dáil reform; when such proposals, if any, will be brought before Dáil Éireann; and if he will outline the content of any such proposals.

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 16, together.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): Open Government?

Mr. J. Bruton:  May I ask——

[1966]Mr. Shatter:  For permission to answer Question No. 6?

Mr. J. Bruton:  ——if you consider it very unusual that a number of very different questions are being amalgamated in this way so as to prevent individual questioning and that the Taoiseach is already showing a lack of commitment to open Government?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have to say that it is common practice in this House to take related questions together. The Taoiseach.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): They are unrelated.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  What has the question relating to a register of Member's interests got to do with the question relating to the establishment of a committee on foreign affairs?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Shatter:  They are totally unrelated

Mr. J. Bruton:  This is not reasonable, Sir.

Mr. Shatter:  The Taoiseach's predecessor never tried this one on.

Mr. J. Bruton:  This is not reasonable.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach:  The Government are preparing——

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): They are not related.

Mr. J. Bruton:  This is highly unreasonable.

Mr. S. Barrett:  On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle:  No, I am having no point of order. I have called the questions. The Taoiseach is in possession.

[1967]Mr. S. Barrett:  On a point of order, Sir——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Barrett, what is the point of order? There is disorder.

Mr. S. Barrett:  Would the Taoiseach explain how Question No. 6 is related to the intention to establish an all-party Oireachtas committee on foregn affairs? What has that got to do with Question No. 6?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have no control over the manner in which Ministers or Taoisigh take questions.

Mr. Farrelly:  A Cheann Comhairle, do you not have to protect the Members of the House?

Mr. Spring:  We have to give it to you, a Cheann Comhairle.

Mr. Farrelly:  We are entitled to be protected.

The Taoiseach:  The Government are preparing——

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Please, Deputies, I will hear no further points of order. This is obstruction. The Taoiseach.

Mr. J. Bruton:  The Taoiseach's predecessor, Deputy Haughey, never attempted this.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  A Cheann Comhairle, I am just raising one point of order.

Mr. J. Bruton:  He was perfectly fair.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Am I not correct, Sir?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have called the Taoiseach and he shall be heard.

[1968]Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I am seeking to raise a point of order, Sir.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, Deputy, let us proceed with questions.

Mr. Wilson:  Let us hear the answer first.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I am asking you, as a Member of this House, if I may raise a point of order?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Normally, the Chair would permit a point of order but is this justified?

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  It is justified.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us hear it.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Good, well done.

Mr. Wilson:  Let us hear the answer first.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  It is my understanding that when questions are combined the Taoiseach or Minister in reply always uses the phraseology “with your consent,” referring to you as Ceann Comhairle. In this situation I assume——

Mr. Wilson:  The Deputy is asleep. That was dropped years ago.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  ——that the Taoiseach is also seeking your consent. Does that not imply that you have to consent to the Taoiseach taking this course of action? If so, are you ruling that you are accepting this course of action?

Mr. Wilson:  Rip Van Winkle.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy, it is, as I have said earlier, normal practice to take related questions together and I accepted that.

Mr. Farrelly:  They are not related.

(Interruptions.)

[1969]Mr. Farrelly:  Are you not, as Chairman of this House, entitled to protect all Members of this House? By allowing the Taoiseach to take all these questions together you are not protecting all Members of this House.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have no control over the Taoiseach's or Ministers questions. The Taoiseach.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  With your consent.

The Taoiseach:  The Government are——

Mr. Farrelly:  A Cheann Comhairle, I am delighted to say that as chairman of Meath County Council I do not run it in the same way this House is run. This is unfair.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy, do not reflect on the Chair. The Deputy knows full well that I have no control over the matter.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Are you giving your consent or not?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Taoiseach.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  A Cheann Comhairle, I wish to raise a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Oh dear, dear.

Mr. Enright:  The Deputy appreciates your terms of endearment.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  I wish to raise a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is it a point of order or disorder?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  You mentioned in your earlier reply that questions which are related may be taken together. Would you establish for the House the interrelationship which exists between [1970] Questions Nos. 6, 9 and 13? They are unrelated.

Mr. Quinn:  Patently, none.

Mr. Howlin:  They are unrelated.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is the Deputy's opinion in the matter; others may differ with her.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Farrelly:  Members are not being protected.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Are you ruling that they are related?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am ruling that it is quite normal to hear such questions.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  They are unrelated.

Mr. Wilson:  Why do you not listen to the answer first?

Mr. Spring:  On a point of order, as someone who has an interest in these questions, Questions Nos. 6, 7 and 8, I have to say there is absolutely no connection between Question No. 6 and Question No. 8, both of which are down in my name.

The Taoiseach:  The Government are preparing comprehensive proposals for Dáil reform and these will be presented to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges as soon as possible. I might add at this stage, a Cheann Comhairle, that many of the questions down on the Order Paper are repeats and, strictly speaking, could be out of order but I am taking the whole lot and saying that those questions will form part of a comprehensive Dáil reform package which the Government will consider shortly and which will then be passed on to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Farrelly:  Open Government is off the rails already.

[1971]An Ceann Comhairle:  I will be calling the Deputies in the order in which their questions appear before me on the Order Paper. Deputy Spring.

Mr. Spring:  In relation to Question No. 6, is it the Taoiseach's intention to put the register of Members' interests on a statutory basis or merely as a Standing Order of this House?

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy can take it that that question, along with the other questions which have been raised, will all form part of the one package which will be presented to the House in due course. I am amazed that the Deputies opposite expect me, after only four days in Government, to do what they were not able to do in four-and-a-half years.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): The Taoiseach campaigned for four-and-a-half years for this job and he should have answers now.

Mr. Shatter:  A new beginning; back to the future.

Mr. J. Bruton:  May I take it, in view of the Taoiseach's unwillingness to answer any detailed questions about Dáil reform, that he has not during the past four-and-a-half years in Government informed himself about this subject at all——

The Taoiseach:  I have.

Mr. J. Bruton:  ——and was not in any way collectively responsible for the lack of initiative shown during the past four and a half years in Government by his party in dealing with the matter? In view of the fact that he has answered a question in regard to the committee on foreign affairs, which was promised by his predecessor, may I ask him if, without repeating his predecessor's commitment, there is any question of him going back on his predecessor's commitment?

[1972]The Taoiseach:  I made it clear in the House the last day that I had requested a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in that regard. I have had that meeting. I have a set of proposals on my desk, which arrived yesterday, from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and which will be given due consideration in relation to the other wide-ranging reform proposals that we are looking at.

Mr. Quinn:  Why did the Taoiseach not give that answer the first time?

Mr. J. Bruton:  In regard to Question No. 11, which relates to an ethics code for politicians, will the Taoiseach indicate how he proposes to deal with that matter in respect of proposals to reform the Dáil in view of the fact that an ethics code for politicians would, presumably, cover Members of the Seanad as well?

An Ceann Comhairle:  There should not be any reference to the other House.

Mr. J. Bruton:  On a point of order, the Taoiseach replied to a question about an ethics code for politicians, which refers to both Houses, by reference to a reply which was confined to the Dáil. I am within my rights in asking if the Government have any proposals in regard to a broader ethics code for politicians——

An Ceann Comhairle:  It is traditional that we do not refer to matters appertaining to the other House.

Mr. G. Mitchell:  We will have to reform the office of the Ceann Comhairle.

The Taoiseach:  Deputy Bruton is well aware, as a former Leader of the House, that each House makes its own regulations in regard to its Members.

Mr. J. Bruton:  Is it not the case that the Taoiseach indicated the Government intend to make proposals in this matter? Therefore, the Government [1973] should be answerable to this House for the proposals they intend to make. Will the Taoiseach say whether the Government have proposals in regard to the drafting of an ethics code covering both Houses and, if so, what means of enforcement there will be for such an ethics code in view of the great need to restore confidence in public life?

The Taoiseach:  The Government are fully aware of the need to restore confidence in public representatives. I will not anticipate — nor should the Deputy expect me to — what decisions the Government may arrive at when they consider a long list of proposals in relation to Oireachtas reform which will eventually come before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Has the Taoiseach made any proposals to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in relation to the sub judice ruling which applies in this House? I am sure he is aware of the recent court ruling which indicated that public representatives had a right and an obligation to comment on public affairs and should not be unduly restricted by the sub judice issue. The Ceann Comhairle indicated here last week that he was awaiting the Government's views on this matter before he would proceed with it. May I have an assurance from the Taoiseach that he will not wait until the total package of Dáil reform is prepared before he moves on this vital issue?

The Taoiseach:  I wish to inform the Deputy and the House that that matter — and many other subjects which are of interest to Deputies on all sides of the House — are part of the programme for consideration in relation to Oireachtas reform as soon as possible.

Proinsias De Rossa:  How soon?

The Taoiseach:  As soon as possible, I will not delay matters.

Mr. Shatter:  Is the Taoiseach aware [1974] that the joint Programme for Government concluded with the Progressive Democrats promised that Dáil reform would be implemented approximately one and a half years ago? Is the Taoiseach now telling the House that he has no views of a personal nature about any necessary Dáil reform and that we are starting all over again? Will he indicate when specific proposals will be brought before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and confirm that, if the Government fail to bring such proposals forward, the Committee on Procedure and Privileges are free to bring forward their own proposals because they are a committee of this House and should not be influenced by the lethargy of the Government in bringing forward necessary reform?

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy should be aware that I have personal views in this regard; he need have no fear that the Dáil and Oireachtas reform is being put on the back burner. It will be brought forward as it is in all our interests to do so and to implement changes. However, the proper procedure must be followed in relation to changes.

Mr. Spring:  With reference to the Taoiseach's response in relation to a foreign affairs committee, can I take it that, as a result of his meetings with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, he is in favour of such a committee for this House? In relation to Question No. 7, will the Taoiseach give consideration to establishing an economic and social committee of this House and is he considering some way in which MEPs can participate in its workings?

The Taoiseach:  The latter part of Deputy Spring's question will arise later in a separate set of questions. The question of an economic and social committee will be examined in relation to suggestions from political parties on the opposite side. The options in relation to a foreign affairs committee were laid before me yesterday by the Minister for [1975] Foreign Affairs and will get immediate attention.

Mr. Shatter:  I refer the Taoiseach specifically to Question No. 14, a question which my colleague, Deputy Gay Mitchell, sought to raise as a result of the replies to Questions Nos. 3, 4 and 5. Will the Taoiseach acknowledge that there is widespread concern that aspects of our Constitution need to be reviewed and changed, that they no longer reflect, in some areas, political and social realities? In that context, has the Taoiseach given any consideration to forming a committee of this House to review the entirety of the Constitution, such as took place in 1967, with a view to obtaining all party agreement on aspects of changes required?

The Taoiseach:  All aspects in relation to reform of the Dáil and the Constitution will be considered and I will report to the House when they have been completed.

Mr. Shatter:  That is a pathetic reply.

Mr. Quinn:  Having regard to the fact that the Taoiseach saw fit to take 11 questions together, can he give the House an assurance that the implementation of any of the proposals — a foreign affairs committee, a register of Member's interests or any of the other components listed in the 11 questions — are not interconnected and independent, in other words that the implementation of one proposal is not dependent on agreement on the others? Perhaps I have misunderstood his groupings of the 11 questions together.

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy has not misunderstood because we are putting together a list of proposals for consideration in the context of Dáil and Oireachtas reform. I assure the House that it is not a question of fobbing this matter off, it is a question of time. The Deputies expect me, having been four [1976] days in the House, to make a full declaration of all reforms which they have been asking for——

Mr. Shatter:  We expect honest replies.

The Taoiseach:  Deputies will be surprised at the end of the day because a list of Dáil and Oireachtas reforms will be brought forward sooner than they expect.

Mr. Quinn:  Will the Taoiseach assure the House that it is not an integrated package in which agreement on one depends on agreement on all?

The Taoiseach:  They are not mutually exclusive. However, they are part of the overall proposals going to Government and we will not anticipate what they may decide.

An Ceann Comhairle:  This matter should not lead to argument.

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy will be pleasantly surprised when he sees our proposals.

Mr. S. Barrett:  I wish to remind the Taoiseach that he was a member of the group which reviewed the Programme for Government with his colleagues, the Progressive Democrats, and that a number of these matters were discussed at that time, in particular the establishment of a proper European Affairs Committee to deal with EC legislation. Does he intend to allow this committee, through expansion of their terms of reference, look at the proposed White Paper on Maastricht as a matter of urgency? The existing committee are confined, because of their terms of reference. Through the Taoiseach's good offices we could do better work in relation to the EC and the Maastricht agreement.

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy must not have been listening to what I said.

Mr. S. Barrett:  I was.

The Taoiseach:  The proposals for a [1977] foreign affairs committee, a European affairs committee and the existing Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities are all the subject of a submission to me by the Minister for Foreign Affairs which I received yesterday evening. I have said that the White Paper will be brought forward as soon as possible.

  17.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Taoiseach    if he has satisfied himself with the work of the National Heritage Council; and if he has any intention to (a) change its terms of office and (b) expand its membership.

The Taoiseach:  I am aware that the council have been doing excellent work in aiding heritage conservation across the wide spectrum of their terms of reference and in aiding the archaeological Discovery Programme. I intend to take an early opportunity to inform myself more fully about their work.

The major issue arising in regard to the National Heritage Council is its future statutory status and I will be considering that aspect in due course. I am not aware that the issues mentioned by the Deputy require reconsideration.

Mr. J. Higgins:  Is the Taoiseach aware that the National Heritage Council deal with all aspects of heritage? I am talking about archaeology, architecture, museums and wildlife. Is he also aware that the Wildlife Advisory Council, who were obliged to be set up under section 13 of the 1976 Act, have been redundant for a number of years and that there is a major need to re-establish this council?

The Taoiseach:  I can assure the Deputy that I will look into the issues he has raised.

Mr. J. Higgins:  May I ask the Taoiseach in doing so to take particular cognisance of the fact that the failure to establish the advisory council means, [1978] first, that a number of bodies who would regard themselves as having a legitimate advisory role have not been consulted and, second, that this has led to a formal complaint against Ireland being made to the European Commission and that the file is rapidly growing?

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy can take it from me that I will acquaint myself fully with the matters he has raised in my review of what is happening in relation to the National Heritage Council.

  18.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the Government's plans to encourage talks between the political parties in Northern Ireland.

  19.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he will make a statement on his discussions with the British Prime Minister.

  20.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    if he intends to take any initiatives to improve the climate for the success of the talks process with the Northern Ireland political parties, initiated by the British Prime Minister, with particular reference to changes in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution.

  21.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Taoiseach    when it is expected that he will have his first meeting with the British Prime Minister; if, in the light of the increase in violence in Northern Ireland, he plans to bring the meeting forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 19, 20 and 21 together.

The Government welcome the agreement reached last week between the British Prime Minister and the leaders of the four main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland under which the leaders will now “meet to discuss obstacles in the way of further political dialogue in the hope that such dialogue might recommence at an early date”. The House can [1979] be assured that the Government stand ready to do everything possible to help this process.

I spoke on the telephone with the British Prime Minister last week. I conveyed to Mr. Major the Government's welcome for the agreement he reached with the four party leaders and the Government's resolve to see to it that those who resort to terrorism do not succeed.

As Deputies will be aware, there is agreement that the Taoiseach and Prime Minister should meet twice yearly for discussions of matters of concern to our two countries. The first meeting this year would normally have taken place later in the year but, because of the changed situation since that agreement was reached, we have decided that the meeting should be brought forward. I will, therefore, be meeting the Prime Minister in London on 26 February for discussions on bilateral matters, European Community issues and other questions of common interest to our countries.

I will be accompanied at the meeting by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy David Andrews and the Minister for Justice, Deputy Pádraig Flynn. The Prime Minister will be accompanied by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Peter Brooke, MP, and the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with special responsibility for European Community Affairs, Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

The Government totally reject the view that Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution can be used to justify violence. Those who have followed the path of violence are denying the fundamental democratic principles of our Constitution, which specifically and unambiguously bind Ireland to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation among nations.

In my comments last week I stated that the issue of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution was a complex one and that I knew that Unionists took exception to these Articles: equally, my comments reflected my knowledge of the views of Northern Nationalists on the Articles. I [1980] also said that, when all parties who reject violence as a means of attaining political change come together to work out structures and arrangements which would allow us to live together, in peace, then everything will be on the table.

I would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate that I am willing to talk with Unionist representatives at any time with the aim of achieving peace and reconciliation on this island and I would like here to extend an open invitation to them to a meeting to that end.

Mr. J. Bruton:  May I ask the Taoiseach if he would agree that an indication of willingness to consider amendments to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution might be helpful in ensuring that talks actually start? May I also ask him if there are any circumstances in which he would be willing to indicate such a willingness? In regard to the security situation, may I ask the Taoiseach if he would join with me in calling on all people who have information about crime in Northern Ireland to give it to the police on either side of the Border to ensure that those responsible for crime are brought to justice? Finally, may I ask the Taoiseach if he has any proposals to increase security co-operation or strengthen security measures to ensure, in particular, that no opportunity is available for people to use arms stored on this side of the Border or use the Border in any other way as a cover for murder and other crime in Northern Ireland?

The Taoiseach:  I have already outlined to the House and the Deputy my position and the position of the Government in relation to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. When all parties get around the table, Articles 2 and 3 will be on the table — it is only then that they can be on the table. I do not accept that Articles 2 and 3 are the cause of the violence in Northern Ireland.

In relation to security co-operation, the position of the Government, and successive Governments, has been to afford the utmost co-operation in relation to security to ensure that men of violence [1981] are brought to justice and to use every arm of the State to ensure that that happens. The record of the Government and successive Governments in terms of bringing men of violence to justice is there to be seen.

Mr. J. Bruton:  I do not wish to repeat myself but I asked the Taoiseach whether he would call on all those who have information about crimes committed on either side of the Border to give it to the relevant security forces, on whichever side of the Border they happen to be, so that the persons concerned can be brought to justice. Would the Taoiseach agree that an unambiguous statement of that kind by all constitutional politicians would be helpful in reducing the level of murder on this island?

The Taoiseach:  The Government consider that every effort should be made by everybody to help in whatever way they can to bring the men of violence to justice and to restore normality in the North. That has always been our position.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I call Deputy Proinsias De Rossa whose Question No. 21 refers.

Proinsias De Rossa:  In regard to Question No. 21, I thank the Taoiseach for announcing that the meeting with the British Prime Minister has been brought forward. I also wish to thank him for using Question Time to make the announcement rather than announcing it outside the House. I hope he and his Government will continue this precedent.

In relation to Articles 2 and 3, would the Taoiseach not accept that it is not correct that a constitutional provision should be used as a bargaining counter in regard to talks on Northern Ireland and the relationship between the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic? Would he not also accept that Articles 2 and 3 serve to distort the perceptions of people in the Republic about what the nature of our relationship should be to the people in Northern Ireland, given [1982] that the courts in the Republic have defined Articles 2 and 3 as a territorial claim and that this is repugnant to a substantial majority of the people in Northern Ireland.

The Taoiseach:  I am well aware that the Unionists object to the existence of Articles 2 and 3. By the same token, the Nationalist minority object to certain aspects of the 1920 Act. It is too simplistic an approach for anyone to seriously suggest that the deletion of Articles 2 and 3 from our Constitution will solve the problems in Northern Ireland overnight; as we all know, it certainly will not.

Mr. McCartan:  He did not suggest that.

The Taoiseach:  In earlier years, it was argued that the special position of the Catholic Church in our Constitution was keeping the communities in the North apart and was an obstacle to serious dialogue and talks between the communities there. We all know what happened when that Article was removed. Therefore, it is too simplistic to suggest that the removal of Articles 2 and 3 from our Constitution will solve the problems overnight when, as everyone knows in their heart and soul, it will not do that.

Mr. Spring:  One could always remind oneself of the constitutional review committee of 1967 and the recommendations made by them. May I put it to the Taoiseach that the imperative in Articles 2 and 3 does not reflect the political reality of attitudes in the Republic at this stage? As the Taoiseach has admitted, these Articles are a hindrance to the opening of dialogue with the Unionist community. Would the Taoiseach not consider, therefore, that it is now time to have these Articles replaced by a merely aspirational Article in the Constitution?

The Taoiseach:  The policy of this Government and the previous Government has been to show their continuing support for the talks process in the North. People have been talking around the [1983] table and progress has been made. We must all appreciate the new initiative taken by the British Prime Minister in calling all the political leaders last Tuesday for a meeting. As a result of that meeting these people agreed to have further meetings in relation to the obstacles that exist to the resumption of talks. That initiative must be welcomed. I am as familiar with the communities in the North of Ireland as is anybody else and I know how people think up there. Taking one side in isolation from another in terms of their thoughts and deep convictions will not lead to talks but will divide the communities even further. It is by recognising the sentiments and convictions of both sides that progress will be made. I have the greatest admiration for the Unionist community. I have done business with them in the past. They stand up for what they believe in and they respect people who do the same. I would ask the House to bear with me until I have my first meeting with the British Prime Minister to see if there are any initiatives that can sensibly bring us back to the path of peace that all of us seek.

Mr. J. Bruton:  Would the Taoiseach not agree that in saying that provisions of our Constitution will be on the table at some unspecified time and in some unspecified way in the future suggests, first, a lack of urgency in getting talks going and making progress in regard to Northern Ireland and also that any change we might make in the Constitution will not be made on its merits and because we want to make it but will be made as some form of bargaining, which would be undesirable from any point of view?

The Taoiseach:  I cannot accept what the Deputy suggests, that taking the view of one community over that of the other will solve the problem in the North of Ireland. My experience of the North does not lead me to that view. I have expressed quite clearly my views and I repeat them. I do not seek, nor do the [1984] Irish people seek, dominance of one community over another. We want to move ahead in partnership and that can best be done by an approach from the bottom up and from the top down. It can be done by promoting more projects in relation to the International Fund for Ireland, the Interreg Programme and by finding ways and means of getting communities to trust each other more and to try to develop their areas and regions. That is the type of operation I would like to see on the ground. I would favour also new approaches by the British Prime Minister and myself, if that is possible, with the involvement of the European Community as Europe moves more and more towards integration and towards the removal of barriers and bitterness as well as economic and political barriers.

Mr. J. Bruton:  The Taoiseach should answer the question.

The Taoiseach:  On 1 January 1993 the economic barriers between North and South will be eliminated. We will then have to look at ways and means of building new structures to try to remove the political barriers. Those are my views on this process.

Mr. J. Bruton:  The Deputy should answer the question.

Proinsias De Rossa:  My point in relation to amendment of Articles 2 and 3 relates to the effect it would have on politics in the Republic rather than how it would affect relations within Northern Ireland, important as they are. Amendment of these Articles would not be a simple solution to the problems in Northern Ireland but it would certainly alter significantly the perceptions of people in the Republic who no longer want a territorial claim on the North. They certainly have an aspiration to unity but they do not want to have a territorial constitutional claim on the North.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Questions, please.

[1985]Proinsias De Rossa:  I am alarmed at a point of view which the Taoiseach has expressed on two occasions——

An Ceann Comhairle:  We are having a statement from the Deputy.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I am coming to the point, a Cheann Comhairle, and you must give me some latitude to explain it. In a statement made by the Taoiseach at the press conference and again here in the House he is counter-posing Articles 2 and 3 with the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. What concerns me is that he is repeating word for word——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Sorry, Deputy De Rossa. I want to assist the Deputy in eliciting information but he may not go on to make a speech.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I am coming to the question, a Cheann Comhairle. Would the Taoiseach not agree that what he is doing is repeating word for word the briefing he has received not from his Department but from a group of obscurantist Nationalists who are raising fears about Nationalists having the right to an Irish passport in the event of Articles 2 and 3 being amended. It is improper for the Taoiseach to be feeding these fears on the basis of a briefing which is grossly inaccurate.

The Taoiseach:  I want to assure the Deputy that I received no such briefing.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Taoiseach's position is extraordinarily close to theirs.

The Taoiseach:  I live 35 miles from the Border and am familiar with the viewpoint of the Nationalists and Unionists alike in Northern Ireland. As of now I have met no representatives of the Nationalist community but I intend to meet them as early as possible. Therefore, it is not a question of trotting out some abstract observations that were passed on to me, as the Deputy tried to suggest. I know the people on both sides of the community up there and I know [1986] what they think and what they say. If you do not understand the way people think and if you do not understand the divisions and the basic reasons for such divisions, you have no chance of finding a resolution to the very complex problem up there and more especially of putting an end to the cruel carnage that has escalated in recent weeks. I am not a mouthpiece for any particular viewpoint in the North of Ireland. I am trying in all honesty and openness to find some way to de-escalate the violence and work out a new approach to a path for peace.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am now calling Deputy Noonan, Limerick East. The House will be aware that 15 minutes are set aside each normal sitting day for dealing with Priority Questions. I shall be proceeding to deal with these questions at 3.30 p.m. sharp.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): I welcome the Taoiseach's condemnation of violence in his initial reply. However, I put it to the Taoiseach that this condemnation is inconsistent with the action of a leading semi-State organisation who recently leased a hall under their control to Sinn Féin for a meeting addressed by Gerry Adams. Would the Taoiseach agree that this kind of ambivalence should be removed from Irish public life? The Taoiseach should give a commitment to the House that this will never happen again in the State sector in Ireland.

The Taoiseach:  If the Deputy sends me details of the incident to which he referred I will look into the matter. I am not familiar with the circumstances surrounding it but I would be glad to look into it. In any event it is a separate question.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): A question on this matter in my name has been put down to the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach's office has transferred it to the Minister for Finance.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Can we proceed to deal with another question?

[1987]Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): The Taoiseach is not being informed of matters of which he should be informed.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is deviating from the subject matter before us.

Mr. McCartan:  Open Government will start tomorrow.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We now come to Question No. 22 in the name of Deputy John Bruton.

Mr. Currie:  Will the Taoiseach stop using phrases such as “up there” as if the North were 1,000 miles away?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Can we deal adequately with Question No. 22?

Mr. J. Bruton:  It would be better to leave it over until the next day.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Thank you, Deputy. That is the right conclusion in the circumstances. If the House so agrees we will proceed to deal with Priority Questions.

Mr. J. Bruton:  It is my wish that all my questions reappear on tomorrow's Order Paper.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We will try to facilitate the Deputy.

  39.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    if he will clarify the provision that has been made in his 1992 spending plans for (1) the back moneys owed to consultants (2) the special award due to nurses and (3) the entitlement to increments for part-time and long-term temporary nurses; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  In the course of a meeting with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on 17 January 1992 the Minister for Finance outlined [1988] the Government's commitment to pay the balance of special pay increases due under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress with full retrospection to the dates on which the outstanding phases were due to be paid.

In relation to the specific categories of staff referred to by the Deputy, the position is that provision is being made in 1992 to pay outstanding back moneys due to consultant medical staff under the revised common contract. I am to have discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, on the manner and the method by which these payments are to be made.

Provision is also being made to implement, with effect from 1 December 1992, the special pay award due to nurses. In the case of nurses, their pay rates will, in accordance with the statement of 17 January by the Minister for Finance, be increased on 1 December 1992 to the levels which would have been payable under previously agreed phasing arrangements. The measures announced by the Minister for Finance are presently being considered by the Public Service Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Claims for incremental credit for part-time and temporary nurses are currently in process and pending their resolution, I do not wish to comment on these cases.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Does the Minister not consider it somewhat unfair that one category of medical staff is to have back pay guaranteed and another category must wait until the end of the year before a payment will be made? Does he not consider that that may depress the morale of staff who expected equal treatment?

Dr. O'Connell:  On 5 May 1989 the Review Body on Higher Remuneration were asked to examine the report on the remuneration of consultant medical staff. The review body reported on 15 June 1990. At a meeting held on 21 June 1990 the Government approved the publication of the report and authorised the [1989] Minister for Health to arrange discussions with hospital consultants on the basis recommended. A revised contract, and an accompanying memorandum of agreement, were prepared and submitted to the representatives of the consultants, both the IMO and the IHCA, once Government approval for the implementation of that contract had been obtained. The vast majority of consultants have now signed the revised contract. They received the moneys due in respect of revised salaries. However, the arrears were to be paid last July but the Government asked consultants that the payment be deferred until this year.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Is it not the case that the nurses' arbitration award predated that of the consultants and that the initiation of the nurses' case also predated the consultants' case?

Dr. O'Connell:  I am not sure which case was initiated first. Proposals involving deferral of the second and third phases of the nurses' increase were put to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on 17 January 1992. The Government now propose to pay that increase with effect from 1 December 1992. There has been no objection from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in regard to the special pay for nurses. I do not know when the original agreement for back payment to nurses was made or when it was examined.

  40.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the legislative changes, if any, he proposes on foot of his consideration of the report of the Commission on Health Funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Dr. O'Connell:  The report of the Commission on Health Funding was a very comprehensive examination of a wide range of aspects of health policy including funding issues, eligibility for services, organisational structures and accountability. The report, and the consultation [1990] process which followed its publication, provided a most important input to the Government's decisions in these areas and to the preparation of legislation on foot of them.

The Health (Amendment) Act, 1991, is in place and has restructured eligibility for health services in line with the recommendations of the Commission.

As announced in September last, legislation is now being prepared to implement the Government's decisions on the reorganisation of health services in the Eastern Health Board area and the improvement of accountability in the health services in general. I am giving consideration to providing in this legislation for certain other recommendations of the commission, such as a greater degree of uniformity in the eligibility criteria for the various community-based services provided by health boards. I intend to bring the legislation before the House in the course of this year.

Mr. Ferris:  I welcome the Minister's commitment to uniformity of eligibility in any legislation brought before the House arising from the report of the Commission on Health Funding. Is the Minister aware that the kernel of the commission's conclusions is that the sole problem in the past has not been one of funding but the proper planning, organisation and delivery of services? Is the Minister aware of the dilemma highlighted by the commission? Does he intend to respond to it, as did his predecessor in relation to Eastern Health Board funding?

Dr. O'Connell:  I read the report and I agree with his comments. I will examine the issue to determine what can be done as quickly as possible.

Mr. Ferris:  Has the Minister any idea when the legislation he has promised, and which we would welcome, will come before the House?

Dr. O'Connell:  I must point out I have been Minister for only a few days. However, that is one matter I asked [1991] about and I am assured details will be presented before the summer. It is hoped that the necessary legislation will be introduced in the autumn.

Mr. Ferris:  Thank you.

Dr. O'Connell:  I promise to keep the Deputy informed.

  41.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    whether he favours the introduction of legislation to underpin the rights of persons with a disability to every reasonable opportunity to participate in all aspects of community life; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Dr. O'Connell:  The Programme for Economic and Social Progress provides that the Government will examine, in consultation with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the organisations representing people with disabilities, how best the rights of people with disabilities can be promoted.

My Department have had preliminary discussions with other Government Departments, which provide services to people with disabilities and with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on this matter and will in the near future be consulting the major organisations representing people with disabilities.

At this stage I have an open mind on the introduction of specific legislation in this area. I must say that I have some reservations as to the value of the type of legislation that is sometimes referred to as a Bill of Rights for the Disabled. These frequently amount to little more than a statement of intent on a broad range of issues which do not directly improve the position of people with disabilities.

I shall await the outcome of the ongoing discussions under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and consider the matter further in the light of those discussions.

Within my area of responsibility, a [1992] number of initiatives are being taken to improve the position of people with disabilities.

An additional cash injection of £10 million is being provided this year to improve services for people with a mental handicap. This is the most significant annual increase ever for these services.

The need to update our mental health legislation is currently under review. An important objective of any new legislation will be to provide a legal framework for the psychiatric service envisaged in the “Planning for the Future” report. The law governing the detention of mentally ill persons will need to be updated to reflect more fully modern day thinking in relation to individual freedom and to meet our obligations under various international conventions.

I am conscious of the need for improvements in the range and quality of services available to people with physical and sensory disabilities. I intend, within the next few weeks, to establish a review group to make recommendations for their expansion and improvement within the framework of the commitments in relation to the physically disabled contained in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

I should like to tell Deputy Bruton that I read his document, “A Coherent Policy for People With Disability”, which is most interesting. I hope to be able to benefit from that document in providing information to the review group.

Mr. Ferris:  Has the Minister read my paper?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I thank the Minister for his comments. Before my first question I should have welcomed the Minister to the House on his first occasion answering questions as Minister for Health. Does the Minister agree that time and again people with a disability have to take second place for access to taxis and to buildings, for the right to education and for access to services? Does he agree we are only starting on the road to addressing the needs that have been identified by the Government? Would he not agree [1993] that a Bill of Rights would at least ensure that these people are not asked to take second place in regard to those rights?

Dr. O'Connell:  I introduced a private Members' motion on rights for the disabled in 1979. The rights do not necessarily have to be in legislation, but I am open to correction. I will welcome further recommendations on it. The disabled are badly done by in terms of rights and resources. We will look at this area very seriously and consider whether a Bill of Rights is the answer. I have an open mind on the subject but I have not all the information from the Department.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Would the Minister not agree that his first thoughts on this matter in 1979 were better than his doubts now?

Dr. O'Connell:  No. I have been in the Department a few days only but they have told me from their experience and from the experience of previous Ministers that legislation may not necessarily be the answer. I am open to being influenced by them but I will bear in mind what the Deputy said. I am very impressed with his document and will bear it in mind. If a Bill of Rights is the answer we will certainly introduce one.

  42.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the acute difficulties in gaining treatment at Dublin's neurosurgery services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Dr. O'Connell:  Admission to the National Neurosurgical Centre at Beaumont Hospital depends on the urgency of the patient's condition. The consultant neurosurgeons regularly review their waiting lists and admit patients based on their medical condition and the need for urgent or non-urgent treatment. Occasionally, elective admissions to the neurosurgical centre are delayed due to a high level of emergency admissions, [1994] which I am sure the Deputy will realise must take precedence.

Beaumont Hospital is proceeding to fill the complement of six consultant neurosurgeon posts as recommended by Comhairle na nOspidéal. Beaumont Hospital expects that the two additional consultant neurosurgeons, one to replace a post formerly located at St. Vincent's Hospital and the other to fill the vacant post with a special interest in paediatric neurosurgery, will take up duty within the next month. This will have the effect of further reducing waiting times for neurosurgical patients. The waiting list for nuero-surgical treatment at the moment is 709.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Would the Minister not agree that while some progress is now being made, when Comhairle na nOspidéal reported on this they indicated a need for 50 extra beds in the Dublin area and 16 extra consultants, not the six who are now being appointed? Would the Minister not agree that it is unacceptable that in south Dublin for a population of 500,000 there is only one consultant neurosurgeon available? Will the Minister be bringing forward proposals to restore public confidence in this area, after a very bruising experience in the courts in recent times which was damaging to public confidence?

Dr. O'Connell:  I agree it was damaging to public confidence. I hope it is behind them now, that there will be no further inquiries and that the Department will get on with the work of dealing with this long waiting list. The Deputy referred to one neurosurgeon for south Dublin, but there is no neurosurgeon for south Dublin. The St. Vincent's Hospital neurosurgeon had been transferred to the National Neurosurgical Centre.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We will manage to dispose of the remaining question. I am calling Question No. 43 in the name of Deputy Richard Bruton.

[1995]

  43.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    whether he has satisfied himself that the health promotion unit within his Department has the finance and the independence necessary to tackle the task of promoting an effective preventive health policy.

Dr. O'Connell:  The 1992 funding available to the health promotion unit from my Department's Estimate represents an increase of 20 per cent over last year's figure. This reflects the Government's commitment to health promotion and the necessary support for the unit's programmes.

The health promotion unit within my Department has a dual remit in terms of developing national health promotion policies and in developing and implementing health promotion programmes. A national nutrition plan was launched in 1991, a national strategy on health promotion is currently being prepared by the unit and the unit is a key participant with the Advisory Council on Health Promotion in developing a national policy on alcohol. The unit also has an executive remit, and has developed and is implementing national programmes on anti-tobacco, AIDS, alcohol, drugs, nutrition and lifestyle programmes.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that the health promotion unit provides a very active and comprehensive range of effective health promotion programmes. With reference to the first part of the Deputy's question, I am still considering whether this unit serves the best purpose being attached to the Department or whether it would be better as an independent unit. I am looking into this matter.

Mr. R. Bruton:  I welcome the Minister's undertaking to look into the independence of this unit. The World Health Organisation favours independence for such a unit. Does the Minister not agree that it is not satisfactory that we are falling so far behind on the “health for all”[1996] targets set by the World Health Organisation, for instance, in the area of heart disease and cancer? Would the Minister not agree that we need to set coherent targets for our health promotion unit so that we can judge their success in reducing factors such as smoking, bad eating habits and so on, so that we can achieve recognised targets in the area of improved health from this unit's work?

Dr. O'Connell:  The Deputy will be aware that in another capacity I highlighted this matter two weeks ago and emphasised the need for the Department of Health to take these measures on board. I now hope to implement that for which I have been calling.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That disposes of Questions for today.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given to me under standing order 20 (3) (a) and the name of the member in each case: (1) Deputy Quill — the problems experienced in Cork courts due to the suspension of the operation of the free legal aid scheme in Cork and the adverse impact that this is having on law and order in the city; (2) Deputy Fennell — the hardships being created by delays in rent tribunal cases because of the delay in appointing members to the tribunal; (3) Deputy Taylor — the raid by armed officers of the Special Branch on the community hall of Killinarden community centre on 14 January 1992; (4) Deputy McGinley — the closure of McDevitt's knitwear factory in Glenties, County Donegal, with the loss of 53 jobs and the very serious economic implications for that area; (5) Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan — the serious implications for the citizens of Cork next week as outlined by a senior Circuit Court Judge, unless action is [2195] taken to resolve the free legal aid dispute in the city; (6) Deputy Enright — the urgent necessity for an extension to Crinkle national school, Birr, County Offaly where children are attending for their education in substandard premises and when the Department will be appointing a contractor for work to the extension; (7) Deputy Howlin — the urgent need for ministerial sanction for the much needed extension to the town of Wexford vocational school, in the light of the appalling conditions there and the decision of the teachers unions to withdraw labour from substandard class rooms; (8) Deputy Moynihan — the serious problem for both patients and medical/consultant staff in Tralee Regional Hospital arising from the failure of the Southern Health Board to provide essential equipment and staff; (9) Deputy Garland — the proposed interchange on the Northern Cross motorway at Ballymun, Dublin, which has been planned with no proper consultation with the local community who are totally opposed to this scheme; (10) Deputy Jim Higgins — the need for the Minister for Finance to authorise the Office of Public Works to deepen a channel for a river at Listernane, Killasser, Swinford, which is about to be piped and which is currently responsible for flooding of 150 acres of arable land; and (11) Deputy Deenihan — The serious concern expressed by Irish immigrant agencies in the US because of the drastic decrease in funding from immigrant services.

I have selected for discussion the matters raised by Deputies McGinley, Quill and Howlin.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I had been given notice of motions under Standing Order 30 from a number of Deputies, initially, from Deputies De Rossa, Spring and John Bruton. I have been informed now that Deputies Spring and De Rossa are withdrawing their motions. Therefore, I call on Deputy John Bruton to [2196] state the matter of which he has given me notice.

Mr. J. Bruton:  I am not withdrawing my motion because, as I understand it, the alternative format of debate proposed by the Government does not allow provision for a Government reply, to the points made, whereas Standing Order 30 would so allow. For that reason I request you, a Cheann Comhairle, to adjourn the Dáil under the provisions of Standing Order 30, so that the Government may make a comprehensive statement on the consequences of the High Court judgment yesterday in the tragic case of a 14 year old rape victim, in particular the possibility that the judgment may lead to a number of results, not claimed at the time to be intended by those proposing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, namely, (1) the creation of a disincentive to report rape and incest cases, and (2) a system of enforcement of law in this area that will be uncertain, arbitrary, impractical and intrusive to an extent that may actually increase the numbers of women taking a precipitate decision alone to seek an abortion abroad rather than examine other options through open discussion with family and friends.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have received notice that Statements will be made on this matter after the Order of Business. Accordingly, the Dáil will discuss the matter today. Consequently, I cannot grant leave to move the motion.

The Taoiseach:  It is proposed to take Items Nos. 4, 16, 5, 6 and 17.

It is also proposed that Statements on yesterday's High Court ruling on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution shall be made now under Standing Order 41 and that, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the speech of each Member called on shall be confined to ten minutes.

[2197] Private Members' Business shall be Item No. 37, motion No. 46.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I must now inquire whether the proposals for dealing with the proposed Statements are agreed?

Mr. J. Bruton:  I am not happy with that proposal because it does not allow for a reply by the Government speaker to points made by other Members. May I ask whether the Government would agree, in the exceptional and serious case with which we are now dealing, that provision be made, by agreement in the House now, to allow the Government speaker, at the end of the discussion, to reply to such points warranting reply as may be made by other speakers?

Mrs. Fennell:  A Cheann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle:  It is unusual for ordinary Deputies to intervene at this stage. I will call Deputy De Rossa.

Mr. J. Bruton:  A Cheann Comhairle, this is not on the Order of Business; this is a question of agreeing——

Mr. McCartan:  A Cheann Comhairle, you had called Deputy De Rossa.

Mr. J. Bruton:  This is simply in regard to the proposed Order of Business. I am asking the Taoiseach whether he would agree to allow a reply by the Government speaker at the end of those Statements. If that is agreed I will have no problem agreeing to this proposal.

Proinsias De Rossa:  A Cheann Comhairle, before the Taoiseach replies, I want to indicate that I wish to raise a matter in relation to the same issue. When the initial proposal was made at the Whips' meeting I understood the Taoiseach would take some minutes to reply to the Statements. Subsequently we were told that that would not be the case because it would constitute a breach of precedent. In response to that we said we would [2198] agree to the current proposal if the Taoiseach would agree to have a general debate of a number of hours duration so that Members other than party spokespersons, would be afforded an opportunity to contribute. I imagine virtually every Deputy would have something to say on this issue. We were then informed that that course of action would not be possible either.

Therefore, before agreeing to this proposal, I ask the Taoiseach to allow a general debate some time soon on this issue because ten minute statements on the part of each party in the House is not an adequate way in which to deal with what is a very fundamental constitutional issue.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy has made his point adequately.

The Taoiseach:  A Cheann Comhairle, I am making——

Mrs. Fennell:  A Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order, I accept I am only an ordinary Deputy but I happen to be a woman ordinary Deputy. Therefore, I want to make a protest about the brevity of these proposed Statements which does not allow any woman or indeed fair-minded man in this House who wants to contribute to speak about this issue. I contend we should have a broader debate, not restricted to a mere ten minutes on the part of each Member conributing.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair merely wished to adhere to the normal practice at this time.

Mrs. Barnes:  On an issue such as this I should like to join my colleague, Deputy Fennell, in making the point that women should be allowed participate in this debate.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Bruton:  I would be more than [2199] happy to allow an unlimited debate. This is not our proposal.

(Interruptions.)

[2200]The Taoiseach:  I am allowing these Statements to take place in accordance with long-standing practice and precedents of this House.

Question put: “That the proposals for dealing with Statements are hereby agreed to”.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 47.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady, Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Calleary, Seán.
Callely, Ivor.
Collins, Gerard.
Connolly, Ger.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullimore, Séamus.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
de Valera, Síle.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Flood, Chris.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hillery, Brian.
Hyland, Liam.
Kelly, Laurence.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
Martin, Micheál.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, Jim.
McEllistrim, Tom.
Morley, P.J.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West).
O'Connell, John.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Rourke, Mary.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Power, Seán.
Quill, Máirín.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Smith, Michael.
Stafford, John.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Belton, Louis J.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connor, John.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Cotter, Bill.
Creed, Michael. [2201]FitzGerald, Garret.
Flanagan, Charles.
Foxe, Tom.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gregory, Tony.
Higgins, Jim.
Hogan, Philip.
Lee, Pat.
McCartan, Pat.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
McGrath, Paul.
Mitchell, Gay.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fennell, Nuala.
Finucane, Michael. [2202]Mitchell, Jim.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East).
O'Keeffe, Jim.
Owen, Nora.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick J.
Sherlock, Joe.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Wyse; Níl, Deputies Byrne and McCartan.

Question declared carried.

Proinsias De Rossa:  May I ask the Taoiseach if he will allow a general debate in the House on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution?

An Ceann Comhairle:  We have had that matter before, Deputy.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Taoiseach denied his willingness to do so. I think this is an issue——

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is not the fault of the Chair.

Proinsias De Rossa:  ——which requires a thorough debate in this House. I am simply asking the Taoiseach if he will indicate his willingness to have such a debate so that people in this House, other than people spokespersons or Leaders, will have an opportunity to express their views.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy put that question earlier; clearly, we are having repetition.

Mr. McCartan:  In regard to the promise contained in the Joint Programme for Government under the heading “Extradition”, may I ask the Taoiseach when the legislation to introduce the interim measure, which has been promised since last October, will be introduced and brought before the House?

The Taoiseach:  That matter is under consideration in the relevant Department at present.

Mrs. Fennell:  Like Deputy De Rossa, I would like once again to make the point that we should not be restricted to a 20 minute debate in this House on this issue given that it is a topic for discussion in every pub, club and home in the country

An Ceann Comhairle:  The House has decided on this matter.

Mrs. Fennell:  It is unacceptable that we have just 20 minutes; Members are being silenced

An Ceann Comhairle:  The House has decided on the matter. If there is nothing further on the Order of Business, I will call the Taoiseach to make the statement.

The Taoiseach:  For the record, the method by which the statements would be dealt with was agreed by the party whips prior to coming into the House.

Mr. J. Bruton:  No, we did not. The Labour Party agreed.

Mr. Shatter:  We did not agree.

Mr. Noonan:  (Limerick East): Man or mouse?

Mr. Quinn:  You did not agree to the amendment.

Mr. Flanagan:  This is a great start to open Government.

[2203]Mrs. Barnes:  A higher proportion of your party voted with the Fianna Fáil Party.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach:  If the party opposite want to change their minds after reaching agreement that is their business.

The Taoiseach:  First, I am sure the House would like me to put on record our sympathy for the family concerned in this most tragic and distressful case. As Judge Costello said in giving judgment in the High Court yesterday, “The events which have given rise to these proceedings are painful and distressing and have resulted in tragedy and suffering.”

This sad case was the subject of a statement issued by the Attorney General on Thursday, 13 February, in which he drew attention to the fact that, in this matter, he was acting in the discharge of his independent and non-governmental duties under the Constitution in accordance with the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in cases of this kind.

In view, however, of the unique importance of the matter, both constitutionally and in a humanitarian sense, I now propose to outline for the information of the House the salient facts of the case. The circumstances, as they came to official notice, are as follows

The parents of a 14½ year old girl discovered that she was pregnant. They were informed by her that this was due to an act of sexual intercourse without her consent. The parents informed the Garda a few days later, on 30 January, and the Garda proceeded to investigate the complaint. In the course of this investigation the parents informed the Garda that they proposed to bring their daughter to England for the purpose of having an abortion, and they requested the Garda to arrange that scientific tests be carried out on the foetus in order to obtain evidence of the indentity of the [2204] father. The Garda informed the Director of Public Prosecutions of this request. In the light of the provisions of Article 40 of the Constitution, the Director considered it his duty to inform the Attorney General of the parents' intention of obtaining an abortion for their daughter, and he did so immediately on being informed of it by the Garda. This was at approximately 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 February.

The Attorney General informs me that, having considered the matter, he was in no doubt that, irrespective of his sympathy for the girl and her parents, his duty under the Constitution was to take whatever steps were necessary to protect the life which it was proposed to terminate. He, accordingly, directed that an application be made to the High Court for an interim injunction designed to preserve the life of the unborn child until such time as the court would have an opportunity of considering the case. This interim injunction was granted on the morning of Thursday, 6 February, and was effective until the following Monday morning, 10 February. The parents had travelled to London with their daughter early on Thursday but were informed of the granting of the injunction during the course of that day. They immediately returned to Ireland. At this point I wish to pay tribute to the parents and their daughter for their responsible attitude in most distressful circumstances.

The case was heard on Monday and Tuesday, 10 and 11 February, evidence was heard, and on the latter date Mr. Justice Costello reserved his judgment until yesterday. I have arranged to have copies of the judgment placed in the Dáil Library.

At this point I want to emphasise that the form which the proceedings took was the normal one provided for by law, namely, the immediate seeking ex parte of an interim injunction to preserve the status quo pending the hearing of the case; and the hearing of the whole proceedings in camera in order to protect the identity and privacy of the family and to avoid increasing their distress.

I would like to emphasise that the [2205] whole proceedings were taken under civil law. The criminal law is not involved, so that there is no question of a woman in such circumstances being criminalised.

As regards any involvement of the Government, there was none at any stage. Neither I nor any member of the Government was aware of the intention of the Attorney General to seek the injunction and I first became aware of it on Tuesday last, 11 February. As Mr. Justice Costello points out in his judgment, the Attorney General's duty was in no doubt, and that duty was one which he must fulfil independently of the Government.

Deputies will note that the court in its judgment said that, in addition to his role as legal adviser to the Government, the Constitution imposes on him duties which he must fulfil independently of the Government and that: “the Attorney General is an especially appropriate person to invoke the jurisdiction of the court in order to vindicate and defend the right of life of the unborn”. Acting as required by the Supreme Court, “the Attorney General instructed counsel to apply to the High Court so that the court could, in the light of the facts to be established before it, make an appropriate decision”.

I would, in fact, like at this point to answer further those who have suggested that the Attorney General, having been informed of the proposal to bring the girl to England for a termination of pregnancy, should have turned a blind eye to the requirements of the highest law in the land, the Constitution. I reject that suggestion.

I do not believe that the people of this country want — or deserve — a situation of nods and winks in the application of the law. If the principal law officer of the State were to engage in such conduct in the present case, how could he ever again be trusted to observe the Constitution or the law in any future situation where there might be an obvious temptation, from whatever motive — or where there might appear to be a temptation — for him to take the easy way out and ignore the Constitution and the law? That might [2206] please some of the people for a short time but in the long run it would do very great harm to our country. In the words of the High Court judgment, “the duty of the Attorney General in the circumstances [of this case] cannot be in doubt”.

The part of the Constitution most immediately involved is Article 40.3.3 which provides:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Obviously it would be neither humane nor wise to go, in further detail, into the specific case on which the judgment involving this article was made. That judgment is long and detailed and it would not, I think, be productive for us in this House to jump to immediate solutions. The whole matter, involving as it does, the most basic human rights and specific provisions of our Constitution, and which is of deep public concern, especially to women, requires the most careful and detailed consideration on which the views and experience of the House can be brought to bear.

I propose, therefore, to invite party leaders to discussions with me as a matter of urgency on the general issues as distinct from the special and tragic circumstances of the case; and if this course is generally acceptable I would propose that we would make the necessary arrangements soon through the Whips.

Mr. J. Bruton:  I should like at the outset to reiterate my regret that this debate is so confined and that other Members of this House — in particular women Members — will not be able to take part in it.

Fine Gael feel deep sympathy with those involved in this tragic case. We feel in particular for the girl and her family who found themselves faced with such a heart-rending dilemma. As victims of a crime they found that, in effect, they were being placed on trial. The law as it is now interpreted creates an atmosphere [2207] of trauma, fear and uncertainty. It also has effects far beyond what were originally intended and may, as I will later argue, lead to failure to report serious crime and to a significantly greater incidence of abortion.

Fine Gael refrained from all comment on this matter over the weekend. We did not believe any good would be served by comment on the case in advance of publication of the judgment. Now that the judgment has been made public, however, we have an obligation to draw conclusions from it for public policy for the future. In a statement issued yesterday Deputy Shatter, the Fine Gael spokesman on Justice, set out some of the consequences of yesterday's judgment. It is clear that those consequences were not the stated intention of many of those who promoted this amendment to the Constitution in 1983. They said indeed at the time that the amendment would not alter existing laws, as it now seems it has done.

It is also arguable that what is now happening in regard to law enforcement in this area may well go beyond what is “practicable”, to use the word of the prolife amendment. If this happens it may bring the law on this subject into disrepute and have the perverse — and unintended — effect of promoting abortion. As Fine Gael oppose abortion we would not wish this to happen.

At the time the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, the view was expressed by Fianna Fáil speakers promoting the wording of the amendment which was finally put to the people that it would not alter the existing law. The Fianna Fáil spokesman at the time, Deputy Woods, explained his party's choice of words, which are now in the Constitution, as follows: “we wanted to draft an amendment which would reflect the values held in common which would not alter the medical or legal status quo”. That, at least, was his intention.

Fine Gael, in contrast, expressed the fear that the amendment would — or could — at least alter the legal status quo. Deputy Noonan (Limerick East), [2208] Minister for Justice at that time, said, on behalf of our party, that the wording proposed by Deputy Woods and originally agreed to by others was ambiguous. He said: “another interpretation of the text which has been put to me by a very responsible authority as a probable interpretation is that it could require the State to make the 1861 Act more restrictive than it is which, I think, nobody has suggested as either necessary or appropriate”.

Later in the debate Deputy Woods, on behalf of Fianna Fáil, replied to this point as follows: “The proposed Fianna Fáil amendment will not alter the present Statute law or make it more restrictive; it will simply ensure that abortion on demand cannot be introduced without consultation with the people in a referendum”. It is now clear, from the court judgment issued yesterday, that the courts are in fact interpreting this part of the Constitution in a way which does render the law more restrictive and are doing so in a fashion that the promoters, at least in this House, of that form of wording said at the time they did not intend or want. This creates a situation in which all concerned, whatever their original position in 1983, must review the position very carefully.

The history of this matter shows that instant comments or commitments are not necessarily the best way to promote durable and predictable solutions. It is open to argument whether the amended provision of the Constitution should in fact be interpreted in this way. I wish to make that argument. The Constitution, as amended, guarantees that the State in its laws will respect and “as far as practicable by its laws defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn”. I submit that there is room for argument as to what is “practicable” in these particular circumstances. There are grounds for questioning the practicality of the approach now being taken by the Attorney General and the courts.

The use of the Irish courts to injunct women proposing to travel to Britain may have an effect that, in practice, will undermine the original purpose of the [2209] constitutional amendment. The fear, for example, that pregnant women may be informed upon and be injuncted in this way may deter them from even discussing their situation with families and friends before making this decision. This could result in a precipitate decision to seek an abortion where a sympathetic and open discussion first with family and friends might have led to a different decision. Fine Gael would not wish this to happen.

There is also a concern, as the law is now being interpreted and developed, that women or girls who have been raped or who have been victims of incest will be unwilling to report these crimes. There is then the further concern that the present interpretation fails to recognise the danger that an over-intrusive enforcement of any law can do more harm than good in that it can bring the law itself into disrepute. There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring that a proper balance is maintained in this area.

In this context it is relevant to repeat that the constitutional amendment contained the words “as far as is practicable”. There may be genuine practical difficulties if this particular interpretation of the constitution leads, for example, to conflict with the European Community Court. The Advocate General of the European Community Court in the course of an opinion — an opinion which found in favour of Ireland's ban on abortion information — said on the other hand that measures which would be disproportionate, by which I presume he means unacceptable, in as much as they would excessively impede the freedom to provide services would include, for example, a ban on pregnant women going abroad. In other words, the European Court could find that the now emerging legal situation would be, to use the Advocate General's word, “disproportionate”. Therefore, we have a situation of uncertainty and conflict between two courts and doubt as to the law. I submit that nothing could be more undesirable than that kind of uncertainty.

Fine Gael are of the opinion that all of these problem areas require very careful and urgent consideration and that the law [2210] should not be allowed to develop in a way that could have the unintended consequences of increasing rather than reducing the actual incidence of abortion. It would also be extremely serious if this line of legal interpretation had the effect of reducing the willingness of people to report rape or incest cases. There is widespread public concern about the prevalence of these crimes. The damage to victims of either incest or rape is incalculable and permanent. Already there is grave concern among those working in this area that there is widespread reluctance on the part of victims to report either rape or incest. Indeed it has been suggested that the number of rapes actually reported is only a tiny proportion of those actually taking place.

If this judgment has the effect of reducing still further the level of reporting of such crimes, this would worsen the problem and would be entirely unacceptable. There is also the risk that hearings of the kind which occurred yesterday could undermine subsequent prosecutions of persons actually guilty of rape on the grounds that they could claim that such proceedings prejudiced their trial if the judgments were published. This point ought to be considered with some care as well.

The Fine Gael Front Bench said yesterday that they would consider any reasonable proposals put forward by the Government. I regret that no proposals have been put forward by the Government today. As I have said, care must be taken to ensure that any proposed solutions do not add to the uncertainty of this very difficult and sensitive area of law. In this context, I regret the Government have not even given an outline or the beginnings of a suggestion of any approach to a solution in this debate. Notwithstanding that, I wish to say on behalf of the Fine Gael Party that I am willing to take part in the discussions proposed by the Taoiseach. However, I should like to know in advance, either privately or otherwise, whether the Government will table proposals at this meeting, as is I believe the responsibility of the Executive in any parliamentary [2211] system of Government. I should also like to know if the Taoiseach will be accompanied by his legal advisers so that obviously I could be similarly accompanied. We should ensure that the findings and agreements reached at the meeting are formally noted so that there will be no subsequent misunderstanding. On those bases and other bases which may be communicated subsequently, I am willing on behalf of the Fine Gael Party to take part with the Taoiseach in any discussions of this kind which could be helpful in finding a solution to this truly traumatic and tragic problem.

Mr. Spring:  Now that there has been some time to examine yesterday's judgment of the High Court in detail, it is both possible and necessary to draw some conclusions. I recognise that that must be done with care. First, I wish to make some points about the legal implications of the judgment.

The first thing that has to be said is that this judgment represents new law, and that the new law involved has the most frightening potential consequences, above and beyond the present case. Effectively, the High Court have decided that it is appropriate and right that a citizen of Ireland can be prevented from travelling abroad for purposes that are entirely legal in the jurisdiction abroad. Further, the court have decided that the State is right to intervene in a matter which, in every other country in the western world, would be considered an entirely private family affair.

In making that decision, the court have left behind a clear definition, for the first time, of a constitutional provision that most people — both those who campaigned against it and those who campaigned for it — always thought was an aspiration. That definition is sufficiently clear for us to be able to predict that in the future, the courts will grant injunctions in similar circumstances against any woman, except a woman who is in imminent physical danger of her life. It will not matter if the woman is a child, or if she has been the victim of an evil and [2212] depraved act like incest, or if she is mentally handicapped. All that will matter is that the moment she becomes pregnant, under the terms of our Constitution she is carrying something that is more precious than she is.

Secondly, it also seems clear that injunctions will be available to anyone wishing to prevent an abortion, including any evil and depraved man who wishes to force his victim to carry a child conceived through violence.

I do not believe the great majority of people who voted to protect the unborn ever saw it that way. I do not believe the great majority of people who voted to protect the life of the unborn were voting to inflict such pain and heartbreak on a 14 year old girl and her family.

However, two questions remain, and they must be asked. It is implicit throughout the judgment that the High Court have jurisdiction over acts carried out outside Ireland — acts which are completely legal except in Ireland — but nowhere is it explained from what source the court derive this jurisdiction.

If we are to accept that citizens of Ireland can be freely prevented from travelling abroad for any purpose except a clearly legal purpose, then we need to have it explained to us on what basis we have ever assigned this power to our courts. Is it now open to the courts to prevent an Irish woman visiting a clinic in London where she might be given abortion information? Is it open to them to prevent an Irish woman reading a magazine in Heathrow Airport that might advertise an abortion clinic?

The second question is equally important. The High Court appear to have accepted, on the basis of a precedent, that there was an obligation on the Attorney General to act once he was in possession of information. While I fully accept the right of the High Court to accept this interpretation, I cannot find it in the case referred to, Attorney General v. Open Door Counselling Ltd. 1988, which describes the Attorney General as “an especially appropriate person to ... vindicate and protect the right to life of the unborn”, but which does not [2213] impose an obligation on the Attorney General to do so without regard to any other circumstances.

In fact, I would argue, notwithstanding anything said by the High Court, that if the Attorney General has a role in this matter, it must be discharged having regard to both of the provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution obliges the State to guarantee in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable by its laws, to defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn. However, in doing so, the Constitution also says that the State shall have due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.

Whatever about the role of the court, we must question the efforts made by the Attorney General to establish the condition of the mother involved before making his decision. Was he aware, for example, that a number of the gardaí involved in the case were gravely concerned about the psychological wellbeing of the child involved, as emerged in evidence to that effect to the court? What other inquiries, if any, did he make on this point? It is clear that if the Attorney General had instituted such an inquiry which could have been entirely informal, he would have been in possession of a great deal more information on which to base a decision, and that decision would have taken account, to the best of his ability, of the equal right to life of the mother.

The failure of the Attorney General to make any such inquiry was, in my view, a grave mistake. I have no way of knowing whether he would have reached a different judgment if he had inquired into the full circumstances of the case, but I strongly believe that he must accept an obligation, in respect of any decisions of this kind, to be fully apprised of all of the circumstances.

It appears that the argument has been made, and accepted by the court, that the Attorney General has no discretion in any situation where he has come into possession of information that an act may be carried out which is contrary to the Constitution. If that is the case, can we now have outlined to us the steps the [2214] Attorney General proposes to take to police the thousands of women who leave Ireland every year for the purposes of securing an abortion? Can we have outlined to us the steps he proposes to take to prevent people watching banned films, or reading banned books? Can we have outlined to us the steps he proposes to take to prevent people entering into divorces or re-marriages which are illegal in this jurisdiction, but perfectly legal in others?

There is another side to this issue which has nothing to do with law or the Attorney General. There is always the possibility in any family that a young daughter can be the victim of sexual violence. No matter how we try to protect against it, there will not be a father or mother in Ireland who has not worried about this possibility. In any loving family where that happens, the family will discuss it and try to deal with it in the best way possible for them. In many families, indeed I would suggest in the great majority of Irish families, the possibility of abortion will not arise. But has it ever occurred to anyone that that sort of heartbreaking, intensely personal and intimate family decision, will have to be taken in the shadow of the High Court? How have we come to a situation where the State has felt obliged to take onto itself the role of family policeman when tragedies like this occur?

This is not an argument about more liberal abortion, or even about the introduction of abortion in Ireland. The people in their wisdom have decided that issue. It is arguable, I suppose, that the Attorney General might have felt compelled to act as he did even without the explicit provisions of the Constitution. Public policy must be decided, and the onus for initiating and deciding appropriate public policy lies with the Executive and the legislature in the first instance. We cannot have a public policy which says that an English abortion only becomes a crime if you tell anyone about it. We cannot have a public policy that relies on preventing citizens from leaving the jurisdiction for legal purposes. We [2215] cannot have a public policy that encourages women to hide the fact of rape in order to ensure that no-one will know how they deal with the consequences of rape. We cannot have a public policy which acts as a kind of “Blackmailer's Charter” and which enables women who are pregnant to be placed under intolerable pressures. Above all, I do not see how we can have a public policy which says to children, to mentally handicapped young people, to physically disabled young people, to victims of sexual violence; “you have a right to life if your life is imminently threatened by a pregnancy, but you do not have a right to sanity, to health, to emotional stability, to begin to repair a life that has been shattered”.

It is implicit in Article 40.3.3º of the Constitution that the State will legislate to protect the life of the unborn and to have regard to the equal right to life of the mother. We have never done so. We have preferred to turn a blind eye in the hope that this issue would never arise, but it has arisen and we can turn a blind eye no longer. We must now declare and enact a public policy, as consistent as we can make it with the terms of our Constitution, that protects the rights of families, and above all the rights of victims of this horrible situation. It may not be possible to do so, and in that event we may have to reopen the whole constitutional issue. As the first step, I believe that the Government should request the Law Reform Commission to prepare an urgent report on the “laws” made necessary by Article 40.3.3º and by this judgment.

Today, there is one family that we all know of that are suffering the kind of trauma and despair that every family dreads. There is one family that we know of today, but there are hundreds more whose despair has never been highlighted. We cannot blithely ignore the fate of such families, who are described in Article 41.1.1º of the Constitution as “the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and [2216] superior to all positive law”. I know this is a difficult political issue. All of us who lived through the 1983 referendum know the fear that can be generated around this whole issue. No more than anybody else, I do not want to re-live that campaign, or reopen the wounds that bled for a long time then, but we cannot simply hope that somebody else's suffering will go away. We have to act now. I will certainly accept the Taoiseach's offer of a meeting and I hope to take it from this statement here today, that it will be merely a preliminary meeting with a view to getting down to the work that is both necessary and urgent to ensure this does not happen again.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I am quite happy to accept the invitation of the Taoiseach to meet with him to discuss this matter. The primary focus of all our concern must be the plight of the unfortunate 14 year old girl who is at the centre of this case. The girl is still legally a child. She has already been the victim of an illegal violation of her body by a man described in the High Court yesterday by Mr. Justice Costello as “depraved and evil”. At any time such an experience would have been a dreadful ordeal, but now the girl's trauma has been multiplied many times over by the rigid and insensitive application by the State of the ill-considered, sectarian and unnecessary amendment to the Constitution which was foisted on the Irish people. What exactly does the State hope to achieve by subjecting the child to this further ordeal? What is this going to do to the health and welfare of this young girl? How many Deputies in this House who are parents of young girls could put their hands on their hearts and say that they would not have taken the same course as the parents of this child?

While the immediate victim of this court case is this young girl, the potential victims of it are every woman who opts for a pregnancy termination, every woman or girl who is raped or who is the potential victim of a rape. An appalling legal precedent has been created which will haunt every Irish woman and girl. The Attorney General has displayed an [2217] appalling insensitivity and lack of judgment in taking this case. I do not believe that anyone other than a minority of fanatics would have wanted him to haul this young girl through the courts, and he should now resign from his position.

The Tánaiste:  That is nonsense.

Mr. J. Bruton:  The Deputy is wrong.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  It is not the intention of the Chair to upset in any way the tender situation which is before the House. I think that Deputy De Rossa will accept that to attribute to the Attorney General, whose right it is to interpret the legislation as it exists, or subsequently to the High Court, any non-bona fides in the matter of his interpretation of the law would not be in accordance with the best traditions of this House.

Mr. J. Bruton:  We should not bring personalities into it.

Mr. Byrne:  It is not right to interrupt our Leader.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Byrne, I said initially that I do not want to disturb what I would regard as the appropriate atmosphere for the statements but I am appealing to Deputy De Rossa, in accordance with the best tradition of this House, not to impugn the Attorney General or the High Court in respect of decisions they have made.

Mr. McCartan:  It is not——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I am addressing Deputy De Rossa, Leader and spokesperson of The Workers' Party and appealing to him to deal with the matter in an orderly way.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I reject any implication that I am out of order. I have made a statement with regard to my opinion about the judgment of the Attorney General. I have not implied any miscarriage [2218] of his duty. I have expressed an opinion that I regard the decision he made as an appalling misjudgment. I am entitled to make that opinion known in this House and I will not be prevented from doing so. I consider it quite extraordinary that despite the fact that it takes years to bring serious criminals to court, within five days of the Garda being notified of a young girl whose parents intended to take her to Britain for an abortion, the Attorney General brought an injunction against those parents. It is quite appalling that this procedure can be put into operation almost immediately in these circumstances. I reject also that the Attorney General has no right to exercise discretion in cases such as this. If we are to insist on the rigid application of the law in every single circumstance, virtually every citizen of this State would be before the court next week. Let us have a little common sense.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy De Rossa, I really do not——

Proinsias De Rossa:  Let us have a little common sense in this matter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I suggested that the decision of the Attorney General was subsequently accepted by the High Court and you are also impugning the High Court.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Do not tempt me to start talking about the court, please.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy will not tell the Chair how to interpret his duties.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I am asking you not to tempt me.

Mr. McCartan:  Forget about the Chair.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy McCartan, you will be asked to leave if you do not behave.

[2219]Proinsias De Rossa:  One consequence of this court case——

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  He will make it in accordance with the Order of the House; he will not intimidate the Chair, and neither will you.

Proinsias De Rossa:  One consequence of this court case will almost certainly be to discourage victims of rape from reporting the matter to the Garda. Victims will fear that by reporting rape they too will become targets of the Attorney General's zeal should they become pregnant. The ones to gain most from the Attorney General's legal move will be the rapists who will now go undetected and unpunished. Parents whose children are abused will be reluctant to report the matter to the authorities lest they too will have their options restricted by court action. The parents of this child acted in an honourable and responsible manner, yet their reward has been to be dragged through the courts and have, I imagine, their hearts broken.

The Taoiseach in his speech today said that the civil law was used. He did not even say that in this case the child is not subject to civil law; he said that there is no question of a woman in such circumstances being criminalised. Is he not aware that the 1861 Offencees Against the Person Act, criminalises any person over seven years of age who procures an abortion? What is going on here? As usual in this House, we are talking in double speak, refusing to address ourselves to the human realities in our society.

Another repugnant aspect of this case is the manner in which the Attorney General sought to keep his unprecedented court action secret from the Irish people and the use of what came very close to legal threats against those who sought to raise the matter. If the Attorney General were acting in the name of the Irish people, then surely the Irish people had a full and unqualified right to know of the action, the manner of its conduct, [2220] and the outcome of the case. Indeed, we as a society owe a debt of gratitude to The Irish Times, which first drew attention to the court case and to other media that subsequently recognised that the public interest required that this case should be covered.

Eight years on, it is clearer than ever that that sectarian and divisive amendment which was introduced in response to intensive lobbying by right wing fundamentalist groups, has been a disaster. Those politicians and parties who in 1983 shamelessly co-operated with right wing religious groups in forcing this amendment through must share responsibility with the Attorney General for the legal humiliation and degradation to which this girl has been subjected. In that regard, I do not exclude the leaders of either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil who were involved at that time.

The Workers' Party were the only party in the House to totally and unambiguously oppose the amendment. Many of the warnings we gave about the likely consequences of this measure have, all too tragically, been shown to be accurate.

The 1983 file contains a statement made by Dean Griffin, who has since retired. In 1983 he said that if the amendment were to succeed and the life of the mother were interpreted by the courts as merely physical life, then abortion for, say, rape, incest or deformity of the foetus would be unconstitutional and a criminal offence. Thus the generally held Protestant ethical view that would allow abortion as a last resort in certain unfortunate, exceptional cases as the lesser of two evils would be outlawed by the Constitution. Dean Griffin warned us in 1983, yet we went ahead with the amendment.

Already we have seen the forced closure of pregnancy counselling clinics. That has not done anything to reduce the number of women going to England for abortions but it has meant that women who face this sad, lonely, painful, human dilemma are denied the skills of trained counsellors to help them. We have seen what amounts to a virtual legal witch hunt against students. We have seen serious [2221] medical publications that deal with a wide range of health issues in a serious and informed way forced off library shelves like some smutty, pornographic magazine. And now we have seen this legal action against a young rape victim.

What will be the next chapter in this constitutional horror story? Will it be the questioning or the pregnancy testing of women travelling abroad? It is clear, as yesterday's judgment indicates, that the Attorney General now has a responsibility to check the exit ports and airports of this State to make sure that the law is not being broken. If the Attorney General is to apply such zeal to the case of a 14 year old girl, then let us finish the job.

There is much hypocrisy in Irish society about abortion. Everyone is against it, yet at least 4,000 Irish women travel to Britain each year for abortion. Most experts believe that the real figure is much higher, as many Irish women give British addresses and are then not included among the Irish figure. But even the 4,000 recorded abortions is a very substantial figure. There are about 53,000 live births each year, which means that at least 7 per cent of all Irish pregnancies end in termination in Britain. Everyone is against abortion, but these 4,000 women are someone's wives, daughters, girl friends and sisters.

When are we as a society and a Parliament going to stop burying our collective heads in the sand, and face up to a problem that is not going to go away? When are we going to face up to the fact that an increasing number of Irish women regard this amendment as repugnant? When are we going to face up to the fact that many members of minority religions — as they pointed out in 1983 — regard the provisions of the amendment as grossly sectarian and offensive to their traditions and ethics?

When are we going to face up to the fact that this amendment has been a disaster which has given rise to appalling consequences? I do not believe the majority of those who voted for this amendment in 1983 would ever have contemplated that it was going to lead to such legalised cruelty against a young [2222] girl. I am convinced that, in the light of what has happened, there would be a very different result if the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution was put to the people again tomorrow in a referendum.

Those who have been so shocked and appalled by this case must now begin preparing the ground for a further referendum to remove this hideous provision from our Constitution. There is no other way. As long as this provision remains within the Constitution we are going to have more cases like this. This issue can be a test of the new Taoiseach's commitment to a more humane approach. Can he — unlike his predecessor — display the political courage to stand up to the zealots and insist that this amendment has no place in the constitution of a modern democratic state? If he can he will earn the gratitude not just of every woman but of every genuine democrat in the country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Uimhir a 16. I am calling Deputy Garland——

Mrs. Barnes:  A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  May I——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Garland moved the——

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  May I raise a point of order, please?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Yes, Deputy.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  I wish to put on the record my protest at the action of the Government in disallowing——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy, that is not a point of order.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  ——women Members to put their view on the record of this House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not a point of order.

[2223]Mrs. Taylor-Quinn:  I want to put on the record my protest at this Government disallowing women to speak in this debate. The Taoiseach further compounded the exclusion of women by inviting only the leaders of all parties to address the general issues raised by the case.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I call Item No. 4, Criminal Evidence Bill, 1992, Order for Second Stage.

Mrs. Barnes:  May I have one minute of this Dáil's time?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We now move on to——

Mrs. Barnes:  May I comment on behalf of the women of Ireland and the women in this forum who have been excluded from making statements on this issue, that this is a reflection of the exclusion of women in all structures of our society. I want that noted.

Bill entitled an Act to amend the law of evidence in relation to criminal proceedings.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  I move, “That Second Stage be ordered for Tuesday, 25 February 1992.”

Question put and agreed to.

Second Stage ordered for Tuesday, 25 February 1992.

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following [2224]“Dáil Éireann believing—

(1) that the transport needs of the country require a co-ordinated national transport policy which would place greater emphasis on the development and promotion of public transport,

(2) that the priority should therefore be the establishment of a National Transport Authority rather than a simple Roads Authority,

(3) that the proposed National Roads Authority would severely diminish the capacity of elected local councillors and local communities to influence decisions regarding the development of roads, including decisions regarding tolling,

(4) that the proposed National Roads Authority will facilitate the privatisation of road maintenance with consequent job losses in local authority.

—(Deputy Gilmore.)

Mr. Garland:  I had virtually concluded my speech last week when we ran out of time. Suffice it to say that on behalf of the Green Party I oppose this Bill and will be supporting the amendment put down by The Workers' Party.

Mr. McEllistrim:  I congratulate the new Minister for the Environment. I was delighted with his appointment and I am sure he will make an excellent Minister.

I welcome this comprehensive Roads Bill which will establish the National Roads Authority on a statutory basis and update the law relating to public roads. The National Roads Authority will have overall responsibility for planning, supervising, constructing, improving and maintaining our national road network. The national roads represent approximately 6 per cent of our roads and carry 37 per cent of our road traffic. The national roads programme will cost in the region of £3.6 billion, with £3 billion going to national primary roads and £600 million to national secondary roads. I [2225] presume the local authorities will still draw up the plans for the national primary and secondary roads and that the criteria for the plans will be issued by the National Roads Authority and the work carried out by the local authority, if the local authority are competent and willing to do it.

The new authority will have tremendous powers. They will have permission to borrow £500 million and to enter into toll franchise agreements with private interests and so on. The Bill will empower the Minister to assign additional functions relating to national roads to the National Roads Authority.

I hope the Authority will take notice of national primary and national secondary roads in County Kerry where we have not received either Structural or Government funding for the development of our national primary and secondary roads. We have a national primary road from Feale bridge to Castleisland on to Tralee town. We also have a national primary road from Tralee to Killarney and from Killarney to the Cork border. Kerry has 60.5 miles of national primary roads, 193 miles of national secondary roads, 2,450 miles of county roads and 193 miles of regional roads. Thirty per cent of tourists who come to Ireland come to County Kerry. Our income last year from tourism was £145 million. For the first time, tourism income surpassed that of agriculture in our county. Our roads are not properly developed to take this tourist traffic. We have a thriving dairy farming community in Kerry and that necessitates a good roads structure capable of carrying heavy machinery.

Under the Bill, the council will still purchase land for road improvements and provide the road designs. I am glad the county councils will still do the roads development work. In his reply, would the Minister let us know if the local authorities can tender for road development? That is very important for local authorities since they employ many people in road construction and use a lot of machinery as well for that purpose.

As a person who drives 190 miles to Dublin every week I have noticed a vast [2226] difference in workmanship and the quality of work carried out by different local authorities. Some local authorities are doing a great job while others are doing very inferior work. I often felt that I should inform some of those authorities that they should let Kerry County Council do the work and that they would end up with much better national primary roads. Since I travel through so many counties every week coming to the capital, I have first hand experience of this.

The Roads Bill will update the legislation and give the National Roads Authority a modern, legislative framework within which to operate. The classification of public roads is to be changed to national roads, regional and local roads. I also noticed from the Minister's speech that temporary dwellings would be prohibited on national roads. The Minister should give the local councils authority to remove temporary dwellings from county roads as well.

The Minister referred to unauthorised vehicles and caravans used for trading not being allowed on national roads. What about farmers? Can they sell their produce, strawberries, green trees and other farm products along the road? When travelling along national primary roads from Dublin to Kerry I noticed that farmers sell their produce along the roads and that they have a special place in markets in the towns through which I pass. Will they be prohibited from selling their produce on the side of national primary roads?

I notice that the Bill gives power to the Authority to extinguish public rights of way. I completely disagree with this. This power should be given to the local authorities so that councillors can have a big input into these decisions.

Will the National Roads Authority have their own headquarters or will they be in the Custom House?

From County Kerry alone, we have submitted plans for works totalling £80 million for the development of secondary, national and regional roads. It is a disgrace that we have not received any money for the development of these [2227] roads for a number of years. It is my hope that we will fare better with the establishment of the National Roads Authority.

I wonder who will provide all the necessary finance. I have observed that, under the provisions of the Bill, the National Roads Authority can borrow up to a limit of £500 million. When replying perhaps the Minister would inform us whether the new National Roads Authority can themselves apply for Structural funding, or whether that will be undertaken by the Minister and/or Department of the Environment.

I notice also that there is provision in the Bill for the building of motorways. I predict that could cause problems in that there may not be adequate access to them in addition to causing many problems for farms and small holdings generally nationwide, leading to an incredible number of objections to motorways being built in specific areas. I contend it would be better that we forgot about the building of such motorways and instead provided moneys for the development and maintenance of our national, primary and secondary roads. Such money is not being provided in my county, Kerry, for roads to make them capable of taking farming and tourist traffic.

I observe that the provisions of section 24 give the Minister for the Environment power to pay grants to the National Roads Authority and to borrow up to £500 million, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, who will be responsible for its repayment. It will readily be seen that the National Roads Authority will have enormous power. I hope they will be in a position to improve our roads network generally and that the necessary finance will be made available for such road development and repair. I hope the provisions of this Bill will prove to be a good foundation for the development of our public roads network over the ensuing 20 years or so.

Mr. Connor:  In introducing this Bill on 27 November last the Minister said it constituted the most comprehensive [2228] roads Bill to be introduced in the history of this State. I suppose that says something. However, it is a great pity it is not sufficiently comprehensive. I contend that to be really comprehensive taking account of all our real transport needs — because of the inadequate road transport system — its provisions would need to take account not merely of roads but also railroads because our railroad system could accommodate a great deal more of our transport requirements. Indeed it is a feature of transport here that we depend on our roads to an extent not matched by any of our European counterparts. For example, approximately 96 per cent of all passengers moving about this country travel by car on our roadways and in excess of 90 per cent of all freight is transported by road. When one considers that such freight is transported on roads whose capacity to adequately accommodates the vehicular traffic using them is grossly inadequate one clearly realises how unbalanced is our transport policy overall.

I welcome the establishment of the National Roads Authority. If there is one thing that had bedevilled roadbuilding and policy here it is the piecemeal approach adopted to date. For example, national roads traverse several local authority areas when one local authority may give priority to one stretch of a national primary or secondary road and seek and receive funding from the Department whereas another local authority — in whose area the same national primary, secondary or indeed regional road crosses — will not give priority to that stretch of road resulting over the years in their piecemeal development and repair. The new National Roads Authority might well adopt a single, co-ordinated policy and approach to expenditure on the development and repair of our roads over the next decade to 20 years.

I am informed reliably that transport costs here represent approximately 10 per cent of all production costs of all exporting industrialists here, representing approximately twice the level of that of our European partners on the Continent who trade with one another. [2229] It is vital that we have in place and implement an effective overall transport system. Indeed, one of the effects of a bad transport system is the high contributory cost of transport to production especially in the case of goods produced for export. This means that, as long as the cost penalty prevails, we cannot compete effectively with our trading counterparts because of the inadequacy of our national roads system.

To illustrate my point, in 1977 something less than £90 million was spent on all roads development here whereas last year something in the region of £240 million was spent on all road development. Over those 15 years, if the expenditure on our roads was to have been maintained at current money values, in the current year we should be spending something of the order of £380 million on our roads network. That example will clearly demonstrate how much expenditure has lagged behind our cost of living or any other index one may wish to apply to money values and how they have eroded over the same 15 years. The fact that we allowed that to happen was not a good contribution to our overall economic policy.

Hopefully, the new National Roads Authority will put an end to what I might describe as the political influence often attached to where money was spent on our national roads network. I happen to live in a county crossed through the middle by the national primary route, the N5, running from Longford to Castlebar in County Mayo. It has approximately 43 miles across its broad middle of County Roscommon; about seven miles in County Longford and approximately 28 miles in County Mayo.

Since the inception of Structural Funds in 1989, and indeed for some years before that, expenditure on that road is a salutary example of the political clout and presence of the Minister for the Environment in a certain place. We discovered that of the 27 miles in County Mayo, most of it in the vicinity of Castlebar, Mayo County Council received £1,418,000 from the Department of the Environment in respect of that national [2230] primary route, the N5. By contrast Roscommon County Council with 43 miles, the most efficient, single stretch of national primary route nationwide, received no money whatsoever to spend on that roadway.

In 1989, the first year of application of Structural Funds, Mayo County Council spent a sum of £2,810,000 on that road whereas Roscommon County Council received a mere £15,000 from the Department. In 1990 Mayo County Council spent £2,100,000 on the N5 in the vicinity of Castlebar whereas Roscommon County Council received and spent absolutely nothing. In 1991 Mayo County Council received £1,514,000 for expenditure in County Mayo whereas Roscommon County Council received £50,000 to repair a stretch of road destroyed by flooding. Indeed, had it not been destroyed by flooding it is arguable whether they would have received any funding at all. Those are examples of politics moving available money around. I submit that that is not a very fair basis of allocating resources. We do not argue that Mayo County Council or the N5 in County Mayo should not have got that level of investment — of course it should — but when dealing with limited resources some basis of fair play should be found by which these resources are distributed. I recommend to the National Roads Authority that they not be persuaded by the political purposes of politicians in certain areas. The case I referred to is a blatant example of the Minister for the Environment of the day using his power within his Department to ensure that substantial funding was directed towards his constituency.

Very little attention has been devoted to the state of minor or county roads of which there are about 8,000 kilometres. They carry between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of all traffic in the country and 80 per cent of the traffic on these roads is work related. I know that the preponderant percentage of traffic on all roads is work related but it is equally true of the rural road network which is so extensive. That whole network has been [2231] starved of realistic funding for the past 15 years.

A report by the city and county engineers association in 1988 found that 35 per cent of the structures and 37 per cent of the surfaces of these roads were critically deficient. They were referring to road structure, the basic metal upon which the road is built, and, the surface. That report has been with the Minister since 1988 but there has been no realistic response in money terms to that problem. The county road network plays an enormous part in our agricultural economy. On the county road network each day millions of pounds worth of agricultural merchandise is carried. Yet there is a policy which dictates that funding is not directed to that very important section of the national public highway. That will not be part of the remit of the National Roads Authority. I recommend, since the Department of the Environment will no longer be closely involved in national roads policy, they now divert more attention to the rural roads bearing in mind that they represent 80.2 per cent of the mileage of all roadways in Ireland and that they carry a very high percentage of all traffic.

I spoke earlier about transport costs to exporting industries. It is reckoned that transport costs to industry, generally speaking, are about £1,200 million per annum. It is estimated if we had a proper road structure that cost could be reduced by one third. That amazing figure points out how bad our system is. It is important that deliveries are made on time, that goods are got to port in time and so on. A leading industrialist in my area told me that his company lost a container of meat because of a bottleneck close to their own plant which resulted in a delay of one hour. When they got to port the ship on which they were to export had left. The meat, which had to be returned to the plant, had deteriorated. That is the result of a bad road network especially in the way it relates to industry.

We have never had a good regional road network development. It is very important that the new Authority bear in [2232] mind that there is a distinct relationship between good roads and where industries will locate. For those who represent less favoured regions it is very important that that aspect be borne in mind by the new Authority. It is important that the composition of the new Authority be such that it is representative of the various regions. I know it will have representatives from various economic interests but it also must have representatives from the various regions and the economic interests of these regions.

It is often said that the Minister may err by appointing people who will take a cold cost benefit analysis of where money should be spent on our roads. If good roads are built to areas economic development will follow. Some people say that because there is no level of economic development in an area there is no point in spending money on good roads to it. That would be a very persuasive argument with many of the mandarins in the Custom House who make our policy on roads. The Minister said very little about who will be appointed to the Authority. They should be people from less favoured regions, regions with little or no industrialisation and which cannot reach any level of industrialisation due to the present roads structure.

Another industry in less favoured regions is forestry. Irish forests, and the Irish forest estate, is notoriously serviced by bad roads. Those who travel to any major mature forest estate will be struck by the fact that it is serviced by an inadequate road. There is little doubt that that needs to be addressed. Many of our forests are matured and are at the point of clear felling but developments of that kind are retarded in many parts of the country because access is restricted by the condition of the roads which service them. This is something the National Roads Authority are not asked to address because forest lands will be serviced by rural roads which will not be within the remit of the new Authority. I urge the Department, who will be released of the responsibility of planning for the major roads, that they look anew at the road service to our forests.

[2233] One of the deficiencies of the Irish road system is that it cannot deal with the capacity forced on to it. In other words, our roads no longer have the capacity to deal with the type and size, and speed of vehicles now being forced on to them and this leads to accidents. We have one of the highest levels of road accidents in Europe. There are many other contibutory factors; we think mostly in terms of speed etc, but one in four accidents can be directly related to the condition of the roads. It is stated in this quite good publication which the Department prepared in respect of their application for Structural Funds that in 1984 a survey found that 42 per cent of road fatalities occurred on our national roads, which constitute only 5.6 per cent of the total length or mileage of the road network. I suggest that a high proportion of these lose their lives due to the condition of our roads rather than to bad driving or the condition of the vehicle in which they were travelling. There is a very compelling argument for ensuring that we spend a greater amount of resources to bring our roads up to an acceptable standard. We spend a great deal of time propagandising about the danger involved in driving with excess alcohol and its relationship to road fatalities but the Minister's Department should be improving road conditions which have as much to do with the number of road fatalities, as excessive drinking.

I also notice that in 1984, the last year for which we have good records, 31 per cent of injuries occurred on our national roads. Granted between 60 and 70 per cent of all traffic in the country moves on our national roads; nevertheless that is a frightening statistic. Again, I make this point, purely and simply, to illustrate that they can be directly related to the condition of our roads.

A report which I saw last year estimated the cost to the economy of road accidents at least £200 million — perhaps the figure is well in excess of £200 million — in terms of time lost in industry and compensation for injuries etc. That is an enormous amount of money, almost as much as we spend each year on our roads. [2234] This year the total amount of money that will be spent on our roads is £257 million, most of which will come from the EC. According to one reputable survey the cost of road accidents to the economy about amounts to the figure we are willing to spend on our roads system in one year.

We should also take a close look at the relationship between bad roads and energy costs. I understand that road transport, of all kinds, accounts for about 18 per cent of all energy resources used. One of the economic arguments in favour of improving our road network is that it would reduce our energy bill by one third. In other words, any money invested in our roads can give us a return of three or four times that amount within a very short time, in terms of the cost of road accidents, the cost of energy, of lost production and lost exports.

A report on the findings of a scientific survey carried out in 1980 on passenger transport services in Dublin proved conclusively that, in the event of a traffic hold-up in Dublin, following a vehicle breakdown involving several hundred cars, between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of petrol could be wasted. The report also said that there is a need to invest more to get rid of bottlenecks which result when one vehicle breaks down in the middle of a street carrying a large flow of traffic and it highlights the effects of this, in terms of wastage and time lost etc.

I am concerned about another problem relating to the projected growth levels in the volume of traffic on our roads over the next 20 years and the amount of funding that we propose to provide over the same period. If the projections are correct there is no way that the amount that we propose to spend over the next 20 years or before the end of this decade will match what is required. In this country there are about 240 vehicles per thousand of the population, which is below the European average and certainly well below the American average, but by world standards generally it is fairly high. Over the next decade and into the next century, it is expected that traffic volume will increase by about 3 per cent per annum. It has been suggested that we will [2235] have to spend approximately £6 billion during the remaining eight years of this century and into the next century if we are to cope adequately with that growth in traffic. No such commitment has been given in any set of proposals I have seen. During the latter half of the seventies, there was major growth in vehicle numbers in this country. They increased by over 7 per cent per year. In the eighties, certainly between 1980 to 1988, the growth rate was less than 1.5 per cent per annum. Expenditure in those years did not match the amount needed for road development to meet that level of growth in traffic numbers.

That is most of what I would like to say in relation to the economic aspects of road development and the need to identify economic and social needs, our economic needs in particular, and to ensure that what we propose to do is well balanced and in tune with the economic needs of the whole country. Coming from a western county I find it is very disappointing that we have benefited hardly at all from the Structural Funds, given that we were told that these would be specially targeted upon less favoured areas. Yet, if one looks at the figures for road expenditure in a county like mine, or in County Offaly where there has been a certain lack of political clout in recent years, it is clear they have received no money from the Structural Funds. If I ask a question of the Minister in this regard he will say that our council got £3 million last year for major roads development and that 70 per cent of that was from the Structural Funds. We do not deny that but in 1986 and 1987 my county was getting a similar amount and there were no Structural Funds at that time. Of course the Minister is now displacing what we used to get from the Exchequer and from the old regional fund and giving us the same amount of money which is, in real terms, a lot less. However, we are not getting any extra money to tackle an infrastructural problem in a county like mine which has one of the worst road networks in the country. The greatest [2236] block to any kind of economic development is the fact that our roads are so bad.

I am also disappointed that so much of regional funds earmarked for spending between 1989 and 1993 are being spent in the east and south-east coast. With the exception of certain charmed parts of County Mayo — which may not be as charmed any more — the funding to less favoured or disadvantaged regions is probably less than ever. It is a betrayal of the original promise and of the principle on which Structural Funds were to be expended. They were supposed to bring greater cohesion, not just within the Community, but within a member state. They were meant to bring the structures of the weakest parts of the country up to some kind of comparison with other areas. However, that has not happened. An analysis has not been done but I submit that if one looks at the way funding is now directed at road development here, one will find that in percentage and real terms, the major urban centres are getting a far greater amount than they were getting five and ten years ago. I know the argument will be made that the road system in Dublin was the worst in the country but that is a result of a long history of neglect by many Governments. It is not an argument to be made at the expense of less favoured and poorer regions which are declining more rapidly than five years ago.

According to the census of population figures, County Leitrim lost 6.4 per cent of its population in the five years from 1986-91 while County Roscommon lost 5 per cent of its population. One must go back to the thirties to find figures of comparable population losses. During the period 1965-85 the population either grew slightly or stabilised. However, from 1986-91 the population went down by 5 per cent or 3,000 people. People between the ages of 18 and 55 years leave because there is no employment, the lack of employment is because there is no infrastructure from which employment can grow and which will attract investment. It is a policy which needs to be tackled and I hope that when phase II of the Structural Funds, which we are half [2237] promised and which should come into effect in 1994 is passed, the less favoured regions will have a positive loading in their favour because the agreement which established these funds was that there should be positive discrimination in favour of less favoured regions. I accept the difficulty in seeing this country as a single unit in relation to structural or regional development, which is totally inappropriate at present. This is obvious from looking at the recent result of the census of population.

I support the principle of a National Roads Authority. We will be tabling amendments on Committee Stage to ensure that the Bill is more comprehensive as it should have taken a much broader view of transport and should not just relate to roads. We should also see railroads as an essential part of the transport network because more developed countries who have a better road system than ours do not have the level of freight on their roads which we have; they use their railroads. In certain states in the United States 50 per cent of all freight is carried inter-state by railroads and passenger systems which are not on the roads are much higher than ours; ours are only 3 per cent or 4 per cent of the total number of passengers being carried.

As other Members wish to join the debate I will keep further remarks until Committee Stage.

Mr. Dukes:  Thank you, Sir, for allowing me some time in this debate. I must echo some of Deputy Connors' questions about where the Bill fits into the general scheme of transport policy. It is a roads Bill and, undoubtedly, we need to fit our policy on roads into our overall transport policy and needs. However, the intention here apparently is to set up — at least on the face of it — an independent roads authority, although I have some doubts as to the true level of its independence. I will come to that in a moment. To the extent that we can take it at its face value, this is supposed to be an independent, or quasi-independent, road authority to look after roads. There [2238] is no provision in this Bill for the Authority to have any inter-action with agencies, companies or bodies which affect other areas of transport policy; nor is there any suggestion that in any of the many dealings the Minister for the Environment will have with the Authority there will be an obligation to examine the implications of policy in this area, other areas of transport policy or vice versa.

I said I had some doubts as to whether this agency will really be independent. This question has also arisen in other areas. In a document issued last October by the CII — it is fair to say that they have been one of the most enthusiastic proponents of a national road authority — it is stated that the new agency will be an operational agency rather than one which has to deal with the conception of overall roads policy much less overall transport policy. Therefore, I do not see any great indication of independence here. There are others reasons for saying this which I will come to later.

I do not see any role being given to the National Roads Authority in the articulation of a national transport policy. It may be that the Minister for the Environment has some ideas on the subject. The then Minister for the Environment, when introducing the Bill on 27 November last, gave no indication of any wider policy context for the Bill. In fact, I found the Minister's Second Stage speech on this issue to be singularly disappointing in that it consisted mostly of what I might call a fairly potted version of the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. It did not go into any of the policy issues involved or give any assessment of why particular options have been chosen in the Bill; rather it left a great many questions unanswered.

I suppose the then Minister could have been forgiven for a rather sketchy treatment of the subject because, if my memory serves me correctly, he had not been in office for more than ten days when he introduced the Bill into this House. Like me, the then Minister for the Environment is now an inhabitant of the back benches of this House. Whatever else one may say about the Bill I am [2239] not sure that so far we have any great guarantee that there will be continuity in approach or policy in relation to the matters dealt with in it.

The Minister's introduction of the Bill and the Bill itself leave a great many questions unanswered. It is an important Bill and it deals with some very central issues not only in regard to road planning but issues which have implications in other areas of planning also. I should like to raise some questions on Second Stage so that the Minister can respond when replying. This will enable us to see what amendments, if any, might be required on Committee Stage. I believe that a number of technical amendments at the very least will be required. It seems there are some policy issues which may require some changes of direction. However, it is not possible for any of us to discern to what extent those policy changes may be needed because we have had no systematic explanation of the reasons certain policy options were identified and included in the Bill.

I hope I will be forgiven for saying that a number of provisions in the Bill lead me to take out one of my old hobby horses for a canter around the track. This has to do with the provisions for making regulations. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has heard me on this point before and I apologise for boring the House. This is dealt with first in section 7 (2) which provides that:

Every regulation made under this Act, other than a regulation under section 10 or 17, shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by either such House within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat ...

That is what is more or less called the passive way of making regulations — regulations are made unless this House decides otherwise.

The provisions in sections 10 and 17 are different because they require this [2240] House to specifically approve the provisions of the regulations before they can come into effect. I do not argue with that provision in relation to sections 10 and 17 because they are important sections. Section 10 deals with the classification of national, regional and local roads. Obviously this is a matter in which this House would have a very substantial interest as that classification basically decides where policy is made in relation to the roads, which authority have the primary responsibility and who directly have to provide most of the money. Under the general scheme of the Bill a road which is classified as a national road comes within the competence of the National Roads Authority who are funded in the ways set out in this Bill. I will have something to say about that later on. It becomes a matter which more or less must be specifically dealt with by this House and for which moneys have to be allocated by this House to the Minister for the Environment for allocation to the National Roads Authority by agreement with the Minister for Finance; it becomes a matter of national policy. If I understand the Bill correctly, regional and local roads are dealt with at a different level. As I said, I can only agree that in making regulations governing the choices made in that kind of classification this House should be involved and should have to give explicit consent.

Section 17 deals with the functions of the Authority. Since the Authority are going to be relatively important — I have my doubts as to the extent of that importance — in relation to issues of national roads policy it is entirely appropriate that the Houses of the Oireachtas should have to give their explicit consent to the proposed description of the functions of the Authority as set out in the Bill. Many other cases dealt with in the Bill will be the subject of regulations. These regulations which will be laid before this House will have effect unless they are annulled by a conscious act of this House and the other House of the Oireachtas.

It has always been represented to me — I have been riding this particular hobby horse for almost 11 years — that [2241] there are very good reasons for adopting that method of making regulations. The reason most frequently advanced is that many of the issues to be dealt with are fairly ordinary humdrum day-to-day issues with which it would not be appropriate to bother the wise heads of this House. I am prepared to agree that there may indeed be many issues which do not need to be brought before this House in that explicit way but which can be dealt with otherwise. However, I am not sure that the kind of regulations we are talking about provide the correct vehicle for that. It seems an issue is either important enough to be debated here and require the attention of this House or it is not. If an issue is important enough to be brought to the attention of this House to be debated, and may be voted on, then it is certainly important enough to require an explicit Act of this House; in other words, it deserves to come before this House in a way which requires this House to explicitly agree to it before it can be passed, rather than the kind of procedure which is implicit in these passive methods of making regulations.

If on the other hand the issue is more an executive or an administrative one it should not come before this House at all. The legislation should provide a very clear method of deciding what kind of issue it is and whether it needs to come before the House, and if it does not need to come before the House, an explicit way of dealing with it having regard to the necessary accountability to this House for the expenditure of public funds. My conclusion is that orders and regulations that come before this House should not come into effect without the explicit agreement of this House and the other House or alternatively there should be provision in legislation allowing these decisions to be made outside this House, through the Executive or the administrative system with the proper accountability that goes with that system. We should not have this half man half beast order procedure where month after month umpteen orders are deemed to have been made by this House because [2242] they have not been annulled within 21 sitting days.

I know I may be whistling past the graveyard, wasting my time saying that. With great regret I have to say I have never found any great receptivity to this idea on the part of this Government, the last Government or the one before that. Although I had a greater degree of success between 1982 and 1987, I cannot pretend the idea was favourably received then either. The procedure of passive orders is unacceptable. It is a bad way of implementing legislation and of giving effect to what are otherwise important provisions in legislation that come before the House.

If I cannot make a dent in ministerial consciousness in that matter I might begin to make some slight dent in the Civil Service consciousness in the matter. I have a feeling it is a subject with which I will be dealing in this House for a long time to come. I may be misinterpreted in saying that if I ever find myself in the position of being in charge of a Department again that Department would have to work very hard to make the proper distinction between applying regulations, orders and procedures in the way I believe they should be applied and the more administrative way of doing it. That is a notice of intent but it might be a long time before I get an opportunity to put that procedure into practice. However, it is one I will continue to defend.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Chair always thought the Deputy was an optimist.

Mr. Dukes:  I am the eternal optimist. It is an essential quality for politicians. If we are not optimistic we get into dreadful trouble with the Chair.

On the more detailed provisions of the Bill I would like to deal first with Part II, section 10, which deals with the classification of roads and assignment of functions, one of the areas where the regulations fall to be made under what I regard as a proper and respectable parliamentary procedure. A few questions arise here. Section 10 (6) provides that a [2243] road authority shall, at the request of the Minister and in such manner as may be specified by him, carry out an inventory of all public roads, or of any class or subclass of public road, in respect of which it has responsibility. It is a very wholesome thought that road authorities should do that. It immediately begs the question, have they not done so up to now? Are there road authorities around the country that do not have an inventory of all public roads or of classes or subclasses of public roads in respect of which they have responsibility? If an inventory is to be carried out, when will that be done? If it has not been carried out already, why is that so? If it has been carried out, why are we providing for it again in this Bill?

What is the purpose of such an inventory? That is probably an even more important question. I would assume that the purpose of an inventory that identifies all public roads or any class or subclass of public road surely would be to give the Minister and/or the Authority a clear view of what they are dealing with when they make the major policy decisions that are required here. I would like the Minister to share his views with us on the extent to which an inventory of this kind already exists and, if there is no such inventory, the implications of that.

From travelling the public roads in County Kildare and many other counties I am forced to the conclusion that a great many roads do not appear on any inventory because they seem to have been neglected for many years. Only about a half mile from my home there is a road I walk along very frequently; it is a public road for only part of its length because it leads to a bog where I often walk my dog but it is one of these forgotten roads. It has not been repaired for years. It would be very interesting to know whether that road appears in an inventory. There are many other roads, from the Bog of Allen to the Beara Peninsula and across to the west coast, that seem to have been forgotten and that should be put on an inventory. That might bring them to the [2244] attention of road authorities which seem to have been benevolent in their neglect.

Section 11 deals with declarations of public roads. It provides that a roads authority may, by order, declare any road over which a public right of way exists to be a public road. I would like the Minister to give us the reason for making this specification at this stage. I suspect it is very much the same as the reason behind the carrying out of the inventory, so that roads authorities and the National Roads Authority will know where they stand as regards the mileage of roads around the country. I wonder if there is any property right implication in this provision? As I understand it, the provision means that where a public right or way exists, a road authority may decide to designate the road covered by that public right-of-way a public road. The legislation provides that a road authority may declare such a public right or way to be a public road, but I would like to know why these roads have not been already classified as public roads. I would like to know if there is any implication that road authorities are being given, under this legislation, a right to trespass on, usurp or overcome any previously existing property right.

It seems that in order to declare a public right of way as a public road a road authority must satisfy themselves that the road in question is a general public utility. That is an interesting concept. What is a general public utility? That should be defined in the Bill. It seems that in these cases they will already exist as a public right of way. If a public right of way already exists, then almost by definition the public must be getting some utility, value or welfare out of it, but the Roads Authority have to satisfy themselves that the road is of general public utility. I would like to know what that definition is.

The Roads Authority also have to consider the financial implications for the Authority of the proposed declaration, and there we come to the heart of the matter. What happens if, having considered the financial implications, the road authority decide not to go ahead, [2245] satisfy themselves that the road is of general public utility and declare that the public right of way is a public road? Does that mean that, even though this public right of way may be of general public utility, if the Authority do not have the money it will not be declared to be a public road? If not, why not? Since we appear to be declaring public roads for the purpose of the definition of this Bill, we ought to know how we define the criteria on which such declarations are based.

I am strengthened in that belief by a perusal of section 11(3), which provides that the Minister may prescribe criteria for the declaration of roads to be public roads. Does that mean that the Minister will prescribe what he means by “general public utility”? Does it mean that he will give the Roads Authority either guidelines or comfort on the financial implications for the authority of the proposed declaration? If the matter relates only to general public utility and financial implications, why will the Minister be involved at all? If this deals only with the declaration of public roads; this is not the section under which we could declare a public road to be a national, regional or local road. This is a procedure by which we simply declare that a given bit of territory is to be a public road. I wonder why the Minister is getting involved in that. This is something on which I should like to hear the Minister expand.

On several occasions I asked one of his predecessors on a previous Bill which came from the same Department, the Local Authority Reform Bill, why the Minister was being involved so much in so many aspects of what was provided for in that Bill. I did not get a satisfactory answer from the Minister of the day, now the Minister for Justice, Deputy Flynn. I wonder whether the current Minister for the Environment has anything more to say about the apparently prevasive influence of the Minister through this Bill. In other legislation emanating from the Department of the Environment we find the Minister's fingers everywhere. I wonder why in the declaration of public roads the Bill provides that the Minister [2246] should prescribe criteria for the declaration.

The next section deals with the other side of the coin, the abandonment of public roads. On the whole, I do not have any great difficulties with the section. However, I find section 12 (5) (b) rather puzzling. The subsection states that the abandonment of a public road shall not affect any public right of way over such road and a road authority shall not do anything to interfere with such right of way save as is provided for in law. The last saver is important but, not being a lawyer, I do not know what it means. I wonder what the scope of that saver might be. I also question why we should set about declaring the abandonment of a public road if, by doing so, we are not affecting any right of way. As I understand it there is provision for a road authority to say that they are abandoning a stretch of road but it will remain public right of way; the public will still have the right to use it, to traverse it and to travel up and down it. By abandoning it, the Roads Authority mean they will not take any responsibility for maintaining or repairing it. If it is to be abandoned as a public road but will remain a public right of way, what is its status? What happens to it? Who maintains it? If the road is still to be maintained, why abandon it in the first place? Indeed, if it is felt useful to maintain the road as a public right of way, why abandon it at all? I would like an explanation.

Section 13 deals with the responsibility of road authorities for the maintenance and construction of public roads. One is tempted to go on at length about the condition of many public roads, the potholes and all the picturesque things we may say about them, but we will take that as read. I do not think there is anything I could add that would further underline the feelings my colleagues on this side of the House have expressed. Last Thursday I was happy to hear my colleague, Deputy Boylan, whose acquaintance with potholes is unparalleled, speak in this debate.

[2247] Section 13 (6) (c) provides that, without prejudice to the generality of subsection (5) and save as otherwise provided by law, a road authority may provide artistic features. That is wonderful; I am delighted to know the road authorities may provide artistic features and I am very grateful to the Minister for allowing road authorities to do that. However, I wonder what those artistic features might be. Is one of them, for example, the famous white elephant at the Red Cow? That is a rare piece of art. Is another one of those artistic features to be the necklace of roundabouts that is seen, for example, around the town of Carlow? From time to time I have had occasion to drive from Kildare to Kilkenny or to other parts of the country and I had to circumnavigate Carlow on the way. It would make one's head spin to drive around Carlow these days. On the trip around Carlow one negotiates at least three roundabouts in the space of a few miles. It is even more interesting to travel to the north of Dublin. If you took the Swords Road north, you would get dizzy at travelling around the roundabouts. One should always be wide awake when driving, but if you were not paying too much attention you could suddenly find yourself heading at 90 degrees to the direction you wanted to go if you missed your turn on the roundabout. I do not know——

Mr. Smith:  You must pay attention all the time when driving.

Mr. Dukes:  I do pay attention all the time, but I have other advantages about which I shall tell the Minister another time because they are not germane to this discussion. Where does this passion for roundabouts that seems to beat in the breast of the Department of the Environment come from? The country is damned with them. I do not know whether there is a good financial reason for that flavour in our roads policy but it seems the white elephant at the Red Cow will continue to cost us more and more [2248] money. Every other week some new idea is being tried out. First, there was the roundabout itself; next there was the installation of lights, then there were all of the rows about access to the southern side of the roundabout from Clondalkin, threats to close parts of roads and so on; now we have paving everywhere. There are actually pedestrian crossings there — the last time I saw a pedestrian there was long before the white elephant was born. There seems to have been a great deal of expenditure to little effect.

I wonder if anybody in the Department, or in the design offices, at any stage looked at the comparative cost benefits of building a proper clover leaf junction instead of the monstrosity that is there. This has never been satisfactorily ventilated in public. Now I hear that there is another roundabout to be built in Ballymun on this Northern Cross which nobody seems to know much about and which nobody seems to be prepared to talk about in public. We seem to have opted for the roundabout solution to all these problems. I do not know whether that is because it is the cheapest in the short term or because somebody believes that that is a better way to manage traffic than underpasses, overpasses and clover-leafs. There may be artistic features, but somehow I doubt that that is what the Minister has in mind under section 13 (6) (b).

I am delighted to find that road authorities are to be allowed to provide artistic features. I wonder do those artistic features include the kind of permanent displays of secondhand and much battered tar barrels that we see on roadworks all over the country, or these hateful heaps of gravel we see on lay-bys throughout the country which seem to be left there for years by road authorities and which gradually grow a delightful green fuzz of mixed ragwort, thistle, dock, grass and so on, and which then have to be excavated when the local authority get enough money to fill the potholes. Are they artistic features? Are some of these ugly lamp standards we get on our roads to be the new artistic features? I wonder. I suppose we can all enjoy [2249] ourselves a bit on a provision like that, which is good in its intent but which does not fit in too well with the context of the Bill, or the context and the appearance of the roads that have been built in some parts of our country recently.

For a long time we have been used to a degree of co-operation between road authorities to rationalise the work in order to give us better roads and better value for money. I am delighted to see provision in section 14 to continue that. However, I wonder whether or not it is a bit heavy-handed because in section 14 (1) (a):

The Authority may, after affording an opportunity to the road authorities concerned to make representations to it in writing and considering any representations made, direct them to enter into an agreement.

In other words, if the National Roads Authority do not get their way, they can come along and preside over a shotgun wedding. It means that the National Roads Authority can virtually take over the decision-making functions of the roads authorities. The National Roads Authority are given quite extensive powers which are subject to a great deal of supervision and interference by the Minister in relation to the roads authorities. I wonder why they have to be given this power to bring about shotgun weddings between roads authorities, telling them to love one another or else.

Section 14 (1) (b) provides that the road authorities concerned shall comply with any direction given by the authority. Section 14 (1) (c) provides that an agreement entered into under this subsection shall not be revoked save with the consent of the Authority. The Authority can force the marriage and then if they so desire they can say that from here on it is divorce.

There is the same approach in sections 14 (3) and (5), the difference being that in subsection (5) it is not the roads authority who have the shotgun and arrange the wedding, but the Minister. I wonder why. In section 14 (1) (a) this matchmaking is carried out by the road authority [2250] whereas in section 14 (5) the job is to be done by the Minister. It seems that the National Roads Authority carries this out where the co-operation between the road authorities concerns the national roads and it is the Minister who carries out this function where co-operation between the authorities concerns regional or local roads. Why is it necessary to have this outside authority to compel road authorities to co-operate?

Section 15 gives the Minister power to issue directions and guidelines to local authorities in relation to any of the functions assigned to them by or under any enactment. That is a very wide power but in the manner of all these Bills, this Bill gives the Minister the power but it does not require him to give the road authority any of the wherewithal to carry out his directives. I wonder if authorities will not be tempted to reply to the Minister, as some have in the past, “Look, Minister — no mon, no fun; we cannot carry out your guidelines and directives without funding”.

I suppose it is the nature of a Bill like this that no indication is given as to how much money will be given to road authorities, although the Minister in introducing the Bill referred to a possible borrowing limit of £500 million for the Authority. It is impossible to say whether any guideline or directive to any road authority would be accompanied by the necessary money and we have to suspend judgment on the desirability of the measure until we see how the authorities are to be funded.

Part III deals particularly with the National Roads Authority. One of the bodies who were keenest to have this, and I agreed with them, was the Confederation of Irish Industry. I was wryly amused just yesterday reading back over the various pieces of material I collected on this Bill to note the comments of the CII on 22 October 1991 in their newsletter which had a big heading saying “National Roads Authority will have `teeth”'.

The Roads Bill, 1991 was published by the Minister for the Environment [2251] on April 30, 1991 and was on the Order Paper in the last Session of the Dáil. It is anticipated that it will be introduced immediately and enacted before the end of the year. The Establishment Day could be January 1, 1992.

So much for the hopes that had been held out to us last year by the Minister when the Bill was first published. I hope we will have some sense out of it soon and that now that things have settled down on the Government side we will see some progress being made in regard to the enactment of this Bill. I hope the Minister for the Environment will have a better track record in keeping to his promises and commitments than the current Minister for Justice had when he occupied that place.

Great things are expected of this Authority. That was dealt with by the CII in their comment of last October. They had this to say about the way the Authority should be treated and the place it should have in our world:

There must be no additional layer of bureaucracy which means that all of the functions heretofore performed by the Department of the Environment must for the future be performed by the NRA in respect of the network of national roads without any residual part of those functions remaining in the Department of the Environment. The NRA must be authorised to use mechanisms which will increase productivity by reducing legislative and administrative delays and by improving operational practices and procedures and the NRA must be authorised to use financial mechanisms which will significantly increase the level of investment in the network of national roads.

I find those sentiments to be entirely laudable but I am not sure that the provisions of this Bill measure up to them or that there will be no additional layer of bureaucracy but I am sure that the provisions of this Bill do not provide that all the functions performed heretofore by [2252] the Department of the Environment in relation to roads must be undertaken by the National Roads Authority in respect of the network of national roads because there remains in this Bill quite a margin of influence for the Minister.

In relation to financing and financial mechanisms, there is a later Part in the Bill dealing with them about which I will make a few comments when I come to it. I am not sure that the provisions of the Bill measure up entirely to the ambitions set out there by the Confederation of Irish Industry.

As regards the functions of the National Roads Authority, despite a lengthy section dealing with them, section 17 (3) states:

(3) The Minister may make regulations providing that any function relating to national roads conferred on him or on a road authority under any enactment (including this Act), or on the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1987, shall, where the Minister is satisfied that the function could be more effectively performed by the Authority, in lieu of being performed by him or by that authority or by the Commissioner, be performed by the Authority with effect from a date specified in the regulations.

I do not see anywhere any objective test the Minister must apply in order to satisfy himself that the functions can be more effectively performed by the new National Roads Authority. If it is the case that the Minister and the Bill suggest to us that, as a matter of course, all of these functions can be more effectively carried out by the Authority, then I am prepared to argue on that basis. But here we are being sold the idea that this transfer of functions will be carried out only where the Minister is satisfied, without being given any indication on what basis the Minister will so decide or any indication of the criteria he will use to come to that kind of conclusion.

Section 18 deals with the preparation of plans by the Authority, a very important part of their functions if not the very [2253] nub. I wonder whether the authority will be given any idea of a financial framework within which they must work in the preparation of their plans. If they are not, there will be much argument and dissatisfaction about the business of planning our roads network.

I will say it now, because it may be too late to say so at a later stage, that the record of the Minister's party in relation to national road plans has not been great. They have actually torn up more roads than any other party in the history of this State. For example, there was a 1979 road plan talked about frequently which seems, in the past couple of years, to have become the basis of whatever little Fianna Fáil say about roads. There was a further detailed plan drawn up at the end of 1984, one to make progress on the principal national roads to be con structed or improved. In turn, that was changed in 1987 and, yet again, all changed at the beginning of 1989 when the plans for using EC Structural Funds for the current period were drawn up and brought before this House.

Of its very nature the planning of a national roads network is a longer-term business than that and, desirably, should not be upset every three or four years just because a different Government or Minister happen to assume office. As far as we can provide it—it is never possible to provide it completely — we need some consistent, predictable financial framework for the planning of investment in national roads because they take a long time to build. We need a reasonable planning horizon, particularly so that the National Roads Authority can perform their task efficiently and properly. Of course, the Minister has a large part to play in this. Again I find no indication of what criteria the Minister might use in giving his judgment on plans put forward to him by the Authority. Can the Minister tell us whether the provision of section 18 and the type of planning involved there, constitute an overall planning famework for roads or a more limited context in planning.

There are other provisions in relation to planning in later sections, for example, [2254] sections 21, 24 and 26. The conclusion I draw from all of them is that the Authority will not be fully independent in drawing up and implementing these plans because they will have no role in fixing the overall financial framework within which they will perform their task; they will be dependent on how the Government of the day fix the Public Capital Programme. Indeed their planning horizon will be largely affected by the way the Government of the day perceive their planning horizon. Let it not be argued that the borrowing powers of the Authority deal with that because, wisely, they are rather circumscribed in their effect.

Section 18 and other sections deal with permission to lodge objections to plans. It is perfectly proper that that should be the case although I know there are a number of people who argue that we would have more rapid investment if we reduced people's ability to object to plans for physical development. That is another day's work.

The question I want to ask of the Minister is this: whether he has any intention to specify who may lodge objections. For example, section 18 (3) (a) (iv) states the following badly:

(iv) stating that objections or representations may be made in writing to the Authority in relation to the draft plan before a specified date (which shall be no less than two weeks after the end of the period for inspection);

For example, it is not set out who may lodge such objections or who is entitled to make representations. Will it be any person who is affected, any person who has an interest or whoever? For example, could I lodge an objection to a road plan for the construction of a road that did not come anywhere near me? Am I limited to making objections to road plans that directly affect me, or what? It would be useful to know just what is the scope of the right to lodge such objections or representations.

Section 19 deals with the specific functions of the Authority. Many questions arise here. For example, section 19 (2) states:

[2255] The Authority shall, as far as possible, arrange that the functions referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (1) shall be performed on its behalf by the relevant road authority but, in any case where the Authority considers that it would be more convenient, more expeditious, more effective or more economical that the function concerned should be performed by it, it may decide accordingly.

This is where the National Roads Authority can take over the functions of a road authority if they consider it more convenient and so on. While I would not necessarily argue that that is a bad thing I am really unable to draw a mature conclusion on that unless I know in what circumstances it is envisaged the Authority might decide to do so. For example, section 19 (4) (a) states:

The Authority shall not be liable for damage caused as a result of any failure to maintain a national road.

The National Roads Authority will be the body responsible for national roads but we observe here that they will not be liable for damage caused as a result of any failure to maintain a national road. Why is that provision contained in the Bill? Is there any question of an action being taken against the authority for a misfeasance? Is that something that could happen if this provision were not inserted? I would like to know why it has been judged necessary to insert the specific provision. Section 19 (5) states:

Development consisting of the carrying out of any works by or at the direction of, or on behalf of, the Authority under this Act in relation to the construction or maintenance of a national road shall be exempted development for the purposes of the Act of 1963.

In other words, the National Roads Authority do not have to seek planning permission in order to have these works [2256] carried out. Of course, there are other matters to which they must have regard and other things which they must do. I wonder whether we are doing the right thing in simply classifying all these works, and other works carried out by public authorities, as exempted developments. I know they are required in some cases to prepare environmental impact statements and that an environmental impact assessment has to be carried out.

What I am worried about is — and if I remember correctly this matter arose in connection with the Environmental Protection Agency Bill where I had the same kind of question, in relation to some kind of works where an environmental impact statement was not required — these famous interpretative centres which seem to mushroom up all around the country. I said on that occasion — and I still believe it — that the best interpretative centre you can have is your own pair of eyes. I am not so sure that all these interpretative centres, whether in The Burren or in the Wicklow mountains or anywhere else, are necessarily such a good idea; there is just so much spoon-feeding one can do for people. That is a case where an environmental impact statement was not required, although I am delighted to see that the Commission of the European Communities, in relation to the proposed interpretative centre in The Burren, has now come along like Offenbach's cavaliers late in the game and has required such a statement to be made and said “If you do not make such a statement we will not give you the money”.

I wonder whether we are taking the wrong route by saying all these public works can be dealt with through a different procedure from that to which most physical works that obtrude in our environment are subjected. I recognise the fact that sections 20, 22, 48 and 49 deal with other aspects of the problem. I wonder whether it is wise to take these public works out and deal with them in a way that is so totally different from the rest. I have never heard a convincing case made for that and, indeed, the strongest case I have heard made for treating public [2257] works differently is largely a matter of administrative convenience. A public authority which is itself a planning authority would have some difficulty in credibly sitting in judgment on an application which it would make itself. Here we will have the Minister, who is the ultimate public authority in these issues, having these plans submitted to him for approval requiring environmental impact statements to be carried out and where he will have to carry out the environmental impact assessment. I am not sure that is a particularly great gain for the general public or the public interest in dealing with these issues. That matter, as well as many other matters in relation to the kinds of directions which the Authority may give to road authorities is dealt with in section 20.

One kind of direction which the Authority may give under that section is to require the road authority to prepare, or arrange for the preparation of, a scheme for the provision of traffic signs. That is an essential part of any such plan and is highly desirable. I am delighted to see that is specifically included because it is an area which is much in need of attention and improvement in this country. I am not sure if the Minister, who has some of the same advantages which I have now, looks around him when he gets to that famous white elephant at the Red Cow. If so, he will notice that the situation has improved somewhat in the last few weeks. Up to a few weeks ago when you went out from Dublin on the Long Mile Road heading south-west, there was a large green sign which pointed to the left at the white elephant if you wished to go south. If you took that road you would eventually be on the road to Wexford. Most people who are heading for the south think they are heading for Cork or Kerry, they do not go to Wexford because we all regard that as the south-east. I notice that sign has been changed in recent weeks and it now conforms to the popular idea of what is south and south-east.

That is one of the many examples around this country of the deficiencies in signposting of our principal routes. There [2258] have been enormous improvements in recent years but there is still room for much more improvement. I am sure the Minister has met this difficulty in his travels around just as much as I have, although there is not much of the country that I have not travelled. I always have a fair idea of where I am going but I can imagine that for an average foreign tourist it must be very frustrating to find that the last sign for your destination tells you it is 80 kilometres away and after that it does not appear on the sign untl you get to within three or four miles of it. Some years ago in the Minister's constituency I asked for directions to get to a particular place. I was told: “go down to the left, take the second last turn right and then the first turn left of any consequence”. I am not saying our road signs are that bad.

Mr. Smith:  Where was the Deputy going to?

Mr. Dukes:  I found him. We were canvassing a vote for the Seanad. God knows whether we got it or not but we found him.

Mr. Smith:  Just tell me where you were going.

Mr. Dukes:  It was Toomevara. Discretion would forbid me from going any further because it is not a place where the Minister got a vote in that election. I am delighted to see that there is a power——

Mr. Smith:  I would never lead the Deputy astray in north Tipperary.

Mr. Dukes:  I know that but I might want to go to places which the Minister would not want me to go to.

Mr. Smith:  That is a different day's work.

Mr. Dukes:  I am delighted to see that the Authority can direct the preparation of a scheme for the provision of traffic signs and I look forward to seeing further improvements. Traffic signs should be [2259] designed on the assumption that the person reading them has not the slightest idea in which direction he should go— by the sun or by any other objective measurement — to get to his destination but everything should be made as clear and as simple as possible.

Before issuing a direction in relation to the preparation of a scheme for the provision of traffic signs or any of the other matters — dealt with in section 20 (1) — in relation to works which in the opinion of the Authority, if carried out, require a road authority to contravene materially a development plan or a special amenity area order, there are certain things which the Authority must do. Does the Minister believe that it will often happen that a direction given by the Authority under this section will require a road authority to contravene materially a development plan or a special amenity area order and, if so, why? We must bear in mind that in the majority of cases the road authority which will be receiving these directions from the National Roads Authority will themselves be a county council or a planning authority who have prepared the development plan. It is illogical to envisage that a planning authority which has drawn up a development plan in accordance with their own wishes and the law as it stands, should then be directed by the National Roads Authority materially to contravene that development plan. Does the Minister believe this is likely to happen very often because somebody must or we would not have this provision in the Bill.

I wonder why the National Roads Authority find it necessary to direct that a material contravention might take place. The Authority, or indeed the Minister, should be very careful to avoid giving directions that would conflict with the provisions of a development plan duly drawn up by an authority authorised in law to do so. We should have a degree of coherence and consistency in planning and in the way we do these things to avoid this problem. We know already what the difficulties are and what the abuses have [2260] been in material contraventions. I am not suggesting that the National Roads Authority would have any ulterior motives in directing that a material contravention take place, far from it, but I find it worrying that we would envisage explicity the possibility that one State agency may direct a planning authority to commit a material contravention.

This section allows the National Roads Authority to direct road authorities to do a wide variety of things, all of them desirable in themselves. Subsection (5) provides that where a road authority refuse or fail to comply with a direction, the National Roads Authority may decide to perform the functions specified in the direction, subject to such modifications, if any, as they consider appropriate. That is the big stick behind the carrot in the Bill. I suppose it is necessary to have such a power so that an obdurate road authority can be obliged to see sense — they may be one of the partners in one of these shotgun weddings we talked about earlier. However I will not go into the metaphor too closely, but they can be told to do what is required or else the National Roads Authority will do it themselves.

The question arises: if the road authority have shown this reluctance because they are being directed to contravene materially a development plan which they have drawn up, is that a good reason for allowing the National Roads Authority to do the job? I am worried that a road authority may tell the National Roads Authority that they do not want to do that because it requires material contravention of their development plan; that will allow the National Roads Authority to say they will do the work themselves. Are we giving the National Roads Authority or the Minister the power to carry out such a material contravention and is it a good idea to allow the National Roads Authority and/or the Minister to second guess a local authority's plan?

We then have the provisions relating to programmes for European Community assistance and here we find the Minister has nearly all the say. Section (1) (b) in practical terms, says it is the Minister for [2261] the Environment and not the National Roads Authority or anybody else who has the final say. He can approve a plan, approve it with modifications, direct that it be resubmitted to him in a modified form for approval or refuse to approve it. The Minister has the say and that is a fact. The Minister may challenge me on some other grounds but I state it as a fact that it is the Minister who decides, not the National Roads Authority.

That incidentally brings me to the reflection that we have not seen in this Bill, the Environmental Protection Agency Bill or the local government reform Bill, evidence of any real commitment on the part of this Government, or even this transmogrified Government, to any real attempt to devolve powers to local authorities, local democracy or regional democracy of any kind. Against that background it is not surprising to find that section 21 gives the Minister the final say.

Section 22 deals with the Authority and the physical planning process. Again, this is a very important section. I would like to know whether this section gives the Authority power to make recommendations generally in relation to the planning process, in relation to roads generally or only in relation to national roads. It is not clear to me from the text if that is what is meant. It seems to relate to national roads only but I think the text could be a great deal clearer.

Section 24 takes away any financial autonomy from the National Roads Authority. There is a lot to be said for including that particular section given current policy in relation to the interface between national Government and local government. This section confirms that the National Roads Authority will not really have anything like full independence in carrying out their job.

Section 25, which deals with borrowing by the Authority, makes it very clear, again rightly given the present interface between national, local and regional government, that the responsibility rests with the Department of Finance. I am not saying that is the ideal relationship between them. I deplore that we have [2262] had only a sham reform of local government and that no real attempt has been made on regional devolution. I am not surprised that this Bill takes its present form against that background.

I have a question on section 25. Section 25 (3) deals with the way the National Roads Authority will exercise powers conferred on them by this section, that is the powers to borrow. If the National Roads Authority can, at any particular time, have borrowings or liabilities up to the amount of £500 million it appears that the National Roads Authority and the Minister for the Environment, acting together, can run substantially ahead of the funding provided under the public capital programme. I know, in the famous old phrase, “taking one year with another”, that they cannot do this but it seems that at particular times this provision would allow the National Roads Authority to be ahead of the provision made by central Government under the public capital programme. Again, I am not saying if that is a good or a bad thing. It might be a good thing in some respects but if that is what is intended, it should be made clear in the Bill. If that is what is intended I would like the Minister to indicate why it is and in what circumstances he would envisage the National Roads Authority and himself getting ahead of the public capital programme, potentially to the amount of £500 million.

I am glad to see some of the provisions of section 26 relating to guarantees by the Minister for Finance in respect of the borrowings of the Authority. Does section 26 (1) (a) mean that not necessarily all the borrowings of the Authority will be guaranteed? It is important that we know that. Indeed, it is important that the financial institutions know that. Subsection (2) is very well set out and is a very necessary subsection in that it gives the kind of transparency that is needed to ensure that the National Roads Authority use their money properly, and within the limits they can manage. However, I wonder about subsection (3). Subsection (3) seems to indicate that [2263] there will be a circular transaction that might not be necessary. Subsection (4) makes it very clear that the final decision rests with the Minister for Finance. As a former Minister for Finance, I cannot say that I object very much to that. I would like to know whether the provisions of those two sections together are intended to mean that the National Raods Authority can get ahead of the public capital programme provision at any given point in time.

Section 27 — and this is only a footnote of curiosity — refers to the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof. I know there was a time when people hoped that the Central Fund would have a growing produce but that hope has long since died.

Debate adjourned.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Jim Higgins has 40 minutes.

Mr. J. Higgins:  May I share my time with Deputies Deenihan, Creed, McGinley and Flanagan?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Higgins:  I move:

In view of the inherently unjust operation of the higher education grants scheme which discriminates heavily against PAYE taxpayers and places impossible financial burdens on families in the provision of higher education to their children, and in view of his clear lack of planning and division in the area of third level education, Dáil Éireann calls on the Minister for Education to abandon his plans to means test ESF grants from September 1992, and calls on the Government to:

[2264] (a) retain in full the present ESF funding arrangements for third-level courses pending a total review of the finance arrangements for students attending third-level education;

(b) enter into negotiations with the EC to obtain further ESF funding for other third level courses and institutions; and

(c) establish a permanent education secretariat in Brussels for educational monitoring, research and liaison.

I sincerely congratulate the new Minister on his appointment to the onerous portfolio of Education. He is undoubtedly aware that in Education he has the single greatest instrument of social policy in his hands. I am confident that the Minister's ability and experience will stand him in good stead in dealing with the most complex Ministry. I look forward to the Minister's abundant commonsense assisting him in the decisions he will have to make over the testing months ahead.

Tonight is the first crucial challenge to the Minister's common sense because he has certainly been handed a poisoned chalice by his predecessor. The decision by the former Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, to means test ESF maintenance grants from next September is a negative, short-sighted and extremely unjust proposal which no sensible Minister can stand over. It does not make social, educational or economic sense; certainly the former Minister's three month term of office will be remembered as the inglorious reign of the man who tried to take the £39 per week from the 27,000 middle income RTC and Dublin Institute of Technology college students.

One of the singular successes of education has been the six Dublin Colleges of Technology under the auspices of the Dublin Institute of Technology: Kevin Street, Bolton Street, Rathmines, Cathal Brugha Street, College of Art and Design and the College of Music. The nine regional technical colleges, Galway, Sligo, Letterkenny, Athlone, Tralee, Cork, Waterford, Carlow and Dundalk [2265] have brought a whole new dimension to education and to the regions in which they have been strategically located. These colleges are now bursting at the seams as the demand for places reflects the growing realisation that the type of education they provide is tightly tailored to the demands of modern industry and the workplace. One of the cornerstones of the success of these colleges is that they have managed to wrench the national consciousness and pride from its awesome infatuation for largely academic education and to acheive a much greater recognition and consciousness of the vital role of technology, science and the computer in terms of relevance to the world of today.

Central to attracting the type of top quality under-graduate material which has helped to make the colleges the flagships in technology has been the European Social Fund. I am happy it was a Fine Gael Minister, the then Deputy Hussey, who introduced ESF funding in the early eighties. While the colleges achieved relative success in their pre-ESF days it was really the influence of ESF funding and the consequent huge influx of highly motivated students and young people which have given the colleges the massive propulsion and energy which they enjoy today.

Recently this country signed the Maastricht Treaty and the European Single Market will shortly be a reality. One of the key considerations of Maastricht is the recognition of education as a central plank and instrument of European unity with a particular emphasis on the need to develop practical technical skills to help to drive the Community's economies and to fill the manpower needs of the member states.

There is an eager expectation that something will be done in the area of third level — particularly vocational — education. I have in my possession the eagerly awaited and much lauded Culliton report, A Time for Change: Industrial Policy for the 1990s. Chapter 6 of the report is scathing in relation to the over-orientation and bias of education towards the academic, the neglect of [2266] technical training and the crowding out of technical subjects, even at second level. The Culliton Report analyses accurately where we have gone wrong. It says: “over the years the prestige of the academic leaving certificate programme has diverted talented students who would be much better adapted to technical training”.

The report talks about the manner in which the German and Swiss economies have benefited from vocational and technical education by the provision of highly skilled and highly adaptable work forces. The report lays it on the line in no uncertain terms and says: “A major effort to reverse the trend of recent years and to place new emphasis on vocational and technical training is the single action most likely to yield progress”. That is the prescription for success. This is the official report of a high powered, expert committee commissioned by the Government to advise on what the workplace expects from education and where we are going wrong in terms of education emphasis; however, their analysis and advice are effectively thrown back in their faces.

Is there any point in entering binding international agreements, such as Maastricht, when we dump the spirit of the agreement before the ink is dry on the page? We are signatories to Maastricht which encapsulates the need for education systems to produce a large pool of skilled young people graduating from third level colleges and training schemes with the technical and production skills and aptitudes required by industry and yet our Government set out deliberately to sabotage the RTCs and the Dublin Institute of Technology colleges which are the delivery service for such graduates. Effectively, the means testing of ESF grants will sabotage the 15 colleges involved by draining them and depriving them of their most important resource— top quality students.

We get £150 million from the European Social Fund. The payment of the fees and the £39 per week means that for thousands of average, middle income families, it represents their only chance of getting into higher education. If the [2267] ESF maintenance grants are withdrawn that chance is gone. I have been in contact with the Union of Students of Ireland and with the colleges and their managements; their unanimous view is that the means testing of ESF grants will have a catastrophic effect on the colleges. It is conservatively estimated that seven out of every ten students applying to the colleges from next September will not qualify for grants. For the vast majority of those who do not qualify it is a simple truth and raw reality, no grant means not going to college, not going to college means no education which means that they will have no future.

If one sets out to trawl the administrative system and jungle for an unfair, unjust and inequitable scheme, one need look no further than the higher education grant system in the universities. It is based on gross income, which is totally irrelevant, rather than net income. The thresholds are ridiculously low. If a husband and wife are both earning, every single penny of their joint incomes is grossly calculated. Nothing whatever is allowed for living costs, medical expenses, mortgage repayments or the other absolute necessities of life. Thousands of lower middle income and middle income families are automatically debarred because every single penny of their income is up front. This means in effect that none of the nation's 50,000 teachers, the bulk of its civil servants, none of its gardaí or nurses, the majority of its industrial and service workers or people on regular wages need even apply for third level grants because they simply will not qualify.

The operation of the 1991-92 higher education grant scheme means in effect that a husband and wife with one or two children who earn one penny more than £10,787, lose part of the grant. Let us look at the position of a family trying to survive on £10,787 with, let us assume, a mortgage of £25,000 — and you will not get much of a house for £25,000 nowadays. If they have a mortgage of £25,000, the repayments are £3,750 per annum. They then have to pay income [2268] tax and PRSI of approximately £1,000. That leaves the family with, at the very most, a disposable income of £6,037 or a princely sum of £116 per week to pay for food, clothing, ESB, service charges, heating etc. Do the Government not realise that a family cannot live with any degree of dignity on £116 per week, let alone subsidise the third level fees for their child? The Minister may argue that there is a sliding scale depending on the number of children, but sliding scale or no sliding scale the inherent snares, traps and thresholds in the scheme debar thousands of people right up through the very system itself.

The former Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, lit a flicker of hope for such parents when banner headlines in the national newspapers on 21 January stated: “Davern to seek EC funding to cover university fees”. We know that the former Minister was new to office and was naturally anxious to get as much publicity as possible for himself. We also acknowledge that Christmastime is often recognised as the silly season for politics. Nevertheless his promise of additional EC funding for the universities has turned out to be the sickest of sick political jokes, because, lo and behold, a mere two weeks later the same newspaper informs a startled population that rather than giving them money to subsidise university fees the former Minister has, in fact, decided to superimpose the justifiably maligned, highly flawed, and inherently unjust higher education grant scheme with all its warts and weals, right across the entire RTC and Dublin Institute of Technology college system.

This time last year the Minister, Deputy Brennan, was handed a similar hot political potato when his then predecessor, and the now redundant Minister, Deputy Ray Burke, and the Chief Executive of An Post, handed him the infamous An Post viability plan. This plan proposed to close down 600 rural sub-post offices, downgrade 30 post offices and impose post boxes at the entrance to rural laneways. The initial bush fires of protest turned into an inferno and in a series of staged phases [2269] the Minister eventually consigned the plan to where it justifiably belongs, that is, on the scrap heap. This move is equally ill-judged; it is retrograde, irrational, downright unfair and deserves the same fate.

I have faith in the Minister's commonsense to do the same with this proposal. The Minister knows that the financing arrangements for third level education are ludicrous and that the system needs a major review and overhaul. Up to now there has been no review or overhaul; all that has happened is cosmetic tinkering with the scheme. I am asking the Minister to carry out a fundamental review of our education system, as proposed in paragraph (a) of our motion. I also suggest that the Minister should put in place a review group consisting of officials of his Department and the Department of Finance, officials from the European Social Fund in order that they may see at first hand our policies, problems and priorities, representatives of the universities, of the Irish Vocational Education Association and, last but not least, of the Union of Students in Ireland. I ask the Minister not to engage in this costly tampering and tinkering with existing ESF arrangements until such time as the review body report because — I am sincere about this— thousands and thousands of students have made their September plans on the assumption that the £39 per week grant will be available to them.

Europe might well have conferred certain benefits on us but when we see our farmers being pushed over the cliff on a daily basis under the twin pressures of Common Agricultural Policy and GATT, our traditional industries buckle under the intense pressure of the market place and our best graduates poached on the open market for the labour markets of Europe, we are entitled to demand and expect that the additional funds promised but not delivered by the former Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, would be forthcoming to the universities. Paragraph (b) of the motion proposes such an initiative. We should not be putting one group up or down at the expense of the [2270] other. We should not be going for the lowest common denominator. We should be going for the highest common denominator and telling Europe that they owe us this money.

Finally, in advancing the idea of a full-time education office in Brussels, as proposed in the third part of the motion, we are advocating having a secretariat on the spot in Brussels where the action is rather than doing things by bush telegraph, as happens at present, so that we can maximise this country's drawdown from the European Social Fund.

I exhort the Minister not to make any precipitate decision and to accept this motion. This will not be seen as a climb down but as a victory for common sense. It makes an awful lot more sense to pull back from a proposal to deprive 27,000 students of a mere £39 per week, the bulk of which comes from Europe, rather than dump our students uneducated on the dole queues where the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy McCreevy, will have to give them a minimum of £50 per week from the Exchequer.

Mr. Deenihan:  I congratulate Deputy Higgins on bringing forward this motion. The excuse being offered for introducing the proposed ESF grants means testing is that very many rich people — the self-employed, big farmers and professional people — are benefiting under this scheme. I would dispute this claim on two counts. The ESF covers only certificate and diploma courses. Where possible, rich people, to whom I have already referred, direct their children towards the professions and the length of degree courses does not concern them too much. The vast majority of ESF students come from middle income and lower income PAYE families who cannot generally risk a four year investment in a university degree course for their children. For them the ESF is a breathing space where, if their children prove they are up to diploma level standard, the parents have a chance to accumulate some money and can hopefully pay for a further two years on a degree course.

[2271] The second point is that the major source of public dissatisfaction with the present means test for higher education grants is that rich people have no great problem in qualifying for State grants. Their income can rarely be proven, unlike the PAYE worker whose actual income is shown on a P60 and who is assessed on his gross income. If the self-employed and others have little difficulty in getting through the means test, then they are not going to be in any great rush to avail of ESF grants. Even if they do, it is obvious that the means test will not stop them but will exclude all the middle and lower income PAYE families.

This saga involves three Ministers for Education and two Ministers for Finance, one of whom is now Taoiseach. I deplore the decision of the Minister for Education to introduce a means testing scheme for the maintenance element of the ESF grant. There is considerable evidence to show that this harsh and unexpected cut was designed by Deputy Mary O'Rourke when Minister for Education. She acted under pressure from the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Albert Reynolds, who was looking for cuts. As Minister for Education, Deputy Davern was walked into making public the proposed cuts. Responsibility for this attempted cut in student grants must ultimately lie with the Taoiseach.

This change, which has been described as an improvement of the grant scheme, stretches any understanding of the English language beyond credibility. If implemented, the proposed change will have a significant adverse effect on the finances of the majority of RTC students and their families. This sudden unexpected change after a period of stability in the ESF scheme over the past few years will catch many families short of cash. They have planned on the availability of grants. A sudden change like this is grossly unfair. Therefore I appeal to the new Minister, to whom I extend my best wishes, to reverse the attempted change of his predecessor.

There are anomalies in the present structure of grant payments. However, it [2272] is not credible to suggest that 60 per cent to 70 per cent of current grant recipients should lose significant grant moneys in order to eliminate anomalies which arise for an insignificant number of students. If a ceiling on the Social Fund has been reached, can the shortfall not be found? Is this proposed change a solution? Think of the massive administration costs involved in the means testing process. When an offer of a college place has been made to an applicant, they and their parents need to know in the quickest possible time what their financial position will be. The current scheme of awarding ESF grants is simple and rapid, it is direct and transparent.

Under the new scheme, the means testing process will involve extra applicants. It is estimated that up to 21,000 applicants will have to be means tested as opposed to the 6,000 to 7,000 who are currently means tested for university places. People have to wait for two years for the result of means tests. The tripling of applicants will delay the date by which young people and their parents know if they can afford to take up the offer of an RTC place. This will result in an inevitable delay in the date of the first payment of the grants. Well qualified young people, particularly the less affluent, will lose out. This scheme will be socially regressive and women will lose out disproportionately in the proposed change.

It is estimated by the students' union at Tralee RTC that their members will lose £1 million in maintenance grants. While it is difficult to do an accurate calculation, the students' union is probably very near the mark in estimating the loss of £1 million in Tralee alone. The sudden withdrawal of this money will have an unwelcome deflationary effect on the economy of Tralee. It will result in job losses among those who provide services.

Access to RTCs is part of regional development of which we hear so much. The proposed changes will have a depressing effect on regional development. I regret the attempt to reduce RTC student grants to university levels. Rather I would hope that university [2273] grants should be increased in line with those at RTC level. Indeed, if we are serious about carving out a place in the post-Maastricht Europe, this ill-conceived proposal should be dropped. Our young people deserve no less.

Mr. Creed:  I thank my colleagues for sharing their time with me. I wish to speak in support of the motion to maintain ESF grants in their current state, and to condemn the Government policy which would effectively exclude the lower income groups from participating in third level education by extending the application of the current higher education grant means test, which stands universally condemned by all quarters.

It has been established beyond doubt that educational achievement and employment opportunities are inextricably linked. At a time of record unemployment, it is inexplicable that the sole, proven avenue to increased employment prospects should be so cruelly removed from the grasp of students whose parents constitute the ranks of the lower paid and the unemployed. It says a multitude about the ethos of the Government and it dashes any hopes we might have had of a concerted co-ordinated attack on the scourge of unemployment. It is a shame on the new Minister that a new opportunity has been missed. It is regrettable as I believe that this will be the tune for the new Government — new faces but the same old failed policies.

It is truly ironic, as indeed it must be painful for many members of the Government, particularly those in Fianna Fáil who can recall the reforming zeal of former Minister for Education who pioneered access to free education at second level in the mid-sixties, to witness the practical erosion of this benefit over recent years and the removal from a large proportion of the population of the opportunity to attend third level education, as is currently proposed.

An historical analysis of access to educational opportunity in this country will show that the trend has been in the right direction to date. It will also show, however, that with regard to third level [2274] education, this was a privilege available only to those who could afford it. Any analysis of the recipients of higher education grants from local authorities will reveal a truly shocking discrimination against the PAYE sector and the unemployed. To extend the scope of this discriminatory means test to ESF-funded courses will quench the light at the end of the tunnel for many of the children of these backgrounds and condemn their generation to a life on the dole queues or, worse, emigration.

The Government should consider the following point also before rejecting this motion. The net cost to the State of paying full unemployment assistance to an individual for a year is only marginally less than the cost of providing grants for a third level education course.

In the context of a state of emergency in relation to unemployment, it is appropriate, now more than ever that the State should extend to all pupils the opportunity to attend third level education. It is appropriate in this context that we should consider providing free of charge full fees to all students in third level education. Hand-in-hand with this we have to argue coherently on the European stage for much more funding for education. This can be based on the premise that for the past decade many of our brightest and best graduates have been attracted by employment opportunities on mainland Europe at great expense to the Irish taxpayer. This case has never been fought before, and to dismantle the existing system before exhausting this avenue of opportunity is preposterous.

Mr. McGinley:  I wish to thank my colleague, Deputy Jim Higgins, for giving me some of his time. I compliment and congratulate him on introducing this motion on a subject that is causing great anxiety to many parents and third level students. The European Social Fund has been one of the most beneficial and constructive education schemes established since the introduction of free post primary education in the sixties. The numbers attending RTCs and Dublin Institute [2275] of Technology — 27,000 in all — is concrete proof of the contribution made by these colleges to our education system. The vast majority of students availing of regional technical college courses are in receipt of European Social Funds, and many would never have the opportunity of attending a third level institution without the benefit of such assistance. It has afforded thousands of lower and middle income families previously deprived of higher education because of the way the higher education grant scheme was operated, the opportunity to avail of certificate and diploma courses. If this decision of means testing ESF grants is implemented it will deprive thousands of young people of the opportunity to obtain certificates, diplomas and qualifications in regional technical colleges.

As I have said, those who will suffer are those from the lower and middle income families, the sons and daughters of the PAYE workers. They are the people who are already victims of the poverty trap. They have no economic props. They have to pay for all services. They must pay for transport to primary and post primary schools. As Deputy Higgins has said, the vast majority of these people in all probability are paying mortgages in an effort to purchase their own homes. They are certainly paying VHI premiums because if they fall ill there is no such thing as free medical treatment for them. You could say they are the new poor, victims of the poverty trap.

These proposals are a vicious attack on our already over-burdened taxpayers, people who are already paying tax on the double. If the proposals are implemented educational opportunities in rural Ireland will be dealt a severe blow. There are universities in our major cities — three universities in Dublin and universities in Cork, Limerick and Galway. Parents living in cities have the opportunity of sending their sons and daughters for third level education and for them maintenance does not constitute the same vital factor as it does for the parents in rural Ireland. The sons and daughters of those who live in the cities can often remain at [2276] home until their studies are completed. However, rural Ireland does not have the benefit of universities in close proximity Maintenance is a major element in the cost of education for parents who live in rural Ireland and the £39 per week ESF grant is often the vital factor in determining whether a son or daughter goes on to third level education or has to emigrate after post-primary education.

As we know, rural Ireland has been devastated by emigration in the past but at least many of our emigrants are educated and are qualified to avail of positions of responsibility and trust in their host countries. The discontinuation of ESF funding would lead to our young people emigrating at a much younger age without qualifications. They would simply become the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for their new masters. Make no mistake about it, Minister, if your proposals are implemented then they will have devastating consequences for rural Ireland and the educational opportunities of the young people who live there.

I represent a constituency that has a regional technical college, in the town of Letterkenny. When that college was established several years ago it was designed to cater for 600 pupils. At present 1,300 students attend the college. The vast majority of those students would not have been able to afford to avail of the opportunity of third level education without the benefit of ESF funding. At a recent meeting of the Donegal vocational education committee it was unanimously decided to pass a motion condemning the Government's decision to introduce means testing for the grant. All parties attended the meeting and there were no dissenters from the decision. It has also been decided to circulate the decision to every other vocational education committee. That is the extent of the opposition, the concern and the worry that is to be found in rural Ireland about the proposal.

As this is my first opportunity to do so, I congratulate the Minister on his new appointment. The Minister would certainly make a name for himself and his [2277] Government if he immediately withdrew the proposals. Indeed, if he wanted to go down in history as being an innovative Minister, he could increase the grant of £39 a week instead of introducing a vicious system of means testing.

Mr. Flanagan:  I rise to make one or two points on this matter, which is of great importance to the people of Ireland and to our young people in particular. In doing so, I compliment my colleague Deputy Jim Higgins, the Fine Gael spokesman on education, for moving the motion. I look forward to listening to the Minister's reply to the detailed points made on behalf of Fine Gael by Deputy Higgins.

In 1991 the total amount of Government funds paid in support of students undertaking ESF courses was £31.5 million. Of that amount, £20 million was paid in maintenance. In my view, a means test system would save approximately £12 million. That sum is much greater than the cost to the taxpayer of Carysfort and much less than the cost of the Government jet or the recently dubbed “Albert Hall”, yet it will restrict student access to the precise area of education most directly geared to making the youth of our country employable and therefore attracting industry to our depressed economy. This move exposes massive hypocrisy on the part of the Government and their commitment to job creation. What we see, in the context of education grants, is a direct attack on jobs. It is anti-family.

Blanket means testing, as proposed by the Minister and as announced by his predecessor, is fundamentally wrong as it takes account only of income, not of property and other assets. Many people of property at present benefit from third level grants, not on the basis of low income but because they make use of a device called “low declared income”. On the other hand, children of low paid workers are denied the grant support that alone would be the key to an education and a job. Our Constitution specifically purports to cherish all the children of the nation equally. That pledge is shallow, [2278] meaningless and false under the present grant scheme.

I represent a constituency bounded by two excellent regional technical colleges, in Athlone and Carlow. Statistics clearly show that our universities are not overcrowded with children from counties Offaly and Laois. The first option for third level education for the children and young people of my constituency is an RTC. That is mainly because of the grant incentive and allocation. It is not uncommon for school teachers in the midlands area — as is the case throughout rural Ireland — to advise parents and children, before children sit their final exams, to rule out a career that would require university education and to opt instead for education at an RTC, because of the finances involved. The recent decision of the Minister for Education now cuts off that option.

It is a fact that less than 2 per cent of third level students come from families the head of whose household is either unemployed or an unskilled labourer. The reality is that almost no one who falls within the income limits could or would think of sending a child to university unless he or she had assets additional to income. However, more than one million of our children have a father or breadwinner who is unskilled or unemployed. Thus, we are denying those children the right to an education.

The cost of State funding to universities is more than £100 million annually — a figure much higher than the total spent on 1991 grants, which amounted to a mere £29 million by comparison. The £100 million expenditure is taxpayers' money. The Minister is clearly presiding over a system that is fundamentally unfair in that taxpayers are paying directly or indirectly to subsidise the access to third level education of the children of the better off. This is a scandal of much greater proportion than those scandals that have gained so much news media attention of late. The average PAYE worker cannot afford to send his or her children to third level college simply because there is not sufficient funding in grant aid. The people who are effectively [2279] excluded are forced, without any choice, to support the rich in that regard. The operation of the entire third level grant scheme discriminates heavily against the PAYE sector and the unemployed. The less privileged — and the middle classes, who are now brought in under Minister Davern's recent decision — are forced by way of taxation to support the children of the wealthy in an education system that denies their own children access. In my view, that inequity might not survive a constitutional challenge, having regard to the place accorded our children in the Constitution. The system is wrong and if we do not decide that, then it could well be decided for us by way of a European Court application.

I urge the Minister to support the motion and its content and I compliment my colleague, Deputy Higgins, for the forthright manner in which he addressed the issue since the Minister's decision of some weeks past.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “In” and to substitute the following:

“regard to education, Dáil Éireann commends the Government for its achievements with particular reference to the dramatic expansion in the provision of third-level places and measures taken to ensure greater equity in the third-level system; notes that the Minister for Education, being conscious of the pressures on families in providing for third-level education for their children, intends to complete a full review of the criteria for eligibility for student grants by September 1992; and further commends the Government for its ongoing initiatives in this area, including:

the expansion in the number of places available on ESF supported programmes through the more equitable distribution of available funds,

the targeting of resources to assist the disadvantaged and those from [2280] lower income groups in availing of the various education and training programmes at all levels and

the co-ordinated arrangements being made to ensure a major expansion in EC support for education and training programmes in Ireland, including the establishment of a permanent education representative in Brussels.”.

As the outset, I thank the Opposition spokesman for Fine Gael, Deputy Jim Higgins, for his best wishes. I regard Deputy Higgins as a very able, competent, respected and formidable political opponent — one whom in my time as Minister for Education I certainly shall not take for granted. I shall listen extremely carefully to what he has to say at all times. I hold him in very high esteem.

I am pleased to have the opportunity this evening to place once again on the record of this House the substantial progress made in the field of education in recent years. Concern for the less well-off, or the disadvantaged, has been central to developments in education pursued by the Government over the last few years. Despite the serious economic situation we inherited, the Government were careful to protect those most in need from the effects of the measures we had to take to bring the State finances under control. All Members in the House would be familiar with the steps we took.

The underlying theme of positive discrimination in favour of the disadvantaged has informed Government action in the area of education since 1987. That has been reflected in the provisions on eduction in the Programme for Ecomomic and Social Progress. Incidentally, that theme is not the convenient adoption of a simple political slogan devoid of substance; it is a clear and unambiguous strategy born out of a conviction and commitment to better the lot of the less well-off. The conviction is shared on all sides of the House. The overall aim of the education system, simply stated is to provide the opportunity for all to develop their potential to the full. There are [2281] powerful economic, social and political reasons for pursuing the dual ambition of seeking significant improvements in the quality of education while extending these benefits to all sections of the population. The aims of equality and quality are inseparable.

In achieving these aims it is vital that the education system is effective in improving the quality of life for all rather than conferring added advantage on the already privileged.

For a long time access to education was seen, in essence, as the promotion of equality of opportunity. It is now evident that the achievement of equality of educational opportunity is a much more complex process.

One could say that to some extent we are the victims of our own success. Due to policies promoted by Fianna Fáil over the years, there has been an enormous expansion in participation rates in school. There has also been an improvement in the representation of the poorer socioeconomic groups in post-primary schooling when compared with the situation in the early sixties.

While we need to become more sophisticated and finely focused in our strategies for tackling disadvantage we had as a start, to concentrate effort and resources to eliminating financial and geographical impediments to access to education. However, we are now focusing much more on the difficult and demanding tasks of eliminating disadvantages deriving from gender, ability, cultural, educational, social, structural and generational factors — all complex issues.

Central to the Government's approach to combating the complexities of disadvantage is to have education seen as an integrated part of the wider political, social, economic and cultural framework of society's development. Integrated, cohesive and multi-faceted action is called for in which there is close co-operation between education, welfare, health, labour and training agencies, and between schools, parents, employers and the wider community. This approach has been affirmed by the social partners [2282] through the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

A school is a significant factor in promoting or inhibiting its pupils' chances of success in life. A range of studies have confirmed educational achievement as a crucial ingredient for success in working life. Apart from studies, our commonsense would indicate that to us.

The importance of learning for economic and social participation means that the costs of missing out have now become very high — to the individuals concerned, their families and to the country at large. The economic costs to the community of the continuing existence of failure are certainly high. I am convinced that insufficient use by a country of its potential talents and skills, proves to be an expensive waste. The social implications are equally serious and carry their own high economic costs.

As demands for skills grow and as the number of job openings for the unskilled shrinks, the position of those with little to show for their years of schooling is thrown into sharp relief. Even in countries with emerging skill shortages, the position of those at the bottom of the ladder is exacerbated as the educational levels attained and demanded continue to grow.

I have taken some time to set the context in which developments in education have been implemented by the Government. I will now illustrate some of the important measures the Government have taken to implement their resultant policies. Funding for the special assistance scheme for schools in disadvantaged areas increased by 300 per cent between 1987 and 1991 and a further £250,000 has been provided this year. The home school links programme was set up and has been expanded to a total of 80 primary schools. It is currently being extended to second level schools. Within the past three years some 325 additional teachers have been approved for primary schools in disadvantaged areas and for remedial education. A pilot school psychological service for primary schools has been initiated.

[2283] In 1991, 325 teaching posts were authorised in order to reduce class sizes in primary schools. This year a further 300 posts will be allocated to the same purpose. At post-primary level some 120 schools have each been provided with the services of an extra teacher to assist in aspects of disadvantage within those schools. In 1991, 250 posts were sanctioned to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools. The effect of the further posts retained this year will be to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio to less than 25.2. At post primary level, pupil-teacher ratio will be improved to 19.25 for appointment purposes this year. This will increase the number of existing teaching posts by 143. There are now some 1,000 teachers, approved for post-primary schools outside the normal quota provision in order to meet particular curricula, remedial and other needs. From September next, 87 vice-principals will be recognised as ex-quota, thereby giving rise to a similar number of new teaching posts. Also some 62 schools will benefit from the services of guidance teachers. The free book schemes aimed at helping needy pupils have been expanded to include infant classes for the first time. The total expenditure on the schemes now exceeds £4 million annually. A new scheme to provide caretaking and clerical assistance for schools will commence in September this year.

For those who leave school prematurely, a variety of opportunities are now available ranging from literacy and community programmes, through Youth-reach and vocational training opportunities scheme. This latter scheme is geared specifically towards the long term unemployed.

At third level the Government have relentlessly pursued a policy of providing easier access for more students through a two-pronged strategy of simplifying the whole process of entry to third level and expanding the number of places available. The simplification and coordination of entry procedures will be fully implemented this year for all third-level colleges.

[2284] In the current academic year almost 40 per cent of school leavers entered third level education compared with 20 per cent in 1980 and 25 per cent in 1986. Under the Government's programme of expansion the participation rate will soon be about 45 per cent. They are dramatic growth rates, from 20 per cent in 1980 to 45 per cent in the not too distant future.

Enrolments in third level education now stand at 75,000. A further increase of 15,000 students is projected over the next four to five years. In a period of less than ten years there will have been an increase of 34,000 students in third level education — a staggering increase of 60 per cent.

Despite the explosion in numbers of students at third level more than half of all students at present in third level colleges receive grants. The total student support for fees and maintenance provided by the State is about £72 million. The average support per student is £1,900 per annum.

The massive growth in student numbers is nowhere more evident than in the case of ESF aided programmes. In 1986 there were some 10,600 students on ESF-aided third level programmes. In the programme of support negotiated under the European Community Support Framework, provision for an expansion of that number to 19,600 by 1993 was made. By 1990 that threshold had been reached.

Since 1990 a further 2,600 students have joined the same programmes for whom no ESF support is available. The State, therefore, has had to meet the full costs of these extra students which amounts to £10 million per annum.

In circumstances of limited financial resources the choice facing Government was between limiting the number going on to such courses within available funds or, alternatively, trying to accommodate more students by applying a means test to maintenance grants payable to the students participating in those programmes. The only equitable solution, which would not militate against students from the lower income groups, was to apply means testing. Even at that the savings achieved only partly offset the [2285] shortfall in ESF funding for the programmes.

I want to stress in the strongest possible terms that there will be no change for students already enrolled on ESF-aided third level courses. I repeat that. Furthermore, all students on these ESF third level courses will continue to have their tuition fees paid for them, regardless of income. What is at issue is means testing for maintenance grants only. Therefore they will still have a considerable advantage over students attending other third level courses.

The developments in relation to ESF grants have to be seen in the wider context of achieving more places for more and more students in third level education within the constraints of limited funds; and a more equitable distribution of the available funds focusing in particular on students from the lower income groups.

The revisions in ESF grants are only one of a number of measures that have been announced to remedy inequities in existing student support schemes. They comprise a package of measures. None should be considered in isolation from the others. The other main features of the package are: the income eligibility ceiling for families will be increased by £2,000 for each child after the first child attending third level education; income eligibility will be assessed on current income rather than, as heretofore, on the income in the year in which the student sat the leaving certificate; mature students who secure a place in a third level institution will automatically be considered to meet the academic requirements for the award of a grant; mature students may be assessed on the basis of their own incomes — and, if married, their spouses' incomes — rather than on their parent's income which has been the case up to now; lone parent's welfare payments under the lone parents allowance scheme will be excluded from the assessment of income for grant eligibility; and income limits and maintenance grants will be indexed-linked in 1992.

From what I have said it will be obvious that the objectives of the measures [2286] announced in relation to third level student grants is to achieve absolute equity in the distribution of available funds. Within these limits the means testing amendments introduced for ESF maintenance grants — and this is an important point — will ensure that a greater number of students from the lower income families will be enabled to participate in third level education.

I am satisfied that the revised arrangements forced on the Government by limited funds protect students from the lower income groups. I accept there is still a problem for students from middle income groups. I am conscious of the financial pressures placed on families in these groups in providing for third level education for their children. Accordingly, I intend to complete a review of the criteria for eligibility for student grants and have that completed by September 1992.

Like Deputy Jim Higgins, I am not satisfied that the overall higher education grants scheme, as it applies now, is a sensible one. For that reason I regard my current review as extremely urgent and timely. For example, the entire grants system will be examined, including the recent changes and will be overhauled by me if practicable and affordable. That will be done right across the board, but I must make it clear that the same rules must apply to all involved.

The current agreement for support from the European Community Structural Funds expires on 31 December 1993. Under this agreement ESF support for programmes run by the education system amounts to some £500 million. I expect that the new agreement on a community support framework, due to come into operation in January 1994, will result in substantially more EC aid for programmes in third level colleges.

I consider that it is vital that the interests of the education system are fully represented in the forthcoming negotiations. Accordingly, I have decided to establish a permanent Department of Education presence in Brussels, a move proposed by Deputy Jim Higgins and his [2287] party whose work in that regard I acknowledge.

Through our representation in Busssels we will seek to develop a clearer view of the Commission's thinking as it develops both on the overall size of the new funds and the underlying principles which will govern the allocation of the increased funds. This will be of immeasurable help in planning the development of education and training provision for the future.

I have no doubt but that there will be a substantial increase in support available to this country from 1994 onwards and am determined to so ensure which could result in a higher level of support for existing programmes. I intend to explore all possibilities to enhance the level and extent of student support within the context of those extra resources.

I commend the amendment to the House.

Mr. Cullimore:  I congratulate the new Minister for Education on his appointment. I have no doubt that he will bring the same degree of professionalism and effectiveness to his duties in the Department of Education as he did in his other Ministries.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I can assure the House that I have no hesitation whatsoever in commending the achievements effected in education since 1987 which, by any standard, have been significant and dramatic.

The reforming measures in the educational area are a clear recognition on the part of Government that individuals' success and the economic development of the community to which they belong are best achieved by enabling them, through appropriate, relevant educational and training programmes, develop their potential to the fullest possible extent.

This Government recognise that our young people are our greatest resource, that education and training are the key to our continued economic growth and development on which the future of our [2288] young people and the quality of life in our society are dependent. Our society, compared with that of other European states, is characterised by its youthfulness in that, out of a population of some 3.5 million, approximately half are under the age of 25 years and almost one million participate in full-time education, representing the highest proportion of population in education among the OECD group of countries.

We have an extremely good education system which fosters and nurtures the talents, aptitudes and abilities of our young people. Nonetheless, in spite of its excellence we must continue to endeavour to reform and develop it so that it will continue to be relevant to existing needs, preparing our young people for life in a dynamic, ever changing world.

There is general acceptance of the policy for a rolling reform process in the education sector, allowing for dynamic qualitative and quantitative improvements in the delivery of those educational services. Therefore our strategy must continue to be one of seeking to ensure that all our young people are afforded an opportunity to achieve their innate potential in the most effective and efficient manner.

As the House will be aware, a new unified course at junior cycle level was introduced in 1989, the old intermediate and day group certificate examinations being replaced from this year by a single junior certificate examination, marking the end of compulsory schooling. I am sure there will be some nostalgia at the passing of the day group and intermediate certificates, both of which held a secure place in the Irish educational consciousness, but I have no doubt that the new courses and examination will be accepted universally for what they are, a major step forward in the development of a coherent, comprehensive system obtaining to the end of compulsory schooling.

As indicated in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the aim of this Government is to encourage and facilitate pupils to continue in full-time education up to the age of 18 years, by [2289] providing a range of education training programmes suited to their abilities and aptitudes.

At present some 74 per cent of young people complete the senior cycle of second level education whereas in 1980, 60 per cent only completed senior cycle. As we approach the end of the present century, a realistic target would be to have 90 per cent of pupils achieve that level of educational attainment with up to 90 per cent of those progressing to some form of post-second level education and training. There is no doubt that this is an ambitious target but I have no doubt that the Government, given their past successes, will succeed in the sustained and committed efforts towards improving retention rates in post-compulsory education. There is some evidence to show that the senior cycle needs to be reformed in a major way in order to provide more fully for all ability levels that will participate in post-compulsory programmes.

Questions have been raised regarding the suitability of the present leaving certificate programme to the educational needs of all our young people who at present follow it. For example, some 20 per cent of students taking not less than five subjects in the leaving certificate do not obtain a grade D in five subjects. A study carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute into the quality of education as seen by young people, indicated that many students who had followed the lower level leaving certificate programme were dissatisfied. However, there was a more positive view of educational experience among those who had followed low level courses with vocational or technical options. Accordingly, the restructuring and reform of senior cycle currently taking place must ensure that individuals can select a range of study options which are in accordance with their abilities, aptitudes and talents. In this way, the senior cycle will be more relevant to the needs of all students and become more responsive to the requirements of the economy for appropriately skilled personnel.

The Minister for Education outlined [2290] in his address the very comprehensive undertaking by Government in the education area in recent years and, in particular, in those areas which are directed towards the disadvantaged. These have been a central feature of the Government's programme since 1987. The increased resources allocated for this area in recent years have been very significant and are strong indicators of the commitment by Government to addressing, in a very practical way, the social equity issues.

The budgetary provisions for vocational education committee student grants and scholarships is almost £42 million. This represents an increase of £6 million approximately or 16 per cent on the 1991 outturn and is required to provide grants for the increased number of students attending programmes in vocational education committee third level colleges. There has been a phenomenal increase in the number of students attending EC supported training programmes in these colleges. In 1985, 10,300 students received ESF grants whereas in 1991, approximately 22,200 were in receipt of such grants. The result of such growth in numbers is that the limited ESF aid available for these training programmes was reached when student enrolments reached 19,600 students approximately. Obviously a conflict between budgetary restraint and increasing student numbers exists. I have urged the Minister to explore all avenues to overcome this problem. Indeed, I welcome the Minister's announcement tonight that he will review the criteria of eligibility for all student grants by September 1992.

Mr. O'Shea:  I dtosach báire, iarraim cead uaitse mo chuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta Howlin agus an Teachta O'Sullivan.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Agus ón Teach, mar is é an Teach a thugann an cead, agus déarfainn go dtabharfaidh siad sin duit agus fáilte. Is that agreed? Agreed.

[2291]Mr. O'Shea:  First, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Deputy Seamus Brennan on his appointment as Minister for Education — we will miss his trips to Waterford Airport and other tourism developments in Waterford — and Deputy Aylward in the adjoining constituency on his appointment. I wish them every success.

The thrust of the Fine Gael motion is acceptable to the Labour Party. I compliment Deputy Jim Higgins in securing the agreement of his Front Bench colleagues to moving this motion and affording the House the opportunity of debating the totally unacceptable decision of the Government to means test the ESF maintenance grants from next September. Last Thursday I tabled a question to the Minister for Education to find out the amount of European Structural Funds spent on Irish third level education in the years 1990 and 1991 and a breakdown on how other funding was spent in the third level institutions in each of those years. I was given the global amounts for 1990 and 1991. The figures were £70.59 million and £72.01 million respectively. The latter part of the reply, however, was appalling and underlines the chaos and total lack of effective financial control at the Department of Education. I was informed that the amount of ESF support spent on individual third level institutions was not readily available and, in view of the inordinate amount of staff time required, it would not be feasible to divert resources from essential tasks to collate the information sought.

The Department of Education have spent approximately £70 million of ESF funding in the past two years and they do not know in detail how that money was spent. Following the recent report of the Committee of Public Accounts in relation to the Carysfort transactions, Deputies cannot but be concerned about accountability in the Department of Education I have, therefore, written to the Comptroller and Auditor-General suggesting that he examine the whole area of third level European Social Funding. As a Dáil [2292] Deputy, and as a Front Bench spokesperson, I resent having to pursue this matter in this fashion having failed to get the required information by way of Dáil question. The new Taoiseach, and his Ministers, in terms of their commitment to open Government, would do well to heed the words of Mr. Justice Hamilton at the beef tribunal in relation to proper answers to Dáil questions. I contend that either the Department have something to hide or operate with unacceptable inefficiency in relation to the ESF area and I base that on the type of reply I received. It is not good enough for a Minister to come back into this House with a reply stating he does not know in detail how £70 million was disbursed in 1990 and 1991.

However, tonight we are debating the decision to means test ESF grants and I put it to the Minister that although the Department of Education may very well try to represent this decision as a directive from the Department of Finance, the real agenda is quite different. I contend that it is part of a strategy to limit the growth of the RTC-DIT sector by diverting students to the universities in the context of a falling birth rate. This policy — and this very same policy pervades the RTC and Dublin Institute of Technology Bills — will result in further centralising of third level resources in Dublin, in particular, and in Cork, Limerick and Galway at the expense of the regions and economic development in the regions.

The publication of the Green Paper on education has once again been deferred following the appointment of a new Minister. According to the terms of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress it was to have been published last September; Minister O'Rourke was to have published it last December; Minister Davern was having a look at it at the time he departed from office and now it seems that the new Minister will spend some time before he presents the Green Paper to the country. This is totally unacceptable. Surely enough time has been spent in the Department dealing with the Green Paper so that publishing it cannot be all that difficult. I worry that the [2293] change of Minister may very well result in the accountancy approach to education tending to dominate rather than a more open educational approach in terms of what education is all about, in terms of the full development of each individual to the absolute extent of his or her potential.

The Green Paper has not arrived. In this context I welcome very much, in the Minister's response tonight, the provision of permanent representation in Brussels for this country. The fact is the Green Paper has not been published. All those with an interest in education, parents just as much as teachers and administrators, should be involved in this debate to come up with policies which will put this country on the proper track, in terms of economic development and education, and take us into the next century. We are sending a representative to Brussels in order to attract more funds, but I would contend that, even though the Minister tonight seemed to give the idea that his Department have an overall policy, that is not so. The Department of Education have been moving along in a certain ad hoc fashion and we need look no further than the position at second level.

The Barber report clearly demonstrates that each town in Ireland, by the year 2006, will have one second level institution, but there is no policy emerging in the Department to ensure amalgamations will be effected in the best interests of students and parents. All the various local vested interests will descend on the scene and some agreement will be cobbled together, whereas what is required is a long term policy which will provide for the children of Ireland and the proper utilisation of all resources and facilities available.

The Minister mentioned the review committee which his predecessor, Deputy Davern, had referred to — the review committee established to examine the income limits in relation to third level grants. I was very glad to hear tonight that the review is to be completed by September. However, no indication has been given as to what will happen when [2294] the review body report and their recommendations are put before the Government. Since I entered this House, there has been a tendency to refer everything to a review body: at primary level we have had the primary review body and the curriculum review body. When these report, there is a certain amount of hooha and then nothing happens. Therefore, the last thing we need in this vital area is another review body.

I would like to draw the Minister's attention to the section on education in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, in particular, clause (m). There is no mention in that section of ESF grants. Neither is there any mention of those grants being curtailed or of means testing. I put it to the Minister that, to the social partners and in particular to the PAYE sector, this amounts to a breach of faith and a breach of the spirit of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

In the press statement issued by the previous Minister, Deputy Davern, on higher education grants, three matters covered in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress were dealt with, that is, the question of increasing the income limit for families with more than one child at third level, assessing mature students on their own income and whether mature students would be regarded as having fulfilled the academic requirements at the stage they gained a place in a third level college. That is to be welcomed. The problem, however, is that the income limits in place in relation to the higher education grants are now to be extended to cover maintenance grants under the ESF. For instance, a two child family with an income of £10,887, will receive the full maintenance grant, in respect of one student, of £561, but I stress that if gross income exceeds £13,214, the meagre maintenance grant of £226 per quarter will not be paid. In order for a four child family to qualify for the full grant their income must not exceed £12,403 and in order to qualify for the meagre maintenance grant of £226 per quarter their income must not exceed £14,832.

[2295] The Labour Party have argued strongly time and again in relation to third level grants — I am talking here of higher education grants and ESF grants — that eligibility must be assessed on net rather than gross income. In relation to the ESF grants, we say “let them be” and that they should not be means tested. Great play can be made of the fact that the children of the rich obtain ESF grants without being subjected to a means test. In principle, obviously my party have a problem with this. The children to the rich will be educated one way or another. The Clancy report published in 1986 showed that 30 per cent of the children of those in the professional classes gain places in universities, whereas only 12.2 per cent attend RTCs; that 13.9 per cent of children of manual workers attend universities whereas 31.4 per cent attend RTCs.

In relation to the RTCs, it has to be borne in mind that families with rather modest incomes will send their children to the RTCs to pursue either certificate or diploma courses. The children can then go on to university. Because the parents have been in receipt of the ESF grants savings can be made, either from the parents income or the income earned by children during the summer period. In this way many children are allowed to aspire to university degrees which otherwise would not be possible. The point should be made about the ESF grants that this is a legitimate aspiration, and it is totally unacceptable for the Department of Education or, indeed, for the Minister, to act in this way.

The Minister mentioned, in relation to the great improvements that have been made in the education sector, the school psychological service in primary schools which has been introduced on a pilot basis in three areas. While this is to be welcomed, I pointed out to the Minister's predecessor, Deputy O'Rourke, that the greatest problem in our national schools is discipline. There are children in our schools who could be loosely described as being emotionally disturbed, and there is no place to which they can be referred.

[2296] As they can be quite intelligent they are not suited to special schools. However, they can be extremely disruptive. When we consider that £10 million was spent on Carysfort College, we wonder what we could have achieved in relation to a school psychological service, if that funding had been allocated to the primary sector. Children in primary schools would benefit greatly under a better disciplinary regime with the result, that by the time they reach third level, they would be far better prepared than they are at the moment. Teaching has become far more difficult and it is no longer possible to attain job satisfaction or the targets that it was once possible to attain. One of the difficulties is that there is a high degree of burn-out.

In conclusion, I support the Fine Gael motion and compliment Deputy Higgins, once again, for bringing it forward. When we come to vote on it tomorrow night the Labour Party will support it.

Mr. Howlin:  I join other speakers in wishing the new Minister for Education well. That also applies to the Minister of State who comes from an adjoining county which, I hope, augurs well for all the educational establishments in the south-east, a view which I am sure is shared by my colleague, Deputy O'Shea.

I speak on this motion to underscore, to the best of my ability, to the Minister, the Minister of State and the Department, the huge anxiety, particularly among middle income families and parents, about the affordability of third level education for their children. Of all the issues raised at our clinics in recent times this is often one of the most distressing, the sheer panic that parents face trying to plan and map the future of their children. Many, particularly PAYE workers, had hoped they could afford not only to have their first child but subsequent children educated in RTCs or in the Dublin Institute of Technology through the European Social Fund paying for courses. It is nothing short of a devastating blow to them to hear an arbitrary decision by the former Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, to remove this plank [2297] from them and to tell them that, unless they are already in the system, they will not have support for the maintenance of their children from this year. It sent shock waves through many households and the spontaneous reaction of parents — and indeed of students in the senior level in secondary schools — to this suggestion has been very noticeable; it should have registered even with the Minister and the Minister of State.

We must focus on what we want in terms of education, whether we approach education as a right or as a privilege. If we are to begin to tackle the horrendous problems we face providing jobs on an ongoing basis for our young people, let alone the vast number of unemployed, we must at least provide them with the best education possible and consistent with their own abilities. That simply is not happening now. If the Minister had decided to announce a fundamental restructuring of the support system for all third level courses, the Labour Party would possibly have welcomed it. If he had said that the issue would be, not of trying to further restrict moneys going to one category of third level student but to see how best to broaden the scope to allow more people from all sectors and socio-economic backgrounds to advance to the best of their ability, then there would have been some merit in looking at it. However, he blandly announced that he intended to attack one sector of education although he sweetened the news with one or two minor improvements.

The reaction of the vocational education committees across the country, who have their fingers on the pulse in regard to matters of vocational education in particular, should certainly register with the Minister and the Department. It is nothing short of obscene that the Minister would decide to cut support to one sector instead of transforming the whole issue of access to third level education, which is certainly crying out for attention.

I have only a few minutes left as I intend sharing my time with Deputy O'Sullivan. I want to address a particular [2298] issue, my own county and constituency of Wexford. Other Deputies have been parochial and I make no apology for being the same. I do so for one reason: the Clancy report identified Wexford as having the third lowest level of participation in third level education in the country, not a statistic of which I am proud. I am not proud of another statistic, the fact that my county has the second highest level of unemployment, I do not think those two statistics are unrelated.

Most of the students in my county who manage to get third level education attend the regional colleges in the constituency of the Minister of State in Carlow or in Deputy O'Shea's constituency in Waterford. From now on, many of them will not be able to pursue that option and the impact on participation rates in third level education — and the consequent employability of young people from Wexford — will suffer. We already have a disproportionate uptake on a regional basis, an uneven uptake, across the country and instead of looking for mechanisms and devices to allow all the children of the nation to be treated equally, to make progress to the best of their abilities, there is now a set of decisions which will impact even greater on those who are already disadvantaged geographically by the fact of not having a third level facility within their own county boundaries.

The means test as a device for determining entitlement to funding and support is an extraordinarily crude one because it focuses on those who are transparent and honest in all their dealings, in other words, for the greater part, PAYE workers for whom every penny is accountable and transparent but there are other categories who are not as forthcoming, open or obvious in relation to their incomes. Unfortunately, there will again be a total disadvantaging of the PAYE sector.

I am most anxious to have a fundamental reform. The Minister announced a review. I take a jaundiced attitude to reviews because, as my colleague said, so few of them bear fruit. [2299] The Labour Party are fundamentally opposed to this arbitrary attack on one sector which will certainly disadvantage many communities, counties and students.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan:  I am glad to have this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of State on his appointment. When you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, held that position from 1977 to 1981 you were more than generous to the Cork regional technicial college and I hope that the present holder of the office will take a leaf from your book because we are again in need of funds. As my two colleagues complimented the man from the south-east, a little bit of flattery on my part is not out of place.

The Minister said that central to the Government's approach to combating the complexities of disadvantage is to have education seen as an integrated part of the wider political, social, economic and cultural framework of society's development. I differ slightly from that view in as much as I consider that education is the driving force by which we will combat all these problems in society. It is the catalyst and for that reason it is very difficut to accept what the Minister is now trying to introduce — means testing ESF grants.

In another part of his speech the Minister mentioned the massive growth in student numbers which he said was nowhere more evident than in the case of ESF aided programmes. That in itself tells a story because we have often heard references to the poverty trap. However, there was one way out of the poverty trap, through education. I must be extremely careful in what I say in this regard but education is seen as an alternative to unemployment. That is unacceptable, education as a means of combating and defeating unemployment is readily acceptable to me.

There are also misgivings and misunderstandings about the role of regional technical colleges. I am glad that Deputy McGinley is in the House because it seems that the problem to date has been [2300] projected as one appertaining to rural areas. Since the introduction of a central applications system it is commonplace for students from Cork city, which has a regional college and a university, to pursue courses in regional colleges or universities in other counties.

Mr. McGinley:  I know students from Kerry who have had to go to Letterkenny.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan:  For this reason, I do not think the proposal will hit rural based children only; the problem is very real in urban areas also. In view of the proposal to introduce a Green Paper on education in the foreseeable future, I find it difficult to understand why the Minister should insist on having this proposal introduced by next September.

Debate adjourned.

Mr. McGinley:  I thank the Ceann Comhairle for affording me the opportunity of raising this important matter to Glenties and to County Donegal. I should like to congratulate the Minister of State, in her new capacity, for showing an interest in the matter and for being present in the House.

The closure of McDevitts knitwear factory with the loss of 53 jobs last weekend is a devastating blow to the town of Glenties and the surrounding area. McDevitts knitwear factory has been operating and providing employment in this part of Donegal for well over 100 years. It has sustained and supported many families for four or five generations. Last Friday's announcement was the latest if not the final fatal blow to industrial employment in the Glenties area. Over a number of years the town has lost almost all of its employment sources. Bord na Móna, who were major employers, have ceased operations there and only a small number of their former employees who formed a [2301] company are employed there now. Coillte Teoranta's operations in the Glenties area are almost at a standstill. A number of other employers have also ceased to operate. Apart from catering and service jobs, up until last weekend one could say that McDevitts provided the only industrial employment in the area. Regretfully, they have now ceased to operate.

The people of the town were shocked and devastated by the announcement last weekend and they found it impossible to understand how an industry with a long tradition and all the ingredients for success had simply closed down. The workforce of the factory are skilled and committed, the quality of the product they produce is second to none and there is a continuous demand for it. However, there have been 53 extra people on the unemployment register in Glenties since Monday morning. Many of them are young people. Some of them are just married, are building homes and starting their families. Many have mortgage repayments and other financial commitments to meet. What future do they have other than life on the dole or, perhaps, even emigration?

Glenties is one of the best known of all County Donegal towns. The Minister of State is a regular visitor to Glenties. Glenties has achieved the singular distinction of being the overall winner in the national Tidy Towns Competition on four separate occasions. That must be a record. It has also been immortalised in the writings of Patrick McGill, in whose honour the McGill Summer School is held every year. I know the Minister fully understands the significance of this to Donegal, having been a regular attender at that school. To add further to its litany of glories, Glenties is the town which inspired Brian Friel's masterpiece “Dancing at Lughnasa”, a play which has been hailed not alone in Glenties and Dublin but also in the West End and Broadway.

County Donegal has the highest per capita unemployment rate in the country and Glenties must have one of the highest per capita unemployment rates in County [2302] Donegal. This town is in urgent need of attention and action by the job creating agencies of the State. I believe McDevitts knitwear factory has a future. A capital injection would be sufficient to get this factory operating again. The crafts and skills of the workers, which have been accumulated by workers over generations, must not be allowed to disperse. I appeal to the Minister to get in touch with the IDA and arrange a package of help or assistance which will enable this long established industry to re-open.

Glenties is on the edge of the Gaeltacht. It may not be part of the official Gaeltacht but I put it to the Minister that as much Irish is spoken in the shops, businesses and houses of Glenties as there is in many Gaeltacht towns. Perhaps Údarás na Gaeltachta or Roinn na Gaeltachta could be of some assistance as well. This town is bereft of employment and it needs attention urgently. I hope the Minister will do something positive about this in the near future.

Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I wish to thank Deputy McGinley for raising this matter which gives me an opportunity to find my voice in my new capacity. Only for him, God knows when I would have got an opportunity to speak.

I want to assure the House that I share the Deputy's concern about this matter. I thank him for his kind references to my many visits to Glenties. As the Deputy knows, I was very involved in the Patrick McGill school. I have always enjoyed my visits to County Donegal. My constituency colleagues, the Minister of State at the Department of the Gaeltacht, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher, and Deputy Mary Coughlan, have also spoken to me about this matter. I know they share the Deputy's concerns in this regard.

I have read some of the history of this factory, which had been most enterprising and innovative since its establishment during the last century. I can well imagine the effect the closure of this factory will have on the wider community [2303] in Glenties and the surrounding areas. As the Deputy said, this factory has been the town's major employer over the years. As I am sure the Deputy knows, McDevitts made serious losses during the first nine months of 1991. Following a petition by the company the courts appointed an interim examiner on 3 October 1991. He made his interim report to the High Court on 14 October 1991 pursuant to section 15 of the Companies (Amendment) Act, 1990. In his interim report the examiner stated that the company had sustained substantial trading losses. It was his view that the company needed time to reorganise, to develop a new trading strategy and to raise additional equity in the hope of securing its future. He was also of the opinion — this is particularly important in the context of ongoing talks — that subject to a number of reservations the company could survive. My Department kept themselves informed of developments and the IDA were very supportive. I am also aware that the workforce were more than willing to ensure the continuity of the business and gave their full co-operation to whatever reorganisation had to take place. I want to thank the workforce for the very open and positive attitude they took to the proposals which were put forward at that time.

The examiner reported back to the court in early November 1991 and again on 17 December when he presented his final report. Further court hearings were adjourned during January 1992 while discussions continued with the company's bankers, the Revenue Commissioners and other interested or involved parties. Unfortunately — perhaps this is the note of discord — one of the parties to the proposed restructuring withdrew his support two days before the court hearing on 7 February 1992. In those circumstances, the examiner had no alternative but to recommend to the court that the company be put into liquidation. A liquidator was appointed on the same day.

Rationalisation and restructuring of the textile industry has taken place since the seventies when Ireland joined the [2304] EC. I know this is no comfort to the workforce of McDevitts, but I want to put it into an Irish and European context. This was part of an ongoing requirement to adapt to changing market opportunities. Textile industries in Athlone, which had a long tradition, were part of the huge casualties during the early years of the seventies. Considerable resources have been employed in the past decade by the State to help clothing companies. Strategies have been put in place, involving State agencies in modern methods of marketing and appropriate action plans. Obviously more marketing strategies will have to be put in place and more pivotal arrangements made whereby there will be a quick response to ongoing needs.

As the House is aware the multilateral system for trade in clothing and textiles is currently under review in the context of the negotiations on the Uruguay Round, and a commitment has been given for the eventual integration of trade in textiles and clothing with GATT on the basis of strengthened GATT rules and disciplines. That is all very interesting and discursive but the reason for Adjournment Debates is to give an opportunity to local Deputies to express on the Floor of this House their concerns about a particular issue. I hope that as part of the proposed Oireachtas reform more emphasis will be placed on matters such as this. The House must be seen to be relevant. Therefore while all the information before me in the departmental brief is very interesting from my point of view it is not what the Deputy wants to know.

I assure the Deputy that I am fully conscious of the adverse impact, both economically and socially, of the redundancy of 53 people at McDevitt's in the Glenties. The House will realise of course that in the case of any enterprise a closure decision is a matter for management and is a very sad one for the community. Obviously there are details of this case which it is not open to me to reveal at this stage because of their confidential nature, but the liquidator has confirmed to the IDA that he has already had a few inquiries which he is pursuing. I assure [2305] the House that the IDA are in constant contact with those involved and will do everything possible to ensure a satisfactory outcome of these inquiries.

The IDA regional manager has agreed to meet with the employees, SIPTU and members of the general public to discuss the situation in Glenties. I have asked the IDA to keep my Department informed of developments. In recent years many jobs have been created in Donegal. I assure the Deputy that I will keep in touch with him concerning this matter. I hope the inquiries will result in tangible efforts to solve the problem.

Miss Quill:  I should like to thank the Chair for giving me an opportunity to raise this important issue. I will begin by congratulating Deputy O'Dea on his appointment as Minister of State at the Department of Justice. He brings to this post a high degree of professional competence, and I know he will make a great success of his brief. The Minister has not been in this office very long but I have no doubt that by now he will have been made aware of the imminent threat to the rule of law in the city of Cork and its environs because of the cessation of the free legal aid scheme in recent months.

This scheme ceased to operate last October. Despite the horrendous consequences which were well catalogued by some of Cork's most respected and responsible citizens, most notably and most recently by a judge of the Circuit Court and a State solicitor, no progress appears to have been made to break the deadlock. The results are inevitable. There has been a significant increase in the level of crime. Accordingly householders live in fear as the numbers of crimes of burglary, larceny and theft multiply. In the meantime criminals are having a fair day in the certain knowledge that they can now operate without redress. Naturally the Garda are demoralised as many of their efforts to bring offenders to justice end in failure. [2306] The courts system in the city stands discredited. In short, the rule of law and order is on the verge of collapse.

This morning a senior Circuit Court judge was reported in a local newspaper to have warned that unless an immediate settlement was brought about — I quote direct from the judge —“a number of dangerous criminals would be let loose in the streets of Cork”. The judge adjourned until Monday of next week 40 cases referred to his court on appeal from the District Court. The cases in question relate to burglary, malicious damage, drugs and joyriding. This information was supplied to the court by the State solicitor.

The same judge in further comment cautioned, “if these cases are not dealt with properly the citizens of Cork will be endangered and their property will be endangered also”. When such a distinguished member of the Judiciary, a man not given to careless comment, speaks out in such a strong and clear fashion it is evident that the situation can no longer be ignored. The impasse must be broken and action taken at once to enable all court hearings to proceed in a proper manner.

The people of Cork are incensed, and rightly so. They feel that if this was a nationwide problem it would have been settled long ago. They quite correctly demand that the matter be resolved without further delay. They will stand for no further erosion of law and order in their city. I appeal to the Minister to act now and take whatever course is open to him to ensure that this appalling state of affairs is not allowed continue any longer.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Mr. O'Dea):  First, I wish to thank Deputy Quill for her good wishes. She mentioned I have not been very long in this office — about three hours. The provision of civil and criminal legal aid, not just in the Cork area but all over the country, is a matter in which I have had a great interest. Deputy Quill said that if this was a nationwide problem immediate steps would be taken to resolve it. What is being overlooked is that it is a nationwide [2307] problem, but there are particular problems in Cork to which I will refer.

The difficulties which have arisen in Cork city as a result of the withdrawal by solicitors there from the operation of the criminal legal aid scheme are a cause of grave concern to me, a concern which no doubt is shared by all right thinking people who are acquainted with the situation. The position is that in any criminal case where the accused is entitled to free legal aid he is not being remanded in custody, nor is his trial being processed because of an absence of legal representation. I am only too well aware of the difficulties this has created for those charged with law enforcement and for the officers of the court. Deputy Quill adverted to the concern articulated by responsible citizens in Cork. I am also very conscious of the concern that this situation is giving rise to among the law-abiding community in Cork.

Before addressing the problem I want to outline for the benefit of the House the manner in which the criminal legal aid system operates. This I consider essential to a proper understanding of the situation. In certain circumstances free legal aid is granted under the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act, 1962, and the regulations made under that Act for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings. The grant of legal aid entitles the applicant to the services of a solicitor and, where appropriate, counsel, in the preparation and conduct of his defence or appeal. Fees and expenses totalling £3.152 million were paid in 1991 in respect of criminal legal aid. The 1992 allocation is £3,870 million, an increase of 22 per cent over 1991.

The assignment of a solicitor to a successful applicant is a matter for the court granting the free legal aid. Such an assignment is normally made from a panel of solicitors who have indicated their willingness to undertake legal aid work. Where the assistance of counsel is allowed, the solicitor assigned may instruct any member of the Bar whose [2308] name is included in a similar panel of counsel.

As regards the fees paid under the scheme, the remuneration of solicitors for legal aid cases in the District Court and for appeals from the District Court to the Circuit Court is controlled by way of regulations which the Minister for Justice is empowered to make under the 1962 Act. The fees of solicitors and counsel in the higher courts are determined entirely by the fees which the Director of Public Prosecutions pays to prosecution counsel, through parity agreements introduced by way of regulations in 1976 and 1978. Changes in the scale of fees paid to lawyers under the scheme and changes in the scheme itself involve my Department in consultation with the Incorporated Law Society and with the Bar Council, whose members operate the scheme.

The most recent increase in fees to solicitors for cases heard in the District Court and cases appealed from the District Court to the Circuit Court was introduced with effect from 1 January 1991. Also, for cases heard in the Circuit and Higher Courts — cases that begin in the Circuit Court or in the Central Criminal Court — solicitors received two very significant increases in fees in 1991 following negotiations which took place between the Bar Council and the Director of Public Prosecutions. There is a fixed relationship between the fee paid to counsel and the fee paid to solicitors for cases in the Circuit or higher courts. These increases took effect from 1 April 1991 and from 1 October 1991.

With regard to the difficulties in the Cork area these first arose when the Southern Law Association decided unilaterally that unless a fee structure in line with the minimum scale recommended by them — the Southern Law Association — was put in place on or before 30 September 1991, all members of the legal aid panel in Cork would resign from the panel. They communicated that decision to my predecessor in a letter dated 9 September and on 30 September, having given a three week ultimatum, they went ahead with their action, notwithstanding [2309] an exchange of letters between the Minister's private secretary and the association in which the association were advised that in matters relating to the participation of solicitors in the criminal legal aid scheme my Department negotiate with the Incorporated Law Society, which represents all solicitors on free legal aid panels. It was suggested that they should make their views known to the society, which they did. Prior to 9 September there had been no suggestion from any organisation that solicitors were dissatisfied with the scale of fees which applied to them.

The response of my Department to a request from the Law Society for a meeting to discuss the level of fees was positive. The meeting was delayed at the request of the Law Society while it was formulating the claim. It was not delayed through inaction on the Department's part. That society presented their claim at a meeting which took place today in my Department.

I find the position adopted by the Southern Law Association in this sad affair difficult to comprehend for a number of reasons. First, the association represent only a portion of the solicitors in this State and in matters such as remuneration, which affects all solicitors, it is clearly in accord with normal industrial relations practices for claims to be lodged and processed by the representative body for all solicitors, that is, the Incorporated Law Society, which also exercise a statutory role in relation to solicitors in the State. I mention that because the role is about to be enhanced under the solicitors' Bill, shortly to be introduced. On all occasions in the past it is with the Law Society that the Department negotiated in such matters and the Law Society have not relinquished their negotiating status. It would be impossible for my Department to negotiate with a purely local group on a matter of this kind, thereby bypassing their normal representative body.

Second, the letter of 9 September from the Southern Law Association did not constitute a request to enter into negotiations on a matter that was causing their [2310] membership some concern. It was couched in terms that could only be described as a virtual ultimatum to my predecessor to accept their demands or else, within a short few weeks, they would withdraw their services. That is not the manner of conduct I would expect from a highly esteemed professional body.

Third, although the Southern Law Association did bring the matter to the attention of the Law Society as was suggested to them, they nevertheless adhered to the timescale contained in their ultimatum. Accordingly, with effect from 30 September 1991, solicitors in Cork city refused to handle criminal legal aid cases. They persisted in their action notwithstanding the difficulties this has created for the operation of the courts in Cork city and the impact it has had and continues to have on law enforcement in the area. The Law Society have kept the Cork solicitors fully advised of the position with regard to the society's submission seeking a substantial increase in fees but so far this has failed to achieve a resumption of services.

It would appear that, notwithstanding the positive developments of which the association were and are aware, the Cork solicitors do not intend recommencing legal aid work until there is agreement on a substantial increase in fees. There is no statutory authority which would enable my Department to compel them to do so and, even if there were, I am not sure that that would be the best way to proceed.

Therefore, I appeal to the solicitors in Cork, even at this late stage, to have regard to the damage which their action is doing to the standing of the law in the eyes of the law-abiding community in their city and to the concern they are causing to that community. I ask them to help restore normality to the situation there by resuming legal aid work pending the outcome of the negotiations which are ongoing between my Department and the Incorporated Law Society.

I reiterate what I said earlier. The meeting between the Law Society, which was delayed at the instance of the Law [2311] Society, and my Department took place in the Department today, so, hopefully, there will be progress. I appeal to the Southern Law Association not to take it upon themselves to negotiate criminal legal aid fees. That cannot be done; there is a representative body which does this on their behalf. That representative body is now proceeding to negotiate and perhaps the local Oireachtas Members in the Cork area would use their good offices to persuade them to do this.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair hesitates to interrupt the Minister or Minister of State when he or she is imparting information to the House, but the Chair has an overriding obligation to adhere to the rules governing Adjournment debates of this kind, that is, five minutes for the Deputy and five minutes for the Minister or Minister of State involved. Regard should be had to that fact.

Mr. Howlin:  I will abide by the admonition. I have raised this matter in the House before. It is a long, ongoing saga, and I am compelled by circumstances to raise it once again for the attention of the new Minister for Education and the Minister of State who is present. I hope that not only will I be satisfied with the response, but the people of Wexford will be satisfied with the response tonight.

The situation in the town of Wexford vocational school is nothing short of scandalous. From the documentation undoubtedly available to him, the Minister will be aware of the terrible conditions that students, teachers and the parents of those students must put up with in the school. For 14 years they have worked towards the idea of having a new school built. Today 660 students are housed in eight pre-fabricated buildings, two cloakrooms, four converted bedrooms and two converted town houses. There are no staff toilets, no gymnasium, no proper kitchen, no social area, no geography room, no career guidance [2312] room, no assembly hall, no staffroom — I could go on about all the basic essentials one would assume to be available in a school that simply do not exist there.

Last April the former Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, visited the school and saw the conditions in which the teachers and pupils worked. Despite those appalling conditions we are getting marvellous results. The Minister gave a pledge to the chairman, to the Oireachtas Members and to the people of Wexford, that there would be no undue delay in relation to providing finances to complete the urgent works necessary. We took the Minister in good faith and indeed the local Deputy, the Minister's colleague, graced our local paper with the announcement “New vocational education committee school is sanctioned for Wexford”. We welcome that because parents, teachers and pupils have been extraordinarily patient, tolerant and responsible in this matter. We have accepted a modification of plans and all the restrictions imposed in relation to this matter by the Department over many years.

One can imagine, therefore, the dismay that greeted the announcement by the former Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, on 11 February, when he published the public capital programme for secondary and vocational schools. It outlined projects up and down the country and indeed a very welcome one in my constituency, in Gorey, but there was nothing for Wexford. It is felt that it was a reneging on a pledge and commitment from his predecessor. What I am asking for tonight, in the name of all the people of Wexford, is for the Minister of State to clarify this matter. There should be no ambiguity, no fudging the issues. There should be a clear statement of the Government's intention in regard to the funding of this project for 1992. I cannot over-state to the Minister the negative reaction of parents who are suggesting that they will take to the streets; of teachers, who have now decided and have served notice on Wexford Vocational Education Committee [2313] of their intention to withdraw labour from substandard classrooms beginning on 18 March next, one month from this week. They have been brought to the end of their tether, and the limit of their patience in this matter. I appeal to the Minister once again to be clear about this and to give us the good news that the commitment of the Minister's predecessor will be honoured and we will have our money for this year to complete this urgent project.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward):  I thank Deputy Howlin for his kind remarks about my appointment. He wished that it would be of benefit to the south-east region and I also hope it will be. I can understand his frustration in relation to this school in Wexford town. I know from experience, having spent the best part of 15 years on the back benches, how frustrating it can be to bring a project almost to fruition. Indeed, I have manv more such projects in my own constituency at present.

I am grateful for this opportunity to respond to the matters raised by the Deputy regarding the town of Wexford vocational school. I am indeed aware of the condition of the existing school accommodation and I am fully committed to having the urgently required facilities provided as soon as possible.

The building project proposed would represent a major improvement in the facilities available to the pupils attending the school and I appreciate that, having regard to the accommodation available at present, the County Wexford Vocational Education Committee, teachers, parents and pupils would wish to see the project commence as soon as possible. However, the planning of each project involving the provision of new, permanent accommodation is a detailed and complex procedure which must meet the Department's requirements and so in order to clarify the exact position of this project I would like, first of all, to give some brief details of the background to the project.

A proposal to provide an extension to [2314] cater for 800 pupils at Wexford vocational school was approved in 1984 and the architectural planning of the extension followed. However, due to lack of capital the project did not proceed to construction and in 1990, as with all major projects in planning, it was necessary to carry out a detailed review of the proposals in view of the declining demographic trends which had become evident throughout the country. Following this review it was agreed with the vocational education committee that the provision of 550 places would be adequate for the long term needs of the school. Consequently, revised plans for the reduced project had to be prepared, and the architectural planning of the revised project is still in progress. In November 1991 the vocational education committee were asked to prepare the bills of quantities for the revised project in accordance with stage 5 of the Department's design team procedures. My Department are currently awaiting the submission of this documentation for examination.

Mr. Howlin:  You will have it on Friday.

Mr. Aylward:  As the architectural planning has not been completed, I am not in a position to give a precise date for the commencement of the project. However, I would again say that I fully appreciate the difficulties which are currently affecting Wexford town vocational school and the anxieties expressed by both teachers and pupils. I am satisfied, however, that the most practical and feasible way of dealing with the problem is to ensure that no effort is spared in providing the additional accommodation at the earliest possible time.

Again, Deputy, I guarantee my goodwill towards this project. As the Deputy is aware, I have been in the Department for only a very short time and I have not had an opportunity to look in detail at the many projects which are on file and indeed which relate particularly to the south-east region and my own constituency as well.

[2315]Mr. Howlin:  Perhaps the Minister would visit Wexford?

Mr. Aylward:  I can assure the Deputy that I will take a personal interest in this case and I will keep in contact with the Deputy.

Mr. Deenihan:  Coláiste Pheig Sayers Teo. applied in May 1991 to the Department of Education for recognition of a Coláiste Samhraidh in Baile an Lochaigh, Baile na nGall. The college at Baile an Lochaigh is already built at the owners cost, with the help of an AIB mortgage on a site that was provided free of charge. There are no plans, nor indeed is it the intention of the owners, to seek any public funding for the £25,000 construction costs. The board of Coláiste Pheig Sayers Teo. went ahead with the building following assurances from the Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, that there would be no problem regarding recognition. Most of the students who stay in and around the Baile an Lochaigh area would be within walking distance of this new coláiste which I understand is the only purpose-built coláiste samhaidh in the west Kerry Gaeltacht. It would be senseless to bus students past the door of an empty building in Baile an Lochaigh to a less suitable building in Ballyferriter, nine miles away. It would mean that the facilities in Ballyferriter would be stretched to the limit to cope with students from both Baile an Lochaigh and Ballyferriter, all, incidentally, being students of Coláiste Pheig Sayers.

One of the big problems with Irish colleges is lack of classroom accommodation and proper facilities and that ranges from Donegal to west Kerry. In west Kerry classes have been held in garages, changing rooms, factories, community halls and so on. Coláiste Pheig Sayers have had to use disused Údarás na Gaeltachta factories for classes. The lands at Baile an Lochaigh are comprised of 19 acres, which gives ample room to develop playing fields, tennis courts and [2316] so on, if the school authorities get recognition from the Department of Education.

Since 1988, attendance at Coláiste Pheig Sayers Teo. has increased from 40 pupils to 400 in 1991. This is an indication of the quality of its courses and the emphasis on high standards. I would remind the Minister that this college which is already built has full planning permission from Kerry County Council and has the backing of all the people in the parish. In order for Coláiste Pheig Sayers to function effectively and to get a fair crack of the whip the authorities need this recognition as a matter of urgency.

I wish to mention precedents for Irish colleges being sited within yards of each other — in the seventies in Cape Clear Island; in the eighties Coláiste Chiaráin and Coláiste Cholumba in An Cheathrú Rua and in 1991 in Ballyferriter itself. Minister, please have this college recognised just for the sake of the Irish language.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward):  As was indicated in reply to the Deputy's question last Thursday, proposals received for the establishment of the college referred to have not been sanctioned by my Department as the area in question is considered to be adequately served by Irish colleges already. This decision was taken after full consideration of the proposal by my Department's inspectorate, who advise on the operation of the scheme under which my Department pay grants in respect of summer courses held in accordance with the terms of the scheme in recognised Irish colleges.

In administering this scheme, in particular in relation to the establishment of new colleges or the extension of existing colleges into new areas, my Department must take account of the position of colleges already operating in those areas. It would not be in the best interests of the colleges, or of the people of the Gaeltacht areas in which they operate, many of whom derive great economic benefit from the operation of such colleges, if my Department did not seek to regulate the [2317] development of the scheme. For this reason, my Department have decided that in future, recognition will not be given to the establishment of new Irish colleges in cases where it is considered that there is already adequate provision.

I should, however, point out that this does not mean that my Department are unwilling to consider any applications for extension of the network of recognised colleges. Indeed, the recognition granted to Coláiste Pheig Sayers in 1988 to operate in Dún Chaoin and Baile an Fheirtéaraigh is an example of my Department's approval of proposals beneficial to an area which was previously under-provided for.

Mr. Creed:  I thank you, Sir, for affording me the opportunity to raise a very serious problem encountered vis-á-vis the scheduling of leaving certificate examinations.

Undoubtedly the period leading up to the leaving certificate is the most traumatic period in any student's life in that the results of one's leaving certifiate examination effectively dictate one's future career and employment prospects. No other examination in later life has the same overbearing consequences. In the light of that, the decision of the Department of Education to force certain pupils, pursuring certain course options, to sit three examinations, each of three hours' duration, consecutively, in one day, is unfair and will seriously jeopardise their future career prospects.

Over last weekend the cases of two pupils in a secondary school in my constituency were brought to my attention by their parents and school principals. I have already given the Minister personal details of these cases but, for the purposes of the record, I want to outline them. Pupils pursuing the following course options, namely, Spanish, technical drawing and chemistry, under current arrangements will be obliged to sit these three-hours examinations consecutively on the same day; this day will constitute half of the entire leaving certificate as six subjects only are considered [2318] when calculating results for third level education entry requirements.

The two pupils concerned are both pursuing higher level papers in all three subjects. I ask the Minister: is this a fair arrangement? These pupils will have spent the preceding two years preparing for this examination and surely deserve a better deal. I contend this log jam should have been forseen.

I appeal to the Minister to reschedule one of these examinations to an alternative date thereby easing the unfair pressure on the students involved.

I understand there is a difficulty because two subjects — Italian and Art — clash. Although I do not have personal details of individual pupils concerned in similar log-jamming fixtures, I appeal to the Minister to investigate this serious problem. No pupil sitting the leaving certificate examination, which will decide his or her future destiny, should be forced to work under such extreme pressure.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward):  Considerable thought is given each year to the scheduling of subjects within the timetable of the certificate examinations. Special account is taken of the number of candidates taking each subject and of previous cases where there has been a clash of subjects.

At the same time, by long standing agreement with the school authorities, the examination period may not exceed 13 days. The reasons for this agreement relate mainly to the length of the school year and a common desire to keep the overall examination period from being excessively long. Other factors which must be taken into account include the time necessary to mark candidates' scripts and the need to have results issued to schools at the earliest possible date.

Given those constraints and the range of subjects which must be examined, it is inevitable that each year a number of the smaller subjects will be scheduled for the same day. No change can be effected in [2319] the examinations' timetable for 1992 at this point.

Mr. Creed:  Disgraceful.

Mr. Aylward:  I might add that, where a candidate has to sit more than two examinations in one day, this will be brought to the attention of the examiners involved. The number of candidates so involved is very small: for example, on 22 June a total of ten candidates are entered for more than two examinations and on 23 June a total of 15 candidates are entered for more than two examinations.

In view of the Deputy's interest I am prepared to raise the matter again with my Department since I and anybody who has sat any examination will readily appreciate the trauma involved in sitting more than one examination on any one day. I should like to discuss the matter further with the Deputy later in the week.

Mr. Flanagan:  I am glad to have this opportunity to raise this important matter with the Minister of State whom I welcome to the House. I wish him every success in his tasks.

I raise this matter this evening as a result of a report in the national newspapers of 11 February following a decision on the part of the former Minister for Education, Deputy Noel Davern, to allocate a sum of the order of £20 million for second level school building projects, when, to the dismay and shock of the people of Mountmellick, there was no mention of the Mountmellick community school or of the need to have urgent repairs carried out thereto.

I might refer the Minister of State to a debate in this House on 23 May 1991 Official Report, Volume 418, No. 9, when I raised the matter with the former Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, who stated, in the course of a reply to me [2320] that “obviously the urgent work will have to be done”.

I say to the new Minister for Education that this work must be undertaken in 1992. Everybody accepts the urgency of the work in the form of roof repairs, the provision and installation of a central heating system and the necessary equipment to allow the courses in the various classes to be conducted in accordance with the school curriculum. These works are long overdue in what is a well recognised, long established, second level school, now a modern community school.

I ask the Minister to reassure the people of north County Laois and parents in the Mountmellick area that these works will be carried out in 1992, notwithstanding the body blow delivered by former Minister Davern in totally omitting these urgent necessary works.

Mr. Aylward:  I am aware of the urgent need for improvements at Mountmellick community school and plans and specifications have been prepared for carrying out these repairs and renovations. Departmental consultants are at present examining applications from interested contractors wishing to tender for this work. Pending receipt and examination of the consultants' report I am not in a position to indicate when it will be possible to have the work commence.

The position regarding equipment is that since 1990, £105,414 were spent on the acquisition of new equipment to complement existing resources at Mountmellick community school. A proposal for additional equipment is at present being evaluated by my Department in respect of which the Deputy will be notified of the decision taken as soon as possible.

Mr. Flanagan:  I am sure the Minister will meet a deputation.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 February 1922.

  44.  Mr. J. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Health    if he has assessed the impact on health service provision of the budget allocations made to health agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The 1992 letter of allocation to each health agency asks that budgets be drawn up within approved allocation and that matching service plans be agreed with my Department. Discussions are continuing on the details of these service plans and until they are completed I am not in a position to make any comment on their impact on service provision.

  46.  Mr. Noonan (Limerick-East)    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the amount of subvention for varying levels of nursing home care for which he has budgeted money in 1992; and the date on which these will come into operation.

[1997]

  276.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Health    when it is intended to implement within each of the regional health boards, the extended subvented bed coverage for geriatric patients under the Private Nursing Homes Act, 1990; when the registration of new homes will take place to facilitate extra patients being covered; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  Preparations to commence the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, are at an advanced stage. Details of the amounts of subvention payable under the new Act for nursing home care will be proposed shortly and will be the subject of discussion with the nursing home interests and bodies representing the interests of the elderly.

An additional £1 million has been made available this year for services to the elderly, of which a proportion will be available for the implementation of the new Act. This funding is in addition to the approximately £15 million spent by health boards in respect of patients in private and voluntary nursing homes in 1991.

The Act will be brought into effect. Registration of all nursing homes will take place within one year of the date of the commencement of the Act. Health boards will be empowerd to pay subventions under the Act in respect of residents in a nursing home as soon as the home is registered.

Funding of £.5 million has already been made available to health boards to assist with the implementation of the new subvention scheme.

  48.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Minister for Health    when he plans to publish a discussion document on reform of the mental illness Acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[1998]

  274.  Mr. Spring    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the specific statutory means which will be employed to ensure the feasibility of the continued enactment of the Mental Health Act, 1981.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 274 together. I am aware that our mental health legislation is in need of review. This is because there have been dramatic changes in the practice of psychiatry since the current legislation was enacted and this change has accelerated since the publication of the policy document Planning for the Future which was published in 1984 and approved in principle by the Government. It is also important that the legislation be up-dated to ensure that the rights of individuals are fully protected in line with modern concepts and that we meet our obligations under international conventions in this respect. I am actively considering this at present.

The Health (Mental Services) Act, 1981, has not been brought into force because some of the provisions of the Act require the preparation of regulations but in some instances the power to make regulations is defective and the general thrust of the Act has been superseded by developments in the psychiatric services.

  51.  Mrs. Fennell    asked the Minister for Health    when he intends to promote the new findings with regard to cot deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  As a result of recent studies concerning sudden infant death syndrome — cot death — and following consultation between the chief medical officer of the Department of Health and the Faculty of Paediatrics of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, my Department recommended the following guidelines which may help parents and those caring for babies to reduce the risk of sudden infant deaths: a baby should be placed on his or her back or side to sleep; babies should not be allowed to become too warm; expectant mothers should not [1999] smoke nor allow anyone to smoke near the baby during the first year of life; if at all possible mothers should breastfeed babies for the first few weeks, not because this in itself reduces the risk of cot death, but because it may reduce the risk of infection.

In addition the health promotion unit of my Department are liaising with the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association in the preparation of information materials on the matter and discussing other ways of disseminating the four points to parents.

It must be emphasised that notwithstanding these recommendations, which are primarily based on a recent statistical analysis of cot deaths as far as posture and temperature are concerned, the actual cause of these deaths still sadly remains uncertain. My Department will be keeping research in this matter constantly under review.

  54.  Mr. Spring    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the financial assistance his Department will give towards the cost of training programmes conducted by the Rape Crisis Centre for volunteer personnel who wish to train as counsellors in order to provide a voluntary service at various points throughout the country.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I recognise the valuable contribution made by all the rape crisis centres in the counselling of victims of rape and sexual abuse.

In this instance I presume the Deputy is referring specifically to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

A service and finance review of the centre was recently undertaken by the Eastern Health Board and completed on 14 October 1991. The review acknowledged the substantial commitment the centre had to educate and train both health professionals and voluntary organisations on a national scale. In the case of volunteer personnel the centre has [2000] designed an education programme for persons to whom children and young people may disclose sexual abuse or who may come in contact with children who are abused.

A sum of £25,000 has been allocated through the Eastern Health Board specifically for the purposes of continuing the important role of the centre's education department in 1992. This amount is separate from a sum of £127,000 already allocated towards supporting the continued operation of the centre's other activities in 1992.

  55.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Health    if he will introduce free screening and treatment for pupils who suffer from the perceptual disfunction known as scotopic sensitivity syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I am advised that there are serious reservations among the medical profession as to the condition described as scotopic sensitivity syndrome.

Until such time as the condition has been properly evaluated and has been generally accepted by the medical profession it would be premature to provide for screening and treatment.

Under section 66 of the Health Act, 1970 health boards provide child health clinics and national school health examinations at which screening for, among other things, opthalmic defects is carried out. The health boards provide, free of charge, appropriate treatment and appliances in respect of any defects noticed at these examinations including, where necessary, referrals to specialist consultants.

[2001]

  57.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the average waiting time for patients seeking hip replacements in the South-Eastern Health Board region; and the number of patients waiting.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The average waiting time for patients from the South Eastern Health Board region who require hip replacements is between 15 and 18 months. The number of patients on the South Eastern Health Board hip replacement waiting list at 31 December 1991 was 262.

It will be of interest to the Deputy to know that, in 1991, 137 hip replacement operations were performed in the region. In 1990, my predecessor approved an additional £517,000 for the provision of elective orthopaedic services in the south-east and a similar amount has been provided in 1991 and 1992.

  59.  Mr. Cotter    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the amount of savings which accrued to his Department as a result of the changes introduced to the drugs refund scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The drugs refund scheme, which provides for a refund of any expenditure on prescribed drugs and medicines in excess of a specified amount over a prescribed period, was amended with effect from 1 August 1991.

Under the amended scheme, the prescribed periods for expenditure are the quarterly period commencing on 1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October in each year. A refund is made in respect of any expenditure in excess of £90 over the course of any of these periods.

These changes were only introduced to the drugs refund scheme in August 1991 and, accordingly, it is too early as yet to judge their full impact on actual expenditure and therefore the level of savings generated.

[2002]

  60.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Health    whether he has estimated the projected capital and full year revenue cost of implementing each phase of the Child Care Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  It is difficult to estimate the cost of implementing the Child Care Act as the new legislation involves a fundamental change in orientation to a more pro-active and preventative approach. The ultimate cost is largely dependent on the level of need that is identified and on decisions by health boards and courts on the extent of intervention needed in individual cases.

Given the scale and complexity of the new legislative provisions, it has always been recognised by all sides of the House and by the various interest groups that the Act would have to be implemented on a phased basis over a number of years. The Government are committed to providing the necessary resources to facilitate such a phased and orderly implementation of the legislation.

Last year a sum of £1 million was set aside in the budget to fund essential developments preparatory to the implementation of the legislation. These moneys were used to initiate a number of developments including: recruiting 30 additional social workers; providing additional places for the young homeless in Dublin, Galway, Athlone and Sligo; developing new children's residential centres at Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Stranolar; and developing new child psychiatric services in the North-Eastern, South-Eastern and Mid-Western Health Boards.

The full year cost of the developments approved during 1991 is estimated at almost £3 million and full provision for this is included in the 1992 Health Estimates and in the allocations notified to health boards.

I am anxious to build on the considerable progress made during 1991 so that we can bring substantial elements of the Child Care Act into operation during the current year. As the House will be aware, the Minister for Finance announced in the budget that a special [2003] allocation of £2 million will be made available for this purpose in 1992. This brings our investment in the Act this year to almost £5 million.

The additional moneys will be used to give effect to a number of important provisions of the Act. These include: section 3 which imposes a statutory duty on health boards to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection and empowers them to provide a comprehensive range of child care and family support services; section 5 which imposes a statutory duty on health boards to provide accommodation for homeless children; section 6 which requires health boards to provide or ensure the provision of an adoption service in their area; section 7 which requires each health board to establish a child care advisory committee to advise and assist it in the performance of its functions under the new legislation; and sections 9 and 10 which enable health boards to make arrangements with voluntary bodies to provide services on their behalf and to grant-aid them for that purpose.

The additional moneys will enable health boards in association with the voluntary sector to begin to develop a comprehensive range of child care and family support services, to recruit additional social workers, child care workers, child psychologists and child psychiatrists and to develop family resource centres and other special initiatives for families facing particular difficulties.

  61.  Mr. G. O'Sullivan    asked the Minister for Health    if, in view of the serious situation at the Cork Regional Hospital regarding the replacement of equipment, he will outline the action he proposes to take; if special funding will be made available to replace this necessary equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The Southern Health Board have [2004] recently submitted a detailed list of equipment requirements at Cork Regional Hospital to my Department. This is being examined in my Department at present in association with the board. Decisions on the provision of additional funds for the purchase of equipment for Cork Regional Hospital will depend on the resources available to me and the competing capital priorities in the health services.

The Deputy will be pleased to learn that, in 1991, my Department approved capital grants of £1 million for the provision of equipment at Cork Regional Hospital.

  62.  Mr. G. O'Sullivan    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the serious shortage of beds in the Cork Regional Hospital over the past two weeks; the action he proposes to take to alleviate the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  There has been an increase in medical admissions to Cork Regional Hospital in recent weeks. Some elective admissions have been cancelled due to pressure on beds. This is a normal feature of hospital activity at this time of year. However, emergency cases continue to be admitted as usual and the hospital authorities are satisfied that there are sufficient beds to meet the demands being placed upon the hospital at present.

My Department have been monitoring the situation and will continue to do so.

[2005]

  63.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that arising from a suspected overpayment of wages/salaries to hospital staff deductions were made from staff wages/salaries for a period of approximately six years, even when it was known that no overpayment to staff had occurred; if he will confirm that special payments were made to the institutions concerned by his Department to allow for the refund of deductions made and for payment of full wages/salaries due to staff; if he will give details of the amount of money paid by his Department for this purpose and to which institutions the money was paid; if he will now ensure that the money so provided by his Department is paid in full to the staff concerned; and if he will institute an inquiry to establish the use to which the money deducted from the payroll was put and the total amount of same.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I understand that the Deputy may be referring to a case which involves payment of appropriate night duty premium to nurses.

Discussions between the hospital authorities and unions representing staff involved are on-going with a view to satisfactory resolution of the case. In these circumstances, it would not be appropriate to comment further.

  64.  Mr. Cotter    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, (a) health boards have reclassified children on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment and (b) this reclassification has moved these children down the priority list; if he will outline whether this action was taken under the terms of a directive issued by his Department; if he will provide statistics of the number of children who received orthodontic treatment for each of the years 1988 to 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  82.  Mr. Farrelly    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the criteria used when patients on the dental lists for orthodontic treatment in each of the health board areas were removed from these lists, some of whom have been on these since January 1988; when the directive for this action was given; if he will give details of the numbers involved in each of the health board areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I [2006] propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 82 together.

The provision of fixed appliance orthodontic treatment is very expensive. It is important therefore that resources be used to best advantage and for those most severely affected/handicapped. Accordingly in 1985 my Department issued guidelines to health boards on the classification of cases awaiting treatment in descending order of severity/handicap.

These guidelines provide the following classifications: Category A — The most severe cases, e.g. cleft lip and palate, somewhat less than 1 per cent of all children. Category B — Cases with severe functional handicap, e.g. marked disproportion between the upper and lower jaws — and, therefore, teeth — about 6 per cent-8 per cent of children. Category C — Non-handicapped cases about 12 per cent-16 per cent of children.

A further category, sometimes called D, caters for the simpler type of case which can often be treated at primary care level by a non-specialist having sufficient skill and experience. These guidelines are currently under review. In mid-1990, the Department wrote to each health board asking that all orthodontic waiting lists be reviewed and all children be reassessed to determine their orthodontic need and to place them in the appropriate priority category in accordance with the existing guidelines.

For the past few years the Government have made available a special allocation for the development of the adult dental services and the provision of orthodontic treatments. A sum of £3 million was provided by the Government in 1990 and a further £3 million was provided in 1991. The special allocation has enabled health boards to bring an additional 2,500 orthodontic cases into specialist treatment in 1990 and a similar number into specialist treatment in 1991 and at the end of that year over 12,000 children were receiving treatment. The allocations made available to health boards in 1992 include a repeat of the special provisions of 1990 and 1991 and consultant orthodontists have been recruited in the North-Western and [2007] Southern Health Boards and it is expected that similar recruitments will be made in the Eastern, Western and South-Eastern Boards by mid-year.

Statistics in respect of orthodontic cases completed in 1988, 1989 and 1990 are set out in the following table.

TABLE

Orthodontic Cases Completed

1988 1989 1990
Eastern 329 1,101 2,250
Midland 258 155 203
Mid-Western 310 N.A. 557
North-Eastern 479 422 551
North-Western 451 723 761
South-Eastern 580 628 663
Southern 702 608 702
Western 306 185 157
Total 3,415 3,822 5,844

  65.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are a number of dialysis patients travelling from County Donegal to Dublin on a weekly basis to avail of treatment; his views on whether this is the most economical method of treating such patients; if he will make resources available to provide this treatment in Letterkenny General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  Arrangements were made during the last year by the North-Western Health Board to increase from 12 to 16 the number of patients who can be treated at the Letterkenny dialysis unit.

I understand from the North-Western Health Board that three kidney dialysis patients are currently travelling to Dublin for treatment.

I am anxious to ensure that, where possible, patients receive their dialysis locally. The provision of additional dialysis facilities in the North-Western Health [2008] Board will be considered as sympathetically as possible in the context of the many competing demands for resources and the board's priorities for new developments.

  66.  Mr. Noonan (Limerick East)    asked the Minister for Health    the current numbers who are availing of, (1) the diagnostic mammography service and (2) the cervical screening service; if he has satisfied himself with the operation of the programmes and the uptake of them among the target population; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  A diagnostic mammography service is available, on a referral basis, to women at a number of public hospitals throughout the country. The number of women who availed of a diagnostic mammography service in 1991 was 9,925.

My Department are supporting the Eccles breast screening programme currently under way at the Mater Foundation. This programme is part of a network of pilot schemes on breast cancer screening under way within the European Community. The screening phase of the pilot study will be completed in 1994. The study findings, including the uptake of the service by women in the target population, will be a major influence on any future decisions in relation to a national screening programme.

The number of cervical smears tested in public hospital laboratories for diagnostic and screening purposes in 1991 was 122,000 approximately.

The Deputy will also be aware that a working party was established in 1988 to review the cervical smear testing service. This group produced a very constructive interim report, the main recommendations of which are: the provision of improved training for staff; reporting time to doctors and patients not to exceed one month; abnormal results to be followed up quickly by the referring doctor with laboratory assistance; common classification to be adopted; continued [2009] availability of the service through different outlets; and laboratory procedures to be computerised.

As part of the process of implementation of the report, it was circulated for comment to those organisations most closely involved in cervical smear testing services. There has been a considerable improvement in the reporting of results of cervical smear tests over the past few years and my Department continue to monitor the reporting of results to ensure that no undue delays occur.

The comments received and the evaluation of the implementation of the recommendations to date will form the main thrust of the work of the working party, which I am currently reconvening under the terms of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. This will also include consideration of the uptake of cervical smear testing by the target group. One of the major items to be included in the terms of reference of the reconvened committee will be a review of the operational efficiency of the test notification procedures.

  67.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Health    if he will provide extra funding for the Tralee Family Planning Clinic to ensure its survival.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The funding of this centre is a matter for the Southern Health Board in the first instance. I have made inquiries from the board about this matter. I understand that the funding of the Tralee family planning service is being taken into account in the consideration of family planning services in the region and I would expect the board to make a decision on this matter in the near future.

  72.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline his proposals on the future of the health boards.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I would refer the Deputy to the reply to [2010] Question No. 48 of 24 October 1991 — Official Report columns 1796-1797. This sets out the detail of the Government's decisions on the reorganisation of the health services. Legislation to implement these decisions is at present in preparation and I intend to bring it before the House later this year.

  73.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Health    his views on whether it is reasonable to expect parents wishing to adopt a baby overseas to have to wait 18 months to have their application processed under the new legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I presume the Deputy is referring to a statement issued by the Eastern Health Board about the time needed to clear the backlog of applications for foreign adoption assessments. This backlog has arisen because the Adoption Act 1991 imposed, for the first time, a statutory duty on the health boards to undertake assessments for foreign adoptions. Following its enactment the Eastern Health Board received a large number of requests for assessments from people wishing to adopt abroad. The board have some 75 firm applications on hands and intend to have all of the assessments completed within 18 months.

While I am determined that there will be no undue delay in processing applications, it has to be accepted that an assessment of a couple's suitability to adopt will inevitably take some time to complete.

The Adoption Board, to whom all assessments must be submitted for final approval, have advised the health boards and the adoption societies that the standard of assessment for a foreign adoption should be equivalent to that applicable to an Irish adoption. I understand that the average time taken to complete an assessment for an Irish adoption is about six months, although some cases can take considerably longer than this. Once the [2011] initial backlog of applications have been cleared, I would expect that a similar pattern will emerge in relation to assessments for foreign adoptions.

  74.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Health    if he will give details of the research being carried out into the fact of the male suicide rate being over treble that of the female rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  Over the ten year period 1981-1990 the ratio, calculated for each year, of reported male suicides to those of females varied from 2.41 to 3.61.

Over this ten year period there were 2,637 reported suicides (1,962 male; 675 female) giving an average ratio over the period of reported male suicides to those of females of 2.91.

However I will circulate in the Official Report a table which compares the ratio of reported male suicides to those of females in a number of countries and which shows that this pattern is not untypical.

Research on suicide in this country has tended to concentrate on suicide rates and on the accuracy of reporting systems. While publicly funded research in this area is primarily a matter for the Health Research Board, I do not think that research into a feature of suicides in Ireland which is not uncommon on the basis of international comparisons could be identified as a priority.

Country Ratio of reported male suicides to those of females
Denmark (1988) 1.71
France (1988) 2.45
[2012]Federal Republic of Germany (1989) 2.18
Greece (1987) 2.60
Ireland (1988) 2.75
Italy (1988) 2.61
Luxembourg (1989) 2.89
Netherlands (1988) 1.73
Portugal (1989) 2.77
Spain (1986) 2.82
England and Wales (1989) 2.91
Northern Ireland (1989) 3.18
Scotland (1989) 2.58

Note: The above information has been derived from tables published in the 1990 World Health Statistics Annual of the World Health Organisation.

  75.  Mr. Harte    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the inadequate facilities available in the School of Dental Science and Dublin Dental Hospital which was planned to cater for 2,500 patients per annum and is now treating an average of 1,500 patients per week; if, in view of the excellent service which the Dental Hospital is providing, particularly for patients in the lower income group, and because of the immense effort made by the hospital to increase their income, he will agree to make a substantial grant available to the Dental Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  My attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced at the Dublin dental school and hospital. I recognise fully and appreciate the significant contribution made by the hospital in the provision of dental treatment to eligible persons under the health Acts, which is of the order of 70,000 patient visits each year. Each year I make a significant grant available to the hospital, which represents 50 per cent of the running costs. The balance is paid by my colleague the Minister for Education.

In 1991 the grant provided by my Department to the institution amounted to £.945 million. In 1992 this grant is [2013] £1.074 million representing an increase of 13.6 per cent on the original allocation for 1991. The capital funding for the Dublin dental school and hospital is provided through the Vote of the Department of Education and I propose to have early discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Education, in relation to the hospital.

  76.  Mr. Sherlock    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the fact, (1) that the numbers of persons holding medical cards has declined by more than 100,000 between 1987 and 1991 and (2) that the average number of persons holding medical cards in each health board area has decreased from almost 41 per cent to just over 38 per cent in the same period; if he will increase the income limits for eligibility for medical cards in view of the hardship being caused to many on low and middle incomes who do not qualify and face great difficulty in meeting doctors' and pharmacists' bills; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The number of persons covered by medical cards fell from 37.9 per cent of the population at the end of 1987 to 35.1 per cent of the population at the end of 1991, representing a fall of just over 104,000 persons including dependants. It is essential to note however, that the reduction was mainly due to the removal of non-valid medical cards from the registers of all health boards in 1989 in preparation for the implementation of the new contract for doctors participating in the general medical service scheme.

The determination of eligibility for medical cards is, under the Health Act 1970, the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the relevant health board. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

[2014] While the chief executive officers draw up income guidelines to assist in determining eligibility, I must stress that these are neither statutory nor binding and that a person whose income exceeds the guidelines will still be awarded a medical card if the chief executive officer feels that this is necessary in the light of the individual's circumstances.

  77.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the position regarding the development of phase II at Castlebar General Hospital as promised by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The position is that the total capital allocation available to my Department in 1992 does not allow for progress on this project in 1992. I will be considering the development of phase II of the Castlebar project in the context of the capital resources available to my Department in future years.

  78.  Mr. Byrne    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, (1) the proportion, if any, of drugs prescribed under the general medical services scheme that are generic drugs, (2) the steps, if any, that are being taken to increase this proportion; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  It is estimated that slightly over 5 per cent of the total ingredient cost of drugs and medicines in the GMS is spent on generic drugs. The comparable figure in the UK is 9 per cent. An independent study carried out at the time of the review of the GMS contract in 1990 estimated that if on every possible occasion the lowest price equivalent drugs were prescribed and dispensed in the scheme savings of £8 million would be realised.

My Department have taken a number of steps to promote the use of generic [2015] drugs. The recently introduced drugs strategy considers the introduction of greater levels of generic prescribing to be an important part of the strategy.

Among the actions taken under the strategy to promote the use of generics was the issuing of the national drugs formulary to general practitioners and to hospital doctors and to hospital and community pharmacists, which lists drugs by generic name and helps familiarise general practitioners with the use of generic names in place of proprietary names. Throughout the formulary, medicines have been recommended on the basis of their general acceptance as being the medicines of first choice; the setting up of the National Therapeutics Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Professor William Shannon among other matters, will be advising doctors on appropriate, safe, effective and cost-efficient prescribing; the issuing of indicative prescribing targets to doctors participating in the GMS. The use of generic drugs will of course assist doctors in achieving their targets and the setting up of a drugs unit within the GMS (Payments) Board and my Department to provide information to general practitioners on their prescribing patterns and costs. This information will provide the basis for self-education by general practitioners regarding the most appropriate and cost effective drugs to prescribe.

It is intended that these measures will encourage the greater use of generic drugs within the GMS scheme.

  79.  Mr. Moynihan    asked the Minister for Health    if the Southern Health Board proposes to dispose of their lands at Gertrae, Killarney, County Kerry; and if so, if the public will be advised of (a) the sale and (b) the latest date for the receipt of tenders.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The land in question is attached to St. Fintan's Psychiatric Hospital and comprises approximately 90 acres. A decision [2016] in principle has been taken by the board to dispose of the land but the method of sale and the form — one lot or several lots — have yet to be decided.

The board are awaiting the adoption of the Killarney development plan by the local authorities before finalising the sale arrangements.

When the plan has been adopted the board intend to apply for outline planning permission before putting the lands up for sale. The public will be notified as the sale will be publicised in the usual way.

The final draft of the Killarney development plan will be presented to Kerry County Council and Killarney Urban District Council in a week or two and will then go on public display for three months, so that final decisions about the particulars of the sale of land will not be taken for at least four months.

  80.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Health    when he expects the report on the Kilkenny health project; if he intends to expand this project to other areas of preventive medicine study; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The main aim of the Kilkenny health project, a pilot health promotion research and demonstration project initiated in 1985, is to reduce the risk of heart disease among the population of Kilkenny. The evaluation of the project is currently under way in terms of its success in achieving its objectives and I expect the report on this evaluation to be submitted to me by the end of this year.

I accept that greater emphasis needs to be placed nationally on the reduction of risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke, particularly given this country's high incidence of such risk factors. This requires effective planning and broad agreement on implementation strategies.

In that context my Department's health promotion unit are preparing a [2017] draft national strategy for health promotion which will set out an agenda for improving health status here and will address the various lifestyle risk factors. The reduction of risk factors associated with heart disease and certain cancers will be core elements in the strategy document.

Given the position of the Kilkenny health project as the major community-based demonstration project in the country and the parallel development of this national plan, it was decided that there should be an effective linkage between these two initiatives. In that regard my Department are funding a research project which is currently being conducted by the Health Policy Research Centre at the ESRI which concerns the potential of a communty-based lifestyle programme such as the Kilkenny health project model, for positively influencing lifestyles on a national basis and the implications of organising any such programme on a national basis within the existing care delivery structures.

  81.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    if he will consider establishing a review group to examine existing services for the care of persons who sustain a brain injury, in view of the lack of sufficient appropriate services for the rehabilitation of such persons.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  Acute hospital services for persons suffering from brain injuries are provided in the National Neurosurgical Centre at Beaumont Hospital. In line with the recommendations contained in a report by Comhairle na nOspidéal, Beaumont is proceeding to fill its complement of six consultant neurosurgery posts, one to replace a post formerly located at St. Vincent's Hospital which was filled on 3 February 1992 and the other to replace a consultant post with special interest in paediatric neurosurgery which will be filled on 1 March 1992.

Persons with brain damage requiring further rehabilitative care are usually [2018] referred to the National Medical Rehabilitation Centre for physiotherapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy following which they can avail of vocational training or day-care services operated by statutory and voluntary organisations with support from my Department.

I intend to establish a group to review services for people with physical disabilities and the needs of persons suffering from brain injuries will be considered in that context.

  83.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline his Department's plans for the promotion of fitness and healthy lifestyle for 1992.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The health promotion unit in my Department undertake and co-ordinate programmes aimed at improving health and fitness as part of a broad health promotion strategy which encompasses a range of issues such as lifestyle, drugs, AIDS, nutrition and alcohol. Since exercise and keeping fit are recognised as integral parts of any healthy lifestyle programme it features prominently in the health promotion unit's programme for 1992.

Lifewise is a community-based lifestyle programme for adults which commenced in the Mid-Western Health Board in 1990. An exercise routine is an important element of this ten week programme. The programme is adaptable and has been used in educational and occupational as well as community settings with various groups, including parents, the elderly and the disadvantaged. Given the success of this programme in the Mid-Western Health Board and the increasing public interest in participating, a number of other health boards, namely, Midland, Southern, North-Eastern and South-Eastern and the Irish Countrywomen's Association are involved in extending the [2019] programme to their areas. A national co-ordinating committee has been established which is developing and refining the programme.

A health-related fitness programme, Action for Life, is being developed by the Physical Education Association of Ireland with financial support from the health promotion unit. This programme will be completed during the current year when materials will be printed and made available to physical education teachers in all schools.

A primary and post-primary competition, Health is Lookin' Good, which is now in its third successive year, will focus this year on keeping fit, nutrition and substance misuse as its three themes for 1992. Participating pupils and their teachers will be provided with materials on each of the health themes, together with useful suggestions on how related health promotion activities can be incorporated into normal class activities.

An important school-based programme — The Healthy School — involving both primary and second level schools will commence in autumn 1992. The programme will address the ingredients of a health promoting school and examine how best these can be interwoven into normal school activities. Fitness and healthy lifestyle will be part of this programme.

As part of an intersectoral approach to health and fitness, the health promotion unit, in co-operation with Cospóir, AGE and Opportunity and the Retirement Planning Association are organising a programme of activities for the “Be Active Be Alive” week this year. The programme will include a range of community-based activities which will run during the month of May and will demonstrate that keeping fit and healthy can be achieved without much effort or exertion. The unit has also supported a walking project in association with the Dublin Healthy Cities Committee and Saol Plus. This project was launched last autumn.

The unit also produces a range of printed materials and videos on fitness and healthy lifestyle which are available to [2020] teachers, health professionals and work-places organising health and fitness programmes and to the general public on request.

  85.  Mr. Cosgrave    asked the Minister for Health    if, in view of the rapidly increasing medical indemnity insurance costs and defence costs, he will consider establishing a working party to examine how patient complaints could better be handled and compensation adjudicated upon without the heavy legal costs now expended.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  In answer to questions on this subject from Deputies Michael Noonan and Liam Kavanagh on 28 November 1991, my predecessor indicated that the whole area of medical liability was being examined by my Department. Since that date, the Government have approved the establishment of a working group representing the Departments of Health, Justice, Finance, Industry and Commerce, and the Office of the Attorney General to look at this area. This group have been asked to produce a report on alternatives to the present system of establishing negligence and awarding compensation. The role of complaints procedures in reducing the number of cases taken before the courts is one of the issues under consideration.

  86.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Health    if his Department have examined or researched the effect of the out-patient charge in deterring patients from using local hospital services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The Commission on Health Funding and the Dublin Hospital Initiative Group — that is the Kennedy Group — have both concluded that out-patient charges have a role to play in deterring patients from attending hospital casualty departments [2021] for treatment which would more appropriately be provided by their general practitioner. The £10 charge is structured so as to support that objective while avoiding any financial hardship. It applies only to the first visit in respect of any condition and there is no charge for medical card holders or for a number of other exempted categories of patient.

  87.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, (a) the total State expenditure on drugs initially budgeted by his Department in 1991 and (b) the final spending in the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  Total State expenditure on drugs and medicines in 1991 is estimated at £189 million. This compares with a figure of £180 million in 1990. The breakdown of these figures is as follows:

1990 1991 (estimated)
£m £m
Expenditure on GMS 114 118
Expenditure on Community Drug Schemes 28 33
Expenditure in Hospitals 38 38
Total 180 189

Taking account of price reductions negotiated with the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries, these figures represent a real increase in drug costs of the order of 10 per cent. This level of increase equates to the volume and substitution increases which have been a factor of the GMS for the past five years.

The most significant increase has taken place in the community drug schemes, which include the drugs refund scheme, the drug cost subsidisation scheme and the long term illness scheme, and the causes of this increase are being critically examined by my Department.

The Government are concerned at the overall level of State expenditure on drugs and medicines. In order to ensure [2022] that this expenditure is stabilised, the Government have agreed and implemented, a multi-faceted drugs strategy which includes the establishment of a National Therapeutics Advisory Committee, the introduction of a national formulary, education programmes for practitioners and the public and the use of indicative prescribing targets. The Government have also established an interdepartmental committee to examine all aspects of drug expenditure and this committee will produce their report in March.

  88.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Health    if he has satisfied himself that the school medical examination service, with particular reference to follow-up treatment, is at present sufficient to meet the needs of the children of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The school medical examinations have provided an excellent service for the children of the country. The examinations as originally prescribed in the scheme were determined by the health status of school children at that time and are a comprehensive medical examination of all new entrants to national schools; a selective examination of children in the nine to ten age group; and examinations of other children selected on the basis of information furnished about them by their parents, teachers, nurses or other interested parties.

A total of 51,436 new entrants were examined in 1989. This represents over 80 per cent of new entrants to primary schools. The total number of children examined in 1989 was 116,459 which represents about 22 per cent of all primary school children.

Since the foundation of the scheme substantial developments have occurred in the area of mother and child health care. I refer in particular to the excellent ante-natal and maternity service and to the pre-school developmental clinics. In addition the introduction of the GMS has [2023] made available free of charge to lower income groups medical services and choice of doctor on demand.

Follow-up treatment for children referred to consultants from school medical examinations is provided in the general and specialist hospital services and I am satisfied that these services are adequate to meet such treatment needs.

The school medical service is under continuous review within my Department.

  92.  Mr. S. Barrett    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the action, if any, that is being taken by his Department to facilitate the establishment of a voluntary contact register in order to facilitate contact between adopted persons and their birth parents; and when it is expected such a register will be brought into full operation.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  My predecessor recently received a deputation from an ad-hoc group representing a number of organisations working in the area of adoption which has come together to highlight the need for an adoption contact register.

I have seen the submission made by the group and, in principle, I accept the need for a properly regulated arrangement to facilitate adopted persons and birth parents who wish to make contact with each other. However, I would be concerned that any new arrangement must respect the right to privacy of adopted persons and birth parents and must contain adequate safeguards to preserve the anonymity of people who do not desire contact. I intend to give further consideration to the concept of a voluntary contact register.

I might also mention that the Adoption Board, which have overall responsibility for the administration of the adoption system, have been asked to consider the need for guidelines for the adoption agencies on the handling of tracing [2024] inquiries from adopted persons and birth persons.

  93.  Mr. D'Arcy    asked the Minister for Health    if he will introduce guidelines for eligibility for various elements of community care so that patients would know where they stand and there would be uniformity between regions.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  As promised in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the chief executive officers of the health boards have carried out a review of the assessment procedures for medical card eligibility throughout the country. This will result in uniformity in the criteria for access to the key community-based services such as free general practitioner care.

In relation to certain other community-based services, such as the provision of home helps, meals on wheels and community paramedical services, health boards have considerable discretion as to eligibility criteria under the terms of the present legislation. However, as already announced, I will be bringing amending legislation before the House to provide for the reorganisation of the health services. In preparing this legislation I will give careful consideration to the desirability of providing for a greater degree of uniformity in the criteria for access to such services.

  94.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the serious problems in obtaining a speech therapy service for children; and if he will outline his proposals to deal with this matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I am aware that there is concern about the level of speech therapy provision in certain areas of the country. It is a matter for each service agency to assess the need [2025] for different categories of health personnel in accordance with their identified priorities.

The Programme for Economic and Social Progress indicates that priority will be given to the expansion of paramedical services, including speech therapy services, for people with disabilities. I intend to establish a group to review services for people with physical disabilities to make recommendations to me on how the commitments contained in the programme can be realised. The provision of speech therapy will be considered in that context.

  96.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Health    if he will review the situation where the allocation to the South-Eastern Health Board for the dental scheme for medical card holders is grossly inadequate; and if he will make additional funds available.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  For the past few years my Department have made a special additional allocation available to the South-Eastern Health Board specifically for the development of adult dental services for medical card holders. The special additional allocation provided in 1991 for this purpose was £285,000 and the board's allocation for 1992 includes a repeat of this special provision for the continuing development of the adult dental services.

These special allocations have enabled the board to provide an additional 2,000, approximately, adult treatments in 1990 and an additional 8,380 adult treatments in 1991.

My Department are engaged with the board in a review of the services and discussions are currently being held on the board's proposals for the development of the adult dental services in 1992.

[2026]

  97.  Mr. S. Barrett    asked the Minister for Health    whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that research suggests that one in three cardiac deaths are preventable if timely intervention is made; and whether the present services in Ireland are capable of the timely intervention required.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  While a number of reports have been published internationally over the last few years dealing with the subject of deaths from cardiac disease, I would point out that there has been a degree of variation in their findings.

In view of the various reports, it has been recognised that there is a need to examine the arrangements for pre-hospital cardiac care here. As a result, the provision of an effective pre-hospital cardiac service is among the main areas to be covered in a major review of the ambulance service which is being undertaken by my Department together with the health boards. This review will take into account the views of all interested parties and especially the literature available internationally on this subject.

It would be intended that the recommendations of the review group in relation to the provision of pre-hospital cardiac care would be taken into account by the health boards when considering any future developments in this area.

  99.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Health    the reason there was an increase in the number of deaths from pneumonia from 48.7 per 100,000 in 1987 to 58.3 in 1990; and whether this trend continued in 1991.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I am circulating in the Official Report a table which sets out the mortality rates per 100,000 population from pneumonia for each year from 1980 to 1990, inclusive. The evidence from this data points to an underlying downward trend in mortality from pneumonia. The relatively high figure of 58.3 for 1990 was in large measure due to the effects of the flu epidemic of the winter of 1989-90 in [2027] increasing the numbers of deaths of elderly people with pre-existing respiratory conditions during the first quarter of 1990. Preliminary figures for the first three quarters of 1991 suggest some reduction in mortality from pneumonia compared with the corresponding period for 1990.

Deaths per 100,000 population from Pneumonia 1980-1990

Year Rate per 100,000
1980 63.2
1981 62.1
1982 60.0
1983 62.7
1984 57.0
1985 60.5
1986 61.8
1987 48.7
1988 50.8
1989* 46.4
1990* 58.3

* Provisional figures based on year of registration rather than year of occurrence.

  100.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Health    if he has sought information on the number of GPs who have signed letters indicating their intention to withdraw from the GMS scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  In 1989 new contracts were entered into by the health boards and individual doctors for the provision of services for medical card holders, following an agreement between the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Organisation on the arrangements and the terms for the provision of such services. The new contracts provided, inter alia, for the termination of an individual contract on the giving of three months notice by the contract holder and for the termination of the general agreement, on which the contracts were based, on the giving of 12 months notice by either the Department of Health or the Irish Medical Organisation.

Neither party to the general agreement has served notice of their intention to [2028] terminate that agreement to date and individual notices of withdrawal have not been served on the health boards.

On the 1 March 1991, the Irish Medical Organisation formally lodged a claim with my Department for an increase of 40 per cent in the level of all fees and other payments made to general practitioners under the present contract. This claim has been processed in accordance with agreed procedures and the findings of an arbitration board on the claim is expected shortly. While I am aware of statements in the media in regard to the GMS. I have not, nor do I intend, to respond to these. The Irish Medical Organisation are the approved negotiating body on behalf of doctors in the scheme and I would intend that any discussion in relation to the conditions of their members would have regard to the normal industrial relations procedures.

  101.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Health    when he anticipates that the thousands of young people currently on the Eastern Health Boards orthodontic waiting list will receive treatment as it would seem at present that for some there could be lengthy delays.

  267.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health    when he anticipates the thousands of young people currently on the Eastern Health Board's orthodontic waiting list will receive treatment as it would seem at present that for some there could be long delays.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 267 together.

Significant improvements have been made in the level of orthodontic services in the Eastern Health Board as a result of the additional moneys made available by the Government. Despite these improvements waiting lists for treatment are still at an unacceptable level. The board is at present making arrangements to extend the level of consultant orthodontic services available and when these arrangements are concluded within the [2029] next month further improvements in service levels will be possible.

A total of about 2,250 patients completed orthodontic treatment in 1990 and 3,660 patients were undergoing orthodontic treatment at the end of 1991.

  102.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Health    the number of people awaiting orthodontic treatment in the South-Eastern Health Board area; and the average waiting time.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  While there has been a significant improvement in the level of orthodontic services in the South Eastern Health Board as a result of the additional money, made available by the Government, waiting lists for treatment are still at an unacceptable level. This position is expected to improve however with the appointment of a full-time consultant orthodontist in mid-year.

At the end of 1991 there were 2,165 patients undergoing specialist treatment and there were 1,643 on the waiting lists for such treatment. Waiting lists at present range from six weeks to over two years depending on the severity of the condition.

  104.  Mr. Browne (Carlow Kilkenny)    asked the Minister for Health    if he has satisfied himself with the present standards of comfort provided to ill patients who must travel to hospital by ambulance.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The provision of ambulance services is a matter for each health board in the first instance. I understand, however, that every effort is made to ensure the safety, patient comfort and road worthiness of ambulance vehicles.

A major review of the ambulance service is being undertaken by my Department, together with the health boards. Among the areas to be covered by this review will be the standards applicable to ambulance transportation.

[2030] It would be intended that the recommendations of this review group in relation to the provision of this service would be taken into account by the health boards when considering any future developments in this area.

Since becoming Minister I have been in touch with the chairman of the review body and I have asked him to ensure that the work is progressed as quickly as possible.

  107.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will ensure that sufficient resources are provided to the Eastern Health Board for 1992 to allow for the establishment of a new health centre in Swords, County Dublin, having regard to the fact that, (a) the site is in the ownership of the Eastern Health Board and (b) the present centre is totally unable to serve the population of over 20,000 people in Swords and its environs.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The provision of a new health centre in Swords is high on the health board's priority list and is being considered by my Department in the context of the capital requirements in respect of the current year. The health board have however proceeded to improve the existing centre with the provision of a second dental surgery, redecoration and an improvement of the cental heating and toilet facilities.

  109.  Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny)    asked the Minister for Health    if he has any plans to use national lottery funds to help those who need by-pass operations to avail of private treatment.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I have no plans to use national lottery funds to help eligible persons needing heart by-pass surgery to avail of private treatment.

I have, however, provided additional funds to enable the service for public [2031] patients to be enhanced during 1992 in both Dublin and Cork. When these services are fully operational it will be possible to provide services for an additional 450 public patients per annum. I am satisfied that proposed increases in the throughput of public patients undergoing cardiac surgery in public hospitals will reduce waiting lists considerably. The adequacy of the service is kept under constant review.

  112.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, (a) the full plan for the development of Naas Hospital, County Kildare, (b) the degree to which this plan has been implemented to date and (c) his proposals for the implementation of the remaining stages; if any or all of these proposals are likely to be implemented in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The development plan for Naas Hospital provides for a 209 bed hospital, with a range of services including general medicine, general surgery, intensive care, coronary care and psychiatric and geriatric units. The plan envisaged the development of the hospital in four separate phases as follows: 1. Psychiatric unit, boiler house and ancillary facilities; 2. Accident and emergency, out-patient department and limited surgical services; 3. Full surgical services including backup facilities; 4. Medical services/coronary care unit.

The first phase of the development of the hospital which incorporates a new psychiatric unit and boiler house was recently commissioned. While the capital allocation available to my Department for 1992 does not allow for the recommencement of this project in the current year, I will be considering the further development of the hospital in the context of the capital resources available to my Department in future years.

[2032]

  115.  Mr. Deasy    asked the Minister for Health    if he will agree to meet with members of the South-Eastern Health Board to discuss the proposed new community care health centre project to be situated at Tramore Road, Waterford.

  117.  Mr. Deasy    asked the Minister for Health    when he will next be visiting Waterford and if at that time he will examine at first-hand the condition of the community care offices at The Mall, Waterford, which, in the view of the South-Eastern Health Board, need to be urgently replaced in view of the severe dilapidation of same.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 117 together.

I would be happy to view the community care offices at the Mall, Waterford, on the occasion of my next vist to Waterford and I would also be happy to meet representatives of the South-Eastern Health Board at that time.

The South-Eastern Health Board have indicated that the provision of a new community care headquarters is high on their priority list of health centre developments. The extent to which progress on this can be made will be determined by the availability of resources and other competing priorities.

Having said that it must be borne in mind that a large amount of capital funds has already been provided by my Department to the South-Eastern Health Board to build a new regional hospital at Ardkeen which is still under construction.

In addition, my Department have provided capital funds for major hospital developments at Kilkenny and Wexford.

[2033]

  116.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Minister for Health    if he has considered the appeal made in December 1991 by the Asthma Society for a declaration that asthmatics will, (1) be included in the long term illness scheme within a specified timescale and (2) that the threshold for the drug cost subsidisation scheme should be reduced to £25 per month; if he will outline his response to this appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The long term illness scheme covers fifteen specified illnesses and there are no plans at present to extend the scheme to include any further conditions.

The long term illness scheme, however, is only one of a number of schemes in operation which provide assistance towards the cost of prescribed drugs and medicines for persons with ongoing medical conditions.

Persons with conditions such as asthma who in the opinion of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board are unable to meet their medical expenses without undue hardship may be granted a medical card which will entitle them to the supply of all drugs and medicines without charge.

Any other person with an ongoing medical condition, such as asthma, which imposes a requirement for continuous medication, can benefit under the terms of the drug cost subsidisation scheme. This scheme limits the actual expenditure of authorised beneficiaries, on prescribed medicines, to £32 per month. This scheme is being availed of by many asthmatics and the take-up of the scheme emphasises its benefits for asthmatics in particular. There are no plans to reduce the threshold expenditure specified in this scheme.

I am satisfied that these schemes, together with the drugs refund scheme, ensure that the treatment needs of all sectors of the population and of asthmatics in particular are being met.

[2034]

  118.  Mrs. Taylor-Quinn    asked the Minister for Health    the number of reported cases of meningitis in 1992 to date; the way in which this compares with last year; and if he will outline the information campaign planned by his Department to inform parents of the symptoms and risks.

  279.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Health    if he will give details of, (1) the number and (2) the location of reported cases of meningitis throughout the country in each of the past four years; if any investigations have been done or are likely to be done to determine the causes of this illness; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 279 together. Acute viral meningitis is not normally regarded as a serious illness. Bacterial meningitis is on the other hand a more dangerous condition and a detailed report is made to my Department by the local director of community care/medical officer of health of each case that is notified to him by GPs in his area.

Haemophilus influenza is a major cause of bacterial meningitis. A national study, co-ordinated by the Eastern Health Board, into haemophilus influenza type B. (HIB) is at present under way.

While some vaccines have been available internationally against HIB these were not regarded as being suitable for children under two years of age. It is expected however that a suitable vaccine against HIB will be available shortly.

With reference to the recent outbreak of meningitis in Cork, the Deputy may wish to note that the Southern Health Board (SHB) inserted a Public Health Notice in the Cork Examiner of 12 February 1992. In addition, my Department's medical staff have been in constant contact with the SHB on the matter and the board is taking the appropriate measures to contain the disease.

In view of the need for medical practitioners to be vigilant in relation to possible cases occurring in individuals, the deputy chief medical officer of my Department has written to each DCC/MOH advising them to liaise with doctors in their area in relation to the early diagnosis of the disease. On the [2035] basis of current epidemiology of the disease in this country the measures taken by the Department and by the Southern Health Board to which I have earlier referred are considered to be the most effective and meaningful action that can [2036] be taken at this stage. I am, of course, keeping the matter under review.

The number and location of cases of meningitis reported to my Department over the past four years and to 7 February 1992 is shown in the following tabular statement.

Acute Viral Meningitis Bacterial Meningitis
1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
Carlow 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 2 0
Cavan 0 2 2 1 0 5 1 6 1 0
Clare 2 8 10 4 0 2 3 3 4 0
Cork 1 2 13 1 0 5 8 4 19 17
Donegal 32 1 9 4 0 16 4 7 3 0
Dublin 17 5 61 21 0 16 11 18 23 6
Galway 0 0 5 0 0 1 5 5 13 1
Kerry 16 7 68 3 0 2 12 9 3 1
Kildare 1 0 7 1 0 1 5 6 10 1
Kilkenny 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0
Laois 0 0 0 3 0 5 10 1 2 0
Leitrim 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Limerick 1 2 10 1 0 6 2 2 1 0
Longford 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 6 1 0
Louth 0 0 3 0 0 6 5 5 3 0
Mayo 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 3
Meath 0 0 1 1 0 8 5 4 5 4
Monaghan 2 0 1 0 0 4 1 3 0 0
Offaly 2 4 8 1 0 7 0 2 1 0
Roscommon 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 1
Sligo 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 2 8 0
Tipperary NR 0 0 16 3 0 2 2 3 1 0
Tipperary SR 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Waterford 0 0 0 1 0 2 1 2 2 0
Westmeath 0 0 8 2 0 1 0 0 3 1
Wexford 0 0 1 1 0 1 3 5 2 2
Wicklow 7 4 6 2 1 10 4 2 3 0
Cork C.B. 1 2 2 2 0 5 11 4 16 1
Dublin C.B. 19 15 69 28 1 18 15 30 22 9
Galway C.B. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Limerick C.B. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Waterford C.B. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Totals 101 52 300 83 3 128 115 131 154 48

(C.B. = County Borough)

  121.  Mr. Taylor    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, (1) the assessments which have been made on the extent to which people have been affected by brucellosis, (2) the number of people so affected, (3) the action which is being taken in the matter and (4) the steps which are being taken to assist victims of the disease; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  There is a requirement on all general practitioners to notify their local director of community care/medical officer of health (DCC/MOH) of all cases of brucellosis. The DCC/MOHs in turn notify my Department on a weekly basis of all cases reported to them.

The following is the number of such notifications received by my Department over the past three years.

[2037]Year No. of cases
1991 22
1990 15
1989 20

Appropriate treatment for the disease is available free of charge if availed of through the local DCC/MOH. The main danger of contracting brucellosis comes from drinking unpasteurised milk and great care should be taken to ensure that all milk is pasteurised before it is consumed. Towards this end the Department liaises with local authorities to encourage the adoption of special designation orders which requires the compulsory pasteurisation of milk in their area.

Brucellosis is also classed as an occupational injury by the Department of Social Welfare and attracts a current payment of £15 per week in addition to the current disability benefit payment £50 per week for a single person.

The full range of health services is [2038] available to persons who suffer from this disease.

  123.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, (a) the most common causes of death in Ireland over the last ten years, (b) whether there is a noticeable increase in any particular cause and (c) the research which is being carried out in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The most common causes of death in Ireland during the last ten years have been diseases of the cardiovascular system and cancer. Together they accounted for about two-thirds of all deaths in this country since 1981. Details of the number of deaths from these causes, and the rate per 100,000 population, are set out in a table which I will circulate in the Official Report.

Deaths by Principal Causes: Numbers and Rates per 100,000 total population 1981-1990.

Year Diseases of Circulatory System Cancer
No. of Deaths Rate (Per 100,000 population No. of Deaths Rate (Per 100,000 population)
1981 16,660 483.8 6,220 180.6
1982 16,289 467.7 6,332 181.8
1983 16,560 472.1 6,471 184.5
1984 15,917 451.0 6,666 188.9
1985 16,492 465.9 6,689 189.0
1986 16,403 463.3 6,890 194.6
1987 15,095 426.1 6,966 196.6
1988 14,952 422.6 7,154 202.2
1989* 14,600 415.4 7,194 204.7
1990* 14,491 413.7 7,143 203.9

* Provisional Figures.

Source: Central Statistics Office Reports on Vital Statistics, 1981-1990.

The rate of deaths from cancer rose from 180.6 per 100,000 population in 1981 to 204.7 in 1989, falling to 203.9 in 1990. Over the same period, the rate of deaths from diseases of the circulatory system, including heart disease, ranged between 483.8 per 100,000 population in 1981 and 413.7 in 1990, falling substantially in the years since 1986.

A reply to the Deputy of 26 November 1991 (Official Report Volume 413, columns 926-928) details the types of and funding allocated to cancer research for selected recent years.

The Health Research Board have allocated a total of £54,000 to date in 1992 for research into cardiovascular disease, and expects to make further grants in this area later in the year. It is assisting eight such studies at present — three in Trinity [2039] College, Dublin, two in University College, Dublin and one each at the Mater Private Hospital, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth and the Royal College of Surgeons.

In addition to research, a substantial emphasis has been placed on prevention and reduction of cardiovascular disease. The Kilkenny health project, for example, is a pilot health promotion research and demonstration project aimed at reducing the risk of heart disease. The results of the project, initiated in 1985, are currently being evaluated.

  124.  Mr. Boylan    asked the Minister for Health    the reasons none of the private nursing homes in County Cavan is subvented by his Department; if it is possible to subvent at least one of these nursing homes having due regard to the cost of keeping elderly patients and the unavailability of beds in the health board nursing homes in the county.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  In general, health boards only pay subventions towards the cost of patients in private nursing homes if there are insufficient beds available in their own homes in the county.

The provision of an adequate number of geriatric beds in County Cavan is a matter for the North Eastern Health Board. They are satisfied that there is an adequate number of such beds in the board's own homes and hospitals.

The Health Act, 1970 provides for the payment of subventions in respect of patients who are placed in private nursing homes which have been approved under section 54 of the Act. No new nursing homes have been approved under this section since 1980 but I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 which updates the law on nursing homes. Section 7 of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 provides for the payment of health boards of subvention towards the cost of maintenance of elderly people in private nursing homes. The amount of [2040] this subvention will depend on the level of dependency or impairment of the person involved and on a means test. At present, regulations are being drafted to give effect to the provisions of the act, and it is my intention to commence the Act as soon as possible. All private nursing homes will be entitled to apply for registration.

  125.  Mr. Sherlock    asked the Minister for Health    when he expects the Kenny Review Group to have completed their consideration of the proposals for coordination between hospitals in Cork city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I understand that the working group to draw up a plan for the development of hospitals services in Cork city and County expects to be in a position to submit their report within three months.

  127.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will make a statement on the amount of savings achieved by reducing the 24-hour accident and emergency services in the Dublin area.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  From the information available, it is difficult to assess savings from the accident and emergency rota introduced in September 1991. In order to assess such savings it would be necessary to quantify the cost of the additional workload processed by hospitals on-call and offset this against savings achieved when hospitals were not on-call. This is complicated by the fact that emergency admissions normally increase over the period in question and the impact of these admissions would have to be considered in any costing exercise, both in terms of accident and emergency departments and other areas of a hospital.

Following consideration by my [2041] Department of a report by the Dublin Accident and Emergency Steering Group which detailed a number of difficulties experienced under the rota arrangement, the Government decided in December 1991 that the 24-hour service in all six Dublin accident and emergency hospitals should be resumed.

  128.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will make additional resources available on a planned basis to the mental health services in St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane, as the resources and services available to the patients are inadequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  St. Ita's Hospital provide in-patient facilities for the mentally ill covering the areas of North Dublin city and county. St. Joseph's Mental Handicap Service which is also located in St. Ita's Hospital provides residential accommodation and occupational, industrial and recreational therapy for people with a mental handicap in separate accommodation from patients with a mental illness.

The Eastern Health Board are responsible for the level and care of people at the hospital and at all times endeavour to ensure that facilities are maintained to the highest possible level.

As the Deputy is aware the buildings which form the St. Ita's Hospital complex are regularly maintained by the health board and improved facilities are being provided as resources become available. I am satisfied, however, that the current level of services and standard of care in St. Ita's Hospital are satisfactory.

[2042]

  129.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will make a statement on the recent alarming increases in the rate of suicide in the Cork city and Cork county area as published in a media report (details supplied); and the steps his Department are proposing to take to deal with the problem.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  Any calculations regarding increases in the rates of suicide depend on the base year selected. The article to which the Deputy refers, which was published in the Cork Examiner of 9 January 1992, refers to an increase over the past two decades and it is generally accepted that there was a large degree of under-reporting of suicide during the early 1970s.

The number of reported suicides in Cork city and county combined in 1970 was six while the corresponding figure for 1988, the most recent year for which final ie non-provisional figures are available, was 37. This compares with an increase in total suicides over the same period from 52 to 266.

The response to threatened or attempted suicide is primarily a matter for the health board psychiatric services who provide services to those suffering from psychological distress.

The community based psychiatric services which are now being developed place an emphasis on the treatment of people in local community settings without the disruptive effect of hospital admission. These localised services, which include facilities such as day centres, day hospitals, workshops and community residences, are making the psychiatric service more accessible and these services are ideally positioned to develop links with local organisations. The provision of community based services also permits the development of close links between mental health professionals and other statutory and voluntary agencies working at local community level. This contact facilitates the early identification of people at risk so that the necessary intervention and treatment programmes can be introduced at a stage where they can be much more effective in presenting suicides.

[2043]

  130.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Health    when work will commence on the new hospital in Dungarvan, County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The South-Eastern Health Board accept, and I concur, that the provision of a new 27 bed unit at St. Joseph's Hospital, Dungarvan is urgently needed. However, the health board are already receiving a considerable portion, in excess of 30 per cent, of the entire ongoing capital budget for general hospital developments in Waterford (Ardkeen), Wexford and Kilkenny and I cannot say at this stage when funding for the Dungarvan project will be available.

  132.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Health    whether his Department have made any submissions in relation to the proposed ban on tobacco advertising agreed by the EC Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  My Department have consistently supported the European Commission draft directive for a total ban on advertising tobacco products except at points of retail sale. Such a ban has been regarded as being a fundamental component of an integrated anti-tobacco programme.

The European Parliament voted in favour of the Commission proposal on 11 February.

My Department made a written submission to the European Commission last year supporting the Commission's draft Directive and Deputy O'Hanlon, spoke in favour of the ban at the last meeting of the Council of Health Ministers in Brussels last November.

I am obviously fully behind the views expressed by previous Ministers and by my Department with regard not only to the proposed ban on advertising tobacco products but on other measures such as labelling, designation of non-smoking areas and health promotion campaigns which will contribute to a reduction in [2044] the number of people smoking in this country.

  135.  Mr. Callely    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the progress, if any, that has been made on the proposal for the preparation of the advisory report to be termed as Green 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach:  Green 2000 is an advisory group which was established by my predecessor to carry out a fundamental review of the key issues facing the natural environment.

The first meeting was held in October 1991, and there have been four subsequent meetings to date. It is expected that the group will present their final report in October this year. The following are their Terms of Reference.

Terms of Reference: “To review the key issues facing the natural environment and to identify policies and strategies which should be adopted to protect and enhance the natural environment. Particular attention will be given to the environment consequences of impending changes in the Common Agricultural Policy”.

  136.  Mr. Creed    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the proposals for the filling of the seven places to be allotted to Ireland in the Council of Regions as proposed at the Maastricht Summit.

The Taoiseach:  I would refer the Deputy to the reply given in the House by my predecessor to a similar question on 29 January last. I should point out that Ireland will have nine members on this committee and not seven as mentioned by the Deputy in his question.

[2045]

  137.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January, 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that, (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo; (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2), and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach:  The general policy in regard to vacancies outlined by the Minister for Finance in reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 still applies.

The following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: 2 Services Officer, 2 Science and Arts Attendants and 2 Cleaners.

The number of service officers and service attendants serving in this Department on 1 January 1990 was 18. The number currently serving is 16.

Central Statistics Office

At present, the following posts in the Central Statistics Office are in the process of being filled; 1 Statistician, 5 Executive Officers, 45 Clerical Officers, 21 Clerical Assistants, 3 Clerical Assistant Data Entry and 2 Services Officers.

The number of services officers and services attendants serving in the Central Statistics Office on 1 January 1990 was 18. The number currently serving is 17.

  138.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Taoiseach    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach:  Since 1 January 1991, the Department of the Taoiseach have not appointed any person who is in receipt of a State pension.

Central Statistics Office

The Central Statistics Office have not [2046] recently appointed or employed into a permanent position any person who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration received from this office, is in receipt of a State pension.

The Central Statistics Office from time to time employ temporary staff in the carrying out of regular or periodic surveys.

Recently 48 such temporary staff have been recruited from the 1992 annual labour force survey. It may be possible that some such staff previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and are in receipt of State pensions. Such staff are recruited by open competition and are not appointed because of any such previous service and the Central Statistics Office therefore would not necessarily be in a position to know if they are in receipt of a State pension.

Approximately 100 price collectors have been engaged for one to two days in the collection of prices for the February 1992 consumer price index. They are not selected because of service with State or semi-State organisations and the Central Statistics Office therefore would not necessarily be in a position to know if they are in receipt of a State pension.

  139.  Mr. Garland    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

The Taoiseach:  The answer for the Department of the Taoiseach and the Central Statistic Office is nil.

  140.  Mr. Garland    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

The Taoiseach:  Department of the Taoiseach: There are currently three people job sharing without a partner.

[2047] Central Statistics Office: There is currently one person job sharing without a partner.

  141.  Mr. Garland    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off; (b) day on/day off; (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

The Taoiseach:  The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Department of the Taoiseach.

Day on/ Day off Week on/ Week off Alternative morning/ afternoon Other arrangements
1 2

Central Statistics Office.

Day on/ Day off Week on/ Week off Alternative morning/ afternoon Other arrangements
4 9

  142.  Mr. Garland    asked the Taoiseach    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

The Taoiseach:  The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Department of the Taoiseach.

Grade Male Female
Assistant Keeper, Grade II (National Library) 1
Archivist 1
Clerical Officer, Supervisor of Typists 1

Central Statistics Officer.

Grade Male Female
Executive Officer 2
Staff Officer 2
Clerical Officer 1 7
Clerical Assistant 1

[2048]

  143.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline, (1) the quantity of recycled paper used in his Department in each of the last four years and (2) the increase/decrease in the use of these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach:  Paper is supplied to the Department by the Government Supplies Agency.

No record has been compiled of its nature or source.

  144.  Mr. Barry    asked the Taoiseach    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

The Taoiseach:  My Department have no direct responsibility for the implementation of EC legislation.

In relation to the Central Statistics Office, it is complying to the extent required with all EC statistical legislation with the exception of Directive 78/166 concerning co-ordinated statistics on the business cycle in building and civil engineering which has presented difficulties to a number of member states including Ireland.

  145.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that, (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo; (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Wilson):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in [2049] the Civil Service was set out in the reply given by the Minister for Finance to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains. At present the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: Executive Office (1) and Services Officer (1).

There has been no change in the number of services officers and services attendants serving in my Department since 1 January 1990.

  146.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Defence    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Wilson):  Since 1 January 1992 two former members of the Defence Forces who are in receipt of military pensions, have been employed in full-time capacities.

  147.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  148.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  149.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

[2050]

  150.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job-sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off; (b) day on/day off; (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Wilson):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 147, 148, 149 and 150 together.

The total number of job-sharers, all female, serving in my Department at present is 24.

The number in each grade and the job-sharing arrangements are as follows:

Grade No. Job-Sharing Arrangement
Executive Officer 2 week on/week off (2)
Staff Officer 2 week on/week off (1)
mornings only (1)
Clerical Officer 15 week on/week off (12)
mornings only (3)
Clerical Assistants 5 week on/week off (4)
mornings only (1)

Eight officers of the Department in different grades are currently job-sharing without partners.

No officer of the Department was required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing.

  151.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will outline (1) the pensions, if any, that were payable to army widows prior to 1978 and (2) the criteria under which these pensions were awarded.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Wilson):  Prior to 1978, there was no provision for the payment of pensions by my Department to the widows of deceased soldiers. Such provision was made in 1978 when a contributory pension scheme for widows and children was introduced with effect from 1 June 1977. At the same time, a special ex-gratia scheme was introduced to cover the widows of soldiers who had either died in service or retired on pension prior to the introduction of the contributory scheme and were thereby prevented from joining the contributory scheme.

[2051] Provision has existed in the Army Pensions Acts since 1923 for the grant of an allowance to the widow of a deceased soldier who was killed in the course of his duty or whose death was otherwise attributable to his military service. Additionally, the widows of deceased soldiers were and are eligible for contributory widow's pension under the Social Welfare Acts.

  152.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Wilson):  My Department have no responsibility for the implementation of EC legislation.

  153.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for the Gaeltacht (Mr. Wilson):  Níl a leithéid i gceist.

  154.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    if he will outline (1) the quantity of recycled paper used in his Department in each of the last four years and (2) the increase/decrease in the use of these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Gaeltacht (Mr. Wilson):  Níor bhain an Roinn seo usáid as páipéar mar seo le ceithre bhliain anuas. Is í Oifig an tSoláthair a chuireann soláthairtí páipéir ar fáil don Roinn.

[2052]

  155.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  156.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  157.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes, (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  158.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for the Gaeltacht (Mr. Wilson):  Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 155, 156, 157 agus 158 le chéile.

Tá beirt oifigeach ag comhroinnt poist sa Roinn. Beirt bhan atá i gceist agus is sa ghrád céanna ina raibh siad ón tús, i.e, cúntóir cléireachais, atá siad ag comhroinnt poist. Is ar bhonn gach ré seachtain atá an post á chomhroinnt acu.

  159.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Gaeltacht (Mr. Wilson):  Níl aon cheapachán mar sin déanta i mo Roinn.

[2053]

  160.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for the Gaeltacht    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Gaeltacht (Mr. Wilson):  Tá an beartas ginearálta maidir le folúntais sa Státseirbhís leagtha amach san fhreagra a thug an tAire Airgeadais don Teachta ar 11 Meitheamh 1991 agus tá feidhm leis an mbeartas sin i gcónaí. Faoi láthair tá socruithe idir lámha chun na poist seo a leanas i mo Roinn a líonadh: Rúnaí cúnta, oifigeach feidhmiúcháin, cúntóir cléireachais agus glantóir.

Bhí beirt oifigeach seirbhíseach ag fónamh i mo Roinn ar 1 Eanáir 1990 agus tá an líon céanna ag fónamh ann faoi láthair.

  161.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline the proportion of the 300 or so individual proposals announced in the White Paper on the establishment of the European Community Internal Market which are now law in Ireland; and if he will indicate, in respect of those that are not law, whether this is because they have not yet been adopted at Community levels or because proposals adopted at Community levels have not yet been converted into Irish legislation.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  The White Paper programme for the completion of the Community's Internal Market contains 282 proposals. Measures in the form of directives, regulations, decisions and recommendations have been adopted in respect of 222 of these items, including four partial items. Measures in respect of the [2054] remaining 64 items, including the four partial items, are awaiting adoption.

There are currently 198 measures in force in the Community, 191 of which are applicable in Ireland. Of these, 39, or about 20 per cent, are awaiting translation into Irish law.

In some cases, more than one measure has been adopted in respect of an individual White Paper item. Accordingly, there is no direct correlation between the 222 items adopted and the 198 measures currently in force.

  162.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline the trade balance for each year from 1982 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  Details of Ireland's trade balance from 1982 to date, as provided by the Central Statistics Office, are as follows:

Year Imports Exports Trade Surplus
1982 6,816.2 5,691.4 -1,124.7
1983 7,366.8 6,943.8 -422.9
1984 8,912.2 8,897.5 -14.6
1985 9,428.2 9,743.0 314.8
1986 8,621.3 9,374.3 753.0
1987 9,155.2 10,723.5 1,568.3
1988 10,214.8 12,304.8 2,090.1
1989 12,284.3 14,597.0 2,312.8
1990 12,479.5 14,343.0 1,863.5
1991* 11,916.2 13,818.5 1,902.3

* 1991 figures are for the period January to November only. The December figures are not yet available from the CSO.

As the Deputy will note from the trade figures, Ireland's trade performance has improved steadily over the period. This growth in our trade surplus has been export driven. In the period 1982 to 1991, it is estimated that exports will have risen by 165 per cent while imports for the period will have risen by 90 per cent.

It is estimated that the overall trade surplus for 1991 will represent some 9.5 per cent of GNP. The trade deficit [2055] recorded in 1982 represented 9 per cent of GNP.

The annual reports of Córas Tráchtála, now known as An Bord Tráchtála, for all of the years concerned, except 1991, have been laid before the Oireachtas and each contains a detailed commentary on the export performance for the particular year. An Bord Tráchtála's annual report for 1991 will be published later in the year.

  163.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains.

At present, the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: one executive officer and one clerical officer, computer programmer.

The number of services officers and services attendants serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 25 and three respectively. The numbers serving at present are 23 and two respectively.

[2056]

  164.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  There has been only one recent appointment of the type mentioned in the Deputy's question.

Dr. P. J. Moriarty, former chief executive of the Electricity Supply Board, has been appointed as chairman of the task force established to follow-up on the recommendations of the Industrial Policy Review Group.

  165.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  166.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  167.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off; (b) day on/day off; (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  168.  Mr Garland    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 165, 166, 167 and 168 together. The information the Deputy requires regarding job-sharing in my Department is as follows.

No job-sharers were required to revert to a lower grade in order to avail of job-sharing.

[2057] There are no job-sharers job-sharing without a partner.

The arrangements applying to job-sharers are as follows: week on/week off, five officers; day on/day off, Nil; alternative morning/afternoon, Nil; other, nine officers.

There are 11 female and three male job-sharers in my Department.

  169.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he proposes to give additional resources to Eolas for the purpose of providing adequate testing facilities for identification of unsafe products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  I am informed by Eolas that they have the capacity to test the performance and safety of an extensive range of products. However, having regard to the very wide range of products on the market, the cost of establishing testing facilities at Eolas for all such products would be prohibitive. In these circumstances the policy of Eolas, where it does not have the necessary test capacity, is to refer the client to an alternative source of testing.

  170.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he proposes to increase the grant aid to the Consumers' Association of Ireland in view of the establishment of a consumer policy service within the community and the need for strengthening the support for consumer organisations within the EC generally; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  I have not received an application for funding for 1992 from the Consumers' Association of Ireland nor is there any provision under my Department's Vote for making such funding available.

[2058] The primary source of grant-aid funding for the Consumer's Association of Ireland in recent years has been through the European Commission and I understand that the association have made application for further substantial funding from that source for the current year.

When it became known in July 1991 that it was proposed to cut the EC consumer budget from 10.8 million to 4.3 million ECUs, which would have had serious implications for the financing of the Consumer's Association of Ireland, I, together with the Minister for Finance, sought to have this cut rescinded.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the EC consumer budget for 1992 has been fixed at 19.2 million ECUs from which, as in previous years, the Consumer's Association of Ireland stand to benefit.

  171.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he has any proposal to regulate the growing phenomenon of time sharing particularly in view of some recent instances of abuse that are well-documented; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  I would refer the Deputy to the statement I made to the House in the Adjournment Debte on 5 March 1991 — volume 405 (No. 9) columns Nos. 2420-23 — on the need for consumers to be vigilant in regard to offers of time share.

The Director of Consumer Affairs continues to be active in monitoring and investigating abuses in this area.

I am pleased to note that recently the EC Commission has brought forward a draft proposal on consumer protection relating to time sharing which, if adopted, will become applicable here. I would hope that the proposal can be progressed reasonably quickly.

[2059]

  172.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he has considered any proposal for protecting consumers from certain unfair practices in respect of new sales techniques particularly in the area of distance selling through mail order or other techniques; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  A draft Commission proposal for an EC Council Directive to protect consumers in respect of distance selling techniques was promulgated in July 1991. The proposal seeks to control selling techniques such as mail order and shopping by television, teletext and home computer.

My Department are currently consulting with interested bodies including the Director of Consumer Affairs about the contents of the proposal.

I would point out that section 47 of the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980, provides that under certain conditions the recipient of unsolicited goods may retain the goods as though they were an “unconditional gift”. This no doubt is of benefit to consumers.

  173.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he is proposing to implement any legislation in respect of cross-selling which is an increasingly important means of new business for financial institutions in particular and is glaringly anti-consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  As Minister for Industry and Commerce I am concerned that the generation of new business by the financial institutions would be done in a manner that does not impinge on the rights of the consumer.

However, the responsibility for the regulation of the financial services [2060] market as a whole lies primarily with the Minister for Finance and the Central Bank. With regard to the sale of financial products, the Central Bank have said that it would welcome the adoption by the broad financial services industry of a voluntary code of conduct for competition practices. Pending the adoption of such a code, the Central Bank have issued a number of guidelines to the banks in relation to the sale and marketing of savings and credit products which embrace, inter alia, the area with which the Deputy is concerned.

  174.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    when he will be introducing legislation to implement the EC Directive in respect of general product safety as agreed on 15 October 1991; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  At its meeting on 15 October 1991, the EC Consumer Affairs Council reached agreement in principle on a draft Product Safety Directive. In accordance with procedures, the draft Directive has been referred to the European Parliament for comment before final adoption by the EC Council. Pending adoption of the Directive, it is not possible, at this stage, to be specific about the implementation date.

  175.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he has satisfied himself that our system of notification of dangerous products is sufficient to meet the needs of the completion of the internal market in view of the increasing trans-border trade that will take place following the completion of that market; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  The Deputy will be aware that both the Department of [2061] Health and my Department operate the Community System for the Rapid Exchange of Information on dangerous food and non-food products respectively. Both my colleague, the Minister for Health, and I are satisfied that the system protects consumers from serious and immediate risk to their health and safety. I am conscious that the system is particularly vital given the freer movement of products in the internal market.

  176.  Mr. Noonan (Limerick East)    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the question of the increased importation of alumina to the Community from Russia was discussed at the EC General Affairs Council in Brussels on 3 February 1992; and if he has assessed, (1) the effect which the quadrupling of Russian imports of alumina since 1989 is having on the price of alumina in the Community and (2) the effect, if any, these imports will have on Aughinish Alumina Limited in Askeaton, County Limerick.

[2062]Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  I am informed that the question of the importation of alumina to the Community from Russia was not discussed at the EC General Affairs Council in Brussels on 3 February 1992 as suggested in the question. I am aware that, in combination with the ongoing world recession, increased imports from Russia have depressed prices for European producers of alumina. My officials will be discussing with the Irish company named what action, if any, can be initiated at Community level to address this problem.

  177.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Department of Industry and Commerce.

EC Legislation which has not yet been implemented.

Directive Title Due before 1993 Projected date of Implementation
89/104/EEC. First Council Directive of 21 December 1988 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to Trade Marks. Yes. Not yet determined.
89/617/EEC. Council Directive Amending Council Directive 80/181/EEC on the approximation of the laws of Member States relating to Units of Measurement. Yes. 30 June 1992.
90/383/EEC. Council Directive on the Harmonisation of the laws of Member States relating to Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments. Yes. 30 September 1992.
87/102/EEC. Council Directive for the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning consumer credit. Yes. 1992.
90/88/EEC. Amending Directive 87/102/EEC. Yes. 1992.
[2063][2064]89/396/EEC. Council Directive on indications or marks identifying the lot to which a foodstuff belongs. Yes. 31 March 1992.
86/653/EEC. Co-ordination of the Laws of Member States relating to Self-Employed Commercial Agents. No. 1 January 1994. (Date set out in Directive).
82/489/EEC. Measures to Facilitate the Effective Exercise of the right of Establishment and Freedom to Provide Services in Hairdressing. Yes. 1992.
90/618/EEC. Motor Insurance Freedom of Services Directive. Yes. 20 May 1992.
90/619/EEC. Second Life Freedom of Services Directive. Yes. 20 November 1992.
83/349/EEC. 7th Company Law Directive on Consolidated Accounts. Yes. Mid-1992.
89/298/EEC. Prospectuses Directive. Yes. Mid-1992.
90/211/EEC. Directive on Mutual Recognition of Prospectuses. Yes. Mid-1992.
89/666/EEC. 11th Company Law Directive on Accounts of Company Branches. Yes. Late-1992.
89/667/EEC. 12th Company Law Directive on Single Member Private Limited Companies. Yes. Late-1992.
90/604/EEC. Directive Giving Greater Exemptions from Accounting Requirements to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. Yes. Late-1992.
90/605/EEC. Directive Imposing Additional Accounting Requirements on Certain Types of Partnerships and Unlimited Companies. Yes. Late-1992.
89/686/EEC. Council Directive of 21 December 1989 on the Approximation of the Laws of the Member States Relating to Personal Protective Equipment. Yes. 1 July 1992.
91/368/EEC. Council Directive 91/368/EEC Amending Directive 89/392/EEC on the Approximation of the Laws of the Member States relating to Machinery. Yes. Within 2 Months.
90/396/EEC. Council Directive 90/396/EEC on the approximation of the Laws of the Member States relating to Appliances Burning Gaseous Fuels. Yes. Within one Month.
91/662/EEC. Commission Directive of 6 December 1991 Adapting to Technical Progress Council Directive Number 74/297/EEC in respect of the behaviour of the Steering Wheel and column in an impact. Yes. Mid-1992.
91/663/EEC. Commission Directive of 10 December 1991 adopting to technical progress Council Directive Number 76/756/EEC relating to the Installation of lighting and light signalling devices on motor vehicles and their trailers. No. Mid-1992.
[2065][2066]91/250/EEC. Council Directive on the Legal Protection of Computer Programmes. No. December 1992.
89/392/EEC. Council Directive of 14 June 1989 on the approximation of the Laws of member states relating to machinery. Yes. Within 2 months.
Number not published Council Directive on the annual accounts of insurance undertakings. No. 1 January 1994.

  178.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce    if he will outline (1) the quantity of recycled paper used in his Department in each of the last four years and (2) the increase/decrease in the use of these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley):  My Department purchased a total of 400,000 sheets of recycled paper in late 1990. This stock has been used throughout 1991 on a trial basis in two offices of my Department.

Further samples of recyled paper have recently been obtained by my Department with a view to identifying suitable areas where more use could be made of such paper.

  179.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the amount of aid that will be available under the Delors II Package which is under negotiation at present and will be implemented from 1992 to 1997 in respect of structural aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  182.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Finance    if any system has been agreed by EC member states in respect of the contribution to the Cohesion Fund which will be established; if this system will take the degree of prosperity within each member state into account; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 182 together.

The Commission has just recently presented its proposals on the budgetary framework for the period 1993-97. Discussion on these proposals will commence shortly within the Council of Ministers.

The amount of structural aid which will be available clearly will depend on the outcome of the negotiations. The Commission have proposed that there should be an increase of two-thirds in the resources made available to the Objective 1 Regions and that, taking account of the new Cohesion Fund, there could be a doubling of the overall resources for the four countries covered by the new fund, that is Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

It is envisaged that the Cohesion Fund will be included in the EC budget which, as the Deputy is aware, is financed from the Community's own resources. Both the level and the system of own resources will feature in the forthcoming negotiations. The Commission has proposed some changes in the VAT-based own resource which would result in some improvement in the relationship between actual contributions and the contributive capacity of the member states.

[2067]

  180.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Finance    if the European Commission will be carrying out any assessment of Structural Funds, particularly the manner in which they have been spent from 1987 to 1992; if account will be taken of this review in the negotiation of a new package of structural aid from 1993 to 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The European Commission is at present carrying out an internal mid-term review of the implementation of the Structural Fund regulations which were adopted in 1988 and cover the period 1989 to 1993.

The Community Support Framework (CSF) agreed by the Irish Government and the EC Commission which governs the provision of Structural Fund aid to Ireland over the years 1989 to 1993, and the supporting operational programmes, include provisions for evaluation of the implementation of the Structural Fund aided measures.

It is envisaged that the results of evaluations carried out under these provisions and the findings of the Commission mid-term review will be taken into account in the negotiations of Structural Fund arrangements for the post-1993 period.

  181.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the manner in which member states will be funded from the Cohesion Fund; if any provision will be made for countries that have difficulty in respect of budgetary debt problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  At this stage, no decisions have been made at Community level on the manner in which member states will be funded from the Cohesion Fund and-or as regards the provisions, if any, to be made for countries with budgetary debt problems.

[2068]

  183.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline (a) the national debt for each year 1985 to date and (b) the annual rate of increase/ decrease; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The national debt as at 31 December in each of the years 1985 to 1991 is as follows; the annual rate of increase is shown in brackets.

£(m) %
1985 18,502 (10)
1986 21,611 (17)
1987 23,694 (10)
1988 24,611 (4)
1989 24,828 (1)
1990 25,117 (1)
1991 25,400 (1)
(estimate)

The national debt as a proportion of gross national product reached a peak of 129 per cent in 1987 and since then has fallen to approximately 107 per cent in 1991.

  184.  Mr. Spring    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline (a) the main areas of divergence in indirect taxes between Irish and United Kingdom rates and (b) the steps he proposes to take to avoid trade diversionary effects in the aftermath of the dismantling of customs borders in the EC.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  For some time now, it has been apparent that, when tax-motivated border checks are abolished within the EC Single Market, a closer approximation of indirect tax rates would be required, particularly between neighbouring member states, if unacceptable diversions of trade and revenue were to be avoided. Budgetary policy here in recent years has responded to this requirement through a combination of reductions in the standard VAT rate, a virtual standstill in the main excise duty rates, except [2069] those on tobacco products, and the abolition of many minor exercises. These changes, coupled with certain upward adjustments in UK rates, have resulted in a considerable narrowing of the differentials in indirect tax rates between the two countries. For example, whereas there was a 10 per cent difference between the respective standard rates of VAT in 1989, this gap has now been reduced to 3.5 per cent.

The other remaining main areas of rate divergence concern domestic energy products, zero-rated in the UK but liable at the 12.5 per cent VAT rate in the State, beer, wine, petrol, heating oil and motor vehicles, where excise rates are significantly higher than in the UK.

Under the post-1992 arrangements agreed by the ECO/FIN Council, the freedom of private individuals to purchase in other member states without tax implications will be the guiding principle. However, in order to limit potential cross-border trade distortions, the Council have also agreed that as regards VAT special arrangements shall apply for a transitional period, until end-1996 at least, in the following areas: mail order and distance sales, i.e. where goods are dispatched or transported by or on behalf of the supplier to a private individual in another member state; new vehicles and other means of transport and, covering private cars, commercial vehicles and certain motor cycles, boats and aircraft; non-taxable bodies and small traders, involving purchases above at least 10,000 ECU annually.

In these cases, VAT will be payable in and at the rate of the country of destination.

The Council have also agreed that member states who apply zero-rating should have the option to retain such rating, at least, during the transitional period. In recognition of the distortion of competition that this could involve for Ireland, because domestic energy products are zero-rated in the UK, it has been agreed that, following a favourable opinion from the Commission, we may apply a reduced rate to such products.

In the excise duty area the ECO/FIN [2070] Council have agreed that, post-1992, excise duties on commercial quantities of tobacco, alcohol and mineral oil products will continue to be payable in the country of consumption at that country's rate. On 10 February last, the Council approved a directive establishing a control framework for inter-Community trade in excisable goods designed to ensure the security of revenue involved. The new arrangements and deterrents envisaged are designed to correspond to the degree of risk associated with the various channels of movement involved, ie duty suspended or duty-paid and to the nature of the operator concerned ie bonded warehouse-keeper, registered operator or unregistered operator. The provisions of the new directive will be translated into national legislation during 1992: supplementary national measures are also under consideration.

Post-1992, with the exception of hydrocarbon oils, excisable goods acquired in another member state by private individuals for their own use and carried by them when returning to their own member state will not be subject to further duty on their return. Criteria have been laid down to enable private transactions to be distinguished from commercial transactions. These include the commercial status of the holder of the goods as well as the quantity carried. In the case of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, indicative quantities have also been specified; if these are exceeded, there will be an onus on the person carrying out the transaction to prove that it is a private one. Ireland has been authorised to apply lower indicative figures for beer and wine until mid-1997.

Finally, I should say that, in the run-up to the completion of the Internal Market, I shall continue to review our indirect tax rates with a view to ensuring that undue trade and revenue distortions do not occur when border controls are removed, while, of course, having regard to the wider budgetary repercussions of any changes.

[2071]

  185.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy of 11 February 1991 and that policy still obtains.

At present the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: 1 services officer.

The number of service officers and service attendants serving in my Department is as follows: 1 January 1992 — 29 service officers, 3 service attendants; 1 January 1990 — 32 service officers, 3 service attendants.

  186.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Finance    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  This Department has not recently appointed or employed any persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who are in receipt of State pensions.

[2072]

  187.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  No job sharers were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing in my Department.

  188.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  There are two officers currently job sharing without partners in my Department.

  189.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off; (b) day on/day off; (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The number of officers taking part in the following job sharing regimes are: (a) week on/week off, 11; (b) day on/day off, Nill; (c) alternative morning/afternoon, Nil; (d) other arrangements, 19.

  190.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The following table gives a breakdown by gender of the number of people in my Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Grade Male Female Total
Assistant Principal 0 4 4
Higher Executive Officer 0 2 2
Executive Officer 1 1 2
Staff Officer 0 1 1
Clerical Officer 0 5 5
Clerical Assistant 0 16 16
Total 1 29 30

[2073]

  191.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will clarify the situation relating to withholding tax being extended to payments to doctors made by ESB, Telecom Éireann, An Post, CIE and a large number of other State companies.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The withholding tax, which was first introduced in the Finance Act, 1987, applies to payments for professional services made to individuals and companies by accountable persons. The withholding tax applies to a wide range of professional services listed in the legislation. The current list of accountable persons, which is set out in the legislation, covers Government Departments, most of the major non-commercial State bodies, local authorities, health boards and authorised health insurers such as the VHI. I announced in my recent Budget Statement that from 6 June 1992 this list of accountable persons who apply withholding tax will be extended to include all the commercial State bodies and a number of other non-commercial State bodies.

Companies or individuals, such as doctors, who provide any of the listed professional services to the bodies listed in the legislation will have withholding tax deducted from their fees. The withholding tax involves the deduction of an amount equivalent to the standard rate of income tax from the payment and the transfer of that amount to the Revenue Commissioners. The standard rate was 35 per cent when withholding tax was first introduced and is being reduced to 27 per cent with effect from 6 April next. I would point out that the withholding tax involves no more than the withholding, on account, of an amount of tax due. Full credit for the amount withheld is given when computing the final tax liability. The scheme accordingly confers no additional tax liability on any individual or company and contains safeguards to ensure that no undue adverse effects arise from its operation. Principal among such [2074] safeguards is the provision for the payment of interim refunds, including interim refunds on grounds of particular hardship, during the individual or company's accounting period.

  192.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Finance    if he intends to bring forward legislation to amend the law governing the prudential supervision of banks operating in or from Ireland arising from the recent collapse of the BCCI.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The supervision of licensed banks is a matter for the Central Bank. The bank advises me that it has been monitoring the course of events in the BCCI case but that no supervisory aspect has so far emerged which would lead the bank to recommend an amendment to the powers of the bank which were most recently strengthened and up-dated in the Central Bank Act, 1989. The reasons for the collapse of BCCI and the implications for supervisors are still being analysed and discussed at international level. It is, therefore, too early to appreciate fully the lessons which are to be learned. The bank will keep the situation under continuous review.

  193.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will give details of the number of warrants which have been issued to the Sheriff for Cork County (a) the total and (b) in relation to (1) VAT, (2) PAYE and (3) income tax for each of the last three years.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The number of certificates issued to the Sheriff for Cork County under section 485 of the Income Tax Act, 1967, is set out as follows:

[2075]Year Total (All Taxes) VAT PAYE/ PRSI Income Tax
1989 11,244 3,410 4,935 2,833
1990 9,612 4,691 3,567 1,302
1991 9,433 4,811 3,353 1,105

  194.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will give details of the number of warrants which have been issued to the Sheriff for Cork City, (a) in total and (b) in relation to (1) VAT, (2) PAYE and (3) income tax for each of the last three years.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The number of certificates issued to the Sheriff for Cork City under section 485 of the Income Tax Act, 1967 is as set out as follows:

Year Total (All Taxes) VAT PAYE/ PRSI Income Tax
1989 6231 2307 3132 731
1990 5547 2912 2175 409
1991 5556 2951 2127 312

  195.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Finance    if, in view of the cratering of Border roads and the temporary road closures which entail detours, he proposes to provide additional funding under the Interreg programme for road maintenance in such areas.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  One of the measures under the joint Ireland/Northern Ireland Interreg programme provides grant-aid for infrastructure provision and improvement. A number of categories of infrastructure has been identified to date as potential areas for development or improvement under the measure. This includes roads. It is intended to improve certain roads which are considered crucial to the success of further development of the area, particularly in respect of tourism, agriculture, forestry and SME development.

Under this measure grants totalling £4 million and part-financed by the EC will [2076] be provided to local authorities. These grants will be in respect of road improvement projects and not for maintenance work. Under the rules governing the EC Structural Funds, road maintenance work is not eligible for grant assistance.

  196.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The EC legislation with which my Department are concerned and which has not yet been implemented but is due for implementation by 1 January 1993 is given in the following list. In all cases it is intended to introduce the necessary measures during the course of 1992.

Directive 91/680/EEC on transitional post-1992 VAT arrangements.

Directive 90/504/EEC amending Directive 79/695/EEC on the harmonisation of procedures for the release of goods for free circulation.

Directive* on the general arrangements for products subject to excise duty and on the holding and movement of such products.

Directive 90/434/EEC on a common system of taxation of mergers, divisions and contribution of assets.

90/436/EEC — Convention on the elimination of double taxation in connection with the adjustment of profits of associated enterprises (Arbitration Procedure).

Directive 86/635/EEC on the annual and consolidated accounts of banks and other financial institutions.

Directive 89/117/EEC on accounts of branches of banks and financial institutions.

Directive 89/646/EEC “Second Banking Directive” on freedom of establishment and services.

* While this Dirctive was agreed by Ministers on 10 February 1992, it has not yet been formally adopted.

[2077]

  197.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline his future plans for the old fines office in Coleraine Street, Dublin 7, which is an important building and is falling into disrepair.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The former parking fines office in Coleraine House is being surrendered to the owners, Dublin Corporation.

  198.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the consultations which take place with landowners before certain areas of the country are designated as areas of scientific interest; and if he has any proposals to compensate farmers whose land is affected by such designation.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  An area of scientific interest is an area which is of special interest for its fauna and flora. It is identified as such by a survey and selection process based on an assessment by scientists using criteria such as representativeness, disturbance, rarity and size. The criteria used are in accordance with those use throughout the European Community. It has not been the practice to consult landowners on this assessment.

Identification of land as an area of scientific interest does not prevent a landowner from developing that land. If any proposed developments in such an area are considered to be damaging to the environment, the Office of Public Works object to such development and ask other Government agencies not to grant-aid such development. The landowner may still proceed with the development subject to normal planning and development regulations. Consequently, the question of compensation does not arise.

[2078]

  199.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the current position regarding the reconstruction of a castle (details supplied) in County Limerick by the Office of Public Works; when it will be open to members of the public; whether access to it will be provided from the national primary route between Limerick and Killarney; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The reconstruction of the tower of the castle is in progress at present and it is expected that it will be completed in the latter half of this year when it will be opened to the public.

Access will be available from the Square but not from the Limerick to Killarney Road.

  200.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Finance    if a preservation order could be placed on the Hermitage, Lixnaw, County Kerry.

  201.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Finance    whether the Office of Public Works will take over the Hermitage in Lixnaw, County Kerry and preserve it as a national monument.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 201 together.

The most appropriate form of protection for this monument would be registration under the National Monuments Acts and I have asked the Commissioners of Public Works to make the necessary arrangements.

Due to their extensive commitments in the Kerry-Cork region, the commissioners are not in a position to take the Hermitage into State care.

[2079]

  202.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will outline the plans the Office of Public Works have for lands (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The lands at the Casino comprise about ten acres of which 5.65 acres are owned by the Commissioners of Public Works. Dublin Corporation agreed some years ago that the remaining corporation owned lands of about 4.7 acres should be kept as a green area and the Office of Public Works undertook to landscape the entire as befits the national monument.

The objective of the Office of Public Works in landscaping the area was to try to recapture the ambience of the Casino, which, in its original setting, had 500 acres of sweeping estate land with views of Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Mountains. With only ten acres of space, the best way to do this was to gain the maximum area of parkland in front of the Casino and create an illusion of space by placing mounds at strategic points. This parkland setting when fully matured will be available for passive recreation purposes. However, as agreed with the corporation, the Office of Public Works have left an area of some 1,500 sq. metres of the 4.7 acres owned by the corporation at the north-east corner of the site free for development by the corporation for active recreation purposes.

  203.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will outline, (1) the discussions which have been taking place at European Community level for a code of practice in respect of the dumping of radio-active waste, (2) the proposals, if any, which have emerged for the purpose of providing guidelines to states for the development and harmonisation of the international cross-border movement of radio-active waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  An EC Plan of Action in the field of radio-active waste management has been in [2080] operation since 1980. Arising from the plan and the work of various international organisations in this field, a large number of legal and administrative recommendations and requirements have been introduced by individual member states in respect of radio-active waste disposal. As a result, different measures apply from one EC country to another.

The EC Commission has recently concluded that a new plan should now be adopted to cover the period 1993 to 1999. A principal objective of the plan would be the harmonisation at Community level of radio-active waste management strategies and practices, wherever possible. The Commission has prepared proposals in this regard and my Department will fully participate in the definition and implementation of the plan.

I would also point out that under Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty, member states are required at present to provide the EC Commission with details of their national plans for the disposal of radio-active waste. The Commission, after consultation with member states, will then determine whether or not the implementation of such plans poses any threat of radio active contamination in another member state.

On the question of the international cross-border movement of radio-active waste, a Council Directive was recently adopted which provides for comprehensive Community rules to make transfrontier movements of nuclear waste subject to a system of strict control and authorisation from their point of origin to their point of storage. Member states must implement this directive not later than 1 January 1994.

  204.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Energy    if radon measurements have been undertaken in schools in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  Radon measurements, which would be [2081] a matter for boards of management to initiate, have not been carried out in schools in County Kerry. The Nuclear Energy Board recommends that all boards of management should consider having radon measurements carried out in their schools. If boards decide on such tests they should contact the Nuclear Energy Board, 3 Clonskeagh Square, Clonskeagh Road, Dublin 14, which operates a measurement service at a cost of £15 per radon detector.

  205.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2), and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains.

At present the following four posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland; principal geologist; forestry inspector grade III; and services officer/driver.

The number of service officers and service attendants in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 15. The number currently serving is 14.

  206.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Energy    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[2082]Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  My Department have not recently appointed or employed any persons who come within the description outlined in the Deputy's question.

  207.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  None of the staff of my Department who are job sharing was required to revert to a lower grade to avail of the scheme.

  208.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  There are currently four staff of my Department who are job sharing without a partner.

  209.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  The following is the information requested by the Deputy: (a) 11*; (b) nil; (c) one; (d) nil.

* Including eight who operated mid-week to mid-week.

  210.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  All staff in my Department who are job sharing are female and the breakdown by [2083] grade is as follows: I assistant principal Officer; 2 higher executive officers; 2 executive officers; 1 staff officer; 2 clerical assistant/typists; 1 geologist; 1 cartographer; 2 blind telephonists.

  211.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Energy    if he has allocated any finance under the SAVE programme, which was approved by the European Commission in October 1990, for the purpose of efficiency in energy conservation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  SAVE is a five-year EC Community programme with a total budget of 35 million ECU, of which 14 million ECU are for the first two years, 1991 and 1992.

Under the SAVE Programme, the European Commission will provide financial assistance to member states for certain initiatives, mainly information and training activities, related to energy efficiency and sectoral pilot projects. The Commission has yet to establish guidelines for the support of such measures and when these become available, my Department will submit proposed initiatives under SAVE to the EC Commission.

The EC Commission has approved 227,000 ECU in grant aid towards the cost of a study to be undertaken by the ESB in the area of least cost planning. That approval followed an invitation under the SAVE Programme from the EC Commission for the submission of proposals for studies in this area from utilities within the Community. The ESB proposal was among those selected for grant aid.

[2084]

  212.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for energy    if, in view of an agreement reached by member states in December 1989, to introduce Community inspection of nuclear installations, he will outline the number of inspections that have been carried out at Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the safety or otherwise of this nuclear installation.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  The Deputy is referring here to the decision of the EC Commission acting on its own responsibility, to resume inspections of monitoring facilities in member states after a lapse of twenty years. These inspections are provided for under Article 35 of the Euratom Treaty and are intended to cover all facilities established by member states to monitor nuclear installations which discharge radioactive substances into the environment.

At the time, I welcomed this decision as a step in the right direction but I also stressed that it fell short of the Independent Community Inspection Force which Ireland has long been seeking and which would cover all aspects of safety, related to nuclear plants. Nevertheless, I asked the EC Commissioner for the Environment to give priority attention to the inspection of a number of reprocessing plants and nuclear reactors, including of course Sellafield, which are of concern to Ireland.

I also asked that adequate staffing and financial resources be provided in order to permit the early commencement of a vigorous inspection programme. Regretfully, so far the EC Commission has carried out only two inspections, one in Germany and one in Luxembourg. Ireland has expressed strong disappointment at Community level at this very poor level of implementation of the Commission's decision and at Council of Minister's level has called on the Commission to fully exercise its rights of inspection of monitoring facilities in member states.

The Government are concerned that the continued operation of the Sellafield plant and the very large accumulation of highly radioactive waste at Sellafield, together with transport of radioactive material to and from the plant exposes this country to significant risks. Independent third party inspection, such as the Community Inspection Force we have proposed, which would report on [2085] its safety performance as well as its monitoring facilities, could help to allay our concerns but progress in that regard has not been possible to date.

  213.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will implement Directive 75/404 that was agreed in 1990 and which will allow for the greater use of gas in electricity plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  I assume that the Deputy is, in fact, referring to Council Directive 75/404 of 13 February 1975 which imposed restrictions on the use of natural gas in power stations. This did not impact on us, however, because the EC accepted that [2086] Ireland had special reasons for continuing to use gas for electricity generation. The directive was revoked in 1991 by Councill Directive 91/148. The latter directive required no special provisions to be implemented.

  214.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  Statutory measures to give legal effect to the following EC Directives which fall within my area of responsibility have not been taken:

Implementation Date
1. 78/170/EEC Council Directive of 13 February 1978 on performance of heat generators for space heating. 1 July 1980.
2. 82/885/EEC Council Directive of 10 December 1982 amending Directive 78/170/EEC. 1 July 1984.
3. 79/530/EEC Council Directive of 14 May 1979 on the indication by labelling of the energy consumption of household appliances. 13 June 1981.
4. 79/531/EEC Council Directive of 14 May 1979 applying to electric ovens Directive 79/530/EEC. 13 June 1981.
5. 89/618 Euratom Council Directive of 27 November 1989 on informing the general public about health protection measures to be applied and steps to be taken in the event of a radiological emergency. 26 November 1991.
6. 90/641/Euratom Council Directive of 4 December 1990 on the operational protection of outside workers exposed to the risk of ionizing radiation during their activities in controlled areas. 31 December 1993.
7. 90/377/EEC Council Directive of 29 June 1990 concerning a Community procedure to improve the transparency of gas and electricity prices charged to industrial end-users. 1 July 1991.

The position in regard to implementation is as follows:

Items Nos. 1-4: I do not propose at this stage to provide statutory enforcement of these directives in view of new draft directive proposals which are likely to be adopted in the near future.

Item 5: Confirmation from the EC Commission has been sought by my Department that the current arrangements in Ireland in relation to radiological emergency planning are acceptable as meeting the requirements of the directive.

Item 6: It is intended to make statutory provisions for implementation of the directive before the due date, 31 December 1993.

[2087] Item 7: The requirements of the Directive are being complied with. Both BGE and ESB are supplying the necessary information and statistics relating to gas and electricity prices. The directive was implemented by way of administrative arrangements. The question as to whether a statutory provision may also be necessary is being examined.

  215.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Energy    if he will outline (1) the quantity of recycled paper used in his Department in each of the last four years and (2) the increase/decrease in the use of these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Molloy):  The following are details of the quantity of recycled paper used in my Department in each of the last four years: 1988, Nil; 1989, Nil; 1990, 800 reams; and 1991, 610 reams.

Use of recycled paper declined in 1991 when it was established that its use was causing serious damage to this Department's heavy duty photocopier and laser printer. It was accordingly decided to discontinue the use of recycled paper on these machines until a suitable type of recycled paper becomes available.

  216.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Marine    whether he intends to transfer the ferry port from Dún Laoghaire to Dublin Port; if so, whether this move would contribute to further traffic congestion within the Dublin area; and his views on whether this move would adversely affect the town of Dún Laoghaire economically.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  I have no plans to transfer the ferry port [2088] of Dún Laoghaire to Dublin Port. The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Development plan is being finalised at present by the Interim Dún Laoghaire Harbour Board. This will be of assistance to me in considering the alternatives available in Dublin Bay for the development of berth-age and terminal facilities in the future.

  217.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  The authorised staffing level for my Department is the number of posts which the Department itself considers it appropriate to fill under authority delegated to it in accordance with an administration budget agreed with the Department of Finance or, in the case of grades outside the limit of the delegated authority, where recruitment has been specifically authorised by the Department of Finance.

At present the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled:

Grade:

Deputy Chief Surveyer,

Surveyor (2 posts),

Engineer II,

Engineer III,

Administrative Officer.

The number of service officers, formerly called messengers, and other service grades serving in my Department in January 1990 and at present is set out in the following table:

[2089][2090]Grade Number serving in January 1990 Number serving in February 1992
Service Officers 7 9
Service Attendants 1 1
Storekeeper 2 2
Senior Laboratory Assistant 1 1
Laboratory Attendant 3 2
Cleaners 3 3

  218.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for the Marine    whether his Department has recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  One such appointment was made in my Department recently. The person concerned was previously employed in the Defence Services.

  219.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  220.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  221.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  222.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 219, 220, 221 and 222 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Grade Number Gender Regime Without a Partner
Executive Officer 1 Female Week on/Week off Yes
Clerical Assistant 1 Female Week on/Week off No
Clerical Assistant 1 Female Thursday — Wednesday No
Clerical Ast/Typist 2 Female Week on/Week off No

The job sharers in my Department were not required to revert to a lower grade in order to avail of the scheme.

  223.  Mr. G. O'Sullivan    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he has plans to move the port of registry for west Cork from Skibbereen to Castletownbere in view of the fact that Castletownbere is the second largest fishing port in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  The location of the port of registry in this region is under review. I will communicate with the Deputy on the matter as soon as a decision is taken.

  224.  Mr. G. O'Sullivan    asked the Minister for the Marine    if, in view of the fact that the lifeboats of the Irish fleet of the RNLI were launched 414 times in 1991 and saved 90 lives, he will allocate an extra £100,000 to the RNLI; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[2091]Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  I am fully aware of the excellent work being carried out by the RNLI, which is a voluntary organisation supported by charitable contributions. A special once-off additional allocation of £100,000 was made in 1991 for a particular project.

The allocation for 1992 is £100,000. I have no resources available at present to increase this allocation.

  225.  Mr. G. O'Sullivan    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will identify the qualifying criteria by which fishing licences are allocated in view of widespread dissatisfaction with the present procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  To enter the Irish commercial fishing fleet, boats must first be licensed under section 222B, as inserted by the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1983, of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959. Applicants must apply for a licence by completing an official application form and forward it to the Department of the Marine for consideration and decision.

The main condition which must be satisfied before a boat may be licensed is that equivalent fishing capacity be first withdrawn from the fleet. Therefore, to bring in a new/second hand boat, a boat or boats, whose tonnage and horse power is/are at least equivalent to the tonnage and horse power of the new/second hand boat, must be removed from the current sea fishing boat register and that tonnage and horse power must be active.

Additional licensing requirements apply to different sections of the fleet and these include, inter alia, the following: (i) where a beam trawler wishes to enter the fleet, this can only be accommodated by the removal of 100 per cent active tonnage and horse power from the beam trawler fleet; (ii) where a refrigerated sea water tank boat wishes to enter the fleet this can only be accommodated by the removal of 100 per cent active tonnage and horse power from the tank boat fleet; [2092] (iii) where an applicant wishes to exploit herring and/or mackerel by means of a dry-hold boat over 65 ft. he must first remove from the current sea fishing boat register a boat or boats with an active history of fishing for these species and whose aggregate tonnage and horse power is at least equivalent to the tonnage and horse power of the boat being introduced to the fleet; and (iv) boats lost at sea qualify as replacement tonnage and horse power, provided that the boat in question was on the current sea fishing boat register when lost at sea and would in normal circumstances qualify for replacement purposes.

Applicants must then comply with the following before a licence can issue: (a) if applicants are a body corporate, proof of registration in the companies office must be provided. A copy of the memorandum and articles of association may also be sought before a licence is issued; (b) applicants must supply a condition survey report from a qualified marine surveyor if the boat was built more than ten years prior to the application, to satisfy the Department that the boat is safe and seaworthy; (c) applicants are required to provide evidence that vessels are not eligible for and did not receive a decommissioning grant from another member state; (d) applicants must also demonstrate that the exploitation of the target species by the vessel will be of economic and social benefit to the coastal region to which the quotas concerned are designed to benefit; and (e) the skipper/owner and other crew members must be duly qualified as required under relevant legislation in force.

If an application for a licence is approved, conditions may be inserted in the licence relating to the areas in which the boat is allowed to fish, type of fishing methods allowed and target species the boat may fish.

Notwithstanding the above, a special sea fishing boat licensing scheme was introduced on a once off basis in July 1991, aimed at developing the off shore white fish sector and in particular to fish the unexploited quotas of white fish and prawns off the west and south-west coasts [2093] of Ireland. Special suitable conditions and criteria applied to this scheme.

It is aimed, in the coming months, to consolidate, in one document, the various policies and requirements which apply to the licensing of fishing activities.

  226.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  In relation to my Department, the following three EC Directives have not yet been implemented:

Reference No. Title
(1) 91/492 Directive laying down the health conditions for the production and placing on the market of live bivalve molluscs.
(2) 91/493 Directive laying down the health conditions for the production and placing on the market of fishery products.
(3) 91/67 Directive laying down the animal health conditions governing the placing on the market of aquaculture animal and products.

My Department intend to implement these directives in 1992 and I can confirm that they must be in place by 1993.

  227.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for the Marine    if he will outline (1) the quantity of recycled paper used in his Department in each of the last four years and (2) the increase/decrease in the use of these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[2094]Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods):  In each of the last four years my Department have used in the region of 100,000 envelopes made from recycled paper.

Details of the quantities of other recycled paper used in my Department are not readily available.

  228.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Justice    if there is any proposed EC directive being considered in respect of developing a common contract law; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  I have no information that such a directive is being considered.

  229.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that, (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains. At present the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: Administrative Officer, 1; Higher Executive Officer, 2; Executive Officer, 6; Staff Officer, 1; Clerical Officer, 3; Clerical Assistant, 14; Paperkeeper, 3; Services Officer, 2; Cleaner, 1; Psychologist Grade II, 1; Forensic Scientist Grade III, 1; Probation & Welfare Officer, 2; Trades Officer, 5; Industrial Training Instructor, 5; Court Clerk, 1; Junior Court Clerk, 2; Stenographer, 1.

In addition, a total of 140 civilian staff, mainly clerical staff, will be recruited in the current year on foot of the Government's policy aimed at increasing the [2095] number of civilians in the Garda Síochána to release trained gardaí for operational duties.

The number of services officers and services attendants serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 44; the number currently serving is 45.

  230.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice    whether his Department has recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  Personnel records in my Department are not maintained in such a way as to identify officers who may be in receipt of State pensions in respect of previous service with State or semi-State organisations.

  231.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  It was not necessary for any officer in my Department to revert to a lower grade in order to participate in a job sharing arrangement.

  232.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  There are 14 officers currently “job sharing” in my Department without a partner.

[2096]

  233.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  Particulars of the numbers of officers in my Department participating in the various types of job-sharing are as follows:

Job-Sharing Arrangement Number of Officers
(a) Week on/week off 84
(b) Day on/day off nil
(c) Alternative morning/afternoon 5
(d) Other arrangements — mainly three days on, two days off on alternate weeks 31

  234.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  The following table sets out by gender the number of officers in each grade who are currently job sharing in my Department.

Grade Male Female
Higher Executive Officer 2
Executive Officer 15
Staff Officer 6
Clerical Officer 28
Clerical Assistant 54
Probation & Welfare Officer 1 3
Laboratory Technician 2
Examiner of Maps 4
Mapping Draughtsperson 1
Prison Officer 1 3

  235.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will outline the categories of applicants for refugee status that have been accepted by his Department.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  In considering applications for political asylum, I will be guided, as I understand [2097] my predecessors have been, by the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951 as amended by the New York Protocol to that Convention of 1957.

  236.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will have arrangements made for redecoration and window replacement at a Garda station (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the question of redecorating this station and replacing the windows is being examined by the local Garda officers, and the Office of Public Works are being asked to provide a costing.

When a costing is available, the matter will be further considered in the light of available funds and having regard to the priority of this project vis-à-vis the many other maintenance works required to Garda stations throughout the State.

  237.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Justice    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn):  The following is the position in regard to EC legislation requiring the introduction of legislative measures by my Department: directive on control of the acquisition and possession of firearms — must be implemented before 1 January 1993 and the question of legislation to implement the directive is, at present, being considered; directive on prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering — must be implemented before 1 January 1993 and the necessry legislation is being prepared; convention on the accession of Spain and Portugal to the 1968 EC Convention on Jurisdiction and the enforcement of [2098] judgments in civil and commercial matters as amended by the 1978 and 1982 accession conventions — there is no deadline for implementation and the necessary legislation is being prepared; First Protocol on the interpretation by the Court of Justice of the European Communities of the 1980 Convention on the law applicable to contractual obligations — there is no deadline for implementation and at the time of signature of the First Protocol Ireland declared that because of certain provisions of the Constitution of Ireland concerning the jurisdiction of, and the administration of justice by the Courts of Ireland, Ireland is not at present in a position to ratify this protocol, adherence to which is not an obligation of the treaties establishing the European Communities, and will not be in a position to proceed to ratification until such time as the constitutional impediment has been removed; and Lugano Convention (between the EC and EFTA) on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters — there is no deadline for implementation and the necessary legislation is being prepared.

  238.  Dr. Lee    asked the Minister for Education    the fee per student to be charged in 1992 for the entrance examination to the National University of Ireland.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  It is understood from the National University of Ireland that the fee for 1992 will be £100.

  239.  Dr. Lee    asked the Minister for Education    the fee per student to be charged in 1992 for the purchase of the matriculation certificate from the National University of Ireland.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  It is understood from the National University of Ireland that the fee for 1992 will be £67.

[2099]

  240.  Dr. Lee    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to his Department for the correction of leaving certificate, intermediate and day vocational examinations.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  In 1991 my Department paid examiners £5 million for correcting leaving, intermediate and day vocational certificate examination answerbooks.

  241.  Dr. Lee    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to his Department for repeat fees for 1992.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  I take it the Deputy is referring to the examination entry fees payable by candidates who remain at school in order to repeat the leaving certificate examination. As entry fees are still being collected by my Department, it is too early to give the precise information requested by the Deputy. It is, however, estimated that about £500,000 in entry fees will be received in respect of repeat candidates in 1992.

  242.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains.

At present the following posts in my [2100] Department are in the process of being filled:

Grade Number
Post-Primary Inspector 8
District Inspector (Primary) 1
Temporary Psychologist 1

The number of services officers (formerly messengers) and services attendants serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 27: the number currently serving is 28.

  243.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Education    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  My Department has not recently appointed or employed any persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who were in receipt of State pensions.

  244.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline the total number of job-sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing.

  247.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job-sharing without a partner.

[2101]

  248.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job-sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

[2102]

  249.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Education    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 247 to 249, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to my Department is as follows:

Job-Sharing.

HEOs EOs SOs COs CA(Cler) CA(Typist)
Total No. 6 18 4 12 18 6
Male 2
Female 6 16 4 12 18 6
Week/on/off 3 8 1 3 2
3 day/2 day 1 6 3 8 8 2
Half day 2 4 1 3 7 2

While all of the above are formally partnered within the Department for the purposes of the job-sharing scheme, a total of 24 are currently assigned to specific tasks on a stand alone basis. No one was required to revert to a lower grade to avail of the scheme.

  245.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline the approximate projected cost of the building of the second level school in Ashbourne, County Meath and the likely definition of the catchment area of the new school.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  The estimated cost of providing this new second level school is £3 million.

In addition to the primary schools in Ashbourne itself, schools in the following areas will also be included wholly, or on a shared basis, in the catchment area of the new community school: Curragha, County Meath; Cushenstown, County Meath; Kilbride, County Meath; Garris-town, County Dublin; Kilcossan, The Ward, County Dublin; Kilsallaghan, County Dublin and Oldtown, County Dublin.

  246.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Minister for Education    whether there are proposals (a) to give full status to computer studies at second level (b) to give this subject examination status at junior and senior cycle and (c) to train teachers so as to ensure a full computer studies programme in all second level schools; and if he will make a statement on the position of computer studies and computer education in post-primary schools.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  Computer studies is an integral part of a range of subjects at both junior certificate and leaving certificate. These include technology, business studies, technical graphics at junior certificate and engineering, construction studies and technical drawing at leaving certificate.

In addition a full syllabus in computer studies for junior pupils has been issued to schools. There is no formal examination, as yet, in this subject. At the leaving certificate level there is a computer studies option available to pupils and the Department of Education award statements to those pupils who achieve a satisfactory standard.

The Department of Education provide a range of in-service courses in the different subjects each year. In-service courses in computer studies for second level teachers have been provided by my Department since 1970. There were five [2103] such courses provided in various locations throughout the country in 1991.

There are no immediate plans to provide a separate examinable subject in computer studies at junior or senior cycle.

  250.  Mr. Deasy    asked the Minister for Education    the reason necessary repairs to a school (details supplied) in County Waterford have not been carried out to date; and when these will be carried out.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  I have made inquiries into this case and I find that, while my Department's professional advisers were in consultation some years ago with the then chairman of the board of management with a view to carrying out some improvement works at the school referred to by the Deputy, the matter was not pursued at local level due to various prevailing circumstances. If, however, local circumstances have now changed and the board of management wishes to proceed with any improvement works deemed necessary, I will be happy to have my professional advisers reactivate this case.

[2104]

  251.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline (1) the position at present regarding the provision of an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Offaly and (2) the extent of the accommodation to be provided; and when it is anticipated that work will commence on this much-needed extension.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  As recently announced, this project is scheduled to begin this year. Currently the final tender report is being examined by my Department which will be in contact shortly with the school authorities concerned in this regard.

The extension will comprise: five general classrooms, commerce/typing room, one library classroom, one geography room, one group room and store, general/purpose/dining/PE area, guidance office, administration office, staff accommodation, PE facilities (changing etc.), ancillary accommodation.

  252.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    if he will give details of (1) the number of students in receipt of European Social Fund maintenance grants for each of the years 1985 to 1991, (2) the total cost of these grants for each of these years respectively and (3) the proportional cost to the Irish Exchequer annually.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  The details requested by the Deputy in relation to ESF grants in vocational education committee colleges are as follows:

Year Grantholders Total Cost Exchequer Cost
£m £m
1985 3rd. Level 10,321 7.389 3.325
1986 3rd. Level 10,606 8.865 3.989
1987 3rd. Level 11,499 9.763 4.843
1988 3rd. Level 12,283 11.109 5.455
1989 3rd. Level 19,327 14.365 6.510
1990 3rd. Level 20,232 19.743 6.910
1991 3rd. Level (Estimated) 22,176 21.176 8.987

Notes:

(i) ESF assisted grants ceased to be paid to second level students as and from September 1988.

(ii) The ESF third level grants scheme was expanded to include 3 year courses (diploma level) as and from September 1989.

[2105]

  253.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Education    when work will commence on the proposed extension to Rosscahill national school, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  Funding for this project has been included in the 1992 capital programme for national schools.

It is my intention to invite tenders in the near future.

It is not possible to say at this stage when precisely work will commence.

  254.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline the criteria used to decide on the subsidisation of school text books by his Department; if he will give details of (a) the publications and (b) the publishers which receive grant aid; if he will further outline (1) the circulation of each of these publications and (2) the amount of money allocated to each of these publications for each of the last five years.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  My Department does not subsidise the publication of textbooks by private publishers, except in the case of Irish.

An Gúm, the publication branch of my Department, produces textbooks in the Irish language, both originals and translations of English texts. There is also a grant scheme to subsidise the publication of school textbooks in Irish which has not been availed of in recent years; the question of revised books is currently being examined.

[2106]

  255.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Education    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):  There are no legislative measures which need to be taken by my Department consequent to EC directives.

  256.  Miss Coughlan    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will outline the action taken by her Department to prevent the operation of illegal radio operators in County Donegal and the action she will be taking to remove existing private radio operators in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  My Department has devoted considerable time and resources to tackling the illegal broadcasting problem in Donegal. As a result, five prosecutions have been initiated in the courts and evidence in another two cases is being examined by the Chief State Solicitor to determine if further prosecutions can be brought.

In addition, my Department has placed advertisements in local papers and written to persons and businesses who advertise on those stations making it clear that it is an offence to advertise on illegal stations. I understand that this action has resulted in a considerable drop in advertising revenue going to illegal stations, although I understand that a significant portion of advertising comes from Northern Ireland.

My Department's efforts to close pirate radio stations will be continued throughout 1992 as resources permit.

[2107]

  257.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she has any proposals to introduce a registration and bonding system for freight forwarders to protect hauliers in the same manner as protection is afforded to those dealing with travel agents; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I have no proposals to introduce a registration and bonding system for freight forwarders. I am not aware of any significant demand for such a system, which would not, in any event, fall to be considered by my Department which has no function in relation to the freight forwarding sector.

  258.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within her Department that, (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2), and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains.

At present, the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: Assistant Principal (temp) 1; Higher Executive Officer (temp) 2; Executive Officer 2; Meteorologist 1; Senior Meteorological Officer 1; Meteorological Officer 1; Executive Engineer 2; Air Traffic Control Officer I 1; Air Traffic Control Officer II 9; Air Traffic Control Officer III 20; Air Traffic Control Assistant 9; Aeronautical Officer 1; Aeronautical Inspector 3; Technical Officer II 7; Technical Officer III 1; Assistant Aeronautical Officer 1; Radio Officer II 2; Radio Officer III 8.

[2108] The number of services officers and services attendants serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 13; the number currently serving is 13.

  259.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    whether her Department has recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from her Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  Three officers employed on a temporary contract basis in my Department are in receipt of pensions. Two receive State pensions and one is in receipt of a pension from a semi-State company.

  260.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will outline the total number of job sharers in her Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  261.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will outline the total number of job-sharers in her Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  262.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will outline the total number in her Department taking part in the following job-sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

[2109]

  263.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in her Department in each grade who are currently job-sharing.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I propose to answer Questions Nos. 260 to 263, inclusive, together.

There are ten staff in my Department availing of the job-sharing scheme and two of these are currently working without a partner. The ten officials are all female and work in the following grades: Clerical Officers, 5; Clerical Assistant Typists, 3; Communications Assistants, 2.

They have the following working arrangments: week on/week off, 4; 3 days on/2 days off, 4; mornings only, 2.

No officer in my Department had to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing.

  264.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she has any proposals to implement legislation on the training of road hauliers who carry dangerous substances as obliged by law under the European Community; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  A Bill is being drafted at present, with Government approval, to enable the State to implement Council Directive 89/684/EEC of 21 December 1989 on vocational training of certain drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods by road. Part of the directive must be implemented by all member states by 1 [2110] July 1992, at the latest, and it is the intention of the Government that the State will do so.

The Bill will be initiated in Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann as soon as the Government have approved the text.

  265.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will be promoting the idea of a Community licence to transport dangerous substances; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  The question of intensifying controls on the transportation of dangerous substances is a live issue affecting all modes of transport and, therefore, of concern to a number of Government Ministers, including myself, who have responsibilities in relation to transportation matters. We will be contributing, not only within the European Community but also in other international fora, to the ongoing development of further controls on the transportation of dangerous goods appropriate to the particular modes of transport.

  266.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications    if she will outline the EC legislation in her Department which has not been implemented; when she intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  The following is the information sought by the Deputy:

[2111][2112]Legislation Implementation Date Due Expected Date of Implementation by Ireland
Council Regulation (EEC) No. 3975/87 of 14 December 1987 on Application of Competition Rules to Air Transport. 1 January 1988 In the immediate future.
Council Directive 89/336/EEC of 3 May 1989 on Electromagnetic Compatibility. 1 January 1992 31 December 1992
Council Directive 89/552/EEC of 3 October 1989 on Pursuit of Television Broadcasting Activities. 3 October 1991 Mainly implemented on 3 October 1991. Implementation to be completed by 30 June 1992.
Council Directive 89/684/EEC of 21 December 1989 on Vocational training of certain drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods by road. 1 July 1992 (part) 1 January 1995 (balance) for all States except Portugal (implementation date: 1 January 1996). 1 July 1992 (part) 1 January 1995 (balance) in accordance with the Directive.
Council Directive 90/314/EEC of 13 June 1990 on Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours. 31 December 1992 31 December 1992
Council Directive 90/387/EEC of 28 June 1990 on Implementation of an Open Network Provision. 31 December 1990 In the immediate future.
Commission Directive 90/388/EEC of 28 June 1990 on Competition in the Markets for Telecommunications Services. 31 December 1990 In the immediate future.
Council Directive 91/263/EEC of 29 April 1991 on Telecommunications Terminal Equipment. 6 November 1992 6 November 1992
Council Decision 91/396/EEC of 29 July 1991 on Introduction of a Single European Emergency Call Number. 31 December 1996 31 December 1996
Council Directive 91/440/EEC of 29 July 1991 on the Development of the Community's Railways. 1 January 1993 1 January 1993
Council Directive 91/670/EEC of 16 December 1991 on Mutual Acceptance of Personnel Licences for the Exercise of Functions in Civil Aviation. 1 June 1992 1 June 1992

  280.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Health    when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will gain admission to hospital for the removal of cataracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The admission of a patient to hospital is a matter for clinical decision by the consultant concerned and the hospital authority. I would suggest to the Deputy that, if the patient is concerned about his condition, he should return to his general practitioner who would be in the best [2113] position to stress the urgency of the case with the consultant involved.

  281.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  282.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Health    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 and 282 together.

My Department has not recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who are in receipt of State pensions.

The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains. There are two vacancies in my Department at present which are in the process of being filled, one executive officer post, and one services officer post. Arrangements are being made to fill these vacancies in due course.

The number of services officers serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was seven and the number currently serving is nine, including a newly appointed head services officer.

[2114]

  283.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  288.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  289.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  290.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Health    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 283, 288, 289 and 290 together.

There are no job sharers in my Department currently job sharing without a partner. There are currently a total of ten officers, all female, job sharing as follows: four clerical assistant typists working one week on/one week off, two clerical officers working a three day/two day week, two staff officers working a three day/two day week and two executive officers working one week on/one week off. None of the officers concerned were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

[2115]

  284.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    if there is a proposal by the European Community to undertake a study visit to Ireland to examine the current basis for funding from the Social Fund of sheltered workshops; and if he will indicate the extent of the level of funding for the provision of sheltered workshop places in Ireland from European sources.

  287.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    if there is a proposal by the European Community to undertake a study visit to Ireland to examine the current basis for funding from the Social Fund of sheltered workshops; and if he will outline the extent of the level of funding for the provision of sheltered workshop places in Ireland from European sources.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose taking Questions Nos. 284 and 287 together.

The European Social fund only provides financial assistance to vocational training programmes which are aimed at training disabled persons for open employment. It does not aid sheltered work programmes or the training of people with disabilities for sheltered employment. ESF aid in respect of Ireland's operational programme for the vocational training of people with disabilities amounted to £24.92 million in 1991.

As part of the routine monitoring of EC assisted programmes, officials of the EC Commission will visit Ireland between 30 March and 3 April 1992 in connection with the operational programme for people with disabilities.

A Community wide evaluation of ESF assisted programmes for people with disabilities is also currently being undertaken in all member states. This evaluation which is being undertaken in Ireland by the Economic and Social Research Institute on behalf of the EC Commission, is aimed at measuring the impact of ESF actions on the general situation of people with disabilities in the labour market and at facilitating the selection of appropriate measures for development under co-financed programmes.

[2116]

  285.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Health    if, following the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 365 of 29 January 1992, he is prepared to receive a deputation from doctors who are denied registration by the Medical Council to ascertain the position of doctors with qualifications from third countries; if he will take steps to ensure that doctors seeking registration with the Medical Council would be facilitated by the Departments of Labour, Justice and Health to gain the necessary permits to allow them to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The registration of medical practitioners is entirely a matter for the Medical Council. The Minister for Health has no functions in relation to the registration of individual doctors. There is no provision for an appeal to the Minister by persons dissatisfied with decisions of the council. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to meet doctors who are aggrieved by such decisions.

The question of the qualifications required before doctors can be registered to practice in Ireland is also a matter for the council.

My predecessor has already indicated in the reply referred to by the Deputy that the question of delays in issuing permits would be brought to the attention of the relevant Departments.

  286.  Mr. J. Bruton and Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the approximate level of the waiting list in each health board area for admission to sheltered workshops.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The information requested by the Deputies is not readily available in my Department. I am arranging to have it collected and will forward it to the Deputies as soon as possible.

[2117]

  291.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will make a statement on recent media reports (details supplied) that he does not feel obliged to contribute towards the cost of the Beaumont Inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I fully appreciate that the fitness-to-practice inquiry currently conducted by the Medical Council into events at Beaumont Hospital is imposing considerable costs on all of the parties to the inquiry.

There are no funds at my disposal and, indeed, there is no statutory provision for the Minister for Health to meet expenses incurred by the Medical Council.

The Medical Council is a self-funding, self-regulating and independent body and it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment on the matter.

  293.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will allow spirometry under the general medical services contract.

  294.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will allow audiometry under the general medical services contract.

  295.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will allow the influenza vaccine to be administered under the new general medical services contract.

  296.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will allow cholesterol measurements under the general medical services contract.

  297.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will allow cervical screening under the general medical services contract.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I [2118] propose to take Questions Nos. 293 to 297 inclusive, together.

Under section 58 of the Health Act, 1970, health boards are required to make available, without charge, a general practitioner medical and surgical service for persons with full eligibility. This service is provided by general practitioners who hold contracts with the health boards under the general medical services scheme.

The procedures and treatments referred to in the Deputy's questions would be covered by the GMS contract in respect of medical card patients who are considered by their general practitioner to require such services as part of their diagnosis and general treatment.

  298.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, in respect of each of the voluntary agencies, including hospitals directly funded by his Department in each of the years 1986 to 1992 inclusive, (1) the nominal value of their allocation and (2) the price index of health service costs which his Department use to estimate the value of allocation in real constant money terms.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The following table sets out the original allocation approved for each voluntary agency for the years 1986 to 1992 inclusive.

At present there is no price index specific to health service costs here. When health expenditure is expressed in constant terms, it is normally valued by reference to the consumer price index or an implicit public current expenditure deflator from the Central Statistics Office national accounts.

Voluntary Hospitals Allocations 1986 Original Allocation 1987 Original Allocation 1988 Original Allocation
£m £m £m
St. James's 28.850 30.505 33.000
Beaumont 30.800
Mater 25.655 23.795 24.500
St. Vincent's Elm Park 21.340 20.510 20.000
Meath 8.195 7.643 9.450
[2119][2120]Adelaide 5.125 4.885 6.250
St. Michael's Dún Laoghaire 3.225 3.298 3.000
Royal Victoria Eye & Ear 4.180 4.179 3.500
Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda 9.040 8.793 8.700
Mercy, Cork 4.430 4.651 6.000
South Infirmary/Victoria, Cork 4.700
Portiuncula, Ballinasloe 5.635 5.227 5.000
St. John's Limerick 1.930 1.588 1.300
Coombe 6.815 7.070 7.070
National Maternity, Holles St. 6.970 7.018 6.300
Rotunda 7.630 7.581 6.900
Waterford Maternity 0.935 0.812 0.800
Our Lady's Crumlin 13.065 12.245 11.900
Temple Street 8.070 7.673 7.300
National Childrens', Harcourt St. 3.035 3.326 2.900
St. Luke's/St. Anne's 5.150
Hume Street 0.960 0.796 0.750
Cappagh Orthopaedic 4.150 3.864 3.400
Incorporated Orthopaedic, Clontarf 0.850 1.001 1.000
Our Lady of Lourdes, Dún Laoghaire 4.155 3.784 3.200
Our Lady's Hospice 2.860 2.814 2.900
Royal, Donnybrook 2.445 3.038 3.000
Dublin Dental 0.695 0.812 0.800
Cork Dental 0.230 0.255 0.250
Central Remedial Clinic 1.150 1.182 1.050
Leopardstown Park 1.300 1.285 1.150
Linden Convalescent Home 0.380 0.262 0.250
National Rehabilitation Board 3.145 3.413 2.820
Federated Dublin Voluntary Hospitals 1.390 1.538 1.650
Drug Treatment Centre 0.700
St. Vincent's Fairview 2.230 2.341 2.200
St. Mary's Baldoyle 0.850 0.766 0.750
Sub-Total 190.915 187.950 230.390

Voluntary Hospitals Allocations 1986 Original Allocation 1987 Original Allocation 1988 Original Allocation
£m £m £m
James Connolly Memorial (a) 10.360 9.330
Barringtons, Limerick (b) 2.065 1.897 0.400
Cork Eye, Ear and Throat (b) 0.590 1.107 0.900
Cork Vol. Hosps. Board (b) 0.298 0.330
Drogheda Cottage (b) 0.800 0.649 0.500
Drogheda Memorial (b) 0.105 0.095 0.050
Charitable Infirmary, Jervis St. (b) 12.650 12.818
St. Laurence's (b) 15.345 15.831
Dr. Steeven's (b) 6.440 5.475
Sir Patrick Dun's (b) 2.195
Royal City of Dublin Hospital, Baggot St. (b) 5.000 4.344
Monkstown (b) 0.460 0.370
North Charitable Infirmary, Cork (b) 3.130 2.806
South Charitable Infirmary, Cork (c) 3.390 3.277
Victoria, Cork (c) 1.500 1.510
City and County Infirmary, Waterford (b) 1.310 1.065
St. Anne's (d) 1.070 1.007
St. Luke's (d) 4.565 4.281
St. Patrick's Infant (b) 0.250
Total 262.140 254.110 232.570

(a) Transferred to Eastern Health Board Management

(b) Closed

(c) These two hospitals amalgamated

(d) These two hospitals amalgamated

[2121][2122]Original Allocations 1988-1992 Hospital 1989 Original Allocation 1990 Original Allocation 1991 Original Allocation 1992 Original Allocation
£m £m £m £m
St. James's 36.611 41.800 44.960 52.250
Beaumont 33.260 38.100 42.340 47.474
Mater 26.523 31.310 35.070 38.115
St. Vincent's Elm Park 21.549 24.670 28.310 31.773
Meath 10.500 12.800 13.820 16.251
Adelaide 6.400 7.100 8.000 9.139
St. Michael's Dún Laoghaire 3.047 3.400 3.800 4.421
Royal Victoria Eye & Ear 3.613 4.000 4.830 5.432
Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda 9.032 10.320 11.170 12.480
Mercy, Cork 7.204 8.000 9.020 10.055
South Infirmary/Victoria, Cork 5.010 5.900 6.430 7.187
Portiuncula, Ballinasloe 5.294 6.300 6.900 7.721
St. John's Limerick 2.482 3.000 3.170 3.669
Coombe 7.680 8.410 9.210 10.357
National Maternity, Holles St. 6.894 7.600 8.810 9.822
Rotunda 7.159 7.850 8.640 9.762
Waterford Maternity 0.860 0.980 1.230 1.326
Our Lady's Crumlin 13.212 15.000 16.080 18.553
Temple Street 7.721 8.500 9.770 11.218
National Children's, Harcourt St. 2.900 3.400 3.620 4.087
St. Luke's/St. Anne's 5.165 5.600 6.010 6.781
Hume Street 0.765 0.850 0.900 1.035
Cappagh Orthopaedic 3.929 4.800 5.340 6.043
Incorporated Orthopaedic, Clontarf 1.126 1.180 1.220 1.350
Our Lady of Lourdes, Dún Laoghaire 3.380 4.000 4.340 4.717
Our Lady's Hospice 3.145 3.450 3.710 4.152
Royal, Donnybrook 3.212 3.360 3.510 3.825
Dublin Dental 0.829 0.840 0.945 1.074
Cork Dental 0.253 0.260 0.420 0.448
Central Remedial Clinic 1.070 1.110 1.740 1.856
Leopardstown Park 1.203 1.300 1.360 1.460
Linden Convalescent Home 0.269 0.300 0.360 0.409
National Rehabilitation Board 2.880 3.550 3.680 3.872
Federated Dublin Voluntary Hospitals 1.850 1.900 2.210 2.430
Drug Treatment Centre 0.670 0.910 0.895 0.916
St. Vincent's Fairview 2.329 2.600 2.700 2.893
St. Mary's Baldoyle 0.790 0.850 0.970 1.046
Total 249.816 285.300 315.490 355.399

Agencies for the Handicapped 1986 Original Allocation 1987 Original Allocation 1988 Original Allocation 1989 Original Allocation
£m £m £m £m
Stewarts Hospital 6.010 6.700 6.500 6.750
St. John of God Brothers 11.255 12.400 12.400 12.900
Brothers of Charity 11.670 13.300 13.300 14.200
Daughters of Charity 8.385 8.730 8.730 9.655
Sisters of Charity 3.265 3.500 3.500 3.650
Cope Foundation 4.295 4.700 4.700 4.940
St. Patrick's, Kells Road 1.475 1.600 1.600 1.680
St. Mary of the Angels, Beaufort 1.385 1.500 1.500 1.560
St. Annes, Roscrea 0.880 0.980 0.980 1.020
St. Patrick's, Upton 0.475 0.685 0.685 0.720
Sisters of La Sagesse, Sligo 2.270 2.550 2.550 2.670
Mary Immaculate Centre, Carriglea 0.945 1.045 1.045 1.090
Childrens Sunshine Home 0.310 0.336 0.336 0.365
St. Michael's House 4.000 4.640 4.640 5.070
N.A.M.H.I. 0.055 0.062 0.062 0.060
U.V.O.H. 0.060 0.072 0.072 0.070
John Paul II Centre, Ballybane 1.275 1.400 1.400 1.450
Total 56.735 62.800 62.600 66.400

[2123][2124]Agencies for the Handicapped 1990 Original Allocation 1991 Original Allocation 1992 Original Allocation
£m £m £m
Stewarts Hospital 7.200 7.877 8.521
St. John of God Brothers 13.820 14.854 16.660
Brothers of Charity 17.330 18.828 21.003
Daughters of Charity 11.440 12.578 14.178
Sisters of Charity 3.870 4.332 4.603
Cope Foundation 5.300 5.719 6.197
St. Patrick's, Kells Road 1.800 1.940 2.091
St. Mary of the Angels, Beaufort 1.670 1.856 2.056
St. Annes, Roscrea 1.090 1.219 1.362
St. Patrick's, Upton 1.000 1.491 1.707
Sisters of La Sagesse, Sligo 2.840 3.047 3.285
Mary Immaculate Centre, Carriglea 1.170 1.304 1.429
Childrens Sunshine Home 0.390 0.456 0.519
St. Michael's House 5.340 6.014 6.718
N.A.M.H.I. 0.068 0.085 0.089
U.V.O.H. 0.075 0.090 0.100
John Paul II Centre, Ballybane * * *
Total 74.403 81.690 90.518

* Transferred to Brothers of Charity

  299.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline, (a) the total number of beds in private nursing homes for elderly people which are being subvented by his Department in the Mid-Western Health Board area and (b) the value of any of these subventions.

  300.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the number of beds in private nursing homes for elderly people in the Mid-Western Health Board area which are not receiving any subvention from his Department.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 299 and 300 together.

Subvention is paid in respect of 247 beds in private nursing homes in the Mid-Western Health Board region. There are a total of 656 private nursing home beds in the Mid-Western Health Board region, of which 409 beds are not receiving subvention.

Subvention is paid at the rate of £50.61 per week per bed, which is the rate specified in the regulations under section 54 of the 1970 Health Act. The total value of subventions paid in respect of private nursing home beds in the Mid-Western Health Board region in 1991 amounted to £595,000.

  301.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The following is the information requested by the Deputy:

1. The revised guidelines to give effect to the Commission Directive (91/507/EEC) of 19 July 1991 modifying the Annex to Council Directive 75/318/EEC on the approximation of the laws of member states relating to analytical, pharmacotoxicological and clinical standards and protocols in respect of the testing of medicinal products are being finalised by the National Drugs Advisory Board and will be in place in the course of 1992.

2. The Commission Directive 91/321/EEC on Infant Formula and Follow-on Formulae is due to come into effect on 1 December 1992 and the necessary [2125] regulations will be in force before that date.

3. The Council Directive 90/496/EEC on Nutrition Labelling for foodstuffs is due to come into effect on 1 April 1992 and the necessary regulations will be in force before that date.

  302.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Health    if he will outline (1) the quantity of recycled paper used in his Department in each of the last four years and (2) the increase/decrease in the use of these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell):  The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. However, most of the paper used in my Department is supplied by the Government Supplies Agency and I am informed that some of it is recycled paper.

  303.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    his views on whether the EC will be in a position to stabilise CO 2 emissions by the year 2000 at 1990 levels in view of the agreement recently reached in respect of this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  319.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he proposes to introduce carbon and energy tax in view of the recent decision of the EC Council of Ministers regarding this matter; if he will exempt any sector from this tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  320.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the mechanism which he proposes to put in place for the creation of a financial instrument for environmental protection in view of a recent EC Council of Ministers decision; if he will outline his proposals, if any, for the implementation of this energy tax in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[2126]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 303, 319 and 320 together.

The question of a carbon or energy tax in the context of the overall Community strategy to limit CO 2 emissions was discussed at an EC Joint Energy and Environment Council on 13 December 1991 and at the ECOFIN Council on 16 December 1991. Copies of the agreed conclusions are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The conclusions provide that further studies must be carried out by the EC Commission on the impact in member states of the proposed carbon/energy tax. Until such time as these studies have been completed and the tax proposal has been considered further at Council level, it would be premature to comment on questions of implementation.

  304.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if there has been any significant progress in respect of the reduction of lead content in petrol since the introduction of an EC Directive in 1978; and if he will outline the progress made to date in this matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  The following table sets out the various EC standards for the maximum permissible lead content of petrol which have applied from 1978 to date. These standards have been fully transposed into Irish law.

Effective Date From Max. Limit (grammes/Litre)
Leaded Petrol Unleaded Petrol
1 January 1981 0.64
1 September 1982 0.40
1 April 1986 0.15
1 January 1987 0.15 0.020
1 April 1990 0.15 0.013

[2127]

  305.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline (a) the position at 30 January 1992, in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the reply by the Minister for Finance to Question No. 77 of 11 June 1991. That policy still obtains and, in line with it, an administrative officer post is in the course of being filled. Consideration is being given to the need for other appointments. No posts of services officer or services attendant have been suppressed.

  306.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for the Environment    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  My Department have not recently engaged any such person.

  307.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  309.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

[2128]

  310.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job-sharing regimes, (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  311.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job-sharing.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 307, 309, 310 and 311 together.

The following Table sets out the position in regard to the arrangements for, and the numbers and grades availing of job-sharing.

Arrangements No. Grade
Week on/week off 22 2 Assistant Principals
4 Higher Executive Officers
2 Executive Officers
4 Clerical Officers
10 Clerical Assistants
Day on/day off 4 4 Clerical Assistants
Mornings only 2 1 Clerical Officer
1 Clerical Assistant

All job-sharing officers in my Department are female. Two officers are job-sharing without partners. There has been no instance of an officer having to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing.

[2129]

  308.  Mr. J. Bruton and Mr. J. Mitchell    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will give details for Ireland in regard to disposal of wastepaper, wastepaper recovery rate, wastepaper utilisation rate, and wastepaper in paper products in the form of the tables given in the article on wastepaper recycling in the OECD Observer of February/March 1992; and if he will outline the reason the figures for Ireland were not included in the tables in question in view of the fact that Ireland is a member of the OECD along with the countries whose information was included.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  The information requested is not available in my Department. I understand that statistical material of the kind included in the article referred to is normally obtained directly from trade organisations in the paper industry.

  312.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the schemes submitted from Cork County Council Southern Committee for funding under the heading, major sewerage schemes for 1992.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  Funding has been sought for major sewerage schemes at Bandon, Ballincollig, Passage West, Tramore River Valley, Blarney/Tower and Riverstown/ Glanmire.

  313.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline (a) the towns and villages in County Mayo of over 500 population which have no treatment available for sewage, (b) the towns and villages in respect of which he has received sewage treatment scheme proposals and (c) the estimated cost of providing treatment works for the towns and villages concerned; if he will give a timescale for their completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The identification of areas which do not have sewage treatment facilities, and the development of proposals to provide such facilities, is the responsibility of the sanitary authority concerned.

My Department have been made aware of the following proposals for sewage treatment facilities which are in [2130] planning with Mayo County Council: Bangor Erris sewerage scheme, Ballinrobe sewerage scheme, Ballyhaunis sewage treatment works scheme, West-port sewerage scheme, Bonniconlon sewerage scheme, Claremorris sewerage improvement scheme, Lahardaun sewerage scheme, Achill Sound sewerage scheme, Tourmakeady sewerage scheme, Hollymount sewerage scheme and Meelick sewerage scheme.

As many as these schemes are at a preliminary stage of planning, it is not possible to provide a reliable estimate of costs, nor a timescale for completion.

  314.  Mr. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline (a) his plans to eliminate the discharge of raw sewage into waterways, lakes and the sea over the next ten years and (b) the proposed expenditure involved; if he has requested all local authorities to submit necessary schemes to deal with such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The environment action programme stated the Government's commitment to eliminating discharges of untreated sewage from major cities and towns to coastal and inland waterways. The programme set out the Government's objectives and strategy for sewage disposal to the year 2000 and indicated a requirement of £630 million over this period.

EC support for this programme is being received from a number of funds, and two relevant operational programmes have been approved by the EC Commission. EC requirements relating to sewage treatment have been prescribed in a recently adopted Directive on urban waste water treatment.

Planning of the necessary schemes to meet these various programme requirements is being actively advanced by my Department with the local authorities concerned.

[2131]

  315.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will list the major waterworks projects for which money has been allocated in the 1992 Estimates; and if, in respect of each of these projects he will outline (1) the amount involved and (2) the likely completion date of the project.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The 1992 capital allocations under the water and sanitary services programme have not yet been decided.

  316.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will make it obligatory for heavy vehicles owners to provide parking space for their vehicles in locations other than on residential roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  Traffic and parking controls are applied generally through the application of traffic and parking by-laws or temporary rules made by the Garda Commissioner with my consent under sections 89 and 90 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, or through general traffic regulations made by me under section 60 of the Road Traffic Act, 1968. The question of applying restrictions on the parking of large vehicles in urban areas is being considered by the Garda Síochána in the context of temporary rules to apply initially in the Dublin area. This approach follows from discussions between my Department, the Garda Síochána and Dublin Corporation. The position relating to the preparation of the appropriate temporary rules and other related matters was set out in the reply to Question No. 136 of 26 November 1991.

[2132]

  317.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for the Environment    the reason for the delay by his Department in enacting regulations to allow taxi ranks to be created in Mullingar and Athlone in County Westmeath.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  Appointed stands (taxi ranks) can only be provided in an area which has been declared to be a taximeter area where licensed taxis may operate. Mullingar and Athlone are not taximeter areas. However, a review of the procedures governing the licensing and operation of small public service vehicles generally is being carried out and the question of applying taximeter area status to towns where taxis do not operate at present, including Mullingar and Athlone, is among the issues being considered. I expect a final report from the review group to be submitted to me by early March.

  318.  Mr. J. Mitchell    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his Department have made any study into the implications for buildings or dwellings with double glazed windows in the event of fire; and, if so, if he has any intention of introducing new regulations or guidelines dealing with the situation.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  Detailed advice has been issued on fire safety in local authority dwellings, including recommendations as to the size and so on of windows for escape or rescue purposes. In addition, the new building regulations set out fire safety requirements for all new buildings, including new houses, and material changes to existing buildings. The regulations, while not referring specifically to double-glazing, require that a building shall be so designed and constructed that there are adequate means of escape in case of fire.

[2133]

  321.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the great deal of data that exists at international level and the difficulty that citizens of member states have in gaining access to this information in a coherent form; if he will undertake to change this situation with a view to having a better informed public in respect of environmental matters.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  An enormous literature exists on the environment, much of it generated by international organisations.

Within its resources, ENFO provides extensive public access to a wide range of this data. Relevant ENFO services include:

A Bibliographical Reference System: This database provides online access to some 40,000 references to books, reports and journal articles. Access to the database is available around the country through the public library system.

UNEP Infoterra Information: This is an international network of 140 countries worldwide who exchange environmental information. Key UNEP documents are available at ENFO and relevant documentation can be obtained on request from other countries.

International Databases: By having online access to the European Space Agency computer, ENFO has access to some 200 international databases including many environmental databases.

CD-ROM: A range of international databases is now available in CD-ROM format. A selection of these include the EC JUSTIS database, with full text of EC legislation online.

US Environmental Protection Agency Reports: ENFO has a collection of 100,000 reports from the US Environment Protection Agency, in microfiche format.

  322.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline his views on the basic Community principle in respect of the environment that the one who pollutes pays; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[2134]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The Government support the polluter pays principle as set out in Council Recommendations 75/436/ EURATOM, ECSC, EEC of 3 March 1975, and where feasible will continue to give effect to it when preparing and implementing environment legislation, programmes and policy. The principle is expressly cited in section 52 (2) (d) of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, as one to which the proposed agency should have regard in carrying out their functions.

  323.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has specific targets regarding the various instruments of environmental improvement, particularly in respect of (1) water resources management, (2) waste management and (3) quality of air that he hopes to achieve between now and the year 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The Government's environment action programme is a comprehensive and systematic statement of objectives for protecting and improving the environment across the range of relevant public sector activities. It identifies specific measures in the areas of water, waste and air, including elimination of untreated sewage discharges, fulfilment of stringent EC standards for drinking water and action on air pollution from smoke, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and lead. A first progress report on the action programme was published by my Department in July 1991 and further progress reports will be published periodically during the life of the programme.

  324.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his Department has sanctioned a £30,000 grant to Galway County Council for the provision of fire fighting equipment on Inishmore, Aran Islands.

[2135]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  No proposals have been received by my Department for the provision of fire fighting equipment on Inishmore.

  325.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline his views on the sentiments expressed some time ago by the European Commissioner for the Environment when he proposed a directive on full liability in cases of accidents linked to dangerous waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 171 and 172 of 5 February 1991 regarding the proposed directive on civil liability for damage caused by waste. The position is unchanged.

  326.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will be receiving any financial support from the European Community under the EC treaty which provides that, in cases where environmental measures entailed excessive costs, one member state could seek a temporary derogation or some form of financial support from an environmental fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  333.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the proposals he will be making to the EC Council of Ministers in respect of environmental projects that will qualify for aid under the cohesion fund which was established under the European Union Treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 326 and 333 together.

The EC Commission forwarded detailed proposals to the EC Council last week on the establishment of the [2136] cohesion fund; this is to be directed, inter alia, to projects in the field of environment. It would be premature to offer views on the types of projects which should be aided under the cohesion fund pending negotiation of the Commission's proposals, in which Ireland will participate actively.

  327.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he intends to introduce legislation to implement the directive on nitrates which was agreed by the Council of Ministers on 14 June 1991; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  I refer to the reply to Question No. 170 of 10 December 1991. Suitable measures are currently being developed to secure implementation of this directive. The provisions of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 and 1990, will be used, where appropriate, to give effect to these measures.

  328.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he intends to amend the regulations which implemented Directive 85/337 as indicated by the European Community in respect of the environmental damage being caused by large scale agricultural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  349.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    his views on whether the procedure for certain projects in providing an environmental assessment for the purposes of planning permission operates satisfactorily; if he proposes to make any changes in respect of this directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[2137]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 349 together.

The environmental impact assessment procedures established on foot of EC Directive 85/337 appear to be operating satisfactorily and I have no proposals to amend them. My Department will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these arrangements.

  329.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he intends to set limits on chromium concentrations in soil; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  General controls on discharges and emissions of pollutants, including chromium, may be applied under the Air Pollution Act, 1987, and the Water Pollution Acts, 1977 and 1990.

The Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, provides that prescribed activities capable of polluting the environment will be required to have a licence from the agency which will, inter alia, control emissions to the environmental media of land, air and water.

The European Communities (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations, 1991, prescribe standards for the heavy metals content of sewage sludge used in agriculture and for concentrations of heavy metals in soil where sludge is used or proposed to be used. Standards were not set for chromium under the directive or regulations but were to be fixed by the EC Council of Ministers on the basis of a subsequent proposal from the Commission; this proposal has still to be agreed.

Any waste containing or contaminated by chrome six compounds in such quantities or in such concentrations as to constitute a risk to health or to the environment would constitute a toxic and dangerous waste and is controllable under the European Communities (Toxic and Dangerous Waste) Regulations, 1982.

[2138]

  330.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will introduce regulations to restrict (1) the use of genetically formed organisms and (2) the disposal of waste from laboratories; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  Section 109 of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, provides for the making of regulations for the control of any process or action involving a genetically modified organism. It is the intention to make such regulations following the enactment of the Bill.

The disposal of waste generally, including laboratory waste, is subject to control under the European Communities (Waste) Regulations, 1979, and, in the case of toxic and dangerous waste, under the European Communities (Toxic and Dangerous Waste) Regulations, 1982.

As I have previously stated, comprehensive new legislation on waste is being prepared in my Department; this is intended to ensure updated and strengthened provisions in relation to all aspects of waste management.

  331.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the legislative powers at his disposal to protect the general public from risks arising from pesticides and fungicides; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  I refer to the reply to Question No. 150 of 10 December 1991, which dealt with the maximum admissible concentration values prescribed for pesticides in water intended for human consumption. The Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 and 1990, may be availed of by local authorities to regulate water pollution caused by pesticides and fungicides.

[2139] The Minister for Agriculture and Food is responsible for legislation relating to the classification, packaging, labelling and marketing of these substances and residues in foodstuffs.

  332.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will introduce any code of industrial conduct for potentially responsible perpetrators of energy related environment problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  The energy industry is already subject to a wide range of environmental legislation including water and air pollution legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, provides that activities such as the production of electricity in combustion plant and large boilers or furnaces will be subject to a new system of integrated licensing to be operated by the proposed Environmental Protection Agency. The agency will also be empowered by section 74 of the Bill to prepare and publish codes of practice for the purposes of environmental protection. In addition, the Bill provides for other measures for the promotion of environmentally sound practices, including environmental auditing, eco labelling and environmental quality objectives.

  334.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the proposals that he has implemented in respect of the Envireg Programme which concerns the protection of the environment and which is funded by the European Community; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The Envireg Operational Programme for Ireland has recently been adopted by the EC Commission which is providing total aid of 28 MECU (£21.5 [2140] million) covering the period from November 1990 to December 1993.

The programme will be published shortly. It will provide funding for urban waste water treatment in a number of coastal areas, related technical assistance to improve implementation, and assistance for studies on the re-use of sewage sludge; there is also a conditional provision in respect of a national hazardous waste incinerator. Just over £1 million has been received to date from Structural Funds in respect of co-financed sewerage schemes in progress under this programme.

  335.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has any plans to introduce an ecological labelling system.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  A proposed European Community regulation governing the introduction of an eco-labelling scheme was agreed in principle at the EC Environment Council of December 1991 and its formal adoption is expected shortly. The regulation will have direct effect in all member states. Section 76 of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, when enacted, is also intended to facilitate implementation of the eco-labelling scheme.

  336.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the progress that has been made by the EC in respect of the total elimination of the destruction caused by CFCs to the ozone layer by 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  EC Regulation 594/91 of 4 March 1991 requires the production and supply for sale of CFSs to be phased out within the Community by 1 July 1997. Progress made in achieving this Community objective is set out in the following table:

[2141][2142] CFC — 11, 12, 113, 114, 115 (1000 ODPt)*
Year 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
EC production 429.4 435.1 412.9 355.3 268.7
EC imports 2.3 2.5 2.3 1.1 0.6
EC exports 129.2 128.4 117.2 130.4 99.0
EC Sales 301.5 313.9 296.5 221.5 174.1

* Ozone depletion potential as defined in the Montreal Protocol.

  337.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has any proposals for the compulsory introduction of catalytic convertors for automobiles; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  EC Council Directive 91/441/EEC of 26 June 1991 specifies measures to be taken against air pollution for motor vehicle emissions. The directive sets mandatory standards to be applied in all member states and it is intended shortly to make regulations transposing its provisions into Irish law.

The choice of appropriate emission control technology to meet the new standards is a matter for vehicle manufacturers but it is likely that in the short term, at least, catalytic converters will be used extensively.

  338.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    his views on the establishment of regional waste incineration plants in view of the demand for these by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  339.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has received any proposals in respect of grant aid for the establishment of waste incineration plants; if he will outline the location of these proposed plants; his views on the merits and demerits of these proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 338 and 339 together.

I am not aware of any current local authority proposal to provide waste incineration facilities on either a local or regional basis and no proposal for grant assistance for such a facility has been submitted to my Department. Feasibility studies of the economic and environmental implications of providing waste incineration facilities were undertaken some years ago by some authorities but the conclusion reached in each case was that waste incineration was economically less attractive than landfill disposal.

  340.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for the Environment    the numbers of local authority house starts in Dublin city for the year ended 31 December 1991.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  Dublin Corporation were authorised by my Department to commence/acquire 150 houses in 1991. Returns from the corporation show that, during the year, they started the construction of 46 houses and acquired a further 21 houses for addition to their rented housing stock.

[2143]

  341.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will approve a grant to Mayo County Council for the provision of a water supply to Claremorris, County Mayo, from the Lough Mask regional scheme.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  I refer to Question No. 133 of 19 November 1991. The results of the relevant site investigation is awaited in my Department. The question of funding does not arise at this stage.

  342.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will provide a special grant for the Claremorris sewerage scheme.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  Preliminary proposals for this scheme have only recently been received in my Department and are under examination. The question of funding does not arise at this stage.

[2144]

  343.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the agreement, if any, which has been made by the EC Council of Ministers adopting common discharge limits on dangerous chemicals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  The following directives setting limit values for effluent discharges containing the substances indicated have been adopted by the Council of the European Communities. Some directives relate to industries and uses of substances which are not currently carried on in Ireland. Where appropriate, local authorities may attach conditions to effluent discharge licences issued under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 and 1990, for the purpose of securing compliance with limit values.

Directive Substance(s)
Directive 78/176/EEC on waste from the titanium dioxide industry. Titanium Dioxide
Directive 82/176/EEC on limit values and quality objectives for mercury discharges by the chlor-alkali electrolysis industry. Mercury
Directive 83/513/EEC on limit values and quality objectives for cadmium discharges. Cadmium
Directive 84/156/EEC on limit values and quality objectives for mercury discharges by sectors other than the chlor-alkali electrolysis industry. Mercury
Directive 84/491/EEC on limit values and quality objectives for discharges of hexachlorocycohexane. Hexachlorocyclohexane
Directive 86/280/EEC on limit values for discharges of certain dangerous substances included in List I of the Annex to Directive 76/464/EEC. Carbon tetrachloride, DDT Pentachlorophenol
Council Directive 87/217/EEC on the prevention and reduction of environmental pollution by asbestos. Asbestos
Directive 88/347/EEC amending Annex II to Directive 86/280/EEC on limit values and quality objectives for discharges of certain dangerous substances included in List I of the Annex to Directive 76/464/EEC. Aldrin, Dieldrin, Endrin and Isodrin, Hexachlorobezene, Hexachlorobutadiene, Chloroform
Directive 90/415/EEC on limit values and quality objectives for discharges of certain dangerous substances included in List I of the Annex to Directive 76/464/EEC. Dichloroethane
Trichloroethylene
Perchloroethylene
Trichlorobenzene

[2145]

  344.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has any proposals to ban asbestos in view of its potential health hazard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  A strict control regime to reduce and prevent environmental pollution by asbestos, in the interests of the protection of human health and the environment, is provided for by the European Communities (Control of Water Pollution by Asbestos) Regulations, 1990, European Communities (Asbestos Waste) Regulations, 1990 and the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Emission Limit Value for Use of Asbestos) Regulations, 1990. These regulations apply in addition to control powers available to local authorities in the Air Pollution and Water Polution Acts and in the European Communities (Toxic and Dangerous Waste) Regulations, 1982.

Further controls on asbestos will be developed under the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, when this is enacted.

  345.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if there are any proposals to accentuate research and development efforts with a view to improving the technologies for the elimination of PCB/PCTs; and if he will outline the progress, if any, which has been made in this regard.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  There is a concerted effort at EC and other international level to phase out the use of PCBs and PCTs. Ireland fully supports this effort. Statutory restrictions on the use of PCBs and PCTs are already in operation under the European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations) (Marketing and Use) Regulations, 1979. Disposal is regulated [2146] by the European Communities (Waste) Regulations, 1984.

  346.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the increasing interest in recycling and the elimination of waste packaging throughout the country; if he will undertake any promotion of this important development in view of the immense contributions which this action can have in respect of environmental protection, including the easier elimination of waste materials; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney):  I strongly endorse the value of promoting reuse and recycling of waste packaging. The environment action programme included a number of measures which are being actively pursued by my Department, including a recycling grants scheme, and significant support for recycling activities is also being provided by the private sector. As I have previously indicated, my Department have recently commissioned a study to assess the overall potential for recycling from the domestic/commercial waste stream and to advise on strategies for maximising this potential. Proposals at EC level with regard to packaging and packaging waste will, when adopted, also have implications for the reduction, reuse and recycling of packaging materials.

  347.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the strict EC standards controlling emissions from diesel engined heavy goods vehicles which will come into operation on 1 January 1993; if he will outline the impact which this will have on our haulage industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The standards concerned are set [2147] out in Directive 91/542/EEC of 1 October 1991 which is available in the Oireachtas Library. The standards will be mandatory throughout the Community so that Irish hauliers should not experience particular difficulties in obtaining vehicles complying with them.

  348.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the decisions which were made at the International Conference on Water and the Environment which was held in Dublin from 26 to 31 January 1992.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  The International Conference on Water and the Environment adopted a comprehensive statement on freshwater entitled, The Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development. A copy of the statement is available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Conference report, which will be available very shortly, sets out recommendations for action at local, national and international levels, based on four guiding principles set out in the Dublin statement:

Principle No. 1— Fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment.

Principle No. 2— Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels.

Principle No. 3— Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water.

Principle No. 4— Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognised as an economic good.

Based on these four guiding principles, the conference participants developed recommendations to enable countries to tackle their water resources problems on a wide range of fronts. The main matters covered by these recommendations are: [2148] alleviation of poverty and disease; protection against natural disasters; water conservation and reuse; sustainable urban development; agricultural production and rural water supply; protecting aquatic ecosystems and resolving water conflicts.

Both the Dublin statement and the Conference report will be studied at the Fourth UNCED Preparatory Committee meeting in March with a view to supporting the preparation of a strong freshwater chapter in Agenda 21 — the action agenda to be adopted at UNCED in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.

  350.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Minister for the Environment    the reason for the delay in paying grants to the Rathbeg group water supply scheme in Rathmore, County Kerry, in view of the fact that all the necessary documents were stamped and sent to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  A revised submission on this scheme requested by my Department has only recently been received. This is now being examined.

  351.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he is considering the introduction of MOT testing for all road vehicles in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  Compulsory annual road-worthiness testing applies at present to about 46,000 heavy goods vehicles and trailers, buses, ambulances and taxis over one year old. In compliance with an EC Council Directive, the European Communities (Vehicles Testing) Regulations, 1991, provide for the extension of testing to about 50,000 light goods vehicles over four years old on a phased basis in 1993 and 1994. These vehicles will have to be tested every two years. In accordance [2149] with a further directive, compulsory testing of an estimated 540,000 private cars over four years old must be introduced by 1 January 1998, with a repeat test every two years. I intend publishing a discussion document later this year which will set out a possible timetable and implementation options.

  352.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith):  In so far as my Department are concerned, three EC directives relevant to the completion of the Internal Market remain to be implemented before 1993.

Directive 91/441/EEC and Directive 91/542/EEC, relate to measures to be taken against air pollution from motor vehicles. It is intended to make regulations shortly to transpose these directives into Irish law.

Directive 89/106/EEC concerning construction products will be given legal effect in Ireland following the implementation of the Construction Products Regulations which are at an advanced stage of preparation.

  353.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    when a decision will be made by the EC Community in respect of the establishment of an Environment Protection Agency; if Ireland will be selected as the location for this important new institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The decision in principle to establish a European Environmental Agency was taken during the Irish Presidency in early 1990. The issue of its [2150] location has, however, become part of a wider discussion within the Community on the site of the other institutions such as the European Parliament, and the other specialised agencies.

The issue of the sites and institutions and specialised agencies gives rise to considerable difficulties for many member states and so far it has not proved possible to find an acceptable compromise. The Portuguese Presidency has decided that the question of the seat of the institutions and agencies should be examined at the level of Heads of State of Government at a forthcoming European Council.

Ireland is a candidate for the location of the Environment Protection Agency and other Community agencies and is anxious that a decision be taken as soon as possible.

  354.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will outline (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that reply still obtains.

At present the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled: Third Secretary, 3. Services Attendants, 2.

The number of services officers and services attendants serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 23; the number currently serving is 20.

[2151]

  355.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  My Department have not recently employed in a permanent or temporary position any person who previously served with a State or semi-State organisation and who is in receipt of a State pension.

  356.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will outline the total number of job-sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing.

  357.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will outline the total number of job-sharers in his Department currently job-sharing without a partner.

  358.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job-sharing regimes: (a) week on-week off, (b) day on-day off, (c) alternative morning-afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  359.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job-sharing.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  I propose to reply to Questions Nos. 356 to 359, inclusive, together.

There are currently eight officers, all female, job-sharing in my Department [2152] as follows: Higher Executive Officer, 1; Executive Officer, 3; Clerical Officer, 2; Clerical Assistant, 2.

None of the officers concerned has had to revert to a lower grade in order to job-share. The eight officers are assigned in pairs, with the higher executive officer and one of the executive officers forming a pair. All eight officers work on a weekly rotation basis of three days one week, two days the following week.

  360.  Mr. Taylor    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will outline the official status, if any, the PLO have in Ireland; whether there is a PLO office in Dublin and/or an official representative; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  There is no PLO office in Dublin. A Palestine information office which is a private office and does not have diplomatic status was opened in Dublin in 1985. The PLO representative to Ireland, Dr. Yousef Allan, is resident in London and has been received at ministerial and official level during visits to Dublin.

  361.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if any plans exist to convene further intergovernmental conferences to revise the European Community Treaties.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  Article N of the Treaty on European Union sets out the circumstances under which an intergovernmental conference (IGC) may be convened. In effect, any member state or the Commission may submit a proposal to the Council for the amendment of the treaties and if the Council agrees an IGC can be convened to consider the matter.

As regards specific issues arising from the recent IGCs, Article N provides for an intergovernmental conference to be [2153] convened in 1996 to examine those provisions of the treaty for which revision is envisaged. The areas concerned are: the scope of the co-decision procedure [Article 189b (8)]; the framing of a common defence policy [Article J.4 (6)]; the introduction of individual chapters of energy, civil protection and tourism; [Declaration of the Intergovernmental Conference attached to the Treaty]; and review of the classification of Community acts; [Declaration].

In addition, as stated in a Declaration attached to the Treaty on European Union, the member states will examine, before the end of 1992, the questions relating to the number of members of the Commission and the number of members of Parliament. If it is decided to change the numbers, an intergovernmental conference will be formally convened to confirm any agreement reached and to amend the relevant treaty articles.

  362.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The Department of Foreign Affairs are responsible for co-ordinating the necessary steps to implement three directives concerning right of residence. The directives are 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 90/366/EEC. These directives must be transposed into national legislation by 30 June 1992. Amending legislation may be required in order to enable Ireland to implement fully the requirements of the directives and this question is under examination at present. Should legislation be required, arrangements will be made to have such legislation in place in time to permit Ireland to comply with its obligations.

[2154]

  363.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will outline (1) the quantity of recycled paper used in his Department in each of the last four years and (2) the increase/decrease in the use of these products; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The quantity of recycled paper used by my Department in the last four years was minimal with no increase/decrease in the use of this product. My Department have tested a number of samples of recycled paper with a view to finding a product which would meet minimum quality standards at a reasonable cost. The situation in regard to quality and price continues to be monitored and my Department will be happy to increase their use of recycled paper when a suitable product is identified.

  364.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will expedite payment of a headage grant which is due to a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; if he will outline the progress made to date on this application; and when payment will be made.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This applicant's 1991 cattle headage, suckler cow premium and special beef premium schemes grants are being processed and if found in order payments will issue shortly.

He did not apply under the 1991 sheep headage scheme.

  365.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline the total value of food imports for each of the years 1985 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Following are details, obtained from information supplied by the Central Statistics Office, of food imports in the period 1985 to date with percentage changes for the years 1986 to 1990:

[2155][2156]1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 (Jan.-Aug.)
£m £m £m £m £m £m £m
688.9 697.2 700.9 739.7 793.5 805.6 586.4
+1.2% +0.5% +5.5% +7.2% +1.5%

When account is taken of cost increases, the growth in imports which these figures show is modest and is to be expected given the freer trading conditions to which the arrangements for completion of the Internal Community Market are giving rise and the fact that, for climatic reasons, some foodstuffs being demanded by Irish consumers cannot be produced here. What is more important however, is the fact that the food and drink sector in general continues to produce a positive trade balance. In 1990, the last year for which complete figures are available, this was of the order of £1.7 billion.

  367.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline the grants paid in 1991 to a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This applicant was paid the following grants in 1991:

Scheme Amount Paid Date Paid
£
1990 Beef Premium 209.76 25/03/1991
1990 Ewe Premium (Final Instalment) 1,214.14 19/04/1991
1991 Ewe Premium (First Instalment) 1,345.43 20/10/1991
1991 Ewe Premium (Second Instalment) 902.99 7/11/1991
1991 Sheep Headage 1,301.50 3/12/1991
1991 Beef Cow 1,632.00 31/12/1991
1991 Suckler Cow Premium 1,730.80 31/12/1991

  368.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of her cattle headage grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 cattle and equines headage scheme is being processed at present and will be made shortly. She has already been paid her grants under the 1991 special beef premium scheme.

  369.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his beef premium grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named has been deemed ineligible for grants under the 1991 special male beef premium scheme as he listed a female animal on his application form.

  370.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of a (1) suckler cow grant, (2) beef premium grant and (3) beef cow grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The applicant has already been paid his grants under the 1991 beef cow and equines headage scheme. His application under the suckler cow premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

  371.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his suckler cow grant due to applicants under the 12,800 gallons scheme.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  My Department are unable to [2157] trace any applications from the person named under the 1990 or 1991 suckler cow schemes for small scale milk producers with quotas of less than 12,819 gallons.

  372.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of (1) suckler cow, (2) beef premium and (3) cattle headage grants.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payments due to this applicant under the 1991 cattle and equines headage, suckler cow and special beef premium schemes are bring processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

  373.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his beef premium grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

  374.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his beef premium grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

  375.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    whether a TB reactor grant has been approved for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if so, when payment will issue.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  I have been informed by the Director of ERAD that payment of TB [2158] reactor grants to the person named has not been approved pending the result of an investigation into the herd in question.

  376.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will give details of (1) the average size of a farm, (a) at present and (b) ten years ago and (2) the type of farming which predominates at present as opposed to ten years ago.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  (1) According to the national farm survey, the average farm size in 1990 was 26.4 hectares whereas the average size in 1980 was 21.7 hectares; (2) in terms of the numbers of farms devoted to each farm system, the proportion of farms engaged in the main farming enterprises in 1980 and 1990 was as follows, (ranking in brackets):

1980 1990
% %
Drystock 35.1 (1) 46.4 (1)
Dairying 23.2 (2) 19.5 (2)
Sheep 6.9 (5) 15.8 (3)
Dairying-drystock 13.9 (3) 11.7 (4)
Drystock-tillage 10.7 (4) 3.0 (5)

  377.  Mr. Garland asked    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline (1) the amount of the average farm income at present as opposed to ten years ago and (2) the way in which this income is constituted.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  According to the national farm survey the average family farm income in 1990 was £7,545. The 1980 farm management survey, which was the predecessor of the national farm survey gave the average farm income for that year as £2,353. The 1980 survey was based on an entirely different sample from that used for the national farm survey after 1984 and the two figures are, therefore, not directly comparable.

[2159] Family farm income is composed of gross output less total net expenses. Gross output takes into account direct supports such as headage grants and premia. Family farm income represents the total return from the farm enterprise and consequently does not include State transfers such as pensions or unemployment assistance nor does it include any income from non-farm sources.

The household budget survey gives a more complete picture of the average income of farm households. According to this source the average weekly gross income of farm households in 1980 was £106.80, which grosses up to an annual income of £5,554. The average weekly gross income of farm households in 1987 was £242.64 which grosses up to an annual income of £12,595. The 1987 household budget survey is the latest of these surveys.

In the household budget survey gross income is composed of all direct income including that from investments and property plus all State transfers but does not take into account direct taxation or social insurance payments.

  378.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline (a) the current position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The general policy in relation to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains.

The number of services officers and services attendants serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 52; at the moment the number is 39.

[2160]

  379.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed into a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  During the past year my Department employed 18 such persons. Most of those were employed as temporary veterinary inspectors. As is normal, these persons are on panels for different meat plants and are called on as and when required.

  380.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline the total number of job-sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing.

  381.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline the total number of job-sharers in his Department currently job-sharing without a partner.

  382.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job-sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/ afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  383.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job-sharing.

[2161]Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 380 to 383, inclusive, together.

The following is the information requested by the Deputy regarding job-sharing in my Department:

No staff were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing. The total number of job-sharers currently job-sharing without a partner is 12.

The total numbers taking part in the following job-sharing regimes are:

(a) Week on/week off 150
(b) Day on/day off Nil
(c) Alternative morning/afternoon 8
(d) Other arrangements 48

A breakdown by gender of numbers job-sharing in each grade is set out below:

Grade Total Male Female
Higher Executive Officer 3 1 2
Executive Officer 16 1 15
Staff Officer 4 1 3
Clerical Officer 34 34
Clerical Officer (Programmer) 2 1 1
Clerical Assistant 102 102
Clerical Assistant (Typist) 27 27
Clerical Assistant (Data Entry) 4 4
Assistant Agricultural Inspector 2 2
Agricultural Officer 1 1
Laboratory Technician 2 2
Seed Analyst 3 3
Serological Assistant 6 1 5

  384.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a special beef premium will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

[2162]

  385.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will make a statement on a recent European Court ruling by the Advocate General that Mulder farmers denied the production of their milk quotas are entitled to compensation for their losses during the mid-1980s.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  While the Advocate General has delivered an opinion, the European Court's ruling in this matter has not yet been made, so it would be inappropriate for me to make a statement at this time.

  386.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be paid his suckler cow grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 suckler cow premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

  387.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a grant for a slatted house will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This grant will be paid inside the next few weeks.

  388.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be paid his cattle headage grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This applicant has already been paid his grants under the 1991 beef cow and equines headage scheme. His applications under the 1991 suckler cow and special beef premium schemes are being processed at present and if found in order payments will be made shortly.

[2163]

  389.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be paid his beef premium grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

  390.  Mr. Boylan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason a headage payment has not been made to a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; if his attention has been drawn to the circumstances of the person involved; and if he will confirm that he will now make payment in this area.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payments due to this person under the 1991 cattle and equines headage and special beef premium schemes are being processed and if found in order payments will issue shortly. I am not aware of any special circumstances involved in this case.

  391.  Mr. Boylan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a headage grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cavan.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This person's application for grants under the 1991 cattle and equines headage scheme is being processed and if found in order payment will issue shortly.

  392.  Mr. Boylan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a beef premium will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cavan.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 special beef premium scheme is being processed and if found in order payment will issue shortly.

[2164]

  393.  Mr. Boylan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cavan will receive payment of his suckler and headage grants.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This person's applications for grants under the 1991 special beef premium scheme and 1991 suckler cow scheme for small-scale milk producers are being processed and if found in order payments will issue shortly.

He has been asked to supply documentary evidence of lands owned by him inside the disadvantaged areas and when he does so his application for grants under the 1991 cattle and equines headage scheme will be considered further.

  394.  Mr. Boylan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a headage grant payment will be made in respect of two persons (details supplied).

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The applications for grants received from the first named person under the 1991 beef cow and special beef premium schemes are being processed and if found in order payments will issue shortly.

The applications for grants received from the second named person under the 1991 cattle and equines headage, and special beef premium schemes and the 1991 scheme for small-scale milk producers are being processed and if found in order payments will issue shortly.

  395.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will introduce a grant scheme to encourage farmers to go into poultry production as an alternative enterprise.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Investment aids for poultry and egg production are prohibited under Council Regulation (EEC) No. 797/85 on improving the efficiency of agricultural structures.

[2165]

  396.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a 1990 suckler cow scheme grant for milk suppliers with a quota of less than 12,819 gallons will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment to this person under the 1990 suckler cow scheme for small scale milk producers has been made already.

  397.  Mr. Nolan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a beef premium payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This applicant's 1991 special beef premium scheme grant is being processed and if found in order payment will issue shortly.

  398.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline (1) the current position in the application of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly under the beef premium scheme and (2) the grants, if any, that are payable in this case.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Further investigations are necessary in this case before it can be established whether or not this applicant can be paid 1991 special beef premium scheme grants. I will communicate with the Deputy when the investigations have been completed.

  399.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason an application under the beef premium scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Laois was refused; if he will review this application; and whether the applicant can be paid any portion of his grants.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The application of the person [2166] named has been reviewed and it is regretted that he is still ineligible for grants under the 1991 special beef premium scheme as he listed a female animal on his application form and failed to hold all the animals on which he applied for premium until office or field inspection.

  400.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will expedite the payment of a beef premium, cow premium and sheep headage grants due to a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; if he will outline the progress made to date in regard to this application; and when payment will be made.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This applicant's 1991 special beef premium, suckler cow premium and sheep headage schemes grants are being processed and if found in order payments will issue shortly.

  401.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline the quantity of beef in the cold store at Ballaghaderreen in County Westmeath on 1 January 1992.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Stocks of intervention beef in the Ballaghaderreen cold store amounted to approximately 7,000 tonnes on 7 January — the date of the fire at the plant. I have no definite information regarding the quantities of commercial beef in the store at that time.

  402.  Mr. G. Reynolds    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will receive payment of a ewe premium; and the reason there was such a delay in this case.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  There has been no delay in paying ewe premium and sheep headage grants to the person named. The first [2167] instalment of the 1991 ewe premium was paid on 21 August 1991 the second instalment was paid on 7 November 1991 and the third and final instalment will be paid in March-April 1992 when the exact amount of that instalment is fixed by the EC Commission. The 1991 sheep headage grant was paid on 10 December 1991.

  403.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a cattle headage payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This applicant's 1991 cattle headage and suckler cow premium schemes grants are being processed and payments will issue shortly.

  404.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will give details in respect of stock numbers sought by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo from the District Livestock Office, Davitt House, Castlebar, County Mayo in connection with his application for a medical card.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The required details which relate to the position on 27 September 1990, are as follows: two cows, one heifer and 15 bullocks.

  405.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the current position of an application under the beef subsidy scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will outline the grants that can be paid in this case.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named has been deemed ineligible for grants under the 1991 special beef premium scheme as he [2168] listed an ineligible female animal on his application form.

  406.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the current position of an application under the beef subsidy scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will outline the grants that can be paid in this case.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this person under the 1991 beef cow scheme is being processed and payment will issue shortly.

He has been deemed ineligible for grants under the 1991 special beef premium scheme because he listed an ineligible female animal on his application.

  407.  Mr. Enright    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the current position of an application under the beef subsidy scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will outline the grants that can be paid in this area.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This person has been deemed ineligible for grants under the 1991 special beef premium scheme because he did not maintain all the animals listed on his application for two months or until inspection, whichever was later, as required under the terms and conditions of the scheme.

  408.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his cattle headage suckler cow, beef premium and ewe premium grants.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This applicant's 1991 suckler cow premium and special beef premium schemes grants are being processed and if in order payments will issue shortly.

The first and second instalments of the 1991 ewe premium were paid to the person named in September and November 1991 respectively. The third and [2169] final instalment will be paid in March/April 1992 when the exact amount of that instalment is fixed by the EC Commission.

Payments to him under the 1991 cattle headage and sheep headage schemes have been deferred because of his refusal to comply with the provisions of the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme.

  409.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his sheep headage and ewe premium grants.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The first and second instalments of the 1991 ewe premium were paid to the person named in July and November 1991. The third and final instalment will be paid in March/April 1992 when the exact amount of that instalment is fixed by the EC Commission.

The 1991 sheep headage grant was paid in November 1991.

  410.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will consider giving a further extension of time to enable applicants to complete work on their schemes under the programme for western development (land improvement scheme) as some applicants were unable to meet the closing date of 30 November 1991.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The programme for western development under which grant aid was available for land improvement was a ten year measure co-financed by the EC which finished last April. The EC with difficulty was prevailed upon to allow some limited time for completion of works but will not now contemplate any further extensions of the time limit.

Grant aid for land improvement continues to be available under the farm improvement programme.

[2170]

  411.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his farm grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This grant will be paid inside the next few weeks.

  412.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his beef premium grant.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to this applicant under the 1991 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order will be made shortly.

  413.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a pollution grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  This grant will be paid within the next few weeks.

  414.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when payment under the suckler cow scheme and the beef premium scheme will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The applications received from this person under the 1991 suckler cow premium and special beef premium schemes are being processed and if found in order payments will issue shortly.

  415.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason a beef premium payment has not been made to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will expedite same.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payments due to this person [2171] under the 1991 suckler cow premium and beef cow schemes are being processed and will issue shortly. He did not apply for grants under the 1991 special beef premium scheme.

  416.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason, despite repeated promises by the various sections in his Department, no headage ewe premium has been paid to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when this payment will be made; and if he will expedite same in view of the fact that it was a departmental error of classification that caused the delay in the first instance.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The first and second instalments of the 1991 ewe premium were paid to the person named in September and November 1991. The third and final instalment will be paid in March-April 1992 when the exact amount of that instalment is fixed by the EC Commission. The supplementary payment of £3.52 per ewe will be included with this instalment. Payment of the 1991 sheep headage grant was delayed because of the necessity to check the location of flockowners holdings following the extension and reclassification of the disadvantaged areas. In this case, five separate folios comprising nine different townlands had to be examined to establish his exact entitlement under the sheep headage scheme. This has now been established and payment of the 1991 sheep headage grant will be made within the next week.

  417.  Mr. L. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a suckler calf premium will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Payment due to his person under the 1991 suckler cow scheme for small-scale milk producers is being processed and will issue shortly.

[2172]

  418.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he intends to implement the objective of the European Community in respect of turning 10 per cent of arable land in the European Community into nature reserves; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  419.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if, in view of the stated EC policy of making the environment and agriculture compatible, he will outline the details of an aid scheme in order to encourage farmers to cut their use of fertilisers which is proposed by the European Communities; whether he will be recommending the implementation of this particular aid scheme for Irish farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  420.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he agrees with the creation of the EC investment aid scheme that would protect or improve the environment both within agricultural holdings and in the agri-food stuffs sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  421.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he is considering introducing rules limiting or banning payment of aid for intensive farming practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  422.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he is in favour of creating an EC compensation scheme that would help to preserve farming in hilly or less favoured areas where the exodus from rural areas could have harmful effects on the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  I proposed to take Questions Nos. 418, 419, 420, 421 and 422 together.

I am assuming in all cases that the Deputy is referring to the wide-ranging agri-environment measures at present [2173] under discussion as part of the Common Agricultural Policy reform proposals.

Under this package it is proposed that aid would be available to farmers who introduce extensive type farming practices such as: reductions in the use of fertilisers; reductions in stocking levels; environmentally sensitive farming practices such as organic farming, proper maintenance of stone walls, laying of hedges in the traditional manner etc; and set-aside of arable land for environmental purposes such as nature reserves. In this regard I am not aware of any Community objective to convert 10 per cent of arable land into nature reserves.

As the proposals stand at present, it is mandatory on the member states to introduce an agri-environment package based on the above type of measures but implementation by farmers will be entirely voluntary.

I fully support the idea of an EC aid scheme for farmers to compensate them for loss of income in connection with the preservation of the environment. However, it is too early yet to say what the final scope of the package is likely to be or what measures Ireland will implement. The current proposal provides for programmes tailored to national needs to be agreed with the EC Commission.

I am very conscious of the difficulties being experienced by farmers in the less favoured areas as outlined by the Deputy but we will not know until the negotiations are finalised what the Commission's intentions are as regards the areas to be covered in each member state. The Deputy will be aware, of course, that £82.5 million was spent on the headage scheme alone in these areas in 1991 and farmers in these areas also qualify for [2174] higher rates of grant than the rest of the country for all investment schemes.

  423.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will be seeking new EC aid packages to help train farmers in the direction of higher food quality production and the application of production methods that are compatible with environmental needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Training and advisory programmes for improvement in food quality and production methods compatible with environmental needs are central to Teagasc's work. Teagasc are already in receipt of substantial EC funds in respect of these activities.

  424.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Details of the EC legislation for which the Department of Agriculture and Food is responsible and which has not yet been implemented are set out in the following tabular statement. Implementation of such legislation is normally done by means of Statutory Instrument and preparation of the necessary instruments is well in hand. It is expected that all the EC legislation listed except those marked with an asterisk which have implementation dates in 1993, will be implemented by the end of 1992.

Implementation of EC Legislation

Directive (Unless Otherwise Indicated) Subject
77/504 Council Directive on pure bred breeding animals of the bovine species.
87/328 Council Directive on the acceptance for breeding purposes of pure bred breeding animals of the bovine species.
[2175][2176]88/407 Council Directive laying down the animal health requirements applicable to intra-Community trade and imports of deep-frozen semen of domestic animals of bovine species.
88/408 (Council Decision) Council Decision concerning levels of the fees to be charged for health inspections and control of fresh meat pursuant to Directive 85/73.
88/409 Council Directive laying down health rules applying to meat for domestic market and fees to be charged.
88/661 Council Directive on the zootechnical standards to breeding animals of the porcine species.
89/108 Council Directive on quick-frozen foodstuffs for human consumption.
89/359 Council Directive amending 77/93 against the introduction into member states of organisms harmful to plants or plant products.
89/361 Council Directive concerning pure bred breeding sheep and goats.
89/366 Council Directive amending 66/403 on the marketing of seed potatoes.
89/556 Council Directive on animal health conditions governing intra-Community trade and importation from Third countries of embryos of domestic animals of the bovine species.
89/662 Council Directive concerning veterinary checks in intra-Community trade with a view to the completion of the internal market.
89/594 Council Directive concerning mutual recognition of diplomas, and co-ordination of provisions laid down by law, etc., relating to the activities of veterinary surgeons.
Regulation 1576/89 Council Regulation laying down the definition, description and presentation of spirit drinks.
Regulation 4045/89 Council Regulation on scrutiny by member states of transactions forming part of the system of financing by the Guarantee Section of the EAGGF.
90/44 Council Directive amending Directive 79/373 on the marketing of compound feedingstuffs.
90/80 Commission Directive amending Directive 86/547 amending Annex III B to Council Directive 77/93 on protective measures against the introduction of organisms harmful to plant or plant products.
90/113 Commission Directive amending Directive 88/272 amending certain Annexes to Council Directive 77/93 on organisms harmful to plants/plant products.
90/118 Council Directive on the acceptance of pure bred breeding pigs for breeding.
90/119 Council Directive on hybrid breeding pigs for breeding.
90/120 Council Directive amending Directive 88/407 on intra-Community trade in and imports of deep-frozen semen of domestic animals of the bovine species.
90/167 Council Directive laying down the conditions governing the placing preparation and use on the market of medicated feedingstuffs.
90/404 Council Directive amending Directive 66/403 on the marketing of seed potatoes.
90/425 Council Directive concerning veterinary and zootechnical checks in certain live animals.
90/426 Council Directive on animal health conditions on the movement and import from third Countries of live equidae.
90/427 Council Directive on the zootechnical and genealogical conditions in live animals.
90/428 Council Directive on trade in equidae for competitions.
[2177][2178]90/429 Council Directive on trade and imports of semen in domestic animals of the porcine species.
90/539 Council Directive on animal health conditions in trade and imports of poultry and hatching eggs.
90/642 Council Directive fixing levels for pesticide residues in and on certain plant products.
90/658 Council Directive amending certain Directives on the recognition of professional qualifications consequent upon the unification of Germany.
90/667 Council Directive amending Directive 90/425 on pathogens in feedingstuffs.
90/675 Council Directive governing principles on veterinary checks on products entering member states from Third countries.
90/676 Council Directive amending Directive 81/851 relating to veterinary medicinal products.
90/677 Council Directive extending scope of Directive 81/851 concerning veterinary medical products.
91/27 Commission Directive amending Council Directive 77/93 on organisms harmful to plants and plant products.
91/68 Council Directive on animal health conditions governing trade in bovine and caprine animals.
91/69 Council Directive on health and veterinary inspection problems of bovine animals, swine and fresh meat or meat products from Third countries.
91/102 Commission Directive amending 77/93 on organisms harmful to plants.
91/103 Commission Directive amending 86/547 on protective measures against harmful organisms to plant products.
Regulation 1906/90 Council Regulation on certain marketing standards for poultry meat
Regulation 1907/90 Council Regulation on certain marketing standards for eggs
91/127. Commission Directive on the marketing of seed potatoes.
91/132. Council Directive amending 74/63 on products in animal nutrition.
91/174. Council Directive for the marketing of pure bred animals and amending Directives 77/504 and 90/425.
*91/266. Council Directive amending 72/461 and 72/462 on trade in fresh meat. (Bovine, Ovine and Caprine).
91/334. Commission Directive amending Directive 82/475 concerning labelling compound feedingstuffs for pet animals.
91/357. Commission Directive on labelling compound feedingstuffs for animals other than pet animals.
91/376. Commission Directive amending Directive 86/109 on the marketing of seed.
*91/414. Council Directive on the placing on the market of plant protection products.
91/494. Council Directive on animal health conditions on trade in and imports from Third countries of fresh poultrymeat.
*91/495. Council Directive on public and animal health problems affecting production and placing on the market of rabbit meat and farmed game meat.
91/496. Council Directive laying down principles of veterinary checks on animals entering the Community from Third countries.
*91/497. Council Directive amending and consolidating Directive 64/433 on health affecting trade in fresh meat.
[2179][2180]91/498. Council Directive granting derogations on the production and marketing of fresh meat.
*91/628. Council Directive on the protection of animals during transport and amending Directives 90/425 and 91/496.
*91/629. Council Directive laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves.
*91/630. Council Directive laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs.
*91/660. Commission Directive amending Directive 88/272 on organisms harmful to plants or plant products.
91/661. Commission Directive amending Directive 86/547 on organisms harmful to plants or plant products.
*91/676. Council Directive concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources.
91/681. Council Directive concerning the marketing of compound feedingstuffs.
91/682 Council Directive concerning the marketing of ornamental plant propagating material and ornamental plants.
91/683 Council Directive on protective measures against the introduction into member states of organisms harmful to plants or plant products.
91/684 Council Directive on hygiene and health problems affecting the production and placing on the market of egg products.
Regulation 1274/91 Commission Regulation introducing detailed rules for implementing Regulation No. 1907/90 on certain marketing standards for eggs.
Regulation 1538/91 Commission Regulation introducing detailed rules for implementing Regulation No. 1906/90 on certain marketing standards for poultry.
Regulation 1601/91 Council Regulation laying down general rules on the definition, description and presentation of aromatised wines, aromatised wine-based drinks and aromatised wine-product cocktails.

  425.  Mr. Byrne    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will outline the reason, (1) there has been a long delay in making a decision on the appeal by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 concerning the reduction in the percentage for disablement benefit and (2) information on his case has been difficult to obtain; when a response to this appeal will be available; and if he will have this case investigated.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy):  The person concerned was assessed with 5 per cent disablement for life from 23 December 1991 following examination by a medical referee of my Department in November 1991. He formally appealed against this decision on 12 December and his case was forwarded to my Department's medical adviser for examination.

Further medical evidence was received from the person concerned, in support of his appeal, in January 1992 and was also submitted to the medical adviser to ensure that his review would take full account of all the medical evidence available. Subsequently, the case was referred to an appeals officer for consideration on 3 February 1992 in the ordinary way.

The case has now been scheduled for an oral hearing of the appeal and the [2181] person concerned will be notified of the date and venue for this hearing when arrangements have been finalised.

The person concerned has been in frequent contact with the social welfare appeals office who have kept him informed of the current position regarding his appeal at each stage. There has been no undue delay in the processing of this appeal.

  426.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

  427.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  428.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  429.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy):  It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 426, 427, 428 and 429 together. Details of the information requested in Questions Nos. 426 and 427 are set out in the following tabular statement.

At present, 28 staff of my Department are job-sharing without a partner. No officer has been required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job-sharing.

[2182] Breakdown of Job-sharers by Grade/Gender

Male Female
Higher Executive Officer (including Social Welfare Officer) 8
Executive Officer 1 13
Staff Officer 29
Clerical Officer 117
Clerical Assistant 1 61
2 227
Attendance Arrangements
Week on/Week off 126
Split week (3 day)/2 day) 96
Day on/Day off 0
Morning/Afternoon 7

  430.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    whether his Department has recently appointed or employed into a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy):  There have been no appointments made by my Department of the type referred to by the Deputy.

  431.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will outline (a) the current position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to [2183] the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains.

At present the following posts in my Department are in the process of being filled:

Grade Current Vacancies
Assistant Principal Officer 3
Higher Executive Officer 1
Executive Officer 2
Clerical Officer 19
Clerical Assistant 52
Total 77

The number of services officers and services attendants serving in my Department on 1 January 1990 was 97: the number currently serving is 100.

  432.  Mr. McCartan    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the reason for (a) the decision of the appeals office of his Department concerning the application for disability benefit of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 and (b) the continued reassessment of her entitlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy):  The person concerned made a claim to disability benefit on 12 September 1990. Following an examination by a medical referee on 24 October 1990, payment of disability benefit was disallowed with effect from 1 November 1990. She appealed this decision and was examined by a different medical referee on 21 February 1991, who also expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

The case was referred to an appeals officer, who having held an oral hearing, decided that the claimant was not incapable of work from 1 November 1990, and was not entitled to be paid disability benefit.

The appeals officer's decision is final and may only be altered in the light of new facts or fresh medical evidence.

Claimants who continue to submit [2184] medical certificates in these circumstances are examined at regular intervals by different medical referees. This arrangement ensures that changes in the nature of the person's medical condition would be taken into account. The claimant was examined on 8 October 1991 and 30 January 1992. Both medical referees expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

The person concerned was formally notified of the decisions in her case in 1990 and in 1991. She has, however, continued submitting medical certificates.

  433.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy):  There is a provision in Directive 86/613/EC concerning access to social insurance for spouses of self-employed workers which may require amendment of the Social Welfare Acts.

The question of social insurance coverage for spouses of employees and the self-employed is being looked at by the Pensions Board in the context of its report on a new pensions system and I expect that this will be one of the issues which will be addressed in that report. The question of legislation in this area will be considered in the light of that report.

The Deputy will also be aware of the EC Directive 79/7 on equal treatment for men and women in social security matters generally, the deadline for implementation of which was 23 December 1984. This directive was implemented by the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act 1985 which came into force in two phases with effect from May and November 1986. As recently announced, the Government have decided to provide for equality of treatment in respect of the period of the delay in implementing the directive. The [2185] precise details are being finalised at present.

There is no other EC legislation in the social security area which is awaiting implementation.

  434.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will consider relaxing the terms under which partial contributory old age pensions are provided to persons who re-entered compulsory insurance in 1974 having been previously outside of the insurance threshold due to the level of their earnings; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy):  Special pro rata pensions were introduced in 1988 for certain persons who failed to qualify for contributory pension because they were out of insurance for periods prior to 1974 when their earnings exceeded the insurable limit and their yearly average of contributions was less than 20. Under the 1988 arrangements pensions were granted for averages of between five and 20 contributions.

There are no plans to change the existing conditions for entitlement to pensions in these cases.

  435.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Labour    if he has satisfied himself with the labelling arrangements in respect of the classification of dangerous substances; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen):  The labelling requirements in operation in this country in respect of the classification of dangerous substances are based on a series of European Community Directives on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. The original Directive, 67/548/EEC, [2186] dates back to 1967 and has been amended on many occasions.

These directives derive from ongoing consideration at European level, using the most up to date information available, of the risks associated with the wide range of dangerous substances coming onto the market. I am satisfied that the labelling requirements, developed under European legislation and implemented by regulation under our own legislation, provide adequate safeguards to the standards required.

  436.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Labour    if he will outline (a) the position at 30 January 1992 in relation to positions within his Department that (1) were vacant and (2) were vacant and subject to the embargo, (b) the grades involved in (1) and (2) and (c) the number of messenger and service grades which had been suppressed since January 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen):  The general policy in regard to vacancies in the Civil Service was set out in the Minister for Finance's reply to the Deputy on 11 June 1991 and that policy still obtains. On 30 January 1992 the following posts attached to my Department were in the process of being filled:

1 Principal level post
2 Programme Evaluator posts
1 Administrative Officer post
5 Higher Executive Officer posts
1 Clerical Officer post
Clerical Assistant posts
1 Services Officer post

No services officer (messenger) or services attendant post has been suppressed since January 1990.

[2187]

  437.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Labour    whether his Department have recently appointed or employed in a permanent or temporary position, persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who, in addition to any remuneration they receive from his Department, are in receipt of State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen):  Excluding temporary fee paid appointments, my Department has no knowledge of appointing or employing into a permanent or temporary position recently, i.e in the last twelve months, any persons who previously had service with State or semi-State organisations and who in addition to any remuneration they receive from my Department are in receipt of State pensions.

In the case of fee paid appointments, my Department is aware that one recent appointment as a workers member of the Employment Appeals Tribunal, appointed on the nomination of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, is a former civil servant who was awarded a State pension on retirement.

In the case of appointments involving persons who retired on pension from the Civil Service their earnings are subject to the Pensions (Abatement) Act and, therefore, their earnings in any one year cannot exceed the difference between the current equivalent of their retiring salaries and their pensions.

[2188]

  438.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Labour    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department who were required to revert to a lower grade to avail of job sharing.

  439.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Labour    if he will outline the total number of job sharers in his Department currently job sharing without a partner.

  440.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Labour    if he will outline the total number in his Department taking part in the following job sharing regimes: (a) week on/week off, (b) day on/day off, (c) alternative morning/afternoon and (d) other arrangements.

  441.  Mr. Garland    asked the Minister for Labour    if he will give a breakdown by gender of the number of people in his Department in each grade who are currently job sharing.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 438 to 441, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tabular statement. The statement also shows the position in relation to staff of the Department seconded to and serving in An Foras Áiseanna Saothair (FÁS) and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) which are bodies under the aegis of my Department.

No. of officers who were required to revert to a lower grade to job share No. of job sharers without a partner Job Sharing Regime Gender (plus Grade) (3)
Week on/ Day on/ Morning/ Other Male Female
Week off Day off Afternoon (2)
(1)
Department Nil 1 7 Nil Nil 2 1 (EO) 8(1 EO, 4 CO, 2 CA/T, 1 CA)
FÁS Nil 1 3 Nil Nil 3(1 CA/T, 2 CA)
HSA Nil 1 3 Nil Nil 3(2 CA/T, 1 CA)

(1) Monday to Friday

(2) Thursday to Wednesday

(3) Grades — EO: Executive Officer

CO: Clerical Officer

CA/T: Clerical Assistant (Typist)

CA: Clerical Assistant (Clerical).

[2189]

  442.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Labour    if he will outline the number of accidental deaths in the agriculture industry in each of the years between 1987 and 1991.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen):  The National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health was established under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989 and commenced compiling statistics on fatal accidents in work sectors, including agriculture, which were coming under the terms of the new legislation for the first time from 1 January 1990.

The figures available from the authority for fatalities in the agriculture sector are as follows:

1990 — 26 fatalities

1991 — 35 fatalities

The following statistics on occupational fatalities in farming prior to 1990 were obtained from the Central Statistics Office:

1987 — 48 fatalities

1988 — 22 fatalities

1989 — 31 fatalities.

[2190]

  443.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Labour    if there is a proposal by the European Community to undertake a study visit to Ireland to examine the current basis for funding from the Social Fund of sheltered workshops; and if he will outline the extent of the level of funding of the provision of sheltered workshop places in Ireland from European sources.

  444.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Labour    if there is a proposal by the European Community to undertake a study visit to Ireland to examine the current basis for funding from the Social Fund of sheltered workshops; and if he will outline the extent of the level of funding of the provision of sheltered workshop places in Ireland from European sources.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Question Nos. 443 and 444 together.

There is no such proposal. However officials from the European Commission will be visiting Ireland from 30 March to 3 April 1992 on a routine control mission to examine the administrative procedures for the preparation of applications and claims for assistance from the European Social Fund.

Under the European Social Fund, assistance is available for the integration of disabled people in the open labour market. The fund does not assist the provision of employment in sheltered workshops.

  445.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Labour    if he will outline the EC legislation in his Department which has not been implemented; when he intends to implement this legislation; and whether it must be in place before 1993.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen):  The following is the information requested by the Deputy:

Safety and Health Directives

New Framework Directives

Directive Required Implementation Date
89/391/EEC the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at the workplace (the New Framework Directive). 31st December, 1992.
89/654/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace 31st December, 1992.
[2191][2192]89/655/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment by workers at work. 31st December, 1992.
89/656/EEC concerning the minimum health and safety requirements for the use of work equipment by Personal Protective Equipment. 31st December, 1992.
90/269/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the handling of heavy loads. 31st December, 1992.
90/270/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements in the use of visual display units. 31st December, 1992.
90/394/EEC protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens at work. 31st December, 1992.
90/679/EEC protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to biological agents at work. 28th November, 1993.
91/332/EEC on establishing indicative limit values by implementing Directive 80/1107/EEC (protection of workers from risks related to exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents at work). 31st December, 1993.
91/382/EEC amending Directive 83/477/EC on protection of workers from risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. 1st January, 1993.
91/383/EEC on non-standard work — Health and Safety aspects. 31st December, 1992.

Dangerous Preparations Directives

Directive Required Implementation Date
88/379/EEC approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations. 7th June, 1991.
89/178/EEC adapting to technical progress of 88/379/EEC (Annex 2). 7th June, 1991.
90/35/EEC categories of preparations which must be fitted with child resistant fastenings. 10th June 1991.
90/492/EEC adapting to technical progress for 2nd time of 88/379/EEC (Annex 1). 8th June 1991.
91/155/EEC Commission Directive, information system on dangerous preparations. 30th May 1991.
91/442/EEC on Dangerous preparations, the packaging of which must be fitted with child-resistant fastenings. 1st August, 1992.

Dangerous Substances Directives

Marketing and Use

Directive Required Implementation Date
89/677/EEC amending for the 8th time Directive 76/769/EC (Restrictions on Marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations) (Benzine Organotin). 21st June, 1991.
91/173/EEC amending for the 9th time 76/769/EEC (PCP). 1st July, 1992.
[2193][2194]91/338/EEC amending for the 10th time 76/769/EC (Cadmium). 31st December, 1992.
91/339/EEC amending for the 11th time 76/769/EC (Ugilec). 18th June, 1992.
91/659/EEC adapting to technical progress Annex 1 of 76/769/EEC (Asbestos). 1st January, 1993.

Classification, Packaging and Labelling Directives

Directive Required Implementation Date
90/517/EEC adapting to technical progress for 11th time of 67/548/EEC (Classification, Packaging and Labelling of Dengerous Substances). 7th December, 1991.
91/325/EEC adapting to technical progress for 12th time of 67/548/EEC 8th June, 1991.
91/326/EEC adapting to technical progress for 13th time of 67/548/EEC 1st July, 1992.
91/410/EEC adapting to technical progress for 14th time of 67/548/EEC 1st November, 1992.
91/632/EEC adapting to technical progress for 15th time of 67/548/EEC 1st July, 1993.

Employment Rights Directives

Directive Required Implementation Date
91/543/EEC on an employer's obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship. 30th June, 1993.

Twenty-two of the above 28 Directives require implementing measures to be in place before 1993. This is by far the greatest volume of directives requiring implementation in a given year in the social affairs area. It is my Department's intention to have any necessary implementing legislation completed by the end of 1992.

With the exception of the last named directive, all the directives listed relate to occupational health and safety and are implemented on the basis of detailed proposals prepared by the Health and Safety Authority.