Dáil Éireann

22/Mar/1994

Prelude

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - United States Visit.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Task Force on Services.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Mortgage Interest Rates.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Development Plan Adjustment.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Toxic Waste Disposal.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen (County Roscommon).

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Housing Works.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Homelessness Policy.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Recycling Projects.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Local Community Involvement in Road Maintenance.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Message from Seanad.

Request to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 30.

Order of Business.

Council of Europe Membership: Appointment of Substitute Representative.

Social Welfare Bill, 1994: Report of Select Committee.

Social Welfare Bill, 1994: Report and Final Stages.

Private Members' Business. - Tax Reform: Motion.

Adjournment Debate. - Investigation into Stockbroking Firm's Role in Shareholding Sale.

Adjournment Debate. - Milltown (Dublin) Proposed School Closure.

Adjournment Debate. - Limerick Remedial Teacher Appointment.

Written Answers. - Postal Voting.

Written Answers. - EC Directive Implementation.

Written Answers. - Taxation Requirements.

Written Answers. - Energy Conservation Programmes.

Written Answers. - Dublin Port Access.

Written Answers. - House Building Statistics.

Written Answers. - Motorists' Use of Hand-held Telephones.

Written Answers. - Rural Resettlement Ireland Funding.

Written Answers. - Heating in Homes for the Elderly.

Written Answers. - Group Water Schemes.

Written Answers. - Stray Cats.

Written Answers. - Inland Sewage Treatment Schemes.

Written Answers. - Road Project Costs.

Written Answers. - New House Grant Scheme.

Written Answers. - Use of Deferral Procedure.

Written Answers. - County Limerick Voluntary Housing Scheme.

Written Answers. - Tenant Purchase Scheme.

Written Answers. - Travelling Traders.

Written Answers. - Travelling Families.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Social Housing Programme.

Written Answers. - Implementation of Regulations.

Written Answers. - Tralee (Kerry) Motor Taxation Office.

Written Answers. - Allocations to Local Authorities.

Written Answers. - Cost of Overtime.

Written Answers. - Use of Unleaded Petrol.

Written Answers. - Amendment of Planning Acts.

Written Answers. - Rent Collectors' Salaries.

Written Answers. - Local Development Programme.

Written Answers. - Unemployment Figures.

Written Answers. - Ware Potato Imports.

Written Answers. - Togo Civil Rights Case.

Written Answers. - Cross-Border Road.

Written Answers. - Funding for US Immigration Welfare Centres.

Written Answers. - Monitors for South Africa.

Written Answers. - Election Monitors for Malawi.

Written Answers. - Decentralisation Policy.

Written Answers. - Loss Adjusters.

Written Answers. - Arterial Drainage.

Written Answers. - Ordnance Survey Office Staffing.

Written Answers. - Property Sale.

Written Answers. - VAT Registration Number.

Written Answers. - Mushroom Industry.

Written Answers. - Public Works Contracts.

Written Answers. - Commercial Property Transactions.

Written Answers. - Community Support Framework.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Personnel.

Written Answers. - Tax Affairs of Company.

Written Answers. - Supply of Maps.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - PRSI Changes.

Written Answers. - Legal Costs.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Case Settlements.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Entitlements.

Written Answers. - Rent Supplement.

Written Answers. - Land Registry Application.

Written Answers. - Supply of Map.

Written Answers. - Kilmore (Dublin) Vandalism.

Written Answers. - Supply of Maps.

Written Answers. - Monasterevan (Kildare) Garda Station.

Written Answers. - Illegal Shipments of Arms/Ammunition.

Written Answers. - Boot Camps.

Written Answers. - Land Registration.

Written Answers. - Mountjoy Prison Segregation Unit.

Written Answers. - Jurors' Expenses.

Written Answers. - Car Tax.

Written Answers. - Clondalkin (Dublin) Garda Patrols.

Written Answers. - Response to Representations.

Written Answers. - Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Written Answers. - Property Registration.

Written Answers. - Newcastle (County Dublin) Garda Patrols.

Written Answers. - Redundancy Rights.

Written Answers. - Galway City Enterprise Board.

Written Answers. - DÍON Funding.

Written Answers. - Importation of Petroleum Coke.

Written Answers. - Regional Councils' Mandate.

Written Answers. - Rural Development Workers.

Written Answers. - Patent Application Fees.

Written Answers. - Human Resources Programmes.

Written Answers. - New Businesses' Working Capital.

Written Answers. - Print Media.

Written Answers. - Disabled Persons' Car Stickers.

Written Answers. - Driving Licence Endorsement.

Written Answers. - Elderly Housing Aid.

Written Answers. - Kildare Sewerage Scheme.

Written Answers. - Ashbourne (Meath) Sewerage Scheme.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing Eligibility.

Written Answers. - St. Joseph's Mansions (Dublin) Refurbishment.

Written Answers. - Local Improvements Scheme Allocation.

Written Answers. - Enniscrone (Sligo) Fire Station.

Written Answers. - Road Signs.

Written Answers. - Roads Bulletin Cost.

Written Answers. - Solid Waste Sub-Programme.

Written Answers. - Baltinglass (Wicklow) Reservoir.

Written Answers. - Interiors of Buildings Listing.

Written Answers. - Non-National Roads Exchequer Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - County Mayo Group Water Schemes.

Written Answers. - Limerick Group Water Scheme.

Written Answers. - Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Staff Expenses.

Written Answers. - Discretionary Grant Allocations.

Written Answers. - Fermoy (Cork) Water Supply Scheme.

Written Answers. - Roadside Trimming Work.

Written Answers. - County Mayo Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Listowel (Kerry) Drainage Scheme.

Written Answers. - Ballyheigue (Kerry) Sewerage Scheme.

Written Answers. - County Mayo Group Water Scheme.

Written Answers. - Dublin Drinking Water.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Accommodation.

Written Answers. - Integration of Environmental Policies.

Written Answers. - Grant Payment.

Written Answers. - Esplanade, Collins Barracks (Dublin) Lease of Buildings.

Written Answers. - Number of Acting Commissioned Officers.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces' Rented Properties.

Written Answers. - FCA and Slua Muirí Personnel.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Personnel.

Written Answers. - Equipment Expenditure.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Overseas Service.

Written Answers. - Coastal Erosion.

Written Answers. - Salmon Fishing Industry.

Written Answers. - Fallowing at Marine Sites.

Written Answers. - Belview (County Kilkenny) Port Development.

Written Answers. - Dún Laoghaire (County Dublin) Harbour.

Written Answers. - Forestry Grants.

Written Answers. - Regulation of Abattoirs.

Written Answers. - Area Aid Applications.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Ewe Premium Quota.

Written Answers. - Abattoir Licence Transfer.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Afforestation Programme.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Land Registry Applicatin.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Area Aid Applications.

Written Answers. - Ewe Premium Quotas.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Suckler Cow Quota.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Suckler Cow Quota.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Ewe Quota.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Sheep Quota.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Sheep Quota.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Sheep Quota.

Written Answers. - Beef Carcase Classification System.

Written Answers. - Farmyard Pollution Control.

Written Answers. - Grant Payment Statistics

Written Answers. - Special Beef Premium Scheme Operation.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - EU Directive.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Regional Development.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - EC Funded Human Resource Programmes.

Written Answers. - Animal Grant Control.

Written Answers. - Importation of Milk Products into EU.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Mushroom Production.

Written Answers. - Area Aid Applications.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Provision of DART Station.

Written Answers. - Telecom Éireann New Tariff Regime.

Written Answers. - Racial Discrimination Convention.

Written Answers. - Equal Pay Legislation.

Written Answers. - Reopening of Ulster Canal.

Written Answers. - Heritage Grant Application.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Visit to Gaeltacht Areas.

Written Answers. - Functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Written Answers. - Payment of Heritage Grant.

Written Answers. - Clonmel (Tipperary) Arts Centre.

Written Answers. - Accommodation for the Elderly.

Written Answers. - Review of Medical Case.

Written Answers. - Appointment of Neuropsychologist.

Written Answers. - General Practitioner Services.

Written Answers. - Waiting List for CAT Scans.

Written Answers. - Epidural Usage.

Written Answers. - Roundstone (Galway) Health Centre.

Written Answers. - Cataract Operation.

Written Answers. - Home Help Service.

Written Answers. - Consultant Appointments.

Written Answers. - Hepatitis C Virus.

Written Answers. - Well Woman Clinics.

Written Answers. - Cork Hip Replacement Initiative.

Written Answers. - Free Dental Treatment.

Written Answers. - Alternative Medical Practices.

Written Answers. - Hip Replacement Surgery.

Written Answers. - Recognition of Herbal Remedies.

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Treatment.

Written Answers. - Incidence of Suicide.

Written Answers. - Medical Cards for Students.

Written Answers. - Childcare Facilities.

Written Answers. - Ashbourne (Meath) School.

Written Answers. - Ratoath (Meath) School.

Written Answers. - Ballintra (Donegal) School.

Written Answers. - Lottery Funds.

Written Answers. - Wilton (Cork) School.

Written Answers. - Gortatlea (Kerry) School.

Written Answers. - Helios II Programme 1993-96.

Written Answers. - Mullingar (Westmeath) School.

Written Answers. - Teacher Statistics.

Written Answers. - Data on School Classes.

Written Answers. - Teachers' Pensions.

Written Answers. - Mullingar (Westmeath) School.

Written Answers. - Students' Medical Treatment.

Written Answers. - School Discipline.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Retention of Teacher.

Written Answers. - Youth and Community Group Funding.

Written Answers. - Milltown (Kerry) School.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funding.

Written Answers. - Milltown (Dublin) School.

Written Answers. - School Building Projects.

Written Answers. - Third Level Grant Applications.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funding.

Written Answers. - Human Resource Programmes.

Written Answers. - Community Schools and Colleges.

Written Answers. - School for Autistic Children.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Written Answers. - Dunboyne (Meath) School.

Written Answers. - Kinsale (Cork) School.

Written Answers. - Remedial Education Requirements.

Written Answers. - Dundalk (Louth) School.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Written Answers. - County Mayo School.

Written Answers. - Templetown (Wexford) School.

Written Answers. - Gorey (Wexford) School.

Written Answers. - Departmental Staffing.

Written Answers. - Third Level Fees.

Written Answers. - Student Poverty.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funding.

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

Paidir.

Prayer.

  1.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Taoiseach    if he will make a statement on his discussions on Northern Ireland with the US President, Mr. Bill Clinton.

  2.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Taoiseach    if he will make a statement on his visit to the United States and his discussions with President Bill Clinton.

  3.  Miss Harney    asked the Taoiseach    if he will report on his visit to the United States of America and the steps, if any, he took to counteract the propaganda boost for the IRA which Mr. Gerry Adams's recent visit constituted.

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.

I made a most successful visit to the United States from 12 to 19 March, with in the region of 30 engagements in New York, Chicago, Washington and Hartford. My visit was directed towards the advancement of two principal objectives which mirror the two priorities of this Government.

[722] First, I actively promoted the peace initiative of the Irish and British Governments, which lays the ground for a resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict on the basis of the principles enshrined in the Joint Declaration. Second, I sought, in direct contacts with US business and political leaders, to promote increased investment into Ireland, increased exports to the US and on that basis increased job creation. The visit was extremely successful in terms of both objectives.

On Northern Ireland, I used every suitable occasion to enlist US support for peace, and for the development of a political settlement. I believe that my discussions with the President achieved a most satisfactory outcome. His personal interest is a source of great encouragement to us. He has given his own, and his administration's, full support for the joint efforts of the Irish and British Governments to advance the peace process. He publicly urged those engaging in violence and terrorism to take this unique opportunity to honourably embrace the democratic and political process, because the Joint Declaration affords, as he put it, “the best chance for a future of tolerance and reconciliation in Northern Ireland”. He urged those who have not yet done so, to endorse the declaration as the best, indeed the only, way forward.

I greatly welcome the President's wholehearted support and encouragement. His words reflect the overwhelming view in Congress, expressed in the very positive statement by the Friends of Ireland, fully supporting the declaration, calling for an end to violence, and urging the start of negotiations. The President's view also mirrors the firm views expressed by Irish-American business leaders, and, I believe, the sentiments of the vast majority of the 44 million or so Americans of Irish birth and descent. This is a weighty opinion, which cannot be lightly ignored or dismissed by anyone with a genuine desire to advance the cause of peace in Ireland.

President Clinton made clear that he is ready to help, in the most constructive [723] way that the United States can, to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict. Indeed, he showed this commitment in a very tangible way by confirming that the full $19.6 million would be provided for the International Fund for Ireland in 1995, thus restoring the US Government's contribution to last year's level. The Government is deeply appreciative of this very valuable expression of US support.

My discussions with Speaker Foley also focused upon Northern Ireland. Like President Clinton, he has been a very influential and consistent friend of Ireland and is strongly supportive of the Joint Declaration. The Government here attach great importance to his support. In response to a request from him, we announced agreement on an exchange arrangement between the Oireachtas and Congress. This very positive and significant development will further enhance the excellent bilateral relations which exist between Ireland and the United States.

I also held discussions with Senator Mitchell, the Majority Leader in the Senate, and with other very influential members of Congress such as Senators Kennedy, Moynihan, Leahy and Dodd and with Representatives Hamilton, McCloskey and Obey. Other opportunities to enlist support for the peace process included my address to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and numerous media interviews.

Apart altogether from daily RTE interviews, and briefings of Irish journalists, I gave four extended TV interviews on American channels, and further interviews on 80 other channels, both American and British. I also gave about ten radio interviews on American radio stations and on the BBC. I held two media breakfasts and press conferences with 40 to 50 leading correspondents and editorial writers in New York and Washington, and spoke to the Irish-America media and correspondents based in the US such as the Irish Echo and the Irish Voice. In the course of all my interviews I stressed that continuing acts of violence, such as the attacks on Heathrow Airport, [724] are a profound miscalculation. I also made it clear that in the wake of the declaration, there was no longer even a vestige of justification for continuing to resort to violence.

On the basis of my visit I am particularly satisfied that the Irish-American community represents an immense and invaluable resource of constructive friendship and goodwill for this country, and the vast majority of them are anxious to see peace with justice in Ireland, as we are, and are willing to use their influence to that end.

My second priority objective in visiting the US was to promote Ireland as a location for US investment and in providing a basis for increased exports — manufactured and services, including tourism. Throughout my visit, I sought, whenever appropriate, to stimulate further enhancement of our excellent bilateral relations in the economic and trade spheres.

It was my great privilege to officially open Ireland House in New York on 15 March. I have long been convinced that consolidating the Office of the Consulate General of Ireland and the six State-sponsored agencies in New York would make sound economic and administrative sense. Under the same roof individuals may obtain information on such matters as passports, visa and citizenship requirements as well as information on Ireland as a tourist destination. Here too companies can get expert advice on trading with this country and information on Ireland as a location for investment. This sharing of facilities enables us to maximise our resources through a more effective and cohesive approach and, thus, to realise the maximum benefit of the opportunities available. Ireland House, therefore, constitutes a valuable enhancement to Ireland-US economic and trade relations.

On the same day I presented in New York the Irish America Top 100 Awards for 1994. These awards have been a vital part of that magazine's strategic marketing programme since its inception in 1985. In my address to the Ireland-US Council for Commerce and Industry I placed special emphasis on the 400 US [725] companies which are operating competitively and profitably in Ireland and which are exporting in the region of $11 billion of goods and services each year to the rest of Europe. Ireland as a gateway to Europe offers special advantages and I, therefore, greatly welcome the work currently under way to establish a partnership in the pharmaceutical sector between US companies and the Irish health research community.

I attended a valuable meeting of the Ireland-America Economic Advisory Board in Washington on St. Patrick's Day. The meeting dealt with four areas where Irish American expertise can productively complement the work of Irish Departments and agencies. These are: an integrated strategy for marketing Ireland in America, a more focused television and selective database campaign for tourism marketing, support from US firms for Irish university efforts in developing research-based campus companies and selective support for the financial services sector in Ireland.

The Irish-American Board will put in place in each case a small expert group to work with a corresponding group which we will draw together on the Irish side. I believe this focused support from Irish-American business leaders will lead to more effective developments in the American market and will provide the basis for increased investment, increased exports of manufactured goods and of services, including tourism, and, in that way, to much needed increased job creation.

While in Chicago I held discussions with representatives of the Chicago Boards of Trade and Options Exchange to promote the Dublin Exchange Facility which is now nearing completion. I stressed the opportunities afforded by this facility to the Chicago Board of Trade whereby membership would provide access to all the special advantages offered by the Dublin Financial Services Centre, particularly in the context of increased access to European brokerage markets when they will be deregulated at the beginning of 1996. A project from the Chicago Board would complement in [726] an important way the New York FINEX project due to open in the Custom House Docks Centre at the end of May.

On my way back from the United States I paid a short official visit to the Bahamas at the invitation of Prime Minister Ingraham. I had a series of useful bilateral discussions with the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet. These discussions covered a number of areas where there is considerable potential for closer contact and co-operation between our two countries. I found that the Bahamian authorities believe that Ireland as a small island nation, and on the basis of some existing contacts, has much to offer in terms of development.

Mr. Barrett:  The Taoiseach was on a holiday, he should stop trying to spoof us.

Mrs. Owen:  Did he bring us back any grass skirts?

The Taoiseach:  Sour grapes. Jealousy will get the Deputies nowhere.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us hear the Taoiseach without interruption.

The Taoiseach:  In particular, the Bahamian authorities are interested in availing of Irish expertise in regard to the structure and training requirements of the Bahamian public service, environmental protection, third level technological education, teacher training in maths and the sciences, training in broadcasting and the provision of duty free facilities. These areas of co-operation will now be actively pursued.

Mrs. Owen:  The Taoiseach should have sent Deputy Seán Haughey there.

The Taoiseach:  During my visit I attended a promotional function for the Irish Dairy Board, whose exports to the Bahamas are in the region of £1 million per annum. Arising from my discussions, the question of establishing diplomatic relations on a non-resident basis between [727] Ireland and the Bahamas will be explored.

Mrs. Owen:  The Taoiseach got a bit of a tan anyway.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I want to bring the Taoiseach back from the sunny climate of the Bahamas to the more narrowly focused point in my question about Northern Ireland. Will the Taoiseach say if in his discussions with President Clinton the following two issues were agreed: first, that no further visa to enter the United States would be issued to the Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, until there is a cessation of IRA violence and, second, that the appointment by President Clinton of a US peace envoy to Northern Ireland would be inappropriate at this stage? On the broader issue of Northern Ireland, will the Taoiseach accept that both the British and Irish Governments are sailing on a sea of uncertainty at present? Will he clarify the Government's approach to the possible calling of a temporary cease-fire by the IRA as some confusion has arisen from the Tánaiste's remarks during his absence? Will he agree that now is the time for the UK and Irish Governments to formulate detailed joint proposals to be put to the political parties in Northern Ireland later in the year when they may be more agreeable to enter into discussions; in other words, to use the elegant phraseology of Séamus Mallon, to write the script at this stage in the absence of agreement and discussion between the political parties?

The Taoiseach:  Any decision on a further application by Mr. Gerry Adams for a visa to enter the United States ultimately will be a matter for President Clinton, who has made it very clear that his decision to grant a visa to him was taken in the context of the American contribution to the peace process and to give Mr. Adams the opportunity to witness the level of support in the United States [728] for the Downing Street Declaration, for a rejection of violence and for all of us to pursue the path to peace. He made this abundantly clear, as have the vast majority of the Friends of Ireland and Congress on Capitol Hill. They supported the granting of the visa and made it very clear in their statement that they fully supported the Downing Street Declaration. Like President Clinton, they called on Sinn Féin to reject violence and to join those who are seeking to achieve peace and reconciliation on this island. In the event of another visa application being made, it will be a matter for President Clinton at that time. I will not speculate on a hypothetical situation.

There is no confusion in the British and Irish Governments about the conditions laid down and no change in this regard. We want a declaration of a permanent cessation of violence from the IRA before Sinn Féin can join the forum for peace and reconciliation and engage in talks with the British Government as a forerunner to joining the peace negotiations. That is the position as we see it and there is no change or confusion.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  A temporary ceasefire——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Order, please.

The Taoiseach:  I am talking about a declaration of a permanent ceasefire.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I want to remind the House that 30 minutes only are provided for dealing with questions to the Taoiseach today.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Taoiseach is reported as saying in the United States that he knew the President of Sinn Féin, Mr. Adams, personally wanted to deliver on the Joint Declaration. What is the basis for such a statement? Did the Taoiseach meet Mr. Adams and discuss this matter with him? What is the basis for this certainty? When President Clinton indicated he was encouraged by the “conciliatory statement” from Mr. Adams, did the Taoiseach point out to him that [729] all we heard from Mr. Adams is the same old raméis we have been hearing for the past three months and that there is no apparent conviction on the part of Sinn Féin or the IRA that they should abandon their campaign of violence? Finally, is the Taoiseach concerned about John Hume's approach with regard to the recent activities of the IRA, specifically in relation to the bombing of Heathrow Airport? Has he had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Hume and express to him the concern of this House and the motion passed by it condemning that outrage?

The Taoiseach:  To take the Deputy's questions in reverse order, I made clear to everybody in the United States to whom I spoke, including John Hume, the views of this House and the personal views that I expressed in relation to the attacks on Heathrow Airport. I spoke to President Clinton at length about the statement issued and, while there were some positive aspects to it and certain new views expressed in it, the President and I made it very clear that while these words are fine we really need a decision from Sinn Féin to join the peace process and follow up with action to put meaning into the words that appeared in certain parts of that statement. In regard to the question of who is pushing for peace, I said before that all the evidence and information available to me suggests clearly that Mr. Adams was preaching peace but in relation to the end of violence, that is the statement we all want to hear. It is not a question of who is doing what when; this House, the Irish people and people around the world want a declaration of a permanent cessation of violence so that we can get on with the long task of peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

Miss Harney:  Will the Taoiseach elaborate on the comments made by him in the United States that if Britain withdrew from Northern Ireland it would have to continue to subsidise the Northern Ireland economy to the tune of billions of pounds per annum? Is the Taoiseach aware of intelligence reports that recruitment [730] to the IRA trebled in recent times? Is it the Taoiseach's intention to establish the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation?

The Taoiseach:  I have said that I will be in consultation with all the party leaders opposite in relation to setting up the forum and I will do that at the appropriate time. I have no intelligence reports or information available to me suggesting any increase in recruitment to the IRA. Finally——

Mr. M. McDowell:  The billions after they withdraw.

The Taoiseach:  ——it is common sense that the billions transferred from the UK Exchequer to support the economy in Northern Ireland——

Mr. Rabbitte:  Run it up.

The Taoiseach:  ——in the event of a political settlement would have to continue for quite a long time. It was suggested in a recent newspaper report it might take 25 to 30 years to phase that out and, as a prominent British politician said to me, it would be cheap at the price.

Mrs. Owen:  In reply to Deputy De Rossa, was the Taoiseach speaking in a personal capacity when he said he knew Gerry Adams was personally anxious for peace or was he speaking on behalf of the Government? Is it a common belief among the Taoiseach's Government colleagues that Gerry Adams is personally working for peace? In view of the fact that Sinn Féin-IRA are stringing out the process to such a length and engaging, as Séamus Mallon said, in a peace by day and war by night policy, will the Taoiseach tell us in simple terms what exactly he proposes to do over the coming weeks and months, while Sinn Féin and the IRA continue to string out this process, to bring about dialogue on Northern Ireland? Is it not the case that this vacuum is being exploited by the IRA [731] and the extreme views of people such as Reverend Ian Paisley?

The Taoiseach:  There is no vacuum.

Mrs. Owen:  Of course there is.

The Taoiseach:  The two Governments will continue to work to provide a framework for the resumption of the talks process. It will not be done in a week or two weeks and the question of a vacuum arising over the coming weeks simply does not arise. Any statements made by me when I am abroad are on behalf of the Irish people and, of course, the Irish Government. It is very clear — and I have had to repeat this on numerous occasions — that all the information available to me does not suggest that Gerry Adams is doing other than what I said.

Mrs. Owen:  Is that the policy of the whole Government, including the Tánaiste?

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I put it to the Taoiseach that since the Downing Street Declaration the reality is that there have been many murders in Northern Ireland, including those of two police officers, a soldier and a number of civilians. We also had the outrageous publicity stunts at Heathrow Airport and the even more dangerous action taken in Crossmaglen. Will the Taoiseach accept there is no evidence that peace is breaking out in Northern Ireland and that, from the point of view of the talks process, the reality is that the majority of the political leaders in Northern Ireland are not willing to sit down and talk at this stage? What is the Government policy in the light of those two realities?

The Taoiseach:  I thought I made it clear to Deputy Owen — but I will repeat it for the benefit of Deputy O'Keeffe — that there is no vacuum. The two Governments continue to do their work through the liaison committee in trying to put together a framework for the [732] resumption of talks. Both Governments have made it clear to everybody and to all parties what the basis of those talks will be and that the principles enshrined in the Downing Street Declaration will be the starting point for those talks when they resume. No party will have a veto on political progress. The British Government said that time and again and I have said it also. The process and how it is proceeding is very clear. If Deputy O'Keeffe and Deputy Owen are suggesting that Sinn Féin-IRA have a veto on progress between the two Governments, it is simply not the case.

Mrs. Owen:  They effectively have a veto.

The Taoiseach:  We will continue the work in relation to putting our framework together and all parties will then have the opportunity of the resumption of talks but no party will have a veto on political progress.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are a number of Deputies offering. I want to facilitate them but I ask them to be brief. I now call Deputy De Rossa.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Can I take it from the Taoiseach's reply with regard to his remarks about Gerry Adams's personal commitment to the declaration that it is based purely on his presumption that because he says so, he is in favour of the declaration, despite the evidence of the IRA campaign of continuing murder and destruction? Will the Taoiseach indicate what steps he and his Government are taking currently and for the foreseeable future to rescue support among the Unionist population in Northern Ireland for this declaration which is rapidly disintegrating, primarily because of the long delay by both Governments in proceeding to negotiations based on it?

The Taoiseach:  As usual, Deputy De Rossa tries to twist and misinterpret what people are saying. I have said quite clearly that the information and intelligence [733] available to me suggest exactly the position as set out, no more and no less, and no misinterpretation or twisting of words will change exactly what that specific statement says and what it means. Lest Deputy De Rossa is not aware of it, there is plenty of support on the ground within both communities in Northern Ireland for the peace process. We can have a peace process and a rejection of violence without an acceptance of the Downing Street Joint Declaration. The Downing Street Joint Declaration constitutes a set of principles on which to proceed. If somebody does not like some of its words or phraseology, that is fine as long as we have a cessation of violence so that talks can proceed. That is what is important, not arguing over words or phrases in the declaration.

Mr. M. McDowell:  In view of the fact that the Taoiseach's response to Deputy Harney about the commencment of the forum for peace and reconciliation is the same as that he gave in early February, would he not agree that now is the appropriate time to get on with that? Would he agree that Dr. John Alderdice, the Leader of the Alliance Party, was correct when he requested the Taoiseach to get on with the process in early February so that there would be some agenda other than that of the IRA in this matter?

The Taoiseach:  Dr. Alderdice's suggestions always are taken in good faith by the Government but it is for us to decide what is the appropriate time and we will do so.

Mr. Barrett:  In his discussions with President Clinton, did the Taoiseach express his concern about the difficulties Irish people, particularly young people, are experiencing in obtaining holiday visas to visit the United States? Did he ask President Clinton what steps he was taking to ensure that those who wish to attend the World Cup will be given an opportunity of obtaining holiday visas?

The Taoiseach:  I understand that [734] arrangements in relation to the granting of visas for the World Cup are in train between the appropriate authorities and that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs is indeed processing those arrangements.

Mrs. Owen:  Is the Taoiseach aware that there is an amendment due before the House of Representatives?

Mr. Boylan:  As a Deputy representing a Border constituency, the Taoiseach will be aware that I seldom participate in this debate. Might I suggest to him there is too much talk and not enough action on the ground in the matter of building bridges between the two communities? Would he comment on the discovery by the Garda in County Sligo of what appears to have been a recently used training camp? Would that indicate to the Taoiseach——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is raising a very specific matter warranting a separate question.

Mr. Boylan:  It is in relation to this overall debate, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I think we should have notice of questions of that kind.

Mr. Boylan:  Would the Taoiseach say whether that would indicate to him an outfit interested in training for war or, conversely, in peace? I compliment the Garda on the magnificent work they are doing in the protection of life.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have ruled the essential part of your question out of order, Deputy.

The Taoiseach:  This House salutes the Garda in their ongoing successes in the discovery of arms, training camps or anything else connected with the operations of any illegal organisation here. We wish them continued success in that regard. It has been recognised not only by this Government and House but by the British [735] Government and the Chief Constable of the RUC.

Mr. Finucane:  In the course of his trip to the United States for St. Patrick's Day, the Taoiseach promised to have discussions with the Speaker of the United States House of Congress, Mr. Tom Foley, in regard to establishing structures between the Dáil and United States Congress. Will he elaborate on what he had in mind?

The Taoiseach:  Something along the lines of the Interparliamentary Union between here and the United States Congress.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I will be brief, again at the risk of being accused of twisting the Taoiseach's words. As he does not give a direct answer to a direct question may I suggest to him that the implication of his indirect reply is that he is doing nothing to endeavour to maintain or build on the support of moderate Unionism of the Downing Street Joint Declaration? Is that an accurate or a twisted version of what he is doing?

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  That is ridiculous.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I am asking the Taoiseach to tell us because clearly he is doing nothing.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am calling Deputy Harney.

Mrs. Owen:  Whether he likes it or not there is a vacuum there.

An Ceann Comhairle:  This is Question Time. There can be no argument or debate at this time.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Taoiseach carries on blindly as if everything was fine.

Mrs. Owen:  There are another 12 months to St. Patrick's Day, 1995.

[736]An Ceann Comhairle:  I have allowed quite some latitude on these questions. I am calling Deputy Harney.

Miss Harney:  In an earlier reply the Taoiseach referred to discussions he had with business interests in the United States. Would he say whether he had discussions at any level with persons interested in a strategic alliance with Telecom Éireann?

The Taoiseach:  The answer is “No”. I should say, for the benefit of Deputy De Rossa, that if he does not believe I am doing anything in favour of peace, then he is the only person on this island holding that belief.

Proinsias De Rossa:  As usual, the Taoiseach is talking nonsense.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Rabbitte:  We were impressed by the Taoiseach's performance as a raconteur this week.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  While we very much support the Taoiseach in his quest for a permanent ceasefire, I am not clear as to his attitude to the possible calling of a temporary ceasefire by the IRA. What is his attitude to that?

The Taoiseach:  I have stated my attitude. Lest the Deputy is endeavouring to imply certain meanings to what the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs has said, he has made it abundantly clear that the position of the Irish Government is that we want a declaration of a permanent cessation of violence. I am sorry to have to say that if the Deputies opposite do not see the significance of the great support we have built up in the United States and the unique position in which we now find ourselves, then it is too bad for them because they are out of touch with reality.

(Interruptions.)

[737]The Taoiseach:  I know it grieves them but I am sorry for their troubles.

  4.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    whether he has set out a timescale for the implementation of the task force on services.

The Taoiseach:  The Task Force on Jobs in Services produced its report in December 1993 and, as the Deputy will be aware, the report called for the implementation of some measures directly and for the further study of others.

I am pleased to say that, already, in the 1994 budget, a variety of measures recommended by the Task Force were adopted. These include the extension of the cash basis of accounting for VAT for certain companies, and the introduction of tiered rates of employers' PRSI. Other measures, such as raising VAT registration thresholds; reducing the rate of capital gains tax on the disposal of unquoted shares in trading companies; extending, beyond the BES areas, the special roll-over relief where funds from the disposal are reinvested in the broader services sector; and introducing a new capital acquisitions tax relief on business assets, also represent significant improvements for service enterprises.

As regards the various organisational proposal contained in the report, the Government is committed in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work to implementing many of these. For instance, the Department of Enterprise and Employment has been given overall responsibility for services. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment is currently establishing a specific unit to work on the formulation and co-ordination of policy on services.

As regards the areas highlighted for further study by the Task Force, the taxation of service enterprises is already being examined. A small interdepartmental working group, chaired by the Department of Enterprise and Employment, has been formed and is [738] charged with undertaking a review of the international services programme. The group will examine the range of international service activity which can qualify for State assistance and for the reduced rate of corporation tax.

As regards the many other promotional and training recommendations included in the report of the Task Force and adopted by the Government in the new programme, the Central Review Committee will monitor their implementation during the life of the programme. Departments and agencies will be asked to bring forward proposals with regard to their implementation for examination by the committee and decision by Government.

I am confident that the measures already announced and those under consideration arising from my initiative to establish the Task Force last year will have a significant impact on job creation in service companies.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Does the Taoiseach recognise the frustration of many service businesses who discover that, having paid 21 per cent VAT, 21 per cent PRSI, 40 per cent corporation tax, not to mention PAYE contributions, they end up paying 60p in every £ they obtain from their consumers to the Exchequer, being left with approximately 2p only to plough back into their businesses? Does he not recognise that what he announced in his reply today does not represent any sea change in Government policy? Will he not agree that what we need is a time scale within which to address the issue of corporation tax, VAT and employers' PRSI in this sector, as was clearly outlined by the task force? Will he set about doing that?

The Taoiseach:  What I have just said clearly represents a sea change in relation to Government policy within the overall services industry in that the Government has recognised that it will be a large contributor to the overall job creation programme. I recognise many of the problems referred to by Deputy Bruton and that is the reason I set up the task [739] force and gave it a very short timescale in which to report. Many of the recommendations have been taken on board. The Central Review Committee of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work will monitor the introduction of other aspects of the programme. Some aspects are being further studied by the task force. The Deputy can take it that this is not the end of the road in relation to the implementation of the recommendations.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Will the Taoiseach agree that the exclusion of the services sector from the £100 million loan scheme announced by the Government was a clear breach of faith with what the Taoiseach said was the approach of Government to the services sector?

The Taoiseach:  International traded services and tourism aspects are included in the loan scheme.

Mr. R. Bruton:  That was never the issue. The Taoiseach is evading that question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am proceeding now to other questions.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I wish to ask one supplementary question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, Deputy, I cannot facilitate you now.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I will be very brief.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I trust the Deputy in that regard.

Mr. Rabbitte:  May I ask the Taoiseach if the casual acquaintance with the tax man he demonstrated during his time in the United States is a period of Irish history that is past and that the concerns raised by Deputy Bruton about the punitive regime for the services sector — which is a main source of job creation now — ought to be looked at? Is the casual acquaintance which the Taoiseach [740] remembers from his manufacturing days a thing of the past?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Leave personalities out, please.

The Taoiseach:  That happened just about 34 years ago. As usual, Deputy Rabbitte is more interested in the sound bite than in getting proper information.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We now come to questions nominated for priority for which 20 minutes only are provided for in our Standing Orders.

  5.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has satisfied himself that the Building Societies Act, 1989 is capable of providing proper consumer protection to existing mortgage borrowers by ensuring that these borrowers are offered the same interest rate as that being offered to new borrowers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The Building Societies Act, 1989, has no provisions relating to the control of interest rates, which are determined by supply and demand in the market in the context of monetary policy as operated by the Cental Bank. By prohibiting the charging of redemption fees on variable interest rate mortgages, building society legislation has done much to ensure that existing, as well as new borrowers, benefit from competition, since existing borrowers cannot be prevented by prohibitive redemption fees from transferring their mortgages to lenders offering more competitive rates.

Mr. Barrett:  Is the Minister aware that the original purpose for which building societies were set up was to help individuals and couples to purchase their own homes? Will he agree that the Building Societies Act should cover the behaviour of building societies? I am not asking about the rate of interest but rather the behaviour of building societies. For [741] example, existing borrowers are being charged a rate of interest of 7.75 per cent compared with a rate of 6.99 per cent being offered to new borrowers. On a £50,000 mortgage that amounts to an additional payment of £22.50 per month for existing borrowers. Will the Minister agree that building societies are no longer primarily concerned with providing loans particularly to first time house buyers but are becoming financial institutions? Surely the Building Societies Act is capable of ensuring that building societies provide the same rate of interest to existing borrowers as that being offered to new borrowers?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I appeal for brevity for obvious reasons at this time.

Mr. M. Smith:  I am aware that two societies offer special below market rates to first time borrowers but the margin of difference is very small. Deputy Barrett will accept that this is probably the best regime we have had for a long time in terms of competition in the mortgage interest market. The building societies legislation of 1986 and 1989 has contributed enormously to bringing that about. It is not proposed to intervene further in that market because we can all recall the cap in hand system which hitherto was operated by lending agencies. We have long since departed from that and I am not aware of any special difficulties.

Mr. Barrett:  The Minister is misinterpreting my point. The point I am trying to make, and which apparently the Government is standing over, is a practice whereby existing borrowers are being made subsidise building societies to attract new borrowers, whether first time or new borrowers. The new borrower is being offered a lower interest rate than the existing borrower. Will the Minister not agree that that practice should cease and that if there is a fall in interest rates those who have had to carry high interest rates for a long period should avail of the lowest possible rate of interest and thereby get the same interest [742] rate as that being offered to new borrowers? Is the Government prepared to stand over that practice or is it prepared to do something about it?

Mr. M. Smith:  It is not clear from Deputy Barrett's question whether he is talking about variable rates of mortgage interest or fixed rates.

Mr. Barrett:  Both.

Mr. M. Smith:  If we are talking about fixed rates of mortgage interest——

Mr. Barrett:  I am not talking about fixed rates.

An Ceann Comhairle:  This should not give rise to argument. Let us not forget there are four other questions to be dealt with.

Mr. M. Smith:  If Deputy Barrett has some information, he may wish to pass it on to me, but I am not aware of any difficulties in the present market.

Mr. Barrett:  May I complete the question?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I cannot allow a debate now.

Mr. Barrett:  In respect of my own mortgage, I am being charged an interest rate of 7.75 per cent while the same building society is offering an interest rate of 6.99 per cent to new borrowers. That is not a fixed interest rate, it is a variable interest rate and the information supplied is incorrect.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I cannot delay unduly with any one question. It can only be to the detriment of the remaining questions.

Mr. M. Smith:  As Deputy Barrett is aware, it is a long time since we had such favourable interest rates.

[743]

  6.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment    the effects the reduction in the £8 billion contribution from the EU will have on the various projects included in the National Development Plan, 1994-1999, for which he is responsible; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  9.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for the Environment    the total financial allocation under the National Development Plan, 1994-1999, for areas for which his Department has responsibility; the allocation following the overall cut of 8.5 per cent announced by the Government on 3 March 1994; the way in which this will be applied to the projects for which he has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  42.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for the Environment    the adjustment, if any, required to his Department's projects in the National Development Plan, 1994-1999, arising from the anticipated shortfall in funds.

  63.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has satisfied himself that there will be no diminution of funds for road, bridge, footpath and roadside drainage or other improvements arising from a possible reduction of Structural Funds from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  70.  Mr. Cullen    asked the Minister for the Environment    whether European Union funding will be available in 1994 for the improvement and maintenance of county roads; and if he will give details of allocations proposed.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 9, 42, 63 and 70 together.

The total financial allocation made in the National Development Plan for services within my Department's area of responsibility was approximately £2,500 [744] million at 1993 prices. Over 40 per cent of this expenditure was put forward for assistance from the Cohesion Fund, and will not be affected by the pro rata adjustments put forward by the Government in relation to programmes to be aided under the Community Support Framework, 1994-1999. Overall, therefore, the impact of these adjustments on my Department's allocation will be marginal.

As regards projects, I refer to the statement by the Minister for Finance in the debate on a Private Members' motion on the National Development Plan on 8 March last, which gave details of the different stages in the Structural Funds process, involving the National Development Plan, the Community Support Framework and the Operational Programmes. The selection of individual projects for EU assistance is a further phase in the process, following the approval of the Operational Programmes and it will be an on-going process throughout the implementation period. It is not possible, therefore, at this stage to give details of the specific projects which will attract Structural Fund assistance.

The National Plan seeks EU assistance in respect of an investment of £235 million between 1994 and 1999 on the improvement of non-national roads. Negotiations on this and all other aspects of the plan are continuing. In the meantime, the 1994 Estimates provide for total State grants of £101.4 million for non-national roads, an increase of £26.1 million or 35 per cent on the 1993 provision. An amount of £33.6 million from the total 1994 provision has been set aside for a scheme of specific grants for individual improvement projects on non-national roads which have a significant and quantifiable economic impact, particularly on industrial, tourism, agricultural, fishery, forestry and rural development. This investment is expected to be eligible for EU financial support. Local authorities were invited on 4 February last to submit details of suitable projects to my Department and grant allocations to individual [745] authorities will be made as soon as possible.

Mr. Barrett:  Will the Minister agree that in the National Development Plan 1994-1999 a figure of £7.98 billion was clearly specified as the EU contribution to the plan? However, we are now told it will be £7.2 billion, a difference of £800 million. Will he agree that as a result of mishandling the whole process a number of projects in the plan will be affected? What projects under his control will be affected? What effect will these have on local and regional roads which are full of potholes and in a dreadful state? Have local authorities been advised that some of the plans they submitted will not be proceeded with?

Mr. M. Smith:  I agree there is a difference of £800 million and that the new figure is £7.2 billion approximately. That was agreed last October. Nevertheless over £7 billion is an extraordinary amount of money to have available for major development. It amounts to £2,100 per head of population in this country; £1,700 in Greece; £1,650 in Portugal and £1,400 in Spain.

Mr. Barrett:  Answer my question.

Mr. M. Smith:  By comparison with other countries Ireland has come out best.

Mr. Connor:  The Minister is trying to fool himself.

Mr. M. Smith:  As far as individual projects are concerned there is the National Development Plan and the negotiations in Brussels, the Community Support Framework which is under discussion and the Operational Programmes. The Deputy is familiar with those processes. It is not possible to say what projects will be affected at this stage. Some will be affected and some will be delayed but my plan is to scale down local authority operations and make them more efficient so that we will not have to abandon any schemes. However, engineering [746] and other aspects may need to be tailored.

As far as local authorities are concerned this year, allocations for the first phase have been made. They were asked on 4 February to submit specific programmes to take up the £33 million and I expect to have these in the course of the next few days. I will make an announcement to the local authorities before the middle of April.

On the question of whether funds will be available from the EU for county and regional roads, as the Deputy is aware those representing Fine Gael in the European Parliament said I was unwise to pursue the course of getting funds for county roads from the EU. I am happy to tell the House I have been making spectacular progress in this area.

Mr. Gilmore:  The Minister said £2,500 million was his Department's slice of the national plan as originally presented. To what has that figure been reduced? What roads, sewerage schemes, water supply schemes and urban renewal schemes will not proceed or will be scaled back? What part of the £2,500 million was made up from Cohesion Funds?

Mr. M. Smith:  Approximately £1,100 million will come from Cohesion Funds which are not affected by the present debate.

Mr. Gilmore:  That is less than 50 per cent. The Minister said most of it came from the Cohesion Funds.

Mr. M. Smith:  That would leave £1,300 million on which a pro rata adjustment could be made. It seems as if there will be an overall cut of 4 per cent which, over five years, would be £100 million. There is emphasis on and support for urban renewal programmes in the negotiations and I do not expect any cut in these programmes. I have had discussions with county managers and county engineers regarding tailoring schemes, without reducing the overall effectiveness of road development, to [747] meet our needs in a way which would help us to get the same outturn——

Mr. Gilmore:  Narrower roads.

Mr. M. Smith:  It is the surface that concerns drivers.

Mr. Connor:  What about sewerage schemes?

Mr. M. Smith:  I expect to succeed.

Mr. Barrett:  The Government produced a plan which incorporated considerable waste. The Minister's reply seems to indicate there was a great deal of inefficiency in the preparation of the plan and spending the money. Is the Minister serious when he says he will narrow roads, lower standards or ignore environmental aspects of developments in an effort to work with the reduced amount which was brought about by the Government's incompetence in dealing with the matter? What projects will be affected?

Mr. M. Smith:  It is laughable in a way——

Mr. Barrett:  It is no joke.

Mr. M. Smith:  ——because everyone talks about a loss of £800 million when the advice offered by Fine Gael was there was no prospect of getting anything like that amount.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. M. Smith:  Fine Gael would have been happy to accept £4,500 billion.

Mr. Barrett:  Answer the question.

Mr. M. Smith:  Fine Gael was prepared to accept a lot less. There is no waste in the plan. Is the Deputy suggesting I should not review the plan and see where I can get better value for money?

[748]Mr. Barrett:  The Minister should have got better value from the first day.

Mr. M. Smith:  The Deputy can be assured there will be no diminution of effort in road development as far as the environment is concerned. There is no reference in what I said which would allow the Deputy suggest that might happen. I said there would be some scaling down on projects and some delay on others but I hoped not to eliminate any of them.

Mr. Gilmore:  Do I understand the Minister correctly that the roads programme will bear the entire burden of cuts in the national plan? Will he state whether all the roads projects identified in the plan, specifically the projects associated with the Dublin Transport Initiative, will proceed in the period 1994-99 and that none will be dropped during the lifetime of the plan?

Mr. M. Smith:  That is most certainly my intention.

  8.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment    if this country is complying with EU requirements in relation to the disposal of toxic waste; if funds are available from the EU towards the costs involved in providing a toxic waste facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. M. Smith:  European Union requirements in relation to hazardous waste have been implemented in Ireland through the following regulations: European Communities (Toxic and Dangerous Waste) Regulations, 1982; European Communities (Waste) Regulations, 1984 relating to the disposal of PCBs and PCTs; European Communities (Transfrontier Shipment of Hazardous Waste) Regulations, 1988; European Communities (Asbestos Waste) Regulations, 1990, and European Communities (Waste Oils) Regulations, 1992.

Regulations to give effect to Directive 91/157/EEC on Batteries and Accumulators [749] containing certain dangerous substances will be made shortly.

The European Commission addressed a reasoned opinion to Ireland in 1993 which, inter alia, alleged that the European Communities (Toxic and Dangerous Waste) Regulations, 1982 incompletely transposed Council Directive 78/319/EEC on Toxic and Dangerous Waste. These proceedings are still in progress, and regard will be had to their implications in the preparation of the Waste Bill.

Waste infrastructure facilities are eligible for European Union co-financing. As indicated in the National Development Plan, the Operational Programme for Environmental Services, 1994-99, will include a sub-programme to assist Ireland in progressing towards the establishment of an integrated and adequate network of waste disposal installations, with appropriate provision for hazardous and non-hazardous waste management and disposal.

Mr. Barrett:  Is the Minister aware that Trocaire and Amnesty International have joined Greenpeace in calling on the Government to support a total ban on the export of hazardous waste from OECD countries in compliance with the Basle Convention? Are we prepared to join the other 120 countries who support Denmark's call for a total ban to be set out in the Basle Convention? Will our representatives be in attendance at the meeting in Geneva on the Basle Convention? If so is the Minister prepared to support a total ban on such exports? Is he aware that newspaper reports suggest attempts have been made to entice Third World countries to accept toxic waste — even by way of cash offers? People are concerned that Third World countries are being used as a dumping ground simply because they, unlike other countries, do not realise the damage that toxic waste can do to the environment. I understand that the Minister is examining a case in which Ireland exported asbestos waste to South Africa.

Will the Minister state clearly whether Ireland is prepared to support the Basle [750] Convention and join the other 120 countries seeking a total ban on the export of toxic waste to Third World countries? Does the Government have a programme for the disposal of toxic waste in this country so that we will not need to depend on Third World countries taking our waste?

Mr. M. Smith:  Ireland does not export hazardous waste to countries other than European Union and EFTA countries. As Deputy Barrett knows, I have fought consistently to meet the terms of the Basle Convention and the need to be self-sufficient in managing our hazardous waste. We depend very considerably on receiving countries in the European Union and EFTA to take our hazardous waste.

We will be represented by the Irish Ambassador to the United Nations and officials from my Department at the Geneva meeting — I will be attending a meeting of the Council of Ministers in Brussels — and the issue before the meeting is whether the Basle Convention should be amended to ban the export of all toxic waste from OECD countries to Third World countries. The convention allows for the export of hazardous waste to Third World countries under very strict controls based on recycling and management control systems that take account of the fears expressed in this regard. I have consistently supported a tighter regime but Deputies will appreciate that it is very important to ensure the Community has a common position. It is very easy for a country with hazardous waste disposal facilities to take an extreme position; unfortunately we are not in that position because we depend on receiving countries in the European Union and EFTA to take our hazardous waste. I want to ensure, therefore, that we have a common position in the Community as this is much better from our point of view in the circumstances in which we do not have sufficient resources to deal with the problem. In spite of those inhibiting factors I have sought a tighter regime to make sure that the Basle Convention, if it is to be changed, would [751] provide more satisfactory arrangements for Third World countries accepting exports from European Union countries.

Mr. Barrett:  Is there a great deal of division on this issue in the Council of Ministers? Denmark appears to be sponsoring the Basle Convention yet it appears that Germany and Britain are dragging their feet on the question of banning of exports of toxic waste to Third World countries. Is a common policy developing on providing toxic waste facilities so that no European Union country will have to export its toxic waste outside the European Union, including a facility for the disposal of toxic waste in Ireland?

Mr. M. Smith:  All European Union countries, with the exception of Luxembourg and Ireland, have facilities for the treatment of hazardous waste. Germany, because of its location, may use facilities in France to a considerable degree. There is no common position but I have worked diligently to achieve one as I think it is the best way to go forward, particularly for a country that cannot stand totally independent on this matter.

  10.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[752]

  11.  Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny)    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  12.  Mr. Flanagan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  15.  Mr. Connor    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[753]

  16.  Mr. Lowry    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  19.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  21.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  22.  Mr. Carey    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[754]

  23.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  26.  Mrs. Doyle    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  28.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[755]

  30.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  32.  Miss Flaherty    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  40.  Mr. Dukes    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[756]

  41.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  44.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  46.  Mr. Boylan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  47.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[757]

  49.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  52.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  64.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[758]

  71.  Mr. Noonan (Limerick East)    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  74.  Mr. Shatter    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  75.  Mr. McGahon    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[759]

  76.  Mr. L. Burke    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  77.  Mr. J. Mitchell    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  79.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  80.  Mr. Connaughton    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[760]

  81.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for the Environment    if funding will be provided to Roscommon County Council for the development of a library at the Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application is with his Department since June 1991; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the development of a library is part of a major development plan by Roscommon County Council to turn this historic house into a library/museum and heritage house open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. M. Smith:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, 26, 28, 30, 32, 40, 41, 44, 46, 47, 49, 52, 64, 71, 74, 75, 76, 77, 79, 80 and 81 together.

A revised proposal seeking approval in principle for a new branch library in Ballaghaderreen is being considered in my Department in consultation with An Chomhairle Leabharlanna. The county council will be notified as soon as a decision is made on the matter.

I should say, however, that the demand from local authorities for funding for library projects greatly exceeds the resources available for this purpose. There are, therefore, many deserving proposals which it is not possible to approve at this stage.

Mr. Connor:  As the Minister may be aware, this was the house of the founder of the Young Ireland movement, John Blake Dillon, John Dillon MP and the doyen of this House, James Dillon, who was a distinguished Minister for Agriculture and leader of this party. In view of its unique heritage, does the Minister agree that a special case should be made for funding which has been sought by Roscommon County Council to establish a library and to turn it into a heritage house open to the public with other facilities also?

Mr. M. Smith:  That proposal deserves consideration. Representations have been made by Roscommon County Council in connection with a number of projects which involve the establishment [761] of a library. Two, if not three, proposals are being considered. I hope to move forward as far as I can within the financial constraints. I am under pressure to provide money for housing, roads and other developments. Libraries form an important part of the education system and have been developed in recent times. As limited resources are available I cannot say at this stage when final approval will issue.

Mr. Connor:  I appreciate the Minister is attempting to be helpful but in the Estimates for the current year there is a 17 per cent reduction in the provision for libraries. I take his point that a number of proposals have been made to develop the house but they are complementary and must proceed on the basis that a sum of £300,000 is required from the Department to establish the library. I ask the Minister to regard it as urgent and urge him to ensure that the money is found in the current year. I also seek an assurance that the refusal of a grant in the current year would not be for political reasons.

Mr. M. Smith:  If I did not know the Deputy was not serious in making that suggestion I would deal with him much more harshly. There is no question of adopting such a small-minded approach in managing the affairs of my Department. I am interested in heritage development and we will discuss that issue in greater detail some other time.

Mr. Barrett:  What about amenity grants?

[762]

  13.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has satisfied himself that the targets set in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations, 1993, particularly in relation to the carrying out of the remedial works scheme and the bathrooms sub-programme, are capable of being achieved within the timescale set; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  209.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has satisfied himself that the targets set in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations, 1993, particularly in relation to the carrying out of the remedial works scheme and the bathrooms sub-programme, are capable of being achieved within the timescale set; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 209 together. The physical standards relating to structure, sanitary facilities, etc. specified by these regulations in relation to rented residential accommodation will apply to dwellings let by local authorities with effect from 1 January 1998. It is the responsibility of each local authority to ensure compliance with the regulations as part of their programme for the management, maintenance, upkeep and improvement of their housing stock.

Funds are allocated under a number of programmes operated by my Department to assist local authorities in discharging this responsibility. An allocation of £20.7 million has been provided this year, an increase of £3.5 million over 1993, under the remedial works scheme for the carrying out of major works to “low cost”, pre-1940 and rundown urban local authority housing estates. The allocation under the programme to provide bathrooms or showers in local authority dwellings lacking these facilities has also been increased from £2.5 million in 1993 to £4 million in 1994. The total provided to date to local authorities, including the 1994 provision, under these two programmes amounts to over £128 million. In addition, £3 million has been allocated this year for the replacement of sub-standard windows in large urban local authority flat complexes.

I have impressed on local authorities the necessity to meet their obligations under the regulations and I am satisfied [763] that they should be capable of complying with them.

Mr. McCormack:  I am aware that all local authorities will have to meet the targets set in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations, 1993 by 1 January 1998. All the local authorities have received so far is a circular from the Department of the Environment; they have not received the necessary funding to carry out the works required. Many houses in the Galway borough and county council areas are in need of repair. I am sure this is the case in other areas also. This is a further example of regulations having been introduced in this House without providing the necessary finance for the local authorities to implement them and carry out the works required. Can the Minister of State indicate when the extra finance will be provided to the local authorities to meet their obligations under the regulations which were passed in 1993?

Mr. Stagg:  Across the range of schemes, from the remedial works scheme to the bathrooms and windows schemes, there has been a huge increase in the amounts of money available to the local authorities in the recent past. In addition, the local authorities spend £80 million per year from their own resources on the maintenance and management of their housing stock, which numbers 100,000 units. This is a considerable sum of money and represents £800 per house per year. This is supplemented by the grants available from this Department. I am satisfied that the funding available to the local authorities from their own resources and the grants available from this Department which have been substantially increased under all headings — in some cases doubled — is sufficient and will allow them to bring their housing stock up to the standard required to meet their obligations under the regulations by 1998.

Mr. Barrett:  Does the Minister of State [764] agree that the targets set cannot be achieved?

Mr. Stagg:  No.

Mr. Barrett:  While the statement that local authorities should ensure that bathrooms are provided in every house by 1 January 1998 sounds good, the reality is that resources are not available, particularly in Dublin, to meet the targets set. The Minister of State has said that there has been a dramatic increase in the amounts of money allocated for local authority housing. While I agree there was an increase last year on the figure for the previous year, since 1987 the Government has ignored the local authorities in a disgraceful manner with the result that there are now long waiting lists. For example, in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area there is a waiting list of 1,200 persons, yet this year in the region of 100 to 120 houses will be provided. This results from the negligence of the Government since 1987. Can the Minister of State indicate the heading under which the funding for the provision of bathrooms and the replacement of windows has been increased? Is it subhead B1?

Mr. Stagg:  The number of local authority houses without bathrooms stands at approximately 3,300 nationally. Six hundred tenants have indicated to the local authorities that they do not want bathrooms. A further 600 houses fall into the category of the remedial works scheme. This leaves a total of about 2,000. This year bathrooms will be provided in 700 of these. I am satisfied, given the present provision to local authorities from the Department, that we will meet the targets set well before the deadline of 1 January 1998. If one says that provision is being made only under the house building programme one can say that we will never reduce the waiting list, but that forms one part of the package only. It is not even half the total provision under all headings for social housing. In the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown constituency, other forms of provision will meet [765] roughly half of the total waiting list in this year.

Mr. Connor:  If the Minister said that local authorities were to spend 100 per cent of their rental income on management and maintenance of their housing stock, most local authorities would agree. Most of them are not doing that. About 50 per cent of all local authority housing built more than ten years is deficient, needing window and door replacement and other essential repairs to the structure. Is the Minister insisting on better standards of material and workmanship in the construction of local authority houses? Much of the deterioration is the result of the inferior quality of materials used in the last ten or 15 years. Perhaps he would elaborate on what he means by maintenance and management of local authority housing stock.

Mr. Stagg:  The local authorities should be spending the revenue from their housing on management and maintenance. That does not mean just maintaining the houses but also managing the estates and schemes. In the last year we have done much to improve the management and maintenance systems. It is not just a system of complaint and response but a planned system to maintain and manage local authority houses and get the tenants involved in partnership with the local authorities. The total rent from all tenants is about £80 million and that should be spent by local authorities on management and maintenance of houses. It is the right of the tenants that they should. As well as the rent, 40 per cent of the income from sales goes into that category. That is available to local authorities to maintain and manage their housing stock of approximately 100,000 units.

Mr. Gregory:  The Minister referred to the £3 million allocated in the budget for a window replacement programme which was very welcome, certainly in Dublin city. Dublin Corporation has submitted a detailed list of flats complexes throughout Dublin city where they hope to [766] replace windows this year. When will the Minister be in a position to say how much of that £3 million will be made available to Dublin to implement that programme? Unless the money is made available soon there will not be time to complete the work. The corporation is ready. They have given their costings and their list of flats complexes.

Mr. Stagg:  Of the £3 million, I allocated £2.425 million to Dublin Corporation, £150,000 to Limerick Corporation and £424,000 to Cork Corporation. Dublin, being the largest place with the biggest problems, got the lion's share. All the local authorities agreed to match that money pound for pound. That means we will get £6 million worth of new windows for the £3 million provided by the Government. The local authorities are going ahead with the programme they have presented to us.

Mr. McCormack:  Is the Minister living in the real world? He stated that councils must put some of their own resources into the repair and upkeep of local authority houses. They can only do that if they increase their service charges. I know the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, always voted against that when he was on Galway Corporation. Does the Minister now want that? Should he not take into account the views of all the local authority members who know the real problems and know those repairs cannot be carried out? I read in yesterday's paper that the Minister for the Environment wants to prevent members of local authorities being Members of the Dáil. They have a very useful role to play in the Dáil by bringing back the real message from the local authorities. As a member of a local authority I can report back to the Dáil that money is not available. Often there is a three and four year waiting list for simple repairs to local authority housing. We simply cannot do the work because the money is not available.

Mr. Stagg:  Any local authority that has a three or four year waiting list for [767] ordinary maintenance needs to improve and change its system of management and maintenance and the use of the resources available to it.

Mr. Barrett:  That is arrogant nonsense.

Mr. Stagg:  That is not nonsense, it is fact. Where the system has been changed there is a good delivery of services with the same resources.

Mr. Barrett:  Come to Dún Laoghaire and we will show you the facts. Do not lecture us about local authorities.

Mr. Stagg:  No local authority is entitled to hive off the money it gets from its tenants that is dedicated for maintenance and management of local authority housing. It is wrong for any local authority to use that resource for any other purpose. That resource amounts to £80 million a year and, if properly managed, a good service can be provided.

Mr. Barrett:  Is the Minister trying to tell us that the cost of installing a bathroom in some houses in Dublin is the same as the cost in other counties? He is not taking into account the design of the houses, the need, perhaps, to knock two houses together to provide modern facilities. When the Minister says that in an area where 1,200 are on a waiting list he is providing 125 houses this year and funds so that half of the remaining 1,000 can house themselves under the social housing scheme, I have to ask if he is living in the real world.

Mr. Stagg:  I refer the Deputy to my speech in the House last week on this matter. The bathroom programme is 75 per cent funded by my Department and 25 per cent funded by the local authorities. The remedial works scheme is 100 per cent funded by my Department, so the difference in cost between Dublin and elsewhere is irrelevant.

[768]Mr. Barrett:  The Department is not allocating enough to meet targets.

Mr. Stagg:  We are allocating a greatly increased amount over any previously given.

Mr. Barrett:  It is not enough to meet targets.

Mr. Connor:  The Minister states that the local authorities are legally obliged to spend the £80 million of rental income, and the other income given to them by the Department, on the upkeep of their housing stocks. Without naming local authorities, I can assure the Minister that that is not happening. The Minister is ultimately responsible. What steps is he taking to ensure that local authorities are spending their rental income on maintenance and care of their housing stock which is so badly run down?

Mr. Stagg:  We have issued a memorandum on the maintenance and management of local authority housing to all local authorities, under which they are obliged to draw up a new system of management and maintenance for local authority housing stock. Most local authorities have now complied with that. Some have produced excellent proposals while others are weaker than the best. There will be prizes allocated to the best by the Housing Institute in the near future. If the Deputy is saying — and he knows his own local authority best——

Mr. Connor:  It is misleading and a misrepresentation of what I said to say that I named any local authority. The Minister knows as well as I do what is happening.

Mr. Stagg:  It is for the local authorities to manage and maintain their own housing stock and there is a resource there for them to do that.

Mr. McCormack:  Is the Minister in favour of a service charge?

[769]

  14.  Mr. Rabbitte    asked the Minister for the Environment    his response to the recent submission made by Focus Point calling for a national 24-hour emergency service to deal with the growing number of homeless people, for a White Paper on housing and for greater co-ordination between the statutory agencies responsible for homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Stagg:  I take it that the question relates to Focus Point's December 1993 pre-budget submission on homelessness and housing which, like most pre-budget submissions, sought additional funding for a range of services, including some which are the responsibility of other Ministers.

The 1994 budget provided a major increase in resources for the social housing programmes. The total provision of £244 million represents an increase of £93 million on expenditure in 1993. As a result, more than 9,000 households in need will be accommodated this year — an increase of 50 per cent in just two years. This will benefit the homeless in common with other categories of housing need. In regard to the homeless, I would specifically mention the increased funds for grants under section 10 of the Housing Act, 1988 which allows housing authorities to assist with the accommodation of homeless persons, and the voluntary housing capital assistance scheme, which funds a substantial number of projects to cater for homeless persons.

As regards a referral service, Dublin Corporation, in conjunction with the Eastern Health Board, has introduced an extended referral service for homeless persons in the board's area seeking accommodation outside the normal opening hours of the board's homeless persons unit.

In regard to a White Paper on Housing, the Government's policies for meeting social housing needs are set out in A Plan for Social Housing, in the Programme for a Partnership Government and in the [770]Programme for Competitiveness and Work. The operation of the measures in A Plan for Social Housing are currently being reviewed with a view to increasing their effectiveness, facilitating their implementation by local authorities and helping to realise their full potential to meet social housing needs. On completion of this review, it is intended to publish a document incorporating the outcome.

In regard to co-ordination between statutory agencies and voluntary bodies providing accommodation and services for homeless persons, housing authorities were issued with revised guidelines in September 1993, which called for the establishment of liaison arrangements between housing authorities and the relevant health board and voluntary organisations in their areas. As a result, a number of housing authorities have established local liaison committees with health board and voluntary body representation on them. In the case of the Dublin area, the Dublin Housing Forum was established by Dublin Corporation in August 1992 to monitor and assess trends in both the supply of and demand for accommodation for the homeless and to formulate an approach to meet existing and emerging needs.

Ms McManus:  I do not know where to begin. Will the Minister accept that the number of homeless persons has reached a crisis level of almost 3,000, a figure which has been disputed by voluntary bodies who consider it an under-estimation? The Minister is quoted as saying that nobody should be homeless and that accommodation is available for all homeless persons. Will he accept that is not the case and that the facilities for the homeless are overstretched? Focus Point stated that the problem is increasing at a marked pace. Is the Minister disturbed at the fact that the majority of those contacting Focus Point are under 30 years of age? Does he consider that the Government has a duty to deal with this national scandal of homeless people, adults and children? Last year 39 children were offered bed and breakfast accommodation. [771] It is not sufficient for the Minister to tell us he is setting up monitoring committees. The question tabled requests a policy statement on homelessness which is a growing reality nationally. When will a national emergency service be set up for the homeless, particularly for young people who are either forced out of their home or leave voluntarily to live rough on the streets? Unfortunately, there are many reasons for homelessness.

Mr. Stagg:  There are many reasons for homelessness apart from lack of housing. My responsibility is for homeless adults; homeless children are the responsibility of the Department of Health and do not come within my remit.

Ms McManus:  That is part of the problem.

Mr. Stagg:  I do not accept that there is a continuing need for any person to sleep rough on the streets of Dublin. There is now provision for the homeless beyond the level of need and agencies working with the homeless in Dublin hold a similar view. We are upgrading existing accommodation which in many cases means the provision of new accommodation. For example, in most hostels accommodation consists of very small cell-like units and additional space is required to update such accommodation. We are updating current accommodation and providing new accommodation for those who are homeless. The emergency hostel still operates in Grangegorman and 120 new places will be available this year in Dublin city.

The figures for homelessness do not bear out the headlines which portray massive increases in the number of homeless persons. According to the 1993 assessment of homeless, carried out by the local authorities in consultation with voluntary agencies and the health boards, the national figure was 2,667 persons, a decrease of 84 on the 1991 figure. The number of homeless persons in Dublin city had increased by 111 to 1,648 persons. [772] We must be clear about what we are talking when referring to homeless persons. Those living in a good standard of accommodation in the Iveagh Hostel in Dublin for the past 30 years are deemed homeless under the Act. Those who live permanently in hostels in Dublin are included in the figure for homeless persons. Simon, Focus Point and other voluntary agencies who deal with the homeless have calculated that there are approximately 30 adult people, mostly males, who cannot be facilitated in the normal hostel type accommodation because some do not want to associate with other people some of whom are violent. Those people are a cause of concern because there is a risk of them dying from cold when sleeping out at night. The hostel in Grangegorman caters for such people. There is not a continuing need for anybody in Ireland to sleep rough at night. Accommodation will be provided for them.

We have provided a free telephone service from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. and, if necessary, free transport is also provided to take people to accommodation. I had occasion one Saturday to use the free telephone service, but I did not say I was the Minister of State with responsibility for housing. I outlined the details of the problem to the person with whom I spoke and within 15 minutes the immediate housing needs of the person for whom I was making the representations were resolved. I compliment the people involved for that. The service extends to Kildare and Wicklow. We have asked those involved with the homeless in other cities to advise us on the need to extend the after hours service to their areas and we are considering that possibility.

Ms Keogh:  I accept that there is no longer a need for people to sleep rough on our streets and that great strides have been made in that regard. On the Department's overall co-ordinating policy role, is it not a dichotomy that the Minister's Department has responsibility for adults but not for children? There may be liaison at local level, but the Minister's Department should have a co-ordinating [773] role in that regard. When may we expect to see a co-ordination of the agency services to provide for adult and child homelessness?

Mr. Stagg:  I accept the Deputy's point. Discussions between the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health are taking place concerning that matter. However, it would be more appropriate for those discussions to take place, as is the case, at the Dublin Housing Forum which is the co-ordinating body dealing with the problem. It is representative of the health board, local authorities and the voluntary agencies, including Focus Point. The forum is formulating policy in this area and making various proposals. We are seeking to implement many of the recommendations they have made so far. The forum concept is a new one and is working well.

Mr. McCormack:  Will the Minister agree that the regulations of the Department of Social Welfare which provide that young people living with their parents may not qualify for social welfare benefit is one of the factors contributing to homelessness and that the implementation of other departmental policies also contributes to the problem? Should there not be greater liaison between the Departments of the Environment, Health and Social Welfare to help solve this problem? Would it not be preferable that young people living at home received half of what they would be entitled to otherwise in social welfare payments and remained at home instead of having to leave home in order to qualify for the full amount and in the process, perhaps, become homeless?

Mr. Stagg:  The level of social welfare payments to social welfare recipients living at home is a matter for the Minister for Social Welfare.

Mr. McCormack:  The Minister should liaise with the Minister for Social Welfare.

[774]Mr. Flanagan:  Regardless of the merits of a White Paper on this matter, is the Minister aware that while we are awaiting the formulation of policy to deal with this problem, the trade union, IMPACT, has instructed its members who are social workers in the Eastern Health Board area, that homeless children are not to be referred to bed and breakfast accommodation? In view of the possible serious consequences of such policy is the Minister prepared to enter into negotiations with IMPACT to alleviate the problem?

Mr. Stagg:  I do not wish to take from the seriousness of the matter raised by the Deputy but responsibility for providing for homeless children rests with the Minister for Health and the matter should be referred to him. I do not agree that there is delay in the formulation of policy. The policy is clearly outlined in a number of documents to which I referred in my reply.

Ms McManus:  Would the Minister agree that perhaps the most important feature of the Focus Point approach is that it has developed a preventative approach to this problem to ensure that an increasing number of people do not become homeless whereas he has not really responded to the question of prevention as opposed to the provision of emergency accommodation? Would he agree that, for example, a woman who has been sleeping in her car in south Wicklow will not get value from a Dublin emergency service which is effectively the only service provided at present? This is not only a Dublin problem. There has been a big increase in the number of evictions and many of those concerned have nowhere to turn to seek refuge. The Minister has concentrated on providing a service in Dublin, I do not represent a Dublin constituency but I represent people who have been evicted and who do not wish to uproot their families to move to Dublin to avail of emergency accommodation. Those people have a right to consideration. The problem requires a national emergency service including a telephone service and something [775] other than the ad hoc present arrangement which depends on voluntary bodies who come out of the woodwork to provide assistance where possible.

Mr. Stagg:  The extension of the referral service covers Counties Wicklow, Kildare and Dublin.

Ms McManus:  The service is of no use to people outside Dublin.

Mr. Stagg:  It is of use to them. The freefone number is 1800 724724. The people manning that line from 5 o'clock in the evening to 1 o'clock in the morning will liaise with the statutory agencies in County Wicklow who are obliged to make available a list of places where emergency accommodation can be provided for people living in Wicklow.

Ms McManus:  There are no such places.

Mr. Stagg:  There are such places in County Wicklow and people are accommodated on an emergency basis. I have regular discussions with Focus Point and other voluntary agencies. I am instructed by their experience and expertise in this area and would take on board their views. Discussions take place regularly with them and I will continue to be instructed by them as they are people working at the coalface, as it were, and who, therefore, know the situation better than anyone else.

Mr. M. Smith:  I assure the House that although I am tempted at times to dismiss people I have no intention of doing so.

Mr. McCormack:  I welcome the assurance of the Minister that he does not intend to dismiss anyone, I am sure that was a Labour proposal.

[776]

  17.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the funding difficulties for recycling projects in Dublin; and if he will make moneys available to permit these schemes to continue in advance of any longer term policy decisions to be taken by his Department.

  166.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will ensure that the Kerbside recycling operation continues in view of the requests particularly from north county Dublin for such a facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. M. Smith:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 166 together.

For the past five years my Department has operated a scheme of grants for recycling projects. This will continue in 1994. Under the scheme, grants totalling £820,000 have been paid in support of 12 projects in the Dublin area. The largest beneficiary has been the Kerbside Dublin project, which has received grants totalling £265,000 since its commencement in 1991. The Minister with responsibility for environmental protection has frequently expressed support for the project and has recently indicated willingness in principle to continue to assist it in 1994.

  18.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Minister for the Environment    in regard to his recent speech in County Cavan, his views on the way in which local people can contribute more to ridding roads of potholes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I have made it clear that it is open to local authorities to involve local communities in contributing, whether in money or in kind, towards the maintenance and improvement of public roads in their area. While the amount of any local financial contribution would be likely to be small, a significant contribution could be made by the carrying [777] out of works such as opening and maintaining drains, trimming roadside hedges, etc.

I am impressed by the success of the pilot schemes under which county councils have worked since 1992 in conjunction with local communities in Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim. I am convinced that the involvement of local communities generally in local road improvements has the potential to add significantly to the return from public investment in these roads.

Ms McManus:  If the Minister means what he says will he accept that the local improvement schemes, which have been starved of funding down through the years, ought to be adequately financed so that the commitment of local communities to road improvement can be put into effect?

The demand for those schemes has not been matched by funding to local authorities. However, I would not place great emphasis on that approach to dealing with the conditions of our roads, but there is in place a scheme for private roads which is deserving of support so perhaps the Minister will put his money where his mouth is in that respect.

Mr. M. Smith:  I have increased the funds for local improvement schemes this year and I have also increased funding for county and regional roads. I do not accept the Deputy's castigation of community involvement and her simplistic approach to the matter.

Ms McManus:  It is a realistic one.

Mr. M. Smith:  The Deputy should take the opportunity to visit Counties Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim where she will see the community interest which she denigrates here.

Ms McManus:  I am denigrating the Minister, not the people.

Mr. M. Smith:  I compliment those communities who have supported the local authorities. If the Deputy is [778] interested in visiting these areas she will see the work being done. She should not make little of communities who have been involved in this way.

Mr. Boylan:  The pilot schemes which have a limited role to play have been a success.

Mr. M. Smith:  That is why I allocated more money.

Mr Boylan:  It is not sufficient. Is the Minister aware that the situation is desperate? Will he make available emergency funding for roads which are in a bad state of repair due to adverse weather conditions and, more particularly, due to the failure of the Government and its immediate predecessor to realise the problems that have been ongoing for a number of years?

Mr. M. Smith:  Funds for county roads and regional development have been increased by 35 per cent this year. I very much regret that Fine Gael has castigated me as Minister for the Environment in trying to get support——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. M. Smith:  Here we go again — you can give it but you cannot take it.

Mrs. Owen:  The Minister is under pressure, otherwise he would not be attacking us.

Mr. Barrett:  On a point of order——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That concludes questions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 20 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy O'Leary — the need for the State to purchase the Waller Estate, including castle and fisheries, at Dromore, Kenmare PO, County Kerry, in order to develop the property for tourism and other job creation purposes in the national interest as this property is for sale again; (2) Deputy McManus — the need for the Ballywaltrim area of Bray to be designated a disadvantaged area under the Department of Education Scheme; (3) Deputy Matt Brennan — the urgent need for finance to provide a new fire station at Enniscrone, County Sligo; (4) Deputy Rabbitte — the findings of the London Stock Exchange in regard to the handling by Davy's Stockbrokers of the sale of the 30 per cent State shareholding in Greencore and the need for full publication of the report of the investigation; (5) Deputy Frances Fitzgerald — the proposed closure of St. Anne's primary school, Milltown, Dublin 6; (6) Deputy Finucane — the need to provide a shared remedial teacher for schools in County Limerick; (7) Deputy Deasy — the need to devise a strategy for the retention and upgrading of railway lines which are being abandoned by Iarnróid Éireann and which have significant tourism potential; (8) Deputy Shatter — the urgent need for family law courts as recommended by the Law Reform Commission; and (9) Deputy Deenihan — the undue financial hardship being imposed on unemployed people and lone parents who have to serve as jurors for court cases which continue over an extended length of time.

The matters raised by the following Deputies have been selected for discussion: Deputies Rabbitte, O'Leary, Frances Fitzgerald and Finucane.

[965]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  A message has been received from the Seanad to the effect that it has made an order establishing the Liaison Committee.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I propose to deal with a notice of motion under Standing Order 30. I call on Deputy Yates to state the matter of which he has given notice.

Mr. Yates:  I wish to seek the Adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 30 to debate the following matter: The steps the Minister for Finance is taking to ensure that the details of the Stock Exchange inquiry into the sale of Greencore shares last year by Davy Stockbrokers will be published and, as the Minister was the vendor of the shares representing the taxpayer, if he will seek clarification as to which of the actions by Davy Stockbrokers were “detrimental to the interests of the Stock Exchange”. I very much regret, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that you refused Private Notice Questions in this regard.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Having fully considered the matter I do not consider it to be one contemplated by the Standing Order. Accordingly, I cannot grant leave to move the motion.

The Taoiseach:  It is proposed to take No. 1, the Report and Final Stages of the Social Welfare Bill, 1994, subject to the agreement of paragraph 2 below, and Nos. 9 and 10. It is also proposed notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: 1. No. 1 shall be taken without debate; 2. the proceedings on the Report and Final Stages of the Social Welfare Bill, 1994, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 6.45 p.m. by one question which shall [966] be put from the Chair and which shall in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Social Welfare. Private Members' Business shall be No. 21.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is it agreed that item No. 1 be taken without debate? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with the Social Welfare Bill agreed? Agreed.

Mrs. Owen:  I would like to ask the Taoiseach about promised legislation, that is, the Freedom of Information Bill. In view of the fact that last week during the Taoiseach's absence from the country a Member on the Government back benches issued a statement which was a damning indictment of the working relationship between the partners in Government, does the Taoiseach propose to make amendments to that Bill to make it illegal for a member of a party to gag or muzzle another member of their own party in making a statement that might be embarrassing to the Government?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Mary Harney is offering.

Mrs. Owen:  Does the Taoiseach propose to amend that legislation?

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy should not get a rush of blood to her head.

Mrs. Owen:  I am not. There is a hint of déjá vu here.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I have called Deputy Mary Harney.

Mrs. Owen:  I suppose the Deputy will be the first consul general to the Bahamas.

Miss Harney:  May I ask the Taoiseach if the Ethics in Government Bill will be published during the Easter recess?

The Taoiseach:  It is hoped it will be published then.

[967]Proinsias De Rossa:  In the Programme for Government it was promised that legislation on equality would be introduced. Does the Taoiseach feel any sense of shame about the fact that 32 blind workers of Blindcraft Limited have to picket the Dáil in order that the discrimination being perpetrated against them will be dealt with? Will the Taoiseach personally take steps to intervene in the dispute and ensure that these blind workers get fair play?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy indicated that his question related to promised legislation.

Proinsias De Rossa:  It is important to ensure that these workers get fair play. That is all they are looking for.

Ms O'Donnell:  I wish to ask a question relating to women's rights. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the proposed legislation to allow Irish women access to information on abortion services legally available abroad is being shelved in deference to the European elections? Will he confirm that the Bill is drafted and is awaiting publication but has been shelved because of political cowardice?

The Taoiseach:  Deputy Liz O'Donnell seems to have better information than I have. The Bill has not been shelved. It will be brought forward in due course.

Ms O'Donnell:  May I have a date for my diary?

The Taoiseach:  When I have the date in my diary I will give the information to the Deputy.

Ms O'Donnell:  This legislation is important——

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy need not worry. The legislation has not been shelved.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I also have a question on promised legislation but first I wish to raise a question on behalf of some Labour [968] Party backbenchers who, the Chair will understand, cannot put the question.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  Would the Deputy like to be a backbencher?

Mr. Rabbitte:  They want to know from the Taoiseach if Deputy Haughey has been deprived of his peashooter or if he is still running loose with the result it is not safe for Labour backbenchers to walk along the corridor.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Please, Deputy Rabbitte. I understood the Deputy wished to raise a question on promised legislation.

Mr. Rabbitte:  This is an important matter which concerns the safety of some Members of the House. Will the Taoiseach say if the undertaking he has given the House about the publication before the Easter recess of the ethics in public office Bill still stands? Can the commitment given by the Minister for Finance to introduce legislation to control the Stock Exchange be taken as an assurance that legislation will be introduced in the House?

The Taoiseach:  With regard to the last question, difficulties are being encountered in the drafting of the legislation on the Stock Exchange — some of the relevant legislation dates back to the last part of the 18th century. The legislation is being proceeded with——

Mr. Dukes:  That is not where the problem comes from.

The Taoiseach:  If the Deputy wants to ask a question he should do so. I am trying to answer Deputy Rabbitte's question.

Mr. Dukes:  The Taoiseach should not try to bluff.

The Taoiseach:  With regard to the Deputy's other question, as I said in reply to Deputy Harney a few minutes ago, it [969] is hoped to publish the ethics in public office Bill during the Easter recess, not before it.

Mrs. Owen:  On promised legislation on control of the Stock Exchange, is the Taoiseach aware that as far back as January 1992 the Minister for Finance said that the preparation of the legislation “is still at a very early stage”? Will the Taoiseach say why it has taken from January 1992 until now to progress the legislation from that very early stage? Can he indicate the proposals which will make it obligatory to publish any reports or examinations into share dealings?

The Taoiseach:  These matters will be dealt with in the Bill. I repeat that it is taking much longer than expected to draft this legislation.

Mrs. Owen:  Two and half years?

The Taoiseach:  The relevant Acts date back to 1799 and one has to take constitutional and other matters into consideration.

Mr. Barrett:  Another job for consultants.

The Taoiseach:  I want to assure the House that this legislation will be brought forward as soon as possible and the matters raised by the Deputy can be discussed in that debate.

Proinsias De Rossa:  On the ethics in public office Bill — it was previously called the Ethics in Government Bill — has the change in title arisen because of the Taoiseach's desire to ensure that judges do not involve themselves in current political controversy and, if not, does the Taoiseach intend to introduce legislation which will ensure that judges do not engage in public controversy, as happened in recent days?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy knows that his question does not relate to promised legislation.

[970]Proinsias De Rossa:  It is a legitimate question.

The Taoiseach:  It is a good try.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Will the Taoiseach say when the legislation which will enable Oireachtas committees to call witnesses will be brought before the House? Is he aware that the Telecom affair, which was referred to one of the Oireachtas committees, effectively went into a cul-de-sac because the committee could not call witnesses?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is this promised legislation?

The Taoiseach:  Yes. It is hoped to publish this Bill during the next session.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Does the Taoiseach intend to ask Mr. Justice O'Hanlon to stop his interference——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Please, Deputy.

Mr. Durkan:  Does the Minister for Health propose to introduce legislation to provide for the changes announced in the administration of health boards, for example, the rationalisation of health services which received considerable publicity this morning?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I do not think this relates to promised legislation.

Mr. Durkan:  It does.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I call Deputy Bruton.

Mr. Durkan:  People are worried about this matter and I am sure the Minister would like to tell the House something about it.

The Taoiseach:  I have no intention of dealing with speculation in the House.

[971]Mr. Browne:  : The Minister is speculating.

Mr. Yates:  More trouble.

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy can be assured that the Minister for Health is engaged in trying to streamline the health services so as to get better value for the money spent. This should be of interest to every Member. The Minister has been so successful in doing this up to now that health is no longer at the top of the political agenda, which it had been for a long time.

Mr. Durkan:  As the Taoiseach is familiar with the subject, will he indicate if legislation to deal with the very important matter will be brought before the House before the summer recess.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is this promised legislation?

Mr. Durkan:  It is.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I call Deputy Richard Bruton.

Mr. Durkan:  The Taoiseach indicated the importance of the subject.

The Taoiseach:  It does not relate to promised legislation.

Mr. R. Bruton:  The Taoiseach said that the legislation to enable Oireachtas committees to call witnesses will not be introduced until the next session. Will he agree that his approach was to open up the business of the Oireachtas to effective scrutiny by committees and that the delay in this instance is much too long for fundamental and basic legislation?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot debate the matter now.

Mrs. Owen:  On this issue, in October 1993 we were circulated with a list of Bills expected to be published during that session. Yet the Taoiseach is now telling us in March 1994 that this Bill will not be [972] published during this session. Not only is the Government falling apart but the Programme for Government and the other programmes are falling apart because the Taoiseach cannot get agreement among backbenchers——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot debate this matter now.

Mr. Creed:  Is the Taoiseach aware of the widespread concern that the legislation on national monuments will become law in advance of the legislation on occupiers' liability which has been promised? When will the Government publish this legislation?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is this promised legislation?

The Taoiseach:  Yes. As I said on a number of occasions, as soon as the Government receives the final report of the Law Reform Commission it will proceed with the legislation.

Mrs. Owen:  It was promised last October.

The Taoiseach:  I wish to point out to Deputies Owen and Creed who are shaking their heads that the problem of people going in all directions rightly sits over there and not over here.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Yates:  The Taoiseach intends to brazen this one out.

Mrs. Owen:  The Taoiseach should tell his Whip to stop issuing lists of Bills if the Government does not intend to publish them.

The Taoiseach:  I said that we want——

Mrs. Owen:  These lists are a farce.

Mr. Yates:  The Taoiseach had it easier in the Bahamas.

[973]The Taoiseach:  Bring back John Bruton.

Mr. Barrett:  I understand it is accepted practice that the details of legislation not brought before the Cabinet are not released to the press. There was an article in yesterdays's Irish Independent outlining the provisions of a local government Bill which I understand will be placed before the Cabinet in a few weeks. How can such an article outline the provisions in a Bill which has not been placed before the Cabinet or published? The article referred to such matters as the dual mandate——

Mr. Rabbitte:  If the Deputy asks Senator Michael O'Kennedy, he will tell him——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I cannot allow the Deputy to pursue the matter now; he has had some latitude.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy will have to find some other way of raising this matter.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Senator Michael O'Kennedy is more worried about it than Deputy Barrett.

Mr. Barrett:  I refuse to sit down because this House is being treated with more contempt by this Government than one could imagine. It is a breach of privilege on the part of the Government——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  This is a breach of order. It is disorderly that the Deputy——

Mr. Rabbitte:  Is engaged in.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Thank you, Deputy Rabbitte.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy may raise the matter at the Committee [974] on Procedure and Privileges but he may not do so now.

Mr. Barrett:  On a point of order, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you occupy a seat which protects the rights of all Members. You also occupy a seat which protects the privileges of all Members——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I must ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

Mr. Barrett:  I want to know if that is a breach——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I am proceeding to an announcement by the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach——

Mr. Barrett:  I wish to raise a point of order.

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

Mr. Barrett:  It is a point of order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy knows it is not a point of order.

Mr. Barrett:  It is a point of order about a breach of privilege——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy may take up the matter with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Barrett:  I ask formally that the record of the House shows that you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, requested that this matter be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy must raise that matter.

Mr. Barrett:  I formally put that request to the House.

[975]Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Dempsey):  I wish to inform the House that Deputy Robert Molloy has been selected as a substitute member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in place of Deputy Tony Gregory.

Ms Shortall:  The Select Committee has considered the Social Welfare Bill and made amendments thereto. The Bill, as amended, is reported to the Dáil. This communication is signed by Deputy Séamus Pattison, Chairman of the Select Committee, and dated 9 March 1994.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  As there are no amendments before us on Report Stage, and in accordance with the Order of the House today, we now proceed to Fifth Stage.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass”.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  The Bill, which we have been discussing over a period, is one of the most important items of legislation on the Dáil calendar each year. The general increases in the payments affect 800,000 social welfare recipients and more than 625,000 dependants. Consequently, over 40 per cent of the population is directly or indirectly affected by its provisions.

As Minister for Social Welfare I have always ensured that the annual social welfare Bill develops and improves our social welfare services. There is no shortage of ideas as to how this can be done and Members contribute significantly to this process in the course of these debates. In debates on the Bills, Deputies put [976] forward a variety of suggestions for improvements in the code based on their practical experience of dealing with inquiries and problems raised by constituents at their weekly clinics. There is a limit to the improvements which can be made in any year because of the costs involved but it is possible to make significant improvements over time by adopting a progressive and incremental approach in developing the code.

This year the increases in payments affect over 1.4 million beneficiaries and provide a substantial boost in support for families. We have brought the remaining rates of payment up to the priority rate recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare by providing additional increases over and above the general increase of 3 per cent applied to the bulk of the people involved with an increase for 185,000 people above that rate. All rates of payment are now 90 per cent of the Commission's main rate, and that is £65.40.

Too often the annual improvements tend to be viewed in isolation and not enough attention is paid to their combined effect. In the period from July 1987 to date the personal rate of short term unemployment assistance has been increased by more than 73 per cent. This represents an increase of over 42 per cent in real terms. During the same period the personal rate of long term unemployment assistance has been increased by 61 per cent and this represents an increase of almost 33 per cent in real terms. The personal rate of unemployment benefit and disability benefit has been increased by over 44 per cent, an increase in real terms of almost 19 per cent. The improvements made over those years, therefore, have been real and quite substantial.

Families who rely on social welfare are particularly supported in this Bill. Taking account of the various increases provided for in the Bill, a family on the long term rate of unemployment assistance with three children receives £153.45 per week inclusive of child benefit. A family with five children receives £192.35 a week and a family with seven children receives £231.25 per week.

[977] We have also introduced significant improvements for families on low pay through the family income supplement scheme. A family with three children can now earn up to £225 a week and qualify for family income supplement. A family with five children can earn up to £270 per week and still qualify for support. A family with three children, for example, earning £200 per week is entitled to a family income supplement payment of £15 per week. A family with five children with the same earnings is entitled to £42 per week in family income supplements.

I am also providing for a significant relaxation in the provisions for the assessment of means for lone parent's allowance. A number of commentators raised the issue of family payments recently and I want to make it clear that there is a substantial improvement in payments for families in this Bill. Over a period we have been building up the support in financial terms for families and that is illustrated by the figures I have quoted. These improvements are not only for families dependent on social welfare but also for families at work on low pay.

The existing child related means disregard of £6 per week is being replaced by a flat rate disregard to be set at £30 per week and the allowance payable in the case of lone parents with earnings above this amount will be reduced by £1 for each £2 of earnings instead of £1 for £1 as heretofore.

These changes will substantially improve the position of lone parents at work. A lone parent with one child, for example, earning £80 per week will receive an additional £18.90 per week. Furthermore, the new tapered assessment of earning in excess of the initial means disregard removes the existing disincentive for lone parents to pursue higher paid employment. That is another major improvement in this Bill and is one of the additions above the basic financial provisions. It will have considerable impact over the coming months. While its impact has not been recognised sufficiently during the passage of the Bill through the House — perhaps because many issues are being discussed at this [978] time of the year — the reality is that this measure will help lone parents who want to return to the workforce over the coming months. We will do everything we can to ensure that lone parents are fully aware of this new opportunity.

The introduction of the new survivor's pension, which provides for a contributory pension for widowers subject to the same conditions as the existing widow's pension, is a practical recognition of our changing family structure and is a support for families. I have had numerous communications from women, in particular, indicating how pleased they are that widowers with children will have an important financial support following the passage of this Bill. This represents a historic breakthrough, even in European terms. It will clearly be seen that we have gone the whole way so that widowers will receive benefits similar to those already paid to widows and on the same conditions. Those conditions will apply to both widows and widowers' stamps, one affecting the other in the same way as heretofore.

Very often there is talk of Irish solutions to Irish problems. Certainly this is an Irish solution to family problems which is well ahead of the rest of Europe. It is not something we are being forced to do by Europe. It is something we wanted to do ourselves and it will be implemented from October next after the passage of this Bill. The Bill will go to the Seanad for discussion over the next two days. Its provisions will then be implemented. It represents an historic development. I have played my part in Government in putting forward the views of Members of the House and of those outside it regarding the reality of the position people face. We should be celebrating this as a most important development which will affect countless numbers of people into the future and, of course, will also benefit present widowers.

We have also effected some further improvements in the carer's allowance. I am pleased to announce the relation of provisions for the assessment of means for a carer's allowance in the case of a carer whose spouse is in employment or [979] is self-employed. This was an issue raised by many Members on this Bill in preceding years. This allowance constitutes an important development in that it helps people without income or on very low incomes, guaranteeing them the same income as a long term unemployed person while engaged in full-time caring. We are now taking that further step which will ensure that, under the new arrangements, where a spouse is working, the first £100 of earnings will be disregarded in the assessment of means. This measure, which will be of particular benefit where a carer's spouse is in low-paid employment, will broaden the scope of this scheme. It has been welcomed in the House and will have a significant impact in the future.

Those and other improvements provided for in this Bill, in a full year will cost £168 million, very significant resources by any standard but necessary if we are to continue to develop our social welfare services in a caring and imaginative manner. Members have pointed out the importance of bringing forward the dates of introduction of such schemes. I should stress that the most important factor is that we strike proper rates because, once struck, they remain thereafter. For the measures I have mentioned we have received an allocation of £168 million per annum.

I introduced an amendment on Committee Stage to provide a legal basis for my Department entering into contracts and joint ventures with various bodies for the provision of skills, including technical skills and services, overseas. That provision is contained in section 33, as amended by the Select Committee. The various skills developed within my Department have resulted in numerous approaches from public and private organisations overseas seeking support on a consultancy basis. In recent years many groups worldwide have visited Ireland to study how my Department operates. In the past month alone delegations from Poland, Russia and Slovakia have come here and a group from [980] the Republic of Albania is scheduled to arrive within the next few weeks.

In what I hope will set a new trend for Government Departments, my Department is to use its social welfare business expertise on a commercial basis, a new and exciting departure in public administration generally. Many opportunities are being presented with the opening up of Eastern European countries. My Department is well positioned to maximise these opportunities in the development of new markets, an essential component of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. This new role reflects the Government's determination to develop joint ventures between the public and private sectors, to create commercial units within Government Departments which will develop and market the considerable expertise within the Civil Service. For example, my Department is working with the Digital Equipment Corporation, our main computer supplier, to identify opportunities for marketing specialist products and services from Ireland to social welfare authorities in other countries. We have already had a number of approaches from interested parties in this respect.

We are also discussing with European Union officials who have responsibility for the very successful PHARE and TACIS assistance programmes the possibility of providing social welfare expertise for the emerging states. There is a great deal happening in these areas. These programmes aim to promote socio-economic development in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, thereby contributing to the economic transformation process in those countries, ranging from Albania to the Slovak Republic. Many opportunities exist to market this expertise. The Bill provides the necessary legislative base to enable my Department pursue such opportunities, adding a new dimension to the activities of my Department which has built up an international reputation for developing quality systems to meet the demands of a modern social security system. Following our various discussions at European Union level, [981] officials of my Department have been encouraged to pursue such opportunities.

We will be devising a strategy which will twin the expertise already available within my Department with private and public sector involvement, as appropriate, in order to secure contracts in developing states. We are working on a number of potential contracts and expect to see developments in the near future.

I thank Deputies for their support in our very detailed discussions on Second Stage and within the Select Committee. Contrary to frequent comments in reports and studies, I believe the House has been very attentive to the needs of those who depend on us and is building within the provisions of this Bill a considerably improved social welfare support system.

Finally I mention educational opportunties. A recent report identified the need for education if we are to tackle poverty. We must provide a good education for those who, for one reason or another, fell out of the system. In this Bill we have improved on initiatives taken in previous years in relation to second-chance educational schemes. It is my personal belief that one of the most valuable tasks we could undertake would be to provide second-chance education for people who missed out at an earlier stage. A simple analysis undertaken some years ago by my Department's planning and research section demonstrated that some 20 per cent of those unemployed for more than three years had attained leaving certificate standard whereas 57 per cent of those unemployed for the same length of time had finished formal education at primary level. This demonstrates that of the long term unemployed almost 80 per cent had not attained leaving certificate standard and 57 per cent has finished formal education at primary level.

On that basis we went ahead with the second chance education schemes in which there are now 4,500 people involved. In addition, there are 9,000 people studying full time at third level under the scheme for the long term unemployed. The number of places available [982] for second chance education will be increased by a further 2,500 this year. We have reports suggesting the real solution. In providing maintenance payments and economic and financial support we have gone down the road and we are advancing as rapidly as possible. We have provided an option not only for the long term unemployed but also for other groups such as lone parents.

I thank Deputies on all sides of the House for their participation in this important debate. I am pleased we have been able to make these advances this year.

Mr. Boylan:  There may be amendments to this Bill later this year. The Minister talks about major advances, but I would not regard them as such. I have no doubt he means well and in any of my dealings with him in relation to social welfare I have found him to be helpful. However, we cannot say there are major advances in the Social Welfare Bill, 1994, or even in the budget. The vast sums of money being referred to are not surprising considering that there are officially 300,000 people unemployed. That is not the real figure.

As a public representative, much of my time is taken up dealing with social welfare problems. There is nothing straightforward about social welfare administration and ordinary people have great difficulty in finding out their entitlements. The information provided by officials is designed to confuse them. I do not know whether the Minister or his officials are aware that people are in desperation. It is my contention that 80 per cent of the people out of work would be very happy to be employed but there is no incentive to employers to take on extra employees. Immediately somebody makes an effort to obtain part-time or full-time employment their social welfare benefit is reduced. This does not suit the employer. There ought to be an understanding between the Department of Social Welfare and an employer regarding a trial period whereby a small sum of money would be given by the employer in recognition of what the temporary [983] employee is doing. It may be that the person is not suitable but there is a reluctance to take that risk because the employee will lose his or her social welfare benefits immediately. Also, the employer is afraid to take them on because an official will call to see whether the person is registered for PRSI and if not he is in trouble. If we are serious about giving people an opportunity to get started, there must be flexibility. I do not want to highlight any particular industry where employers would be prepared to take on workers part time, with the possibility of full time employment.

It has come to my notice that people over 50 years of age are being transferred to disability or invalidity pension and for that reason they are not available for work. They are also taken off the unemployment register. The figure on the unemployment register does not bear any relation to the true number of unemployed people. I do not know how widespread this practice has become. In recent weeks a number of people have informed me that they have been transferred from unemployment benefit to disability or invalidity pension with the result that they are unavailable for work. A number of those people have said they are available for and anxious to work. Having met them, I could easily see that if a suitable job arose they would be capable of working.

I welcome the survivor's pension and I would be the first to compliment the Minister on it. It is long overdue and will be of benefit to many families. In the event of the death of the mother or the father the other spouse will have a pension available to them.

I note that the carer's allowance is being increased from 1 April. Where a person is cared for at home instead of in an institution, the State is saved a huge sum of money. By and large, most families would like to care for an invalided or elderly member of the family. I have said for a number of years that the income of the household should not be a consideration where somebody is prepared to make a sacrifice. Time and again I [984] come across sons or daughters who gave the best years of their life to caring for an elderly parent and found when the parent died the time had passed for them to meet a partner.

The social welfare benefits for lone parents are anti-family. In order to obtain the maximum benefit a person must leave their parents' home. This matter arose earlier today in a question to the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment with responsibility for housing. An enormous burden is put on the Department of the Environment to provide housing for these unfortunate people. The Department of Social Welfare insists that if a person is living at home his or her allowance is reduced. They are forced to move out from the family home and into a flat which is probably unsuitable for the child of the lone parent. The same allowance should apply whether the applicant is living at home or in a flat.

I turn now to the hardy annual, the one I am most familiar with — small farmer's assistance or small business assistance. I referred to this issue on Second Stage and commented on a pilot farm being offered to some of the Minister's officials to produce farm incomes. During the past weekend farm incomes were detailed by social welfare officers on small holdings of 25 to 30 acres in County Cavan which could not be achieved in a 50 acre farm in County Meath. The hidden costs are not being recognised. A small family farm cannot be as productive as major developments. When the Minister refers to a 25 acre holding with seven or eight cows and arrives at an income of £6,000 or £7,000 per year he is talking nonsense and is not living in the real world.

I have also come across small businesses, particularly in the Border region, which are finding it extremely difficult to survive. I know such people make five-yearly returns to the Department of Finance and I cannot understand why the Department of Social Welfare does not accept those figures. I will send details of the incomes to the Minister and perhaps he will advise his officials that they are [985] not living in the real world and that such incomes are not generated from agriculture.

Ms Keogh:  Despite the fact that this is not a radical Bill there are some elements in it which we all welcome. It behoves every Member to impress upon the Minister the urgency of completing the task of integrating the social welfare and tax systems.

I was very disappointed on Committee Stage when my amendment which would have added the word “cohabitee” to the definition of “survivor” was not accepted. It is ironic that in calculating the social welfare allowances payable to any person the following applies: in cases where a husband and wife or man and woman who are not married to each other but are cohabitating and are members of the same household, their means and needs shall be aggregated and shall be regarded as the means and needs of the claimant. It is wrong to bring in discriminatory legislation.

In his speech on Second Stage the Minister said he was introducing, for the first time in the history of the State, contributory pensions which would put widows and widowers on equal terms in relation to survivor pension provisions. He said the new pension was a huge breakthrough in the development of our social welfare system and that we are leading Europe in regard to equal treatment for men and women who are widowed. Unfortunately some people have been left out of the net. Many people live together in stable relationships and share a common household, financial support and the rearing of their children. When they claim social welfare payments they are recognised by the State as being legitimate couples. Their means are aggregated in calculating certain allowances. When one of the couple is widowed he or she will not be entitled under the provisions of the Bill which the Minister boasted about this evening. If the Bill does not recognise that there is a substantial number of people in such relationships an opportunity to develop the social welfare system will be lost. A [986] cohabiting couple should have the full benefit of the survivor's pension made available to them.

There was a discussion on Committee Stage regarding casual employment. Does the Minister intend to define casual employment by reference to the number of hours people work? Is he prepared to state the number of hours he has in mind? As I understand it, people in casual employment claim the dole when they are not employed and I am at a loss to understand why they would be singled out for special treatment. I can only assume that the regulations would make it more difficult for them to claim.

In his remarks this evening and at the end of Committee Stage the Minister made great play about the new role of the Department of Social Welfare in joint ventures — having a commercial unit within his Department and marketing the undoubted expertise which has been developed. What are the implications of this for the recipients of social welfare? The Minister spoke about second chance education and emphasised how important it was for those who were unemployed or in receipt of social welfare benefits who did not attain leaving certificate standard. The marketing of these services will generate moneys. Where will they be spent? Can the Minister guarantee they will be earmarked for social welfare recipients? Rather than have these moneys go to the enormous pot in the Department of Finance would it not be beneficial to the Department to have these moneys paid directly to it in order to fund specific areas? We will market these services on a commercial basis and there will be a return on them. I want to know where it will be spent.

While I thank the Minister for his courtesy, particularly during the Committee Stage debate, to those of us who are new to this area we will insist on direct answers to direct questions.

Mr. Bell:  There is no doubt that the package in this Bill is by far the best I have seen in over 30 years. It is the best since the late Frank Cluskey was in charge of social welfare.

[987] People do not fully appreciate the contents of the Bill. There was so much controversy generated by the property tax and other negative aspects of the budget that the provisions of the Bill were not taken up by the media or the public.

A person who has seven children will receive £230 nett per week. There are many people working in industry and services who do not receive that amount and great credit is due to the Minister that we have reached that stage. I know seven children constitute a larger family but the same person working in industry would be paid the going rate and would not receive more because he had seven children. In many cases he would not receive £230 per week. For example a local authority worker may not have more than £150 nett a week. Many of those who work in the health boards and the public service would not earn that much. It may not be enough for a family of seven but it is a major step forward. Recently I had occasion to talk to people employed by the National Health and Social Security and when we spoke about social welfare and related matters they said the Irish social welfare system was the best in Europe. No one needed to tell me that as I knew that we had long since surpassed the British, but I do not think the general public is aware that the British social security system is only trotting behind our system in every respect. The British are seeking our advice on the technology in the Department. That is a change.

We discussed the Committee Stage of the Bill at the Select Committee on Social Affairs and I gave a very strong welcome to the Minister's amendment to section 33 which effectively will allow the Department to offer its services not only throughout Europe but the developing world. It is a major tribute to the Department of Social Welfare that people are seeking to learn from us about social welfare.

It is not so very long ago that I was in receipt of social welfare as a footwear worker. I am sure the Cheann Comhairle will remember that time too as he comes [988] from that background. The conditions in the local employment exchange were very bad with broken down buildings and so on and this contrasts greatly with present day conditions. We have made substantial progress in my lifetime.

The family income supplement is an innovative measure. A number of people who call to my constituency offices are in receipt of family income supplement of £51 or more each week. I estimate that a worker in receipt of £51 family income supplement earns approximately £127 net. Twenty years ago we went on strike to achieve a wage level of £127 a week. What concerns me is that the Department of Social Welfare effectively will have to subsidise employers who are exploiting workers and using the family income supplement scheme to pay part of the wages of the people they employ. I have sounded a warning about this before and I ask the Minister to ensure that the situation is monitored. Employers should not be allowed to continue to pay wages at the same level year in year out. Many jobs in rural and urban areas are non-unionised and there is no trade union supervision. The levels of pay are scandalously low, particularly because of the intense competition for jobs.

Social welfare recipients can start a business and retain their social welfare benefit for a period while they are trying to get the business under way. I am very pleased that this scheme has been introduced as I identified the need for such a scheme 12 years ago. I have spoken to senior officials at regional level who have advised me that the scheme has taken off and is developing rapidly. Many people may be unaware of this scheme and it would encourage others to start their own business if they had an opportunity to draw social welfare for a period. I have no doubt that this will make a major contribution to reducing the level of unemployment. The money will be channelled into productive use. Rather than paying people to do nothing it is encouraging them to do something and that is the way taxpayers' money should be used.

I am pleased that the student employment [989] scheme is to be revived. I understand that the Minister will introduce important changes in the scheme and I ask him to indicate this in his reply. A great many mistakes were made last year and the scheme was heavily criticised. Students should be helped during the summer period when they have no income. It is better to pay people to do something rather than to pay them to do nothing. It gives people a sense of self-respect and students would much prefer to make a contribution to their community and be paid for doing so rather than having to face the hassle of a means test for unemployment assistance.

I agree with Deputy Boylan that the system is forcing young people to leave home and live in flats. It has gone beyond that and groups of three or four young people are renting a house without going to live in it. They are paying the absentee landlord his rent of £50 per week which works out at £12.50 each and using it as an accommodation address. Others have to live in terrible conditions and become involved in drugs when they are no longer under parental control. It was a bad day's work when the Department introduced that means test, particularly for students who have finished their education but are unemployed. This is putting money into the pockets of landlords who are exploiting these people as well as contributing to crime. I know the Department of the Environment has endeavoured to rectify this by introducing strict regulations for flats but it cannot introduce regulations to supervise young people. I see young people roaming around at night. They have wine parties in their flats and they start mixing with “winos” and get involved in all sorts of activities which they would not have got involved in if they were under parental control. Couples with young children who wish to rent a house have to compete with young people who can pay high rents. The Department of Social Welfare will have to pay very serious attention to this matter. Owners of flats and vacant houses do not want to offer accommodation to married couples with children as they can get more money from young people who [990] do not need to apply to the local authorities for housing, with the result that they will not have to deal with the local health officer and housing officer. It is much more convenient and profitable for owners to offer accommodation to young people.

I ask the Minister to consider a suggestion which would not require legislation; it could be done by way of regulation. In a means test if 75 per cent of the benefit was offered where one parent is working or 50 per cent where both parents are working they would have an incentive to stay at home but by offering nothing because one or both parents are working we are forcing them to break the law. This matter has to be addressed immediately.

The question of the means test and casual, part-time and short-time work causes a major difficulty for those involved in public life. It creates havoc. If a person loses his job after a period of one year he will have to undergo a means test for unemployment assistance as he will not be entitled to unemployment benefit. He will be asked to present his P45 to show what his earnings were in the previous year. The social welfare officer will then calculate his means based on this figure.

Last night I met a man who obtained employment for a period of two months in order to return to the work force having been out of work for a long period. After losing his job he was informed by an official of the Department of Social Welfare that his means would be calculated based on his earnings in the previous year which were good. He was also informed that he should have retained sufficient money out of his earnings for the previous year to provide for himself. He was deemed ineligible. I fail to understand how one can assess a person's means based on his earnings in the previous year.

The question of casual, short time and part time work has to be addressed. If they are to be dealt with in regulations they should be dealt with separately, they cannot be dealt with in the same way. For example, employment in the clothing [991] sector is of a seasonal nature; people are employed for three weeks at a time. Following the High Court case to which I have referred the Department panicked and introduced global regulations which covered all categories. It is not possible to cover in one set of regulations dockers, those who work part time in banks or short time in clothing and shoe factories, part time firemen and so on. It would be much more effective to deal with them category by category. Those who administer the system would then be in a better position to explain the scheme.

I congratulate the Minister and the Minister of State as this is by far the best social welfare package introduced in the history of this State.

Mr. Bradford:  I take up Deputy Bell's assertion that this is the best Social Welfare Bill ever introduced. The figures for scoial welfare in 1994 are the highest ever. If one wished to use that yardstick one would have to congratulate the Minister. Every penny is needed as social welfare recipients do not live in the lap of luxury; most of them receive a meagre amount each week. I made the point on both Second Stage and Committee Stage that we have to ask ourselves how the sum of £4 billion can be spent in a more constructive fashion. It is the duty of each Department, including the Department of Social Welfare to examine ways in which a proportion of its budget can be used to keep people at work or help them to return to the work force. While the back to work scheme has had modest success — I hope it will be more successful both this year and in 1995 — one has to ask how the figure of £4 billion is being used to create employment.

In relation to PRSI we are hindering rather than helping the process of job creation. As Deputy Boylan said, because of the regulations and the high level of taxes employers cannot consider the possibility of employing extra workers. If the Department of Social Welfare, in conjunction with the Department of Finance, adopted a more radical approach we could make progress. Any [992] employer who is considering the possibility of employing extra workers should have his or her head examined. In many cases it would not pay the employee to take up the job offer as they would enter the tax net at a low level and would be worse off financially.

I concur with Deputy Keogh that there is an urgent need to integrate the tax and social welfare systems. The Minister of State is considering proposals in this regard and they should be brought before the Oireachtas in the immediate future. It is vital that the two systems are integrated to encourage job creation. There are too many blockages and disincentives from the point of view of both the employer and the employee. The Department of Social Welfare can make improvements by bringing forward constructive proposals to integrate the two systems.

I concur with what Deputy Bell said about means testing and I again ask the Minister to reconsider the method of assessing the income from savings and investments of applicants for social welfare benefits whereby 10 per cent of such savings is taken as being the income from them. Bank rates have never been lower, and if an old age pensioner or an applicant for social welfare is fortunate enough to have a couple of thousand pounds in a bank, building society or credit union, there is no way that money will generate the return reckoned by the Department of Social Welfare. It is blatantly unfair to take a notional assessment of 10 per cent of savings and investments when the true return is probably nearer to 3 or 4 per cent and many with modest savings are losing £5 or £6 a week. To an old age pensioner or a person on unemployment assistance that could be the difference between having or not having a bag of coal at the end of the week. Perhaps the Minister will look sympathetically at this during the next few months.

I also concur with Deputy Boylan and others on the need for a change in the regulations applicable to young applicants for social welfare and other entitlements. It is quite ridiculous that a young [993] person is forced to leave the family home to qualify for such entitlements. The State loses rather than gains because health boards must pay supplementary welfare allowances towards the cost of rented accommodation. It would be widely welcomed if the Minister would do something about this in 1994, the year of the family.

When it was introduced in 1993, the summer employment scheme for students was the subject of much debate. It was introduced too late in the year and there were administrative difficulties. I note the scheme is due to be improved for 1994. Many young people worked on those schemes during 1993. They were glad of the opportunity to work, which proves the point made by Deputy Boylan that the majority of unemployed people are more than anxious to work if they can get work and can afford to take up the opportunity.

I am assured by the Minister that the student scheme is not a “work for dole” scheme, but I wonder when we will see Government proposals in that regard. I disagree with the concept of work for dole but would like to see an effort to utilise some of the Department of Social Welfare's budget for job creation. Many local authorities, including my own local authority, Cork County Council, have appealed to the Minister for a facility whereby some of the moneys being spent by the Department of Social Welfare would be transferred to the local authorities for job creation. Cork County Council has for ten years been seeking liaison between the Department of Social Welfare and the Department of the Environment to introduce a scheme whereby instead of paying people to remain on the dole we would pay those people about the same amount of money and have them employed by the local authorities. I appeal to the Minister to set up some pilot projects in local authorities, including Cork County Council, and see what progress can be made.

It is the height of economic and social lunacy to have 300,000 people unemployed when there was never more work to be done. That is obvious to anyone [994] who drives potholed roads where the briars almost meet across them. If some moneys from the Department of Social Welfare could be transferred to the Department of the Environment for job creation purposes we could, at little if any extra cost to the State, employ people rather than leaving them idle. I hope the Minister will consider implementing such a pilot project in 1994.

Mr. Sheehan:  Much of what I wished to say has already been said, so I will be brief. The Minister is known throughout the country as a caring Minister, and I hope he will live up to that reputation by addressing anomalies in the means testing of applicants for unemployment assistance, particularly those applying for small farmer's assistance, in whose case potential sales are taken into account by the investigation officers in assessing their means. Potential sales should not be taken into consideration. There is no point in looking at bread in another person's window, and potential sales may never transpire. The cattle could die before being sold, there could be a major drop in prices, any calamity could happen. All that should be taken into account in assessing incomes of applicants for small farmers' assistance is the sales that took place in the period the means test covered. To do otherwise is to include two years' income in one year's assessment. Surely that is not right. I urge the Minister to issue a directive to the social welfare officers to ignore potential sales when assessing the incomes of the people concerned.

Mr. Bradford:  There are potential votes for Deputy Sheehan there.

Mr. Sheehan:  And for Deputy Bradford. I also urge the Minister to modify the method of assessing the means of carers to take into account the amount of care and attention given by the carer. Often a carer must care for two old people in the one house and in such cases no extra allowance is given. To keep such people in a hospital is very costly and that cost must be paid by the State one way or [995] another. It would go a long way towards saving the State money if the Minister were to issue a directive to social welfare officers to be more liberal in assessing means in this area.

Farmers and self-employed people who were brought into the PRSI scheme under the 1986 legislation and who have not made the requisite number of contributions before their 65th birthday should, like their counterparts in Great Britain, be allowed to pay what would be required in order to qualify for a contributory pension. The Minister should introduce legislation to allow farmers, who is some cases have paid nine years' contributions to the Department of Social Welfare, to make the necessary contributions to bring them up to the ten year period requirement. That would not cost the Department a great deal of money but it would right a wrong which has existed for some time under the scheme.

Far too many conditions apply to back-to-work and start-your-own-business schemes, similar regulations should apply to both. To qualify for one of those schemes a person must be on unemployment assistance for a 12 month period but that is not the case in the other. If similar regulations applied to both schemes it would be easier for people to come off the live register and start their own businesses. We should encourage people to be less reliant on hand-outs from the State. The Minister is doing his best, he has been allocated more money than any other Minister and while he has the caring tag he should accede to my requests.

Mr. Boylan:  The Minister should wear a caring collar.

Mrs. Doyle:  I will limit my contribution to share fishermen's social insurance which we debated last autumn. I understand this matter has not been dealt with during the debate on the Bill and I would like the Minister to give an update on the matters he indicated he would return to under this Bill.

[996] First, I should like the Minister to indicate if he is prepared to modify the provisions he introduced last autumn relating to a £45 per week earnings limit by a spouse before it affects the weekly social welfare payment of the other spouse? I read recently that he was reconsidering the change from a £45 per week earnings limit to a £7.50 per day limit which impacts unfairly on short term and part-time workers and is contrary to the Minister's ethos of encouraging people to improve their positions by getting back into the workplace. Will the Minister indicate if he has made that change and, if not, if he intends doing so? Many people depending on social welfare and making an effort to help themselves by doing part-time work are hampered because of that subtle but important change introduced last autumn.

We had a long and worthwhile debate before Christmas on the position of share fishermen because of their lack of social insurance. I will not repeat the arguments made then because I am sure the Minister is familiar with them. Since the judgments in the McLoughlin and Griffith cases in 1992 share fishermen are outside the system and the only way they can get back is by accepting that the courts have decided they are self-employed and pay their arrears in social insurance and taxes. The Social Welfare Bill introduced last autumn provided for an optional contribution in addition to a contribution paid by all self-employed people, of an additional 5 per cent, which allowed share fishermen to pay 10 per cent and to qualify for benefit following 13 weeks' unemployment in any one year or 12 months' disability benefit plus treatment benefit for their spouses. That was an excellent move in theory, but since we last debated the matter weather conditions for fishermen have been extremely adverse. Boats have been unable to go to sea for two consecutive weeks in the past few months. I am more familiar with the problems of fishermen in Kilmore Quay and Duncannon, but fishermen all round our coast are facing a crisis and those are the peripheral communities [997] we are supposed to be looking after post Maastricht.

Those fishermen do not have social insurance, they are not entitled to unemployment benefit and cannot establish their entitlement to unemployment assistance because they cannot prove their earnings during the past two years. They are not entitled to medical cards and cannot get mortgages because they cannot prove their earnings. They are literally at the mercy of voluntary groups and I do not believe the Minister considers that acceptable in what should be a flagship industry on an island nation such as this. Fishing should be one of our growth industries. Since the 1992 judgments that very skilled labour has been casualised and as a result more and more skilled fishermen are leaving the fishing industry and finding more permanent insurable employment elsewhere. Those judgments have dealt a serious blow to one of our most important industries which is in its infancy because of the way it has been developed.

A fact sheet on optional social insurance, published by the Minister's Department in 1994, was not available in Killybegs until three weeks ago.

Dr. Woods:  It was.

Mrs. Doyle:  The Minister went there with a bundle of them in his brief case and the Killybegs Fishermens's Organisation stood him up. It was a lost opportunity as the Minister had travelled there to resolve some of their difficulties. Until then these fact sheets had not been disseminated by his Department. That is not good enough considering we spent weeks here and in the other House trying to resolve a social welfare crisis for a sector of our community. This fact sheet indicates that to avail of the optional social insurance scheme share fishermen must return their application forms by 5 April and that contributions for the 1993-94 tax year must be fully paid up by 30 June. Since we last spoke about this problem very few fishermen have been to sea, they have not received any cash and are several years behind in their contributions. [998] With the best will in the world those who want to buy into the scheme now and benefit from next January do not have the cash to do so. We cannot let another winter pass without share fishermen and their families receiving full cover for treatment and disability benefits. Will the Minister indicate his views on this crisis? I acknowledge his goodwill in the Social Welfare Bill last autumn, but those fishermen do not have money to buy into the scheme which would give them insurance cover from next January and fishermen all around our coastline are severely affected.

I urge the share fishermen to set up their own organisation and committee. Their social insurance problems would never have arisen if their interests had been represented in the Griffith and McLoughlin judgments. The IFO provides a good service for skippers and boat owners but it cannot serve two masters. It is the considered view of people who know a great deal more about this problem than I that the IFO represented the skippers' interests extremely well and as a result the share fishermen's problems were not fully aired or taken on board in the various judgments. It is the responsibility of the share fishermen to organise themselves because they have suffered during many winters due to lack of insurance cover. Unless they form a representative organisation or set up a sub-committee to represent their interests through the IFO the matter will arise during the debate on the Social Welfare Bill every year and little progress will be made, despite the goodwill of the Minister.

The difficulties experienced by sole traders, limited companies and those people paying class A1 contributions, notwithstanding the Griffith judgment, were debated. The Griffith judgment determined that class S or self-employed contributions should be paid by share fishermen. Some boat owners and skippers have continued to pay class A1 contributions for their deckhands or share fishermen. Will those employees still be entitled to full class A1 benefits if they need to draw unemployment benefit, disability [999] benefit or occupational injuries benefit provided for under class A1 contributions as opposed to under class S contributions? An anomaly has arisen whereby one law for social insurance applies for sole traders and private companies and another for the share fishermen who have no contract of service with a skipper or boat owner and must pay their contribution and make ends meet when they are not at sea. That anomaly must be resolved.

The Minister should ensure that the provisions of last year's Social Welfare Bill dealing with the problem of share fishermen are implemented uniformly by social welfare officers. There has been a discrepancy in the interpretation of that Bill. There are different interpretations in Killybegs, Wexford and West Cork, particularly in respect of how class A and class S contributions should be dealt with and whether boat owners and sole traders can pay class A.1 contributions for their employees to ensure that they do not casualise their labour and lose skilled fishermen. This matter must be dealt with immediately as the application date is 5 April. Can that date be extended? Can provision be made for share fishermen who cannot buy contributions for previous years' service to ensure they are covered under class S will be entitled to benefit from January next?

There was much debate last week about the enlargement of the European Union to include Austria, Norway and other countries. The social insurance treatment of fishermen should be harmonised throughout the Community. A country whose social welfare regulations impact more adversely on share fishermen than another is at an unfair disadvantage. Has the Minister studied the Norwegian system? Its economy is heavily dependent on the fishing industry. It has a satisfactory social insurance system for its fishermen. Could European regulations for the social insurance treatment of fishermen be harmonised with the Nowegian system? In the UK share fishermen buy a £7.50 weekly stamp which provides full cover. There is a larger [1000] insurance pool there. A certain amount of money must be invested and actuarial figures calculated to provide cover. Because of the small number of contributors here relative to the level of pay-outs our scheme does not operate as an insurance fund. The taxpayer makes up any losses in terms of the insurance fund. Under the UK system share fishermen know their contributions and the benefits to which they are entitled. Share fishermen here are not aware of their benefits because they are self-employed. They are self-assessed and from year to year the ground rules will change depending on whether they have a good year and earn money or a bad year and have little or no earnings. The Minister should outline his views on the harmonisation of social welfare payments in the European Union.

Another problem is that of the 13 weeks unemployment benefit. The Minister said, albeit under pressure, that he would reconsider this area. Since the last debate the boats have been tied up for more than 13 weeks. Adverse weather conditions have prevailed since last October almost without respite. The fishermen have gone to sea very infrequently. If those fishermen were insured this year, which they are not, they would have long since exhausted their 13 weeks unemployment benefit provided for in the Bill introduced last autumn. At that time the point was made that a three year rolling of the 13 weeks unemployment benefit was needed. In a good winter boats may be tied up for two to three weeks, but this winter they were tied up for 25 weeks. If fishermen do not claim their 13 weeks unemployment benefit in any one year it should roll on in a two or three year cycle to ensure maximum cover is provided particularly in adverse weather conditions, or when there is engine failure. The share fishermen have to cope with those problems and they do not receive pay when the boat is in dock.

A section of the Bill deals with work in the harbour, such as mending nets and carrying out repairs etc. Share fishermen receive no pay if boats are tied up for mechanical or structural repairs, mending [1001] nets or adverse weather conditions. If unemployed share fishermen are entitled to draw full social welfare benefit for 13 weeks the Minister should ensure they are entitled to unemployment benefit when the boat is tied up and they are mending nets.

I know of a case involving the Redmond family in Wexford. The social welfare inspector was probably technically correct in interpreting the law as meaning that because they work a few hours a day mending nets and repairing the boat when adverse weather conditions prevent them going to sea, they are not entitled to cover. If the share fishermen occupy themselves painting, varnishing and repairing machinery they will lose unemployment benefit. The fishermen in this case have been covered under A.1 contributions. A realistic interpretation of being available for work when share fishermen cannot go to sea due to adverse weather conditions, engine failure or other reasons is needed. At present those who are covered are being denied their entitlements if they carry out work on the boat or approach the port or harbour where it is docked. I am not sure if the Minister envisaged that provision would be interpreted in such a manner. When a boat is tied up due to weather conditions it is reasonable for fishermen who are regular employees on it to do useful work until they can go out to sea. The Department will pay them if they sit looking at the boat while it is tied up, but if they make themselves useful by doing constructive work on the boat their unemployment benefit is stopped. That attitude is not acceptable. The Minister should ensure that a uniform system operates in all our ports and harbours.

Where share fishermen are employed by a limited company is a written contract of service required to entitle them to continue class A1 benefits, or can the skipper opt to continue paying class A1 benefit? Will the employee get full class A.1 benefits? I raise these issues because the Minister indicated we would come back to them on this Bill. Will the Minister indicate how the matter has developed — I know he has had discussions [1002] on it? An appeal is to come before the courts on the sole trade issue. I would like to know the Minister's views on that matter and whether it can be resolved. What is the status of the Statutory Instrument pre the 1993 Bill? There is still confusion as to the legal status in this regard.

This is a specialist area and I do not apologise for restricting my contribution to this issue — colleagues in all Opposition parties adequately dealt with other problems. As this is a matter that receives no airing I would like to know where we are going and, given the 5 April deadline for applications, how the Minister intends to bring all share fishermen who are not insured at present under the new system which was put in place last autumn. How can they buy benefits for the years lost when they will have no money next January as they will not have been working during the winter? We must deal with this critical issue for fishermen and women and their families. What is happening is totally at variance with the spirit of post-Maastricht European Union, where peripheral communities in isolated areas are supposed to be looked after under Cohesion and Structural Funds. The Government, who witnessed the spectacle whereby this winter our fishing families went hungry because they had no cover, failed these isolated and peripheral communities along our coast. These communities could contribute much to the economy if they were properly looked after.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  There has been a wide-ranging debate on the Bill and I will briefly comment on the points made. Deputy Boylan talked about a complete mismatch, said that people do not know their entitlements and that the system is very complex. The reason it is complex and complicated is that people do things in different ways. Many groups are provided for and the system will never be entirely simplified. It has been tremendously improved and we will continue to simplify it, but people must be clear as to their entitlements. Very often commentators, [1003] particularly economists and other wise men and women, say that the system is too complex, that it should be simplified. However, in trying to do that we have to deal with different circumstances. For example, Deputy Bell suggested that instead of having one regulation there should be three regulations, thereby including everybody. Perhaps two regulations would suffice. Deputies identify the differences and the real needs involved and they say that particular groups are not being well served by an overall arrangement. Variations will always exist in a good, supportive system. We will do what we can to simplify the system, and I know Deputies will continually press for that.

Deputy Boylan and others mentioned the back to work allowance scheme and the importance of providing incentives. I have been interested in such an arrangement for some years and introduced this scheme towards the end of last year. Many Deputies criticised me for doing so and asked was I trying to take over from FÁS. Perhaps they were confused with what was happening. When job facilitators were appointed Deputies again asked whether I was trying to take over the work of FÁS, but that is not so. I am trying to provide support for the large number of unemployed people and to make the best possible use of the money that is available.

Many applications have been received for the back to work allowance and 1,554 people have been approved for jobs. At present 1,026 people are being paid and the remainder will be paid in the next couple of weeks when the practical details are sorted out. This allowance, which will be very beneficial, will be monitored to see if it can be further improved. It was a big breakthrough to be able to provide 75 per cent of unemployment payments plus the extra benefits for the first year and 50 per cent for the second year. This scheme is operating in conjunction with FÁS schemes so that people will get the maximum benefits.

Deputy Boylan asked about transferring people over 50 years onto disability [1004] benefit or invalidity pension. That could only be done on the basis of sickness. A person transferred to assistance may be disadvantaged because there is no disability assistance. There is a dependent person's maintenance allowance but there are different criteria for that. A person moving into disability benefit or invalidity pension would get the extra benefits such as free travel and so on, and I cannot see why they would object to that. The scheme was introduced to cater for people who are ill and not able to work, and they are much better off on invalidity pension.

Deputy Boylan raised the question of young people having to leave home. This matter is raised frequently and was recently dealt with by way of a parliamentary question. The overall cost of extending rent supplement would be £60 million. We will consider that issue to see what can be done. This year I increased the £5 minimum payment to £10. Some research has been carried out on the assessment of cases of free board and lodging. A recent Department of Social Welfare commissioned ESRI report, compiled from previously collected data from the household survey, failed to uncover any link between young people leaving the family home and the current assessment of benefit and privilege. There may be a link in certain cases but there is no general link. An internal departmental study was carried out on random samples of people in the Dublin area. This study supports the conclusion of the ESRI that most applicants leave the family home for reasons unconnected with the social welfare system. It shows that 32 per cent of the people who left the family home originated from rural areas and are likely to have moved to Dublin to seek employment; 19 per cent were cohabiting and 5 per cent moved due to family disputes. Of the remaining 44 per cent, one third were over 30 years of age and a significant proportion of the balance had previously been independent of the family home, for example, they had been at college or lived abroad: wherever they came from, they did not leave the family home to claim the rent [1005] supplement. While the system does not generally work in the way suggested it requires further consideration.

Deputy Boylan referred to assistance for small farmers and the possibility of using the Revenue Commissioner system of assessment. I do not have all the relevant information with me but the main reason this system is not used is that an allowance which does not apply to social welfare payments is given for investment, capital depreciation, etc. Obviously, many more people would claim assistance if the allowance applied to such payments. This is another issue I will examine further.

This Bill provides for a number of major improvements in means testing as it applies to lone parents and carers. Section 18 deals with means testing for social assistance schemes, including disregarding the maintenance element of higher education grants for the purposes of the third level allowance scheme, disregarding mobility allowances or rehabilitation training allowances for all social assistance payments, exempting child benefits payments received from another member state of the European Union, extending the home help incomes exemption so as to include employment by an agency approved by a health board and taking regulatory powers to exempt income derived from certain activities, which have yet to be prescribed. In the past I have exempted produce for use on the farm. This Bill will enable me to exempt similar activities. One activity I have in mind is traditional activity such as seaweed collection along the western seaboard. The exemption of this activity will be a substantial boost to collectors, the existing factory and the further factory which I hope will be established there.

I have been told that there are no radical or imaginative provisions in the Bill. However, the imaginative provisions in this area will be very helpful and will enable me to consider exempting certain activities and to obtain approval for similar steps.

Mr. Boylan:  I appreciate that the Minister [1006] means well, but I am talking about basic farm income. I would not harp on this issue if it was not a problem. I will leave it at that, as I know the Minister will address it.

Dr. Woods:  I appreciate the general point made by the Deputy but I have taken some further steps in this area.

Reference was made to anticipated income being taken into account. If such income is not realised then an allowance is made for it, for example, an allowance is made for cattle which die. One could say that people get payments from then on, but people who have taken out a bank loan may need payments backdated, which is another aspect. All changes in circumstances are taken into account from the time they occur. Self-employment which entails levels of production and so on is a difficult area with which to deal and I accept it needs to be looked at further and, if possible, simplified.

Deputy Keogh referred to the integration of tax and social welfare payments and said that I was not being very radical. If she looks at the measures taken in recent years she will see that some very radical changes have been made at considerable cost without upsetting the apple cart.

Mrs. Doyle:  What about the “dirty dozen”?

Ms Keogh:  Some measures are more radical than others.

Dr. Woods:  Some economic commentators say that we should have an across the board arrangement, that measures should be implemented immediately. They do not understand the complexity of the system and that many heads could be cut off, so to speak, in the process. It is much better in all the circumstances to take monitored steps. Some radical measures have been introduced already, for example, the taxation of disability and unemployment payments. There have been fairly radical changes in pay-related benefit and as [1007] Deputies know, we managed to return the pay related benefit to the system while this was happening. There are also similar changes in PRSI which have been introduced at a substantial financial cost. This entire area is being studied — there was an interim report and a more comprehensive report is expected at the end of the year. Consideration will be given to the feasible recommendations in that report and a desision made on the action to be taken.

Deputy Keogh referred to the position of survivors. They are treated on an equal treatment basis — the position for widows and widowers is the same. The Deputy referred to the desirability of extending the scheme to cohabitees. That would be a new development which would have to be considered in the context of any future changes.

Mrs. Doyle:  The tax system can find them and tax them.

Ms Keogh:  If they are included in one way they should be excluded in another.

Dr. Woods:  Provision is made for them in the schemes; the Department is very much ahead in that regard. We are talking here about extending the widows' pension scheme and, consequently, the widowers' pension scheme to cohabitees. That matter can be considered in the context of any future changes.

Reference was made to casual employment and the way in which it will be assessed. Regulations will have to be drawn up but basically we are considering the nature of the work rather than other aspects. The Deputy asked about the yardstick to be used in assessing casual work. It has been very difficult to assess this complex area up to now but under the Bill I will be able to deal with some of the sectors involved. She also referred to the implications for social welfare recipients of the provisions on consultancy. My aim is to ensure that jobs are created in Ireland. We have the necessary expertise and it should not be wasted. This expertise should be used to create [1008] jobs in the private sector or in joint ventures with private sector companies.

I have always had a broad view of public service, too many people have a narrow view of it. Public service is not just civil service — civil service has a responsibility to the rest of the public and private sectors. This Bill allows the Civil Service and the civil servants in my Department, to make a contribution to the wider public service. The idea is that revenue from patents, royalties and so on would go back to the State. Obviously, I would be delighted if some of that revenue is put into social welfare but the first objective is to ensure that it goes back to the State in any event. In so far as I hope that we would stimulate the private sector, it will feed back into jobs here. There are many avenues in that direction that can come from what Lemass always had in mind, namely, that Departments should be development corporations. There was a great drive towards this at the time but it has been lost over the years and we should get back to it. In the Taoiseach's recent move regarding the strategic plans for Departments he was also going very much in that direction. The purpose of all our activity is to make any contribution we can to the needs of the people.

In relation to second chance education for instance, I would be happy to see money allocated to that area. If the second chance education area proves itself, we will not have much difficulty in getting the additional resources, as we have done recently.

I noted Deputy Bell's points, and I thank him for his comments about the Bill. He compared the Irish system with the British system and others. Deputy Bell was concerned particularly that under the family income supplement employers would keep wages low to make use of the family income supplement scheme. There is no evidence of this happening generally but the matter can be monitored and we note his comments. The largest number of people availing of that scheme would be those categorised as unskilled workers and general labourers.

[1009] Deputy Bell welcomed the back-to-work scheme for the self-employed and felt that it should be more widely advertised. As I mentioned previously, there were some difficulties in getting this scheme off the ground but we had to be patient in the early stages. It has now been advertised and we intend to advertise it extensively.

Deputy Bell also mentioned the students' scheme and asked me to confirm the improvements. Last year's figure of £40 has now increased to £45 for the 16 hour week and this will enable students to earn a total of £540 as distinct from £400 over the period of the scheme. This represents an additional £140. The duration of the scheme has been extended from ten to 12 weeks and it can operate in any 12 weeks from the beginning of June. These are substantial improvements.

Deputy Bell also referred to some of the delays last year but it was a question of whether to go ahead with the scheme at short notice. As far as I was concerned it made sense to go ahead at the time. No other Department would take on such a scheme and introduce it right across the country in such a short time-scale. The scheme has now established its position and has led to the improvements this year.

Deputy Bell raised the question of the three sets of regulations for casual, part-time and short-time workers. Deputy Bradford asked how we can spend more of the £3.8 billion for job creation. That money, of course, is not all spent on unemployment payments. The pensioners remain the biggest group on which funds are allocated. There is a £89 million boost in the Bill for employment which is provided through the PRSI alleviation and other measures such as employers having to pay for medical cards, etc. The Minister of State is working on the integration of the tax and social welfare systems and we will hear more about that in due course. Deputy Bradford asked me particularly to consider pilot projects with the county councils in regard to releasing people from the Department. The back-to-work allowance will be available and if the county [1010] councils are interested they should come forward with particular schemes which fit within there general criteria and we will be happy to talk to them. The job facilitators in the different regions are available also for discussions in relation to this area and their work will free the system much more.

Deputy Sheehan was particularly concerned about the means test for farmers and the fact that sales would be taken into account. Deputy Boylan raised the question of payment for cattle who died. This is a difficult area but one which we will examine further. The question was raised also about pensions for the self-employed in so far as they affect farmers. I sympathise with Deputy Sheehan but if my memory serves me correctly the costing for that scheme was £754 million over the period. Securing a deal up to age 55 was a major achievement because we really should start much earlier to make the scheme solvent. I will keep this matter under review and I appreciate the point the Deputy makes. The main problem is the cost of providing for the pensions.

The Deputy welcomed the back-to-work scheme and wants it to be as flexible as possible. That matter will be monitored on an ongoing basis.

Deputy Doyle raised in some detail the question of share fishermen.

Mr. Sheehan:  She is a keen angler.

Dr. Woods:  There is no mention of this in the Bill. Some of the people wanted the full A rate. She covered an interesting point indirectly when she spoke about what is now happening, that some people are leaving to work elsewhere. I remember saying, when we were introducing the other Bill, that if employers want to have good workers, train people and so on, they really should bring them within the A 1 rate. Otherwise people will not have cover. Employers and economists who talk about PRSI should realise that if employees do not have cover, ultimately employers will not have workers. Workers will not revert to the bad old days early this century when they did not [1011] have cover for illness, pension, unemployment or whatever. We have a modern society and are not going backwards. We have taken over from employers many of these payments they formerly had to make in that they have been incorporated into the PRSI system. Employers tend to forget that we are undertaking this for them as a very efficient service.

Deputy Avril Doyle went into much detail about share fishermen. We sought to do what was best through the regulations without getting into greater difficulty with the courts, that was to allow people continue with the class A.1 PRSI rate.

Mrs. Doyle:  But they are in order in continuing to pay class A.1?

Dr. Woods:  I would say yes, and we are endeavouring to expand that further. We will follow up individual cases if the Deputy will let me have a note of them afterwards.

All of this is in the course of being established. That is what is happening at present. It is the same in relation to the new legislative provision for optional contributions in that, under the regulations accompanying the legislation, one is supposed to have indicated by the beginning of April——

Mrs. Doyle:  The fifth of April.

Dr. Woods:  ——that one is interested and the payments must be made by the end of June.

Mrs. Doyle:  There has been very little interest in it because there is no money.

Dr. Woods:  No, but they should apply. They would be foolish not to apply especially if their annual incomes will be lower when, obviously, the payment level will be very low. It is a very good package from that point of view. I have noted particularly what the Deputy said about fact sheets. The Deputy was correct in saying that I brought them with me to [1012] Donegal because I felt they should be available there immediately.

Mrs. Doyle:  That was only a couple of weeks ago.

Dr. Woods:  No, it was earlier, very soon after the Bill went through.

Mrs. Doyle:  They had been seeking them.

Dr. Woods:  I brought them myself. I placed them in Donegal town but Killybegs is only a short distance away. I put them in the office and gave them to any of the people who were there. In addition, they were publicised in the papers and elsewhere. We shall follow up the points Deputy Doyle raised in that respect. Certainly I would be flexible in relation to the dates. It is important that people apply if they are interested and we will investigate the position in relation to payments thereafter.

Deputy Doyle also asked about the working spouse allowance of £45 per week. The purpose of the disregard of earnings was to cover expenses associated with being in employment, such as the cost of lunches and so on. A person who works for less than a full week would not incur the same level of daily expenses as another working full-time but nevertheless would require a minimum amount of disregard in order to meet such expenses. In order to improve the position of those who work just a few days a week I propose to introduce a minimum amount of £30 disregard of earnings for a spouse working for three days, or fewer, each week instead of the present £7.50 daily disregard. A spouse working four or more days per week would receive the full £45 a week disregard of earnings. I could have said more about it but I do not have time.

Mrs. Doyle:  Will the Minister notify me of that change?

Dr. Woods:  I will.

Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 60; Níl, 35.

[1013]Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Noel.
Aylward, Liam.
Bell, Michael.
Bree, Declan.
Briscoe, Ben.
Burton, Joan.
Callely, Ivor.
Connolly, Ger.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Dempsey, Noel.
Ellis, John.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Eithne.
Flood, Chris.
Gallagher, Pat.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Seán.
Higgins, Michael D.
Howlin, Brendan.
Hughes, Séamus.
Jacob, Joe.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kenny, Seán.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lawlor, Liam.
[1014]Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Derek.
Morley, P.J.
Mulvihill, John.
Nolan, M.J.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Rourke, Mary.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Penrose, William.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Reynolds, Albert.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, John.
Ryan, Seán.
Shortall, Róisín.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Spring, Dick.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Treacy, Noel.
Upton, Pat.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Eamon.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

CLASS="CP">Níl

Ahearn, Theresa.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Peter.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Connor, John.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Deasy, Austin.
Doyle, Avril.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Gregory, Tony.
Harney, Mary.
Harte, Paddy.
Hogan, Philip.
Kenny, Enda.
Keogh, Helen.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Michael.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Jim.
Nealon, Ted.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Owen, Nora.
Quill, Máirín.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Sheehan, P.J.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Yates, Ivan.

CLASS="CP">Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and D. McDowell; Níl, Deputies E. Kenny and Boylan.

Question declared carried.

Mr. Yates:  I move:

That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government policies that discriminate against home ownership, with particular reference to the budgetary [1015] changes curbing mortgage tax relief and the extension of the Residential Property Tax; and furthermore calls on the Government to adhere to the policy of successive Governments of supporting families in providing their own homes.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Durkan. The issues in the budget that provoked the greatest ire are those we wish to debate tonight. It is with regret that I move the motion. We debated the budget but we have yet to debate the Finance Bill. In the aftermath of the budget it quickly became clear that one of the aspects that upset people most was the proposed extension of the residential property tax net. We were told by the Tánaiste that there was no need to worry, everything would be all right when everyone received their revised tax free allowance for the new tax year 1994-95. We were assured all taxpayers would be better off under this budget. Unfortunately home owners with mortgages are significantly worse off due to the curtailment of mortgage relief and the widening of the residential property tax net.

What is beyond doubt is that the total income tax receipts estimated by the Minister for Finance on budget day will be £23 million higher than the revenue received from income tax last year — in excess of £3.7 billion. The Minister will take in more despite the fact that on income tax all his previous targets have been overshot.

In dealing with the twin issues of mortgage relief and residential property tax it is a matter of public record that both Fianna Fáil and Labour utterly reneged on the commitments given during the last election campaign. What we see are the same urban PAYE soft targets — round up the usual suspects — being hit in the fine print of the budget. The middle income sector are reeling from the effects of the last two budgets brought in by the Minister. Not only do we have home ownership changes but the most miserly [1016] and mean cut of all—doubling the threshold for medical allowances claimable by a family from £150 to £300 and on top of that, starting next year, phasing down VHI relief from 48 per cent to 27 per cent. Increasingly, the middle income sector is faced with the prospect of paying more and more and being entitled to less and less.

We have a very proud record of home ownership. Over 80 per cent of all homes are privately owned by the householder. It is one of the highest rates of home ownership in Europe and the world. Is this an accident or part of the Irish psyche? No, it is because successive Governments of all hues sought to assist people in providing their own homes. This was done through tax relief and grant aid. We saw it as beneficial to assist the construction industry because it is labour intensive. Last Friday on “News at One” on RTE the Minister came clean with his hidden agenda and said he wanted “less investment in bricks and mortar”. The Government does not want people to invest in providing their own homes but it has no mandate for this change in policy. For the Minister to state that those opposing the residential property tax were an hysterical well heeled minority shows how out of touch Ministers become when they get the Mercs and perks of office.

I have a pile of letters from people complaining about their positions. The typical case is of people who married 20 years ago and bought a house for £20,000. It was the biggest investment they made. They reared and educated their family with little or no help from the State. Today their house is in the residential property tax net. They made sacrifices and worked hard and now they find that at the end of their days they have to hand over more tax to the Revenue Commissioners. The reduction in mortgage relief affects well in excess of 100,000 people yet the issue was barely highlighted.

Many people sent their tax free allowance certificates to me. One gentleman from Cork stated that his income relief last year was £3,048. This year, when we [1017] are told by the Tánaiste that he will be better off, that person's mortgage relief is £1,675. Despite the marginal changes in his personal allowances overall his allowances are down from £17,088 to £16,525. Another case is a teacher from County Westmeath. He was notified on 15 March 1993 that his interest relief was £3,400. This year it is £1,817. They are but two examples. I could refer ad nauseam to other cases. People are perplexed and in a mathematical maze. They ask Deputies if there has been an error but alas there has not been any. The fine print of this year's budget states three things about mortgage relief — first, the maximum one can claim is 80 per cent of mortgage expenses; second, the Revenue Commissioners because of the reduction in interest rates, were assessing mortgages being payable at 12 per cent and they are now assessing them at 8 per cent for the average mortgage; third, this year mortgage interest relief is allowable at the marginal rate of 42.75p in the pound and not 48 per cent, the rate at which people pay tax and ultimately they will be able to claim relief only at 27p in the pound. This is a triple whammy on mortgage holders before they have to deal with local service charges and the house tax.

People are crippled by the loss of mortgage interest relief. My figures, which I got in response to parliamentary questions, show that some 320,000 people claim mortgage interest relief. I hazard a guess that well in excess of 180,000 people are facing substantial losses in mortgage interest relief. Let me give two typical examples. A person with a typical mortgage of £40,000 — today it was confirmed by a prominent building society that this is the average mortgage in Dublin — would have had relief of £1,977 whereas this year the relief will be worth £1,008, a reduction of about £1,000 or £20 per week. For somebody with a mortgage of £50,000 the news is worse and they have to bear the loss of £1,200. Over the next three years as mortgage interest [1018] relief is lowered to the standard rate of tax, the PAYE sector principally will lose £55 million. People entered into long term commitments in good faith and took out mortgages over 20 years but now in the middle of the term they find that the rules have changed. There was no warning of this in the election.

Mr. M. McDowell:  They both accused each other of intending to do it.

Mr. Yates:  Deputy Spring, Leader of the Labour Party, circularised a statement to every house in Dublin stating: “Fianna Fáil lies and distortions are dangerous”—as if there was a Government health warning on them. “They are knowingly spreading these lies about Labour policies to scare you away from change”.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Was Fianna Fáil right?

Mr. Yates:  The people who are propping them up are those who advocated change. To set the record straight Labour said: “Labour have no plans to introduce a new property or house tax; Labour will not reduce mortgage interest relief, in fact we will increase it; Labour will not reduce VHI relief”.

Mr. Durkan:  That is consistency.

Mr. Yates:  “Labour will not introduce a wealth tax. These points and many others are clearly set out in Labour's programme. You have been mislead and betrayed for long enough by Fianna Fáil.” The killer punch is “Put trust back into politics. I am urging you to vote Labour”. I am sorry for laughing but the public treat this with contempt. For brazen political somersaults, the Labour Party has no equal. We look forward to their Ethics in Government Bill to teach us how to behave. The overall effect of the new formula is that people are about £20 a week worse off and they will be at least £36 worse off at the top of the scale [1019] by the time the three year programme is put in place. They will lose an additional £7 a week relief on the VHI plans.

The effect on the construction industry cannot be overlooked. Output in the construction industry in 1992 dropped by a quarter on 1991 figures and significantly, on the lower base figure in 1992 it dropped by a quarter again in 1993. The industry is working at a little over 50 per cent of its capacity. Less investment in house construction can only depress the entire property market. A clever tactic of the spin doctors is to say it is only a small minority that are affected by the changes, the very wealthiest people, but we must remember that for every transaction at the upper end of the market there are ripple effects in every private housing estate in the country.

Residential property tax is not a property tax per se, it is a surtax on incomes. It is payable because of one's income and it is payable out of income. A taxpayer with a gross income of £25,000 after deductions of PAYE, PRSI, health contributions and other levies would have a net income of £15,000 and it is out of this income that the liability for residential property tax has to be met. The family home does not make an income and does not give one liquidity. One has to find the money in one's pay packet. Let us consider who is hit by this tax: 77 per cent of those who are liable for residential property tax reside in Dublin; 73 per cent of those who are liable for residential property tax are already discharging their full tax liability as paid up members of the PAYE club. Over seven out of ten people have one thing in common: they live in Dublin and they are in the PAYE net and they are the people who over-whelmingly voted for the Labour Party in the last election.

The changes announced by the Minister for Finance last Friday fall far short of what is required to deal with the basic injustice of this anomalous tax. The first basic injustice ignored by the Minister —[1020] it was voted down during the debate on the Finance Bill last year — is to have some relief for those with high mortgages. People have a debt of between £40,000 to £50,000 on an £80,000 house and they are being taxed on their debt. They are discharging the tax on behalf of the banks or building societies who own the principal equity and have the deeds of the house in their vaults. Nothing was done about mortgages last Friday.

Another anomaly is where Mr. and Mrs. Murphy have two houses, a house in Dublin worth £75,000 and a very nice holiday home which they inherited some years ago and is now worth £75,000. If they put them in joint names as the Minister for Equality and Law Reform Deputy Taylor would have them do, they will have a residential property tax bill of £1,150 whereas if they were to put them in individual names they would have no liability under the residential property tax. People in identical circumstances with identicals incomes with the same houses have different liabilities and that is totally unjustifiable.

In the vast majority of cases the Minister has not changed the principle that the combined incomes of everybody in the household is reckonable as income. This is most insidious because in some cases brothers and sisters do not like to disclose their private and personal affairs to other members of the family. In some cases they are hard set to give their mother a contribution towards house-keeping and fat chance they will pay the residential property tax. If we probe further into the definition of gross income we find that not only does it refer to the amount of the P60 but includes dividend income, bonuses, interest on savings in the bank before DIRT is paid — and there is no deduction for DIRT payments — and interest on post office savings which are advertised and promoted on the basis that they are free of tax but they are caught in the reckonable income for residential property tax, and covenant income, another tax dodge costing the [1021] Exchequer approximately £34 million. If a house owner's next of kin is in receipt of a social welfare payment he may find himself in the net. Benefits in kind, such as a company car, and notional income, such as rental income, are reckonable.

It has been suggested by a notable accountant — perhaps the Minister of State will deal with this point tomorrow night — that higher education grants and VHI refunds will also be reckonable as gross income in the year in question.

Mr. M. McDowell:  What about exempt artists?

Mr. Yates:  Back pay could also be construed as reckonable income. As if we did not have enough problems it was reported in The Sunday Press that the Revenue Commissioners intend to seek information on the insurance value of the house. House owners will be required to include this information on the form. When I contacted my friendly insurance federation to obtain some statistics I was informed that the insurance industry reckons that on average insurance values are 15 per cent higher than market values because of replacement costs. At the stroke of a pen the Minister widened the net even further and in the process, breached the confidential relationship between the insurer and the insured.

The lead story in the Irish Independent on Saturday stated that there was going to be a clampdown. Does this mean that in surburban Dublin, which can be picked off very easily to ensure compliance with the tax, when people are doing the simplex crossword at night and the doorbell rings it will not be the television inspector but rather the property tax inspector calling to inquire if they have made a return and, if not, when are they going to do so?

Mr. Lawlor:  A Bertie walk-about.

Mr. B. Ahern:  That is more likely; there are only ten people dealing with the property tax.

[1022]Mr. M. McDowell:  The man with the golden anorak.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Yates:  If a hapless or hopeless Fianna Fáil or Labour Party canvasser rings the bell during the European election campaign I hope they will receive the appropriate answer.

Mr. B. Ahern:  The Deputy should not have raised that issue.

Mr. Yates:  One of the reasons the residential property tax is so unjust is that it has an inbuilt anti-city bias. Relatively modest homes in suburban Dublin are in the net unlike luxury homes in other parts of the country. My party organised a number of public meetings to discuss this issue. At one of these meetings I was asked a question by an elderly gentleman retired civil servant with a hearing aid. He informed me that he was liable to pay £850 in residential property tax on the house he bought many years ago when he first came to Dublin. He could not understand how his nephew who owns a house in Letterkenny which has a conservatory, a sauna, a swimming pool and a tennis court is only liable to pay £240.

Mr. Durkan:  The fellow in Longford has another one.

Mr. Yates:  While the owners of luxury homes in other parts of the country are exempt or are liable to pay a minimal amount the owners of modest homes in suburban Dublin are in the net and have to pay this penal tax because of higher land values and higher residential values. It is unjust that there is an inbuilt anti-city bias as it is not their fault — one third of the population live in the greater Dublin area — they have to reside there.

The market value of the house presents a further difficulty. I received a series of letters from compliant taxpayers. One householder has dutifully made a return [1023] each year since 1983. Last year when a neighbour decided to sell his house a publican and a solicitor bid against each other and it got out of control with the result that the house was sold for a phenomenal price. The Revenue Commissioners have advised the householder that he under-estimated the value of his house but they are not able to say whether he disclosed the correct amount on an annual basis. As a result people do not know where they stand and they will find themselves in difficulty if they try to sell their houses because of the requirement to provide a certificate.

If the owner of an old house takes out a mortgage of £30,000 to carry out repairs or renovations to eliminate dry rot the first thing the Revenue Commissioners will say that if he has taken out a mortgage of £30,000 to improve a house valued at £90,000 it is now worth £110,000 whereas all he is doing is maintaining its value. Many people realise that the changes in the tax are only the thin end of the wedge.

I now come to the policy of the Labour Party not when it was in Government with my party in 1983 but when in Opposition and it had time to reflect on what it would do if it got a hand on the levers of the tiller of power. On page 65 of that weighty tome “Agenda for the 1990s” it promised a residential property tax rate of 3 per cent on the houses with a value of £50,000 or more with an income limit of £20,000.

In his first budget in 1992 the Minister for Finance outlined his thoughts on the residential property tax. He said, as reported in columns 370-71 of the Official Report of 29 January:

I propose to reduce the thresholds to £90,000 and £27,500 for 1992-93. The thresholds will be indexed in future years in the usual manner, but using 1992-93 values as the base. The new levels of these thresholds will continue to ensure that only those properties which are at the upper end of the [1024] property market will be subject to the tax.

The people do not know what to believe when the Minister says he is sorry and that this will not happen again; they believe that this is the thin end of the wedge. The Minister cleverly asked Saachi and Saachi to produce an advertisement, a copy of which I have, during the last general election campaign which was carried in the Irish Independent under the heading “Check This”. It carried out a dummy check and indicated in relation to the residential property tax——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Chair has always deprecated the presentation of documents of that kind. Quotations are in order but demonstrations are not.

Mr. Yates:  I do not need the detailed evidence. Fianna Fáil was having a very bad general election campaign and was on the run——

Mr. M. McDowell:  Has Saachi and Saachi been paid? How was it paid? It has not been paid but it has been given lucrative contracts since, of which more later.

Mr. Yates:  ——the four letter “C” word was in vogue and it needed to hit the Labour Party with a counter punch as it was capitalising on the mood for change in the country. It claimed that if the Labour Party went into Government with Fine Gael people would have to pay £1,200 in residential property tax. They said correctly that Ireland needed strong Government. I agree but they added the immortal words “we can make it happen”, and they did. When we take the message from Deputy Spring, with the threat of Labour getting into power, we see exactly the difficulties of home owners in Dublin.

The Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute and ACRA, the umbrella organisation for residents' groups who [1025] are encouraging the good people of Dublin not to vote for Labour and Fianna Fáil on 9 June, have articulated the detrimental features of the residential property tax. The tax officials' branch of IMPACT and the Mortgage Holders' Association have also criticised the tax. It has been said that people who are obliged to conform to this tax will now have to engage expensive auctioneers and accountants, resulting in high advance costs.

One of the aspects of this debate that I most resent is the argument that this is really about tax reform and that the Opposition parties do not believe in tax reform. That is not true. This measure will increase tax revenues by about £2.5 million in a year when total tax receipts are £10.371 billion. I do not see how £3 million could be in any way construed as serious tax reform. It is less than a halfpenny in the £1. The simple truth is that we need lower taxes. The failure of the Government to control spending has resulted in 44 per cent of GNP being absorbed in taxes when PRSI is included. Ireland has the highest taxes in Europe on income, motoring and alcohol and one of the highest standard rates of VAT at 21 per cent. This was labelled “Bertie's bonanza”.

Mr. Durkan:  Bertie's banana.

Mr. Yates:  It is Bertie's banana skin. One would have thought with the lower cost of servicing the debt, with growth bringing about substantial rises in revenue on a “do nothing” basis in the budget, that this was the year for some relief. The amnesty receipts were all put into extra expenditure rather than to reducing the debt. Now we see that tax reform means rifling the pockets of the overburdened taxpayer and tapping new sources of revenue in an attempt to widen the tax base.

There is no dispute that high taxes on income lead to higher labour costs and a loss of competitiveness. There is no [1026] doubt that the tax on labour is a disincentive to those at work and a disincentive to employers to take on more people. The way to reduce those taxes is to control spending. It will not be done with the £3 million from property tax.

I am surprised that reputable bodies like the NESC and, particularly the ESRI have involved themselves in this debate. I suppose they would have supported the poll tax in Great Britain despite its disastrous political repercussions for its proponents. The underlying assumption of many of these academic bodies pre-supposes a level of expenditure that is also a matter of political choice. Significantly Mr. Culliton, who chaired the task force, has been publicly critical of the RPT changes. An OECD table dating back to 1991 shows that, out of the total tax mix, our average for residential property tax is 4.6 per cent while the European Union average is 4.4 per cent. By the other yardstick of property tax as a percentage of GDP our average is 1.9 per cent and the EU average is 1.8 per cent. In both cases we are ahead of the European average, being in the top five out of 12.

We do not need more property tax, we need lower taxes. I do not accept that home ownership confers imputed unearned income that should be taxed. Conversely, people who provide their own accommodation should be assisted not to be a burden on the State or the local authority. Neither the Government's muzzling of Gay Byrne nor the technical amendments put forward by the Minister last week will avoid the fact that on 9 June next there will be an opportunity for householders to register their protest and disgust at the Government's onslaught on hone ownership. We have seen Government backbenchers Deputy Broughan and Deputy Callely — shed crocodile tears over the residential property tax and there are others sprinkled among all the parties. Even members of the timid 33 have spoken out about the property tax. I accuse them of speaking [1027] with forked tongues. Tomorrow night they will have a choice. They can stick with this high tax, high spend Government or they can vote for the householders who voted them into office. Then we will see their true colours.

Mr. Durkan:  I thank my colleague for sharing his time with me. It is virtually impossible to describe this system of taxation in the limited time available. What did the people do to deserve this? Where did they go wrong? They trusted both parties, and I want to know which party in Government is responsible for this. Did the Labour Party force this down the necks of Fianna Fáil or kick the Fianna Fáil Ministers under the table so hard that they were faced to bring in this inequitable tax to satisfy them?

What is the reason for the extension of this tax? Is it to pay the programme managers, the special advisers, the spin doctors, the assistants? I know all these people must be paid and that it costs money. I am sure nobody would want them to be badly paid or in any way disadvantaged. Did some sector of the community offend one or both of the Government parties or a member of either? Was there an insult to one of the Ministers to which the response was that the Government was out to get that sector and would take it on? It was obvious that the old age pensioners were not to be exempted. The Minister has belatedly decided to trim some of the rough edges of the proposal to make it more acceptable to the Labour Party. My colleague has rightly indicated this is an anti-city tax. It is an anti-people tax and part of an antiquated philosophy that people who provide their own houses should be penalised for doing so. I cannot understand that.

The Minister's indication that a certain number of people would be victims of this taxation system is understated. It will have a far wider impact than the Minister indicated. He recognises that now. Certainly [1028] people on this side of the House recognise it. Given the strong manifestations of integrity and honesty portrayed through the media the public, just over a year ago, placed their trust in the people they elected. We will ignore the accusations that were made by one side against the other in the lead up to the election but I feel sorry for the people because they have been let down badly. I do not know whether to blame the miserable attitude of members of the Labour Party or the attitude of the bigger and stronger party, Fianna Fáil, who allowed the Labour Party to do this to it.

Minister of Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  I wish to share my time with Deputy Lawlor.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern:  I move amendment No. 1:

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

“Dáil Éireann

—welcomes the progress in reform of the tax system which was continued in the 1994 Budget, particularly the major increases in the standard rate tax band and personal allowances

—recognises the Government's continuing major support for home owners and welcomes the significant increased support for first time buyers announced in the budget

—recognises the contribution made by the changes announced in the Budget in relation to mortgage interest relief and the Residential Property Tax in titling the balance in the tax code more in favour of productive investment, helping to create and safeguard employment and giving a greater measure of equity in the tax system and

[1029]—welcomes the adjustments to the Residential Property Tax announced by the Minister for Finance which preserve the essential features of the budget proposals while at the same time catering for the more deserving anomalies in the scheme”.

Resolving our critical unemployment situation must be our overriding economic and social objective. This requires our efforts and policies to be firmly focused on maximising the number of sustainable jobs. Ensuring that taxation policy is pro-employment is therefore essential. This means that the process of tax reform, now under way for a number of years, which is aimed at increasing the rewards and incentives for work and reducing the cost of employing workers, must be continued.

It has been recognised by many national and international bodies, who have commented on the area of tax reform, that it is in the domain of personal income tax that taxation in Ireland impacts most negatively on enterprise, incentive and employment. Despite the considerable progress already made, this remains an aspect of our tax system most in need of positive reform. In this context, the Government is faced, on a daily basis, with urgings to reduce tax in this or that area. However, very few of those who seek tax reductions are willing to be specific as to which of the services from which they benefit they are willing to forgo. The plain fact is that tax reliefs cost money. This money must come from somewhere, whether from expenditure curbs or alternative modes of taxation. With our level of national debt, borrowing on any substantial scale for any purpose is not a realistic option. There is a clear onus on those who call for major tax cuts — be they in the area of income tax, PRSI or corporation tax — to cost such proposals and to specify from where they think the money to fund these costs should come.

I would ask the proposers not to play [1030] the tired and predictable game of “yes but...”. This involves ardent declarations of support for the broad concept of tax reform, followed by the heartfelt denunciation of the particular changes that ensue from putting an effective tax reform package into place. The practical reality is that any revenue foregone in the process of tax reform must, for the most part, be recouped within the overall area of taxation. This means, in essence, increasing other taxes, imposing new forms of taxation or broadening the taxbase generally. There is no getting away from the fact that there is no such thing as a pain-free tax reform.

This year's budget had two definite focal points: first, to address the most acute problems in the area of personal income tax, and secondly, to improve the fiscal environment for business, with particular reference to the position of small and developing enterprises.

By any standards, the reliefs in this year's budget in mainstream income taxation are substantial. They reduce the overall take from income tax by almost £200 million in 1994 and by more than £330 million in a full year. These measures will reduce considerably the burden of taxation on low and middle income earners. Moreover, they will result, notwithstanding other changes, in more than 40,000 fewer taxpayers being on the top rate of tax. I should of course remind you that the top rate of tax is now 48 per cent compared with 58 per cent in 1987.

Finally, to help maintain and create employment, especially in labour intensive sectors, a differential employers PRSI contribution rate structure was introduced. In future, a reduced rate of 9 per cent will be levied on incomes up to £173 per week. The obligation for employers to pay the cost of the health and employment and training levies on behalf of employers with medical cards has also been removed.

The phasing in of standard rating over a four year period demonstrates the [1031] Government's commitment to a well thought out and consistent programme. Our commitment to redirecting the proceeds of standard rating towards broadening the standard rate band is clear evidence of our belief in long term and lasting solutions rather than quick fixes. It would be easy to muddle on from year to year thinkering with the system and conceding relief after relief to the various interest groups. That would of course do nothing to remove the disproportionate tax burden on employment. It would do nothing for the silent majority who earn. average incomes and pay the higher rate of tax on every extra pound they earn. This Government is not going to let the ordinary taxpayer down. We have grasped nettles in their interest and we will continue to do so.

What these reforms are about is the construction of a tax system that rewards work by easing the burden on the lower paid and taking as many people as possible out of the higher rate. I am sure the House will agree that a transparent, equitable and work-centred tax system is worth fighting for.

In the case of mortgage interest relief, the new provisions will ensure that the relief is of equal value to those on average and higher incomes and particular assistance is given to those who are getting into the housing market for the first time. If looked at objectively this system is far more sensible than a regime which is of greater benefit to those on the highest incomes.

It is important for taxpayers with mortgages to appreciate that the reduction in their allowances comes about mainly because their mortgage outlay has fallen very substantially compared with a year ago. This fall in interest rates is of course a reflection of general investor confidence in this Government's management of the economy. Taxpayers should look not just at their allowance for interest but also at the more important reduction in their mortgage payments [1032] over the past year. Overall, they will see that they are significantly better-off, because the net cost of the mortgages has declined, while their other tax allowances have risen significantly and the 1 per cent levy is no longer in the picture.

While first-time buyers' allowances will be affected by the adjustment for lower interest rates, they will now enjoy 100 per cent relief for the first five years of their mortgage and, from 1994-95, will no longer have the de minimis of £100 for a single person or £200 for a married person deducted from their allowable interest. Even taxpayers who first claimed mortgage interest relief as far back as 1990-91 will benefit for the coming year. This approach is a good example of this Government's attitude towards tax reliefs. Such reliefs should be carefully targeted so as to achieve clearly defined social objectives.

I want to emphasise that this Government is fully committed to the principle of owner occupation, and to giving reasonable assistance to families to acquire their own housing. The increase in the new house grant to £3,000 and the new mortgage interest relief concessions to first time buyers are tangible evidence of this commitment.

It should also be remembered that the tax reliefs on house purchase and mortgages are the equivalent of major Government expenditure. Mortgage interest relief will cost about £140 million in 1994-95 and the stamp duty exemption on new houses costs in the region of £30 million per year. The cost to the Department of the Environment in 1994 of new house grants is estimated at £16 million. This puts the combined annual cost of these pro-home ownership measures at about £186 million in 1994.

Even when standard rating of mortgage interest relief is fully implemented, there will still be very substantial assistance through the tax system — that is from the general body of taxpayers — to those people who borrow to buy a house.

The residential property tax as [1033] extended is both a modest measure of equity in the tax system and a contribution towards tilting the balance in the tax code more in favour of productive investment, which helps in creating and safeguarding employment. The present tax structure has tended to encourage more than necessary investment in housing. In particular, it has given rise to tax-driven trading-up, with an undue bias towards the purchase of dearer houses as investments, rather than homes. These views have been echoed in all major reports in the past 15 years including those from the Commission on Taxation, NESC, Culliton, the ESRI, the OECD and many independent bodies. The changes to the residential property tax announced in the budget constitute a modest element in the overall strategy for reducing the levels of income taxation and improving the equity of the tax system and for curtailing the relative tax advantages of investment in dearer residential property as compared with industrial and commercial investments.

The changes represent a very modest contribution to the income tax improvement package in the budget which I have already described and which will cost £330 million in a full year. The increased residential property tax charge in the vast bulk of cases will be far outweighed by income tax reliefs announced in the budget. For instance, a married couple with two children earning £30,000 will gain £630 from the mainstream income tax and levies reliefs. To put this in context, the residential property tax charge on a £100,000 house for that family will, following the adjustments I announced last week, be only £90, or less than £2 per week.

The fact that the increases in the residential property tax are modest should not be interpreted as being an indication that further increases are planned. I can confirm that there is no intention to reduce the thresholds further. While many economic reports have recommended the introduction of a comprehensive [1034] property tax, the changes in the long-standing and limited residential property tax are once-off and should not be interpreted as a first step on that road.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Why not? That does not tie in with what the Minister has been reading. He wants to have it both ways.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Minister without interruption.

Mr. B. Ahern:  As Deputy McDowell is aware if we were to introduce a comprehensive tax it would not be introduced in the manner in which the residential property tax was introduced.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Minister has made the arguments for that.

Mr. B. Ahern:  A modest tax has been introduced. I agree with the Deputy that there is no point in moving from £200,000 to £300,000 and killing the equity gap. The Deputy also supports mortgage interest relief and I am sure he agrees with my arguments.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I do.

Mr. B. Ahern:  It makes no sense, at a time when Government is actively seeking to encourage a flow of resources into job-creating investment in business and commercial ventures, to give signals through the tax system — both in interest relief and in exempting fully from the residential property tax many valuable residences — that the best repository for savings or borrowings is to acquire a dearer type of house. That has been the position for decades. That budget moves to redress the imbalance in tax treatment between investment in house property and areas which contribute directly to supporting employment, but in such a way as to maintain reasonable and equitable assistance towards owner-occupation and not imposing any property tax [1035] charge on people with average income or with houses not valued over £75,000.

The Government has identified a number of anomalies within the residential property tax scheme as it has existed until now which have caused hardship to certain specific categories of taxpayer and have adjusted the tax to deal with those anomalies. Those adjustments preserve the essential features of the budget proposal, particularly in terms of promoting employment; at the same time they cater for the more deserving anomalies in the scheme which have been highlighted in recent weeks.

The adjustments should eliminate possible hardship for elderly or incapacitated owner-occupiers of houses coming within the scope of the residential property tax. They cater for the situation where a houseowner needs to bring in a carer on account of his or her incapacity or, if widowed, on account of having dependent children. They also ensure that no household will be brought into charge to the RPT simply on account of caring for an elderly or incapacitated person. They further provide that no RPT charge will arise from alterations made to a property because one of the people living in the house is permanently incapacitated. A provision will also be introduced to give the Revenue Commissioners discretion to deal with possible hardship cases which are not covered by the various specific reliefs.

An important point, often overlooked, is that the child relief substantially reduces the actual charge for all families with dependent children. All residential property tax bills are reduced by 10 per cent for each eligible child in a household. Thus, where there are four children, the charge will be only three-fifths, or 60 per cent, of the full figure.

The income-related marginal relief serves to greatly reduce the actual residential property tax charge for people whose income is relatively close to the new income threshold of £25,000. Under [1036] the revised scheme marginal relief will be extended from £30,000 to £35,000 income. There will be a one-tenth reduction of the RPT charge for every £1,000 below £35,000. For example, where the household earnings are £30,000 the RPT charge will be reduced by 50 per cent. This means that all households with income between £25,000 and £35,000, including all those who benefited from marginal relief in 1993, will get income-related relief in 1994.

The Government has considered the argument that taxpayers should be allowed to set off an outstanding mortgage against the value of residential property. It has concluded that the existence of a mortgage is adequately recognised by the position that RPT does not apply to the first £75,000 of value and that interest on mortgages qualifies for income tax relief. At the same time, they are conscious that the RPT charge in respect of the larger family home increased quite sharply from the combined effect of the reduction in the value threshold and the increase in the rate to 2 per cent. The rate applying on the value between £100,000 and £150,000 will be reduced to 1½ per cent, the rate which applied prior to the budget, with the 2 per cent rate applying on the value in excess of £150,000. This will moderate by up to £250, the increase in the RPT charge on all properties valued in excess of £100,000. A phased payment system will be introduced as an option for those who would prefer not to pay in a single lump sum in October as is the present position.

The Government remains satisfied that the RPT as extended is fully justified as a modest contribution towards tilting the balance in the tax code more in favour of productive investment, which helps in creating and safeguarding employment, and also giving a greater measure of equity in the tax system. From the employment viewpoint, the relative tax advantages of investment in dearer housing can only be to the disadvantage of [1037] industrial and commercial investment which is essential for employment growth.

Neither the Fine Gael Party in general, nor its leader, Deputy John Bruton who tabled the motion, have any credibility in putting forward this motion.

In January 1982 Deputy John Bruton, as Minister for Finance, in the budget which was defeated in the Dáil decided at one fell swoop to limit to the standard rate mortgage interest relief for first time buyers.

Mr. Yates:  For new mortgages only.

Mr. B. Ahern:  The higher rate was 60 per cent at the time, so the impact would have been a good deal more severe than what will now happen, phased over four years. Was that policy consistent or inconsistent with what the motion describes as “the policy of successive Governments of supporting families in providing their own homes”? In the course of his speech at that time Deputy Bruton said:

While there is a case for assisting the general house-purchaser, there is no case for saying that the better-off he is, the more he should be assisted, as in fact happens under present arrangements.

Has the equity of the situation changed? I agree with what Deputy Bruton said at that time but I disagree that the provision could have been introduced in one year. It is a good policy. He followed the recommendations of the NESC report and the ESRI report at that time which Deputy Yates has condemned this evening as being out of hand tonight. Perhaps Fine Gael would explain the contradictions between this motion and what was agreed in Government.

It is clear that if Fine Gael had found itself in Government after the last election, it would be pursuing the same policies it is now condemning. Deputy Yates condemned both parties in Government [1038] about what was said on the matter. In the Jobs Economy of May 1992, which was explicitly endorsed as a fuller policy statement in their election manifesto of November 1992. Fine Gael stated that “commitments to making jobs top priority does mean confronting some traditional tax shelters”. They intended examining the question of raising more revenue from property taxes and defining more strictly the terms on which tax allowances are granted. The latter is a code word for the restriction of mortgage interest and VHI relief to the standard rate as has been known for 20 years.

Mr. Yates:  This Minister is grasping at straws.

Mr. B. Ahern:  In short, Fine Gael have a bare-faced effrontery in putting forward a motion that has no political integrity in terms of their past policies. But as the Taoiseach has often said, Fine Gael policies are here today, gone tomorrow. There is no consistency, no coherence, and no one has the foggiest idea what policies they stand for any more.

Mr. Yates:  That is good coming from the Minister.

Mr. B. Ahern:  I cannot help recalling what Deputy Bruton said in this House, after my first budget on 30 January in 1992, when he urged a once-off radical shift of the tax burden, saying that was something he hoped to do in Government.

At that time the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government had taken a radical step and removed a large number of reliefs, a policy I support as I have stated in budget speeches. As reported at columns 575-6 of the Official Report of 30 January 1992 Deputy Bruton said:

any Government that has attempted or contemplated timely radical tax reform was always afraid that there would be obscurantist criticism from [1039] the other side of the House, exploiting the fears of individual special interest groups, and that the Government would lose short term popularity as a result.

I have not been afraid to undertake tax reform, but Deputy Bruton was spot-on, when he predicted obscurantist criticism from the Opposition and the exploitation of fears for short term political gain? Is that not exactly what this motion is all about and are not the fine sentiments of two years ago contrasted with Fine Gael behaviour today?

In conclusion, I would ask the Dáil to reaffirm its support for the Government's budgetary strategy and to support the amended motion.

Mr. Lawlor:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Kenneally.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Lawlor:  After the initial reaction and high decibels of panic voiced that virtually all home owners would be affected by the property tax, the dust settled and the various independent bodies in the tax area and a number of correspondents in the national media assessed the residential property tax. It is very unedifying that Deputy Yates should make negative comments on the ESRI and NESC, bodies with representations from all walks of life, who for many years have been pushing politicians to introduce tax reform. When a modest step is made in this direction it becomes a political football.

There were anomalies in the tax as it was introduced and following detailed discussions with the Minister he announced modifications to correct them. The Minister clarified the position as regards elderly and incapacitated house owners, widows, householders with dependent children or elderly or [1040] incapacitated residents. It is hypocritical of Fine Gael to criticise this tax as when it first announced the introduction of such a tax there was concern in Castleknock in my constituency and speculation by small vested interests as to what was intended. Fine Gael's criticism of this tax is unacceptable as the modifications render it equitable.

Deputy Yates mentioned statistics and percentages, but he omitted to say that there has been a reduction in interest rates from 12 per cent to 4 per cent. There is no recognition of the removal of the 1 per cent levy.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Who introduced it?

Mr. Lawlor:  Those on very high incomes are asked to make a modest contribution. In future this tax, with service charges, will be seen as an effort to put local government financing on a sound footing. If those who are fortunate enough to have a high income do not contribute to this tax, I do not know how any major step will be made in tax reform. This is only a small step but one in the right direction. Governments will only be as efficient in running the country as they are in collecting taxes.

Everybody agrees that tax rates are too high. Statistics about various aspects of our position on the European league table have been articulated in detail by Deputy Yates, but the reality is that this is a modest step towards tax reform. People will eventually realise that the effects of this tax are not as great as they thought. Those being asked to make a modest contribution are in a position to do so. I hope that the tax will lead to better financing of local government and that the money collected is spent in the communities.

Mr. Kenneally:  I thank Deputy Lawlor for sharing his time with me. The Minister wondered how Deputy Bruton could explain the contradiction between this motion and the argument he made as a [1041] Minister. Fine Gael is consistent in being contradictory, and we only have to look back to the amnesty débâcle to realise that. One term mentioned over and over again in debates since the budget is “tax reform”. Speaker after speaker from the Opposition spoke about the need for tax reform and decried the fact that we did not introduce it in the 1994 budget. The problem is that people equate tax reform with tax reduction. If we are to reduce income tax we must reduce public expenditure or find the money elsewhere. Fine Gael has failed to identify where the money necessary to run the country can be found.

One measure of tax reform is the residential property tax, which has excited much comment. This tax was recommended by the National Economic and Social Council. It is a true tax-reforming measure but it is designed to bring in only a small amount of money this year. Even though the Minister for Finance has taken a small step in the direction of reform, the amount of comment the measure has attracted has been incredible. The whole country is crying out for tax reform, but when something is done in this regard the Government is criticised. What would the Opposition benches say if a greater reforming measure had been introduced? Calls for reform are made in puppet fashion and, despite various statements by Opposition Deputies from time to time, it is obvious they are not serious about these requests.

I was glad balance was introduced to the debate on the residential property tax on a recent radio show. One of our top broadcasters, as is his wont, had been peddling one line since the introduction of the budget.

Mr. Yates:  He was muzzled.

Mr. Kenneally:  A financial journalist who was invited to comment on the various issues took a fair and balanced view of the tax.

[1042]Mr. M. McDowell:  A socialist view of the world.

Mr. Kenneally:  Some of the reactions to this tax have been emotional and hysterical. For example, one person who had his house valued at £70,000 decided against building an extension, which would cost in the region of £10,000, lest he would be caught in the property tax net although he would be liable for only £25 per year. We must bear in mind that this same family probably saved £700 a year as a result of other measures in the budget.

I heard people outside the House, and Deputy Yates this evening, say that this tax is anti-Dublin. Perhaps the Deputy is suggesting that while residential tax is paid on houses valued £75,000 in Dublin, it should be paid on houses valued £50,000 or £60,000 in Wexford and other parts of the country in other words, that the threshold in respect of houses in areas outside Dublin should be different from that applying in Dublin.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Tonights's debate has been characterised by an amusing willingness on the part of the Minister for Finance to lecture this House on the need for tax reform and a jelly-like unwillingness to go down that road.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Standard rating.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Minister for Finance has told the House that he believes in widening the tax base.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Standard rating.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I will come to that in a minute. The Minister should calm down — if he takes his criticism he will then get his plaudits.

The Minister told us why it is necessary to shift the burden of taxation from employment to other areas of the economy. However, he then said he may not do any more in this regard next year, this [1043] may be the end of the process. This is extraordinary. He believes in widening the tax base for one purpose, for castigating others, but in case he gives rise to a scare that the process might go one inch further he wants to reassure the voters in the European elections, the by-elections and local elections that he can also stand on the proposition that it may not go further; in other words, this process of tax reform which is so important to castigate some people with may not go one jot further and people should relax as there is no great danger in it.

I agree with the points made by the Minister about mortgage interest relief. I disagree fundamentally with Fine Gael on that issue. It may be unfortunate that there is not uniformity among the Opposition parties on this issue but the Progressive Democrats Party has stated at all times that there should be tax credits instead of tax allowances and all breaks should be equally valuable to the Joe Soap at the bottom of the ladder as they are to the person at the top of the ladder. I refuse in this House or anywhere else to say there is any moral justification for making mortgage interest a tax relief worth twice to the wealthy man what is it to the poor man. I defy any Member to indicate any moral or political basis on which such a statement is even remotely justifiable, save that our tax rates are so high and so anti-enterprise that those who are paying the top rate demand unjust treatment vis-à-vis those who are paying the bottom rate. It is a consequence of our unfair tax system that people will not allow tax allowances to be converted into tax credits. I stand for tax credits and I do not believe that there is any justifiable argument for retaining any further tax allowances.

When the Progressive Democrats Party was in Government with Fianna Fáil it made the arguments for tax credits. We were constantly told by the Department of Finance that it would be too difficult to do this. However, it has now [1044] set about doing this on mortgage interest relief over a four year period. There is no reason this should not apply to tax, personal allowances and so on. This could be done if there was an appetite for this radical change but there is not.

The extension of the residential property tax in the budget has caused a revolt among the middle income group. Deputy Lawlor is mistaken if he thinks he has got away with it. When he calls to the doors in the forthcoming elections he will be hammered on this issue for a number of reasons.

Mr. Yates:  The Strawberry Beds.

Mr. M. McDowell:  It has been claimed by the Labour Party that there has been an unthinking, anti-tax, kneejerk reaction to this tax. This is not the case. I want to examine this tax which was introduced at the behest of the Labour Party when it was in Government with Fine Gael. It was not introduced as part of the present tax process. When Labour entered Government in 1973 less than 3 per cent of taxpayers paid tax above the standard rate but when it left Government in 1987, some 14 years later, it had managed, through its policies and ideological basis, to raise the number of taxpayers paying tax above the standard rate from 3 per cent to 43 per cent. Labour brought surtax to the masses and is now bringing an unfair property tax to those poor benighted middle class people who were so foolish to vote for that party in the last general election.

The residential property tax is an ideological wealth tax restricted to one form of asset, the family home. It was introduced as a tax which would not be paid by Labour Party supporters but rather as a tax which would, as the Minister's budget speech showed, be paid by a privileged few. Denied the possibility of a general wealth tax which had gone so disastrously wrong between 1973-77, the Tánaiste in a previous Coalition Government insisted on the imposition of a 1.5 [1045] per cent wealth tax on the value of the homes of a small minority whom he politically despised. When he lost office in 1987 he went back to the drawing board and when in Opposition in 1988 he called for the imposition of a property tax which, as Deputy Yates correctly pointed out, applied to 2 per cent of the value of houses in excess of £25,000 and 3 per cent on the value of houses in excess of £100,000. This would have meant a liability of £1,000 each year for a person who owned a £75,000 house and £4,500 each year for someone living in a £200,000 house. That is the Dick Spring agenda and let nobody mistake it.

Back in Government in 1994, he has persuaded his partners to introduce three rates of residential property tax, 1 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent. He claims to be proud of this tax. We were told that the recently announced changes would reduce the anticipated annual yield of £5 million by 40 per cent and that the elderly, disabled and those on incomes between £25,000-£35,000 would get some relief. So what? In reality the tax is just as obnoxious, just as arbitrary, more bureaucratic and even less worthwhile collecting than it was before the Minister announced his recent concessions.

If the extension of the residential property tax was all about raising £5 million and we were assured there would be no further widening of the tax base in next year's budget, as the Minister has hinted, then the RPT never had anything to do with tax reform let alone radical tax reform. If any of the defensive rhetoric we have heard from the Minister tonight is in any way truthful then residential property tax was never designed to raise more than a couple of pence on a gallon of petrol. If that order of shift in the tax burden could produce radical pro-jobs tax reform it would have been done years ago.

The residential property tax was never intended, and never had the potential, to form part of the process of tax reform. [1046] The Labour Party proved this between 1982-87 when it massively increased taxes on work. The RPT was not introduced for the purpose of taking tax off work; it was part of the Labour Party's socialist ideology. This is why the Progressive Democrats Party has always opposed the residential property tax. We have been accused of doing a u-turn on this issue but this is most emphatically untrue. At our first national conference in the National Stadium on the South Circular Road in 1986 we committed ourselves to abolishing residential property tax. There was a motion from the floor which stated, “do that but remember something has to be done for local government”. In 1988 we produced a document on widening the tax base which suggested, for example, converting all allowances into credits and a series of radical steps to eliminate employees PRSI and transform the tax system. There was a commitment in that document to abolish the residential property tax.

The reason we are against the residential property tax is that it is unfair. In 1986 and 1988 we accepted, as we do today, that the cost of local government should be taken off employment taxes and that it should be raised by charges imposed by local authorities for services given by them provided two conditions are met: first, that for every penny raised by local authorities there must be a corresponding cut in the central tax on work and, second, that local government must be radically transformed to make it efficient and to eliminate waste.

When we entered Government in 1989, as soon as we got our foot into the Cabinet room, we asked that the issue of transferring taxation from work to local government revenue raising be addressed. We insisted in the Programme for Government 1989-93 that a select all-party committee be established to report on local authority funding within one year. However, when we came before this House with that proposal the three [1047] Opposition parties boycotted the idea and nothing was done.

I have given the Minister plaudits for the changes in mortgage interest relief and I now want to make him a generous offer. The Progressive Democrats Party reiterates its willingness to participate on an all-party basis in a select committee of this House which would have as its terms of reference the examination of a substantial transfer of the cost of local government from centrally imposed employment taxes to locally raised charges by a radically transformed system of local government. We invite the Government to take us up on that offer. It will not face obscurantist criticism if it attempts to do it on an all-party basis. We offered that to the other parties when we were in Government with Fianna Fáil and now from an Opposition perspective we generously and uniquely offer to participate in the same process, even though it could be to our advantage to embarrass the Government and hoist it on its own petard.

In the meantime we repeat our radical and wholehearted opposition to the present unfair, arbitrary and unworkable system of residential property tax and we commit ourselves in this House and before the electorate yet again to its repeal. We identify the following unfair aspects of the tax: it does not go, as Deputy Lawlor pointed out, to local government. Indeed, it is used by the Exchequer to pay the equivalent of the cost to the Exchequer of the special advisers and the Government jet; it is anti-family in that it aggregates family income in an arbitrary way. Deputy Yates gave some examples of this earlier and I have one more to add to the myriad of examples that one could give. Four earning adults with a combined income of £40,000 and living in a house worth £150,000 will pay a substantial amount of residential property tax but if they divide into two households in houses worth £75,000 they pay nothing. Four people [1048] in a house, therefore, each earning well below the average industrial wage, can pay radically different tax bills depending on whether they live in one household or in two. If that is not arbitrary, unfair and anti-family, I do not know what is. Why do four people, depending on whether they share one house or two houses, have radically different tax bills even though the sum total of their incomes and assets is exactly the same?

This tax is exhorbitant. The 2 per cent rate, even though it is now moderated at 1.5 per cent is too much to ask people to pay. It is far too much to ask somebody who, for whatever reason, lives in a house worth £300,000 or £400,000 to come up with 2 per cent of the value of a significant proportion of that, especially out of after tax income. In many cases, even with the marginal relief the Minister has mentioned, and it must be remembered that on £34,000 one is paying 90 per cent of the tax one would otherwise pay, there are huge sums of money involved. As Deputy Yates has pointed out, what people get after the PAYE machine has mauled their income is not their income for the purposes of this tax. Other items are taken into account which are not the subject of net tax.

This tax is anti-Dublin and anti-urban. I do not accept Deputy Kenneally's mischievous point that those people who say that this tax is anti-Dublin must be, by implication, asking for some lower threshold to be applied in other parts of the country. It is anti-Dublin when people living in Dublin can pay twice as much residential property tax as people living in identical houses in other parts of the country. Most people do not choose to live in Dublin for the privilege of paying higher prices for their house. Most people who have to pay a higher price for their houses in order to live in Dublin deeply regret that. Most people want to live in a good home, bring up their children in reasonable circumstances and they bitterly resent the notion that people who live in identical circumstances in [1049] other areas are not liable whereas they are liable to a penal tax.

Residential property tax amounts to savage double taxation of income. The central Exchequer has come up with another way to attack income. As Deputy Yates said, it is not really a property tax at all; it is an income tax based on a type of lottery system of allowances. It is an aggregation of family incomes in order to tax people who happen to live together. All those characteristics render this tax extremely unfair, arbitrary and wrong and I defy anybody to contradict the proposition that this tax is unfair. It does not exist in other European countries. As Deputy Yates said, if the poll tax had been put forward, somebody in the ESRI might have had the brass neck to say it was defensible because it was a move towards widening the tax base but this is much more unfair, much more arbitrary and much less defensible than the poll tax which was a political millstone around the necks of its architects. This tax will be a tombstone around the necks of many politicians in this House who think they got away with a smart bit of manoeuvring in the past week.

If I had devised RPT I would be ashamed of it. If the ESRI examined a proposal to introduce a tax such as RPT I would expect it to show some basic understanding of the concepts of equity, fairness and tax efficiency. In its recent commentary on the subject it has shown nothing but blind prejudice.

Apart from all of this, residential property tax is unworkable. Self assessment — and this is another reason why it is unfair — in an area as subjective and as volatile as the value of houses, is at best unpredictable and at worst it turns residential property tax into a tax on honesty. It was shocking to hear the Minister suggest recently that one of the mitigating features of this tax is that people would tend to underestimate the value of their homes. That is true, but if that is the best defence the Minister can come up with for a tax, that people will unconscionably [1050] cheat the revenue, it is a poor lookout in terms of the fairness of the tax. That suggestion was a prime example of rewarding those with the brass necks; those with brass necks hold on to their brass. It is the same fiscal thuggery that gave us the tax amnesty.

As a tax, residential property tax is dead. As a reform measure, this year's budget gave tax reform a bad name. The Minister heralded this budget as a pro-jobs, tax reforming budget; the reality is turning out to be very different. Taxpayers are paying more this year in income tax than they did last year. The abolition of the 1 per cent levy, which all the Minister's backbench supporters tonight are heralding as an achievement, was introduced by the Minister who is coming in here looking for credit for abolishing it. As political brass neck that takes some beating.

Mr. Yates:  Nine carat.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The cost to Guinness of paying PRSI in this year's budget is an additional £1.2 million on their payroll costs. Is that pro-jobs? When there are redundancies in St. James' Gate because it has to come up with an additional £1 million and decides to move its production——

Mr. B. Ahern:  It will hardly do that with profits of £100 million.

Mr. M. McDowell:  It will make more profits and will employ fewer people.

Mr. B. Ahern:  That has nothing to do with PRSI.

Mr. M. McDowell:  That is what it is all about. If the Minister increases payroll costs more machines will be brought into use; that is what profit is all about.

Mr. B. Ahern:  It will do it anyway, unfortunately.

[1051]Mr. M. McDowell:  The Progressive Democrats are unambiguously committed, to the earliest possible repeal of the residential property tax as part of a tax reform programme which will deal, as Deputy Lawlor says it must, with the reform of local government finances. We will not reintroduce rates which were arbitrary and unfair, but a radically transformed local government, having privatised many of its services, can raise a large portion of its revenue by a fair and transparent system of charges. We do not believe that a society with 300,000 people out of work can or ought to finance local government services by extra employment taxes and we have always said so. We are not opposed to all taxes on property. Indeed, Deputy O'Malley and I have pointed out that the slide, relatively speaking, between taxation on property and taxation in other areas is one of the major problems with our tax system, but we are opposed to an unworkable, unfair, arbitrary and discriminatory ideological tax of this kind.

I guarantee this tax will be repealed. The reason its extension in this year's budget caused such a furore was precisely because it is so unfair. It is interesting to note that in a recent telephone survey, 7 per cent of people voted for the residential property tax as it stands; 21 per cent voted in favour of modifying it, but 72 per cent voted in favour of paying a local government levy for services charged in an equitable manner. That is what the people will accept and it is that on which people want leadership. Deputy Lawlor had the savvy to know that when push comes to shove it is in that direction radical tax reform will take place. He said he hoped that, in the next year's budget, that will be achieved. I am telling him that, unless this Government has a change of heart now, and admits that residential property tax is for the birds, it will not have anything ready for next year. It will have the same old row at the Cabinet table, the same old ideologists who think by insisting on taxes of [1052] this kind they are doing something for socialism long after it has died everywhere else in Europe.

Debate adjourned.

Mr. Rabbitte:  If it is agreeable, I should like to give one minute of my time to Deputy Yates.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The cursory two sentence announcement by the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday last that Davy Stockbrokers had been fined £150,000 as a result of their mishandling of the sale of the State's 30 per cent shareholding in Greencore is just the lastest unsatisfactory twist in what has been a bizarre affair. Despite the fact that the London Stock Exchange had conducted a disciplinary investigation which apparently extended over ten days, the statement gave no account of the evidence it had heard and provided no explanation as to Davy's conduct. Were it not for the fact that Davy Stockbrokers themselves asked that the statement be issued we would not have known that the investigation had been concluded or that a penalty had been imposed.

It is now almost 12 months since irregularities in the handling of the sale of the Greencore shares came to light but the public are no wiser about the real story than they were in May last. When the story broke on 6 May last and the suspension of the sale of the shares was disclosed it led to an emergency debate in the Dáil. At that time we were promised three separate investigations into the affair, by the Office of the Attorney General, by the Dublin Stock Exchange and by the London Stock Exchange. All these investigations have now been concluded but the questions remain unanswered.

[1053] Pledges were given that there would be no cover-up, that the full facts of this episode would be disclosed. The Minister for Finance told the House on 6 May last that he would not know if the deal on the shares had been carried out illegally until legal advice was available and the various investigations concluded. On 20 May last the president of the Dublin Stock Exchange said that the report would be completed and published within a number of weeks.

We were led to believe that the investigation by the London Stock Exchange was the key one, that that was the inquiry which would provide the answers. However, the only conclusion that can be drawn from the statement issued on Wednesday last is that the Stock Exchange has nothing but contempt for the public interest or for the principle that the public have a right to information on matters which are of legitimate interest to them. The public have a right to have these questions answered. The 30 per cent shareholding in Greencore, worth £70 million, which Davy Stockbrokers were entrusted to sell was the property of taxpayers. If the sale had collapsed taxpayers stood to lose heavily.

I have always been sceptical about the adequacy of internal inquiries conducted by bodies like the Stock Exchange. The delay in completing the inquiry and the unsatisfactory statement from the Stock Exchange have simply reinforced my concerns. Stockbroking firms are immensely powerful and influential concerns, with an influence that goes far beyond the floor of the Stock Exchange. I do not believe that a self-monitoring arrangement is adequate.

It is time for the mystery and secrecy which surrounds the machinations of the Stock Exchange to be swept aside. I find it particularly unsatisfactory that an investigation of a matter of such importance to the Dáil and Irish taxpayers should be entrusted to some faceless stockbrokers from the city of London. Whatever interests these people were [1054] likely to put first, it was unlikely to be those of the Irish taxpayer.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has now shifted his position and is demanding that Davys explain why they have been reprimanded and fined. In his initial response the Minister said: “The Stock Exchange is a self-regulatory organisation and under its rules it must require the proceedings of the inquiry to remain confidential”. I do not know what has provoked the Minister's change of position but this is one U-turn I heartily welcome. I hope he will insist that all relevant information is disclosed. He has some of the answers already since a separate investigation was undertaken by the Attorney General to review the factual circumstances of the placing from a legal point of view. On 12 October last the Minister told me that he did not wish “to prejudice the ongoing Stock Exchange investigation by making any comment touching upon the Attorney General's advice” and added “It will be a matter for the Government to decide whether to publish the report when the Stock Exchange inquiry has been finalised”. The Stock Exchange inquiry has now been finalised and has been shown to be most unsatisfactory. The Government should go ahead and publish the result of the Attorney General's inquiry.

Mr. Yates:  I thank Deputy Rabbitte. I hope to return the favour some time.

This lack of accountability is totally unacceptable. I agree with all Deputy Rabbitte has said. I am glad the Minister has shifted his position because he had welcomed the statement on Wednesday about which I was horrified.

There are three questions I want answered. The Minister sold the shares, he is accountable to the taxpayer and must obtain these answers. On the day of the sale were the buyers told that all the stock had been sold? A statement was issued by the Dublin Stock Exchange indicating that people had been misled. Was that the case? Will the Minister [1055] answer “yes” or “no”? There are supposed to be tapes available. There was a deal in place that the unsold stock would be bought by Warburg, a London merchant bank. Why was that not executed? They were there to pick up the unwanted stock, yet they did not do so. Finally, the shares were sold on a Friday. Why was it almost a week later before they notified people that they had broken the rules of Greencore, regarding ownership of more than 15 per cent and that they had broken the rules of the Stock Exchange by not disclosing that they had more than a 3 per cent interest. Why the delay in coming forward? The conclusion was that their activity was detrimental to the activities of the Stock Exchange. What offence did they commit? We must have answers to those questions.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  I thank Deputy Rabbitte for raising this issue and affording me an opportunity of saying a few words on the matter.

The International Stock Exchange, of which the Irish Stock Exchange is a unit, is the appropriate body to investigate and determine this case. My officials have cooperated with the extensive, thorough inquiry conducted by the Stock Exchange over the ten months since it began in May 1993. My officials probably were put through the ring two or three times.

Under Stock Exchange rules the disciplinary committee determines charges against member firms and may impose penalties ranging from explusion from membership to a reprimand, which is the least severe penalty. In addition, a fine may be imposed. Under the rules the Council of the Stock Exchange, at its discretion, may notify the public of the fact that a member has been reprimanded if the member so requests. It is only in cases where a member has been censured, suspended or expelled that the Council must notify the public of the circumstances involved in such manner as it thinks fit.

[1056] In the case of Davy Stockbrokers the Stock Exchange announced on 16 March 1994 that the disciplinary committee had found that their conduct, in some unspecified respects, was detrimental to the interests of the Stock Exchange and that Davys had been reprimanded and fined £150,000. I understand that statement was issued at the request of Davy Stockbrokers.

On Wednesday last I welcomed the fact that Davys at least allowed us to know that the matter had been concluded and that they were actually making a statement in regard to the fine. At that stage I and others thought that we would receive at least some confidential information with regard to what had happened. That remains my position. While I can understand their reason for not making public all the information available—I know this has occurred in numerous countries — at least I would have expected to have been furnished with such information. I then realised that even I do not receive any data.

I wrote to Davy Stockbrokers yesterday, 21 March 1994, asking them to disclose in some detail the grounds on which they were found to have acted in a manner detrimental to the interests of the Stock Exchange and to ascertain the charges against them which were proceeded with. I expect to receive a reply within the next few days. Until then I will not be in a position to assess what further action, if any, may be required.

I remind Deputies that the Exchequer suffered no less whatsoever in the placing and that the full proceeds of £69,872,460, based on the sale of all the 25.4 million shares at 275 pence per share, were lodged with the Exchequer on 17 May 1993. In addition, advice fees and commissions totalling £725,000 in connection with the placing were waived by Davy Stockbrokers.

The case may have implications for the draft legislation for the regulation of the Stock Exchange and its members at present in course of finalisation. Deputy [1057] Yates raised the matter today and this gives me an opportunity to answer. The Irish Exchange is an integral part of the International London Exchange. However, when the legislation is passed it will be a separate exchange and will come under the supervision of the Central Bank. It is envisaged that the Central Bank will delegate certain responsibilities to the Stock Exchange, making use of the knowledge of practitioners, but within a strong statutory framework with ultimate responsibility residing with the Central Bank.

I am reviewing the draft legislation to ensure that both the bank, under statute and the exchange, under delegated authority and through its rules, will have adequate powers of enforcement.

Under the proposed legislation an investigation by the Stock Exchange involving breaches of codes of conduct, and the imposition of penalties for such breaches, would continue to be dealt with in the rules of the Stock Exchange but these rules will be subject to the approval of the Central Bank as regulator. In approving such rules the bank will be obliged to take account of any guidelines which I may issue, with the consent of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, in accordance with the legislation.

When these guidelines are being drawn up they will take account of the public policy requirement of stock exchange investigations. However, the rules of the exchange must maintain a judicious balance between the publication of investigations and the public interest on the one hand and the efficient operation of the market and commercial confidentiality on the other.

The bank will also have the power to investigate matters relating to the stock exchange generally. These will be similar to the powers of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment under the Comapanies Act, 1990.

I will deal with these matters at greater length when I introduce legislation. From the point of view of the Department of [1058] Finance, work on the legislation is finished but a large number of constitutional issues has arisen. I regret the delay in introducing it. Because the legislation dates back to 1799 and is very complex the Attorney General and the parliamentary draftsman have been directly involved for many months and I expect that outstanding issues will be resolved shortly.

Ms F. Fitzgerald:  I thank you for the opportunity to raise the important topic of the proposed closure of St. Anne's girls' national school, Milltown. This topic should be discussed as it raises several serious questions about school closures, the rights of parents and families of children attending schools and the role of the Church in education.

St. Anne's is a unique primary school in that it caters for children with special needs and children from the travelling community as well as the regular mainstream classes. Can the Minister clarify the role of the Department of Education in the proposed closure of this school; what advice, if any, the Department offered about closure; whether she is satisfied with the procedures followed in this case and if the school is to close what provision is to be made for the children attending St. Anne's primary school?

I raised with the Minister for Education the shortage of primary school places in the surrounding areas of Ranelagh, Donnybrook and Rathgar. This primary school is in a developing area. The Sisters of Charity are the trustees. There are 150 pupils attending the school and increasing enrolments are expected in the coming years. There are senior and junior special classes and the building is in good repair. A letter from the trustees to all parents stated that the school will close in the 1994-95 school year. The parents state that this decision was made without sufficient consultation with all [1059] the partners in education and it has sent shock waves to the parents of the children attending the school.

It is extraordinary in this day and age, that without prior consultation or agreement with parents, a decision has been taken to close the school. There is major anxiety among parents and children about the alternative possibilities of children having to travel outside the area — vulnerable children in the classes for pupils with special needs and travellers. There have been rumours for some time but no definite information.

At the behest of the school principal, I approached the Department of Education last year with two requests, for a once-off grant of £20,000 and the retention of the administrative principal. I was informed that the Department was unable to provide the money. What part has the refusal to this request played in the decision to close the school and what were the consequences of that refusal? Is it true that a letter recommending closure was issued from the Department? This needs to be clarified.

I understand that the board, by a majority decision, decided that alternative proposals which would illustrate the financial viability of the school should be presented to the trustees. The trustees said they were concerned about the decline in enrolment, increasing debts and cost of maintenance of school buildings. In reply, parents and teachers say that the decline in enrolments is due in part to the lack of commitment shown to the school by the trustees during the past eight years and parents have become nervous about sending their children to this school. Will the Minister agree that constant rumours about a school creates an unsatisfactory situation? Parents and teachers would also say that no apparent maintenance work to the building is required at present. Do the trustees wish to withdraw from education for commercial rather than educational reasons? What is the Minister's view on this?

[1060] I understand that Dublin Corporation has already been approached for consultation on the lands in Milltown prior to planning permission being sought. The population of Milltown is growing rapidly. Many parents believe it is vital that the only Catholic primary school in the parish remains open. It is clear also that the continuity which the special class offers is very important in St. Anne's. It is the only one of its type in the country in that it provides continuous education right up to leaving certificate standard.

I understand that parents and teachers would like to see this school continue and flourish. Parents should not have been taken almost completely unawares. They are in a state of severe shock at the news and are uncertain about their children's future. I am aware of the difficulties involved but the Department of Education who provide the money for such schools must have a say in establishing guidelines to ensure that similar problems do not arise in the future.

The Catholic Church has been keen to maintain and have an input into new schools, for example, in Dunboyne. Here, the trustees are pulling out of education despite the wishes of the parents, the teachers and the local community that the school continue to provide a service to an expanding area. Can this school be handed over to the local community?

We have a crisis in St. Anne's girls' national school in Milltown which should never have arisen for either the children, parents or teachers involved. I look forward to the comments of the Minister of State.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward):  I thank Deputy Fitzgerald for raising this matter. As she is probably aware, it was raised earlier in the Seanad.

St. Anne's national school for girls, Milltown, is a convent school, the trustees of which are the Irish Sisters of Charity. For a number of years the trustees and board of management of the [1061] school have been considering the future of the school in the light of difficulties which have arisen. The school experienced a sharp decline in enrolments in recent years, from 450 to 128 in the current school year, and enrolments are projected to decline further. Up to 85 per cent of the pupils come from outside the Milltown parish so it cannot be regarded, in any sense, as a parish school. There is a considerable debt arising from the day to day running of the school and this is increasing annually. There are separate financial difficulties involved in maintaining a large building to cater for a relatively small number or pupils. It has been estimated also that significant capital expenditure would be required to bring the building up to reasonable standard.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the trustees of the school have now announced that the school will close from the end of the 1994-95 school year. The Department is aware that this decision is not acceptable to parents and teachers in the school and I appreciate the concern expressed by parents and teachers. However, the final decision on the closure of the school rests with the patron and trustees. Every effort will be made to ensure that pupils will be adequately accommodated into other national schools. The position of the teachers currently serving in the school will also be considered carefully.

Mr. Finucane:  I call on the Minister to appoint a shared remedial teacher for Monagea national school, Templeglantine national school and Dromtrasna national school in County Limerick. There is a great relationship and co-operation between these neighbouring schools and they make a practical unit being so close together. The distance from Monagea school to Templeglantine school is four miles and from Templeglantine [1062] to Dromtrasna school is over three miles.

Monagea national school has 147 pupils, Templeglantine national school has 132 pupils and Dromtrasna national school has 98 pupils, a combined total of 377 pupils. The pupils attending Monagea and Dromtrasna schools come from a mixed urban and rural background and many would benefit greatly from the help of a remedial teacher. There is also a need in Dromtrasna school. Four children whose parents are German attend this school and need special help in all aspects of the curriculum, especially English. Each of the three schools has accommodation available for a remedial teacher.

Over a considerable period consultations have taken place with the principals, teachers, parents and boards of management and it is recognised that a remedial teacher would be of great benefit to many of the children. The Department of Education will allocate an additional 100 remedial teachers during 1994 on the basis of priority of need. I request the Minister to allocate a remedial teacher to these schools.

Mr. Aylward:  I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. As he knows, and as I indicated to the House on several occasions, remedial education at primary level is a matter in the first instance for the ordinary class teachers. The majority of pupils with remedial needs would, therefore, be helped within the scope of the normal service.

However, it is acknowledged that remedial teachers constitute the main additional resource for addressing the problem of underachievement in primary schools. It was with this in mind that a further 86 posts were allocated for remedial purposes out of the quota of posts made available under the Programme for a Partnership Government for the school year 1993/94.

These appointments were made following the collection of information from [1063] schools by the Department's primary inspectorate. The posts were then allocated on the basis of priority of need, as indicated by the information collected. There were applications from in excess of 1,100 schools for these posts and, in all, 308 schools benefited from the allocation.

This latest allocation brings to 1,033 the total number of remedial teachers operating within the primary school sector at present. Of the 3,209 ordinary national schools in the country, approximately 1,700 have the services of a remedial teacher either on a full-time or shared basis. As a result of the current level of service, 77 per cent of all primary school pupils have access to remedial support. At this stage, all primary schools with enrolments above 362 pupils, which sought a remedial service, have at least one remedial teacher and many more smaller schools have the service on a shared basis.

Of the 148 ordinary national schools in County Limerick, 78 have the services of a remedial teacher either on a full-time or shared basis. This includes four schools allocated a remedial service in the current [1064] school year as part of the national distribution under the Programme for a Partnership Government. This latest allocation means that 77 per cent of pupils attending national schools in County Limerick currently enjoy a remedial service.

Current demographic trends will give further opportunities to allocate additional teacher posts to support pupils with special needs in 1994. As part of this development, it is intended to allocate 100 of these posts to provide additional remedial support in national schools.

I assure the Deputy that the needs of the schools referred to by him will be considered in the context of this development.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy John O'Leary was selected by me to raise a matter on the Adjournment. However, I understand the Deputy is unavoidably absent and wishes to extend his apologies to the House, the Minister and the Department concerned.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 March 1994.

[779]

  7.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he intends to extend the postal vote in the European Parliament elections which take place on 9 June 1994 to citizens temporarily resident abroad for a maximum of two years provided that they have a definite intention to return within that period, in a manner reasonably secure from abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  In accordance with the Treaty on European Union, Irish citizens resident in any member state of the Union are entitled to vote and stand for election to the European Parliament in their country of residence on the same basis as nationals of the country concerned. Thus, an Irish citizen, whether resident here or in any other member state, will have full voting rights at the elections in June. There are no proposals for further changes in voting arrangements at these elections.

  20.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for the Environment    the action, if any, he has taken to date to implement EC Directive, 78/659/EEC; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  EC Directive 78/659/EEC is implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Quality of Salmonid Waters) Regulations, 1988. These regulations prescribe quality standards for salmonid water and designate the waters to which they apply, together with the sampling programmes and the methods of analysis and inspection to be used. Local authorities carry out sampling as required on the 33 rivers and tributaries designated.

In the event of any non-compliance with the standards set in the regulations, the local authority concerned is obliged to establish the reasons and adopt an action programme to reduce pollution and to ensure that the standards are compiled with. The Directive allows member states to make additional designations or to revise designations owing to factors unforeseen at the time of designation. [780] My Department is at present considering the possibility of designating further waters to which the Directive's requirements would be applied.

  24.  Mr. Harte    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will withdraw the requirement of tax numbers on applications for essential repairs and disabled persons' housing grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  As part of the programme of measures to improve tax administration, the payment of grants by public authorities, including local authorities, is conditional on applicants for grants such as essential repairs and disabled persons grants, furnishing certain details of their tax affairs, including a tax reference number and confirming that, to the best of their knowledge, their tax affairs are in order. I have no proposals to change these requirements in the case of these grants.

  25.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for the Environment    if all local authorities have been requested to draw up energy conservation programmes for their own buildings and houses scheme; the savings achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The main potential for energy savings in local authority property would arise in relation to their housing schemes. All new local authority houses constructed since 1 June 1992, and all refurbishment works carried out under the remedial works scheme since that date, are required to comply with the Building Regulations, 1992, which have advanced requirements for thermal efficiency. Prior to June 1992, local authority housing would have had lesser, but still significant, thermal efficiency under the earlier Proposed Building Regulations. [781] The older houses, in common with older private houses, would have relatively low thermal efficiency, rectification of which in a structural sense would require commitment of considerable resources but there are other good practices which can be applied without the commitment of such resources.

I am at present considering how best to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government in relation to local authority houses and other property in the light of considerations such as these.

  27.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he is concerned at recent media reports that the proposed Liffey Tunnel project has not been fully and fairly evaluated; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  43.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for the Environment    his views on whether the development of the proposed northern leg of the port access and eastern relief route will increase efficiency, provide a more effective service and reduce costs for the hauliers who presently have to use inadequate residential routes for port access; and if he will support the development of the northern leg of the port access.

  208.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Minister for the Environment    his decision on which option to adopt for Dublin's north city port access.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 43 and 208 together.

The draft final report of the Dublin Transportation Initiative recommends that access to Dublin Port should be tackled by a combination of management and infrastructural measures. These would involve the phased introduction of a heavy goods vehicle management system throughout the city, particularly in the city centre, and the construction of a single carriageway port access route —[782] mostly in tunnel — from the north port to the airport motorway at Whitehall. It also recommends that the use of the route by private cars be tolled.

I am aware of the recent media reports on the evaluation of the Liffey Tunnel project. I understand that the DTI Study Team and Technical Committee took particular care to ensure that each of the three infrastructure options for access to Dublin Port was fully assessed on an equal footing. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further pending the completion by the DTI committees of their consideration of the draft final report and the formal submissions of the report to me.

  29.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of new houses built in this country for each of the last five years.

  211.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of new houses built in each of the last five years.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 211 together.

The number of new dwellings completed in each of the last five years was as follows: 1989 — 18,068; 1990 — 19,539; 1991 — 19,652; 1992 — 22,464 and 1993 — 21,390.

  31.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for the Environment    the proposals, if any, he has to curb or prohibit the use of hand-held telephones by motorists driving along the public roadway; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I have no proposals at present to introduce a specific prohibition on the use of hand-held telephones by motorists while driving as I am satisfied that such [783] use can be dealt with under section 52 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, which deals with driving without due care and attention. An offence under that section carries a maximum fine of £350, or at the discretion of the court, a prison term of up to three months, or both, together with, on a third or subsequent offence within three years, a disqualification from driving for at least six months.

The latest edition of the “Rules of the Road” advises of the dangers arising from the use of a hand-held telephone by the driver of a vehicle while it is in motion and recommends that drivers stop at a safe location before making or receiving a call on a hand-held telephone or two-way radio.

  33.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Environment    the funding that was provided in 1993 to Rural Resettlement Ireland; and the plans, if any, he has to continue its support and ensure the much needed development of this organisation.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  A direct grant of £40,000 towards administrative and general expenses was made by my Department to Rural Resettlement Ireland Limited in 1993. I expect to inform the organisation shortly of the amount of the grant to be allocated in 1994 and I have, in the meantime, indicated to it that I am prepared to make an interim payment immediately on submission of its accounts for 1993. The full range of existing housing schemes, in particular shared ownership, is of course available for the promotion of rural resettlement.

  38.  Mr. Deasy    asked the Minister for the Environment    the plans, if any, he has for making moneys available for central heating in the homes of elderly people which have been constructed over the past 20 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[784]Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  There are no such proposals.

  39.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the backlog of group water schemes awaiting grant approval; and the action, if any, he intends to take to assist these groups in getting their schemes underway.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  A sum of £3 million is being provided for group water scheme grants in 1994, compared to £2.5 million in 1993 and £2 million in 1992. This demonstrates that Government financial support for group schemes has been maintained notwithstanding the termination of FEOGA support for this programme in 1991.

Some 130 group schemes were approved in 1993; these will extend piped water supplies to over 2,900 houses and 720 farms. The increased 1994 provision should enable a greater level of progress to be achieved this year.

There have always been certain delays in approving a proportion of group scheme grant applications, due to a variety of factors. Problems of financing occur in relation to schemes where local contributions represent a small proportion only of the total requirement and further subvention is being sought from the capital provision for public schemes. Grant approval can also be delayed where a public scheme is awaited, or where the quality of water proposed would not meet prescribed drinking water standards. My Department will seek where possible, in co-operation with groups, to identify solutions to problems of this kind and to ensure the maximum benefit from the £3 million allocation in 1994.

[785]

  45.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for the Environment    the plans, if any, he has to introduce measures to deal with the problems created by stray cats in Dublin.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I have no proposals to introduce measures of this kind.

  48.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    his views on whether it will be possible to comply with EU directives on the abolition of sewage and effluent disposal into lakes and rivers by the year 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The Environment Action Programme, 1990, envisages expenditure of up to £230 million on inland sewage treatment schemes by the year 2000. Good progress has been made towards this objective under the Operational Programme for Water, Sanitary and other Local Services, 1989-1993. A total of £117 million was expended on the provision and upgrading of relevant infrastructure in this period.

The Operational Programme for Environmental Services 1994-1999, which is currently being prepared, will continue to make provision for inland sewage treatment schemes in line with the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and the Government's standing commitment to provide secondary, or where necessary tertiary, treatment for inland towns.

  50.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for the Environment    the estimated average cost of construction of one mile of motorway under the National Development Plan, 1994-1999.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The cost of individual road projects varies considerably, depending on such factors as topography and soil conditions and whether the project is located in a rural or urban area. Over the 1989 [786] to 1993 period, the average all-inclusive cost per kilometre of motorway, including land acquisition, accommodation roads and other works, was £3.8 million.

It is not possible to estimate what the average cost will be over the period 1994-99 pending agreement with the EC Commission on the new Transport Operational Programme and the selection of the projects which will be undertaken under that programme.

  51.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the proposals, if any, he has to change the regulations governing new house grants with particular reference to floor area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  I have no proposals to change the present conditions of the scheme.

  54.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of occasions on which local authority planning offices seek further information which extends the period within which they are statutorily required to decide planning applications; if he is concerned at excessive use of this procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The quarterly statistics compiled by my Department on the basis of returns from local authorities, and of which copies are available in the Oireachtas Library, suggest that about 70 per cent of all planning decisions are decided within the statutory period of two months.

I would, of course, be concerned if there were unwarranted use of the deferral procedure. The position is actively and regularly monitored by my Department and local authorities have been urged on several occasions, in the interests of job creation, etc., to make it [787] their objective to decide the maximum number of applications within the two month period and to seek further information only in exceptional circumstances.

  55.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for the Environment    when funding will be provided for voluntary housing for an organisation (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  The project is one proposed to be undertaken with the assistance available for the provision of housing accommodation by approved voluntary housing bodies. My Department's involvement relates primarily to the provision, within the allocation available in the Public Capital Programme, of funds for individual projects. The detailed administration of the scheme of assistance, including certification that particular projects comply with its terms, is the responsibility of the local authority, in this instance, Limerick County Council. The council has recently been notified of the approval of a grant of £144,000 for this project.

  56.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for the Environment    the success or otherwise of the tenant purchase scheme; the proposals, if any, he has to reconstruct the scheme so that social welfare recipients can be considered for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  Tenants of local authority dwellings, excepting certain limited categories of dwellings, principally those provided for and occupied by elderly persons, are entitled to purchase under the scheme announced [788] last year. Substantial discounts, from a minimum of £3,000 up to 30 per cent of the value of the dwelling, are provided in order to bring purchase within the reach of tenants. As in the case of previous purchase schemes, only those who can afford the repayments will be in a position to purchase. Mortgage loans to finance the full nett purchase price, after discounts and allowances, may be obtained from either the local authority or a commercial mortgage lender. Any tenant who does not obtain a loan from a commercial lender may apply to the local authority and it is a matter for the authority in each case to decide if the applicant has the means of making the loan repayments.

The administration of the scheme in their area is the responsibility of the relevant local authority who are required to consider all applications on their merits. I am satisfied that the scheme, which is ongoing, is well-balanced and there are no proposals to amend it.

  57.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for the Environment    the date on which he received or expects to receive the report of the committee to look into the problem of travelling traders; whether this report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The report of the working group was finalised last month. The group identified the parameters of the problem, reviewed existing legislative and other arrangements to deal with the problem and identified opportunities, both legislative and otherwise, which the statutory agencies concerned might consider to improve their response capacities. I have circulated the report to the relevant Departments for consideration before any further action is decided on. It is not my intention at present to publish the report.

[789]

  58.  Mr. Cullen    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of travelling families housed since 1970 in each county borough corporation area.

  168.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of traveller families housed since the year 1970 to date in respect of each county council and each borough corporation/urban district council.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 168 together.

Information in relation to each of the years 1989 to 1992 is provided in the reply to Question No. 96 of 1 March 1994. Information in relation to earlier years, in so far as it is available in my Department, will be compiled and forwarded to the Deputies as early as possible.

  59.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for the Environment    if it is possible to provide a 100 per cent grant in respect of the grant scheme administered by local authorities for housing assistance for disabled persons where the applicant and the house owner's income is derived solely from State benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  210.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment    if it is possible to provide 100 per cent grants under the scheme administered by local authorities for housing assistance for disabled persons where the applicant and the house owner's income is derived solely from State benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 210 together.

Under the statutory terms of the disabled [790] persons grant scheme operated by the local authorities, the amount of grant assistance is limited to two-thirds of the approved cost of the works in the case of a private house. There are no proposals to provide for an increase in this limit. I should mention, however, that the maximum amount that is recoupable to the local authority from my Department was increased from £2,500 to £4,000 last year.

  60.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for the Environment    whether he has satisfied himself that the Government's social housing programme as envisaged in the Programme for Government, 1993-1997 and the National Development Plan, 1994-1999 will be met in full notwithstanding departmental cuts arising from recent indications of possible reductions in Structural Funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  The Government's social housing programmes are not dependent on EU funding of any kind.

  66.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment    the steps, if any, he is taking to advise the public of the requirements of the European Communities, Mechanically Propelled Vehicle Emission Control Regulations, 1992, and other similar regulations to ensure the assistance of the public in the implementation of these regulations resulting in an improved environment for all.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  A public consultation document was issued by my Department in July 1991 in preparation for the 1992 regulations referred to. Other measures were also taken in 1992 to assist public awareness of the impending new emission standards for cars and their new petrol-engined [791] implications for consumers. Advertisements were placed in the major national newspapers notifying the public of the application date for the new emission standards and alerting them that non-complying cars could not be licensed after that date. Motor tax offices were also advised of the implementation date and procedures were put in place to ensure compliance with the regulations. Relevant motor tax documentation, Form RF100, continues to draw attention to the requirements of the 1992 regulations and similar regulations. There has been full co-operation from the Irish motor industry and the public in the implementation of the regulations and minimal problems have been reported.

  67.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will provide the necessary finance to enable Kerry County Council to provide a new motor taxation office in Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The present office accommodation of the motor taxation office in Tralee, for which my Department has provided and continues to provide considerable funding, is in good condition and is satisfactory. I do not propose, therefore, to provide funds for a new motor taxation office in Tralee.

  68.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for the Environment    the way in which he intends to distribute the special £15 million allocated in the 1994 Budget to each local authority; the basis he will use to determine the amount each local authority will receive; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I have allocated the additional £15 million announced in the budget for [792] the maintenance of non-national roads in 1994 to county councils generally on a pro-rata mileage basis. The allocations were notified on 18 February and are set out in a tabular statement I propose to circulate in the Official Report.

County Council Allocation of additional £15 million Maintenance Grant
£000
Carlow 191
Cavan 495
Clare 670
Cork 1,993
Donegal 1,074
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown 86
Fingal 150
Galway 1,063
Kerry 734
Kildare 337
Kilkenny 486
Laois 370
Leitrim 385
Limerick 572
Longford 260
Louth 193
Mayo 942
Meath 514
Monaghan 408
Offaly 311
Roscommon 645
Sligo 425
South Dublin 111
Tipperary NR 454
Tipperary SR 476
Waterford 430
Westmeath 349
Wexford 542
Wicklow 334
Total 15,000

  69.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Minister for the Environment    the cost of overtime in each State-sponsored body and local authority under his aegis in the last financial year for which figures are available; and the number of individuals involved in each instance.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  No information is available in my [793] Department regarding the cost of overtime in State-sponsored bodies.

Information supplied by local authorities regarding the cost of overtime is set out in the following table. No information is available in my Department regarding the number of individuals involved. Approval of the working of overtime by local staff is a matter for individual managers having regard to local circumstances; managers have been urged to give approval only where there is no alternative.

Local Authority Cost Year
£
County Councils
Carlow 145,714 1992
Cavan 310,325 1992
Clare 476,401 1992
Cork* 1,504,959 1991
Donegal 555,690 1992
Dublin 2,306,801 1992
Galway 577,874 1992
Kerry 865,200 1992
Kildare 524,300 1992
Kilkenny 74,984 1992
Laois 204,331 1992
Leitrim 107,725 1992
Limerick 555,777 1992
Longford 111,443 1992
Louth 68,208 1992
Mayo 666,314 1992
Meath 322,409 1992
Monaghan 262,225 1992
Offaly 379,152 1991
Roscommon 343,633 1992
Sligo 179,540 1992
Tipperary NR 246,801 1992
Tipperary SR 295,950 1992
Waterford 208,951 1992
Westmeath 310,933 1992
Wexford 637,435 1992
Wicklow 811,222 1992
County Boroughs
Cork 1,389,000 1992
Dublin 3,912,940 1992
Limerick 766,906 1992
Waterford 311,462 1991
Galway 200,649 1992
Borough Corporations
Clonmel 65,279 1992
Dún Laoghaire 364,806 1992
Drogheda 74,266 1992
Kilkenny 103,063 1992
Sligo 61,927 1992
Wexford 46,207 1992
Urban District Councils
Arklow 40,906 1992
[794]Athlone 49,702 1992
Athy 8,554 1992
Ballina 9,790 1992
Ballinasloe 29,485 1992
Birr 24,503 1992
Bray 63,827 1992
Buncrana 13,954 1992
Bundoran 9,510 1990
Carlow 52,000 1992
Carrickmacross 14,431 1992
Carrick-on-Suir 7,677 1992
Cashel 3,105 1992
Castlebar 5,002 1992
Castleblayney 3,365 1992
Cavan 19,721 1992
Clones 4,500 1992
Dundalk 59,274 1992
Dungarvan 33,371 1992
Ennis 40,204 1992
Enniscorthy 24,978 1992
Kells 1992
Killarney 93,899 1992
Kilrush 6,740 1992
Letterkenny 15,382 1992
Listowel 6,053 1992
Longford 1992
Monaghan 96,939 1992
Naas 24,333 1992
Navan 16,246 1992
Nenagh 13,146 1992
New Ross 1992
Templemore 5,971 1992
Thurles 15,045 1991
Tipperary 18,914 1992
Tralee 106,945 1992
Trim 5,551 1992
Tullamore 83,272 1992
Westport 27,283 1992
Wicklow 10,580 1992
Town Commissions
Ardee 1992
Balbriggan 1991
Ballybay 1992
Ballyshannon 1992
Belturbet 1992
Boyle 1992
Callan 1992
Cootehill 1992
Droichead Nua 140 1991
Edenderry 1991
Gorey 1992
Granard 1992
Kilkee 1992
Leixlip 390 1992
Lismore 1992
Loughrea 1992
Mountmellick 1992
Muine Bheag 1992
Mullingar 1990
Newcastle West 1992
Portlaoise 1992
[795]Rathkeale 1992
Roscommon 1992
Shannon 1992
Tramore 1992
Tuam 1992
Joint Burial Boards
Deansgrange 56,300 1992
Dundalk 10,316 1992
Dungar 1992
Portarlington 1990
Rathdrum 690 1992
Youghal 1992
Joint Drainage Committees
Barrow 7,566 1992
Bunkey 1992
Black River 1992
Borris-in-Ossory 1991
Clodiagh 1992
Curragha 1991
Drumcliff 1992
Lough Oughter-Gowna-Erne 1992
Parsonstown 1992
Rinn and Black River 1992
River Suck 1992
Shinrone 1992
Lerr 1992
Garris and Devlin 1992
Others
Co. Tipperary Joint Libraries Committee 1992

*The Cork County Council figure includes overtime costs for all Urban District Councils and Town Commissions in County Cork.

  72.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he intends to insist on motorists using lead-free petrol and having a catalytic converter fitted to their cars.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Use of unleaded petrol and the fitting of catalytic converters are, in effect, mandatory for all new petrol-engined vehicles by virtue of the European Communities (Mechanically Propelled Vehicle Emission Control) Regulations, 1992.

Many older vehicles, while not fitted with catalysers, are capable of running on [796] unleaded petrol. Promotion of unleaded, both by Government and industry, has resulted in its attaining a market share in Ireland — advanced in EU terms — of some 40 per cent by end 1993.

I have no proposal to make mandatory the use of unleaded petrol or the retro-fitting of catalytic converters to cars not already so equipped, nor am I aware of such requirements being adopted in other countries.

  73.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for the Environment    the plans, if any, he has to amend the Planning Acts to deal with the situation in which the local authority is powerless to take action to remove travellers camped on private land at the entrance to Castlebrook, Dundrum, Dublin 14.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The Planning Acts provide for enforcement action against breaches of the requirements of that code, including the carrying out of development without planning permission. The issues raised by situations such as that outlined would generally appear to be outside the remit of the planning process.

  78.  Mr. Cox    asked the Minister for the Environment    whether the 10 per cent extra salary allowance is paid to all rent collectors who operate in areas which include Gaeltacht areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Under the Local Offices (Irish Language) Regulations, 1966, a local authority may pay an allowance of up to 7.5 per cent of basic pay to officers who comply with certain criteria in regard to the use of Irish in the performance of their duties in Gaeltacht areas. It is a matter for the local authority to determine whether an individual officer meets the criteria laid down [797] and to fix the level of allowance to be paid in any particular case.

  82.  Mr. Currie    asked the Taoiseach    if he will give an assurance that the eleven urban areas recently designated under the local development programme within the National Development Plan, 1994-99, including Blanchardstown, North Clondalkin and Ballyfermot, County Dublin, will be unaffected by recent changes in the National Development Plan, 1994-99.

  85.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Taoiseach    the funds available for County Westmeath and County Longford under the local development programme; and the criteria, if any, for disbursement of these funds.

The Taoiseach:  The Government has designated 33 disadvantaged areas to be targeted under the local development programme, the EU funding for which will be available through the operational programme for local development. These have been designated on the basis of objective indicators of disadvantage, feasible operational boundaries and viability in terms of size and economic base. The discussions in relation to operational programmes are proceeding in parallel with those on the community support framework and in the case of the operational programme for local development, are well advanced.

The designation of areas for inclusion in the local development programme is the first stage in the establishment of a partnership structure in those areas. The structure involves the establishment of a partnership company comprising nominees of the local community, State agencies operating in the area and the social partners. The partnership company's task is to prepare an action plan based on the needs and resources of the area. The resources under the local development programme will be allocated to areas in accordance with their action plans, taking into account the quality of the plan, its relevance to the measures fundable under the operational programme and to the particular areas. Criteria will also include the extent to which the plans seek to achieve maximum [798] impact on employment and employment creation measures and to improve the education and training opportunities and the community involvement of people in the area.

A sum of £5 million is included in my Department's Vote for 1994 as matching funding for the disadvantaged areas element of the local development programme. I do not expect any undue delay in the finalisation of the negotiations on the operations programme but the matter will be kept under review. I am confident that over the period 1994-99, it will be possible to implement all the measures envisaged under the local development programme.

For areas which have not been designated as disadvantaged, the local development programme will operate through the county enterprise boards, in co-operation with the new Leader community initiative. The community employment programme will also operate nationally and non-designated urban centres may be considered for the urban renewal programme.

  83.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Taoiseach    the unemployment figures for the towns of North County Dublin giving figures, percentages and other relevant information.

The Taoiseach:  The following analyses of the Live Register are currently completed:

1. Live Register Count — Monthly (referring to the last Friday of the month).

2. Flow Analysis — Monthly (referring to the last Friday of the month).

3. Area Analysis — Monthly (referring to the last Friday of the month).

4. Age by Duration Analysis — Half, yearly (referring to the second last Fridays of April and October).

Balbriggan is the only town with a local office in North County Dublin.

[799] As there is no requirement for persons on the Live Register to sign on at their local exchange, it is not possible to indicate the numbers of persons on the Live Register resident in each town. However, Table 1 gives the number of persons on [800] the Live Register in Dublin on 25 February, 1994, classified by Local Office of Registration, Age Group and Sex.

Table 2 expresses the total for each category as a percentage of the total for the local office.

Table 1: Number of persons on the Live Register in Dublin on 25 February 1994 classified by Local Office of Registration, Age Group and Sex.

Local Office Males Females All Persons
Under 25 Years 25 Years and over Total Under 25 years 25 Years and over Total
Gardiner St. 1,416 3,353 4,769 951 1,537 2,488 7,257
Werburg St. 1,375 3,948 5,323 796 1,656 2,452 7,775
Victoria St. 846 1,464 2,310 947 1,046 1,993 4,303
Cumberland St. 1,792 5,210 7,002 1,335 2,821 4,156 11,158
Navan Road 1,751 4,785 6,536 1,185 2,192 3,377 9,913
Thomas St. 1,087 3,007 4,094 754 1,014 1,768 5,862
Tara St. 643 1,807 2,450 575 952 1,527 3,977
Tallaght 1,254 3,556 4,810 847 1,610 2,457 7,267
Ballymun 573 1,483 2,056 357 373 730 2,786
Clondalkin 862 2,304 3,166 601 962 1,563 4,729
Rathfarnham 713 1,917 2,630 434 1,301 1,735 4,365
Kilbarrack 1,132 2,496 3,628 779 1,444 2,223 5,851
Dún Laoighre 1,062 3,656 4,718 762 2,048 2,810 7,528
Balbriggan 435 1,098 1,533 327 565 892 2,425
Ballyfermot 875 2,239 3,114 379 494 873 3,987
Finglas 958 2,290 3,248 568 992 1,560 4,808
Total 16,774 44,613 61,387 11,597 21,007 32,604 93,991

CLASS="CP">Table 2: Number of persons on the Live Register in Dublin on 25 February 1994 expressed as a percentage of the Local Office total.

Local Office Males Females All Persons
Under 25 years 25 years and over Total Under 25 years 25 years and over Total
% % % % % % %
Gardiner St. 19.5 46.2 65.7 13.1 21.2 34.3 100
Werburg St. 17.7 50.8 68.5 10.2 21.3 31.5 100
Victoria St. 19.7 34.0 53.7 22.0 24.3 46.3 100
Cumberland St. 16.1 46.7 62.8 12.0 25.3 37.2 100
Navan Road 17.7 48.3 65.9 12.0 22.1 34.1 100
Thomas St. 18.5 51.3 69.8 12.9 17.3 30.2 100
Tara St. 16.2 45.4 61.6 14.5 23.9 38.4 100
Tallaght 17.3 48.9 66.2 11.7 22.2 33.8 100
Ballymun 20.6 53.2 73.8 12.8 13.4 26.2 100
Clondalkin 18.2 48.7 66.9 12.7 20.3 33.1 100
Rathfarnham 16.3 43.9 60.3 9.9 29.8 39.7 100
Kilbarrack 19.3 42.7 62.0 13.3 24.7 38.0 100
Dún Laoighre 14.1 48.6 62.7 10.1 27.2 37.3 100
Balbriggan 17.9 45.3 63.2 13.5 23.3 36.8 100
[801][802]Ballyfermot 21.9 56.2 78.1 9.5 12.4 21.9 100
Finglas 19.9 47.6 67.6 11.8 20.6 32.4 100
All 17.8 47.5 65.3 12.3 22.3 34.7 100

  84.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Taoiseach    the tonnage of ware potatoes imported via Northern Ireland in the year ending 31 December 1993.

The Taoiseach:  The information requested by the Deputy is not yet available for 1993.

In 1992 imports of ware potatoes (potatoes fresh or chilled excluding seed potatoes) from Northern Ireland amounted to 17,005 tonnes.

In general it should be noted that commodity detail from external trade statistics does not include:—

(a) transactions (non-dutiable) of less than £200 each;

(b) trade by firms operating in Shannon Free Airport; and

(c) postal packages not covered by customs entries.

  86.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    if his attention has been drawn to international concern over the case of a person (details supplied) and the apparent abuse of her civil rights as a citizen of Togo; whether he has made any representations to the President and Government of Togo in respect of her death; whether he will be pressing the Togolese Government for an independent inquiry into her death; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  I am aware of the details of the case referred to in the Deputy's question. The EU issued a statement on 16 February 1993 condemning the violence which led to thousands fleeing Lomé, the capital of Togo. This exodus was precipitated by the killing by government forces of a group of pro-democracy demonstrators on 25 January 1993, among whom was the person referred to.

While Ireland is not representated in Togo, our EU partners have been active in raising with the Togolese authorities the concerns of the European Union and its member states regarding the abuse of human rights in that country.

A central concern of the Union is the transition to democracy in Togo. Parliamentary elections were held on 6 and 20 February last and I would like to reiterate the call of the European Union made on 28 February to all parties involved to abide by the results of these elections.

  87.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    if the cross-Border road at Dooard, Rossinver, County Leitrim, on the main Manorhamilton/Garrison road will be reopened; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[803]Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  The subject of cross-Border road closures is discussed on a regular basis within the framework of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, most recently at the meeting held in London on 10 March 1994.

In that context, I have drawn particular attention to the adverse economic and social consequences of this policy for the Border areas of County Leitrim, including at Dooard. I had the opportunity to see the situation at first hand and to hear the views of local public representatives when I visited the area last year.

While there is at present no indication that the British authorities intend to rescind the closure order in effect at Dooard, the Deputy can be assured that I will continue to urge that all such orders, including that at Dooard, should be kept under review, and only maintained where they are strictly required.

  88.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    the total amount of funding allocated to Irish immigration welfare centres in the United States during 1993; the various centres and organisations assisted; and the amount allocated in each case.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  Irish immigration centres in the United States received a total of £150,000 in grants in 1993, distributed as follows:

£
Irish Pastoral Centre, Boston 29,396
Irish Immigration Centre, Boston 12,906
Irish Immigration Service, Chicago 13,928
Emigration Assistance Coalition, Los Angeles 3,542
Project Irish Outreach, New York 40,207
Emerald Isle Immigration Centre, New York 28,076
Brooklyn/Queens Irish Centre, New York 12,062
Gaelic Immigration Assistance, Philadelphia 1,387
Foir, San Francisco 8,496
Total 150,000

[804]

  89.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    the criteria in the selection of monitors for South Africa recruited by APSO; the places in which the positions are advertised; the cost, if any to the Irish taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  The European Council of Ministers decided on 6 December that the European Union would send a European Union observer mission to South Africa to observe the elections there on 27 April. Each EU member state as well as the European Commission was asked to supply 24 observers to the joint mission. Ireland is doing so.

The Irish team of observers comprises 11 members of the Oireachtas, the chairman of the Irish anti-apartheid movement, eight individuals recommend by APSO and four selected from central and local Government. My Department is providing £200,000 to cover the total estimated expenditure involved.

My Department invited APSO to nominate eight individuals from its register. As one of its central functions, APSO maintains a register of people interested in and available for overseas work. It is open to interested individuals to apply to APSO to include their names and curriculum vitae on APSO's register.

Amongst the criteria used in selecting individuals to serve as observers were: familiarity with the political situation in Southern Africa; election experience; availability at short notice; willingness to work in the conditions prevailing in South Africa and, where possible, previous work experience in a developing country.

In addition to choosing people for Ireland's contribution to the European Union Observer Mission, APSO has also recruited 55 monitors for the South African elections at the request of AWEPA, [805] the Association of European Parliamentarians for (Southern) Africa.

The total cost to the taxpayer of the observers nominated by APSO to both of these missions can be estimated as approximately £175,000, £100,000 of this will come from APSO's annual grant in aid and the remainder will come from the £200,000 allocated by my Department for the monitoring of the South African process.

  90.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    if he will recommend that Ireland provide election monitors for the forthcoming election in Malawi.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  The Government of Malawi has invited the member states of the European Union to send observers to monitor the presidential and parliamentary elections which are to be held on 17 May next. These elections will mark an important step in Malawi's transition to a multi-party democracy.

In line with our policy on democracy and development the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the invitation from the Government of Malawi to send Irish observers for the elections.

  91.  Mr. Briscoe    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on whether the time has come to cease decentralising sections of Government Departments in view of the above average unemployment in parts of Dublin and the unemployment average generally in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  As the Deputy will be aware and as I have stated in the House on many occasions, decentralisation is a major policy objective of the Government. The policy is based on the principles of devolving decision-making to local areas, and of the [806] need for a more widespread location of public services and job opportunities.

The launching of the decentralisation programme in 1987 reflected the Government's belief that the more widespread location of public service employment was a desirable long-term objective to help reduce regional imbalances and the pressure on the Dublin region. The Government considered that the concentration of human and material resources in Dublin at the expense of the peripheral areas had for too long effectively deprived the regions of development capacity.

The Government also considered that over the years Dublin had grown in size and in population at a much faster rate than had the rest of the country. The result was that an imbalance between the Dublin region and other regions had evolved. The Government considered that the development of the larger urban centres of the regions would be essential to provide a counter-attraction to Dublin to provide a sufficient range of facilities for attracting manufacturing and service jobs to absorb local unemployed labour.

The concentration of population and development in the Dublin region placed an enormous burden on the metropolitan area. It resulted in economic and social costs and created environmental problems. Over the years concentration of public service jobs in the Dublin area has magnified these problems.

The total number of posts transferred to the provinces through the programme is not significant in terms of total numbers employed in the public service, while the benefits to the centres chosen have made the programme very worthwhile.

Many of the provincial towns which have been chosen as decentralisation centres have suffered from emigration and from internal migration. The influx of public servants, many of them with spouses and children has helped to rejuvenate the towns thus adding to the social and economic viability of those areas. Many public servants were themselves involuntary migrants and have taken the opportunity to return to their roots.

I am satisfied that the present programme, [807] when completed in the selected locations, will result in achieving a better spread of prosperity and economic activity throughout the country.

It is not the intention of the Government to extend the list of decentralisation centres at least until the present programme is completed and reviewed as to its effectiveness.

  92.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the proposed application of VAT to loss adjusters' charges will add significantly to the cost of loss adjusters; and if he will consider withdrawing that application.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  I am fully aware of the implications of my budget announcement in relation to loss adjusters, which was that, from 1 September next, such services will be taxable at the standard rate of VAT. It is my view that there is no justification for continuing the exemption of the services in question, which are clearly provided in the course or furtherance of business. Moreover, the initiative will put all traders in this general area conducting broadly similar activities on the same footing in relation to VAT.

I do not intend to withdraw my proposal. The necessary provisions will be included in the forthcoming Finance Bill.

  93.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Finance    if funding will be provided for arterial drainage under the 1994-99 operational programme.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Dempsey):  There are no proposals at present to provide funding for arterial drainage from the 1994-99 EU Structural Fund operational programmes.

[808]

  94.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for Finance    if there is a vacancy for the position of cartographer in the ordnance survey office in County Kilkenny following a retirement in January 1994; and the plans, if any, he has to fill this vacancy.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  There is no vacancy at cartographer level in the Ordnance Survey Regional Office in Kilkenny.

  95.  Mr. Byrne    asked the Minister for Finance,    further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 47 of 8 March 1994 the date from which he has been awaiting the relevant contract documentation from the Chief-State Solicitor; the date the Chief State Solicitor's office was first approached on this matter; the length of time since his decision to dispose of this property; when the Commissioners of Public Works will decide the steps, if any, which will be taken in the interim regarding the present condition of the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Dempsey):  The first consultations with the Chief State Solicitor's Office regarding a sale of this property took place in late October 1991, at which time the Commissioners of Public Works were satisfied that it was surplus to requirements and, as such, available for disposal. Following other necessary consultations with the then Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications which had responsibility for the adjacent Meteorological Station, the Chief State Solicitor was formally instructed in August 1992 to prepare the requisite tender documentation. It is understood that the preparation of the documentation, which is currently being finalised by the Chief State Solicitor's Office, took considerable time because of the necessity to take into account the [809] continuing requirements of the Meteorological Station in the area.

The Commissioners' local officer has been instructed to put in hands whatever works are necessary to improve the appearance of the property pending the sale.

  96.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will issue a VAT registration number to a company (details supplied) in County Louth in the interests of job creation in Drogheda, County Louth.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The application for registration for Value-Added Tax for the company in question was received in the Taxes Central Registration Office on 2 March 1994. Following the necessary verification procedure, the application was found to be in order and the company and its agents were notified of the VAT registration number on 11 March, 1994.

  97.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to lobbying by British mushroom interests in Brussels to oblige the Irish Government to revise the rate of corporations profits tax on mushroom growing to the standard rate of 40 per cent instead of the 10 per cent rate; if he will resist this pressure in view of the fact that Irish mushroom growers are at serious cost disadvantage in relation to shipping costs relative to their United Kingdom competitors who only pay corporation profits tax at 25 per cent and who in Northern Ireland receive a marketing grant of three to four pence per pound; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[810]

  99.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to pressure being exerted on the mushroom industry in view of proposed changes in the Finance Bill arising from pressure within the European Union to determine mushroom growing as not being eligible for 10 per cent relief; if his attention has been further drawn to the extent of pressure on employment within the mushroom industry that this will create; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 99 together.

The application of the 10 per cent rate of corporation tax to mushroom cultivation had its origins in the fact that mushroom cultivation qualified for export sales relief (ESR). ESR terminated for new companies in 1980 and was replaced by the 10 per cent rate of corporation tax. When legislation to bring mushroom cultivation within the scope of the 10 per cent scheme was proposed in 1981, the approval of the EEC was sought under the competition provisions of the EEC Treaty. At the time, the European Commission indicated that they did not have any comment to make but reserved the right to examine the measure in the future. As part of an ongoing review of aid schemes under Article 93 (1) of the Treaty the Commission opened an investigation into the application of the 10 per cent rate of corporation tax to mushroom cultivation in early 1991 and the Government has been in contact with the Commission on the matter since that time. The Commission concluded its investigation early this year and found the application of the 10 per cent rate to mushroom cultivation to be incompatible with the common market and, as a consequence, called upon Ireland to remove mushroom cultivation from the 10 per cent scheme. A formal procedure on this matter, under Article 93 (2) of the EEC Treaty, has already commenced.

In the light of the Commission's findings in this matter, and the opening of the formal procedure, it will be necessary to include appropriate measures to meet the Commission's objections to this measure in the forthcoming Finance Bill.

[811]

  98.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Finance    the criteria by which local labour clauses can be inserted into contracts for public works projects funded through the European Structural Fund.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  EU Directives on public procurement must be followed if a project is funded from European Structural Funds or if the value of a contract is over EU thresholds. It is a responsibility of the contracting entity to ensure that any contract terms are fully in accordance with the terms of the Directives. If they are not legal action may result.

Whether or not a local labour clause is inserted into a contract is a matter for the contracting entities. A local labour clause as part of a contract would not, in itself, appear to be automatically in breach of either the EU Directives or Treaty obligations, provided it had no discriminatory effect, particularly on tenderers from other member states. In practice, there might be great difficulty in avoiding all danger of legal challenge, where such discrimination could be alleged to operate, if local labour clauses were to apply.

  100.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Finance    the recent changes in VAT and stamp duty on transactions relating to commercial property whereby a purchaser of a lease or a property is now liable to additional costs arising out of a recent re-interpretation of the rules by the Revenue Commissioners; and the proposals, if any, he has in the Finance Bill to amend this so that there can be a reversion to the old system.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  There has been no change in the Revenue Commissioners' practice in relation to the charging of stamp duty on transactions relating to commercial property which are subject to VAT. Stamp duty is levied on the total consideration paid in [812] respect of a chargeable transaction. Where VAT is payable on a property transaction that is subject to stamp duty, the amount of VAT payable forms part of the consideration on which duty is levied.

While I am satisfied that the practice followed by Revenue is in accordance with the existing legislation, I am aware that the interaction of stamp duty and VAT has given rise to some difficulties and some uncertainty within the legal and acountancy professions. Accordingly, my Department and Revenue are reviewing the matter in the context of the forthcoming Finance Bill to see if legislative changes are required in this area.

  101.  Mr. Cox    asked the Minister for Finance    the estimate in 1994 prices for the years 1994 to 1999 of the global value of the community support framework including EU and Exchequer resources in the context of the across the board cut of eight and a half per cent recently decided in respect of these resources; the estimated value of EU and Exchequer resources respectively; and the comparison between these in 1994 price terms and the equivalent figures in the National Development Plan, 1994-99 in respect of the community support framework for the years 1994 to 1999.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The National Development Plan included EU aid of £5.355 billion in respect of the community support framework for the period 1994-99 (including the EFTA Cohesion Fund resources). The equivalent figure in 1994 prices would be £5.435 billion using EU deflators. Exchequer resources of approximately £3.5 billion were included in the plan in respect of the 1994-99 community support frame work element of the plan. This included both Exchequer expenditure needed to match EU aid and eligible Exchequer expenditure not proposed for cofinancing. Adjusting by the domestic Irish deflator would give a [813] net Exchequer figure of approximately £3.6 billion in 1994 price terms.

The community support framework 1994-99 is currently under negotiation and it is not possible to give definitive figures for all elements until the negotiations are completed. The EU aid amount agreed by the Commission in October 1993 for Ireland's CSF expressed in 1994 prices is 5.62 billion ECU or £4.544 billion. In addition it is estimated that an amount of £30 million approximately will be received from the EFTA Cohesion Fund. The Government is committed to at least maintaining the level of net Exchequer expenditure included in the plan — £3.6 billion in 1994 prices. The split of this between Exchequer resources needed to match EU aid and included in the community support framework and eligible uncofinanced expenditure will depend on the aid rates to be agreed as part of the discussions on the community support framework.

  102.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the reason he continues to discriminate against members of the Defence Forces working under his control in the Ordnance Survey office who are being discriminated against and penalised for volunteering to serve as United Nations personnel overseas; and if he will ensure that all Defence Force members can return to their original jobs after their tour of duty abroad.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  To date, all members of the Army Survey company who have volunteered for and been selected to serve on United Nations missions abroad, have been accommodated within the Ordnance Survey on their return.

It is not always possible, for operational reasons, to assign these personnel to the particular jobs which they left some months earlier.

[814]

  103.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the reason there has been a delay in the finalisation of the tax situation of a company (details supplied) in County Cavan which went into receivership and liquidation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a receiver was appointed to the company in question on 19 June, 1987.

He was duly notified of the Revenue preferential claim, which he subsequently paid in August, 1991.

A liquidator was appointed to wind up the affairs of the company on 19 June, 1991.

All revenue non-preferential claims have been submitted to the liquidator, apart from Value Added Tax, which liability is now in the process of being agreed with the Inspector of Taxes at Dundalk District, Earl Street, Dundalk.

There appears to have been a misunderstanding as to what returns were required from the liquidator to enable the Inspector to agree the liabililty. This has now been resolved.

  104.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the anxiety amongst farmers at the inability of the Ordnance Survey, through no fault of its own, to deal with the number of applications from farmers for maps required under EU regulations; and the steps, if any, he is taking in the matter.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern):  The Ordnance Survey Office has met all its commitments in relation to the supply of maps and all orders received to date have been processed and despatched. The Ordnance Survey Office will continue to process late orders on a day-to-day basis.

[815]

  105.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he will continue paying child dependant allowance to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5, for the remaining weeks up to the end of the course of education being pursued by the dependant child.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  Social welfare legislation provides for the payment of increases in respect of child dependants to people who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments. Such increases are normally payable in respect of each dependant child up to age 18. However, in the case of child dependants who continue in full-time education, the legislation specifies that payment of the allowance may be continued until the child reaches 21 years of age. This special extension of the age limit from 18 years was introduced by me in 1989 for lone parents and certain other groups and is now the standard upper age limit for payment of child dependant allowance across all long term social welfare schemes.

The person concerned was in receipt of a lone parent's allowance at the reduced rate of £63 per week inclusive of child dependant allowance increases in respect of two of her children who were in full-time education. However, when one of the children reached age 21 in February 1994, the allowance payable to her for that child had to be discontinued. Accordingly, her lone parent's allowance was reduced to £42.10 per week with effect from 17 February 1994.

The legislation does not allow my Department to extend payment of the allowance beyond the upper age limit in any particular case. Any proposal to extend payment of child dependant allowances beyond age 21 would have significant budgetary implications.

If the person concerned is experiencing particular difficulties she should apply to the community welfare officer at her nearest health centre for additional support through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

[816]

  106.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the number of people in County Sligo and County Leitrim, who are receiving non-contributory old age pensions and the breakdown between men and women.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  On 31 December 1993, there were 3,041 people in receipt of non-contributory old age pensions in County Sligo and 1,992 in County Leitrim. A breakdown of recipients by sex is not available on a county basis.

However, nationally on the same date, 63,568 (57 per cent) of non-contributory old age pensions were received by women and 47,443 (43 per cent) were received by men.

  107.  Mr. S. Kenny    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    when unemployment benefit will be paid to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13 who became unemployed as a result of a company closure and the apparent non-payment of her PRSI contributions to the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  The person concerned was employed up to 23 December 1993. On termination of her employment she applied for unemployment benefit on 24 December 1993.

To qualify for payment of unemployment benefit a person must have at least 39 contributions either paid at the appropriate rate or credited in the relevant governing contribution year which in this claimant's case is the year from 6 April 1991 to 5 April 1992.

According to records held in the Department, the claimant's insurance record showed only five Class A.1 contributions paid in the governing contribution year, with no contributions at all for the year from 6 April 1992 to 5 April 1993. Inquiries then began into the non-payment of contributions on her behalf by her former employer. As her employer no longer resides in the [817] country, these inquiries are proving protracted.

Additional details were requested of the claimant on 25 January 1994 but, she has been unable to supply these to date.

The papers in her case are now being referred to a social welfare officer for further investigation, with a view to establishing the claimant's insurance record for the years 1991-92 and 1992-93. This investigation will be completed as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, the person concerned is being paid unemployment assistance at the weekly rate of £27.60 on the basis of a means assessment of £28.00. The means are derived from the benefit of board and lodging in her parent's home.

  109.  Mr. Carey    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    if he has received representations regarding the budget changes in PRSI in view of the fact that they affect manufacturing companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  There are three main PRSI changes announced in the budget and given legislative effect in the Social Welfare Bill currently before the Oireachtas. They are:

—the introduction of a two-tier employers' PRSI contribution structure, with a new lower rate of 9 per cent applying in respect of employees earning less than £173 per week,

—extension of the employers' PRSI exemption scheme under which employers pay no PRSI for two years in respect of new employees taken on from the live register,

—the waiving of the employer's liability to pay the health contribution and employment and training levy on behalf of employees who hold medical caards.

These changes taken together with measures on the employee side such as [818] improvements in Family Income Supplement and the abolition of the temporary 1 per cent levy, add up to a substantial package of measures designed to provide a stimulus to employment and economic growth. They concentrate on the lower end of the income scale where the tax/social insurance wedge was seen as having the greatest effect on employment.

The response to the package of measures as a whole from commentators and employers has been positive.

I have received a copy of the representations to which the Deputy refers in the material supplied with his question. These refer specifically to the increase in the ceiling on employers' contribution to £25,800. The introduction of the package of PRSI measures cost the social insurance fund some £46 million. The ceiling was increased to £25,800 instead of £22,200 to which it would have moved in line with inflation to partially fund the concession at the lower end of the income distribution.

I recently met a delegation from IBEC to discuss this issue. I have undertaken to monitor over the coming months the impact of the ceiling increase and the effects of the measure on PRSI income to the fund. The views of the organisation concerned will be taken into account in this context.

  110.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the payments that were made to the legal representatives of a person (details supplied) in County Cork arising from the delay in implementing Directive 79/7 and in view of Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 16 February 1994 in which he stated no payments were made to the legal representatives; and the exact amount paid to the legal representative on her behalf.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  In response to the Deputy's earlier Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 16 February 1994, I stated that no payments were made to the legal representative [819] of the person concerned under the provisions of the European Communities (Social Welfare) Regulations, 1992 (S.I. No. 152 of 1993).

The person concerned was one of a number of plaintiffs who initiated proceedings arising from the delay in implementing Directive 79/7. In the absence of implementing measures settlements were made in these cases. As the settlements were subject to conditions as to confidentiality I am not in a position to provide the information sought.

  111.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the payments made to the legal representative of a person (details supplied) in County Cork, who received £2,800 from her solicitor and who is anxious to know the amount paid to her solicitor on her behalf by his Department.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  The person concerned was one of a number of plaintiffs who initiated proceedings arising from the delay in implementing EC Directive 79/7. In the absence of implementing measures settlements were made in these cases. As these settlements were subject to conditions as to confidentiality I am not in a position to provide the information sought.

  112.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the estimated cost of extending to all social welfare pensioners aged 70 and over, the entitlement to free television licence and free electricity allowance, irrespective of whether they are living alone; and his views on whether it would be a beneficial change in helping to keep younger relatives living with the elderly.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  The free electricity allowance and free television licence schemes are designed primarily to encourage elderly [820] or disabled people who are living alone on limited means to continue to live in their own homes. However, the living alone condition attached to the schemes allows certain people to live with the pensioner without affecting entitlement. In 1990 I removed the living alone condition altogether for those schemes in the case of people 80 years of age or over and from July next the living alone condition will no longer apply to people 75 years or over.

The current annual cost of the free electricity allowance and the free television licence schemes is about £32 million. The cost of extending those schemes to all social welfare pensioners aged 70 and over who are not currently qualified for these schemes is estimated at about £350,000 a year. Any further reduction in the age at which the living alone condition ceases to apply would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

  114.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    in regard to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 38 of 8 March 1994 in which he referred to settlements in eight cases, the amount of the settlement in respect of each of the eight cases; and the number of persons covered.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  As the settlements involved were subject to conditions as to confidentiality, I am not in a position to provide the information sought.

  115.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the way in which people who retire early from employment in order to do recognised voluntary work and who are not in receipt of any social welfare payment can be given credit stamps to protect their future entitlements; and if this can be provided free, or for a nominal annual sum.

[821]Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  People who retire early from employment or self-employment and who are under 66 years of age may continue to maintain their social insurance contribution records through the award of credited contributions for periods of certified incapacity or proven unemployment. In order to get credited contributions in this way, they must either submit medical evidence of incapacity regularly to the Department or “sign on” at their nearest social welfare local office. Credited contributions during periods of illness or unemployment are awarded free of charge and may be granted even if there is no entitlement to a payment.

I should mention the voluntary work option which I introduced a number of years ago to encourage unemployed people to get involved in voluntary work so as to develop their skills and also benefit their community. This option allows people who are getting unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance to engage in voluntary work without interfering with their weekly unemployment payment. An explanatory leaflet is enclosed with this reply for the Deputy's information.

Alternatively, a person who does not qualify for UB credited contributions by virtue of receiving disability benefit or unemployment payments may pay voluntary PRSI contributions provided that they have worked and paid PRSI for at least 156 weeks and apply within a prescribed time. The voluntary contribution rate of 6.6 per cent of earnings, up to a maximum of £20,000, gives cover for retirement pension, old age (contributory) pension, widow's and orphan's (contributory) pensions, deserted wife's benefit and death grant. The lower rate of 2.6 per cent gives cover for widow's and orphan's (contributory) pension and deserted wife's benefit only and is applicable to people who were formerly covered for PRSI at the modified rate by virtue of their employment. Where a person's income is less than £4,750, the annual amount of voluntary contribution payable is £313.50 — higher rate — or £123.50 — lower rate. The annual rate of voluntary contribution payable by a self-employed [822] person who ceases to be compulsorily insured is £250.

  116.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the total number of recipients of rent supplement; the total value of rent supplements paid by him in 1993; if his attention has been drawn to the number of people who are encouraged to leave their family home to avail of rent supplements and other benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods):  A new statistical system for the supplementary welfare allowance scheme was introduced on a phased basis in 1993 and is now fully operational in the Southern, Western, North-Eastern, Mid-Western, South-Eastern and Midland Health Boards. The North-Western Health Board will provide similar statistical analysis from its own computer system. The introduction of the system commenced in the Eastern Health Board towards the end of 1993 but data will not become available until later this year.

It is estimated that there were some 28,500 recipients of rent supplement in the seven health boards outside the Eastern Health Board area in 1993 at a cost of some £14 million in that year. The Eastern Health Board is unable to provide figures for the number of recipients in 1993 but estimates that there were 14,663 recipients of rent supplement at the end December 1993. The Eastern Health Board estimate the cost of rent supplements in 1993 at some £11.4 million.

In assessing the means of a person who is claiming unemployment assistance and living at home account is taken of the value to that person of free board and lodgings. The practice of relating the value of board and lodgings to the income level of the household in which the applicant resides is designed to take account of different household circumstances in an equitable way and provides a mechanism for targeting scarce resources to those most in need. Abolition of the [823] assessment of free board and lodgings would represent a substantial cost to the taxpayer. A recent estimate of the cost of abolishing the assessment was in excess of £60 million per annum.

A young person living at home who qualifies for unemployment assistance is entitled to a minimum payment of £5 a week. As I announced recently, this is being increased to £10 a week from July.

Recent detailed analysis found no clear evidence to suggest that the current assessment of free board and lodgings was encouraging young people to leave the family home in order to qualify for full unemployment assistance and rent supplement. In assessing applications for rent supplement from young single people who have left the family home health boards will establish that there were valid reasons for the move before paying a rent supplement.

  117.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Justice    the reason for the delay in the processing of a land registry application for a person (details supplied).

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that the application referred to by the Deputy was lodged in November 1986 but, due to the fact that prolonged queries with the Land Commission arose in relation to the land which is the subject of this application, the processing of the registration has not yet been completed. I am informed, however, that following the lodgment of the relevant Land Registry estate map in August 1993, mapping by the Land Registry in relation to the application was completed on 31 August 1993 and that a query about duplication of plans on an associated fiat was substantially resolved with the Land Commission in early March 1994.

The Land Commission's response is now awaited in relation to a query which has arisen in relation to certain commonage shares, one of which is included in this dealing. Until the response of the [824] Land Commission is received this dealing cannot be further progressed.

  118.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Justice    when a map sought by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo and paid for by 7 September 1993, will issue.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that a copy file plan map is being issued today to the person referred to in the question in relation to the folio concerned.

  119.  Mr. D. McDowell    asked the Minister for Justice    if her attention has been drawn to the increased incidence of vandalism in the Kilmore area, Dublin 5; and the measures, if any, being taken by the gardaí to counteract the problem.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that they received a number of complaints of vandalism in the Kilmore area during the months of January and February, 1994. A number of measures have been taken to deal with the situation, arising from which two youths were arrested and presently stand charged for a number of offences.

The Garda authorities have informed me that they are satisfied that the measures they have taken in the area are proving effective in dealing with the crime situation there. However, I am assured that the situation will be kept under constant review.

[825]

  120.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Justice    if her attention has been drawn to the delay in the issuing of maps to farmers in counties Sligo, Leitrim and in the rest of the country who require these maps before the end of March 1994, deadline for EU premia and payment purposes and to the fact that because of pressure in dealing with the demand for these maps the staff of the Land Registry are unable to deal with reasonable queries from the applicants who are worried about the situation; the steps, if any, she intends to take to ensure that the maps are made available on time and that queries are answered; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

  129.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Justice    when the Land Registry will supply a person (details supplied) in County Sligo with maps that he applied for in November 1993, as these are urgently required to be submitted in advance of an end of March deadline for EU premia and payments.

  130.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Justice    when the Land Registry will supply a person (details supplied) in County Sligo with the maps that he applied for in November 1993, as these are urgently required to be submitted in advance of an end of March deadline for EU premia and payments.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that the Land Registry is experiencing a huge influx of applications for copy file plan maps as a result of the area aid scheme. Since the beginning of this year, the level of intake is 66 per cent higher than for the corresponding period last year. All available staff in the Mapping Branch and Records Section of the Land Registry are working overtime in the evenings and on Saturdays in an effort to process applications as speedily as possible. There has also been a correspondingly high volume of inquiries relating to these applications, made mainly by telephone, with the result that the Land Registry staff have been spending a large amount of time dealing with telephone inquiries relating to applications instead of processing them. In turn this was increasing the period of delay in the issuing of the maps.

In an effort to issue as many copy file plans as possible, the Land Registry management have decided, as a short term [826] measure, to suspend dealing with inquiries relating to copy file plan map applications and to concentrate on dealing with the actual applications in an effort to issue as many copy file plans maps as possible. Consequently, it is not possible at present to give an estimated date of completion for any particular application.

The fact that the Land Registry could not guarantee delivery by the 1994 area aid deadline of 31 March 1994 of any Land Registry maps ordered from them other than those required for normal land transactions was drawn to the notice of farmers on a number of occasions in recent months. Special arrangements were put in place by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to facilitate the obtaining of maps by farmers from the Ordnance Survey. These arrangements included the fixing of reduced fees to be charged by the Ordnance Survey for maps ordered in connection with area aid applications. The arrangements were outlined to this House by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry in response to a Parliamentary Question on 7 December 1993 (Dail Debates Volume 436 columns 1585-1589). It would appear, however, that notwithstanding these special arrangements, very sizeable numbers of applications by farmers for copy folio maps required solely for area aid scheme applications have been submitted to the Land Registry.

However, I understand that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry announced yesterday that he has extended the closing date for receipt of simplified area aid application forms, from livestock farmers only, to Friday, 29 April 1994 from the original closing date of 31 March 1994. He said he was doing this because he understood that some farmers were still having difficulties in obtaining or completing the requisite maps. I believe the extension will facilitate the clearing of the backlog of applications in the Land Registry for copy file plan maps.

[827]

  121.  Mr. Dukes    asked the Minister for Justice    if she will modify the opening hours or manning levels of the Garda station in Monasterevan, County Kildare; the plans, if any, she has to change the current status of the station; and if there will be no diminution in the Garda presence at Monasterevan, County Kildare.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  There are no plans at present to change the status of Monasterevan Garda Station or to reduce the Garda presence there. The present Garda strength at Monasterevan station is I sergeant and 2 gardaí which has been the norm for the past number of years.

The station is open to the public from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. It is closed on Sunday. Outside of these hours callers to the station can use the communication link and a member on patrol can be contacted to deal with the problem.

A patrol car is shared between Monasterevan and Rathangan stations and joint mobile patrols are carried out in both sub-districts.

The Garda authorities are satisfied that the present policing arrangements for Manasterevan make for the most effective use of resources and any extension of the opening hours would prove counter-productive by taking members from outdoor patrol duties where they are more gainfully employed. However, the situation will be kept under review by the Garda authorities.

[828]

  122.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Justice    the total number of rounds of ammunition, the total number and type of weapons and the amount and type of explosives and other materials recovered in finds of arms, ammunition and explosives believed to have been imported as a result of illegal shipments with regard to the Republic of Ireland; and the estimated market value of these finds.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  Statistics of all arms, ammunition and explosives recovered by the Garda Síochána are included in the Garda Commissioner's annual reports on crime, copies of which are in the Oireachtas Library for the years up to and including 1992. Statistics of arms finds in 1993 to 14 October were given in my response to Question No. 89 on that date. Statistics of finds for last year as a whole will be included in the Report on Crime 1993 which is at an advanced stage of preparation. All of the materials recovered by the Garda Síochána with the exception of home-made explosives and certain shotguns, rifles and associated ammunition were brought into the State illegally.

As indicated in my reply of 14 October 1993, it is not the Garda practice to put a monetary value on arms, ammunition and explosives recovered. The value of such recoveries is more clearly expressed in terms of their importance in preventing deaths and injuries to the people of these islands.

  123.  Mr. Power    asked the Minister for Justice    the plans, if any, she has to set up a pilot scheme of boot camps in Ireland as an alternative to prison, particularly for first offenders.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I have no such plans at present.

  124.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Justice    when an application for registration of land by a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be completed; the reason for the delay by the Land Registry in making a decision on the registration of this property; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

[829]Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that the dealing which was lodged in 1992 is for registration based on adverse possession and that the relevant notices have been issued and searches initiated. However, an objection was lodged to the application for registration and on 9 December 1993, solicitors acting for the objector informed the Land Registry that court proceedings were being brought in relation to the application. The solicitor for the applicant was informed of the position by the Land Registry on 20 January 1994.

The application cannot be further processed until the court proceedings have been resolved.

  125.  Mr. Costello    asked the Minister for Justice    if there is a segregation unit operating in Mountjoy Prison where prisoners known to have the AIDS virus are detained; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  The new health care unit in Mountjoy Prison contains about 50 prisoners who are HIV-positive and who require close supervision and/or who can benefit from the special regime there. However, the unit is also intended to accommodate other prisoners who are ill or convalescing and whose needs can best be met in the unit.

I have accepted the recommendation in the report of the Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases in Prisons — 1993 — that the automatic compulsory segregation of prisoners who may be identified as HIV-positive should cease and steps are being taken to that end. The policy of non-segregation will be facilitated by strict observance of medical confidentiality in relation to testing for HIV-positivity. I should say, however, that some prisoners who test positive may themselves seek to be accommodated in the health care unit and where appropriate they are facilitated.

[830]

  126.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Justice    the plans, if any, she has to make expenses available for unemployed people who are called to jury service to cover travelling and child minding expenses.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  Under the Juries Act, 1976, there is no provision for the payment out of State funds of expenses to jurors. When the Act was introduced consideration was given to the matter of expenses but it was decided that expenses should not be paid as performance of jury service is considered to be a basic civic duty which arises relatively infrequently as far as the individual is concerned.

In cases where the question of hardship might be likely to arise, it is open to persons concerned to apply to the County Registrar, under section 9 of the Act, for excusal from service.

  127.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Justice    the position of persons (details supplied) in County Tipperary who received a fine for not taxing a car, which had been sold for some months; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the records of the relevant licensing authority show that one of the persons mentioned by the Deputy was the registered owner of the vehicle in question on the date of the offence.

  128.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Justice    if her attention has been drawn to the need for extra Garda foot patrols in the Clondalkin area of Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

[831]Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  The present strength of Clondalkin station is 57. The sub-district of Clondalkin is divided into five sectors each of which is policed on a daily basis by five neighbourhood gardaí on foot patrol. These members keep in touch with what is happening in the area through regular contacts with residents associations, schools, clubs and the business community.

The patrols by members on community policing duties are augmented by members on mobile patrol. This combination provides for a substantial police presence in each sector of the sub-district. Additional foot patrols are provided at random in selected housing estates. A uniformed member is usually assigned to foot patrol duties in Clondalkin village and, if possible, the area receives special attention from a mobile patrol unit.

The Garda authorities are satisfied that the present strength at Clondalkin is adequate and that the optimum use is being made of available resources but the position will be kept under review.

  131.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Justice,    arising out of her reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 145, 146 and 150 on 16 November 1993, when her consideration of the representations referred to are likely to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I am in consultation with my ministerial colleagues in relation to the issue referred to by the Deputy. I hope to be in a position to communicate a decision to the interested parties and to those who made representations in the matter as soon as possible.

[832]

  132.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Justice    if she has satisfied herself that sufficient steps are being taken to prevent cruelty to animals, particularly since the recent scenes on television of greyhound blooding and badger digging; and if she has satisfied herself that the criminal law is sufficient to deal with the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, has overall responsibility for legislation dealing with the prevention of cruelty to animals.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that they investigate any alleged case of cruelty to any animal which comes to their notice. I am also informed that they are satisfied with the legislative provisions available to them for the investigation of incidents of alleged cruelty to animals.

The scenes on television referred to in the question have been fully investigated by the Garda and resulted in the successful prosecution of 4 persons in the District Court in one case. The directions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are awaited in the other case.

  133.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Justice    when registration in respect of property at Ballycahan, Kilcock, County Kildare, will take place in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that the dealing referred to is an application for registration which was lodged in the Land Registry on 15 February 1994.

The application has been passed to an Examiner of Titles. If he is satisfied that the title shown is in order, the appropriate registration will be made in due course.

[833]

  134.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Justice    if her attention has been drawn to the need for extra Garda foot patrols in the Newcastle area of County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn):  The Newcastle area is policed by the gardaí at Rathcoole station which is three miles away. The present strength of the station is 14 compared to 13 in 1992.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that mobile patrols are carried out in the Newcastle area on a regular basis by the patrol car which is attached to Rathcoole station. Foot patrols are also operated in the village of Newcastle as often as possible. In addition, the anti-crime patrol operating from Naas focuses on crime prevention patrols in the Rathcoole subdistrict, with particular emphasis on Newcastle and Brittas so as to prevent and detect travelling criminals.

The Garda authorities have directed that this unit increase its patrols in the Newcastle area having regard to its overall commitments in the division. The situation is kept under continuous review by the Garda authorities.

  135.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    whether full-time and part-time workers have the same redundancy, unfair dismissal and other rights; and if not, the reason therefor.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  Regular part-time employees have the same rights as full-time employees under a wide range of worker protection legislation, including redundancy and unfair dismissals legislation, since the implementation of the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Act, 1991.

The Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Act, 1991 extends the benefits of a range of protective legislation to regular part-time employees and provides that regular part-time [834] employees are entitled to the benefits of the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967 to 1990, the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts, 1973 and 1984, the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Acts, 1977 and 1988, the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 1993, the Maternity Protection of Employees Act, 1981 and the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Acts, 1984 and 1990.

The 1991 Act also extends to regular part-time employees, on a modified basis, the benefit of the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973. Regular part-time employees are entitled to annual leave at the rate of six hours per 100 hours worked and proportionally less where fewer hours are worked.

Regular part-time employees are defined in the 1991 Act as those who have been in the continuous service of the employer for at least 13 weeks, are normally expected to work not less than eight hours per week and who, but for the Act, would be excluded from benefits under the legislation amended by the Act.

  136.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    when he proposes to start up the city enterprise board for Galway city; the number of members who will be on this board; when the board will meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  As the Deputy will be aware, the 18 member Galway County and City Enterprise Board has been in operation since late 1992 and has successfully overseen a significant through-put of small enterprise project approvals in that period. In December 1993, I confirmed that accordingly I had decided to extend the mandate of the current board and to keep its operation under review in the context of the framing of the operational programme for local development under the National Development Plan, 1993 to 1999.

In the light of the Government's statement [835] of 9 February 1994, on the designation of areas of disadvantage under the local development programme, I am satisfied that the geographical coverage of the existing enterprise board should be maintained. That board, with the 34 other boards throughout the country, has been requested to proceed with the formulation of an enterprise action plan for its area. This action plan will be expected to address the scope for ensuring co-ordination between the work of the enterprise board, the range of State supports for small enterprise and the complementary local partnership structures to be established in Galway city, one of the newly designated urban areas, and in Connemara and East Galway which have also been designated as disadvantaged rural areas under the local development programme.

  137.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the amount of funding allocated to DÍON during 1993; the organisations in the United Kingdom who benefited from this fund; and the total amount paid to each organisation.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  The amount of funding allocated for the year 1993 to voluntary organisations in Britain who provide advisory and welfare services to Irish emigrants there was £500,000. The same amount has been allocated for 1994.

Grants were paid to 34 such voluntary organisations assisting Irish emigrants in Britain on the basis or recommendations made by the DÍON Committee. The DÍON Committee, which comes under the aegis of my Department, comprises eight members from both Ireland and Britain and is based in the Irish Embassy in London.

The organisations in Britain who received assistance in 1993 and the total amount received by each are set out in the following table:

  138.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the plans, if any, he has to ban the importation of p.e.t. coke which has been banned in other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  I have no plans to [837] prohibit the importation of p.e.t. coke which is a very important ingredient in the manufacture of a number of products including cement. However, in relation to the domestic use of this product, the Industrial Research and Standards (Section 44) (Petroleum Coke and other Solid Fuels) Order, 1991 requires that petroleum coke and other similar high calorific solid fuels are not manufactured, assembled or sold for domestic use unless they are mixed with other solid fuels. The order further requires that the admixture, when sold for domestic use is, in a suitably marked and sealed bag.

  139.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the role and responsibilities of the regional development councils, the county enterprise boards, the integrated rural development organisations, the Leader pilot programmes, and the Programme for Economic and Social Progress pilot areas; the individual and distinct responsibilities pertaining to each; other funding organisations and agencies under the aegis of his Department and their relationship with the above five named groups; his objectives in so far as regional development within Ireland is concerned regarding the work of these agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  The Deputy will appreciate that while county enterprise boards come under my area of responsibility, the regional authorities, the Leader pilot programmes and the Programme for Economic and Social Progress pilot areas come under the aegis of the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Taoiseach, respectively. I understand that the integrated rural development organisations are private community-based organisations.

The role and responsibilities of the county enterprise boards are strategic and the funding available to them should provide a new source of much-needed [838] support for local enterprise initiatives. The county enterprise boards have been given clear enterprise and job creation objectives and are responsible for business areas not already covered by the State industrial development agencies.

Their key tasks are to tap the employment opportunities in their localities through: developing enterprise action plans covering all sectors in their county; creating local enterprise awareness and developing an enterprise culture to ensure community-based enterprise activity; providing grant support to individuals and local community groups to assist commercially viable small enterprise projects and influencing the allocation of resources for small enterprises from European Union, private and public funding sources.

The new boards will complement the work of the existing State agencies and will not displace or duplicate local enterprise initiatives such as those mentioned in the Deputy's question. Their role will be to facilitate local development and to act as a catalyst where no enterprise group is currently active at community level.

The other funding agencies under the aegis of my Department are IDA Ireland, FORBAIRT, SFADCo and FÁS. These agencies will continue to co-operate, as appropriate, with the organisations listed in the Deputy's question to ensure that a co-ordinated and comprehensive approach to job creation is pursued across a wide front.

As regards regional development, all the agencies under the aegis of my Department have regard, as appropriate, through their structures and operations to regional and national industrial policy, such as the promotion of disadvantaged areas, balanced regional development, improved linkages between indigenous industry and overseas-owned companies and the development of industrial clusters around sources of national competitive advantage.

[839]

  140.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    whether there are incentives available to the farming community to take people off the live register to work in rural development.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  There are no particular incentives operated under the auspices of my Department which are specifically geared towards taking members of the farming community per se off the live register to work in rural development. It is, of course, open to such persons to apply for any of the conventional FÁS schemes—some of which may have a rural development dimension — and their applications will be considered on the basis of prevailing eligibility criteria.

  141.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will review the fees that have to be paid to obtain protection for an invention as these can be prohibitive, particularly for persons who are unemployed, as without such protection a person cannot openly have discussions regarding the feasibility of his idea.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  I share the Deputy's concern.

I believe that the fees charged for applying for patents to protect inventions should reflect the need to encourage innovation, especially in the case of small to medium sized enterprises and individual inventors. In fact, to make it easier and less expensive to obtain patent protection by small enterprises, the opportunity was taken in the Patents Act, 1992 to provide for the establishment of a new system of short term patents. Such patents are of a ten-year duration and the official fees are only half of the amounts charged for ordinary patents of 20 years duration.

I might mention also that the official fees charged by the Controller of the Patents Office in respect of ordinary [840] patent applications have remained at the same level since 1987.

As in the case of other costs borne by industry and business, I will endeavour to do everything possible to keep the official fees for obtaining patents as low as possible. The Deputy is no doubt aware that Patent Office fees represent only a small element of total patenting costs, which include fees to patent agents and other costs. Forbairt may provide assistance in respect of patenting costs in general, by investing in patent applications which have good prospects of being granted and of being commercially sound.

  142.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the provision made to ensure equal participation between women and men on all human resources programmes co-funded by the European Union in 1994-1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  My Department is the national authority for the European Social Fund in Ireland. In that context I have responsibility to ensure that all EU co-financed human resources measures are delivered in accordance with the regulations which govern the provision of financial support from the European Social Fund. Over the period 1994-1999 those regulations place emphasis on the need to ensure a proper gender balance on co-financed education, training and employment schemes. Developments in this respect will be regularly monitored in partnership with the European Commission.

In 1992, 37 per cent of participants on programmes supported by the European Social Fund were female.

[841]

  143.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    whether he has received representations seeking to permit grant aid from the county enterprise boards towards working capital needs of new businesses; and if he will extend the powers of the boards to allow them put a financial package together to assist with working capital needs.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  I have received representations seeking working capital grants from the county enterprise fund. The Deputy will understand that there are difficulties about giving grants which are totally unrelated to any performance indicator such as the acquisition or construction of a particular asset or the achievement of certain stated employment targets, given the need to ensure value for money in the dispensing of Exchequer funds.

I should point out, however, that in addition to capital and feasibility study grants, boards can consider employment grants in favour of suitable promoters. Employment grants are in fact a form of working capital, related to a specific performance target of particular relevance in the context of the county enterprise fund. I would expect employment grants — which may be given even when only one job — the promoter's — is concerned—to satisfy the requirement of assistance towards working capital.

  144.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    his policy in relation to the future development of the print media in this country and the problems of a company (details supplied); and if he intends to introduce legislation to ensure the future development of the industry.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn):  Measures necessary to ensure the development of industry and the maintenance and creation of the maximum number of sustainable jobs are in place and are kept under constant review. The print media sector, like all other sectors of industry, operates within the internal market of the European Union and must, therefore, compete on [842] this basis. The printing sector overall has seen rapid advances in new technology in recent years. In order to remain competitive the Irish newspaper industry must keep abreast of and introduce these new technologies. This will place the industry in a better position to operate in the competitive environment and meet the challenges ahead.

I have no plans to introduce specific legislation governing the development of the print media sector. I should add that existing legislation provides that any proposed merger or takeover, involving enterprises at least one of which is engaged in the printing and/or publication of one or more newspapers, must be notified to me in accordance with the Mergers, Takeovers and Monopolies (Newspapers) Order, 1979. On receipt of a proposal I have the power to: refer the proposal to the Competition Authority for investigation; and on receipt of the report of the Competition Authority I may either allow the proposal to proceed, or if I think the exigencies of the common good so warrant, may make an order prohibiting a notified proposal either absolutely or except on conditions.

However, I would point out, that no proposal has been received by me under the mergers and takeovers legislation in respect of the company in question.

  145.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for the Environment    the effect, if any, of having disabled persons car stickers displayed on a car; and the entitlements associated with this facility.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Local traffic and parking by-laws or temporary rules made by the Garda Commissioner under sections 89 and 90 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, provide that parking permits for disabled drivers may be granted by a local authority to a person who is suffering from a permanent disability that prevents the person from walking or causes undue hardship to the person in walking.

Holders of disabled drivers' permits [843] are exempt from certain parking controls, in particular the requirement to pay on-street parking charges. In addition, certain local authorities exempt permit holders from the requirement to pay charges in local authority car parks.

  146.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 who had his provisional driving licence endorsed in the year 1988 to last for a period of three years and who did not renew his licence in 1988 but did so in 1991 with the endorsement to apply from this date as the person concerned passed his driving test in February 1994 but has now been told that the endorsement must run for three more years on his full licence since his provisional licence still had seven days to run; and if he will remove this injustice.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Section 37 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, requires that an endorsement on a driving licence must remain during a continuous period of not less than three years, or a series of discontinuous periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than five years during which a person has lawfully held a driving licence. This person held a provisional licence from 24 January 1992 to 23 January 1994, which was endorsed, but allowed a period of 11 days to elapse before acquiring a full driving licence on 3 February 1994. Consequently, an aggregate five year period applies in his case and under current law he would not be eligible for a licence clear of endorsement until 3 February 1997. However, the Road Traffic Bill, currently before the Oireachtas, proposes to change the law to provide for a period of three years endorsement in the case of either continuous or discontinuous periods during which a person has held a valid licence. The effect of this in the present case would be that the three year endorsement period would expire on 3 February 1995.

[844]

  147.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of houses repaired under the scheme for the elderly in each community care area in the last year for which figures are available.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  Under the scheme of special housing aid for the elderly, the numbers of cases assisted were as follows in 1992, the last year for which complete figures are available:

Health Board Community Care Area Number of Jobs Completed
Eastern Dublin 1 11
2 20
3 28
4 40
5 33
6 38
7 66
8 13
Kildare 10
Wicklow 27
Southern North Lee 118
South Lee 77
North Cork 33
West Cork 16
Kerry 73
Western Mayo 69
Roscommon 38
Galway 102
North-Western Sligo-Leitrim 54
Donegal 123
North-Eastern Meath 102
Cavan-Monaghan 124
Louth-South Monaghan 287
South-Eastern Waterford 44
Kilkenny-Carlow 61
Tipperary SR 63
Wexford 64
Mid-Western Clare 53
Limerick 29
Tipperary NR-E. Limerick 39
[845]Midland Laois-Offaly 54
Longford-Westmeath 84

  150.  Mr. Dukes    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has considered a proposal submitted to him by Kildare County Council for an improvement in the sewerage scheme for the Brownstown/Curragh/Suncroft/Cutbush areas of County Kildare; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Kildare County Council is anxiously awaiting approval of the scheme in view of the fact that the current system is unsatisfactory; and whether he intends to approve the scheme.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The design brief for this scheme is under consideration in my Department. Having regard to the existing level of commitments under the water and sanitary services programme, I cannot indicate when a decision may be made.

  151.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for the Environment    if the Ashbourne sewerage plant will be pumping raw sewage as distinct from treated effluent to Mulhuddart, County Dublin; the proposed costings of the proposal to pump raw sewage from Ashbourne to Mulhuddart; the present position regarding these proposals; when it is intended to appoint the consultant engineer to the project; and the length of time after the appointment of the consultant in which the work will commence.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  A preliminary report, prepared by consulting engineers, was submitted to my Department some time ago by Meath County Council for the Ashbourne sewerage scheme. The report [846] envisages the pumping of untreated sewage, via a rising main, from Ashbourne into the Dublin drainage scheme at Mulhuddart for onward transfer and treatment at Ringsend treatment plant.

Having regard to the existing level of commitments under the water and sanitary services programme, I cannot indicate when a decision may be made to approve the preliminary report.

  152.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for the Environment    when the income limit for local authority housing and local authority loans was raised to £12,000; the plans, if any, he has for raising the limit at present; the plans, if any, he has for a special exemption for people applying for shared ownership on hardship grounds such as marriage breakdown.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  Local authorities are not required to apply an income limit in determining eligibility for local authority housing. The £12,000 income limit for local authority housing loans, which applies to households with only one earner, has been in effect since 14 February 1991. That limit and the provisions of the shared ownership scheme, both of which were introduced in the plan for social housing, are being examined as part of the general review of the measures in that plan currently being carried out by my Department. Pending completion of the review and decisions arising from it, I do not propose to comment on the possible outcome.

  153.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will expedite refurbishment of the second phase of eight flats at St. Joseph's Mansions, Dublin 1, where most families have already moved into unsatisfactory temporary accommodation pending the refurbishment.

[847]Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  I have approved Dublin Corporation's proposals under the remedial works scheme for the acceptance of a tender for the second phase of work on this estate.

  155.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will increase the allocation for local improvement schemes to local authorities in 1994 in view of the importance of this scheme for rural Ireland.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The provision of £2.5 million for the local improvements scheme this year represents an increase of £0.5 million on 1993. I notified county councils of their grant allocations on 18 February last.

  156.  Mr. M. Brennan    asked the Minister for the Environment    when finance will be made available for the provision of a new fire station at Enniscrone, County Sligo.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Consideration is being given to the projects to be financed from the 1994 capital allocation and the proposal for a new fire station in Enniscrone will be evaluated in that context. I am not in a position to say when a decision will be made.

  157.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Environment    the regulations governing road signs; and if there are any regulations which state that the Irish must be smaller than the English on road signs.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations, 1962 to 1992, made under section 95 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, provide the statutory basis for the design, content, [848] specification and use of road traffic signs.

The regulations provide that place names on information signs must be shown in both Irish and English, except in Gaeltacht areas, where they must be in Irish only. All legends used for words in Irish must be presented in italics.

In addition to regulatory requirements, my Department has issued specifications and guidance documents to road authorities on various aspects of traffic signs, particularly technical aspects, with a view to securing a uniform approach by all authorities. A specification for the construction of traffic signs, issued by my Department in 1986, provides that Irish words and place names should be in a lower case lettering with initial letters in capitals, whilst the English versions of place names should be entirely in upper case letters, capitals. Local authorities were advised in 1989 that all Irish script should be inclined to the right at an angle of 15 degrees to the vertical.

The approach to the format of traffic signs containing words in Irish was finalised following detailed discussions with An Grúpa Stiúrtha, the group charged with promoting the use of Irish in local authority services.

A comprehensive study of road signage requirements is currently in progress and this will include a review of the provisions relating to the use of Irish on signs.

  158.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Environment    the cost of the recently published roads bulletin; and the reason the money was not spent on the upgrading of roads.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The cost of the bulletin was £19,247, including VAT of £1,657. While the cost was met from the administrative budget provision of my Department's Vote, rather than from the provision for roads, the sum involved represents about 0.005 per cent of the Department's expenditure on roads and related services last year.

[849] It seems to me to be essential that information about the manner in which the overall sum of more than £400 million allocated to road works is being used should be freely and widely available, and that the public should have easy access to information on the legal, technical and financial issues that arise. The new bulletin is designed to meet objectives such as these, and it will be published periodically by my Department and distributed widely.

The practice of publishing regular bulletins dealing with statistical matters and other developments is well established in my Department and efforts have been made in recent times to improve both the content and the quality of Departmental publications generally. I intend that the roads programme, which has not been well served in this regard until now, will in future be dealt with in the same way as other services have been.

  159.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Environment    if EC money is being allocated to the Dublin local authorities for the provision of a landfill site or sites.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  In accordance with the National Development Plan, the operational programme for environmental services will include a sub-programme on solid waste. Pending the finalisation and implementation of the operational programme, it is not possible to indicate the particular proposals which will benefit from the EU co-financing involved.

  160.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Minister for the Environment    the present position regarding an application from Wicklow County Council for the provision of a reservoir at Baltinglass, County Wicklow.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Contract documents for this scheme are under consideration in my Department. The question of funding is being examined in the context of the 1994-1999 operational programme for environmental services.

[850]

  161.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he has satisfied himself with the present system of listing the interiors of buildings in view of the fact that there are only 110 interiors listed in the Dublin area.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The Planning Acts allow a planning authority to include in its development plan objectives for the preservation of interior features of buildings, where such interiors are of artistic, historical or architectural interest. The inclusion in development plans of such objectives, whose principal effect is to make certain development which would otherwise be exempted development for planning purposes subject to planning permission requirements, is a matter for individual planning authorities.

The Programme for a Partnership Government contains an undertaking to reinforce the existing framework for the protection of listed buildings. Measures to give effect to this commitment are being considered and will be announced in due course.

  162.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his Department took into consideration traffic count levels on non-national roads when it allocated funds in this regard to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  163.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will give a county by county breakdown of the Exchequer spending per mile or kilometre of county and non-national roads for each of the years 1990 to 1993 and projected figures for 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 163 together. The specific information [851] requested is set out in the following table which, in relation to the years 1990 to 1993, covers total payments made to county councils from the allocations for discretionary block maintenance and improvement grants — determined generally on a pro rata mileage basis — the supplementary grant for improvements and special grants for individual projects. The amount of grant under the last two categories was determined on a case by case basis, taking account respectively of the condition of roads and the merits of individual projects. Road grant payments to county councils cover both regional and county roads; it is a matter for each council to determine the apportionment as between the two categories.

[852] The level of Exchequer grants in 1994, as shown in the table, will be increased when county councils are notified of their allocations under the scheme of specific grants for improvement works which are important to the generation of economic activity and employment. An additional sum of £33.6 million, representing some 50 per cent of the grants already allocated for non-national roads, will be allocated to local authorities for these works this year.

Traffic counts are not available for all sections of the non-national road network and are not, therefore, the basis of grant allocations for these roads. Traffic count data, where it is available, will, of course, be a relevant consideration in the making of allocations under the new scheme of grants for improvement works.

Non-National Roads Exchequer Grant Payments

County Councils 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
£/km £/km £/km £/km £/km*
Carlow 720 714 708 657 617
Cavan 977 1,018 1,264 1,251 1,101
Clare 899 925 987 1,048 723
Cork 751 722 732 701 617
Donegal 729 791 771 723 817
Dublin 1,646 1,937 1,666 1,834 **1,003
Galway 893 836 776 733 691
Kerry 907 786 770 779 696
Kildare 1,232 1,249 1,102 972 930
Kilkenny 715 714 710 659 617
Laoighis 1,101 918 840 754 701
Leitrim 920 872 976 904 819
Limerick 806 787 787 736 694
Longford 946 1,012 1,001 1,040 995
Louth 1,051 943 989 887 618
Mayo 480 830 765 695 653
Meath 828 817 883 809 755
Monaghan 847 1,006 1,077 1,044 908
Offaly 1,330 1,029 939 887 718
Roscommon 818 814 839 848 671
Sligo 807 766 832 799 617
Tipperary NR 762 730 709 670 617
Tipperary SR 734 714 709 677 617
Waterford 729 724 710 671 617
Westmeath 714 734 717 671 616
Wexford 696 681 710 659 617
Wicklow 880 1,055 1,029 1,131 671

*£/km based on initial grant allocations for 1994. The total of these allocations will be increased (by up to 50 per cent in the aggregate) when allocations under the new scheme of grants for specific improvements are made.

**This figure relates to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin County Councils and includes non-national roads in the former Borough of Dún Laoghaire.

[853]

  164.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for the Environment    the balance of grants due to a group water scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  On the basis of the most recent estimate of final cost, there are no further grants due to this group.

  165.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for the Environment    the current status of a group water scheme (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  My Department is awaiting the submission of design data and plans by this group.

  167.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that compulsory purchase orders are being used as a threat by local authorities to acquire and rezone land; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I am not aware of a practice of this kind. Land zoning decisions are made by the elected local councils in the context of the Development Plan. Compulsory purchase is a separate matter and local authorities must be able to justify its use in each particular case before a CPO is confirmed.

[854]

  169.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that local authority outdoor staff are not paid expenses in respect of travelling to work whereas other grades of local authority employees are paid an allowance in respect of travelling between five and ten miles and an increased allowance in respect of travelling in excess of ten miles; his views on whether this is reasonable; the proposals, if any, he has to provide some allowance for outdoor working staff who have to travel in excess of five miles to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  There is no provision for the payment of expenses to local authority staff in any grade in respect of travelling from home to their place of work. I have no proposals to change this situation.

  170.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for the Environment    in view of the commitment in the 1994 Budget and, subsequently in the debate on a private members' motion in Dáil Éireann, the measures, if any, he proposes to introduce to alleviate the condition of county and secondary roads in counties Monaghan and Cavan, especially in view of the needs of these two counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Substantial discretionary grant allocations have been made to Monaghan and Cavan Councils in 1994, amounting to £2.102 million and £3.08 million respectively. These allocations include supplementary maintenance grants of £408,000, Monaghan, and £495,000, Cavan, from the additional £15 million allocated in the budget to assist local councils in carrying out works arising from adverse weather experienced during 1993 and early this year. The allocations also include supplementary grants for improvement works of £425,000, Monaghan, and £950,000, Cavan, in recognition of the poor road conditions and special needs of these counties.

In addition to the allocations already notified, specific grants will be made available to Cavan and Monaghan County Councils for improvement works [855] which are important to the generation of economic activity and employment. An additional sum of £33.6 million, representing some 50 per cent of the grants already allocated for non-national roads, will be allocated to local authorities for these works this year. I am examining local authorities' applications for these grants and I will notify allocations as soon as possible.

  171.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Minister for the Environment    with regard to completing the contract documents for the Fermoy water supply scheme - stage 3, the reason he has not given approval to Fermoy Urban District Council to allow it to carry out investigations on its water source and site for a proposed reservoir at Uplands, Fermoy; if, following a meeting he had with the council in September 1993, he received an assurance that the council was willing to carry the cost of the investigations in the short term provided that he agreed to these costs being recouped under the terms of the scheme; if he will respond to this suggestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  The question of funding for this scheme, as a whole, is being examined at present in the context of the 1994-1999 operational programme for environmental services. It would be appropriate to await the outcome of this examination before Fermoy Urban District Council undertake the cost of site investigation works.

[856]

  172.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Environment    if, in relation to hedge cutting and tree cutting along roads in North County Dublin he will identify some of the practical conservation projects, if any, he plans to compensate for these activities; the directives, if any, he has issued to Fingal County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Section 70 of the Roads Act, 1993, places an obligation on landowners or occupiers of property adjoining a public road to take all reasonable steps to ensure that trees, hedges, shrubs etc. do not constitute a hazard or potential hazard to road users. Where such a hazard or potential hazard exists, the local authority may serve a notice on the landowner or occupier requiring him or her to take appropriate remedial action. Failure to comply with a notice is an offence.

Local authorities themselves also engage in roadside trimming operations as part of their road maintenance work. They have been reminded, in guidance notes on the Roads Act, 1993 and in the annual roads grants memorandum issued by my Department, that while the safety of road users should be of paramount importance in the exercise of their powers and duties, they should also be aware of their responsibility in relation to the environment and the preservation of amenities when carrying out such works. The 1994 memorandum which will issue shortly will again bring this matter to the attention of local authorities and will, in particular, advise them that roadside trimming should be carried out during the winter months when there is least risk to the ecological environment. Authorities will also be advised that periods coinciding with net building, rearing of young, etc., should be avoided and that the timing of trimming work and the manner of its execution should seek to minimise possible damage to plants and wild flowers in hedgerows.

In a separate but related initiative, I recently published “Tree Preservation — Guidelines for Planning Authorities”. These guidelines which update and revise previous guidelines issued in 1986 explain, in some detail, the provisions of the planning code which deal with the preservation of trees. Local authorities have been encouraged to review the need for tree preservation within their areas [857] and, wherever appropriate, to use the powers available to them to protect and enhance the amenity value of trees within their area.

  173.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding tenders received in respect of the Erris regional water supply scheme extension to Bangor Erris, and Glenamoy, County Mayo; the date tenders were received; if he will make a statement on the recommendation for approval of contract which has been submitted to his Department; and when he expects funding to be provided for this scheme.

  174.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Erris Peninsula water supply scheme; and if he will make a statement outlining when work will commence on this scheme.

  175.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Cong sewerage scheme; and if he will make a statement outlining when work will commence on this scheme.

  176.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Cong water supply scheme; and if he will make a statement outlining when work will commence on this scheme.

  177.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the upgrading of sewerage treatment facilities at the rural housing development at Louisburgh, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work will commence on this project.

  178.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Shrule water supply scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

[858]

  179.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Tourmakeady sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  180.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Dugort sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  181.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    in respect of the Lough Mask regional water supply scheme, stage two, contract No. 6, Claremorris water, whether he will confirm that the sub-soil survey has now been completed; the date which tenders have been received; the number and extent of each tender; and if he will make a statement on appointment of a contractor resulting from the recommendations submitted by the consulting engineers involved.

  182.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Westport regional water supply scheme, County Mayo, stage two, contract No. 2, extension to Louisburgh; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  183.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    in respect of the Lough Mask regional water supply scheme, County Mayo, stage two, contract No. 8, Ballinrobe distribution, the position regarding the approval of the preliminary report submitted to his Department by the consultants; his views on the part of the distribution system which is included in the Ballinrobe sewerage scheme tender documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[859]

  184.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Achill Island water supply scheme, County Mayo, new aerial main to Bunnacurry and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  185.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Erris regional water supply scheme, County Mayo, Mullet Peninsula extension, Emlybeg to Ellybay; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  186.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Belmullet water supply improvements, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  187.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Westport sewerage scheme, stage one, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  188.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Castlebar environs drainage, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  189.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Cong sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  190.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Shrule sewerage scheme, stage 11, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

[860]

  191.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Achill Sound sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  192.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Tourmakeady sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  193.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Lahardane sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  194.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Lough Mask, County Mayo sludge treatment; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  195.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Turlough sewerage scheme; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  196.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Belcarra sewerage scheme; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  197.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Kilmaine sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  198.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Newport sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

[861]

  199.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Lough Mask regional water supply scheme, stage two, contract No. 3, Kilmaine to Shrule; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  200.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Lough Mask regional water supply scheme, stage two, contract No. 4, water tower, Kilmaine; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  201.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Lough Feagh regional water supply scheme; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  202.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Lough Mask regional water supply scheme, stage three, extension to Ballyhaunis, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

[862]

  203.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Belmullet sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work to commence on this project.

  204.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Environment    the position regarding the Louisburgh sewerage scheme, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement as to when he expects work will commence on this project.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 to 204, inclusive, together.

The present position in relation to the relevant schemes is set out in the following table.

Subject to what is specifically stated in relation to particular schemes, progress with the proposals involved will depend on the further technical clearance procedures arising and/or the availability of finance, including relevant EU co-financing, under the national programme for water services.

Water and Sewerage Development Proposals relating to County Mayo.

Scheme Present Position
Erris Regional Water Supply Scheme, Stage 2 (Extension to Bangor Erris and Glenamoy) Tenders were submitted in November 1992 and are under consideration.
Erris Peninsula Water Supply Small scale scheme (included on list submitted by Mayo County Council in 1993) is under consideration.
Cong Sewerage Scheme Small scale scheme (included on list submitted by Mayo County Council in 1993) is under consideration.
Cong Water Supply Scheme Small scale scheme (included on list submitted by Mayo County Council in 1993) is under consideration.
Sewage Treatment facilities at the rural housing development at Louisburgh Small scale scheme (included on list submitted by Mayo County Council in 1993) is under consideration.
Shrule Water Supply Scheme Small scale scheme (included on list submitted by Mayo County Council in 1993) is under consideration.
[863][864]Tourmakeady Sewerage Scheme Small scale scheme (included on list submitted by
Mayo County Council in 1993) is under consideration.
Dugort Sewerage Scheme Design brief under consideration.
Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme, Stage 2, Contract 6 (Ballinrobe to Claremorris). Subsoil investigation completed. Contract documents approved. Tenders awaited. This scheme is one of the environmental projects approved for EU funding under the Cohesion Fund.
Westport Regional Water Supply Scheme, Stage 2 (Trunk Distribution Network and Reservoir) Tender for site investigation approved. Contract documents under consideration for the mechanical/electrical contract. Revised contract documents for civil works contract awaited.
Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme, Stage 2, Contract 8, Ballinrobe Distribution. Preliminary report under consideration Town distribution part of this scheme is being developed in conjunction with the Ballinrobe Sewerage Scheme now under construction.
Achill Island Water Supply Scheme, new arterial main to Bunnacurry. Preliminary report under consideration.
Erris Regional Water Supply Scheme — Mullet Peninsula, Emlybeg to Ellybay. Preliminary documentation under consideration.
Belmullet Water Supply Improvements Preliminary proposal received and under consideration.
Westport Sewerage Scheme, Stage 1 (Sewage Treatment Works) Marine survey is completed. Preliminary report under consideration. Environmental Impact Statement was approved subject to modifications on 6 October, 1993. This scheme is one of the environmental projects submitted to the EU for funding under the Cohesion Fund.
Castlebar Sewerage Environs Scheme Preliminary report under consideration.
Cong Main Drainage and Waste Water Disposal Scheme Preliminary report and drawings under consideration.
Shrule Sewerage Scheme, Stage 2 (Extension to Dalgan Road). Contract documents under consideration.
Achill Sound Sewerage Scheme Design brief approved. Preliminary report awaited.
Tourmakeady Sewerage Scheme Preliminary report under consideration.
Lahardane Sewerage Scheme. Design brief approved. Preliminary report awaited.
Lough Mask Regional Water — Sludge Dewatering Plant at Tourmakeady Preliminary report under consideration.
Turlough Sewerage Scheme Design brief under consideration.
Belcarra Sewerage Scheme Design brief under consideration.
[865][866]Kilmaine Sewerage Scheme Design brief under consideration.
Newport Sewerage Scheme Design brief under consideration.
Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme, Stage 2, Contract No. 3, Kilmaine to Shrule. Contract documents under consideration.
Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme, Stage 2, Contract 4 (Water Tower and Chlorination House at Kilmaine) Contract documents under consideration. Certificate of completion of planning awaited.
Lough Feagh Regional Water Supply Preliminary report under consideration.
Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme, Stage 3, Extension to Ballyhaunis. Preliminary report awaited.
Belmullet Sewerage Scheme Design brief under consideration.
Louisburgh Sewerage Scheme Design brief under consideration.

  205.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for the Environment    when stage two of the Listowel main drainage scheme, County Kerry will commence in view of the fact that contract documents have been submitted.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Contract documents for stage 2 of the Listowel main drainage scheme are under examination in my Department. Having regard to the existing level of commitments under the water and sanitary services programme, I cannot indicate when a decision may be made.

  206.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for the Environment    the up-to-date position regarding the extension of the Ballyheigue sewerage scheme, County Kerry to include the provision of a new treatment plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I refer to the reply to Question No. 215 of 6 October 1993. The position is unchanged.

  207.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for the Environment    if an application has been made by Mayo County Council in respect of a group water scheme development (details supplied) in County Mayo.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  There is no proposal with my Department for a group water scheme at this location.

  212.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for the Environment    the extent of monitoring of the quality of drinking water in the Dublin area; the proposals, if any, there are to improve the quality of water; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  Monitoring of drinking water supplies in the Dublin area is carried out by the relevant sanitary authorities in accordance with the requirements of the European Communities (Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption) Regulations, 1988. A full analysis of drinking water quality monitoring [867] results, including those for the Dublin area, is contained in annual national reports on the quality of drinking water in Ireland, copies of which are in the Oireachtas Library. Proposals to upgrade the water treatment plants in Dublin are at various stages of planning.

  213.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for the Environment    his views on whether all new local authority senior citizen accommodation should have a separate bedroom where heretofore there was bedsit accommodation; if he will issue guidelines to this effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  The type of accommodation to be provided in senior citizens' dwellings is a matter for the individual housing authorities in the first instance having regard to their housing needs.

In August 1982, my Department circulated a booklet to all housing authorities which contained guidelines on the provision of housing for elderly persons. The model plans contained in the booklet provided for separate bedroom(s) and living areas in all instances.

  214.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for the Environment    the progress which has been made with regard to integration of environmental policies between Government Ministers as outlined in the Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-1997, and reaffirmed following the publication of the Green 2000 Advisory Committee report; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith):  I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 19, 27, 43, 53 and 61 on 20 October 1993. The objective of integrating environmental considerations into all relevant policy areas continues to be progressed [868] in particular in the context of appropriate operational programmes under the National Development Plan and of a discussion paper on integration which is being prepared and which I intend to publish shortly.

  215.  Mr. Byrne    asked the Minister for the Environment    further to Parliamentary Question No. 134 of 8 February 1994 the additional documentation required in this matter; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that additional documentation has been sent to his Department by way of a receipt from the thatcher for the work; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Stagg):  The documentation already provided does not warrant payment of the full grant of £1,166 approved. In the absence of further documentation as requested, the maximum grant that can be paid is £1,000; arrangements are now being made for payment of this amount as soon as possible.

  216.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Defence    the current position in relation to the application by the Dublin Civil Defence for the lease of the buildings at the Esplanade, Collins Barracks, Dublin; when the DBO building will be handed over; and if both buildings will be given on a long lease so that appropriate work and arrangements can take place.

  222.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Defence    if he has approved the use of the Esplanade, Collins Barracks, Dublin, for Civil Defence use on a long term basis; when the DBO building will be handed over; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews):  I [869] propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 222 together.

The Department of Defence, in consultation with the other Government Departments involved in the future planning of Collins Barracks, Dublin, is considering the feasibility of making two military stores at the Esplanade available to Dublin Corporation for use by Dublin Civil Defence. Pending the outcome of that consideration, Dublin Civil Defence has the use of one of the stores. The other store continues to be used for military purposes.

[870]

  217.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Defence    the number of acting paid Commissioned Officers categorised by rank, corps and command in Na Buan Oglaigh, first line reserve, FCÁ and Slua Muirí; the rationale for these; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews):  There were 161 officers of the Permanent Defence Force serving in acting ranks on 1 March 1994. A breakdown of this number by rank, Corps and Command is given in the following schedule. Promotion to acting rank mainly arises when officers are promoted to fill temporary vacancies created by the assignment of personnel on duty overseas. On 1 March 1994 there were 137 officers serving overseas.

Officers promoted on an acting basis to serve overseas revert to their substantive rank on return from such duty. Other officers promoted on an acting basis are normally made substantive in their new rank after a period of service in an acting capacity. Pay and allowances are the same for acting and substantive ranks. There are no officers of the Reserve of Officers serving in acting ranks.

Schedule

Corps Major General Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Captain Lieutenant Total
Infantry 1 2 39 16 10 68
Artillery 1 4 4 9
Cavalry 1 2 3 6
Signals 1 1 2 2 6
Ordnance 1 1
Supply and Transport 1 5 7 1 14
Medical 3 3
Military Police 2 2
Air Corps 13 8 6 27
Naval Service 3 14 3 5 25
Totals 1 9 83 44 24 161
Commands
Army Headquarters 1 2 9 3 15
Eastern 23 11 5 39
Southern 1 8 7 3 19
Western 6 2 5 13
Curragh 3 10 10 23
Air Corps 13 8 6 27
Naval Service 3 14 3 5 25
Totals 1 9 83 44 24 161

[871]

  218.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Defence,    in respect of the FCA and Slua Muirí, the number, by command, of properties rented by him for use by the Defence Forces; the amount paid in rent for each of the years 1991 to 1993; the number of leases surrendered, by command, in each of the years 1991 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews):  The number, by Command, of properties rented for use by the Defence Forces in respect of the FCA and Slua Muirí is as follows:

Command Number
South 89
East 9
West 99
Curragh 42

The amount paid in rent for properties for each of the years 1991 to 1993 in respect of the FCA and Slua Muirí is as follows:

Year 1991 1992 1993
£ £ £
Rent 96,889.03 99,263.58 107,564.50

The number of leases surrendered, by Command, in each of the years 1991 to date in respect of the FCA and Slua Muirí is as follows:

Command 1991 1992 1993 1994 (to 28 Feb)
South 5 4 6 1
West 10 7 3 0
East 3 3 1 0
Curragh 1 2 2 0

  219.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Defence    the strength of PDF personnel attached to the FCA and Slua Muirí at 31 August for each of the years 1991 to 1993, categorised by officers, NCO's and men; the total pay and allowances for these personnel; the number of PDF personnel attached on a part-time basis categorised as officers, NCO's and men; the number of PDF female personnel currently assigned to FCA and Slua Muirí units; the number of PDF officers, NCO's and men who were attached to command and Army Headquarters staff which had reserve implications at 31 August for each of the years 1989, 1992 and 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  219.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Defence    the strength of PDF personnel attached to the FCA and Slua Muirí at 31 August for each of the years 1991 to 1993, categorised by officers, NCO's and men; the total pay and allowances for these personnel; the number of PDF personnel attached on a part-time basis categorised as officers, NCO's and men; the number of PDF female personnel currently assigned to FCA and Slua Muirí units; the number of PDF officers, NCO's and men who were attached to Command and Army Headquarters staff which had reserve implications at 31 August for each of the years 1989, 1992 and 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews):  The information requested is as follows:

  220.  Mr. S. Ryan    asked the Minister for Defence    the number of personnel by rank in the Defence Forces who continue in service after the usual retirement age specified in Defence Forces regulations, differentiated as between the Na Buan Oglaigh and others; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews):  Details of the number of officers of the Defence Forces who are at present continuing in service after normal retiring age are as follows:

Rank Permanent Defence Reserve of Officers
Force
First Line An FCA
Colonel/Captain(NS) 3( 3)
Lieutenant-Colonel/Commander(NS) 22(13) 1(1)
Commandant/Lieutenant-Commander(NS) 6 8(8)
Captain/Lieutenant(NS) 7 1(1) 4(4)

Figures in brackets denote Technical Officers.

  221.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Defence    the amount of money expended by the State on the purchase of arms and ammunition in each of the years 1991 to 1993.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews):  The following amounts were expended [875] on the purchase of defensive equipment including arms and ammunition, for the Defence Forces: 1991, £5.228 million; 1992, £4.440 million; 1993, £4.659 million.

  223.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Defence    if he will make a statement on reports that members of the Defence Forces working in the Ordnance Survey office are being discriminated against for serving as United Nations personnel overseas, that is, they are being asked to sign in advance of departure that their job may not be available on their return and that others after their return are being left idle while civilians do their work on overtime.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews):  The present situation is that any member of the military survey company who has come back from overseas service has been returned to his previous position in the Ordnance Survey. This arrangement will remain pending a review of the military staffing arrangements within the Ordnance Survey in the context of the current review of the Permanent Defence Force by the efficiency audit group.

  224.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Marine    if his attention has been drawn to the coastal erosion in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews):  I have received a copy of the county and city engineers association's national coastal erosion committee's report on “Costal Management — A Case for Action”. This valuable report outlines the extent of the coastal erosion problem affecting the Irish coastline, including the County Louth coastline.

The Department of the Marine is currently drawing up a coastal protection [876] programme to be implemented over the next six years.

However, as I am sure the Deputy can imagine the costs of coastal protection projects identified far exceeds the £5.5 million that will be available for this purpose under the National Development Plan. Therefore, the Department will only be able to grant-aid local authorities in respect of the most urgent coastal erosion problems having regard to economic, environmental and ecological impacts.

Further consultation with the relevant local authorities will be required before a list of urgent coastal erosion projects for inclusion in the programme can be finalised. In addition, an operational programme to enable EU funding to be drawn down to subvent the programme's implementation remains to be agreed with the Commission of the European Union. Pending completion of these exercises it is not possible to identify what works in County Louth, if any, may be included in the finalised programme.

  225.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Marine    the laws and regulations that pertain to the salmon farming industry.

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews):  My statutory powers in relation to salmon farming derive from the Fisheries Acts 1959 and 1980 and the Foreshore Act, 1933. Applications for the licensing of salmon farming proposals which fall within the scope of the EC (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations, 1989 must be supported by an environmental impact assessment.

  226.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for the Marine    his position in so far as fallowing at marine sites is concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[877]Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews):  Fallowing or rotation of sites in marine fish culture is now an internationally accepted fish farm management strategy with demonstrable benefits for fish husbandry, fish health and the control of sea lice levels.

Technical guidelines for the fallowing of sites have been formulated by the fallowing advisory group which I established last year and marine fish farmers are being actively encouraged to develop fallowing strategies in accordance with these guidelines. It is a key objective to ensure that fallowing proposals are planned and implemented in an integrated way. The strategy is therefore being informed be detailed assessment of each such proposal from the local perspective in regional fallowing advisory groups representing fisheries boards, the salmon research agency, the Department, salmon farmers and fisheries interests. Proposals must also be assessed, from technical and other perspectives, by the Department's Aquaculture Licence Vetting Committee following consultation with local authorities, the Office of Public Works, Bord Fáilte and other relevant interests.

The implementation, this year, of a selected number of fallowing trials, for a strictly limited duration and under stringent conditions, will provide a basis for further evaluation and environmental impact assessment of particular sites as possible components of overall fallowing strategies.

Longer term decisions will be informed by the performance of the sites, the results of environmental, fish health and sea lice monitoring, Environmental Impact Assessment, further consultation with all relevant interests and all other appropriate considerations. The practical experience gained through fallowing trials this year will contribute significantly to the objective of better management strategies for fishfarms commensurate with the needs of other users of the marine resource.

[878]

  227.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for the Marine    in view of the review of the National Development Plan, 1994-99, the amount of moneys to be received for the proposed new Waterford port development in Belview, County Kilkenny.

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews):  Work is underway in the Department preparing for the continuation of EU aid for development works at the commercial seaports. The aim of our overall strategy will be to ensure that our seaports have the capacity and quality of infrastructure to meet the trading conditions of the 21st century. To achieve this a comprehensive port development programme, in respect of the years 1994 to 1999, is included in the National Development Plan.

In so far as port projects are concerned, the Department has identified portal requirements and is now in the process of identifying projects to meet those requirements. This process will be concluded as soon as possible. Final proposals will then have to be submitted to the EU for approval. Officials of the Department will be in touch with Waterford Harbour Commissioners and all those who submitted port projects for consideration in the near future.

  228.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Marine    if the staff vacancies at Dún Laoghaire harbour and at the maintenance yard will be filled in the near future by way of temporary appointments pending the establishment of the Dún Laoghaire harbour authority on a statutory basis.

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews):  The Department of the Marine has recently notified the national employment agency, FÁS, requesting them to advertise four temporary positions [879] in Dún Laoghaire harbour. These posts will be filled through a competitive interview process.

  229.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if persons who applied for forestry grants will receive the income derogation, as applying to approvals issued before 15 February 1994, in view of the fact that these person's lands were inspected in 1993 and have not received written approval because of the delay within his Department and they entered into a contract following the press release by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry in which he assured applicants that grants and premia proposed would be honoured; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department's records indicate that apart from certain exceptional cases applications for forestry grants from persons whose lands were inspected in 1993 received formal written approval by 15 February 1994. The exceptional cases relate to such matters as environmental issues or land ownership complications yet to be resolved to the Department's satisfaction.

If, however, the Deputy has concerns about a particular case, he might wish to bring it to my attention.

  230.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when the Abattoir Act will be implemented in every county; the number of counties to date that have implemented the Act; his views on whether there is fair competition between the different counties in the present; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[880]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department has full responsibility for the annual licensing and supervision of abattoirs. Regulations governing construction and licensing are being implemented uniformly throughout the country since 1989.

Local authorities are responsible for the day to day operations at abattoirs. Regulations introduced in 1992 require veterinary examination of animals and meat and the health marking of meat found fit for human consumption by veterinary inspectors appointed for this purpose by local authorities.

I am aware that ten local authorities do not have whole-time veterinary inspectors. The matter is presently under review in my Department.

  231.  Mr. Carey    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his attention has been drawn to the 12 week delay in delivering ordnance survey maps supporting area aid applications to farmers in County Clare; and if there will be an extension of the date of receipt of maps as distinct from the other papers.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The closing date for the return of the area aid application form and maps is 31 March 1994 and already a considerable number of forms, accompanied by maps, has been received in my Department.

Where farmers do not have the required maps, they should ensure that the area aid application forms are with the Department by 31 March 1994 and follow up with the maps as soon as possible thereafter.

  232.  Mr. Deasy    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason for the delay in payment of beef cow premium for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and when payment will issue.

[881]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the 1993 beef cow scheme is being processed at present and any payment due will be made in the near future.

  233.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not received 1993 headage.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named did not use the same form of his name when applying for the 1993 cattle headage scheme as that under which his herd number is registered. This matter had to be investigated before his application could be processed for payment. This has now been done and any payment due will be made shortly.

  234.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been refused sheep quota.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named does not qualify for ewe premium reserve quota because the quota already allocated to him is greater than the number of ewes on which he applied for premium under the 1993 ewe premium scheme.

He has already been allocated a quota of 25 premium rights based on the number of ewes on which he was paid premium under the 1991 ewe premium scheme. He only applied for premium on 16 ewes in 1993.

[882]

  235.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the action, if any, he is taking regarding the conditions at an abattoir (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the company that holds the licence has been dissolved by the High Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department's responsibilities in relation to the abattoir named relate to ante- and postmortem examination and method of slaughter of the animals. These responsibilities are carried out whenever slaughter occurs.

On 4 March 1994, my Department received a request from a company, through its legal representatives, that the licence be transferred to it and was informed that the company which held the licence had been dissolved by the High Court. That request is being examined by my Department.

  236.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his ten month beef premium which he applied for in December 1992; and when he will be paid his 22 month beef premium which he applied for in February 1993.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for special beef premium on 59 animals in December 1992 and on 13 animals in January-February 1993. Both applications are being processed at present and any payment due will be made as soon as possible. Processing of these applications was delayed due to age inconsistencies of animals declared on the application forms submitted.

  237.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his 22 month beef premium.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application [883] of the person named for grants under the 22 month June 1993 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and if found in order any advance payment due will be made shortly. Delay in payment has arisen because the person named submitted a duplicate application.

  238.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of hectares of forest in Cavan and Monaghan in the year 1986; and in the last year for which figures are available.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  At the end of 1986 the total effective areas under forest in County Cavan and County Monaghan were 5,280 hectares and 4,392 respectively.

By the end of 1993 these figures had increased to 7,151 hectares and 4,695 respectively.

  239.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when payment of cattle headage for 1993 will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named is a first time applicant under the cattle headage scheme and therefore he has to provide documentary evidence of his entitlement to the lands declared by him on his area aid application. My Department wrote to him on 20 January 1994 asking for this evidence but no reply has been received to date. His application will be processed further as soon as that evidence is received.

[884]

  240.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason for the delay in the Land Commission offices in Cavan in replying to a Land Registry inquiry of 2 September 1992 regarding an application for registration by a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Due to the pressure of other work the Land Commission delayed in answering the query raised by the Land Registry. However, a reply has now issued.

  241.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when the 1993 headage grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the 1993 cattle headage scheme is being processed at present and any payment due will be made in the near future.

  242.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the steps, if any, he intends to take regarding the maps required for area aid applications in view of the fact that land covered by maps which have not been amended since 1926 were divided by the Land Commission but not shown as individual farms on ordnance survey maps; the plans, if any, he has in relation to farmers who will have to employ a surveyor to draw the boundaries because it is not possible for them to do this accurately enough themselves in order to comply with his Department's instruction that only a two per cent or a two hectare tolerance will be permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Where Ordnance Survey maps supplied for area aid purposes vary considerably from the present position on the ground my [885] Department will accept farmers' reasonably accurate efforts to show their lands on such maps. It will not insist that either surveyors or engineers be employed to mark the maps.

In so far as area aid application forms are concerned, farmers are required to state accurately the areas of their lands on these forms and this requirement differs in no way from the position in 1993 when the vast majority of farmers, viz those involved solely in livestock production, did not have to submit maps. If in doubt about areas being declared farmers are advised to err on the side of caution.

  243.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that farmers seeking extra sheep quota from the national reserve and who failed to be included in categories one and two distributions have still not been informed of the outcome of category three distributions; that 11 March 1994 is the last day for leasing or buying quotas; that in view of the fact that they do not know the outcome of category three they do not know whether to proceed with leasing or buying; that this has placed them in an impossible situation through no fault of their own; in view of this, the steps, if any, he will take to have the date for buying or leasing extended to at least the end of March 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The final date for buying or leasing ewe premium quota for those farmers who have not been notified of the outcome of their applications, has already been extended to 8 April 1994. It is anticipated that all outstanding applications will be processed before that date.

[886]

  244.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason for the delay in the payment of the headage and premia to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named was paid advances of his 1993 cattle headage grant on 27 November 1993 and his 1993 suckler cow premium on 29 November 1993. His applications are being processed further and any balance of the headage grant due will be paid in the near future.

Payments of the balance of the suckler cow premium cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him-her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with European Union regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  245.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when payment under the suckler cow scheme will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for grants on 12 cows under the 1993 small scale milk procedures scheme. It was found at an inspection carried out on 21 September 1993 that the cows were not of a beef-type breed as required by European Union regulations and are therefore ineligible for payment.

  246.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is entitled to a suckler cow quota; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named does not qualify for an automatic suckler cow quota because he did not apply for suckler cow premium in 1992, [887] the reference year. However, he may now apply for a quota from the national reserve and I have arranged to have an application form sent to him.

  247.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a sheep premium payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Payment of the 1993 sheep headage grant was made to the person named on 14 March 1994.

  248.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if permission has been granted to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry to sell his suckler quota to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Permission has been granted to the person named to sell his suckler cow quota and confirmation of this will be sent to him within the next few days.

  249.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when grants under the brucellosis eradication scheme will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The reactor grants due to the person named will be processed for payment on receipt of a tax clearance certificate in the district veterinary office.

[888]

  250.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a sheep headage grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department has no record of an application received from the person named. The herd number quoted appears to be incorrect.

  251.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a slaughter premium payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department is unable to trace an application under the 1993 deseasonalisation slaughter premium from the person named.

  252.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a decision will be made on the eligibility of a person (details supplied) in County Cork for payment of a suckler cow grant; if payment will issue; and if so, when.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the 1993 suckler cow premium scheme is being processed at present and any advance payment due will be made shortly. Delay in processing payment has arisen because of a problem with his leased milk quota which has now been resolved.

Payment of the balance of suckler cow premium cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him/her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with European Union regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

[889]

  253.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    whether ewe quota has been allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Galway from the national reserve.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for an allocation of ewe premium quota from the national reserve under the category which provides for reserve quota to be allocated to producers who were paid ewe premium in 1991 but did not apply in 1992 due to exceptional circumstances. The person named applied for ewe premium for the first time in 1993 and does not therefore qualify for reserve quota under this category. He does not qualify either under the category which provides for quota to be allocated to first time applicants in 1993 because he is over 35 years of age.

  254.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if there are any payments outstanding to a person (details supplied) in County Galway under the cattle and sheep livestock schemes.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Payment of cattle and sheep grants to the person named was delayed pending receipt of legal documentation arising from the death of his father. Documentation submitted is now in order and arrangements are being made to have all outstanding cattle grants due from 1985 to 1993, inclusive, and all outstanding sheep grants due from 1985 to 1988, inclusive, paid shortly.

  255.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if ewe quota will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Galway from the national reserve.

[890]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named has been allocated a ewe premium quota of 35 premium rights from the national reserve.

  256.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when payment of sheep headage will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Galway.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named is not registered under the herd number quoted. If the Deputy supplies the correct details my Department will supply the information requested.

  257.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when ewe quota will be allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and the amount due to this person.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named has been requested to furnish evidence that the land he acquired was formerly used for sheep production and when he supplies this evidence his application will be processed further.

  258.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when the balance of beef premium will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for special beef premium on four animals in January-February 1993. He was paid an advance in accordance with EU regulations on these animals on 31 January 1994. He also applied [891] for special beef premium on ten animals in the ten month age category in June 1993. He is not due any payment on foot of this application as the animals were ineligible on age grounds.

The balance due under the 1993 special beef premium schemes cannot be paid until all applications received during the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering stocking density and the ceiling on eligible animals.

  259.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when beef subsidy will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named under the June 1993 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and the advance payment due will be made shortly. Payment of the balance of the special beef premium cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him-her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  260.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he has received an application from a person (details supplied) in County Cork for an increase in the ewe premium quota from the national reserve; if so, when a decision will be made.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named is not the registered owner of the herd-number quoted. The person who is the registered owner applied for an allocation of ewe premium quota from the national reserve under the category [892] which provides for reserve quota to be allocated to producers who were paid premium on a lower number of ewes than normal in 1991 because of exceptional circumstances. However the person named was paid premium for a higher number of ewes in 1991 than the average number of ewes she received payment for in the years 1988, 1989, 1990 and therefore does not qualify for an allocation of reserve quota.

  261.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his Department is to cease the independent grading of beef carcases in the meat export plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  262.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number and percentage of beef carcases that were classified into different Euro grid grades for conformation and fat classes for the years 1990 to 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  263.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the total number of beef carcases that were classified under the EC Euro grid scheme in beef export plants in the years 1992 and 1993; the number of carcases that were put forward for appeal in the years 1992 and 1993; the number of carcases that were upgraded following appeal for the years 1992 and 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 261, 262 and 263 together.

The operation of the beef carcase classification system is currently under review and, consequently, no decisions have yet been taken in this regard. The statistical information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables:

  264.  Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny)    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when the farm development service in County Leitrim will receive the 1994 allocation for the control of farm yard pollution scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The National Development Plan for 1994-1999 Structural Funds and my Department's proposals for operational programmes to implement the aspects of the plan relating to agriculture, food, rural development [896] and forestry provide for a further scheme of farm pollution control measures. I expect that a new scheme will be launched shortly after the plan and operational programmes have been approved in Brussels.

  265.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 cattle headage scheme to date; the total amount paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting payments under this scheme; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

  266.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 beef cow headage scheme to date; the total amount paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting payments under this scheme; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

  267.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 horse headage scheme to date; the total amount paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting payments under this scheme; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

  268.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 sheep headage scheme to date; the total amount paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting payments under this scheme; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

[897]

  269.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 deseasonalisation premium scheme; the number of farmers who have received only partial payment under this scheme; the total value of the premium paid to date under this scheme; the number of applications under this scheme; the total amount due under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

  270.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have applied for and are eligible for payment of extensification premium under both the 1993 special beef premium and 1993 suckler cow premium schemes; the number of farmers who have received payment of extensification premium to date; the total amount paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting payments under this scheme; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

  271.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of 1993 simplified area aid application files that have been processed by his Department to date; and when the processing of all files will be completed.

  272.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 special beef premium scheme; the amount of money paid to date under this scheme, that is in respect of January/February 1993, June 1993 and November 1993 applications; the number of farmers who are awaiting 60 per cent advance payment under this scheme; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; when farmers will receive the final 40 per cent payment under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

[898]

  273.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 suckler cow premium for small scale dairy producers to date; the amount of money paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting 60 per cent advance payment; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; when farmers will receive the final 40 per cent payment under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

  274.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have received payment under the 1993 suckler cow premium, that is, in respect of the June 1993 application and the November 1993 application; the amount of money paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting 60 per cent advance payment; the amount of money outstanding under this scheme; when farmers will receive the final 40 per cent payment under this scheme; and when all payments will be made.

  275.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of farmers who have applied under the 1993 ewe premium scheme; the number of farmers who have received payment to-date under this scheme; the amount of money paid to date under this scheme; the number of farmers who are awaiting payment; and when payment of the final advance will commence and end.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  I propose taking Questions Nos. 265 to 275, inclusive, together.

Payments made to date on foot of 1993 schemes are as follows:

Scheme Number of Payments made Amount Paid
£m
Cattle Headage 111,228 57.563
Beef Cow Headage 17,366 9.259
Equine Headage 3,814 0.548
Sheep Headage 30,067 18.944
[899]Suckler Cow Premium
(June/July) 63,928 34.273
Small Scale Suckler Cow (June/July) 5,652 1.460
Deseasonalisation Slaughter Premium 20,559 11.528
Special Beef Premium (Jan/Feb) 49,697 19.835
Special Beef Premium (June/July) 51,317 10.045
Ewe Premium 49,465 70.972

Of these payments, 74,479 under cattle headage and 11,690 under beef cow headage are in respect of advances only whilst the remainder are in respect of final payments. Payment of the balance in respect of the cattle headage and beef cow schemes commenced on 18 February and are continuing at present. The EU Commission has recently fixed the third and final instalment of the ewe premium scheme and payments will commence shortly.

Payment of the balances in respect of the special beef and suckler cow premium schemes cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him-her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density. The processing of the November 1993 applications means that in most cases payment of the final 40 per cent of premium will not start for a few weeks. Payment of extensification premium is expected to commence in April.

Delays by farmers in responding to queries are the principal factor holding up payments particularly in so far as January-February and June 1993 special beef premium cases are concerned. The main problems involve invalid tags or the absence of identity cards; failure to submit area aid applications or the lack of a quota are other impediments to payment. Close to half of the June 1993 special beef premium applicants were the [900] subject of query by my Department and responses are generally very slow. I am anxious to facilitate timely payments but farmers who do not respond to necessary inquiries from my Department cannot expect their applications to be cleared. Payments in respect of the November 1993 special beef premium scheme will commence shortly.

The number of simplified area aid applications processed to date is 128,593. Again, there is a number of queries to be resolved with farmers and the remaining applications will be processed as soon as these are cleared.

  276.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties meat export plants are encountering in securing adequate numbers of cattle to supply hard won market outlets because of the hold up in cattle numbers from the way in which the special beef premium is operated by his Department; and if his Department will introduce an all year round open-ended application period for special beef premium to alleviate and prevent a recurrence of this problem.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  I do not accept that all the difficulties of meat factories in securing adequate numbers of cattle for slaughter can be traced back to the operation of the EU special beef premium scheme in Ireland. Nevertheless, I am considering the question of whether it might be possible to introduce in 1995 an all year round application period during which any individual farmer would be allowed to lodge a given number of applications at times of his or her choice.

[901]

  277.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when headage and suckler cow grants will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named was paid advances of his 1993 cattle headage grant on 26 November 1993 and his suckler cow premium on 25 November 1993. His applications are being processed further at present and any balance of the headage grant due will be paid in the near future.

Payment of the balance of the suckler cow premium cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him-her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  278.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is entitled to suckler cow premium payments.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department is unable to trace any 1993 suckler cow premium scheme application from the person named.

  279.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a beef premium payment and slaughter premium payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will expedite this payment.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  One of the persons named applied for special beef premium on 46 animals on 5 January 1993 and on 14 animals on 2 February 1993. These applications are being processed at present and the advance payment due will be made shortly.

He also applied for deseasonalisation slaughter premium on 32 animals on 1993. He was paid the slaughter premium on 25 of these animals on 1 December 1993. Slaughter premium is payable only in respect of animals which have received [902] special beef premium. The remaining seven animals are included in his January 1993 special beef premium application and any balance of slaughter premium will be paid immediately this application is processed.

  280.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a suckler grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named will be paid an advance under the 1993 suckler cow scheme shortly. Payment of the advance was delayed due to lack of clarity in the acreage declared on the area aid application form submitted by him.

Payment of the balance due cannot be made until all applications received from him during the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  281.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a headage grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named is a first time applicant for the cattle headage scheme and therefore has to provide documentary evidence of her entitlement to the lands on her area aid application. My Department is contacting her at present requesting such evidence.

  282.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his attention has been drawn to the potential difficulties that will be caused to turkey producers in respect of the implementation of an EC directive regarding small producers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[903]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  In deciding on the national arrangements to implement the relevant EU Directive, I will take full account of the interest of Irish turkey producers subject to the need to protect public health.

  283.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he will provide details in relation to the number of sheep premia paid to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and the value of these payments for each of the years 1988 to 1993.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named received the following payments in respect of ewe premium schemes between 1988 and 1993:

Scheme Year Number of Ewes Total Grants Paid
£
1988 92 1,600.80
1989 119 2,112.25
1990 119 2,820.53
1991 162 3,245.37
1992 43 1,590.89*
1993 42 243.96

*Payment was based on his 1991 eligible ewes of 162 but as he had only 43 ewes in 1992 he received an overpayment of £452.36. This overpayment has been recovered from the advance of his first and second instalments under the 1993 scheme.

He was paid £268.85 under the 1991 sheep headage scheme. He was not eligible for sheep headage grants in 1988, 1989 and 1990 as he did not have land in a disadvantaged area. He did not apply for sheep headage grants in 1992 and 1993.

  284.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason for the delay in the payment of 1993 headage to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo.

[904]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the 1993 cattle headage scheme is being processed at present and any payment due will be made in the near future.

  285.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason for the delay in headage payment to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the 1993 cattle headage scheme is being processed at present and any payment due will be made in the near future. He cannot be paid any 1993 suckler cow premium as he has no quota at present. If he succeeds in obtaining a quota from the national reserve his 1993 suckler cow application will be considered. I recently announced that application forms for suckler cow reserve quota are now available from local offices of my Department or from the Quota Unit, Michael Davitt House, Castlebar. The closing date for receipt of completed application forms is 8 April 1994.

  286.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he will reconsider a 1993 22 month beef premium for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick who has appealed the decision of his Department to refuse this premium for 10 beef bullocks in view of the fact that this person has no other income from farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied in February 1993 for 22 months special beef premium on ten animals. However, in view of the ages of the animals declared on the application, they were not entitled to the premium during this application period. Therefore under EU regulations he could not be paid premium on these animals.

[905]

  287.  D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív    den Aire Talmhaíochta,    Bia agus Foraoiseachta cén uair a íocfar deontaisí beithígh le duine (sonraí tugtha) i gContae na Gaillimhe.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Íocfar foirdheontas or bith atá le n-íoch don duine seo le gairid.

  288.  Mr. Connaughton    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason a 1993 slaughter premium was not paid to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for deseasonalisation slaughter premium on 19 animals in 1993. He was paid on 15 of these animals on 7 March 1994. The slaughter premium will be paid on the four remaining animals when and if the special beef premium is paid on these animals.

  289.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when the balance of a suckler cow grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the 1993 suckler cow premium scheme is being processed at present and an 60 per cent advance payment due will be paid shortly. Payment of the balance of suckler cow premium cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him/her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

The person named applied for grants under the 1993 beef cow scheme and was paid an advance of £639.78 on 3 December 1993 and the balance of £426.55 on 4 March 1994.

[906]

  290.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he will introduce regulations to entitle farmers who inadvertently sold animals without cards being stamped and punched to be paid beef premia that would otherwise be due.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  I have already announced concessions which allow payment to be made on eligible male cattle sold for slaughter or for export to countries outside the European Union. Where male cattle are sold to other farmers with unpunched cattle identity cards however, the farmers purchasing them may legitimately believe that they can apply for premium on them and the farmers selling these cattle are likely to obtain a higher price than they would otherwise for such cattle because of this belief. I cannot see how my Department can pay premium in these circumstances to the selling farmers who failed to comply with rules of the special beef premium scheme as to do so could mean denying premium to purchasing farmers observing all the relevant rules of the scheme.

  291.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not been paid her 1992 or 1993 suckler cow grants.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for grants on 20 animals under the December 1992 suckler cow premium scheme. She presented 13 cows and 5 replacement in-calf heifers at inspection. She has been requested to submit proof that she had all the animals for which she applied for grants at the date of application. When such proof is submitted her eligibility for grants under the 1992 and 1993 suckler cow premium schemes will be considered further.

[907]

  292.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the level of grants for marketing expenditure made available to the food processing industry by An Coras Beostoic Feola, under the operational programme for rural development, during each of the years 1991 to 1993; the amounts, if any, which are outstanding from his Department to Coras Beostoic agus Feola; if such a scheme will continue in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Under the Operational Programme for Rural Development, grants of up to 50 per cent are available from An Coras Beostoic agus Feola (CBF) towards eligible expenditure on market research by individual firms, subject to a limit of £200,000 per firm per annum.

Pending the receipt of a final report and claim from CBF and the examination of these by my Department, it is not possible to indicate the amounts involved.

It is proposed, under the National Development Plan 1994 to 1999, that assistance will be provided for the promotion and market development of food products.

  293.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is entitled to payment of a suckler grant.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for premium on 12 cows under the December 1992 suckler cow scheme. When an inspection was carried out in June 1993 it was found that he did not have any of the cows he applied on. However, he presented 12 replacement in-calf heifers. He said that he sold the 12 cows applied on and after some time he produced mart receipts for 8 of the cows sold. To date he has not produced receipts for the remaining 4 cows. His application cannot be processed until these receipts are provided.

[908]

  294.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    his objective, in so far as Coillte is concerned, in regard to regional development in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  It is my policy to ensure that the forestry sector as a whole develops in a way which will achieve an overall balance of benefit throughout Ireland. The Deputy will be interested to note that this aspect will be specifically addressed in the strategic plan for the development of the forestry sector to this year 2015 which is currently being prepared. I can assure the Deputy that Coillte will play an important and constructive role in the achievement of the regional policy objective for forestry.

  295.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    his objective, in so far as Teagasc is concerned, in regard to regional development in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  In so far as regional development may be taken to include rural development, for which I have responsibility, my objective is to maximise the contribution which state agencies at local level can make to this process.

In the case of Teagasc, that organisation's functions in relation to the provision of advice, education, training and research in agriculture includes rural development.

In this regard, Teagasc had a role in promoting the farm diversification measures under the operational programme for rural development and in providing training opportunities for those involved in rural development intitiatives. Its staff are also participating in a number of the groups operating the Leader programme.

[909]

  296.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when headage grants will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application from the person named under the 1993 cattle headage scheme is being processed and any payment due will be made shortly.

  297.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when payment of sheep headage and suckler cow grants will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Payment of the 1993 sheep headage grant was made to the person named on 11 November 1993.

He was paid an advance of his 1993 suckler cow premium on 25 November 1993.

Payment of the balance of the suckler cow premium cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him/her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  298.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the amount of building grant to be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when this grant will be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  I expect that a grant of £1,053 in respect of a slurry tank and cover will be paid within the next 5 to 7 weeks.

[910]

  299.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be entitled to the same level of headage payments as previous years on their sheep and cattle premia payments; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will reconsider this.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named received an advance payment of £180 under the 1993 cattle headage scheme. This advance was based on 60 per cent of his 1992 payment. His total 1993 cattle headage grants amount to £727 and the balance due will be paid shortly.

On the basis of the acreage he declared on his sheep headage application his sheep headage grants was reduced by £100. His acreage has now been cross-checked with that declared on his area aid application. As a result the £100 withheld can now be paid and arrangements are being made to have this done.

  300.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the provision made to ensure equal participation between women and men in all human resource programmes co-funded by the European Union in 1994-1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Teagasc — the Agriculture and Food Development Authority is the body responsible for the provision of EC funded human resource programmes in agriculture. While farming and agriculture have, in the past, been male dominated sectors, more women are now choosing careers in these areas. Teagasc has taken a number of actions to promote equal participation by women and men in its programmes. These include:

—between 1992 and 1994 Teagasc implemented a NOW (New Opportunities for Women) programme to pilot training for rural women and [911] to increase the intake of female trainees to its main training programme for school leavers. This programme concludes in April 1994. As a follow-on Teagasc propose to put on a similar course, “start your own business,” beginning in autumn 1994, which will be aimed particularly at women.

—the Teagasc courses and training materials have been specially adapted to meet the needs of women, who are particularly welcome to all such courses. Further improvements in this connection are being examined as part of a current major assessment and updating of Teagasc training programmes. The methods of delivery and support material are being reviewed to cater for the needs of female trainees particularly where they are in a minority in the classroom. The assistance of the Department of Education has been obtained in this matter.

—in Teagasc's promotional and training materials special efforts are made to show women participating in its programmes. Similarly, at functions such as presentation of certificates, females graduates are given preferential treatment by way of publicity and participation in the ceremonies.

—in order to encourage the participation of women in the Farm Apprenticeship Scheme, Teagasc pays a special allowance (£300) to master farmers who take women as apprentices.

—a number of adult training programmes — specifically for rural women — are held countrywide each year according to demand.

[912]

  301.  Mr. Dukes    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason for the delay in the payment of headage grant, suckler cow premium and beef premium to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; when each of these grants will be paid, in view of the fact that each of these grants should have been paid in 1993.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application from the person named under the 1993 cattle headage scheme is being processed at present and any payment due will be made shortly.

He also applied under the 1993 suckler cow scheme but as he did not apply in 1992 he has not established automatic quota rights under this scheme. If however he applies to the national reserve for suckler cow premium quota and is successful his application will be processed for payment. I recently announced that application forms for suckler cow reserve quota are now available from local offices of my Department or from Quota Unit, Michael Davitt House, Castlebar. The closing date for receipt of completed application forms is 8 April 1994.

He received an advance payment of £94.91 on 9 December 1993 under the special beef premium scheme on foot of an application lodged in January-February 1993. The balance due cannot be paid until all applications received from him in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling in eligible animals and stocking density.

  302.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will receive the balance of his headage payment.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application from the person named under the 1993 cattle headage scheme is being processed at present and any balance due will be paid shortly.

[913]

  303.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the regulations for the laying down of poisons on public lands for the purpose of animal game control.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The laying of poison on lands is governed by Section 14 of the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965, Section 34 of the Wildlife Act, 1976, Regulation 3 of the European Communities (Wildlife Act, 1976) (Amendment) Regulations, 1986 (S.I. No. 254 of 1986) and Regulation 5 of the Poisons (Prohibition of the Use of Certain Substances for Agriculture Purposes) Regulations, 1991 (S.I. No. 361 of 1991).

  304.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the steps, if any, he has taken to support Rene Steichen in his attempts to prevent milk and milk products containing BST from entering the EC.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  To date, the European Commission has not brought forward proposals regarding the importation into the European Union of milk and milk products from animals treated with BST.

  305.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a suckler premium will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department is unable to trace any 1993 suckler cow premium scheme application from the person named.

  306.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a beef premium will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.

[914]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the January-February 1993 special beef premium scheme is being processed at present and a 60 per cent advance as provided in EU regulations will be paid within the next fortnight.

  307.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the agricultural grants paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork in 1992.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named was paid his 1991 beef cow grants amounting to £1,748 on 10 April 1992 and his 1992 beef cow grants amounting to £2,250 on 25 February 1993. He was paid his 1991 suckler cow premium of £685.40 on 28 April 1992 and his 1992 suckler cow premium of £685.40 on 5 February 1993 and his June and December 1992 special beef premia of £527.25 and £808.45 on 9 March 1993 and 2 June 1993 respectively. He was not an applicant under the 1991 or 1992 sheep headage or equine headage schemes.

  308.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of individuals and/or companies involved in mushroom production; the number of people employed in mushroom production in each province; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  There are 556 growers involved in mushroom production of which 274 are located in Ulster, 154 in Leinster, 119 in Connacht and 9 in Munster. The following are the estimated numbers of people employed in mushroom production.

[915] Full Time Part Time
Ulster 443 2,069
Leinster 249 1,163
Connacht 192 898
Munster 15 68

  309.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    in view of the fact that it seems likely that it will not be possible for the Land Registry to process the number of applications for maps from farmers in counties Sligo and Leitrim and elsewhere in the country in time for the end of March deadline, if he will now extend this deadline and make a statement for the information of farmers who are anxious about the situation in view of the fact that they have made their applications many months in advance.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  I have already announced the extension of the deadline for receipt of 1994 area aid applications from livestock farmers declaring forage areas only from the original date of 31 March 1994 to the later date of Friday, 29 April 1994. I believe that this should facilitate many livestock farmers who are experiencing difficulties in obtaining or completing their maps.

I would stress that this extension does not apply to farmers submitting combined EU area aid applications covering both tillage and livestock schemes. As they had to submit maps in 1993 and therefore should have no difficulties with maps in 1994, they must submit their area aid applications on or before Thursday, 31 March 1994.

  310.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his beef premium for which he applied in June 1993.

[916]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  My Department is unable to trace any June 1993 special beef premium scheme application from the person named.

  311.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his suckler cow grant and the balance of his cattle headage grant for 1993.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named was paid an advance of his 1993 cattle headage grant on 27 November 1993. His application is being processed further at present and any balance due will be paid shortly. He will be paid an advance of his 1993 suckler cow premium in the near future but payment of the balance cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him/her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  312.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his cattle headage grant.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  Payment in this case has been delayed because the 1993 area aid application of the person named was incorrectly completed. It is being rectified at present and grants due under the 1993 cattle headage scheme and an advance of his 1993 suckler cow premium will be paid as soon as possible. Payment of the balance of the suckler cow premium cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him/her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

[917]

  313.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his 10-month beef premium which he applied for in June 1993.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied on 5 animals under the June 1993 10 month special beef premium scheme. At an inspection on 7 October 1993 it was found that 3 animals were eligible for payment.

A 60 per cent advance of premium due on the 3 eligible animals was paid on 8 December 1993 but payment of the balance of the premiums cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications recieved from him/her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  314.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of the balance of his suckler cow, 22-month beef premium and 10-month beef premium grants.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied for special beef premium in January/February 1993 on 5 animals and an advance payment of £158.19 was made on foot of this application on 17 December 1993.

He also applied for 10 month special beef premium on 4 animals in June 1993. As the application form was not completed properly or signed it was sent back to him. When the application form is returned it will be processed for payment.

The balance due under the 1993 suckler cow and special beef premium schemes cannot be paid until all applications received from him in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling [918] on eligible animals and stocking density.

  315.  Mr. Sheehan    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of his 10-month beef premium which he applied for in June 1993; and when he will be paid the balance of his suckler cow and cattle headage grants for 1993.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The balance due under the 1993 cattle headage scheme will be paid to the person named shortly. He applied for 10 month special beef premium on 2 animals and for 22 month special beef premium on 1 animal in June 1993. Following a computer validation check the two tag numbers listed on the 10 month application were rejected as invalid. The applicant has been requested in writing to resolve this problem. He was paid an advance of £31.63 on 23 February 1994 in respect of the 22 month animal applied on in June 93. An advance of £1,233.80 was paid on 27 November 1993 on foot of his 1993 suckler cow application. Payment of the balance of the special beef and suckler cow premia cannot be made to a particular applicant until all applications received from him/her in the course of 1993 have been processed. This is necessary to ensure compliance with EU regulations covering in particular the ceiling on eligible animals and stocking density.

  316.  Mr. Morley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a forestry grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The applicant in the case concerned has yet to supply certain information in relation to his eligibility. When this has been provided, processing of the case will be completed and payment made.

[919]

  317.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when a cattle headage and suckler cow grant will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The application of the person named for grants under the 1993 cattle headage scheme has been processed and payments will be made within a week. Payment was not made in February as all elements of the case were not found to be in order when it was subjected to computer validation check.

He also applied under the 1993 suckler cow scheme but as the animals applied on were all of a dairy breed, i.e. Friesians, he is not eligible for payment under this scheme.

  318.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been refused special beef premium grants.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named applied under the November 1993 10 month special beef premium scheme on 14 animals. This application could not be processed for payment as the dates of birth given for the animals were June, July and August 1993 and they were too young, therefore, to qualify for 10 month premium. These animals were also ineligible for inclusion in the January/February 1994 10 month special beef premium scheme as animals eligible for inclusion in that scheme had to be born between 1 May 1992 and 31 May 1993. The cattle in question will be old enough, however, to be submitted for premium under the June 1994 10 month special beef premium scheme.

  319.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not been paid his area aid grant; the amount due to this person under this scheme; and when payment will issue.

[920]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  EU regulations provide that only one application for area aid may be made in respect of a single holding. The delay in this case arose because two applications were submitted for arable aid in respect of this holding. Following representations by my Department the European Commission agreed to the making of a payment taking into account the area of land set-aside. A payment of £6,295.05 will be made this week.

  320.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the suckler cow quota entitlement of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; the amount due to this person under the 1992 December suckler cow headage grant scheme; when payment will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named has a quota of 30 suckler cows. He was paid his 1992 suckler cow premium of £2,056.20 on 19 August 1993. He may wish to apply for extra quota from the national reserve and I have arranged to have an application form sent to him.

  321.  Mr. H. Byrne    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the date of application for sheep quota for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; the progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The person named does not qualify for an allocation of ewe premium quota from the national reserve because he did not apply for ewe premium in 1993.

This decision was communicated to the person on 18 March 1994. The application was received in my Department before the closing date which was 17 September 1993.

[921]

  322.  Mr. H. Byrne    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when he received correspondence from Deputy Hugh Byrne in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford concerning beef and sheep quotas; when he intends to reply to this correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. J. Walsh):  The correspondence referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on 18 November 1993.

The reply to his query concerning payment of 1992 suckler cow premium to the person named was delayed pending receipt of additional information regarding his application. This information has now been received and a payable order for payment due to him under that scheme will issue inside the next two weeks. He has established a suckler cow premium quota of 26 premium rights based on the number of cows on which he was paid premium under the 1992 suckler cow premium scheme.

The reply to the Deputy's query concerning payment of 1993 ewe premium to the person named was delayed pending a decision on his application for an allocation of ewe premium quota from the national reserve. This application has now been processed and he has been allocated a quota of 155 premium rights. Payment due to him under the 1993 ewe premium scheme will issue to him shortly.

  323.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    if his attention has been drawn to a long-standing demand by people in the Clontarf/Fairview area, Dublin 3, for a DART station that would serve their area; his views on whether this would widen the catchment of the existing DART service at relatively little expense; and if this project will be a priority in any detailed proposals for the expenditure of Structural Funds.

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Cowen):  The provision [922] and upgrading of stations and facilities on the suburban rail network is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance. The provision of a new DART station at Fairview is among the many recommended improvements to public transport which have emerged from the work of the Dublin Transportation Initiative.

In the National Development Plan, a figure of £20 million (including proposed EU funding) has been included in the investment programme for public transport projects in the Dublin area other than light rail. These projects include the development of public transport interchange facilities, integrated ticketing, the upgrading of suburban rail services and stations on the DART network and possible extensions of the DART. The overall cost of these projects would exceed the level of funding indicated. Accordingly, it will be essential that the expenditure of £20 million is carefully allocated to the most effective projects, in overall public transport terms.

The public transport investment proposals contained in the National Development Plan are under discussion at present with the European Commission in the context of the draft operational programme on transport.

  324.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    arising from Telecom Éireann's stated loss in the first few weeks following the introduction of the new tariff regime on 1 September 1993, the changes, if any, in this position in the intervening period.

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Cowen):  As I have stated previously in response to a related question, this question suggests a degree of involvement in the day to day affairs of a commercial State body which goes beyond that allowed under Section 33 (3) of the Postal and Telecommunications Act, 1983.

[923] I can refer the Deputy to a recent public statement by the Chief Executive of Telecom Éireann, in which it was indicated that telephone traffic has recovered strongly in recent months and that, overall, the new prices are proving very successful for both Telecom Éireann and its customers who have responded by making more calls than ever, particularly to international destinations.

A related press statement by Telecom Éireann has been placed in the Library of the House.

  325.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    the reason Ireland has not ratified the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  As I informed the House on 14 December last, I am working on the preparation of broad-ranging equality legislation covering both employment and non-employment areas and I hope to bring forward this legislation in 1994. Consultations are taking place with interested parties on these measures. This legislation will facilitate our ratification of the convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

  326.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    when he intends to introduce effective equal pay legislation.

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  I intend to introduce legislation to amend the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974 during 1994 in line with the commitment in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work.

A range of proposals to amend existing [924] legislation are currently under consideration.

  327.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    if discussions are taking place regarding the re-opening of the Ulster canal.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  One of the recommendations in the National Canals and Waterways Strategy report published last year by the Office of Public Works is that the feasibility of restoring the Ulster Canal should be investigated in co-operation with the Northern Ireland authorities.

I will be taking this recommendation into account in the formulation of policy and of legislative proposals for our inland waterways in general but it would be premature at this stage to enter into discussions in relation to the Ulster Canal with the Northern Ireland authorities or with the other bodies who might be involved.

  328.  Mr. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly)    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    if he will ensure that a positive response is made to a heritage grant application in respect of a building (details supplied) in County Offaly.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  The question of whether or not to offer grant assistance to projects of this nature is a matter for the National Heritage Council, which is independent in its assessment of requests for assistance, the priorities for grant assistance, and the amount, if any, in each case.

I understand that the case referred to by the Deputy will come before the next meeting of the council and that the applicants will then be informed of the council's decision.

[925]

  329.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    when he proposes to pay an official visit to the Gaeltacht area of Mayo that is Tourmakeady, Achill and Erris; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  Beidh áthas orm cuairt a thabhairt ar cheantair Ghaeltachta Chontae Mhaigh Eo an chéad uair eile a bheidh deis oiriúnach chuige sin.

  330.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    the function of Údarás na Gaeltachta in so far as regional development within Ireland is concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  Is eagras forbartha Stáit é Údarás na Gaeltachta a bunaíodh ar 1 Eanáir 1980 faoin Acht um Údarás na Gaeltachta, 1979, chun caomhnú agus leathadh na Gaeilge mar phríomh-mheán cumarsáide sa Ghaeltacht a spreagadh agus chun tionscail agus scéimeanna táirgiúla fostaíochta a bhunú, a fhorbairt nó a chothabháil sa Ghaeltacht.

Ar ndóigh, is eagraíocht réigiúnach í an tÚdarás a dhéanann freastal ar riachtanais na gceantar Gaeltachta, atá lonnaithe go príomha in Iarthar na tíre. Ní miste a lua go bhfuil trí Coiste Réigiúnacha bunaithe ag an eagraíocht d'fhonn seirbhís níos éifeachtaí a chur ar fáil do na réigiúin i gceist.

  331.  Mr. H. Byrne    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    when he will pay the £7,000 granted by the National Heritage Council to St. Mogue's Church, Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[926]Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  A grant of £7,000 from the National Heritage Council has been approved towards the cost of re-slating the roof of St. Mogue's Church, Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford, and I understand that notification of this was sent to the Secretary of St. Mogue's Select Vestry on 24 January, 1994, enclosing a copy of the standard conditions relating to the offer of grants. One of those conditions requires that a certificate of completion be provided by an architect, engineer or consultant in charge of the project. The National Heritage Council is awaiting this certificate and when it is received payment of the grant to St. Mogue's Church will be arranged.

  332.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    if he will provide funding for the development of an arts centre in Nelson Street, Clonmel, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  The funding available to my Department for arts and culture purposes is primarily earmarked for the national cultural institutions such as the National Museum, the National Library and the National Concert Hall.

However, the provision of capital for regional arts infrastructure will also be considered in the context of Structural Funding under the National Development Plan 1994-99. Since the details of the plan are currently under discussion with the European Commission, it will be some time yet before there will be final agreement on the plan's components. It will be only after this process has been completed that I will be in a position to establish precise criteria for eligibility for assistance under my capital allocations and the possibility of funding an arts centre in Clonmel will be examined in that context.

[927]

  333.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Health    the plans, if any, he has for the establishment of private nursing home type accommodation for the elderly to be funded on the same basis as the existing accommodation in the private sector.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  My Department has no plans to build private nursing home type accommodation for the elderly as referred to by the Deputy.

  334.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Health    if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will ensure that this review is thorough and independent.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  I have asked the assistant inspector of mental hospitals to investigate the situation of the patient referred to and I will communicate separately with the Deputy in the matter.

  335.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    when he will make money available for the appointment of a neuropsychologist in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  I understand from Beaumont Hospital that arrangements are being made to appoint a neuropsychologist on a temporary basis.

The question of funding a permanent post is the subject of ongoing discussions between my Department and Beaumont Hospital with particular reference to the hospital's 1994 allocation, the many competing demands for resources and the hospital's priorities for new developments.

[928]

  336.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Minister for Health    the steps, if any, he will take to prevent GPs in the general medical service who certify telephone rental allowance applications from charging old age pensioners with medical cards for this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Certification by general practitioners of incapacity of old age pensioners in respect of eligibility under the free telephone rental scheme is not encompassed by the current agreement for the provision of general practitioner services under the general medical services scheme. However, I have been given to understand that general practitioners usually provide the relevant medical certification without charge to old age pensioners who are medical card holders. I share the concern expressed by the Deputy and I consider that an elderly medical card patient should not be charged for medical certification which enables the person to qualify for free telephone rental.

As the free telephone rental scheme is administered by the Department of Social Welfare, I have requested officials of my Department to raise the matter with that Department.

  337.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    the reason there is a five month delay for CAT scans in the Cork Regional Hospital.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  The scheduling of appointments for C.T. scanning is a matter for the consultant concerned and priority is given to urgent patients. The Cork Regional Hospital authorities have indicated that the average waiting time for C.T. scans at the hospital is 1-3 months depending on the scan involved.

[929]

  338.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Health    if he will make a statement on the level of usage of epidurals in Irish maternity hospitals in comparison to other EC countries; and if he has satisfied himself with the level of counselling given to women on the possible side effects.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  While my Department collects data on the level of availability of epidurals in Irish hospitals, it does not collect data on the use of epidurals. Neither does the Department collect data on the level of usage of epidurals in other European Union countries.

Women are informed by their doctors of any possible side effects involved as a matter of course.

  339.  Mr. McCormack    asked the Minister for Health    the plans, if any, he has for the erection of a health centre at Roundstone, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  My Department is at present drawing up a list of health centre priorities in conjunction with the health boards. The question of timing and funding of this programme is being considered in the context of the formation of my Department's medium to long term capital programme. The building of a new health centre in Round-stone will be considered as sympathetically as possible.

I am keeping the situation under review.

  340.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Health    when a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will receive a cataract operation in view of the fact that this person is awaiting this operation for some time; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[930]Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, the scheduling of surgery is a matter for the clinical judgment of the consultant concerned. I have made inquiries of the Mid-Western Health Board and I have been advised that it is not possible at this stage to give a precise admission date for this patient. However, it is anticipated that she will be called for surgery later in 1994.

Following the success of the £20 million waiting list initiative in 1993, a special allocation of an additional £10 million has been made in 1994 to enable further progress to be made in the specialties targeted last year. The principal objective will continue to be the elimination of waiting times in excess of 12 months for adults in the specialties of cardiac surgery, ENT, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, plastic surgery and vascular surgery, and to set a maximum waiting period of six months for children in ENT and ophthalmology. My Department will shortly be discussing with the agencies plans for the further reduction of their waiting lists.

  341.  Mr. G. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Health    if he will review the home help service which is provided to an association (details supplied) in Dublin 8 with a view to ensuring that the constraints which are currently placed on the service are removed so that urgent cases can be dealt with.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  The provision of home help services in Dublin 8 is a matter for the Eastern Health Board in association with the relevant voluntary organisations. I have been informed by the Eastern Health Board that there has been no curtailment in the level of service for persons who are in receipt of the service in Dublin 8 at present.

The board, and the voluntary organisation referred to by the Deputy, are presently reviewing all aspects of the service within the resources available with a view to providing a service to those [931] additional persons who have recently been referred and whose need is urgent.

  342.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health    the reason there are only ten dermatologists practising in Ireland in view of the fact that so many young qualified doctors have to go abroad to work; and the plans, if any, he has to rectify this situation.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Comhairle na nOspidéal has statutory responsibility for determining the number and type of consultant appointments in Ireland. A Collaborative Study Group representative of the Comhairle, the Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board and my Department has produced a discussion document on medical man-power in acute hospitals. This document contains, inter alia, proposals for increasing the number of consultants in all specialties.

The group are now examining the large number of responses which have been received in response to the document and I propose to await the outcome of the group's deliberations before deciding on any particular course of action.

  343.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health    the incubation period for the hepatitis C virus; if he has satisfied himself that all those who have received blood transfusions before 1989 have not received the virus, un-named as it was, through contaminated blood.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Following exposure to the hepatitis C virus, antibody to the virus may appear up to four months after exposure. In a number of persons so exposed, the antibody may disappear if the virus has not persisted in their system.

It is not the intention to extend the national blood testing programme to all persons who received blood transfusions [932] in the past because the risk of infection is very low. It is known that Irish blood donors have a low incidence of hepatitis C by comparison with other European countries.

I have been informed by the Blood Transfusion Service Board that they are at present considering the necessity of implementing a policy of a targeted look back of recipients of previous donations from donors now found antibody positive to hepatitis C.

  344.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health    if he has made a decision on the subsidisation of a well woman clinic in the Dublin 5 and Dublin 13 postal areas adjacent to the Coolock area.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  As the Deputy is probably aware, the Eastern Health Board has not yet agreed its policy in relation to the further development of health services for women including possible subsidisation of a women's health clinic in the Coolock area. Accordingly, I am not in a position to make any decision in relation to this matter.

  345.  Mr. E. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health    the number of hip replacement operations carried out in Belfast, County Antrim, under the Cork hip replacement initiative which commenced in November 1993, and is continuing to date; if there has been a reluctance on the part of patients and their families to travel to Belfast; and the medical complications, if any, which have arisen following these operations.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  To date a total of 110 patients have been referred by the Southern Health Board to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast for hip replacement surgery. I understand from the Southern Health Board that, for a variety of reasons, a number of patients were unable to avail of the service offered in Belfast. The board is [933] satisfied that the quality of care and treatment available at the Royal Victoria Hospital is of the highest standard.

  346.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    the reason for the delay in the implementation of his commitment that children up to the age of fourteen will be eligible for free dental treatment; and if he will make this provision retrospective to the date on which the legislation was first published.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Comprehensive proposals for the phased development of the dental services over the next four years are currently being prepared by my Department.

The extension of dental services to children under the age of 16 is included in these proposals.

  347.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health    the proposals, if any, he has to introduce legislation to ban non-clinical hypnotists from practising in the medical area.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  The general position in relation to the provision of complementary or alternative medical practices such as those offered by non-clinical hypnotists is that they are not regulated and there are no proposals at present to regulate them by means of legislation or otherwise.

Practitioners of alternative medicine are free to provide services so long as they do not represent themselves as being registered medical practitioners.

  348.  Mr. J. Higgins    asked the Minister for Health    the reason for the delay in providing hip replacement surgery for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  The [934] Western Health Board has indicated that the patient concerned is on the orthopaedic out-patient waiting list but that it is not possible to give an appointment date at this stage. The Deputy will appreciate that the scheduling of appointments is a matter for the consultant concerned and urgent cases are always given priority. Should this patient feel that his condition has deteriorated he should return to his general practitioner who is in the best position to emphasise the urgency of his case to the consultant directly.

  349.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health    his views on whether herbal remedies should be available under the medical card or VHI scheme; and his views on whether more general recognition of such treatments is desirable within the health services.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Medicinal products included in the General Medical Services Scheme must conform to certain published criteria. One of the criteria is that the product must be an “allopathic” medicinal product which is the subject of a current product authorisation granted by the Minister for Health. The granting of such an authorisation indicates that the National Drugs Advisory Board is satisfied as to the quality, safety and efficacy of the product concerned.

There is a wide range of alternative medicines available in respect of which quality, safety and efficacy has not been established. The Deputy will appreciate that the question of financial provision towards subsidising the cost of such treatment could not be justified.

In regard to VHI cover the position is that the level and type of such cover is in the first instance a matter for the VHI Board. At present VHI cover is not available in respect of such alternative therapies as the board consider that available resources should be directed towards the provision of insurance cover for the high and unforeseeable costs of conventional [935] medicine used in the treatment of acute illnesses. Any extension of VHI cover would have implications for the financing of the Board, including the level of premium payments required from members.

  350.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the waiting lists for orthodontic treatment in the Eastern Health Board area; the plans, if any, he has to increase funding to the health board to help reduce this waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  In 1993 I allocated an additional £2 million for developments in the dental services including the development of orthodontic services.

This year I will provide further resources to the health boards to continue the development of orthodontic services.

The Eastern Health Board have made arrangements with the Dublin Dental Hospital for the development of consultant orthodontist services to meet the needs of both the Board and the Hospital. The successful expansion by the Board of their consultant services will considerably improve the orthodontic services provided by the Board.

My Department is in discussions with the Eastern Health Board regarding their requirements for the further development of their orthodontic services in 1994 and over the period of the Programme for a Partnership Government.

  351.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Health    if he has satisfied himself that the number of suicides is accurately reflected in national statistics; the action, if any, he intends to take in relation to teenage suicides in order to reduce the extent of cases currently being reported; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

[936]Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Information on deaths by suicide is collected by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The CSO regularly monitors the accuracy of its data and has assisted studies investigating the level of suicide. These studies have shown the official statistics to be accurate within acceptable limits.

In order to try to reduce the extent of suicide, both among teenagers and in the population at large, my Department is contributing towards the costs of a pilot project on attempted suicide in Cork to be carried out by staff of the Southern Health Board. The aim of this project is to reduce the re-occurrence of attempted suicides and to develop intervention skills which may be applied in this area.

My Department is also providing financial support towards the cost of the fifth European symposium on suicide and self-poisoning, which will take place in University College Cork from 31 August to 3 September, 1994.

This symposium will be attended by between 200 and 300 researchers from all over Europe who are working in the area of better understanding and the prevention of suicide and suicidal behaviour.

  352.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Health    the plans, if any, he has to reintroduce medical cards for students in view of the documented poverty which many students are experiencing.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Under the Health Act, 1970, medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the Chief Executive Officer of the appropriate health board are unable, without undue hardship, to provide general practitioner services for themselves and their dependants.

Income guidelines are drawn up by the Chief Executive Officers to assist in the determination of a person's eligibility and these guidelines are revised annually in line with the Consumer Price Index. However, these guidelines are not statutorily [937] binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, that person may still be awarded a medical card if the Chief Executive Officer considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this.

Persons aged between 16 and 25 years, including students, who are dependants of a person who is not a medical card holder, are not normally entitled to a medical card except where they have an entitlement under EC regulations or where they are in receipt of a Disabled Person's Maintenance Allowance. The decision on whether or not a person is regarded as a dependant or as being financially independent is made by the Chief Executive Officer of the health board on the basis of the circumstances of the individual case. Students who are financially independent are entitled to apply for medical cards and are assessed on the same income criteria as all other applicants.

I do not think that it is justifiable to extend an automatic entitlement to a medical card to any specific group without any reference to their means or, in the case of dependent students, to their parent's means, particularly in view of the many areas of pressing need in the health services and the limited resources available to meet them.

It is open to all persons, be they parents or students, to apply to the Chief Executive Officer of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves and/or their dependants without hardship. I am satisfied that health boards give sympathetic consideration to such applications when the circumstances warrant it.

  353.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Health    the plans, if any, he has to provide for the regulation, supervision and inspection of childcare facilities in accordance with the Child Care Act, 1991.

[938]Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin):  Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 provides a scheme for the inspection and supervision by health boards of pre-school services for children under six years of age and for the making of regulations in this regard.

As the House will be aware the Government has decided that the Act is to be brought into operation in its entirety by the end of 1996. In the implementation of the Act, priority is being given to the commencement of Parts III, IV, V and VI which deal with taking children into care, court proceedings and the powers and duties of health boards in relation to children in their care. These provisions will greatly strengthen the ability of health boards and the gardaí to intervene in cases of child abuse and to protect children otherwise at risk.

When these provisions have been successfully implemented, I will then proceed with the commencement of Part VII and the remaining provisions of the Act.

  354.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Education    if she will consult with the Minister for the Environment as required by section 84 (1) B of the Local Government Planning and Development Act, 1963, with regard to the requirement by Meath County Council under condition 5 of section 84 planning reference number P91/0647 regarding Ashbourne Community School.

  359.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Education    the reason a chain-link fence was erected between the new school in Ashbourne, County Meath and Deerpark Estate, without agreement under section 84 of the Planning Acts with the local authority concerned who had requested the erection of a two metre high block wall, capped and plastered; if this matter will be referred to the Minister for the Environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

[939]Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 354 and 359 together.

As required by Section 84 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963 my Department consulted with Meath County Council regarding the plans for Ashbourne community school, a State development for which planning permission under Section 24 of the Act was not required.

The council's views have been carefully considered and most of their requirements have been met. However, the request that a concrete wall be built on a section of the boundary was regarded as unreasonable and is unacceptable to the Department which considers that a chain-link fence together with fast growing trees and shrubs will provide a satisfactory boundary.

My Department is still in communication with Meath County Council concerning this matter as it is considered, having consulted the Chief State Solicitor, that the issue is not appropriate for referral to the Minister for the Environment.

  355.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Education    the present position with regard to the extension of Ratoath national school, County Meath.

  356.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Education    if her attention has been drawn to the fact that planning developments in Ratoath Parish, County Meath, of 250 new houses will add to the existing pressure of space and demand for the proposed extension to Ratoath national school; and if she will have arrangements made to review the project with a view to expediting the building of this extension to the school in view of these developments.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 355 and 356 together.

A proposal to build an extension to Ratoath national school in 1987 did not [940] proceed due to the changed financial situation at the time. The Chairman of the Board of Management has reactivated the proposal to build the extension and my Department has put in train the process of examining the case in the context of the existing accommodation in the catchment area and having regard to the enrolments at the school for the foreseeable future.

  357.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for Education    if an application has been received by her for the refurbishment of St. Ernan's national school, Ballintra, County Donegal; if so, the date the application was received; and if resources are being allocated to enable the necessary works to be carried out.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  An application for grant towards the cost of refurbishment of St. Ernan's national school, Ballintra was received in my Department on 14 May, 1993.

The question of allocating resources to enable the refurbishment to be carried out is currently being considered in the context of the substantial costs involved and having regard to the sharp decline in enrolments at the school in recent years.

  360.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    if grant aid from lottery funds has been promised to Mullingar Athletic AFC football club; the amount which has been pledged; and if further money is to be given to this club in 1995.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The Minister of State at my Department met representatives from Mullingar Athletic AFC in January, 1994 in response to their application for national lottery grant aid towards the cost of development of playing pitches and dressing rooms. The Minister of State advised the club that their application would be given every consideration in the context of the funds provided for the [941] scheme in 1994. No commitment was given as to the amount of grant aid to be provided in 1994 or 1995.

All applications received under the scheme, which was recently advertised, are now under consideration by my Department and a decision in the matter will be conveyed to the club as soon as possible.

  361.  Mr. Barry    asked the Minister for Education    if she will provide funds for the building of Gaelscoil Uí Riada, Wilton, County Cork, in view of the fact that this school has been ten years in temporary accommodation, and is continuing to expand.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Following a meeting with a deputation from Gaelscoil Uí Riada, I asked the planning section of my Department to carry out a full examination of their case for a new school building. This examination is virtually completed and I expect that a decision will be conveyed to the school authorities in the very near future.

  362.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Education    the plans, if any, she has for Gortatlea primary school, Tralee, County Kerry.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  An application for a grant towards the cost of replacing windows and doors at this school is under consideration in my Department. A decision will be conveyed to the school authorities at an early date.

[942]

  363.  Mr. L. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Education    the action programmes, if any, that have been put in place at both primary and secondary level to date within her Department in relation to the Helios II Programme 1993-96 which is a third community action programme to assist disabled people and which has as one of its primary objectives a programme of European collaboration on the integration of handicapped children into ordinary schools; the progress which will be achieved by mid-term review date in December 1994 and by the end of term review in December 1996; the way in which progress in Ireland compares with the achievements in other member States; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The Council of Ministers of the European Union decided on 25 February 1993 to establish a Community action programme to be known as Helios II. The programme covers the period 1-1-93 to 31-12-96, i.e. four years. The programme is concerned with promoting equal opportunities for, and the integration of, disabled people.

Educational integration is one of the five main objectives of the Helios II Programme. The Commission collaborates on implementation of this aspect of the programme with the Integrated Education Group. The Department of Education has two representatives on this group. The Helios II Programme is concerned with all levels of education, from pre-school, through primary, post-primary to higher and adult education.

For each year under the programme there is a list of priority themes. Some of these themes have been set up for two, three or even four years in a row. Ireland was invited to designate six participants/ partners in the exchange and information activities which form one of the objectives of the programme. These partners have met with their fellow European participants and have helped to select the 16 working themes for 1994. Each of the Irish partners — covering the different levels of education—has selected a particular theme under which they will engage in exchange and information activities during this year. The six Irish partners and the themes they have selected are as follows:

[943] Theme 3—Multidisciplinary nature of integration: co-operation of all the services involved.

St. Fergal's Junior national school, Bray.

Theme 5—Role of the teacher and the role of support teachers Scoil Phádraig Naofa, Bandon

Good Shepherd national school, Churchtown, Dublin

St. Patrick's College of Education, Drumcondra, Dublin.

Theme 6—Role of peripatetic teacher in the mainstream education of deaf and hearing impaired children.

Community School, Bishopstown, Cork.

Theme 9—Special Education: co-operation and transition to an open environment

Pobalscoil Rosmini, Drumcondra.

Under each theme the participants involved organise their own exchange and information activities. Up to three visits may be arranged for 1994. These visits have already begun. Further themes and similar activities will be arranged for the years 1995 and 1996. At the end of each year the participants will prepare seminars to wind up the action programme. At these seminars conclusions will be formulated arising out of the exchange activities of that year concerning good practices identified across the countries which need to be encouraged and shared. The work for the following year will also be prepared. The seminar each year will take place at European and at national level. The Irish participants will come together at the end of this year to pool their information from their experience on the exchange visits. As a result of these seminars and the exchanges it will be possible to compare progress in Ireland with that in other member states.

[944]

  364.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    if she has approved grant aid for St. Colmans national school, Mullingar, County Westmeath, to carry out alterations to facilitate a wheelchair bound pupil in the school; and when this work will be completed.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department has received an application for grant-aid in respect of the provision of special facilities to cater for a physically handicapped pupil attending this school. This application is currently under consideration in my Department and a decision in the matter will be conveyed to the school authorities at an early date.

  365.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the number of teachers over 55 years working in each category of school for the school year 1992-93.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The numbers of teachers aged 55 years or over in primary, secondary and community/comprehensive schools in the 1992-93 school year were as follows:—

Primary 2,538
Secondary 1,203
Community/Comprehensive 241

The information in relation to teachers in vocational schools and community colleges is directly available to my Department. The information is being assembled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

  366.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the number and location by county of primary schools which had a seventh class or repeat sixth class in each of the schools years 1984-1985, 1988-1989 and 1992-1993.

[945]Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not available on a county basis. The only information available is in relation to the number of pupils enrolled who has previously completed sixth standard in a national school. Figures for the 1992-93 school year are not available, however I have included statistics for the 1991-92 school year, the latest year for which statistics are available.

School Year Total enrolment in repeat 6th or 7th classes
1984-85 1,629
1988-89 997
1991-92 799

  367.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the pension options which were available to each category of teacher over 55 years of age at 31 August 1993; the reason each category have different benefits; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The superannuation of national and secondary teachers is governed by separate superannuation provisions made under the Teachers Superannuation Act, 1928 while the superannuation of vocational teachers is governed by the Local Government Superannuation code.

The following are the current superannuation options available to serving teachers including teachers over 55 years of age. These options also applied at 31 August, 1993.

National, Secondary, Comprehensive, Community and Vocational School Teachers may continue to give pensionable teaching service until the end of the school year in which they reach 65 years. Then if they have completed at least five years pensionable [946] service they are eligible for a pension on retirement.

They may, however, retire earlier with immediate eligibility for a pension provided:

(i) they have reached 60 years of age and have at least five years of pensionable service, or

(ii) they have completed at least five years of pensionable service and satisfy the Ministers for Education and Finance (or the vocational education committee in the case of Vocational Teachers) that, while in the service, they have become incapable from infirmity of mind or body of discharging the duties of a teacher and that such infirmity is likely to be permanent, or

(iii) in the case of national school teachers they have reached 55 years of age and have at least 35 years of pensionable service.

Teachers with at least five years of pensionable service, who retire without immediate eligibility to pension have the option of preserving their pension rights and becoming eligible for a pension and lump sum on reaching 60 years of age.

Teachers who retire from teaching without immediate eligibility to pension, and who subsequently enter pensionable employment with an organisation which participates in the Public Service or Local Government Scheme for Transfer of Service for superannuation purposes, have the option of transferring their teaching service to reckon with the subsequent service in the new organisation for superannuation purposes on ultimate retirement.

Superannuation provisions for national school teachers have operated from the 1870's. The different superannuation provisions for the different categories of teachers arise from the era when the provisions first operated.

[947]

  368.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    if she has approved building work at St. Mary's secondary school, Mullingar, County Westmeath to facilitate a wheelchair bound pupil; the projected cost of this work; when the work will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I have approved the provision of a lift at St. Mary's secondary school, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath to facilitate disabled persons. My Department has recently authorised the tender documentation and the submission of this documentation by the school authority is awaited.

  369.  Mr. Hogan    asked the Minister for Education    the reason students of third level colleges must for purposes of health treatment attend the doctor at a third level college rather than having the option of attending either the doctor at the college or their family doctor at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  In the case of the universities the services of a doctor are provided free of charge on the campuses. However, students may attend their family doctor using medical card facilities if they are entitled to one or at their own expense.

In the case of the other third level colleges, the position varies from college to college. Broadly speaking, I understand that while students in those colleges are provided with access to a doctor or other medical facilities, in some cases at a subsidised cost, they are not precluded from attending their family doctor if they so prefer, as is the case with university students as outlined above.

  370.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for Education    the alternatives, if any, to corporal punishment approved by her Department.

[948]Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  In 1990-91, my Department issued “Guidelines Towards a Positive Policy for School Behaviour and Discipline”, together with “A Suggested Code of Behaviour and Discipline” to all schools. Strategies which may be used to show disapproval of unacceptable behaviour are outlined in the latter document. They include reprimanding a pupil, temporary separation from friends, loss of privileges, detention during a break or after school hours, prescribing additional work, referral to the Principal, communication with parents and suspension.

Circumstances will vary from school to school and it is only those intimately involved with a particular school who can draw up a code of discipline appropriate for that school. In drawing up the code, school authorities should have regard to the guidelines issued by my Department.

  371.  Mr. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly)    asked the Minister for Education    if her attention has been drawn to dissatisfaction on the part of parents in Ballydaly, Tullamore, County Offaly with the school transport service in the area especially since the current school year began; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I have just been assured by Bus Éireann that the matter to which the Deputy refers has been sorted out.

My Department was not aware of any difficulty on the particular service until they got a report from Bus Éireann in recent days.

A new contractor was assigned to this route in September, 1993. The operation of the service was monitored in the normal way, but complaints were received by Bus Éireann recently concerning problems with the service being provided. Their local District Manager responded promptly, and the appropriate corrective action has been taken.

All concerned can be assured that the service provided will be fully satisfactory.

[949]

  372.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Education    if the first assistant teacher can be retained in Derrypark national school until the number of pupils at the school increases; the number of pupils on the roll at present is 20, Derrypark national school is an amalgamated school following the closures at Finney and Seanafarraghan national schools, local people are anxious that the first assistant teacher will be allowed to continue at the school for a further year to see the improvement, if any, that will take place to the potential school population in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The staffing of national schools for a particular year is determined by the enrolment in the school on the 30th of September of the previous year.

As stated by the Deputy, the enrolment in Derrypark national school on 30 September, 1993 was 20 pupils which warrants a staffing in the 1994-95 school year of a principal only.

Therefore, the first assistant teacher cannot be allowed to continue at the school for a further year, and the post in question will be suppressed from the end of the current school year. The assistant teacher will be given the option of having her name placed on the diocesan panel for re-deployment to another school from the 1st of September, 1994.

  373.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for Education    the proposals, if any, she has to change the mechanism of funding of youth and community groups through vocational education committee's and Comhairle le Leas Óige, in view of the current review of education; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I have no proposals at present to [950] change the existing appoach to funding youth and community groups.

  374.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Education    if she will provide an art room and prefab classroom for the presentation convent Milltown, County Kerry.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  This school's application for additional prefabricated accommodation is presently being reviewed by my Department. My Department will notify the school authorities of its decision as soon as possible.

  375.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Education    if she has received an application for national lottery funding from Ballybrack boys football club for the provision of an all-weather pitch at Kilbogget Park, Ballybrack, County Dublin; and if in view of this clubs excellent record of organising sporting activities in an area of disadvantage, she will provide the club with the moneys necessary to proceed with the project.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  An application has been received from Ballybrack boys football club under my Department's recreational facilities scheme. All applications received under the scheme, which was recently advertised, are presently under consideration by my Department and a decision in the matter will be conveyed to the club as soon as possible.

[951]

  376.  Mr. E. Ryan    asked the Minister for Education    if her attention has been drawn to the closure of St. Anne's Primary School, Milltown, Dublin 6; if it is normal for a school with 128 pupils and 10 teachers to close in this manner; the person who has the authority to make such a decision; and if provision is being made for pupils to gain places elsewhere.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I am aware that the Trustees of St. Anne's Primary School, Milltown, Dublin 6 have announced that the school will close from the end of the 1994-95 school year. The final decision regarding the closure of a school rests with the Patron and Trustees.

Provision will have to be made for the St. Anne's pupils to be accommodated in other schools.

  377.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the number of building projects and the value grant-aided by her in each of the last ten years in each category of second level school.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The capital allocation for second level schools provides for the funding of major building projects, minor capital works, emergency repairs, the provision of temporary accommodation, site/ property acquisition and equipment and resource grants.

A very substantial number of schools benefit each year from the capital allocation.

The detailed number of building projects assisted is not available, but the overall expenditure by second level category of school for the ten years is as follows:

Year Secondary Vocational Community-Comprehensive
(£000's) (£000's) (£000's)
1984 16,638 10,423 9,248
1985 16,951 9,431 13,540
1986 16,288 17,693 6,677
1987 14,455 16,468 8,104
1988 10,954 5,901 6,764
1989 9,608 9,094 5,658
1990 9,288 4,882 5,703
1991 9,002 6,370 4,677
1992 7,563 5,638 6,306
1993 6,612 9,120 11,264

[952]

  378.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the number of third level grant applications made in the year 1992 in each category, in each local authority area; the number that were successful; and the number of staff that were employed processing these applications.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The third level student support schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees and local authorities. Information about the number of applications received under the various third level student support schemes and the number of staff that were employed processing these applications is not readily available in my Department.

The numbers of students in receipt of Higher Education Grants, vocational education committee Scholarships and ESF Grants was as follows in 1992-93.

1992-93
Higher Education Grants Scheme 18,664
Vocational Education Committee's Scholarship Scheme 1,772
ESF Maintenance Grant Scheme 24,635
Total 45,071

  379.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Education    the reason transport arrangements for a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan were changed, who was originally brought to, and taken home from school at St. Enda's special school, County Monaghan, and who now has to wait in a bus station for one and a half hours before he is brought home; and if he will make a statement explaining the reason a handicapped child is being treated in this way.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I am having the matter raised by the Deputy investigated with a view to [953] putting a more appropriate service in place for the pupil in question.

  380.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Education    when a decision will be made on an application for national lottery funding by a club (details supplied) in County Tipperary.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  An application has been received from the organisation in question under my Department's recreational facilities scheme. All applications received under the scheme, which was recently advertised, are presently under consideration by my Department and a decision in the matter will be conveyed to the organisation concerned as soon as possible.

  381.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Education    the provision made to ensure equal participation between women and men on all human resource programmes co-funded by the European Union in 1994-1995; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department is committed to the principle of equal opportunities for both sexes in the provision of education and training. Equality policy informs the operation of ESF programmes and all institutions participating in these programmes [954] are urged to pay particular attention to this in the planning of courses and the recruitment of trainees, together with the need to expose both sexes to a broader range of occupational experiences than those traditionally offered. Equality modules are featured in pre-service and inservice training programmes for staff, and the criteria for admission of students to programmes are applied equally to both sexes. Females represent 45 per cent of total participants across the range of ESF-aided programmes in the education sector.

My Department has an equality committee which promotes a range of equality measures across all levels of the system. These actions focus on such areas as administration, employment, management, curricula, teaching materials, inservice and pre-service training, inspection, research, and pilot projects to encourage the non-traditional subject choices.

  382.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Education    the differences between a community school and a community college.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  In their everyday operation, community schools and community colleges function in a similar manner. The main differences between a community school and a community college are set out as follows:

Community School Community College
Ownership-Trusteeship The Religious and vocational education committee are joint trustees Owned by vocational education committee.
Initial Capital Funding 5 per cent from Religious 5 per cent from vocational education committee 100 per cent from Exchequer through vocational education committee.
90 per cent from Exchequer
Current Funding Directly from Department of Education From vocational education committee.
[955][956]Board of Management 3 Religious Nominees Same as for Community School
3 vocational education committee but one representative of minority
nominees religion may be added by
2 Parent Representatives vocational education committee if
2 Teacher Representatives requested and the Board may vote to increase membership by one.
Reports directly to Department Reports to vocational education committee.

  383.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Education    the proposals, if any, she has arising from the special education review committee, 1993, to provide a special school facility for children with Autism; and the plans, if any, she has in 1994 in relation to this matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The report of the special education review committee recommended that educational provision for children with autism should continue to be made in special schools for pupils with emotional and behavioural disorders, in other types of special schools and in ordinary schools, as appropriate. The committee did not recommend the provision of a dedicated special school facility for such children.

More recently, representatives of the autistic society met with officials of my Department and again put the case for a special dedicated facility. Material presented by the society in support of their case is being examined by my Department.

  384.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Education    her policy on providing normal higher education grants for students attending privately-run third level colleges, whose courses are recognised by the NCEA.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Private colleges are not included among the institutions approved for the purposes of the third level student support schemes.

The question of providing grants for students attending privately-run third level colleges is subject to ongoing review in the context of drawing up the annual schemes of student support.

  385.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Education    if a consultancy study done for her Department approximately two years ago on the comparative cost of difference types of second level school showed the annual cost to her Department per pupil year as £183 for voluntary secondary schools, £259 for community schools and £295 for community colleges; and if she took this into account before deciding to impose a community college model on Dunboyne, County Meath against the wishes of local parents and the majority of local elected public representatives.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The considerations which led to my decision to approve of a new community college in Dunboyne did not include real or perceived differences in the funding of different types of second-level schools.

As I stated in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 7 on 1 March 1994, the main criteria used in deciding on the management structures for green-field second-level schools are:

—the requirement that the school be capable of providing a comprehensive curriculum with suitable subject choices for a wide range of pupil aptitudes, abilities and choices;

—the need for the school to be open to all the children of the community and to be capable of gaining the support of a wide spectrum of the community [957] it proposes to serve irrespective of religious denomination, social class or financial needs;

—the desirability that the board of management should, as far as possible, be fully representative of educational, religious, parent and teacher interests.

—the requirement that, given the considerable expenditure of public moneys on the capital and current costs of a green-field school, those involved in running the school are ultimately accountable to the Minister for Education through the Department as regards expenditure of state funds and for the implementation of educational policy in the widest sense.

—the need for a green-field school, catering as it does for rapidly developing urban areas, to be flexible in its ability to adapt to changing needs in the educational area and to respond to community needs as regards, for example, the provision of an adult education programme.

—the desirability that such a school should, subject to the overriding claims of the school itself, be available for community use outside school hours.

The figures quoted from the consultancy study are figures for total expenditure including some teacher pay costs, not Department grants. In relation to the care needed in the interpretation of figures from the study and the improvements in funding since the study was carried out, I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Questions 3 et al on 17 November 1993.

  386.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Education    the progress of the Kinsale Community School.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  [958] The tender documentation for this project is at present being finalised and it is anticipated that tenders for the building of the school will be invited in the near future.

  387.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Education    the way in which the needs of pupils who require a remedial teacher at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12 are met; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Remedial education at primary level is a matter in the first instance for ordinary primary teachers. The majority of pupils with remedial needs would be helped within the scope of the ordinary teaching service.

Remedial teachers constitute the main additional resource for addressing the problem of under achievement in primary schools. In the case of the school in question, a full time remedial teacher is in place to address the particular needs of the pupils requiring remedial instruction.

  388.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Education    if St. Nicholas' Monastery national school Dundalk, County Louth will be included in the new group of schools being designated as disadvantaged for staffing purposes; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that based on the enrolment on 30 September 1993 of 301 families with children in the school, 40.5 per cent of families are medical card holders, in 53 per cent of families neither parent is employed and 35 per cent of families are local authority tenants, 42 of whom are single parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

[959]

  397.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Education    if she will consider designating St. Nicholas' Monastery national school, Dundalk, County Louth as disadvantaged for staffing purposes; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Question Nos. 388 and 397 together.

I am aware that the school in question has applied for disadvantaged area status.

Schools are selected for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas scheme on the basis of priority of need as reflected by a range of socio-economic criteria.

Factors taken into account include the incidence of unemployment, local authority housing and medical card holders among the parents of the children concerned. Account is also taken of the views of my Department's Inspectorate on the relative levels of need between applicant schools.

As I recently announced in the context of the 1994 Education Budget, I intend that a further 50 primary schools will be designated as disadvantaged for capitation grant purposes in the current year. I am also allocating an additional 150 teaching posts in the current year to improve staffing levels in the primary sector.

The position of the school in question will be considered in the context of these developments.

  389.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Education    if her attention has been drawn to the impact that high tuition fees and low grant levels are having on third level students, and the failure of the Government to raise means test thresholds to match the increase in the average industrial wage; if she intends to increase thresholds to meet the needs of students; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  In accordance with the provisions of the Programme for a Partnership Government I am committed to widening access to third level education. As the [960] Deputy will be aware, significant improvements were made in the student grants system in 1992 and 1993. These changes include more equitable and rigorous procedures for assessing income, major improvements in income eligibility limits and fee grants and an increase in the income limit for those with more than one child in full-time third level education.

Income limits were significantly increased, by up to 40 per cent in some instances, in 1992. They were increased in 1993 in line with the increase in the average industrial wage. For 1994 I have already announced an increase in the income limits in line with the average industrial wage and an increase in maintenance grants in line with inflation.

  390.  Mr. E. Kenny    asked the Minister for Education    if floor plans exist in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if, on request, these will be forwarded to the Board of Management of the school.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Floor plans in respect of the school in question are on file and are available on request to the Board of Management of the school.

  391.  Mr. H. Byrne    asked the Minister for Education    her views on the proposed buy out of her Department's interest in Templetown national school, County Wexford; the way in which her Department was first approached on this matter; when this approach was made; the progress, if any, which has been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  According to the records available in my Department the lease for Temple-town national school expired in 1992, therefore, I have no further interest in the property. A letter requesting details of title deeds for the above mentioned [961] school was received in my Department on 29 November 1993.

The above information will be conveyed to the Parish Priest responsible for the property at an early date.

  392.  Mr. H. Byrne    asked the Minister for Education    the date of an application for grants to her Department for £3,000 in respect of windows, £1,500 in respect of a pump and a burner and further amounts for new furniture at Ballyoughter national school, Gorey, County Wexford; the progress to date of the application; when these grants are likely to be paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Grant in aid was approved for replacement windows in August 1988 for Ballyoughter national school, Gorey, County Wexford. The school authorities did not avail of the approved grant at that time. However my understanding is that the windows have since been replaced and my Department has informed the school authorities that a grant will be paid on receipt of certification of the work from my professional adviser.

Grant applications for pump and burner, and new furniture were received in my Department on 3 February 1994 and 17 February 1994 respectively. My Department will be conveying a decision on all grants to the school authorities at an early date.

  393.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    if the proposed Regional Education Councils lead to a diminution in the work of her Department, there will be no reduction in the number of civil servants working in her Department's office in Athlone.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  One of the key matters discussed at the National Education Convention last year was the question of intermediate [962] structures — their role, authority, functions and responsibilities. The Programme for Partnership Government contains a clear commitment to the introduction of these structures.

As a result of the debate and analysis at the Convention I agreed to publish a position paper on intermediate structures. This I did on 11 March last. Copies of the paper have been circulated widely, including to the staff in my Department and to staff union representatives. Staff union representatives were also, of course, among those invited to the Convention.

In the foreword to the position paper I indicated that the publication of the paper was intended to signficantly advance the debate in regard to intermediate structures and is my contribution in this area to the furtherance of the consultative process engaged in at the Convention. I also indicated that I would be happy to arrange for the participation of officials of my Department in followup discussions. In this regard, there are ongoing discussions on this whole area with staff union representatives through the normal industrial relations process in my Department.

In view of the present stage of the process of education policy formation and development and having regard to the facts that proposals to Government and a White Paper are still some time away it would not be appropriate to engage in making statements on specific matters related to intermediate structures.

  394.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Education    the plans, if any, she has to monitor the increase in third level fees.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The Higher Education Authority has the statutory function of advising my Department on all aspects of third level education. As part of this function it monitors the levels of fees charged and consults my Department as appropriate [963] but particularly in relation to any proposed increases. Fee levels are also considered in the context of the preparation of the annual estimates of expenditure on higher education.

  395.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Education    the steps, if any, which have been taken to combat student poverty.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I have already announced improvements in student support arrangements for 1994 which will provide for an increase in the income eligibility limits in line with the increase in the average industrial wage and an increase in maintenance grants in line with inflation.

I have also announced the allocation for the first time of a discretionary budget which will be used to set up a hardship fund with third level institutions. It is intended to administer this fund for the benefit of individual students where assistance on a flexible basis is required because of exceptional circumstances and where assistance under the general student support schemes is not available or is inadequate.

  396.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Education    if she has received an application for national lottery funding from an organisation (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  An application has been received from the organisation in question under my Department's recreational facilities scheme. All applications received under the scheme, which was recently advertised, are presently under consideration by my Department and a decision in the [964] matter will be conveyed to the organisation concerned as soon as possible.