Dáil Éireann

04/May/1995

Prelude

Visit by New Zealand Parliamentary Delegation.

Request to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 30.

Order of Business.

Levy on Slaughtered or Exported Livestock Order, 1995: Motion.

Financial Resolutions, 1995.

White Paper on Education: Statements.

Private Members' Business. - Criminal Law (Bail) Bill, 1995: Second Stage (Resumed).

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Aircraft Maintenance Industry.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Competition Authority Report.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Shannon Aerospace Employment Targets.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Sale of NET.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Steel Viability Plan.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Small Business Sector.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - State Investment in Sunbeam Industries.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Workers' Charter of Rights.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Regulation of Auctioneers.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Horizon Programme.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Dublin Science and Technology Park.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

White Paper on Education: Statements (Resumed).

Adjournment Debate. - Sheep Dips.

Adjournment Debate. - Detention of Cork Minor.

Adjournment Debate. - Cavan Regional and County Roads.

Adjournment Debate. - Enniscrone (Sligo) Fire Station.

Written Answers. - Community Employment Programme.

Written Answers. - Retail Sector Report.

Written Answers. - Leonardo Programme.

Written Answers. - Business Expansion Loan Scheme.

Written Answers. - Science, Technology and Innovation Report.

Written Answers. - Exploitation of Part-time Workers.

Written Answers. - Task Force Report.

Written Answers. - Architects' Registration.

Written Answers. - Irish Welfare Organisations Grant Aid.

Written Answers. - Accreditation of In-House Training.

Written Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.

Written Answers. - Charges on Banks and Institutions.

Written Answers. - Long-term Unemployment.

Written Answers. - Dublin Chamber of Commerce Report.

Written Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.

Written Answers. - Official Receptions.

Written Answers. - Motor Vehicle Taxation.

Written Answers. - Report on Disability.

Written Answers. - Advisory Group on Personal Assistance Service.

Written Answers. - Lung Cancer Statistics.

Written Answers. - Services for Disabled.

Written Answers. - Amputee Counselling.

Written Answers. - Health Board Staffing.

Written Answers. - St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny.

Written Answers. - Implementation of Food Hygiene Regulation.

Written Answers. - Statute of Limitations Amendment.

Written Answers. - National Museum Staff.

Written Answers. - Aid for Disabled.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Funding.

Written Answers. - Halting Site Costs.

Written Answers. - Road Traffic Accidents.

Written Answers. - Enniscrone (Sligo) Fire Station.

Written Answers. - Clonakilty (Cork) Sewerage Scheme.

Written Answers. - Visiting Teacher Service.

Written Answers. - Specialist Teacher Training.

Written Answers. - Letterfrack (Galway) School Extension.

Written Answers. - Cross-Border Schools Exchanges.

Written Answers. - Music as Leaving Certificate Subject.

Written Answers. - Third Level Places.

Written Answers. - Ballaghaderreen (Roscommon) Schools.

Written Answers. - Dublin Institute of Technology.

Written Answers. - County Limerick School.

Written Answers. - Tyre Slashing Incidents.

Written Answers. - Longford Court House.

Written Answers. - Post Office Robberies.

Written Answers. - Donaghmede (Dublin) Garda Strength.

Written Answers. - Funding for the Disabled.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Appeals.

Written Answers. - Disabled Tourists.

Written Answers. - Trade Links with Zaire.

Written Answers. - Phoenix Syndrome.

Written Answers. - EU Horizon Programme.

Written Answers. - Development of Services Sector.

Written Answers. - Opening Hours of Agricultural Offices.

Written Answers. - Funding for Equestrians.

Written Answers. - Alternative Enterprise Scheme.

Written Answers. - Transport for the Disabled.

Written Answers. - Air Corps Flights to Farranfore Airport.

[705] Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.

Paidir.

Prayer.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Before proceeding further I feel sure the House would wish to join with me in extending a most warm welcome to a parliamentary delegation from New Zealand who are happily with us this morning. This delegation is being led by the Honourable Peter Tapsell, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and includes the Deputy Speaker and other distinguished members of the House of Representatives of New Zealand. To all of them, on your behalf, I express the ardent hope that their visit will be most enjoyable and most successful. I bid you in our Gaelic tongue a most hearty céad míle fáilte — a hundred thousand welcomes.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Before proceeding to the Order of Business proper I propose to deal with a notice of motion from Deputy Ned O'Keeffe. I now call on Deputy O'Keeffe to state the matter of which he has given notice to me.

[706]Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  In accordance with Standing Order 30 I wish to request leave to move the adjournment of the Dáil to discuss the need to upgrade Mallow Racecourse as I consider it to be a matter of urgent public importance. I would like to know the reason for the delay.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Having considered the matter fully I do not consider it to be one contemplated by our Standing Orders. Therefore, I cannot grant leave to move the motion. My office has advised the Deputy that this is essentially a matter for the Irish Horse Racing Authority.

The Taoiseach:  It is proposed to take No. 4, Nos. 5-38, inclusive, and No. 43.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) No. 4 shall be decided without debate; (2) Nos. 5-38 shall be moved together and decided without debate by one question which shall be put from the Chair; (3) The following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 43:

(i) Opening statements shall be made by the Minister for Education, the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party;

(ii) Other Members may be called upon to contribute to the statements; and

(iii) A Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply.

(4) Private Members' Business, which shall be the Criminal Law (Bail) Bill, 1995, shall take place today at 1.00 p.m. and the proceedings thereon shall adjourn at 2.30 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is the proposal that No. 4 be decided without debate satisfactory and agreed? Agreed. Is it satisfactory and agreed that Nos. 5-38, [707] inclusive, shall be moved together and decided without debate? Agreed. Are the arrangements for dealing with statements in relation to No. 43 agreed?

Miss Harney:  Am I to take it that it is proposed to have no time limit on speakers? Normally in such motions there is a limit of either 45 minutes or 30 minutes for opening speakers and a shorter time for subsequent speakers. Are you suggesting no time limit?

An Ceann Comhairle:  It is a wise observation.

The Taoiseach:  No time limit is proposed. Obviously Members will expect one another, in the interest of various points of view being heard, to keep their contributions reasonably brief.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are no restrictions in respect of time limits. Are the proposals on that basis satisfactory and agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern:  In view of the very regrettable scenes in Derry yesterday, the widespread speculation all over the world this morning and the remarks of Andrew Hunter, the leading Tory backbencher, regarding the ministerial talks next week between Sinn Féin and the British Government, has the Taoiseach had any contacts this morning and can he give the House any information regarding the status of the talks?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The matters referred to by Deputy Bertie Ahern are not relevant to the Order of Business.

Mr. B. Ahern:  They are relevant to the world.

The Taoiseach:  On behalf of all Members of the House I would like to express my deep regret at the events that occurred in Derry yesterday. It is fair to say these scenes have undone to [708] a small extent the painstaking work that has been done over many many years to make Derry the attractive city it is for investment and tourism. This work has been carried through on a cross party and a cross community basis. I hope any injury that may have been done to that positive image will be undone very quickly in the interests of the economic development of Derry. It is true to say that nobody who starts, initiates or organises a street demonstration can control completely the course of the demonstration once they have decided to have such a demonstration.

That cuts both ways. It means that those who organise demonstrations must be prudent in doing so, but it also means that those who might criticise the organisers should recognise that no organiser has complete control. In this peace process we must all show respect for the other participants. If a Prime Minister is visiting a city he should be received with the utmost courtesy, whatever one's disagreements with him. That may have been absent yesterday in some respects. It is important that respect should be shown to all persons involved in the peace process and street demonstrations are of limited value in that regard.

Mr. B. Ahern:  I agree with the Taoiseach's remarks; courtesy should be shown to the British Prime Minister who has done so much to develop the peace process. Following the remarks on a number of radio stations this morning by Mr. Andrew Hunter, a person who is usually close to the view at Westminister, can the Taoiseach reassure the House as to the status of next week's talks? Everybody in this House hopes that, after the events of yesterday, we can move on.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have to dissuade Members from any tendency towards debate at this time. There are many other ways of raising such important matters.

The Taoiseach:  I did not answer that [709] part of the Deputy's question, and I wish to do so. My understanding — and that of the Tánaiste and the Government — is that the meeting will go ahead as planned. We have no reason to make any other assumption. I will make no contact that would suggest any other assumption on our part. In our contacts with our opposite numbers the Tánaiste and I will do everything to ensure that these discussions are fruitful and constructive and that there is a willingness to meet those on both sides of the table.

Miss Harney:  I join the Taoiseach and the Leader of Fianna Fáil in condemning what happended in Derry yesterday. It is true that somebody who organises a demonstration cannot be in total control, but it is interesting to note that Sinn Féin has not condemned what happened, which I very much regret. If we are committed to democratic politics then we must strongly condemn what occurred yesterday because the British Prime Minister deserves our respect by virtue of the office he holds and because of what he has done for the peace process. I am delighted that the talks will go ahead next week, but what happened yesterday will damage the kind of trust required to ensure the success of those talks.

Mr. Martin:  I want to raise on the Order of Business an urgent matter which pertains to the Child Care Act and reform of the 1908 Industrial Schools Act. Will the Government take urgent action to secure a place for a 12 year old Cork girl who is currently without accommodation——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am anxious to facilitate the Deputy in respect of that matter, but he should consult my office as this is not the time to raise the matter.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the Taoiseach indicate when the amendment to the Arterial Drainage Acts will be brought before the House?

[710]The Taoiseach:  Within the next two weeks.

Dr. Woods:  The previous Government had at an advanced stage of preparation a Bill to protect women and children from domestic violence and to provide for safety orders. Will the Government now tell us when this Bill will be published?

The Taoiseach:  This Bill is at an advanced stage of preparation. I expect it will be published within the next two months at the most, probably sooner.

Ms Keogh:  At what stage of preparation are the Employment Equality Bill and the Equal Status Bill?

The Taoiseach:  The Equal Status Bill will be published in 1996 and the Employment Equality Bill later this year.

Mr. T. Kitt:  Following the walk-out of the professional taxation bodies from a meeting between the Taxation Administration Liaison Committee and the Revenue Commissioners yesterday, what is the position with regard to the Finance Bill and the infamous section 153?

The Taoiseach:  The Finance Bill will go to committee as usual and all the points Deputies wish to make can be made there.

Mr. O'Dea:  When can we expect the publication of the Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which might provide some assistance to the Garda Síochána in dealing with those who try to abduct people from their own homes and reducing the level of crime?

The Taoiseach:  The Bill mentioned by the Deputy, which concerns saving Garda time, is at an early stage of preparation. A criminal law Bill is also in preparation to provide power to arrest without warrant for serious offences, to [711] abolish the distinction between felonies and misdemeanours and to abolish penal servitude, hard labour and prison divisions. That Bill is at a comparatively early stage of preparation also. This list of Bills at various stages of preparation in the area of criminal law is quite exhaustive. Perhaps the Deputy would be more precise.

Mr. O'Dea:  When can we expect legislation which will assist the Garda in the fight against crime which is at its highest level in the history of the State?

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy's party was in Government long enough and did nothing about it.

Mr. O'Dea:  People are being abducted from their homes and the Government's attitude to crime is one of complacency.

(Interruptions).

Mr. Cullen:  Will the new electoral boundaries be in place in advance of the divorce referendum in the autumn? Is it anticipated that the writ for the Wicklow by-election will be moved in this session?

Mr. McGrath:  The Deputy is jumping ahead.

Mr. Cullen:  It is promised legislation.

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach:  I do not know the answer to the Deputy's question about whether the boundary legislation will be published before the divorce referendum. However, I expect that the electoral Bill will be published quite soon because the work has been completed, and the Government will be proceeding with the proposed changes as recommended by the Commission. In regard to the by-election writ, no decision has been made.

[712]Mr. Davern:  I was about to ask the Taoiseach when he was going to legitimise the massacre of my constituency.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the following Order in draft:—

An Bord Bia Act, 1994 (Levy on Slaughtered or Exported Livestock) Order, 1995.

a copy of which Order in draft was laid before the Dáil on the 16th day of March, 1995.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I move:

That provision be made for the furnishing to the Revenue Commissioners of such information and by such persons as may be specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That the tax treatment of income arising under dispositions (within the meaning of Chapter I of Part XXVIII of the Income Tax Act, 1967 (No. 6 of 1967)) or settlements (within the meaning of Chapter II of the said Part) be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution so as to secure that an individual may not obtain relief under section 12 of the Finance Act, 1986 (No. 13 of 1986), in respect of a subscription for eligible shares in a company where the individual is also entitled to relief under section 12 of the Finance Act, 1984 (No. 9 of 1984), in respect of that subscription.

[713] That section 17 of the Finance Act, 1970 (No. 14 of 1970), which relates to tax deductions from payments to sub-contractors in certain specified industries, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 51 of the Finance Act, 1988 (No. 12 of 1988), which provides for the continued entitlement of persons to unrestricted accelerated capital allowances in respect of capital expenditure incurred on certain assets and in certain areas, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 81 of the Finance Act, 1990 (No. 10 of 1990), which provides for the continued entitlement of persons to accelerated capital allowances of 50 per cent in respect of capital expenditure incurred on certain assets, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 18 of the Finance Act, 1988 (No. 12 of 1988), which relates to the date for payment of tax, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 35 of the Finance Act, 1987 (No. 10 of 1987), which relates to relief from income tax and corporation tax in respect of investment in Irish film-making companies, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That Chapter VII of Part I of the Finance Act, 1983 (No. 15 of 1983). which relates to the payment of advance corporation tax, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 18 of the Finance Act, 1989 (No. 10 of 1989), which relates to the taxation of collective investment undertakings, be amended in [714] the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 27 of the Finance Act, 1994 (No. 13 of 1994), which relates to the taxation of dividends paid by Irish resident companies to non-residents, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That Part VII of the Finance Act, 1992 (No. 9 of 1992), which makes provision against the avoidance and evasion of taxation, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That Chapter VI of Part I of the Finance Act, 1992 (No. 9 of 1992), which relates to the taxation of petroleum exploration, extraction and other activities, be amended in the manner and to the extent provided for in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That, in consequence of the reduction of the basic rate of corporation tax, the provisions of the Corporation Tax Act, 1976 (No. 7 of 1976), relating to tax credits in respect of distributions made by companies on or after the 6th day of April, 1995, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 23 of the Corporation Tax Act, 1976 (No. 7 of 1976), which relates to relief for companies from double taxation be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 39C of the Finance Act, 1980 (No. 14 of 1980), which provides for the crediting of foreign withholding taxes suffered in the course of a financial or computer trade within the 10 per cent scheme of corporation tax against Irish corporation tax where there is no double taxation treaty to provide entitlement to relief [715] in respect of that foreign tax, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 43 of the Corporation Tax Act, 1976 (No. 7 of 1976), which relates to the taxation of investment income of overseas life assurance companies, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That paragraph 11 of Schedule 4 to the Capital Gains Tax Act, 1975 (No. 20 of 1975), which relates to the deduction of tax upon the disposal of certain assets in the State by persons resident outside the State, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution for altering the time at which the liability for payment of the excise duty on tobacco products other than cigarettes occurs from the time that such products—

(a) are manufactured in the State,

(b) are imported into the State, or

(c) cease to be warehoused in the State,

to the time at which tax stamps issued and regulated by the Revenue Commissioners are purchased.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution for—

(a) increasing the minimum amount of vehicle registration tax payable, under section 132 of the Finance Act, 1992 (No. 9 of 1992), on the registration of a category A vehicle or on a declaration under section 131 (3) of the said Act (inserted by section 7 (b) of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1992 (No. 28 [716] of 1992) in respect of the conversion of a vehicle to make it a category A vehicle, and

(b) increasing the amount of vehicle registration tax payable, under section 132 of the Finance Act, 1992 (No. 9 of 1992), on a declaration under section 131 (3) of the Finance Act, 1992 (inserted by section 7 (b) of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1992 (No. 28 of 1992)), as a consequence of decreasing the amount by which the amount of vehicle registration tax payable on a registered vehicle which is converted and on which, in a former state, vehicle registration tax or motor vehicle excise duty was paid shall be reduced,

in accordance with the provisions of that Act.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution for the imposition of a duty of excise, at the rate of £200 per annum, on licences issued under section 65 of the Irish Horseracing Industry Act, 1994 (No. 18 of 1994), for the sale of intoxicating liquor.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution—

(a) for the restriction of the exemption in respect of bets placed at certain race-meetings from the duty on bets referred to in that Act, and

(b) for the exclusion of bets entered into by means of telecommunications from the exemption from the duty on bets referred to in that Act,

in the manner and to the extent provided for in that Act.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution for imposing a duty of excise, in accordance with the provisions of that Act, on substitute motor fuel manufactured or produced in the State and on [717] substitute motor fuel imported into the State.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution so that:

(a) value-added tax be chargeis able on a disposal, where a person disposes of an interest in immovable goods in conjunction with a development of those goods by a taxable person,

(b) the place where a service is supplied be the place where the supplier has established that business,

(c) sporting and related services supplied by the State or by a local authority or by certain other persons be liable to value-added tax, at the 12.5 per cent rate, without an Order being made by the Minister for Finance under section 8 (2A) of the Value-Added Tax Act, 1972 (No. 22 of 1972), and subject to certain conditions,

(d) a taxable person be not entitled to deduct, in computing the amount on which value-added tax is chargeable in respect of any supply of goods by such person, the open market price of second-hand movable goods given in exchange or part exchange for those goods,

(e) the zero rate of value-added tax is not applicable to a supply of goods dispatched or transported from the State to a person registered for value-added tax in another Member State (within the meaning of section 1 (2A) of the Value-Added Tax Act, 1972) where the margin scheme is applied to such supply,

(f) the supply by a taxable person of goods acquired by that person from a taxable dealer in a transaction to which the said dealer applied the margin scheme be not an exempt activity under paragraph [718] (xxiv) of the First Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act, 1972,

(g) the zero rate of value-added tax is not applicable to a supply of goods dispatched or transported from the State to a person registered for value-added tax in another Member State (within the aforesaid meaning) where the auction scheme is applied to such supply,

(h) the supply by a taxable person of goods acquired by that person from an auctioneer in a transaction to which the said auctioneer applied the auction scheme be not an exempt activity under paragraph (xxiv) of the First Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act, 1972,

(i) a taxable person be not entitled to deduct value-added tax incurred on goods in a transaction to which the margin scheme or auction scheme has been applied,

(j) a taxable person be not entitled to deduct value-added tax incurred on the purchase of a means of transport from a taxable dealer where in relation to the supply of that means of transport that dealer deducted residual value-added tax,

(k) the amount of residual value-added tax deducted by a taxable dealer in respect of a supply of a means of transport be restricted to the amount of value-added tax chargeable on the supply of that means of transport,

(l) the zero rate of value-added tax is not applicable to a supply of a means of transport, other than a new means of transport, dispatched or transported from the State to a person registered for value-added tax in another Member State (within the aforesaid meaning) where residual value-added tax was deducted in relation to the supply of that means of transport,

[719] (m) the supply by certain taxable persons of certain means of transport be not an exempt activity under paragraph (xxiv) of the First Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act, 1972, where those persons acquired those means of transport from taxable dealers who applied the special scheme to their supplies of those means of transport,

(n) certain green-fee or other subscriptions received by member owned golf clubs or by other nonprofit making organisations for the right to play golf be liable to value-added tax at the 12.5 per cent rate,

(o) supplies of certain works of art, antiques, concrete ready to pour or blocks of concrete in transactions to which the margin scheme or the auction scheme is applied be liable to value-added tax at the 21 per cent rate.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution for—

(a) charging stamp duty, in accordance with the provisions of that Act, at the rates specified in that Act, on statements of certain amounts required by that Act to be delivered to the Revenue Commissioners by banks in respect of the bank levy, and

(b) imposing, in accordance with the provisions of that Act, a penalty in respect of non-compliance with such of those provisions as relate to the stamp duty.

That section 31 of the Finance Act, 1965 (No. 22 of 1965), which relates to a relief from stamp duty in the case of reconstructions or amalgamations of companies, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That the definition of “assessable amount” in section 92 of the Finance Act, 1982 (No. 14 of 1982), which [720] relates to the charging of stamp duty on certain premiums of insurance, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 208 of the Finance Act, 1992 (No. 9 of 1992), which relates to the location of risks for stamp duty purposes, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That section 96 of the Finance Act, 1983 (No. 15 of 1983), which relates to the charge of residential property tax be amended, in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That subsection (5) of section 19 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Act, 1976 (No. 8 of 1976), which relates to the withdrawal of agricultural relief, be amended, as respects gifts or inheritances, in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That subsections (3) and (4) of section 55 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Act, 1976 (No. 8 of 1976), which relate to the withdrawal of the exemption of certain objects for capital acquisitions tax, be amended, as respects gifts or inheritances taken on or after the 12th day of April, 1995, in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That subsections (1) and (2) of section 135 of the Finance Act, 1994 (No. 13 of 1994), which relate to the withdrawal of business relief, be amended, as respects gifts or inheritances taken on or after the 12th day of April, 1995, in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

That provision be made in the Act giving effect to this Resolution to impose on certain persons a duty to report certain revenue offences.

[721] That section 115 of the Finance Act, 1986 (No. 13 of 1986), which imposes, in certain circumstances, a liability to tax on the holder of a fixed charge on the book debts of a company, be amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Act giving effect to this Resolution.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The Government of Renewal policy programme sets as the first priority under education “the completion and early publication of the White Paper on Education and the introduction of the subsequent legislation”. It has been my privilege, as Minister for Education, to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to publish the White Paper Charting Our Education Future. The White Paper is constructed around and fully supports the commitments to educational development in the Government of Renewal to policy programme. I look forward to beginning the putting in place of the legislative framework. It is my earnest and confident hope that this White Paper is a visionary testament to a new partnership approach to educational provision and practice and that it lays a solid foundation upon which we can build confidently for future generations of students.

The launch of the White Paper marks a significant stage in the development of the education system. It is the culmination of an extensive and in-depth dialogue among all the partners in education. It builds upon the strongest features which have characterised the development of the education system in recent times. From this solid foundation it seeks to chart the course of future developments.

The White Paper is a framework for development. This description merits some elaboration. What the White [722] Paper seeks to do is to establish a number of the key parameters around which educational development will take place in the future. It sets out the role of the State and the individual colleges and schools in the context of a broad philosophical rationale. The basic purpose of this rationale is to clarify the concerns and responsibilities of the State while underpinning the freedom and empowerment of individual institutions to nurture and promote their particular philosophical approach to education.

The White Paper identifies key policy directions which will inform future policy formulation and evaluation from pre-school to adult and continuing education. Among the central policy aims are: the development of curricula, teaching methods and assessment approaches to meet the needs of the widely diversified student body now participating at all levels of education in order to ensure the development to the full of their educational potential and their full participation in social, cultural and economic life; to ensure that education and training is available on a continuous basis throughout life in order to enable people continually to update their knowledge and skills and renew their personal development; to ensure that those who are disadvantaged, as a result of social or economic factors, or as a result of physical or mental disability, receive sensitive and caring consideration which facilitates full participation in the education system in accordance with their abilities and needs; to ensure that education contributes in a dynamic and innovative way to the country's economic and social prosperity recognising the increasingly central role of education in the promotion of economic and social well-being.

The White Paper affirms the central role of parents in the education system. It signals clearly that, for the future, parents' constitutional rights will be given legislative expression in our laws. The White Paper sets out the statutory rights of parents to representation on boards of management and education boards. It emphasises the necessity for [723] boards of management to promote the setting up of parents' associations and the need for schools to set out a policy for the involvement of parents in all aspects of the life of each school and college.

The White Paper addresses the crucial contribution which the teaching profession makes, and will continue to make in the future, to education at all levels. It emphasises that the quality, morale and status of the teaching profession are of central importance to the continuing development of a first-class education system in the years ahead. It views the teaching career as a continuum involving high-quality preservice training and access to a comprehensive programme of in-career professional development available throughout a teacher's career. The White Paper also emphasises the importance of increased flexibility and adaptability in the teaching profession. This will be essential to ensuring the overall effectiveness of education for students and society.

There is in the White Paper a special emphasis on those with special needs or those who, through social or economic disadvantage, are prevented from participating fully in the education system. As long as any of our people, from the youngest to the oldest, are unable to fulfil their full education potential, there is inequality in our education system. The Government, all the partners in education and schools and colleges are obliged to address inequality with persistence and commitment. Removing inequality cannot be a discrete item on our agendas. It must be at all times integrated through all our activities and efforts.

The White Paper outlines a radical overhaul of the organisational structures for the management of education. There is real partnership in the management of schools embracing in equal part patrons-trustees, parents, teachers and the wider community. Within schools, dynamic new planning processes, coupled with a major reorganisation of [724] in-school management structures, are signalled. Ten new education boards will be established to plan systematically and co-ordinate the delivery of education and to provide a wide range of support services to schools.

At national level the Department of Education, and its inspectorate, will change radically. There will be a more integrated and cohesive approach to the development of vocational education and training and adult and continuing education through the establishment of a new Further Education Authority and the establishment of TEASTAS — the Irish National Certification Authority. There will also be much closer liaison between the Departments of Education and Enterprise and Employment with the objective of developing an integrated approach to education and training.

A more co-ordinated and systematic approach to the development and management of higher education is signalled with the extension of the remit of the Higher Education Authority to embrace the regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology. Future development of the higher education system will be informed by the importance of balancing proper institutional autonomy with the needs of public accountability.

The White Paper heralds a major legislative programme. Many of the key developments outlined in the paper will be underpinned in the legislation. This will represent the transformation of the context within which education is managed and services delivered. Legislation will affirm the proper autonomy of schools and colleges, set out their roles and responsibilities and establish clearly the role and responsibility of the central authorities and the Minister for Education. These are the cornerstones of the foundation from which we are now charting the future of our education system.

The consultative process which has led to this White Paper is unique and possibly unprecedented in the history of education. At one level, the extent and [725] depth of the debate has been extraordinary. Throughout the length and breadth of the country over the past three years seminars have been held and conferences arranged. Special consideration has been given by the staffs of schools and colleges to the issues and in excess of 1,000 written submissions have been received in the Department of Education.

The National Education Convention and the subsequent roundtable discussions on intermediate education structures and school goverance involved, for the first time, structured multi-lateral dialogue among all partners in education. There is now a wide recognition that this process significantly enhanced mutual understanding. It promoted an appreciation of respective positions and difficulties. It promoted an enhanced awareness of the fundamental importance of partnership, plurality and a deeper commitment to cooperation and consensus as the key to charting our education future.

I have emphasised repeatedly in public statements the importance which I attach to the multi-lateral consultative process. I indicated that I would listen carefully to the views of all and I believe I have done so. The evidence for this is provided in the extent to which the White Paper draws upon many of the key conclusions and findings set out in the report of the National Education Convention.

At this point I would like to pay a special tribute to the partners in education who engaged so constructively in the debate and who sought consensus as a way forward. It is my hope that I have been able to build upon the consensus in charting the future of Irish education. More important, the framework set out in this White Paper does full justice to the consultative process which preceded it and creates a solid foundation which can be built upon in the future in the interests of students, society and the economy.

This is a White Paper for parents, teachers, managers and owners as well [726] as students. They should read this paper, study it, discuss it and be aware of how its provisions affect their sector. What are their rights balanced by their responsibilities? My Department will facilitate this debate which should take place in school halls, teacher centres and parents' associations. Copies of the White Paper are on sale for £5 from the Government Publications Office. A visual presenation is being prepared for use for an introduction to the public discussion. The contents of this paper will influence the future direction of education and everybody involved should know about it.

The philosophical rationale for the future development of education, set out in the White Paper, is perhaps, unique for a public document here. It underlines that the Government, the State and the Minister have certain key concerns. These are set out as the promotion of equality, pluralism, partnership, quality and accountability and the protection and promotion of fundamental human and civil rights, together with the promotion of social and economic well-being. These define the responsibilities of the State. Within this national framework, individual colleges and schools are empowered and have an entitlement to puruse and nurture their own particular distinctive and traditional ethos and values.

The White Paper sets out the most radical and far-reaching proposals in the organisation of education in the history of this country. It sets out clearly the manner in which organisational development will take place at school and college levels, at regional level and at Department and national level. The White Paper covers the establishment of boards of management for first and second level schools, the reorganisation of management structures within schools and the development of school planning processes. It details the establishment of new education boards to plan and co-ordinate provision in their regions and to provide support services to schools. The White Paper further details the strengthening of the policy [727] and evaluation capability of the Department of Education and the devolution of executive functions from the Department to schools and education boards. The development of an organisation framework will proceed from the fundamental principles which I have outlined. That is, the setting out of clearly defined rights and responsibilities at the different levels, thereby empowering all to maximise their efforts in the interests of students and society.

The White Paper heralds a new partnership among all. It heralds a partnership within institutions, among teachers, students, parents and the community served by the school or institution. It heralds a partnership in the management of institutions through providing for equal participation among patrons-trustees, parents, teachers and the wider community in the management of schools and education boards. It sets out and establishes clearly the principle of equality of representation for all concerned interests and the wider community. This reflects and represents a great maturing in our society. I am confident that all the partners in education will respond in a positive and constructive way to this new partnership. The White Paper signals clearly that, in the future, there will be much greater openness and transparency in the operation of the education system at all levels from the Department of Education to the individual school.

The White Paper acknowledges that the human capacity to develop is universal, lifelong and multi-dimensional. While the capacity to develop is part of human nature, each individual also has unique learning needs. The State serves the educational rights of its citizens to participate in and benefit from education in accordance with each individual's needs and abilities. Within this framework individual schools and colleges have the opportunity to promote their philosophical values.

The White Paper makes clear that policy formulation in education should [728] value and promote all dimensions of human development and seek to prepare people for full participation in cultural, social and economic life. It also recognises that the policy-making framework should embrace the intellectual and cultural heritage of the past; these are the knowledge, beliefs, values and traditions transformed and transmitted through succeeding generations.

An underlying theme of the White Paper is accountability. There is no threat in accountability. We are all ultimately accountable to the people we serve. The people we serve are entitled to understand the way we make decisions and to know how effective our decisions are in practice. Accordingly, the new framework for education will emphasise the rights of people served by the education system to understand and participate in the decision-making which affects them and to be informed about the effectiveness and outcomes of the educational process of which they are a part.

The White Paper emphasises important dimensions of accountability. It underlines the need for improved communication and information for parents and the community served by schools and colleges. It also, as a complementary dimension of this, emphasises the importance of accountability, through regional and national structures to the nation as a whole for the effectiveness and efficiency with which policy is formulated, evaluated and implemented and the efficiency and effectiveness with which resources are used. The White Paper signals a new age of maturity and openness in our education system. I am totally confident that this will serve only to enhance the quality of our education system.

The White Paper sets out clearly the approach to resourcing. It states:

The Government will aim to provide, during its period of office the resources for the development needs identified in this White Paper, within the framework of the budgetary parameters set out in the Government of [729] Renewal Policy Document, including the acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty convergence conditions. The amount which can be made available in any given year will have to be decided by the Government in the context of its financial position and its other public expenditure priorities at that time.

An important principle informing the approach to funding is the recognition that: “the state should serve the educational rights of its citizens to participate in and benefit from education in accordance with each individual's needs and abilities and the nation's resources”. This implies prioritisation on those with greatest need; it implies diversified provision to meet varying abilities and aptitudes; and, finally, it implies that provision for education must take account of the nation's overall resources. This latter dimension embraces the priority needs of other social services — for example, the health and social welfare services, and also the budgetary and fiscal parameters underpinning the management of the public finances, including Ireland's international commitments, specifically its commitment to the Maastricht convergence conditions.

As I said, a further central theme of the White Paper is its emphasis on accountability and value for money. These are crucially important in ensuring that available resources are deployed effectively and efficiently, that they are deployed in support of well defined aims and objectives and that this is done in the most cost effective way. These themes are integrated into the new framework in a systematic way, embracing the restructuring of the Department of Education, the operations of the new education boards and the management and planning process at school level.

The White Paper also locates education and training as an integral part of wider economic and social planning. One of the principles articulated in the paper is that:

[730] the development of the education and skills of people is as important a source of wealth as the accumulation of more traditional forms of capital... thus investment in education is a crucial concern of the State to enhance Ireland's capacity to compete effectively in a rapidly changing international environment.

This integral linkage of education into economic planning processes builds upon authoritative reports in recent years from national and international bodies, for example, the National Economic and Social Council and the work of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It also reflects the central place afforded to education in successive national understandings with the social partners.

Though it may not always have been recognised, the debate on the allocation of resources to education is at the centre of the debate on economic policy. In short, in the context of funding of education, the White Paper establishes the importance of investment in education rather than seeing education simply as a social service expenditure. Accordingly, the White Paper establishes key benchmarks for the continuous evaluation of investment in education by the Government in the context of the annual consideration of the priorities for public expenditure.

Putting in place a modern legislative framework for the education system is a major part of the reform programme set out in the White Paper. The legislation which the Oireachtas enacts will serve education well into the next century. Legislation for education is widely recognised as a complex task, given the absence of any significant legislative tradition in the education field and the diversity of partners involved in the education process. Accordingly, the preparation of legislation will require careful consideration to ensure that the needs of students and society are served to optimum effect.

In bringing forward legislation, it will be important to ensure that provisions [731] are not overly prescriptive. If this were to happen it would potentially constrain necessary flexibility in the administration of the system. Accordingly, the approach I favour is one which provides a comprehensive enabling framework, based on setting out roles and functions at the various levels and setting out the broad principles informing educational provision and practice.

The White Paper sets out a clear set of policy directions, including major changes in the organisational structures for the management of education. Thus the key directions and principles for legislation are in place. These are supported by a broadly-based consensus among the principal partners in education. The White Paper contains a firm commitment to giving statutory effect to key policy directions outlined in it. This will involve a very substantial legislative programme which can only be implemented effectively over a period of time. However, I am committed to making immediate and significant progress. The White Paper sets out an ambitious legislative programme. I will be giving priority to legislation setting out the principles and framework for provision of education at primary and post-primary levels; this legislation will provide for the establishment of the education boards and will provide the framework for boards of management in schools.

Another priority will be legislation providing for new governing body structures for the universities, the restructuring of the National University of Ireland and the putting in place of arrangements for appropriate public accountability.

My objective is to bring both Bills before the House before the end of the year. Work has already begun and my Department is in contact with the parliamentary draftsman's office with regard to the drafting resources necessary. The resource implications and legal complexities of this programme are very considerable and I appreciate that my objectives for this year are very ambitious. As the work of [732] enacting legislation in these areas progresses, I will be in a position to draw up detailed plans for the enactment of legislation in the remaining areas.

Legislation must have regard to the constitutional rights and duties of parents and of the State, property rights and the rights of religious denominations to manage their own affairs, as well as equality principles and the interests of the common good. Any provisions must reflect a careful balancing of the many legitimate rights and interests in education — rights and interests which at times may be in conflict one with another — so that the exercise of rights by one of the partners in education does not unreasonably delimit the exercise of their rights by any other. Accordingly, the approach will be to seek a harmonious balance among the differing rights conferred by the Constitution. Of course, all legislation will be carefully examined by the Attorney General's office. The general approach to legislation will be a combination of detailed provision, where this is desirable but within a general scheme of provisions, which will be a more flexible statement of principles with provision for back-up in the form of regulations, rules and directives.

The launch of the White Paper is a landmark in the history of our educational development. Most importantly of all, there is no exclusive ownership of this landmark. It is above all else common property. It is the common property of all of those who have engaged with and participated constructively in the debate and dialogue which has led to the White Paper. It is the common property of all of those who, over many years, have contributed to the education of the people of this country young and old, in a spirit of great public service. It is very importantly the common property of all the children of this country who are entitled to participate fully in our education system, in accordance with their abilities, and develop their educational potential to their maximum. Shared ownership of the White Paper will truly ensure that it represents an [733] enduring charter for the development of education in the future.

Mr. Martin:  I welcome the opportunity to debate the White Paper on Education in this House. Its publication is an important event in the evolution of Irish education policy. I have already welcomed many of the proposals contained in the White Paper and I wish to use this opportunity to give a more considered response to it. I am somewhat disappointed that the public had access to the White Paper only yesterday afternoon. It renders this House somewhat irrelevant and the process somewhat farcical that we, the representatives of the people, are now debating a document which is of fundamental importance to our education system without the people having had access to it and being in a position to make representations to their public representatives who could have articulated views and ideas on this document in this House. The rather hasty launch of the White Paper prior to the teachers' conferences had a good deal to do with this. It is unacceptable when a document of this importance is being published and launched that we should not have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed and the whole operation properly laid out so that the people, interest groups and the professions can have access to it from day one.

I welcome chapter 1 and the provision of a philosophical framework within which our education system will grow and develop. I am in broad agreement with the main thrust of this section and endorse the commitment to pluralism, equality, partnership, quality and accountability in education. However, it is important that these principles are reflected in the daily reality of Government decisions on education.

In a recent Private Members' motion on Higher Education — which I tabled — I referred to a whole range of students not given equality of treatment in the recent budgetary package on education, such as PLC students who do not receive maintenance grants, mature [734] students, evening students, part-time students, postgraduate students attending various third-level colleges excluded from the Minister's budgetary package; so much for equality. When these students read the principle of equality, as outlined in the philosophical chapter of the White Paper on Education they will be very sceptical, if not cynical. One can understand that cynicism, that lack of belief in whether the Minister or we are serious about genuine equality of opportunity in education.

Clearly, there is also a lack of equality in the funding system for second-level schools, as revealed in the recent unit cost study published by the Department. Our primary and pre-school sectors are the poor relations of our educational system, as the OECD report of 1991 confirmed.

This morning we read in our newspapers the plight of a 12-year old Cork girl who cannot gain access to any place within our educational system. The relevant District Court judge pleaded with the Minister for Education to urgently provide a place for that child. Where is the commitment to equality when there are children on our streets without access to any educational opportunity? We must be very careful, in announcing a broad philosophy, laudable though it be, that we match it with the reality, with the daily initiatives and decisions of Government.

This is a very interesting document, all 235 pages, but the most interesting feature is that it seems to have appeared from nowhere. In her Foreword the Minister states:

This White Paper is the culmination of a lengthy and broadly based consultation process. For the past three years there has been intense debate on the most appropriate framework for the future development of education in Ireland... The debate has also been characterised by a number of unique and innovative features, specifically the National Education Convention in October [735] 1993 and the subsequent Roundtable discussions on intermediate education structures and school governance, in 1994.

We read about the National Education Convention in most of the 235 pages, but no mention of the real parentage of the White Paper, no mention of the Green Paper on Education entitled Education for a Changing World, until page 233 when it appears among 37 other documents in a list of principal references.

We all know the problems of this White Paper on Education. It derives from substantial discussion and preparation of the Green Paper on Education during the tenure of office of the Minister's predecessor, Deputy O'Rourke, was developed by former Ministers, Deputies Noel Davern and Séamus Brennan, published in 1992 by Deputy Séamus Brennan, the then Minister for Education. Much of the White Paper on Education follows the headlines of the Green Paper, represents the broad consensus of the education community and will be generally welcomed. However, it seems churlish of the Minister, in her “I, me and my” mode to pretend that this is all her work, to make no generous reference to the initiative and work undertaken by her predecessor, Deputy O'Rourke, particularly in the production of the Green Paper on Education.

The implementation of many of the changes recommended in this White Paper on Education will require a broad consensus; to refuse to recognise, in such a churlish manner, the authors of the basic documents on which this White Paper builds scarcely augurs well for the Minister's chances of winning support for these changes, for winning what she calls “a more robust consensus in support of key changes”.

I strongly support the enhanced role for parents within our education system outlined in the White Paper on Education. Our 1937 Constitution's strong recognition of the role of parents as the [736] primary and natural educators of the child will be reflected in a number of legislative proposals. In many respects we are catching up with a phenomenon that has grown remarkably over the past ten to 15 years. The National Parents' Council is formally recognised as the representative body of parents at first and second levels. The proposal to give statutory basis to this formal recognition will be welcomed by all sides of this House, as will placing a statutory duty on boards of management to promote the establishment of parents' associations in every school. Parents' associaations play a vital role in many school environments. As a member of a number of boards of management, I can testify to the constructive contribution of parents at board level and in school life generally.

Access to records is essential for parents. Fianna Fáil also supports the proposal to give a statutory basis to representation of parents on each school board of management and will support legislative proposals to this effect. Many of these proposals were signalled in the Green Paper on Education, particularly on page 155 of that document which outlined the role of parents as partners in education, which in particular suggested the need for the inclusion of a formal home-school liaison policy in each school's plan and the right of parents to receive full information from schools on all aspects of their children's progress.

Maidir le Gaeilge tá réimsí móra den gcaipéis seo nach bhfuil aon tagairt ar leith ann don Ghaeilge ná don dátheangachas. Ní luaitear aon Ghaeilge ar chor ar bith sa chaibidil ar na struchtúir nua. Níl aon tagairt sonraitheach do na treoirlínte a d'fhoilsigh an Rialtas a rianaíonn na bealaí ar ceart do eagraíochtaí foilseacháin dátheangach a chur ar fáil don phobal.

Tá eagraíochtaí nua le bunú faoin bPáipéar Bán — mar shampla na Boird Oideachais agus Teastas agus an tÚdarás Aosoideachais — agus tá seans iontach ag an Aire a chinntiú go mbeidh [737] na heagraíochtaí nua seo in ann seirbhís iomlán trí Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil.

Caithfidh na heagraíochtaí stáit a léiriú don phobal go bhfuil siad dáiríre faoin Ghaeilge. Níor thapaigh an tAire an deis a bhí aici í bhfoilsiú an Pháipéir seo.

Ba chóir di é a dhéanamh i bhfeidhmiú na bpolasaithe. The document is very worthy — well it is very wordy — about 100,000 words in total — agus níl an leagan Gaeilge againn fós!

Ms Bhreathnach:  Tá sé ag teacht.

Mr. Martin:  Tá sé ag teacht, tá sé ródhéanach. Dála an scéil, a Cheann Comhairle, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta a d'fhoilsigh an Páipéar Glas faoi chraolachán an tseachtain seo caite agus é clóbhuailte go snasta agus é go hiomlán dátheangach rud nach ndearnadh leis an bPáipéar Bán seo toisc go raibh deifir faoin Aire é a chur amach roimh Cháisc.

At the outset I placed strong emphasis on the question of resourcing the proposals contained in the White Paper on Education and in drawing up a medium to long term plan of implementation. Those proposals should be honestly costed. As a society we must then face up to the reality presented to us by that exercise, then seek the resources to fund them. My emphasis on this issue in the context of this debate stems from a genuine commitment to educational development and a desire to see many of the proposals contained in the White Paper on Education implemented.

When I read some time ago the report of the National Education Convention I was struck by the importance attached by the Secretariat to the issue, particularly in chapter 17 of that report entitled The Resourcing and Implementation of Educational Change. The report was emphatic about the need to face up honestly to the question of resourcing educational change and to produce a plan of implementation. The report stated:

[738] The issue of funding cannot be marginalised in the policy decisions of the forthcoming White Paper. Increased resources are by no means the only ingredient for a major educational reform process, but they are an essential element if reform efforts are not to become frustrated and counter-productive.

However, the Secretariat in its report was realistic, accepting that it would be self-deceptive to presume that everything could be achieved at once within available resources. Therefore, it quite sensibly put forward the following view:

A policy of prioritising and targeting to areas of most urgency or fundamental need is necessary if real progress is to be made.

The Minister simply ignored that advice.

There is a chapter missing from this White Paper on Education. The issue of funding has been side-stepped. Consequently, the credibility of the entire exercise has been seriously undermined. The only significant reference to funding, a fairly ominous one at that, is to be found in the Minister's Foreword from which I quote:

The Government will aim to provide, during its period of office, the resources for the development needs identified in this White Paper, within the framework of the budgetary parameters set out in the Government of Renewal policy document, including the acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty convergence conditions. The amount which can be made available in any given year will have to be decided by the Government in the context of its financial position and its other public expenditure priorities at that time.

If that remains the Government's position, the death knell has already sounded for many of the proposals contained in the White Paper on Education. In all the presentations since its publication and in the Minister's opening [739] remarks this morning, she and the Secretary of her Department have upheld this line of argument — that we can proceed on an annual basis only, that decisions and priorities will be determined from year to year at budget time. Such an approach lacks imagination and suggests a lack of real commitment to implementing the cost-related proposals of the White Paper. Furthermore, it flies in the face of the advice in the report on the National Education Convention that, “to operate within existing financial resources even allowing for some redeployment will not facilitate much development”.

We are all conscious of the great demand for resources within our educational system. The Department of Education made a significant presentation to the convention on the costings of proposed changes. Those costings were based on proposals made at the convention and implied by the proposals in the Green Paper. On aggregate they amounted to an additional £478 million and some participants at the convention believed those figures were conservative. In its interim report, the Higher Education Authority's steering committee's technical working group stated that the costs of meeting the projected growth in enrolments in third level education, based on information supplied by the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education, are estimated at £390 million by the year 2010. It added that most of this expenditure would have to be incurred between now and the year 2000.

Participants at the education convention agreed that primary and pre-school education needed greater investment. Concern was also expressed about the need for an appropriate infrastructure to cope with expansion at third level, or standards in higher education would decline. There was strong consensus on the need to resource in-service training for teachers and improvements in the arts, science, technical education and Irish and modern European languages.

[740] In response to all of this the secretariat reached the conclusion that to allow early intervention in these areas as part of a long term comprehensive planning process it would be necessary for the Government to make strategic decisions on educational expenditure and it would be necessary to make special financial provision for education at this time as distinct from the normal annual incremental pattern. Significantly it added that, “it is only self-deceptive to think that a redeployment of existing resources could make any meaningful contribution to the implementation of planned reforms”. It pointed out that the Government would have to be realistic about what it is feasible to achieve without the injection of essential financial resources needed to convert proposals and aspirations into practice. Finally, it warned that without better matching resources to aspirations, credibility problems emerge which undermine goodwill and commitment to reform.

It should be noted that no special allocation for education at this time is on the agenda. A strategic long term plan is required and Fianna Fáil in Government will prepare and implement such a plan, in consultation with all the partners in education. It is worth noting that under the Programme for National Recovery, the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and the Programme for Competitiveness and Work special provision for education was made over a three year timespan. Targets were set and achieved. There is no reason a similar exercise, following the publication of the White Paper, cannot be entered into.

I am satisfied that following my early identification of this issue as a critical one, considerable debate has developed. In my opening press release following the publication of the White Paper I outlined the need to involve the private sector in helping to fund education change and development. On reading the Education and Living supplement to The Irish Times I was heartened to note a most constructive contribution by Mr. [741] Séamus O'Neill, vice principal of St. Paul's primary school in Navan entitled “Business in Education”. He made the important point that no modification of the existing curriculum nor the introduction of new curriculum areas can be seriously undertaken without adequately financing them from their inception. He argued further that the emphasis on the importance of discovery and investigative learning highlighted the need to finance the provision of suitable material to children to realise this objective. His fundamental point was that corporate sponsorship can help provide schools with many of the basic requirements to make primary education more child centred and forward looking. In that context he suggested the establishment of a business-in-education consultancy to tap into this financial resource and suitably direct its funding to help primary education where it is needed. It is imaginative ideas such as those that we seek and to harness them, the White Paper should have addressed this issue.

In the same supplement there was a further revealing article by Paul Cullen on the importance of overseas fees to the revenue base of our universities. Medical schools in our universities expect to earn £10 million in fees income through doubling the number of places available to overseas students this year. The growth in this sector has been phenomenal. According to ICOS figures for 1991-92 there were 4,329 international students studying here. The President of UCD, Dr. Art Cosgrave, speaking at a recent seminar on international education stated that Irish universities could no longer survive without the fee income they received from overseas students.

At pre-school level, greater consultation with existing providers, both in the community area and in the private sector, could have enabled the Minister to introduce a more comprehensive and nationally based pre-school system. Instead we have had the early start programme, which is laudable, but is too [742] little too late in so far as adequate pre-school provision is concerned. AMI Montessori teachers and centres were excluded — so much for the principle of equality. Community play groups and pre-schools were ignored and excluded, people who for years without any State assistance pioneered pre-school education.

I have mentioned but three areas where resources for educational change, outside of Exchequer resources could be found. I doing so I am highlighting the need for a comprehensive, thorough and studied approach to funding Irish education development for the future. The White Paper did not include such a process and the entire exercise has been undermined as a result.

The White Paper proposes significant structural changes in education in the years ahead. It contains proposals for new boards, authorities and commissions. We in Fianna Fáil believe in and support devolution of power and authority in the education system from the Department to the local community. In this context the board of management structure is pivotal to the realisation of this objective. There should only be one intermediate tier which would play a co-ordinating and supportive role to our schools. Local education boards should be established on a county by county basis. The composition of such boards would embrace all partners in education, including public representatives, to ensure genuine democratic accountability.

We oppose the concept of regional educational boards as outlined in the White Paper. Their geographical remit is too large and they have the capacity to become bureaucratic nightmares taking resources from the classroom to be swallowed up in administration costs. We must recognise that to date our primary schools and the majority of our secondary schools have survived without such bureaucratic back up and traditionally have enjoyed a degree of independence in operational and management functions. That must be respected and we must not impose an [743] authoritarian structure on these schools. Local education boards are the correct response to the need for a co-ordinating and supporting body fully au fait with and sensitive to the needs of local communities. A proper psychological service could be provided at local level by such boards. Early intervention could take place more effectively in the cases of students with behavioural problems. Greater linkages between primary and secondary schools could be organised more effectively by local boards. In-service training and local curriculum development would also benefit as a result.

What is incomprehensible is the decision by the Minister to retain the vocational education committee structure side by side with the new regional education board structure. Essentially we will have two competing intermediate structures with consequent duplication of effort and needless waste of resources and energy. The Minister has avoided real decisions in this area and has established a committee to oversee the rationalisation of vocational education committees. This is nothing more than a political cop-out and will lead to a bureaucratic quagmire.

One of the most important areas dealt with somewhat deficiently in the White Paper is in-school management and the critical leadership role of the principal in the life of the school. The section dealing with this essentially concentrates on the methodology of appointing principals, in-career development and terms of office. The only real commitment is to initiate discussions on a major reorganisation of the middle management system — vice principals and post-holders. No real reference is made to research undertaken by the principals, the findings of which are contained in a working party report on principals and principalship. The AMCSS is to be congratulated on this initiative which illustrates the realities for many principals in our schools.

Greater support structures will have to be put in place. Fundamental to this [744] is the need for parity of funding for all second level schools. It was further recommended that the areas of responsibility and the rights of the principal must be clearly defined by means of a standard contract of employment. By delineating the parameters of the role the task of the principal may become feasible.

There is a perception at the moment that the principal is a fixer of immediate problems and is reactive rather than proactive. It is worth noting in passing that it is clear from research undertaken that principals in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland receive a much higher salary than principals here. Very little recognition is given to our principals who perform tasks outside of the school such as meeting parents, making telephone calls and so forth.

Above all, principals are adamant that the existing middle management structures are inadequate, that the present system is not working and that it needs to be replaced, not reformed. I am not convinced that the White Paper is strong enough in this area. The Department of Education, management and unions must negotiate new structures as a matter of urgency. The Secondary School Principals Association of Ireland, in its response to the White Paper, expressed grave disappointment with the lack of proposals on middle management posts of responsibility. It felt that the White Paper was very clear on the duties and responsibilities of principals but extremely short on specifics in the area of middle management and it felt that an opportunity had been missed. It was also stressed that house examinations cannot be held in the same period as certificate examinations. Above all, the SSPAI greatly regretted “the almost total lack of reference to resources and the absence of a calendar for implementation”.

We should all bear in mind, that irrespective of what new structures we put in place, the quality and content of our education system will ultimately depend on the interaction between the teacher and the students in the classroom. This [745] is the fundamental relationship in education which needs to be nurtured, supported and properly resourced.

I was very disappointed with the selective leaks prior to the publication of the White Paper——

Ms Bhreathnach:  No leaks.

Mr. Martin:  ——relating to the integrity of the school year which sought to undermine our teaching profession and gave no recognition to the outstanding and selfless dedication of generations of teachers, manifested by participation after school hours in extra curricular activities such as sport, drama, public speaking and a plethora of other activities. We should never be slow in celebrating the role of the teacher in Irish society.

The 1991 OECD review of national policy for education in Ireland endorsed this view of the Irish teacher and commented that other countries may be lamenting a lack of good teachers and a concomitant decline in the overall status of the teaching profession, but not Ireland. It accepted that entrants to the colleges of education and university departments of education were of a very high academic quality. While I accept that the integrity of the school year must be on the agenda for future discussions with all the partners in education, I am concerned that by insisting rigidly on strict adherence to a clocking in and clocking out system, education may suffer. Teachers may certainly conform to the rules on hours, days etc. but they may feel they are no longer obliged to become involved in extra curricular activities that are so important in the overall ethos and spirit of a school's life. I warn the Minister to tread very carefully when she goes down that path.

Finally, as matters stand the White Paper is a closed book for the approximately 40,000 teachers in this country. The bungling of the early retirement talks and the shabby treatment of teachers by the Minister throughout the negotiating process has left a sour taste, [746] forcing the teachers to ballot for industrial action and ushering in a period of non co-operation with the Department of Education. The Minister should remember my opening remarks about the need to match aspirations and philosophy with reality. Where is the principle of partnership, the philosophical basis on which the White Paper is founded? It collapsed on the very day the White Paper was published.

I have already commented on the unfortunate timing and the manner in which the White Paper was launched, incomplete as it was. It was reckless and totally insensitive of the Minister to launch the White Paper in a hasty manner prior to the teachers' conferences in the full knowledge that the early retirement talks would collapse. It was wrong of the Minister to attempt to use the White Paper as a diversionary tactic to deflect attention from the early retirement issue. It did not work and it represented a most inauspicious beginning for the White Paper.

Seldom has a Government policy document dodged so many issues or referred to so many steering groups, working parties, task forces, monitoring committees, councils, authorities and evaluation groups.

Ms Bhreathnach:  It is called partnership.

Mr. Martin:  It is about dodging the issues and not making decisions. I cannot claim to have identified all of them but I did come across a national youth advisory committee, a steering group on second level funding, a teaching council, an ethos working party, a leaving certificate evaluation group, a special education task force, a special implementation group, a further education authority, a feasibility study on a national institute on mental health studies, an early start monitoring group, an in-career development unit, a monitoring committee on in-career development, a working party for a teacher welfare service, a task force on truancy and [747] 782 student councils. We might welcome many of those bodies but——

Ms Bhreathnach:  Which ones will the Deputy's party abolish?

Mr. Martin:  ——many of them are a substitute for action.

Ms Bhreathnach:  No, it is partnership.

Mr. Martin:  It is avoiding decisions. Yesterday we referred to a discipline problem and the Minister said she would set up a committee or research group to examine it.

Ms Bhreathnach:  The Deputy has the answer.

Mr. Martin:  We will continue to set up research groups and committees but we will not have action and decisions will not be made.

Ms Bhreathnach:  We will continue to consult people.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy, without interruption.

Mr. Martin:  Unlike the parents associations, which boards of management support as a statutory duty, in the case of the 782 student councils in second level schools the boards of management will merely be encouraged to promote their formation. I believe those student councils should be given a statutory basis. Why is the Minister laughing?

Ms Bhreathnach:  Set up another committee to look at it.

Mr. Martin:  Why should students not have the legal right to form student councils? Are we not trying to encourage students to participate in the democratic process?

[748]Ms Bhreathnach:  They got recognition in the White Paper. The Deputy has not read it.

Mr. Martin:  I have read it. The Minister acknowledges that. The seanfhocal “Cobbler, stick to your last” can be very apt. When the Minister tries to run the education system like a Labour Party conference, she is going too far.

Ms Bhreathnach:  I am a school teacher first.

Mr. Martin:  Tell that to the teachers. While I welcome many of the recommendations in the area of curriculum reform, a number of areas are neglected. I am surprised that in the section dealing with language assessment, no consideration is given to the need for oral and aural competence in the English language. There is strong emphasis in the White Paper on the need for oral and aural competence in both Irish and modern European languages. It is stated that there will be an increase in the proportion of marks awarded for oral and aural competence and that the policy objective will be to move towards a position where 60 per cent of the total marks available will be awarded for such competence. I welcome and support this emphasis but I do not understand why a similar policy is not applied to the teaching of the English language.

Communicative skills in English are an essential and fundamental prerequisite for students leaving school. Not enough emphasis is placed on public speaking or oral competance in the teaching of English. Too much emphasis traditionally has been placed on literature and on the written language. I know from my own experience as a teacher that this is so. I am disappointed that the White Paper makes no mention of this and it is an issue which I intend to pursue vigorously in the months ahead.

On languages generally the White Paper states that all students should have access to the study of a modern [749] European language. This is hardly earth-shattering given that most students have this access already. Our young people need competency in more than one European language. As Gillian Nelis, in an article in a recent edition of the Sunday Business Post, pointed out, a wider range of European languages is urgently needed. French remains dominant, studied by over 70 per cent of junior certificate students and over 60 per cent of leaving certificate students. The Irish Business and Employers Confederation expressed disappointment that there is no firm commitment to include a foreign language in the primary curriculum. The White Paper states that primary school students should be introduced to European languages as part of a general programme of European awareness. The proposals in the Green Paper in this area were stronger and greater commitment is required from the Minister.

While on the subject of assessment generally, I wish to sound a strong note of caution in relation to the proposal in the White Paper that an essential shift in emphasis from external examination to internal assessment will be implemented in the future in respect of the junior certificate examination and that a similar approach will be adopted in respect of the leaving certificate. We must not in any way endanger the integrity of our external examination system which is its strongest point. We must not dilute its status by ill thought out and questionable internal assessment procedures which may prove to be too subjective in form and in nature.

Many teachers are rightly concerned about these proposals. I share their concern and stress the need to retain the impartiality, objectivity and quality of our present examination system. I am disappointed there is no mention in the White Paper of a comprehensive substance abuse programme in primary and secondary schools. Alcohol and drug abuse is the single greatest threat to young people in society today. Having spoken to youth workers, social workers, the Garda Síochána and [750] teachers I am satisfied that young children are exposed to drugs and alcohol abuse. We need to give this issue top priority but we are not doing so and the fact that the White Paper makes scant reference to it confirms this fact. We need in-service training for teachers and courses for parents. Our young people need to build their self-confidence and self-esteem to withstand peer pressure and have the capacity to say “no” when approached to take alcohol or drugs. A substance abuse programme must form part of the core curriculum at primary and post-primary level and steps must be taken urgently to set this in train.

Ms Bhreathnach:  The health promotion chapter.

Mr. Martin:  Fianna Fáil is committed to such a programme.

An area of curriculum reform that demands immediate attention and priority is information technology. The manner in which the White Paper was launched and disseminated illustrates the lack of importance given by the Minister to this area. The White Paper, Charting our Educational Future, was launched with great pomp on the first Wednesday of April. How would an interested person get a copy of this White Paper?

Ms Bhreathnach:  It was available in the Department of Education.

Mr. Martin:  If a teacher had called to the Government Publications Sales Office he or she would have been told that it was not available and would not be available for a further month until the first Wednesday in May. They would have been told that it is at the printers which would have been an acceptable reply ten or 20 years ago but today, with modern information technology, that is not good enough. The White Paper could have been made available to schools, colleges and universities on the day it was launched if it had been put on the computer network. [751] This lack of understanding of the capabilities of information technology is typical of the Minister for Education and a major weakness in the White Paper. I have searched through the 225 pages of the White Paper — correct me if I am wrong — and the words “internet”, “worldwide web” and “super highway” do not appear anywhere in it.

Ms Bhreathnach:  “Computer” does.

Mr. Martin:  How is it possible to produce a White Paper without referring to these developments? This is the information age, or more precisely, the information revolution. The leaders of the future will be those with access to information, the vast information stored electronically on databases, which is available for the price of a local call. Our children need to know how to access this information and how to use it productively and creatively. In America, President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore are totally committed to making more information available to school children on the “super highway”. In the United Kingdom, millions of pounds are being spent on upgrading their computer network and CD facilities in schools. In Northern Ireland, schools receive ten times as much in grants for computer facilities as their counterparts in the Republic. Information technology should have jumped out at us from the White Paper and the White Paper should have been part of the new information technology. What a wasted opportunity. We all know why the White Paper was at the printers so long. The Minister did not want close scrutiny and detailed analysis of its contents.

Ms Bhreathnach:  That is not true.

Mr. Martin:  The more we examine it, the more we discover what is missing. I have referred already to the missing chapters on cost and information technology.

Why is there no recognition given to [752] the great work done in primary schools in this area? The White Paper lists the areas we must foster, develop and promote, but there is no mention of information technology. How can a chapter on the international dimension of Irish education not emphasise information technology? How can we talk about preservice teacher education without referring to information technology? I pay tribute to the Irish media, newspapers, radio and television for their comprehensive coverage of the White Paper as without that the general public would know nothing about it. One newspaper journalist, Gillian Nelis of the Sunday Business Post highlighted the lacuna in the White Paper. The newspaper heading in bold capitals read: “Minister pays lip service to computer skills”. Is this what our business community want to hear? In her article she states:

Leading figures in the Irish computer industry have commented privately that they find it difficult to find Irish employees who are sufficiently computer literate. Without improvements in computer facilities in schools, this situation is unlikely to get any better.

The article goes on to say that there is no commitment to improving computer skills with “no undertaking in the paper to increase funding for scientific and technological facilities in schools”.

All schools, primary and second level, raise money in every possible legal way for information technology. Parents are investing heavily in home computers. This area of education is developing outside the Irish education system and the official educational system is becoming less relevant. Those who can afford information technology have it, those who cannot afford information technology do not and the gap is widening — so much for equality. The White Paper has very little to say about information technology and nothing in so far as it applies to primary schools. I presume the Minister is too embarrassed to mention it. If they want to use computers in primary schools the parents [753] and teachers must raise the money and they are doing this throughout the country. If they raise the money for hardware and software, the Minister might give them a grant for a trolley to wheel around the computer. When they read this White Paper, they will know that computers are not mentioned in any great detail.

To add insult to injury, the Minister's colleague, Deputy Gay Mitchell, has offered to solve the information technology crisis in Irish schools by an essay contest advertised in last Tuesday's Irish Independent. It read:

Win a trip to Strasbourg and a Computer for your School

Gay Mitchell TD

Minister of State for European

Affairs

and the Irish Independent

in conjunction with

Aer Lingus and ICL Computers

(Ireland)

invite entries for an essay competition

on the theme of

Ireland in the European Union in the

Year 2000.

Ms Bhreathnach:  That is a nice plug and Deputy Gay Mitchell will be delighted.

Mr. Martin:  Is this the way to run an educational system? Does this represent the sum total of the Government's commitment to information technology in our schools?

The Fianna Fáil Party broadly welcomes the philosophical framework of the White Paper and the philosophies outlined must match up to the reality of Government's daily decision-making. Fianna Fáil is deeply concerned at the way the issue of resources and the funding of educational change was treated. The issue has not been treated seriously in the White Paper and since then there has been very little commitment from the Minister to costing the changes in it. Fianna Fáil reiterates the primary role of the teacher in our educational system and the need for local rather than [754] regional education boards and will oppose in legislation the concept of regional education boards. We support and welcome the legislative recognition being given to parents.

Deputy Coughlan will deal with specific chapters in the White Paper dealing with primary education in more detail, Deputy Flood will deal with special education needs, Deputy Brendan Smith will deal with youth education, Deputy Aylward will deal with youth sport and recreational chapters and my other colleagues will deal with various chapters. The great tragedy is that the White Paper is available only now through the Government Publications Sale Office to the public at large. It is a tragedy that the teaching partners have been excluded from this process by the very shabby treatment and bungling of the early retirement talks.

Ms Keogh:  I welcome the publication of the White Paper on Education. It has been a slow and tortuous process. I congratulate the Minister in bringing this legislation forward and having it published. Regardless of the manner in which it was published, it is now available to the general public. I hope it will prove to be a basis for constructive discussion. Although I welcome the White Paper — no one could disagree with the introductory chapter outlining the philosophy for our education system — I would like to see greater emphasis on the individual and on the self reliance of individuals within society. However, in general, the philosophical framework covers a multitude and provides a basis for legislation.

I am disappointed with the bulk of the White Paper. Obviously there are elements in it which we welcome. The Opposition do not oppose for the sake of it and I hope the Minister accepts it in a constructive spirit. All the education spokespersons have a background in education. Everyone thinks they are experts on education. We have all been through the education system and have either been victims of it or blossomed as [755] a result. Every parent thinks they are an expert on education. One of the lessons I learned as a teacher was that teachers may be objective but all parents are subjective about their children. That is as it should be — it is impossible for parents to be objective about their children.

The Minister spoke about how the White Paper heralds a new partneship with institutions, teachers, parents and the community served by the school or institution but there is a sour note in that the issue of early retirement has not been resolved. While that does not form an intricate part of the White Paper it is unfortunate that it is being introduced against that background. It may cloud the judgment of teachers although they are professional enough to rise above that.

One expects a White Paper to be specific. This document is vague and does not contain specific targets of costings. There is a missing chapter and that is the one on resources. It is extraordinary that the commitment to resources is couched in such nebulous phrases as “the Government will aim to provide resources for the development needs identified in this White Paper”. They do not fill me with confidence about the Minister's future plans. If we set targets or have aims we must be specific about the costings and availability of resources to meet them. There is more emphasis on structures than on the type of education we want. I know the Minister did not state she has all the answers. She was prepared to listen and not just apply formulae and pat answers. We must congratulate her on that. However, there is a time for listening and a time for policy making and we have reached that critical juncture. The Minister had deliberations on the Green Paper, national education conventions and advisory groups. We have many more advisory groups as a result of the White Paper and I hope the Minister does not once again turn consultation on its head, as happened in the case of the Dunboyne school, the decision regarding [756] third level fees and the decision to abolish and then reinstate, albeit on a rationalised basis, the vocational education committees within the new structures she sees in the education system.

While there are elements of the White Paper which will find support we must call on the expertise of professionals for guidance in formulating legislation. I hope the Minister realises that the views expressed by Opposition spokespersons reflect the mood of people on the ground, educationalists, parents and children. We must not turn our faces against the consultations which were held. I was critical of the decision to abolish third level fees and the fact that we have a report which was basically ignored. We have not, as yet, had an opportunity to debate it properly.

It will be no great news to the Minister to hear that primary schooling is a hobby-horse of mine. Unless we have the level of education that children deserve at primary school we will not have a basis for children at second or third level. It is critical that resources be directed in a more equitable manner towards primary schools. Despite the constitutional commitment to free primary education we know that this area has traditionally been under-funded and that continues. It is the only sector which is required to seek funding at local level. The report of the review body on the primary curriculum indicates that in the 1989 budget £1.7 billion was spent. Primary school children were funded to the extent of £85 per capita. The Minister has given figures for primary school funding.

In the 1970s, secondary school facilities were expanded and the differential in capitation grants between the primary and secondary sectors was consolidated. That trend continues in the 1990s. The Minister announced an increase in the post primary capitation grant per pupil to £165 while it still remains at a relatively low level at primary level. That is depressing for those [757] who are committed to equality in education. In the 1980s, third level education saw the expansion of regional technical colleges, institutes of higher education and universities.

The interim report of the technical working group of the steering committee on the future development of higher education found that public expenditure for a full-time student was above that in a number of European Union countries. It concluded that in terms of economic conditions higher education was well funded when compared with other countries. It also noted that expenditure on higher education as a percentage of total expenditure on education is close to the OECD average. Yet the Minister has seen fit to abolish undergraduate fees from September 1996 at a cost to the Exchequer of £20 million. Many parents of third level students will say that it is not the fees but the maintenance grants which are the constraint. A more enlightened examination of this area, taking into consideration family size, incomes and assets and granting graduated levels of tax relief for those marginally over the qualifying limit would have ensured the introduction of a progressive rather than a regressive system. Such a system would be fairer and less costly to the Exchequer and would have done more to promote equality. It is wrong to argue that free higher education will benefit the poor or working classes.

It is very easy for people who can afford to send their children to third level education to welcome the abolition of fees. However, last April Dale Tussing, Professor of Economics at Syracuse University, stated in a report in The Irish Times that there is no basis in the philosophy of the State or in the economic theory of public good, for institutional aid for higher education. He went on to question the Minister's decision and to argue that this money could be more productive if put into primary education. Interestingly, Dale Tussing is the author of the ESRI study [758] on the funding of education which generated debate in 1978 and which predicted the financial crisis which hit secondary schools, including the introduction of voluntary contributions.

Whose advice did the Minister seek in coming to this decision? Did she read or consider the INTO report on poverty and educational disadvantage, “Breaking the Cycle”? At the presentation of that report the General Secretary of the INTO said that the past two decades had seen a dramatic rise in the level of child poverty in Ireland and that poverty is not confined to any one area of their lives but is multifaceted and cumulative, effectively excluding them from any meaningful participation in the wider society. How will free third level education improve the chances of children who come to school hungry, cold, under nourished and inadequately dressed——

Mr. Broughan:  They would be colder if the Deputy's party was in power.

Ms Keogh:  ——and who do not have money for school books, copies, pens or outings?

Mr. Broughan:  What about 1989?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  No interruptions, please.

Ms Keogh:  It is a new feature of the Dáil that instead of heckling from the Opposition we now have heckling from Ministers and Government backbenchers.

The Minister would be much better advised to fund the primary sector to help it fulfil its potential as an equalising force in our society. The INTO report found that many schools in isolated areas are starved for cash, caught in a permanent poverty trap, in a poor physical condition and lack even the most basic items of educational equipment.

Thirty years after the introduction of the remedial teaching service in primary schools, most small rural primary [759] schools still do not have the services of a remedial teacher and as many as six schools are forced to share a teacher between them rendering the service ineffective. The primary sector caters for 500,000 children, including a significant number of what would be regarded in other European Union countries as pre-school children. The primary review body has noted — this is quoted in the White Paper — that much of what is considered pre-schooling in other countries is already incorporated in the primary school system in Ireland. There is a fundamental flaw in the thinking in the White Paper in relation to pre-schooling and I am very surprised that the Minister has let this through. She is in a unique position in the Dáil in being able to differentiate between what is meant by pre-schooling and schooling for infants in the primary school sector. There is a considerable difference between the two and as I said there is a fundamental flaw in the White Paper in relation to pre-schooling and early childhood care.

In the past 20 years we have seen a growth in early childhood services, most of which are unregulated and unfinanced. This has been due to many factors, one of which is obvious to both the Minister and I, that is the increased number of mothers in the workforce, which has led to child care becoming a political issue in terms of equality for women. Very little attention is paid to early childhood care and there is practically no Government policy on it. Many of the problems arise because this issue falls between two stools, the Department of Health and the Department of Education. The Child Care Act draws a distinction between a pre-school child and a child attending national school — a pre-school child is one who has not attained the age of six years and who is not attending a national school or school providing an educational programme similar to a national school. There is a difference between care and education and it is understandable why the Department of Health would not [760] concern itself with a service regulated by the Department of Education. However, as a result there is no policy on the provision of early education for young children. This fundamental flaw is not addressed in the White Paper.

Primary classes of 30 pupils are not suitable for four or five year old children. There is a fundamental flaw in our thinking in this area and it is important to realise that the causes of early school leaving do not lie solely in the educational system but also in the pre-school environment and the complex set of relationships between families, communities and schools. Good as it is, the early start programme is not adequate to meet the needs of our society. A large proportion of four and five year olds attend school, most of them attend primary school. I am totally astounded that experts in pre-schooling are given no recognition in the White Paper.

Mr. Martin:  That is partnership.

Ms Keogh:  It reflects the lines of demarcation between the Departments of Health and Education.

There is no reference in the White Paper to truancy. Is this because the Minister of State, Deputy Austin Currie, has been given responsibility for bold children? I do not know if he has a permanent office but he has been given responsibility for co-ordinating the efforts of the various Departments which have responsibility for children. Does this mean the White Paper should ignore this huge problem in our society, that because a task force has been set up there is no need to refer to it in the White Paper? This is an amazing gap given that a task force has been set up and the Minister of State, Deputy Currie, has a degree of responsibility within the Department of Education. That is astounding and I should like to know the reason.

I wish to refer briefly to the regional education boards. Unfortunately there are wide gaps in the White Paper. It is [761] extraordinary that in a supposedly comprehensive paper there is scant reference to the stay safe programme and sex education. I asked the Minister whether she would make the stay safe programme mandatory in schools but her reply did not give me any hope. She said it was essential that parents continue to have the right to refuse to have their children participate in the programme if they wish. Parents can decline to have their children participate in the programme within the context of the school accepting that they will take on the stay safe programme. That programme is critical. Evey day when we open the newspaper and read about child abuse and so on we see the critical need for such a programme. It is a grave disappointment that there is no recognition of that in the White Paper. It is not quite written out but it might as well be.

I said that the document is more about organisation than education. The regional education boards as proposed initially by the Minister were very different from those advocated in her paper on regional education councils. As initially proposed it would have been the first major step in administrative reform for some years, which could have been a significant contribution towards improving the quality of the education system. The various statements and submissions at the National Education Convention in Dublin Castle demonstrated that no modular system still exists. There is a wide variety of unco-ordinated structures and the result is that our education policies and objectives are institutionally oriented. They are guided by sectoral or group interests and are not always related to the needs of local communities. This runs counter to the needs of students for equality, as emphasised in the White Paper, and a broad range of educationl experience which each school cannot afford to provide on its own. The increased emphasis on vocational education training advocated cannot be adequately dealt with by individual schools. We must respond to changing needs, educationalists must [762] ensure that the delicate balance of education and training is maintained and that we do not produce a generation of over-trained and under-educated students.

The question of educational administration decisions must be made in the context of educational effectiveness rather than revolving around the politics of control, as happened when the Minister announced that the vocational education committees, albeit rationalised, are to remain alongside the regional education boards. This duplication and waste of taxpayers' money could not be a step forward. It will create another layer of bureaucracy and not the organic unity — so decribed — that we should strive to attain. In other countries such as Denmark, Norway and Scotland there are sub-national authorities. Such a structure should not interfere with the devolution of power to individual school units. It should be supportive of schools and engaged in activities which cannot be effectively carried out at school level and which need not necessarily be carried out at national level. Administration and policy decisions on education should be taken as near as possible to and by the community. We have had some developments in that sphere: the involvement of teachers and parents through the boards of management, the recognition of the parents' council in 1985 and subsequently its partial funding. It has involved the parents at national level, which I welcome.

We should take the bold step and leave the delivery of the educational provision to properly structured regional education boards. The Minister's proposals for the continued existence of the vocational education committees with their current functions would inhibit any boards from carrying out their functions as previously proposed and the result would be a duplication of authority and responsibilities, inefficiency and unnecessary expense on the taxpayers. There was no support for the concept of regional-local education authorities in the debate at the National [763] Educational Convention. I ask the Minister not to turn the consultative process on its head. What is the point in having a consultative process where people are in broad agreement if it is suddenly changed? The Minister cannot ignore the consultative process when making the decisions because it undermines consensus. If we do not have a complete consensus within the educational system then we are a long way towards achieving it. Any two-tier system would encourage unhealthy rivalry and destructive competition between schools and could damage the interests of the children we are supposed to serve.

The education boards must be structured to avoid unwieldy geographical spreads. We should look again at what has been proposed. The Minister should set out a revised plan for the introduction of the education boards as originally proposed.

The Protestant secondary schools are to retain their present, centrally calculated and paid, block grants. Why should a Catholic or a non-denominational secondary school not be at liberty to opt out of regional education board funding as well, especially in the light of Article 42.4 of the Constitution which prohibits the State from discriminating between schools under management of different religious denominations when legislating to provide State aid for schools? They are basic questions that the Minister, despite the consultative process, has fudged. While there has been consultation there has not been agreement and a workable system has not been arrived at. I am fearful that we will have large, unwieldy and inefficient structures which will cost us more money.

I will not deal comprehensively with some of the elements of the White Paper. I ask the Minister on foot of the White Paper — for all its vagueness and indecision and the fact that it does not set targets or funding proposals — if she wishes to reach a consensus to consult, act on the process and not to turn her [764] face against it. As we have seen before, the results in some cases have been disastrous.

I congratulate the Minister for at least giving us a benchmark against which we can mark the educational process. I agree with Deputy Martin that there are wide gaps in the White Paper on the whole area of information technology. This is a vast area which is not addressed by children collecting bottle tops or receipts in supermarkets to get computers for their schools. It is a complex, exciting and a growth area. Multinational companies here recognise the level of computer skills of our young people. That wide gap in information technology will have to be addressed. This goes back to one of the difficulties I have with the White Paper, that it deals with organisational structure, not with what we should be teaching in our schools.

Mr. Broughan:  I sometimes wonder if Deputies from the Progressive Democrats talk to each other. Only a week or ten days ago we heard Deputy McDowell bemoaning the content of a White Paper about which he knows little and referring to it as a fantastic edifice. He was seeking ways to cut all areas of social expenditure to the bone, but I cannot see how some of the improvements suggested by Deputy Keogh, with which I fully concur, could be implemented if the Progressive Democrats' financial spokesperson had his way. If he has his way in any right wing coalition after the next election——

Mr. Martin:  He would hardly coalesce with the Labour Party.

Mr. Broughan:  I have expressed my fears about how the Deputy's party may well be pulled to the right as this parliament goes on and end up suffering badly at the hands of the electorate. The Progressive Democrats should straighten out their views on financial resources and what they want to do with the educational system.

[765] This White Paper marks a watershed in the development of education since independence and the establishment of the Department of Education in 1924. For the first 20 or 30 years of independence we did not come to grips with the key task of a Department of Education, to develop our citizens to their fullest potential. Unfortunately, in the early part of our history, we continued the dreaded “murder machine” that Padraig Pearse so eloquently condemned in 1913 and 1914 because of its concentration on the treadmill of the narrow range of subjects geared towards entry to third level education. Under this Minister we are finally turning our backs on that kind of education and returning to the visionary attitude of Pearse and the founding fathers of our country, perhaps even going back to the great Thomas Davis whose open-ended vision of education is finally reflected in some of the structures and ideas which this Minister has injected into the final version of the White Paper. We can, I hope, turn our back on the failures of the past which led to huge numbers of people dropping out of not just the second but the first level of education. In my city there are huge areas——

Ms Keogh:  The Government needs to put resources into first level.

Mr. Broughan:  This Minister is the first to have done that. She has concentrated on the first level although she has also opened the doors to third level. She has joined Donagh O'Malley in the pantheon of great Education Ministers. This White Paper with its clear statement of ideas and organisations for an education system for the next 30 or 40 years will allow us to give a holistic and well balanced education to all our citizens and, it is hoped, full employment with a satisfying life-long role for every citizen.

I welcome the key values enunciated throughout the document. The ideal of pluralism, that we are all different in our approaches to learning, education and how we want to live our lives, must be [766] reflected throughout the system in terms of a variety of schools and approaches to education. I welcome the commitment to equality. As somebody who has six sisters and who sometimes felt they did not get the same benefit from the education system as males generally, I see this White Paper as overcoming another fundamental barrier. Through this White Paper we will finally smash the glass ceiling and allow full equality for all our citizens. The hallmark of this document is partnership in which the Minister has, for many months, involved all the relevant interests, including parents, patrons, owners, managements and now, in a way that has never been done before, the wider community, business and economic life.

On the Committee of Public Accounts, of which I am proud to be a member, the issue of accountability in the context of spending on education has often been raised. Every year when dealing with the Department of Education we have asked what happens to the £2 billion. Obviously salaries are paid, but how can we account for resource moneys? The Government, of which the Labour Party was a member prior to this, legislated for a major extension of the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General to examine and look for value for money throughout the education system. The structures of the education boards and of boards of management which are enunciated in the White Paper will provide a basis on which the Comptroller and Auditor General can perform his role because it is clear that huge amounts of public money must be accounted for. All areas of public life, including the education system, must be held to account in this regard. I like the thread running throughout this report providing for accountability in terms of public finances.

As a teacher, I am interested in the ideal of the delivery of the highest possible quality and standards. I have always felt the members of my profession are the ideal people to assess the value of [767] their students' work and I welcome the developments in the primary sector since 1971 and now at second level whereby the teaching profession, as good professionals, will increasingly examine and be responsible for the achievements of their students.

The hallmark of this Minister for Education has been her consensus approach. She has been engaged in a very long consultative process, going back to her first days as a Minister two and a half years ago, through her National Education Convention which, as a teacher, I found one of the most interesting fora in education. She has received a large number of submissions from all interests in the education sector which led to her roundtable talks and finally to this White Paper.

In regard to boards of management and the future ownership and leasing of schools in all areas of the education system the approach of consultation and consensus has been remarkably successful. I congratulate the Minister on her achievement in that regard. She can claim to be the first Minister for Education to have been able to unravel the problems that existed in that area with people defending their own patches and so on. I look forward to seeing her plans incorporated in the Education Act.

Parents are the primary and natural educators of children as stated in the Constitution. I, therefore, fully endorse the moves to bring them in as whole partners in the education system. I echo the findings of the documents quoted in the White Paper in regard to the input of parents to the performance of children. Clearly children achieve in a learning environment where parents are interested in and follow precisely their performance both at home and at school. Children spend only about one-seventh of their time on the school premises. As they spend most of their time at home a close relationship between parents and schools is critical for academic achievement.

The Government has continued the programme under which links are [768] developed between home and school to increase the flow of information. I welcome the fact that the new pupil profile cards will be available at all times to parents so that they can assess the achievements of their children. The White Paper therefore marks a watershed in relation to parental involvement in terms of their membership of boards of management, which is to be put on a statutory footing, and regional education boards. This offers the great prospect that education interests will be fully integrated.

In the past I have been critical of the role played by the Department of Education, which has often tried to do too much. Reference has been made to the inspectorate. As much of the time of the relatively small number of inspectors and the psychological service is taken up in the delivery of services it has proved difficult to assess properly the ongoing work of schools. In recent times many second level schools have been inspected only once every four to five years, if at all. If their performance is to be assessed we must have detailed inspection procedures. I welcome the fact that the Department of Education will be moved out of the picture in the delivery of services.

The Department of Education is involved in the strategic management initiative, a key element of which is that civil servants will set their own standards against which they will measure their own performance. Public representatives will be able to assess their achievements in the light of those standards. For example, reference is made to a comparative analysis with the position in other countries, such as the Scandinavian countries. There is a need to carry out fruitful research to ascertain the reasons we have not attained success in the teaching of Irish and second languages. Research and development and strategic planning form key elements of the initiative which I welcome.

I also welcome the establishment of intermediate structures for the delivery of day-to-day services. While many neighbouring second level schools tend [769] to co-operate with each other, boards of management often find themselves isolated in preparing students for public examinations and developing new programmes and curricula. In this context the establishment of democratic regional boards to oversee the delivery of services is a major innovation which I welcome. It is stated in the White Paper that it is expected there will be a marginal increase in costs. I caution that we may be decentralising the dead hand of the Department of Education; we should try to ensure that another intractable layer of bureaucracy is not put in place but rather a vibrant local agency to manage the 40 to 60 primary and secondary schools in each area.

In referring to the establishment of regional boards the Minister commented on the school attendance committees. I am concerned about the levels of truancy in Dublin city in particular and our inability to resolve this problem. This matter should be addressed.

My colleague, Deputy Costello, will deal with the vocational education committees. I welcome the fact that, while there will be rationalisation, the enormous achievements of the vocational education committees will be recognised. They provide an excellent service in deprived areas. In more recent times they have offered post leaving certificate courses to give people an opportunity to pursue further education. Many of the schools concerned have attained junior regional technical college status. The vocational education committees deserve great credit for this.

On the way schools are governed, I congratulate the Minister for securing agreement at primary level on the incorporation of all interested parties, including the wider community, on boards of management. I also welcome the proposals to put a middle management structure in place. In this connection the provision of extra resources and in-service training for middle management will form key elements. Very often principals carried a huge burden. Developments are already taking place in putting a proper middle management [770] structure in place and the White Paper and the legislation which will follow will provide a massive boost in this regard.

Unlike the previous speaker, I welcome the introduction of the early start programme. The White Paper rightly notes that in other countries four to six year olds are regarded as being in the pre-school category. This programme is having an impact on the most disadvantaged children. If one traces the record of a pupil who is doing badly at primary or second level one will often find that the problems started when the child reached the age of two or three. This programme is therefore invaluable.

I encourage the Minister to make contact with the infant schools in the private sector which have been developed on an ad hoc basis and where teachers received some training to assess the extent to which we can ensure interaction with the Department.

During the past 20 years the primary sector has been very successful. The 20,000 primary teachers deserve enormous credit for their achievements in changing the curriculum and in adopting a more child centred approach.

The Minister referred to pupils with special needs. I have a particular interest in the needs of travellers. At first level in particular there is a need for integrated education. I am proud that in my constituency a number of schools are famous for integrating traveller children in the school system. The provision at first and second levels for traveller children is very poor and it is very difficult for them to get through second level education. My colleague, Senator Kelly, will shortly publish a report on travellers. A co-ordinated effort is needed between the Departments of Education, Environment and Health to provide the environment where traveller children will be able to pursue education at all levels. Provision at second level for traveller children is appallingly low and we are not making an effort as a community to improve that position. Heroic efforts are made by traveller families to keep their children at second level. Perhaps the [771] Department of Education will carry through its plans by interacting with the other relevant Departments with a view to solving this problem.

Like many second level teachers, I welcome the junior certificate introduced in 1989. In other countries junior, primary and second levels are part of the same system and the objective in the White Paper of linking the primary with the second level system is welcome.

Deputies referred this morning to relationships and sexuality education and I echo the comments in that regard. I welcome the curricula on civic, social and political education. It is appalling that after 70 years of independence we have no system of civic education. As legislators we should be concerned about this matter. Desultory attempts were made in the late 1970s and early 1980s in this area, but civic education was gradually squeezed out of the curriculum. I welcome the efforts to encourage young people to take a critical evaluation of political life and perhaps in the decades ahead we will see a changed Dáil as a result.

On the subject of the leaving certificate, I welcome the applied system and setting up of TEASTAS, the new certification board. To some extent the leaving certificate acts as a grinding process to select people for the seven universities and, to a lesser extent, the regional technical colleges. We must give greater consideration to the transition from second to third level.

On a number of occasions Deputies referred to resources at first and second level. The Minister for Education placed much emphasis on providing resources, particularly at primary level, for example, she increased the basic capitation rate for primary schools by 43 per cent, disadvantaged capitation has been increased by 44 per cent, the number of home-school link co-ordinators has been increased by 139 per cent, the capital building fund for primary and second level has been doubled and the disadvantaged fund for primary schools has been increased by 200 per cent — nearly [772] 20 per cent of all primary schools now have disadvantaged status. The charge sometimes levelled at this Government that we have not made resources available at first and second level is nonsense. The Minister has a remarkable record and deserves congratulations on measures relating to the capitation rate at second level, career guidance, home-school links, remedial posts and provision for handicapped pupils.

Many Deputies were interested in the comments on the integrity of the school year and the number of school teaching days, but there is practically no mention of the other side of the coin, the extra curricular activities. Even though many primary and secondary teachers willingly devote a great amount of time to activities such as sport and games, there is only a brief reference to sport in the White Paper. Perhaps provision could be made in the Bill for this matter, taking into account the extra time teachers spend on extra curricular activities such as drama, music, debating and sport. There has been much support down the years for football and hurling teams and teachers sometimes spend their weekends organising athletics competitions and so on.

Many people, particularly some of the wild-eyed commentators in the Sunday Independent who seem to have had problems with their teachers years ago, engage in teacher bashing. These people should be made aware of the huge amount of time teachers willingly give to their pupils. To be successful, a great deal of preparation must be made by teachers. Many second level teachers have no option but to spend the month of July correcting public examinations and some of the month of August preparing for the following year. The comments on the integrity of the school year are a little simplistic. Perhaps civil servants will consider the role of the teacher in terms of total hours rather than just class hours.

I welcome the comments in the White Paper on higher education. The step taken in the budget to increase access to third level education will bear great fruit [773] in the years ahead. The obvious corollary is that we must provide extra places. I welcome the measures to increase access particularly to post leaving certificate courses. I welcome also the encouragement to our universities and colleges to relate better to their local areas. I have always been unhappy with Dublin City University in that it has not related sufficiently well to the north side of Dublin. It is only beginning to take some tentative steps in that regard. Likewise, Trinity College in the centre of Dublin, which is very close to areas of great deprivation, and UCD should relate better to their local areas.

Debate adjourned.

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

Mr. D. Wallace:  Despite the major technological advances of recent times and the general affluence throughout the developed world, the problem of crime seems to increase with each passing year. To make matters worse, violent crime seems to be a particular problem. One might reasonably assume that increasing participation in education would help remove any possible gloss from violence and show it in its true form as the worst possible form of human behaviour. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Crimes which up to a few years ago were rarely, if ever, heard of seem to have become increasingly common. While changes in value systems and the totally unacceptable glorification of violence on television and videos have contributed to those patterns, the trade in and use of illegal drugs is probably the single most important factor influencing the extent and nature of crime in modern society. As I stressed during the debate yesterday evening, we as legislators have a [774] grave responsibility to ensure the necessary supports and structures are put in place to ensure the tide of crime is initially stopped and subsequently reversed.

Neither the quality nor the commitment of our law enforcement agencies is in doubt and, therefore, we are building on a secure and reliable base for the renewed battle against crime. However, such relative security must not result in either a degree of self-satisfaction or complacency. While one might gain a certain degree of comfort from our relatively low level of criminal behaviour compared with that in other countries, such an attitude is extremely dangerous. The fight against crime within any society rarely remains at a fixed level. If the authorities begin to gain the upper hand in terms of high detection rates and the application of appropriate punishment, the crime level drops. Any indication that criminals are on the winning side can only serve to actively encourage those with criminal tendencies.

Everything I have heard during the debate today confirms my belief that to date the Minister has totally failed to come to terms with the problems posed by current weaknesses in our legislation regarding a Bill of this type. It would be a welcome sign of increasing maturity on her behalf if she reconsidered her attitude to the opportunity presented to her by the diligent work of Deputy O'Donoghue. Using his professional legal background he has put together a set of adjustments, which if implemented, would provide a rapid and effective remedy to the major problems being experienced in this area.

The Minister referred to there being almost a doubling of the number of crimes committed by people on bail recently. That position is totally unacceptable. This Bill is put forward in a constructive manner to deal with this problem which is widespread throughout the country and which is of major concern to people at all levels whether in respect of their personal safety, their [775] property and their homes. Businesses in cities and counties are suffering as a result of the increase in violent crimes. This morning a person accused of committing a serious crime in Cork was given free legal aid and was able to secure bail of £5,000. Surely the system is being brought into disrepute when a person who applies for free legal aid can get bail of £5,000 and has no difficulty finding the money.

I referred last night to the crime problem in Cork and paid tribute to the people who were intimidated recently and threatened in respect of doing certain things, such as selling the local paper, the Cork Examiner. Gardaí and their families are being threatened by some of these people. That position cannot be allowed to continue and those are only the cases of which we are aware. I assure those people of my full support and that of all Members of the House. We will not allow any group in society in dictate how we live, how we go about our business, conduct and enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, recent events in Cork show that some of those people believe they can dictate terms. As a Deputy representing Cork, I will not be muzzled or intimidated by those people. We have read that one of our colleagues received threatening telephone calls because he made a statement the week before last. We have all received threatening telephone calls in the middle of the night from time to time. If we were to allow that type of intimidation to succeed, we would go nowhere. This Bill has been put forward by Deputy O'Donoghue and the Fianna Fáil Party to address a problem that exists in our society and to give reassurance to the many people who are suffering as a result of people committing crime while on bail.

There are examples in Cork where people have applied to have their cases transferred to the Dublin jurisdiction. Their cases are put at the end of the list and it may be 12 or 18 months before their case comes before the courts. During that time people are out on bail and [776] many are committing crime. They know they will receive the same sentence; they may get a 12 month concurrent sentence, but it will not affect them to any great extent. As that practice is bringing the whole system into disrepute, we as legislators have an obligation to come to grips with this problem. Unfortunately, the Minister is not doing that. We know there are constitutional aspects involved in addressing this problem, but the Constitution does not give any member of our society a right to commit crime. We are not guarding against that and that argument must not be put forward. Our people are entitled to the protection of the security forces of the State, but they do not believe they are getting that. The Minister, who is absent, and her colleague, the Minister of State, should accept the Bill introduced by Deputy O'Donoghue. We all agree with its provisions for change which would give the judiciary powers to deal with the people to whom I have referred.

The Minister has not taken this on board nor brought forward the proposals for a referendum. She appears to have no intention of dealing with the problem which is widespread in the community. That is part of her responsibility, but unfortunately she has not dealt with it. We are familiar with the major crimes which receive publicity, but hundreds of crimes are being perpetrated on people who do not report them because they see people committing crimes while on bail, being rearrested and released. That is unsatisfactory. We have an obligation to deal with this problem as quickly as possible.

I strongly appeal to the Minister to ensure that every consideration is given to the Bill put forward by Deputy O'Donoghue. We will all gain by accepting this Bill. It is not the first time an Opposition Bill has been accepted. The previous Government accepted Opposition Bills. The Minister and her colleagues should be big enough to accept Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill which proposes constructive changes to enhance the role of the Judiciary in [777] dealing with this serious problem. It proposes that judges should have discretion to decide whether bail should be given. Judges do not have that discretion at present and examples of the problems that arise in that regard were given by a number of speakers last night. The position is unacceptable. We should listen when the public say we are not doing our job in terms of addressing this problem. The Minister would do a good day's work if she listened to Deputy O'Donoghue. I strongly commend the Bill to the House because it is in all our interests that we deal with the problem as quickly as possible.

Mr. Flanagan:  Reading through the Official Report of Dáil debates in recent years, with particular reference to Private Members' time, I do not suppose there has been a topic that has had greater airing here than the administration of justice, in particular the administration of criminal justice. Every Member, irrespective of political affiliation, is anxious to contribute to this debate, to ensure we can reduce the very high levels of crime.

There are many aspects to this issue. For example numerous reports produced over the past five or six years recommended changes, some of which found favour with the administration in power at the time, leading to an improvement in our legislative provisions; unfortunately, others have not.

The question of bail is one this House has not addressed, with the speed and urgency required by society. For example, this will have been the third Bill recently to attempt to legislate for a restriction on our bail regime. It cannot be overstated that Ireland has perhaps the most liberal bail regime within western Europe. It is much easier here for any accused to be granted bail pending trial, than in any other western European country. That alone is sufficient justification for examining the operation of our bail laws.

As other Members have said, that almost 4,500 crimes can be committed within one year by persons out on bail [778] goes a long way to weakening confidence in our system of justice. It is quite extraordinary that such a high level of crime is committed daily by people who have been freed by our courts on bail, or who are facing a charge for a criminal offence.

A few months ago a man appeared on trial for murder in London. In the course of the relevant pre-trial submissions it transpired that person already faced a murder charge in Dublin but was out on bail for a sum of £250. While that example is probably extraordinary, certainly not the norm, there are people released on bail who continue to perpetrate crime against persons and property. It is plainly absurd for this State not to enact legislation to allow our courts restrict the freedom of dangerous persons who daily put life and property at risk. Our courts should have full discretion on the matter of bail. It is my understanding — this is the subject of some debate — that to enable us allow our courts invoke full discretionary powers, we need a constitutional referendum, something flagged earlier this year by the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, and on which we have heard much in the form of positive debate since. It was a little disingenuous of Deputy Wallace to say that the referendum on bail has not been heard of, since its pros and cons have been aired significantly since the matter was raised by the Minister some months ago.

It is important that we engage in constructive debate on bail prior to adopting what appears to be a very simplistic approach of holding a referendum, gaining the favour of the people, changing our Constitution and allowing our courts to dictate or cater for whatever difficulty might ensue following an amendment of our Constitution. We had sufficient of that in the 1980s. We must learn from the appalling lesson of 1983 as far as constitutional referenda are concerned that we do not insert words into our Constitution unless we are satisfied that their consequences will achieve what we wish and not give rise to the types of problems witnessed in [779] another area in the 1980s. We should not rush into a referendum but, if we are to hold one, so be it. I hope consideration will be given to holding a referendum on bail, perhaps in conjunction with the referendum on divorce later this year. The vast majority of our citizenry would like to see changes in our bail laws and would vote in favour of a referendum to amend Article 40 of our Constitution to afford our courts full discretionary power.

The fundamental test for bail is the probability of an accused evading justice and not standing trial. Bail should be refused whenever it is considered an accused may strike again before trial, or is likely to dispose of stolen goods as a matter of urgency, for example, the proceeds of a bank robbery, or of property stolen from a person's dwelling. It has become much too easy for people to be apprehended, brought before our courts and released on bail, without producing the proceeds of the robbery. Within the lengthy period during which that person is out on bail, the proceeds of the robbery are disposed of with significant gain to the criminal. Nobody can argue that is reasonable or conducive to gaining people's confidence in our criminal justice system.

Turning to a detailed examination of the fundamental tests in the celebrated O'Callaghan case, to which reference was made last evening and which encompasses the kernel of the debate on bail — Mr. Justice Brian Walsh, a sound judge responsible for very many important milestone decisions, whose reputation in the area of criminal law perhaps has been unequalled in the history of this State listed in very concise terms the matters which should be taken into account when considering the granting of bail. They include the seriousness of the charge, the nature of the evidence, the likely sentence on conviction, the fact that the perpetrator of the crime was caught red-handed, the perpetrator's failure to answer bail on previous occasions, the possibility of the disposal of illegally acquired property or [780] goods and the possibility of interference with witnesses. These matters may be taken into account but Mr. Justice Brian Walsh stressed that they were subsidiary to the fundamental test, which is whether or not the accused is likely to stand trial.

No doubt Deputy John O'Donoghue would agree with me that it is important that we expand the fundamental test for granting bail to include the many subsidiary tests that Mr. Justice Walsh considered to be appropriate and necessary. However, in the course of his judgment in 1966, Mr. Justice Brian Walsh counselled a certain amount of caution when he stated that the grounds mentioned were merely guides to a decision on the probability of the accused evading justice, that the possibility of the disposal of illegally acquired property and of interference with prospective witnesses and jurors came within the general heading of the evasion of justice and were to be used as grounds for refusing bail only when it is reasonably probable that these events will occur if bail is granted.

A difficulty that has arisen from a practical point of view is that objections to bail on any grounds should not be made in isolation, must be supported by sufficient evidence to enable the court arrive at a conclusion of probability and must be open to questioning by the accused or his or her legal advisers. That is the difficulty facing the courts in this matter and it is not met by Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill. There are only a few basic differences between this Bill and that introduced by Fine Gael last year which sought to allow the courts to take into account the likelihood of an accused person reoffending while on bail. That matter must be taken into account by a court when deciding whether to grant bail because it is the nub of the problem. An appalling statistic shows that in 1994, 4,416 crimes were committed by people while on bail. The figure for 1983 was 8,300, but the problem was addressed to some extent by the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, which was frequently used as an excuse for not [781] changing our liberal bail laws in that Ministers claimed it had addressed the problem.

Following the implementation of that Act the number of persons committing crimes while on bail reduced significantly. For example, in 1990 the number had reduced to 2,494. However, in the early 1990s the figures increased significantly. In 1993 the figure was 2,800, but in 1994 it was approximately 4,500 indicating to legislators, the gardaí and others engaged in the enforcement of legislation and in the detection of crime that the 1984 legislation was not addressing the problem. As a result, the Fine Gael Party introduced a Private Members' Bill last year which was rejected by the then Minister for Justice. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have not been the only parties to attempt to tackle this problem by way of all party consensus. Some years ago the Progressive Democrats published a Bill which stated that a bailsperson could risk losing bail if the person committed an offence while out on bail. While that was a reasonable suggestion, it did not find favour with the Government at the time no more than this Bill will find favour with the Minister. The reason for this was explained by the Minister last night and a similar reason was given by her predecessor, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, when rejecting last year's Fine Gael Bill. The Minister stated that she is awaiting a report from the Law Reform Commission.

As there is general consensus on the need to change our bail laws, the Minister should ensure that the Law Reform Commission completes its deliberations and publishes its report as soon as possible. I acknowledge that the commission is busy publishing reports, many of which have been gathering dust on shelves for years, but it should urgently address this matter. We cannot allow a position to continue in our criminal justice system that is giving rise to a great deal of concern and weakening confidence in the system. I hope, therefore, that in response to this debate the Law Reform Commission will inform the [782] Minister when it is likely to conclude its deliberations and publish its report, including recommendations that will be made available to the House to assist us in the enactment of appropriate legislation. The commission must set a deadline in this regard. If it is experiencing difficulties in regard to resources, expertise or consultancy matters, the Minister should address them as soon as possible. I am sure it is not necessary for me to say that the Law Reform Commission should have the total support of the Department of Justice in completing its deliberations with minimum fuss and delay.

While there is need for change and we agree the courts must be given full discretion in the matter of bail, nevertheless there is a danger of over simplifying the manner in which we change our laws. It is not sufficient to say that people who commit crime while on bail should be taken off the streets, locked up and the keys thrown away. Our Constitution upholds the right to personal liberty and freedom of the individual and this will give rise to considerable debate in the run-up to a referendum on bail. Any abrogation of the fundamental right to personal liberty must proceed and be accepted only in exceptional circumstances. We are not dealing with a matter that can be rushed through willy nilly. Neither are we dealing with a black and white issue for which there is a yes or no answer. The restriction of personal liberty of the individual upheld by our Constitution is fundamental in the matter of human rights. Bail is not something that can be granted as a favour by a judge pending trial. Bail is not a privilege, it is something to which in most cases people are entitled and to which a restriction must be applied only in special circumstances. The presumption of innocence is much more than a mere procedural rule or technicality. In the course of giving judgment, Mr. Justice Brian Walsh frequently stated that the presumption of innocence must be more than a mere technical device or procedural rule on a piece of paper. The [783] presumption of innocence and the fundamental right to personal liberty go hand in hand.

In putting the matter to the people we must strike a balance between the restriction on personal liberty and the need to reduce the number of crimes committed by persons released on bail pending trial. However, even without a referendum we can take action on the number of crimes committed by persons while on bail. We can do so by ensuring immediate access to the courts and holding trials at the earliest possible opportunity.

I understand my colleague, Deputy Byrne, is to share some of my time so I will bring by remarks to a conclusion.

Mr. E. Byrne:  The Deputy can have his full time if he so wishes.

Mr. Flanagan:  I think this is a matter on which Deputy Byrne has views worthy of airing in the House. I know his contribution will be constructive.

Any changes that we contemplate in our bail laws, whether by way of legislation or by constitutional referendum, must not trample in any way on the fundamental liberties of our citizens enshrined in the Constitution. Having said that bail is not a privilege and that the fundamental rights of personal liberty must only be abrogated in the most special of circumstances, I have two major concerns about any proposed referendum that I believe are worthy of consideration at the highest level. The first concerns the undue delay that all too often takes place between the time of charging an individual and the subsequent trial. This is responsible for the huge number of crimes being committed by people on bail. When a person is charged with an offence, they are given bail and are then on remand for any period up to a year before they are brought to trial. There is almost an inducement offered to a person due to appear before a court to engage in the commission of further crimes.

One statistic indicates that 82 per cent [784] of criminal trials involve convictions on a plea of guilty. The timescale involved is in itself an inducement towards the commission of further crimes. It has nothing to do with bail and little to do with a constitutional referendum but much to do with the manner in which we order our business in the courts system. Where a person is caught red-handed following the commission of a crime, it is possible to ensure that that person's trial is held within two, four or six weeks at the most. Other than in cases where a difficulty arises, there is no reason the business of our criminal courts cannot be processed in a more streamlined way without the endless delays that frequently occur.

There is a huge backlog in our courts system with which Deputies from every area are familiar. In too many of our criminal trials there is a protracted delay between the time of arrest and the subsequent trial. We need to introduce a scheme of acceptable timeframes having regard to the circumstances of individual cases. That is my one caution in regard to any referendum. We must not restrict a person's liberty by remanding them in custody before trial when it may be a year or more before that trial takes place. I believe that is unconstitutional.

The second concern I have, which is equally important, has to do with the need for a special remand centre for the custody of persons who are innocent because they have not yet been convicted in any criminal court. Such a remand centre could be in a separate arm of the prison system. It will be costly and may be unpopular but I believe it is essential because the fundamental thread of our criminal justice system is, the presumption of innocence until a person is proved otherwise by way of hearing in a court of law. It is fundamentally unjust to treat the innocent in the same manner as we treat those people who have been convicted. It is simply not good enough for us to remand people in custody under the same conditions and in the same prisons as people who have been convicted of serious criminal offences.

[785] I welcome the debate initiated by Deputy O'Donoghue. Despite what Deputy Dan Wallace said, the House does not have to enact this legislation simply because on previous occasions Fianna Fáil accepted Fine Gael Private Members' Bills. That would be totally contrary to the way we should be engaging in our business. There are merits in the Bill and some of its sections may be incorporated ultimately in the legislation that will follow as a result of the report of the Law Reform Commission and, presumably, the referendum. I ask Deputy O'Donoghue to await the Law Reform Commission report and I am sure he will agree with my reference to the urgency in that regard.

In conclusion, the right of innocence until proven guilty is the basic thread upon which our criminal justice system is founded. While we must accept that the bail system is not operating in the best interests of society, the fundamental rights and liberties of the citizen must not be trampled upon.

Acting Chairman (Ms F. Fitzgerald):  I call Deputy Eric Byrne who has approximately three minutes remaining to him.

Mr. E. Byrne:  I am sure my Fianna Fáil colleagues will show some generosity towards me as the previous speaker has overrun his time.

Mr. Flanagan:  I have to take issue with that. I was waiting for Deputy Byrne.

Mr. E. Byrne:  There is no problem. We are in Government together and we will support each other but I believe in the Opposition supporting backbenchers like myself in obtaining a fair allocation of time.

In an era of spiralling crime rates politicians are often forced to weigh individual liberties against the public good. That is a delicate tightrope on which we have to walk. Last year, approximately 4,500 crimes were committed by people while on bail. That is [786] a huge increase on the numbers for the previous year. I recognise that our bail laws are being abused by large numbers of people who view being out on bail, given the possibility of their incarceration for a long period of time, as a licence to continue to commit crime. However, I am opposed to Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill, not merely because of the constitutional limitations. Nor is my opposition based on party political considerations. I have no doubt that Deputy O'Donoghue has made a genuine attempt to address what is an extremely complicated issue.

I welcome the debate this Bill has initiated but I would point out that a similar debate was held in 1984 prior to the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill which introduced several provisions relating to offences committed while on bail. Eleven years on, these provisions have had little effect on the problem. There is wide agreement that our bail laws must be examined with a view to preventing abuse. However, I have reservations about some of the suggested mechanisms to do that.

Under the Bill a court may impose wideranging conditions on a person released on bail. In some cases, those conditions could almost amount to effective house arrest pending trial. For example, section 5 (e), if imposed, would prohibit the accused person from attending at any location at which the victim of the crime is known to socialise until the conclusion of the case. This section would also prohibit an accused person from attending at any specified business or residential area or address until the conclusion of the case.

Do we expect the Garda Síochána to monitor people who have been released under these restrictive bail conditions? I do not know whether the Garda Síochána have the resources or would like to mount surveillance on those on bail. It is a question of whether the available resources could be put to better use elsewhere. I recognise the need to protect the victims of crime from further harassment or injury but is this the way to do it? If these conditions were [787] imposed on a person living in a small rural village, he could find himself under effective house arrest.

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy's time is exhausted.

Mr. E. Byrne:  I wonder if the Fianna Fáil side would be kind enough to give me two minutes?

Mr. Kirk:  We will give Deputy Byrne time as we understand the misunderstanding that arose between Deputy Flanagan and him.

Mr. E. Byrne:  The difficulty is that I was at the Committee of Public Accounts.

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy has five minutes.

Mr. E. Byrne:  I thank the Opposition for that allocation. The person could be prevented from going to work because the victim might be in the same employment. The result would be devastating for the alleged perpetrator who may eventually be found not guilty of the crime. Rather than creating two possible innocent victims we should examine new ways of providing victim support. In this regard I urge the Minister to give priority to drafting a charter for victims of crime. We should review also the criminal injuries compensation system and re-establish a restitution fund as promised in the programme for A Government of Renewal.

Undoubtedly elements of Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill merit consideration. In particular, I welcome the thinking behind section 9 regarding the estreatment of bail as such a provision would act as an effective deterrent to the vast majority tempted to commit crime while on bail. I welcome the stipulation that a person released on bail should be prohibited from contact with prosecution witnesses, which I accept is [788] difficult to implement and monitor, but would reduce the incidence of intimidation. However, I have reservations about the Bill as a total package. It is only in the past number of years that bail and limitations on bail has come on the political agenda.

To date much of the debate has been a knee-jerk reaction by politicians who are sick and tired of having their constituents placed under siege by criminals. I understand the reaction because I too am sick of seeing elderly people in my constituency, Dublin South Central, barricading themselves in their own homes and drug pushers plying their obnoxious trade with seeming impunity. I am tired of watching the gardaí trying to protect the public with effectively, one hand tied behind their back. Yesterday Deputy O'Donoghue referred to the criminals strolling on our streets as incubators of evil and I agree with him but any attempt to restrict the individual's freedoms without due consideration and full public debate might give rise to a far greater evil. We should carefully look at the operations in other countries, for example in Germany an accused person is very often held for years in so-called examining custody pending trial. That solves the problem of persons committing crimes while out on bail but sadly it is a form of internment for those incarcerated. Ill considered moves to restrict bail, unless accompanied by crime prevention measures are little more than a cop out.

The issue of bail arises only at the end of the criminal process and I would like to see far more attention being paid to the start of the process. I would like to see the extension of community policing, with gardaí based in the community liaising with community activists and the relevant professionals and agencies. I would like to see the early introduction of the Juvenile Justice Bill with its emphasis on early intervention procedures.

While I share the concerns which give rise to the Bill I fear that unless we establish effective intervention mechanisms, restrictions on bail will treat the [789] symptoms rather than the causes of crime which is currently plaguing our towns and cities.

We should look very carefully at the causes of crime, not just the symptoms. We must tackle the kernel of the problem and the revolving door system operating in prisons. However, it may not necessarily involve bail. Let us get the drug addicts who are robbing to feed their habits into jail and on a methadone programme, on serving their sentence they should be released into a similar programme so that they do not rob, mug and break into homes of my constituents.

Dr. Woods:  From the way Deputies are treating the Bill, it is quite clear it is a very important issue and that the question of bail is crucial. I congratulate Deputy O'Donoghue on bringing this Bill before the House thus providing the opportunity to highlight one of the great problems of society.

Sir, I wish to share my time with Deputy Kirk.

Acting Chairman:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Dr. Woods:  We are suffering from high and unacceptable levels of crime. Ordinary decent law abiding citizens can no longer walk the streets without fear of being mugged, robbed or set upon. I am very familiar with this as are my constituents. This is a growing problem and a major issue for all Members. One cannot park one's car or enjoy the sanctuary of home without the fear of the car being stolen or the house being broken into. Young and old alike are subject to threats and menace with guns and knives. Large areas of Dublin city are dominated by the activities of ruthless criminals who prey on disadvntaged young people and intimidate local communities. These are strong words but they arise from hard experience. I cannot list the experience because I do not want to identify the area or the people involved but they are current. I appreciate a great deal of the work of the [790] Garda Síochána to try to tackle these problems but much more needs to be done by all concerned.

Drug trafficking and serious crime is at the heart of these developments. It is time to say stop. The situation has deteriorated dramatically over the past six months and this is probably due to the fall in the price of drugs and their wide availability. The price of ecstasy tablets is reported to have fallen over this period from £30 each to £3 each. The pushers are involving many more young people and the support services cannot cope with the number of addicts in Dublin. This issue is above party politics and a threat to the whole community. I heard the Minister give a defence against this current level of crime and suggesting that former Ministers should have taken action.

We are often told by some members of the media that we should get used to the fact that we are not in Government but Fianna Fáil is used to that and well trained for Opposition as well as experienced in Government.

The Government must realise that when in Government the responsibility lies with the Minister and the Government. This issue is above party politics. The upsurge in drug related crime in Dublin city over the past six months is due to the greater availability of drugs. It is time to give the Garda the funding they need to put the godfathers of crime and the suppliers of drugs out of action. As an island nation we have a great opportunity to control the supply of drugs and we must do so. The gardaí must be given the necessary resources to mount and sustain intensive surveillance and intelligence gathering by experienced detectives in specialised units. That was done recently with some success but the Garda do not have the resources to do it extensively. If I had my way, I would start at Howth and work through to Dublin city and clear the drugs out——

Mr. Durkan:  Like Sherman going through Georgia.

[791]Dr. Woods:  It is as bad as that. Come and live in Dublin and with the threats and menaces; come and see the subversion of our youth. The methods used by the Garda proved to be effective before in tackling drug barons. They must be used again before the suppliers of illicit drugs corrupt more of our young people. It is estimated that over three-quarters of all indictable crime committed in Dublin is related to substance abuse. That is an indication of the seriousness of the problem. If we solve the drug problem we will reduce the incidence of crime.

A recent survey carried out in Mountjoy Prison showed that over 80 per cent of offenders were on drugs ranging from cannabis to heroin. The average offender received 10.4 separate sentences. The Government must read these clear signals and take effective action. We need an action plan to remove the godfathers of crime, who are well known, from our streets and stop the traffic in drugs.

Mr. Durkan:  It has been known for several years.

Dr. Woods:  Quite a few of them have been taken off the streets. If the Minister wants to do a party political thing he should do it somewhere else. As far as I am concerned, this issue is above and beyond party politics.

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy is doing the party political thing.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Foxe):  The Member in possession should be allowed continue without interruption.

Mr. Durkan:  This sudden recognition of the problem after six months is invigorating and reassuring.

Dr. Woods:  Heckling will not get the Minister anywhere.

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy would be surprised.

[792]Acting Chairman:  Deputy Woods is in possession.

Dr. Woods:  I am speaking mainly about Dublin as I have experience of the problem there. If the Minister wants to come and see the hundreds of women trying to look after their young children who are addicted to drugs and cannot get health back-up, I will bring him to meet them tomorrow.

Mr. Durkan:  I met them last year.

Dr. Woods:  The problem is much worse now. The Minister is not in touch. It calls for more than a once-off PR visit with television cameras to record——

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy is a past master at that.

Dr. Woods:  The Minister should restrain himself.

Mr. Durkan:  It is difficult.

Dr. Woods:  He should realise he is a Minister and behave with appropriate dignity.

Mr. Durkan:  Such lectures are unnecessary.

Dr. Woods:  The action plan is to remove the godfathers of crime from our streets and stop the traffic in drugs; reform the law on bail especially as it applies to habitual offenders; provide the medical support needed by those addicted to drugs and to prevent our young people falling prey to the abuse of substances through education and the removal of disadvantage. That is a comprehensive programme. Unless we tackle the drugs problem on that basis we will not make the progress we would like to see.

This Bill is a realistic attempt by Deputy O'Donoghue to deal with the problems raised by those who commit crime while on bail. It emphasises the need to impose appropriate conditions [793] in granting bail and enables the courts to impose new conditions. It recognises the problems raised by the present high incidence of drug-related crime especially in larger urban areas such as Dublin and Cork. I know it is a problem throughout the country but the incidence in Dublin and more recently in Cork is far greater. People do not realise how bad the problem is in Dublin and with what urgency it must be tackled.

The majority of crime involving burglary, mugging and theft is associated with drugs. Granting bail to drug addicts may be seen as inviting such perpetrators of crime to reoffend. In imposing fresh conditions requiring accused persons to provide urine samples for analysis, the Bill seeks to ensure that those released on bail do not continue to take illegal drugs. The provision in the Bill that appointments be made by probation officers with drug treatment centres for those addicted to drugs indicates that the problem of drug related crime cannot be overcome unless the underlying problem of drug addiction is tackled at the same time. The need for these measures must be recognised by the Minister for Justice.

If the Government propose to vote down this Bill it will be seen as a vote in favour of the habitual criminal and those responsible for the proliferation of illegal drugs. There will be ample opportunity on Committee Stage to propose amendments where necessary. A number of Members accepted that the principle of the Bill is a good one. If in the fullness of time the Minister wishes to incorporate reports on the subject the House will be glad to debate the matter. Why is it that every time we propose to do something we must wait for various reports?

In limiting the power of the Minister for Justice to grant a temporary release to those serving sentences for crimes committed while on bail, the Bill seeks to ensure that the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 relating to consecutive sentences for crimes committed [794] while on bail are put into effect. These measures were intended to be an effective deterrent to those who might be tempted to commit crime while on bail and an appropriate punishment for those who so offend. It has been estimated that more than 80 per cent of the prison population is addicted to drugs. This suggests that a similar level of indictable crime is committed by drug abusers, and that has been our experience. It must be recognised that there are limited custodial facilities in the State and that a reasonable balance must be struck between the use of these facilities for those on remand and those sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

The proposals in the Bill must be seen in the context of a wider range of measures to deal with drugs in particular. I agree with the points made by Deputy Byrne in this regard. The problems related to drug abuse must be tackled by taking stern measures against those responsible for their importation and distribution within the State on the one hand and the provision of appropriate treatment and support for those who are prey to the godfathers of crime and who have drug addiction problems on the other. There is a need for a comprehensive approach to this problem and, regardless of the cost, it is essential that we undertake that task now.

On the need to deal with the godfathers in the drugs trade, the Minister must urgently introduce special measures to assist the law enforcement agencies in tackling the drugs trade. After 20 years of applying special measures to those engaged in subversive paramilitary crimes, it is clear that similar measures are needed to deal with the subversion of our youth and the society we have known and cherished. The Minister must ensure that the Garda and other agencies such as the customs authorities have all the necessary resources available to them and that the powers for the enforcement of the law are sufficient to defeat those who import millions of pounds of drugs into the State and who have unlimited resources to further their criminal [795] activities. Consideration should also be given to increased powers of detention in the context of the investigation of crime through application to the courts to deal with people suspected of dealing in drugs and who represent the most serious threat to the community and public order. We need to treat these godfathers as subversives.

At the same time resources should be made available to stem the tide of drugs being imported into the State. Increased resources should be directed to surveillance of our coastline which is frequently used to import drugs into Ireland and Europe. As Ireland is being used as a base for this European-wide problem, the European Union should make available all the necessary resources and substantially support us in dealing with this problem.

On the problem of drug addiction, it is important that any punitive and restrictive mechanisms put in place are matched by appropriate resources to treat addicts and to support communities which have a particular problem with drug addiction. It is important that those of us who favour reform of the bail laws are not blinded to problems such as poverty, disadvantage, unemployment, inequality and drug addiction, which are major contributory factors to the high level of crime, particularly in urban areas. It must be remembered that 80 per cent of offenders in Mountjoy Prison were unemployed when they committed the crime for which they were sentenced. In the absence of measures to deal with these underlying problems it will be impossible to effectively tackle crime. For this reason it is important to emphasise that the Bill should not be seen in isolation but rather as part of an overall package of measures to deal with the unacceptable level of crime which must be tackled by the Government.

Mr. Kirk:  I thank my colleague, Deputy Woods, for sharing his time with me and I congratulate Deputy O'Donoghue on the introduction of this [796] Bill, one of a number of measures dealing with crime and its related problems. There is general agreement in the House that the Bill is being introduced at an appropriate time. It is obvious from Deputies' contributions that crime is a major problem in the greater Dublin area. However, as a Deputy who represents a rural constituency I can assure the Minister of State that crime is also a problem in other areas. For example, in the Louth-Meath area, which is in close proximity to Dublin, the crime problem is particularly acute. One of the reasons given for this is that criminals from Dublin are moving out to areas where there is less security.

This debate has clearly identified an area of great public concern. Crime is one of the main issues about which the electorate are very concerned. Crime levels in both urban and rural areas are now unacceptably high. In the past rural areas were perceived as tranquil and desirable places to live. However, this is no longer the case and many elderly people living alone in isolated places are in constant fear of intruders.

The forces of law and order, particularly the Garda, are overworked and understaffed. It is accepted that a certain amount of crime goes unreported because people know that the Garda are not in a position to deal with it due to a shortage of staff: Some crimes are not given priority simply because of a lack of manpower. The possibility of recruiting additional gardaí has been under consideration by the Department of Justice for a long time. The time has now come to recruit these extra gardaí and put them on the streets. Otherwise we will not have the wherewithal to cope with the increasing level of crime.

Consideration must also be given to the adequacy of our laws; hence the importance of Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill. Last night the Minister said the number of crimes committed by persons on bail increased from 2,494 in 1990 to 4,416 last year. Those statistics graphically underline the seriousness of the problem with which this Bill endeavours [797] to deal. If the Government, and in particular, the Minister for Justice seriously considered the Bill and agreed to accept it they would do a very good day's work for the victims of crime. They would also clearly indicate that despite the fact that it originated in the Opposition benches the Bill had merit and was timely and appropriate. It will also send a message to the general public that all parties in the House are committed to taking immediate steps to reduce the level of crime here.

I spent a period in the Chair last evening and I had the opportunity to hear at first hand many of the worthwhile contributions made by Members on both sides. A constant theme running through the contributions was that much of our crime is drug related. We have the serious difficulty that those who are addicted to drugs have to get the resources to feed their addiction. A person who is addicted to drugs and does not have ready access to the type of resources needed to feed that addiction inevitably turns to crime. There is no doubt that that in itself is a huge dynamic in our crime statistics. That is not to say I do not have compassion for those who are addicted to drugs. They need care, compassion and consideration.

Acting Chairman:  Perhaps the Deputy would bring his speech to a close.

Mr. Kirk:  I had just begun to get into the debate but I respect your judgment and appreciate your position.

Mr. Costello:  I regret that I have to stop Deputy Kirk. I welcome the Bill as a useful contribution to the debate on legislative measures to tackle crime. I welcome also the focus on drug-related crime and the disadvantaged circumstances behind much of it in rural and urban communities. The programme, A Government of Renewal, a policy agreement between Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left, made provision for an [798] examination by the Law Reform Commission of legislation to allow courts to refuse bail where the court considers it desirable to do so. I note the Minister for Justice considers that some of the proposals in Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill are tainted with possible unconstitutionality and that she has instructed her officials to examine a form of wording for an amendment to the Constitution. It appears the proper procedure for both Deputy O'Donoghue and the Minister would be to await the publication of the Law Reform Commission's proposals shortly. It seems silly that the Government should on the one hand request the Law Reform Commission to produce a report on bail laws and to have the proposals pre-empted by a decision or for the Government to be pressurised by a Private Members' Bill to act precipitively.

There is an enormous difference between the two possible approaches. Changing the laws on bail, as proposed by Deputy O'Donoghue, would condition and restrict the liberty of the accused before trial. If we were to change the constitutional entitlement to bail we would effectively deny liberty to the accused before trial. These are the central issues involved in the two different approaches.

Clearly the matter is so complex and of such magnitude that any decision should be taken only after full consultation between the Government parties and, indeed the Opposition parties and certainly after a close examination of the report of the Law Reform Commission.

There is a strong entitlement to bail expressed in Article 40 of the Constitution. It has been upheld and defined in the O'Callaghan judgment in the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Cearbhaill Ó Dálaigh that bail should be denied an accused only on two grounds, where there is a likelihood of interference with witnesses and where there is a likelihood of a person absconding and not standing for trial thereby perverting the course of justice.

The entitlements of the citizen are [799] protected by the Constitution and by that interpretation by the Supreme Court. Under common law and the Constitution there is a guiding principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That has benefits. It has resulted in a situation where a very low percentage of our prison population are in on remand compared with the percentage who are in prison after final sentence. Prior to the O'Callaghan judgment offenders were remanded in custody for up to 18 months awaiting trial: justice delayed is also justice denied. Irrespective of whether a person is found guilty or not guilty subsequently there is no redress if that person has spent 12 months or 18 months in prison. That is a strong point in favour of being careful about the whole question of remand, entitlement to bail and denial of liberty.

What is the effect of the denial of bail? There is only one effect, the loss of liberty. Loss of liberty in our criminal justice system is the ultimate sanction. Since the abolition of capital punishment there is no further criminal sanction than the deprivation of liberty by imprisonment. Effectively it is not an alternative to probation, a fine or whatever. If we deny bail we deny a person his or her liberty. Effectively it is the ultimate sanction after conviction in the normal course of law.

The other side of the coin is that it has the effect of leading to preventive detention. If a person is denied bail on the grounds that they have already committed an offence and are likely to reoffend, we are effectively taking action to prevent them committing an offence by detaining them. There are all sorts of innuendo in respect of internment in Northern Ireland and what it might lead to. That would be the ultimate in the other direction.

One of the benefits of the bail system is that it allows the courts to proceed normally and the Garda to prepare the books of evidence and so on.

We have fewer people on remand in our prisons than most of our European [800] neighbours and it seems to many citizens that the system is tilted in favour of the criminal rather than the law abiding citizen. When it became apparent in the late 1970s and early 1980s that some people were taking advantage of our very fair bail laws and committing crimes while awaiting trial, we introduced the Criminal Justice Bill in 1984 to provide for mandatory consecutive sentences for offences committed while on bail. That legislation has been extremely successful. In 1983 the number of crimes committed by people while on bail amounted to about 8,300. In 1990, according to the figures given by the Minister, the number was 2,494. The other figure that the Minister did not give was that in 1993 the number was only 2,800, still far less than one third of the number in 1983. In 1994, however, the number jumped to 4,416. Effectively, that mandatory consecutive sentence process, initiated by the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, was extremely successful up to and including 1993. Only in last year's figures do we see a sudden unexplained aberration. Has the Minister any suggestion as to what the reason might be?

Let us look at the 1994 figures. The offences committed by people on bail are as follows: 1,648 burglaries, 2,217 larcenies, 547 miscellaneous crimes and four indictable offences. If one looks at the profile of offences that made up the total in 1994 one finds that approximately 90 per cent were either burglaries or larcenies. We need to examine who committed these crimes and what category of crime was committed. I have no doubt that they were drug-related crimes. There has been a huge increase in the proliferation of drugs in the last few years. Increasingly we are finding hauls of drugs in virtually every county on the south coast, Waterford, Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Galway and Clare, as well as in Dublin where drugs are regularly imported and available. Perhaps we are addressing the wrong issue when we do not know the nature of the new crimes being committed and whether the sudden change in numbers that occurred in [801] 1994 can be explained as an anomaly or a sign of worse thing to come.

To my knowledge drug addicts are, of their nature, seeking drugs at all times to feed their habit. They are not people who commit a crime for a specific reason, settle down and might not commit another crime for weeks or months. The crimes of drug addicts are daily crimes, and I refer to drug addicts in disadvantaged areas. Consequently, they will continue to commit crimes irrespective of any legislation we pass. If we could provide some way out of the addiction we would not have a repetition of crime, and until that is done we might as well lock up every drug addict in the city of Dublin or in any part of the country because they will commit crimes to get money to buy their drugs and feed their habit. It is as simple as that. It is a question of law enforcement on the one hand and of providing treatment facilities for drug addicts on the other.

In the city of Dublin we have three satellite centres for methadone maintenance and one national centre in Pearse Street. There are 420 drug addicts on methadone substitute in the three satellite clinics and 190 at Pearse Street. There are at least 5,000 known drug addicts who have come, at one time or another, looking for services in the city. At the very best we are dealing with approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the population who need an alternative means of living without committing crimes. Unless that alternative is provided we have no hope of stemming the need for drugs, and once there is a market, people will have to find money to purchase drugs to satisfy their craving.

We have a small number of detoxification units. I understand we are about to double that from ten to 20. As yet we do not have a system whereby general practitioners are in the conduit system with the satellite clinics so that people who are already responding to treatment can be phased into the general community, and that must be done as soon as possible. We have no in-patient [802] treatment for drug abusers other than Coolmine Community Centre. Other treatment centres are of a private nature. However, it is necessary to take drug addicts off the streets for a month or six weeks or more so they can undergo a detoxification programme and initial counselling and therapy. There are major problems in dealing adequately with the drug problem and until we face up to those we are not likely to make much progress. We should have a multifaceted approach by co-ordinated interdepartmental and interagency groups locally and nationally. We should also consult with European Union member states, now that there are no longer custom officers at the borders, to formulate an integrated system of pooling resources and prevent the proliferation of drugs in all member states. That is the key to the drug problem. It does not matter what powers we put in place to solve the problem of drug addiction. Where the drug addict is not in a position to control his or her own life, putting powers of great magnitude into the hands of the Garda might be counterproductive.

Debate adjourned.

  1.  Mrs. O'Rourke    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if the Government envisages opportunities for alliances in the Irish aircraft maintenance industry; and if he will make a statement on the short and medium term outlook for the Irish aircraft maintenance industry. [88198/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The aircraft maintenance industry has been in recession for some years mainly brought about by the Gulf War. The Gulf War had a dramatic negative impact on air [803] travel worldwide and, consequently, aircraft utilisation rates fell to record low levels. With aircraft spending fewer hours in the air the requirement for airframe maintenance also plummeted. A situation of scarce supply rapidly turned around to significant overcapacity resulting in depressed market prices for maintenance work. The short and medium term outlook for the Irish aircraft maintenance industry should be looked at in this context where there is 30 per cent overcapacity. This has led to a progressive decline in market rates which have fallen significantly since 1990.

It is estimated that 3,600 are employed in aircraft maintenance, including components, in Ireland out of an estimated 5,200 in aerospace activities i.e. maintenance, manufacture and international services. This industry sector is thus an important one, not only for those workers and families dependent for their livelihoods in this area, but also to the Irish economy and the Exchequer.

The National Aerospace Task Force report of 1992 identified strategic alliances and joint ventures as opportunities for the aircraft maintenance industry. The report was prepared by representatives from industry, Government Departments and State agencies. At that time, market conditions were generally regarded as good not only in Ireland but worldwide. The Federation of Aerospace Enterprises in Ireland — established in 1994 under the auspices of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation — is reviewing the task force report and expects to complete this exercise by mid-summer. I look forward to the outcome of the federation's review and I expect that it would represent an important input to policy development in the aerospace industry.

The short and medium-term prospects for the Irish aircraft maintenance industry are bound up with prevailing international market conditions, at European and world level. Key factors [804] in improving the industry's competitiveness and viability will be restructuring measures to increase cost efficiencies and productivity and measures to strengthen marketing and to secure long term contracts. Rationalisation is currently under way in Europe and elsewhere, which should benefit the industry here.

The view in the industry is that strategic alliances are still relevant and may figure in some company plans over the long term. The pursuit of such alliances is primarily a matter for the industry itself but the relevant industrial promotion agencies are available to assist the industry in this process.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  On the question of the short and medium-term outlook, given the announcement of the new enhanced finance package, will the Government be represented, either directly or through a State agency, on the board of Shannon Aerospace? Is there any guarantee in relation to employment, in respect of which we are paying £12 million?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I am not seeking to evade them but I have a difficulty in that the questions the Deputy is raising are more properly related to Question No. 3.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If they impinge on Question No. 3 it would be better to await the reply to that question. I am concerned to preserve the integrity of Question No. 3 until we reach it.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The supplementaries I have prepared relate to the short and medium-term outlook for Shannon Aerospace and other aircraft maintenance industries.

Mr. R. Bruton:  I am happy to answer the supplementaries but this question does not relate specifically to Shannon Aerospace but rather to the aircraft maintenance industry. Provision has [805] been made in the agreement for representation on the board of Shannon Aerospace.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Moneys are now being made available. Is there any guarantee in relation to employment not alone in Shannon Aerospace but in the aircraft maintenance industry in general? Will there be a clawback if employment is not created?

Mr. R. Bruton:  In the agreement with Shannon Aerospace there are guarantees in relation to employment. I will deal with this matter more fully when we come to Question No. 3.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  If a major shareholder in the aircraft maintenance industry was to pull out, what implications would this have for the firm in question?

Mr. R. Bruton:  It would all depend on which firm and shareholder was involved and on the terms on which they withdrew.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister mentioned the figures of 3,600 and 5,200 and that the aircraft maintenance industry was an important one. Is he satisfied with the arrangements which have been made for the financing of these companies and in particular the arrangements which have been made to provide public funds to a private company?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I am satisfied with the proposal which the Government has supported in relation to Shannon Aerospace. My colleague, the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, is working on a five-year plan produced by TEAM. This will have to be assessed. This industry is going through a difficult period. Some years ago it was projected that employment in this sector would double in the space of about five years. There is not the same level of optimism in the industry now. Considerable restructuring is taking place with a view to securing a good [806] future for the industry. I am satisfied that the best advice has been obtained and that we have secured a future for the one company I have been dealing with. My colleague will do the same in respect of proposals presented to him.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister stated that there is no longer a sense of utopia in the aircraft maintenance industry but can there be a level playing pitch?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I do not understand the import of the Deputy's question. This is a very competitive market where people will have to compete on quality. Shannon Aerospace is an extremely competitive company whose costs are comparable with those in virtually all Europe.

  2.  Mrs. O'Rourke    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will give details of the people and organisations that he has met with through his publicly announced forum to discuss the Competition report. [88199/95]

  27.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will give details of the recent discussions he has had with the management of newspapers. [8100/95]

Mr. R. Bruton:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 27 together.

The interim report of the Competition Authority on its study of the newspaper industry has raised very important issues. The report deals with two matters, first, competition from UK newspapers in Ireland, and second, dominance in the industry in the light of the share acquisition and loan by Independent Newspapers in respect of the Irish Press Group.

In respect of competition from UK newspapers in Ireland, the Authority was of the opinion that there was no evidence to support claims that UK newspaper groups, particularly News International, had engaged in predatory [807] pricing of newspapers within the State. In line with the Authority's recommendation on this issue, I do not propose to take further action at this stage with respect to UK newspapers in the Irish market.

The Competition Authority found that Independent Newspapers has a dominant position in the various newspaper markets within the State. The authority is also of the opinion that the acquisition by Independent Newspapers of a 24.9 per cent shareholding in the Irish Press, with the provision of loans amounting to IR£2.0 million to the Press, amounts to an abuse of a dominant position by Independent Newspapers plc. contrary to section 5 of the Competition Act, 1991. Furthermore, the Authority is of the opinion that the 24.9 per cent shareholding in, and IR£2.0 million loan to the Irish Press amounts to an agreement between undertakings which has, as its object or effect, the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition contrary to section 4 of the Competition Act, 1991.

The Authority has recommended that I, as Minister for Enterprise and Employment, initiate court action under section 6 of the Competition Act, 1991, in respect of abuse of a dominant position contrary to section 5 of the Act, and in respect of an anti-competitive agreement contrary to section 4 of the Act.

This recommendation raises very profound questions, not only about competition law and its enforcement, but also about the future shape of the Irish newspaper industry. In this light, I consider that it is very important for me go give the very fullest consideration to the matter so that I can make the most informed decision possible.

For this reason, I have indicated my wish to stimulate a genuine public debate about newspaper ownership and competition in the industry. I am already heartened that very many commentators have publicly expressed views on the issues raised. As part of this process, I have organised a Forum [808] on the Future of the Newspaper Industry to be held in Dublin on 8 May. The main topics to be discussed at the forum are, first, newspapers in a democratic market economy. This discussion will review the plurality, diversity and freedom of expression and contribution to cultural development. In addition, this discusion will review what the Competition Authority said regarding ownership and the issue of dominance in the newspaper sector. The second topic is that of employment in the newspaper industry, Meeting the Competitive Challenge. I expect that this topic will review the FAS Sectoral Study on the Print and Paper Industry, an employers viewpoint, and trade union viewpoint.

I am very pleased that Dr. John Bowman, the distinguished broadcaster and historian, has agreed to chair the forum. I have invited a wide range of people to attend and participate in the forum, including newspaper proprietors, editors, journalists, trade union representatives, academics and those involved in the political and cultural sphere of activities.

The forum is additional to the series of meetings which I am holding with the newspaper owners and editors and the social partners. The purpose of the meetings is to give the major interests in the newspaper industry an opportunity of making their future plans and intentions known to me following the report of the Competition Authority. I am currently in the middle of this process and I expect it to be concluded within a week or so.

I have already met IBEC, ICTU and trade union representatives, and representatives of News International, the Sunday Business Post, the Sunday Tribune, the Cork Examiner and The Irish Times. I also have meetings scheduled with representatives of the Irish Press, the Irish Independent and the National Newspapers of Ireland. At the conclusion of this process, having carefully considered all aspects of the situation, I will make my decision as to the course of action I intend to take.

[809]Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is a little odd that I did not receive a full copy of the Competition Authority report. I do not know who is in charge of that matter in the Department but it would be sensible to let me have a copy of it and I would be glad if the Minister would arrange it. The Minister said that the forum proposed for next Monday will be composed of people from all walks of life, yet the notification I received this morning by letter states that no speakers have been arranged. The Minister kindly invited me to the forum and I thank him, but in the notification he states that the list of speakers will be arranged later. I presume that list is the one the Minister has now given. This day three weeks ago he set a deadline of four weeks to have all the activity on this matter concluded and there is now one week left. Is he considering formally extending the deadline for dealing with the Competition Authority report?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I do not intend to foreclose discussion in a premature way. I have arranged meetings with the various newspaper interests. Some of them expressed the need for a little more time before they meet me and I will accommodate their requests in that regard. The purpose of setting a deadline of four weeks was to indicate that I do not intend to let too much time pass without action. I intend to proceed with all possible haste, but that will be conditional on my being satisfied that all the relevant parties have had an opportunity to meet me. I envisage that the deadline may go beyond the four weeks, but I am determind to act on this report as quickly as possible, consistent with having proper information from all the parties involved.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister did not say whether he would send me a copy of the report. I have met two of the major interests involved and meetings will take place between now and this day next week with all the major management trade unions and journalists' unions in the print industry. What is the [810] Minister's view on the contention by Irish Press Newspapers that the group needs further loans immediately if it is to survive?

Mr. R. Bruton:  That is not an issue on which I intend to express a view in the House, certainly not in advance of meeting the Irish Press Group tomorrow. I will certainly furnish the Deputy with a copy of the full report as published.

  3.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if there are any binding commitments in regard to job numbers in the recently announced rescue package of Shannon Aerospace; if these grants are repayable if certain targets are not met or maintained; and if the further £12 million to be paid to the company by SFADCo is repayable by Lufthansa and Swissair in the normal way by way of clawback if employment targets are not met or maintained. [88204/95]

Mr. R. Bruton:  The House is aware of the very difficult market conditions in the aircraft maintenance sector in Europe and elsewhere and, consequently, the serious problems which have arisen for firms such as Shannon Aerospace. As a result, the company had to formulate a restructuring package to ensure its survival. I participated in difficult discussions in Zurich with the shareholders on the company's future and a framework for further discussions and negotiations between the company and Shannon Development was agreed. Arising from these negotiations and following recommendations from Shannon Development the Government approved a grant support package for Shannon Aerospace.

Revisions will be required in the grant agreement between Shannon Development, Shannon Aerospace and its shareholders to reflect the recent grant support package approved by the [811] Government. The revised agreements will include binding job performance targets, parent company guarantees, grant clawback conditions, and workload commitments by the shareholders. Job targets have been revised downwards from the original projection of 1,075 to 855 and this reflects the difficult market environment.

Shannon Aerospace employs 700 people with high skills in its state of the art plant at Shannon. It operates in an extremely competitive marketplace and, accordingly, it would not be appropriate for me to give details of the conditions which will be included in the revised grant agreement. Legal agreements between Shannon Development and Shannon Aerospace to reflect the new arrangements are in preparation. Shannon Development will ensure that as much protection as possible will be included for the State's investment.

Legal instruments in respect of security for additional State investment in Shannon Aerospace are in the course of being drafted. This security will be in the nature of a charge over assets and will be taken out in favour of Shannon Development. It is in addition to company and parent company guarantees in respect of grants already paid and for which contingent liability clauses already exist in the grant agreement.

The support given by the Government to the Shannon company reflects the excellent productivity and work practices of the staff and workers and the high skill levels of training achieved by them; the substantial flexibility of the workforce with little or no overtime; the recognition by the workforce of the seasonal nature of the workload and the fact that it is widely acknowledged, both here and abroad, that the Shannon plant is one, if not the, most cost effective aircraft maintenance facility in Europe.

In supporting the package proposed, the Government also recognised the serious economic consequences which would arise from the closure of the Shannon facility in terms of job losses, local business and the promotion of [812] Shannon as the location for aviation related and other industries at the Shannon World Aviation Park. Shannon Aerospace has had a major impact on industrial development in the mid west region. This support by the Government should ensure that Shannon Aerospace will benefit from the world and European rationalisation currently under way in the aircraft maintenance sector. The sizeable advantage of the company vis-à-vis its competitors, as I have mentioned, its state of the art technology and its now strengthened financial and other back up support, including workload and marketing by the shareholders, will undoubtedly strengthen its competitive position.

The Government recognises and acknowledges the significant and critical role played by the management and workers in Shannon Aerospace in providing the competitive advantages that a company like this needs. I again pay tribute to the role SIPTU has played during the recent uncertain period.

I assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to ensure that State investment in the company is secured and that it provides the expected return in jobs. In this context, the real security for the existing jobs at Shannon Aerospace and the creation of new jobs is in that commercially viable company.

Miss Harney:  I agree with what the Minister said about the workforce, but there is a good deal of uncertainty among workers. Why did he not insist that Lufthansa and Swissair make a financial investment as part of the rescue package?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I find the response of the Progressive Democrats on this matter somewhat bemusing. It appears the Progressive Democrats are not willing to acknowledge that we have a proposal from the Shannon board which has been vetted as a viable survival plan for 700 important jobs in the region. I am conscious of the concerns about this proposal, but under this agreement Lufthansa and Swissair are accepting [813] additional undertakings in terms of their financial positions and are making commitments of quality work for the future at a premium price. Those are the critical ingredients to securing the future for that company. It has a highly efficient workforce, excellent work practices and now it has a guarantee of work for the future.

Miss Harney:  I do not understand what the Minister was talking about regarding the Progressive Democrats. Surely I am entitled to ask questions. I am concerned to ensure that the jobs are maintained. As the Minister said in his reply, the original job targets of 1,075 have been dropped and I want to ensure that the 700 jobs are maintained in the first instance. How does the Minister propose to enforce the commitments being made by Lufthansa and Swissair regarding work? Is that commitment subject to the approval of the Lufthansa board, which I understand, is meeting next week? Is the Minister aware that the trade unions representing Lufthansa employees in Germany are objecting to that work commitment? Can he give me an assurance that the work commitment will be honoured?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I assure the Deputy that the negotiaitons conducted with Lufthansa and Swissair in the first instance were on the basis of a mandate provided by their boards so it is not necessary to return to the boards for formal approval. I am aware of objections from the trade unions. Under the German system they must deal with their supervisory boards, but I am satisfied that the Lufthansa board will secure the necessary approval. Guarantees have been given by the two partners regarding employment levels. That is a critical guarantee for the delivery of the required work. Their guarantees are in the form of employment guarantees and Shannon has security in those commitments, they do not relate to a party to the contracts of work between Shannon Aerospace and the parent company.

[814]Miss Harney:  Is the Minister telling me that no approval is required now from the Lufthasa board? Is it the case that all the grant aid made by the State to that company in Shannon will be paid back if the 855 jobs are not secured?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  There were supposed to be 1,025 jobs originally.

Mr. R. Bruton:  The Lufthansa board gave its negotiators, primarily represented by the chairman, a mandate to negotiate and they had authority to make a deal without referring back to their board. I have no doubt they will refer to the board to notify it of the agreement reached, but its negotiators do not require board approval. Regarding the future employment and securities, in the event of the employment target not being reached, there is a grant clawback clause in the agreement, but I am confident that given Shannon's 30 per cent cost advantage in the marketplace compared with other European plants and its guarantee of business from two important airlines with considerable volumes of work, the company will secure its existing employment and reach the target of 855 jobs over the coming five years.

Miss Harney:  When will the money be paid?

Mr. R. Bruton:  It will be paid in the next two years in four phases.

Miss Harney:  Does it require legislation?

Mr. R. Bruton:  Legislation is not required to pay the money, but I am aware that Shannon has a certain limitation as do all State enterprises, such as the IDA or Forbairt, regarding the aggregate grant payments and it is coming close to the limit. The industrial Bill which is due to come before the House shortly will provide for the normal adjustment in Shannon's ceiling on grant payments.

[815]

  4.  Mrs. O'Rourke    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if the sale of the State-owned fertiliser group NET is being considered by the Government; if it is proposed to make a decision on the transfer of NET's debt; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [88200/95]

Mr. R. Bruton:  The sale of part or all of the State-owned fertiliser group Nitrogen Éireann Teoranta is not currently being given active consideration by the Government. As the Deputy may be aware, NET is a holding company which owns 51 per cent of the shares in Irish Fertiliser Industries. NET also retains and administers the historic debt which it retained when IFI was established.

With regard to NET's debt, a proposal to transfer this debt to the National Treasury Management Agency is currently being considered. However, the amount involved is considerable and careful analysis by my Department and the Department of Finance as to the benefits and timing of any transfer is required, before a decision can be made in this matter. I expect that a decision will be reached in the near future.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It seems that the National Treasury Management Agency is to become a sin-bin for all the debts in semi-State companies. That was not within the Agency's original remit when it was set up to manage the national debt in regard to which it has been remarkably successful. There is a plan to transfer Bord na Móna's debt of £180 million to it. NET's debt is £184 million. Democratic Left's novel idea of a local loans fund proposes the off-loading of debts onto the National Treasury Management Agency——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is making a series of statements rather than asking questions.

[816]Mrs. O'Rourke:  —— but the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is not allowed to speak on that.

Mr. Rabbitte:  Would the lady like to ask a question?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Does the Minister consider — while I know he will tell me this is a matter for another Minister — that this loading of additional debt on the National Treasury Management Agency will have serious implications for the national debt? Furthermore, will he say whether he approves of this kind of off-loading of built-up State companies' debts on the National Treasury Management Agency?

Mr. R. Bruton:  Certainly I do approve of what is proposed here. Nítrigen Éireann Teoranta is a holding company which earns revenue, not from trading in the marketplace, but essentially from a gas contract it has and which it sells on to a trading company. As the Deputy will know, what happened over the years is that the revenue from that contract has not been sufficient to meet the accumulated debt passed to NET, when the old NET was being structured and Irish Fertiliser Industries was established. Effectively, therefore, NET is just a debt management company. There are considerable advantages in transferring the debt within NET to a larger debt management company, such as the National Treasury Management Agency, which has the resources to manage that debt effectively and, as the Deputy rightly pointed out, also has a strong record in achieving economies in debt management. Therefore, it represents a sensible application of the State resources to consolidate this debt in the National Treasury Management Agency.

The issue as to whether this will impact dramatically on the national debt, as the Deputy said, is a matter for another Minister but we realise that the NET debt is guaranteed and held by the State. This arrangement will move that debt to another company, the National [817] Treasury Management Agency, for its management. It does not increase the debt burden of the taxpayer or the State, it is simply a matter of more efficient management.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Is the Minister aware that the National Treasury Management Agency has not been informed formally of any of these debts to be piled on that agency, but has become aware from reading newspapers, like everybody else, which is something that will have to be addressed? Will the Minister say whether the State is considering the purchase of an Imperial Chemical Industries' stake in Irish Fertiliser Industries and, if so, its cost, or does he have any idea?

Mr. R. Bruton:  That is a different question whereas this concerns what sales we would make rather than purchases. I would have to ask the Deputy to table a separate question on the matter. Of course, the National Treasury Management Agency will be involved in discussions. As I indicated in my reply, no decision has been taken to transfer such debt, discussions are continuing which will involve the Department of Finance, the parent company dealing with the National Treasury Management Agency. I have no doubt that the views of the National Treasury Management Agency will be a very important ingredient in these discussions. I believe that the record of the National Treasury Management Agency in debt management renders it logical and sensible that it should also manage this element of debt on behalf of the State.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  My concern stems not so much from the proper monitoring and evaluation of the National Treasury Management Agency but that it would set a very bad precedent and example for any State company finding itself debt ridden, to have the comforting knowledge that the National Treasury Management Agency would receive it into its ample bosom.

[818]Mr. R. Bruton:  I do not want to repeat myself but that is not what is happening in this instance.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It appears it is.

Mr. R. Bruton:  I will explain it again. NET is a debt management company, it has a certain debt it manages and has very limited revenue from a gas contract. The operating company is Irish Fertiliser Industries, the one that trades in the marketplace and that must guarantee its commercial future. There is no question of the State taking on any new debts from Irish Fertiliser Industries which is the trading company. Essentially what is proposed here is that NET, which separately manages a debt of the order of £160 million to £180 million, should not duplicate efforts on debt management which can be done much more effectively by the National Treasury Management Agency, which was established with the sole remit of managing debt of this nature. Therefore, there are no implications in this transfer of debt for the commercial exercise of any entity trading in the marketplace.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is becoming a sin-bin.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  Will the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, rewrite the policy?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The time available for questions nominated for priority has been exhausted. However, I will allow the Minister to take Question No. 5 in accordance with new procedures adopted by the House for dealing with remaining questions nominated for priority.

[819]

  5.  Mrs. O'Rourke    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will consider giving a share in Irish Steel to the workforce in the event of a sale which has been sought by the Mandate trade union; his views on worker participation, including participation through shareholdings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [88201/95]

  12.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the present position in relation to the future viability of Irish Steel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8107/95]

Mr. R. Bruton:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 12 together.

Irish Steel Limited is currently working to a viability plan which it adopted last summer. In accordance with that viability plan the company submitted an application for a £40 million equity injection and £10 million State guaranteed loan. That application was forwarded to the European Commission on 28 February 1995 for approval in the context of the State aid approval procedures under the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty. In line with normal procedure, the Commission has appointed independent consultants to examine the State aid application. I understand that those consultants' examination of the matter is at an advanced stage.

Notwithstanding the £50 million State aid application being considered by the Commission, I have put in train a process designed to enable the sale of shares in and control of Irish Steel Ltd. As I previously indicated to the House, I appointed IBI Corporate Finance Ltd. to advise the Government in this matter and satisfactory progress has been made on the issue to date. However, Deputies will appreciate that, because of the commercially sensitive nature of this process it would be inappropriate for me to make any further more detailed comment in relation to it.

The question of granting a percentage shareholding to the workforce is one of the issues raised with potential investors and they have indicated that they will consider it. IBI Corporate Finance Ltd., [820] will continue to explore this matter with potential investors.

In general the Government is supportive of greater financial participation by workers in their enterprises in circumstances where such participation is appropriate. This year's Finance Bill includes a provision to improve the tax incentive for employee profit-sharing by increasing the tax exemption limit from £2,000 to £10,000 for approved profit-sharing.

The Government commitment to encouraging employee participation in enterprise is also reflected in the establishment of a new unit — the Unit for Partnership in Enterprise — in my Department. The objective of this unit is to assist the social partners in the encouragement of greater involvement of employees in the development of the enterprises in which they work.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister's reply was a repetition of what he had already told us whereas my question referred to the fact that MANDATE, at its Easter conference, called for a Government Commitment, in the arrangements for Irish Steel Limited, to give its employees a share holding in the company. Is the Minister prepared, on behalf of those employees, to follow-up on the call of MANDATE to Government to give them a share in Irish Steel Limited? Has the Minister met the MANDATE trade union on this question or does he intend doing so?

Mr. R. Bruton:  This is one of the issues being examined by IBI Corporate Finance Ltd in consultation with those who have expressed an interest. The idea of granting a percentage shareholding to the workforce has been put to them as one of the issues to be discussed and the various parties that have submitted bids are considering it. The IBI Corporate Finance Ltd. will continue to press that proposal. At the end of the day, obviously, we will have to ascertain the different purchasers' reactions. I have met the unions but not in regard to any specific proposal.

[821]Mrs. O'Rourke:  I know the Minister has met SIPTU but not MANDATE.

Mr. R. Bruton:  No, I have not met MANDATE since they advanced that proposal.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister was to have met others too but neither he nor the Minister of State turned up.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I was not invited.

Miss Harney:  Will the Minister confirm that the subsidy being proposed by the Government is in the region of £156,000 per job? Will he agree that is not justifiable or sustainable as there are better ways of spending that money? Second, will the Minister say whether the Government will modify the proposal put to the European Commission in relation to the viability of Irish Steel Limited?

Mr. R. Bruton:  As I indicated to the House previously, if you divide the £50 million proposed investment in the company by its employee numbers, you reach a figure of the order of £150,000 as representing the investment involved in this viability plan. This is a viability proposal, not a subsidy. There are no proposals to introduce a new plan but, obviously in entering negotiations with potential partners there will be amendments to the original plan and they will be considered by the EU Commission in its examination of the issue. In other words, if we reach agreement with a partner who decides to reduce the number of products or to alter an element of the investment package, we have agreed with European Union officials that such modifications can be made under the plan. The plan will not be withdrawn. but new partners may have new proposals and money for investment. The £50 million proposal is an outer limit connected to the original viability plan: if a partner is brought in, such an amount of money would not be required.

[822]Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister is like Aristotle Onassis, throwing millions around.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  As the Minister suggested to IBI that the question of granting a percentage shareholding to the workers should be considered, does he agree that it would be difficult to attract investors? Would it not be more fitting for him to make shareholding and more meaningful participation for the workers a prerequisite for a partner buying into the company?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I do not have reason to believe companies will reject the proposal out of hand. Serious consideration is being given to it by some, if not all, of the companies involved. At the end of the day an entire package will have to be assessed and we will have to decide whether the partnership agreement in total secures a future for the workforce in Cobh. I do not intend setting preconditions that might only serve the purpose of making a possibly good partnership more difficult to secure. I will assess this matter in the context of the proposals I receive, but it is not in the interests of the workforce of Cobh or the future of Irish Steel to set preconditions prior to detailed negotiations with partners. This is one of the issues on the table for discussion and it has been raised with potential partners.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  Since the Minister took up office it is obvious there is no great commitment to the continuity of Irish Steel because when replying to questions he continues to waffle in the same vein. What are the losses per week in the company? What has been the downturn in production since January last? This is not the way to operate a business that is seeking a partner. There is a lack of commitment on the part of the Government and people in Cork know that only Cork Deputies are interested in the continuity of Irish Steel. Will the Minister confirm this is the attitude of the Cabinet?

[823]An Ceann Comhairle:  We are having statements rather than questions and new matter is being injected into the debate.

Mr. R. Bruton:  The matter of weekly losses is a separate question and is not information I would have with me when replying to a different question. My understanding is contrary to the Deputy's suggestion. There have not been huge downturns in production or great losses since January. The Deputy is misinformed on the position.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  I am not misinformed.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  The Minister is speaking in divers tongues.

An Ceann Comhairle:  A brief and relevant question, please.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  On the one hand, he is favourably disposed to granting a percentage shareholding to workers in the company, but on the other hand he stated this would make the position more difficult.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am awaiting a question, Deputy.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  The Minister does not appear to favour this.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am still awaiting a question.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Why will the Minister not make this a condition of any partnership? The Minister appears to hold the view that, if a partner buys into the company to hell with the workers. That is not in the best interests of the company.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is flouting the rulings of the Chair. Deputy Harney is offering.

Miss Harney:  Does the Minister believe the Commission will approve [824] the rescue plan and when does he expect a decision in that regard?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I believe the Commission will approve the rescue plan, but obviously, there will be difficulties because members of the Council of Ministers may oppose it. The performance of Irish Steel will be crucial to the negotiations in that it must show it is meeting the targets set out in the viability plan. The convincing argument will be practical achievement of the targets set out in the plan.

The timing of the decision is not clear yet. The Commission's experts will shortly report back to the European Union, but there is agreement to await completion of our consultations with other partners. I expect it will be late summer or early autumn before final decisions are made.

  6.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the plans, if any, he has to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Small Business in the area of labour legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8106/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Ms E. Fitzgerald):  The Task Force on Small Business undertook a comprehensive examination of all factors relating to and impinging on the development of the small business sector. The task force examined administrative burdens faced by small business and, in this context, issued a number of recommendations in the area of labour legislation.

These recommendations cover health and safety, insurance costs, unfair dismissals, part-time worker protection and payment of wages legislation. The task force also examined the EU Directive on the Organisation of Working Time which is due to be implemented in November 1996.

The main recommendations relating to health and safety has been [825] implemented by the issuing recently of a model simplified safety statement for small business by the Health and Safety Authority. The suggested reinforcement of a duty of care on employees has, in fact, existed since the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989. The three recommendations which address the EU Directive on the Organisation of Working Time are being examined in the context of the transposition of this measure into Irish law.

The remaining recommendations address existing legislation which has offered valuable basic statutory protection to employees. A two tier approach to employee rights based on the size of their employers' business would not be helpful.

In negotiating future employment rights legislation at EU level, Ireland adopts a balanced approach and is concerned to ensure that the detail of legislation is framed in a way which will support employment and avoid red tape while ensuring basic standards of social protection.

Miss Harney:  Does the Minister agree that applying this legislation to firms with one employee and to firms with 1,000 employees is grossly unfair?

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  Employees are entitled to basic employment protection rights laid down at European Union level and transposed into our law, whether they work for an employer who has one other employee or for an employer who has 999 other employees.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Everybody is avoiding both the question and answer on this matter because implied in the question is the recommendation by the task force that there should be a two tier system for dealing with labour legislation. I do not agree with that recommendation. Does the Minister of State have the support of the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in her espousal of equal treatment for workers, whether employed in firms with one or 1,000 employees? I did not have the support of the Minister. [826] Deputy Quinn, or the former Minister of State, Deputy Brennan, in that regard.

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  The Ministers in this Department operate as a team.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I understand the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in his earlier incarnation favoured a two tier system. He favoured the task force's recommendation regarding labour legislation and small firms. The Minister of State need not try to convince me that she has his support.

Mr. R. Bruton:  When I was in Opposition I asked questions. I did not offer views.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  A degree of tension is healthy and I was not afraid to give my view when the task force was set up. The Minister of State should not be coy and pretend that everything is la vie en rose between Kildare Street and Adelaide Road, when that is not the case.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us avoid entering into a debate about personalities.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Not at all; they are all Deputies.

Miss Harney:  I would have to disagree with everything I have heard from the two Deputies who spoke earlier. The reality is that Europe is losing out in the international world because of some of these regulations that are impractical, have very little beneficial effect and have the effect of keeping people out of work because they contribute to higher costs. On the forthcoming directive on the organisation of working time, is it intended, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, to have consultation and discussion with interested parties on the implementation of this directive into Irish law?

[827]Ms E. Fitzgerald:  While that is an entirely separate question I would like to inform Deputy Harney that consultations and discussions are taking place between my office and the relevant groups.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is not a separate question because in her reply the Minister mentioned the working time directive. When will the Minister produce the report of the study that has been undertaken? Will there be harmony between the various arms of the Department of Enterprise and Employment on that matter?

Mr. Rabbitte:  Does the Deputy want us to break into song?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Yes, harmony would be good.

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  If Deputy O'Rourke wants to table a question on Sunday trading I will be be happy to answer it.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I know it all; I am well informed. I will not have to bother to table a question.

  7.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the grants which were provided for Sunbeam Industries Limited; the conditions which were attached to these grants; and the amounts invested by the directors and shareholders of this company. [7417/95]

  77.  Mrs. O'Rourke    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he has considered an investigation under the provisions of company law into the way in which the difficulties at the knitwear division of Sunbeam Industries arose; and if he will make a statement on the current status of the State's preferential shareholding in Sunbeam. [88203/95]

[828]

  80.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the reason the State did not intervene to prevent the demise of Sunbeam Knitwear Limited in the same way as it intervened with Packard Electric. [6141/95]

Mr. R. Bruton:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 77 and 80 together.

At the outset I would like to state that Forbairt is continuing in its efforts to try to secure the future of the remaining sections in Sunbeam Industries. This business operates in a very competitive marketplace. Nonetheless, every possible avenue is being explored in the hope that a solution can be found.

On the specific issues raised in the questions I would like to state the following. A sum of £2.75 million has been invested by Forbairt in Sunbeam Industries, including Robert Andrews Textiles, mainly in the form of redeemable preference shares. In addition, a sum of £150,000 has also been made available to the company through feasibility, training, research and development grants. There are standard conditions attached to such funding. They are contained in confidential legal agreements between the company and Forbairt. They are a day-to-day responsibility of Forbairt and not something for which I am responsible. Forbairt is satisfied that the money was used for the purposes for which it was approved. However, the company has incurred on-going losses. Forbairt has been monitoring the situation very closely and it has also engaged outside consultants to carry out detailed examinations of its affairs. I have no information to indicate that an investigation under the companies Acts is needed. The level of equity invested by the directors and shareholders is a matter for agreement between promoters and Forbairt and is not a matter for which I have responsibility. The status of preference shares in the company is that usually attached to this form of share under the appropriate legal agreements, i.e. there is a coupon rate setting [829] out the dividend payable out of its profits and, in the case of redeemable preference shares, a redemption date. In the event of a liquidation this form of share ranks after the unsecured creditors but before the equity shareholders.

I have previously informed the House that the problems at Packard related to an industrial dispute. It was not a resource issue and should not be directly compared with the serious financial problems at Sunbeam. I am satisfied that every possible effort was made to save the knitwear division of Sunbeam.

I have spoken to the company and also the chief executive of Forbairt about the overall situation at Sunbeam Industries. Efforts are still being made to try to secure the future of the company. While this is by no means an easy task I am anxious that any discussions and negotiations associated with these endeavours are afforded every opportunity to be brought to a conclusion.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Is the Minister satisfied that with a State investment of £2.75 million there are assets, as well as redeemable shares in this company, that will give at least some return to the State? On the liquidation of this company, what assets were redeemable to pay back some of the grant-aid paid out? What was the involvement of Forbairt on the board? Was Forbairt satisfied that there were redeemable assets? My understanding is that even the machinery was not in the ownership of the company but was leased from one of the other holding companies.

Mr. R. Bruton:  The issue of recovering shareholding in the event of the company not succeeding is a matter that ultimately would be for whoever was dealing with the affairs of the company. I would not have access to a statement of assets of the sort the Deputy seeks. I cannot go beyond explaining, as I did in the reply, the terms on which the grant aid was made available and the basis on which that money will be [830] paid back to the State in the event of a wind-up.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  It is quite extraordinary that the Government would be willing to invest almost £3 million in one of its agencies but that the Minister would not be in a position to say whether there were any assets to secure some of the State's investment. In regard to Packard Electric, this issue was raised because of the prancing of two Ministers at the gates of Packard Electric as against the non-appearance of either of the Ministers when it came to a serious loss of employment in the Cork area.

Mr. R. Bruton:  The Deputy is misunderstanding me. The company has assets such as plant and machinery. I do not have a valuation on those assets that I could offer to the Deputy.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Is the Minister confirming that they were held in the company that was liquidated?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I do not have that information. That is a specific question as to the location of the assets but I know the company has plant and machinery which would be——

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  It is important that there would be some assets when we are talking about putting State funds into a company. It is my information that there were no assets.

Mr. R. Bruton:  At the time the money was invested this company had a viability plan that saw it return to profitability. In the event, that company has sustained serious losses. The issue as to what would happen in the wind-up in relation to balancing the various unsecured and secured creditors and the preference shareholders would be a matter for whoever was dealing with the financial affairs of the company. It is not a matter for which I would be responsible to the House. I would not have the sort of information the Deputy seeks and even if I had it I would not be at [831] liberty to make public such information. I assure the Deputy that at the time this investment was made a viability plan was produced by Sunbeam which commanded the confidence of Forbairt that the company could be turned around, that it could produce profits and secure employment. In the event, that viability plan went badly wrong and heavy losses were sustained. That was a factor that led to the closure of the knitwear division.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Will the Minister comment on the other sections of the company because questions were asked also about the viability of those operations? In an earlier reply the Minister indicated that Forbairt was negotiating with the company to ensure future viability.

Mr. R. Bruton:  Forbairt is continuing its efforts to find new investors for the remaining divisions. It is proving difficult. I cannot go beyond that other than to repeat what I said in the reply, namely, there is a commitment to make every effort to secure an investor that would give it the strength to continue. It remains to be seen whether that can be done.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Has a decision been taken by the Minister, in conjunction with his Department, not to give high priority to the retention of jobs in the textile industries? Is that a conscious decision because I understand it is?

Mr. R. Bruton:  No such decision has been made. In every situation it is up to the agencies, not the Minister or the Department, to assess the viability of various proposals put to them by different sectors. As I indicated in my reply Forbairt invested very considerable money in the plants involved——

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Nothing like the money the Minister is pouring out now.

Mr. R. Bruton:  ——unfortunately the [832] investment did not work out as it had hoped. It is continuing to look at other ways in which a viable business plan can be secured for this company. The test in all cases is a viable plan that is worthy of support. It is up to the agencies to assess in the first instance the quality of the plan and put forward the proposal where Government approval is necessary. That continues to be the case and there are no favourites. The critical issue is viability.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The only favourites are in Minister's constituencies.

Mr. Rabbitte:  That is breaking new territory.

  8.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    whether he intends to introduce a charter of rights for contract workers in order that they may enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by permanent and pensionable employees. [7764/95]

  79.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he intends to introduce a charter of rights for contract workers in order that they may enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by permanent and pensionable employees. [7416/95]

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 79 together. The term “contract worker” may be interpreted as referring to a number of different categories of workers, some of whom are employees and some self-employed.

Contract workers who are employees, that is persons employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship, come within the scope of employment protection legislation and, in general, enjoy equivalent protection to other employees under such legislation. Persons who work under a contract for services are not employees and, consequently do not generally come within [833] the scope of labour legislation which regulates employer-employee relationships. Such persons enjoy a significant degree of autonomy in deciding matters such as their particular hours of work and holiday breaks.

I should mention, however, that all workers, self-employed or otherwise, are fully protected in so far as occupational health and safety at the work site is concerned by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989, and its associated regulations.

In summary, therefore, contract workers who are employees come within the scope of employment protection legislation and I do not consider that the addition of a charter of rights is necessary.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Does the Minister agree there is an increasing use of part-time and contract workers leading to the casualisation of work? It is always people in employment who talk blithely of the nature of work in future but people who have only experienced casual work long for the surety of what would be termed a regular job. I think we should seek to provide more sustainable jobs rather than applauding the casualisation of work. I would like to hear the Minister's views on this matter, particularly in view of her interest in EU legislation.

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  I certainly do not laud the increasing casualisation of work.

Miss Harney:  Does the Minister agree that this is happening because of the higher costs and the requirements of some of the labour legislation and that the effect of this legislation is leading to increasing casualisation of employment?

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  No I do not agree, the factors are complex and it is simplistic to pick out labour legislation. Unlike the Deputy I do not favour a Hong Kong regime for workers. I think our employment legislation is serving workers and business well.

[834]Miss Harney:  They earn more than Irish workers.

Mr. T. Kitt:  On the question of casualisation of work, is the Minister aware of the growing tendency in companies to use part-time workers in any way they see fit? It has been brought to my attention that out of a total of 63 clerical staff in Stena-Sealink there are up to 30 part-time workers at this time of year. What is the Minister's view on raising the standard for part-time workers rather than bringing down the standard of permanent jobs, as is the case in some companies, by trying to get more casual staff? This is a very worrying trend and the Minister should clearly state her support for the need to deal with this practice as it is an abuse of people's rights which must be addressed.

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  The question referred to contract rather than part-time workers but I agree with Deputy Kitt that greater protection is needed for part-time workers and work on this issue is being carried out at European level.

Miss Harney:  If the Minister believes there is a need to address this issue why is she waiting for European requirements and why does she not bring forward her own proposals? Why does she think there is an increase in the use of contract and casual workers?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Supply and demand.

Miss Harney:  She went to the SFA on these matters.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  She was not invited.

Miss Harney:  She should talk to them.

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  Deputy Kitt is concerned about part-time workers. We have extended our holiday social welfare legislation to give pro rata rights to part-time workers and further issues, pension rights and so on, for such [835] workers are being examined at European level. In any case our legislation will have to incorporate European legislation.

In terms of the increasing number of part-time workers it will always be the case that people are employed on a casual basis to meet fluctuations in demand, and that type of flexibility is good in terms of being able to cope with the surge in demand which any company may have. Issues surrounding the C45 contracts have caused a great deal of concern, a working party was set up to examine the matter and, arising out of a great deal of hard work by the CIF and the building industry trade unions we have made significant progress in that area.

Mr. T. Kitt:  It is important to realise that many part-time workers are getting one-third of the wages of permanent staff. Clearly there is a need for the Minister to address this issue nationally. Will she make this one of her prime objectives when attending the next Council meeting in Brussels? As the Minister rightly said, there is a need for part-time workers and that is accepted by the trade unions but in many cases, as she is aware, they do not have a voice at trade union level and are marginalised. It is my duty and that of my colleagues to raise this very important issue with the Minister as she can be a voice for these people. I ask the Minister to deal with this issue nationally and make it a priority at Council level.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Do not line up with Mr. Portillo.

Ms E. Fitzgerald:  As somebody who has spent most of my working life in part-time work, I will be very happy to be a voice for part-time workers.

[836]

  9.  Mr. S. Kenny    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if, under Consumer Protection legislation, he will deal with a case (details supplied) where a young couple who have received loan approval from Dublin Corporation under the shared ownership scheme have been refused as house purchasers by two estate agents. [3575/95]

  75.  Mr. S. Kenny    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will deal with a case (details supplied) in Dublin 5 where a young couple who have received loan approval from Dublin Corporation under the shared ownership scheme have been refused as house purchasers by two estate agents (details supplied). [5343/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 75 together. I regret that I am unable to intervene on behalf of the people involved in this case as I have no statutory function in this matter.

The regulation of the auctioneering profession is a matter for the Minister for Justice.

Mr. S. Kenny:  The Minister points out the inadequacies of the current law but will he agree that the problem seems to lie in pricing in the housing market? Local authorities who provide loans through the shared ownership scheme value the property independently and try to act as a brake on rising house prices whereas estate agents who act on a commission basis have a vested interest in rising house prices. It is reasonable that the estate agent tries to get the best price he can for the vendor but it is neither reasonable nor fair that he should be in a position to determine the choice of housing finance for a purchaser by refusing to accept as a purchaser persons who have obtained approval for a shared ownership loan.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I agree that auctioneers should not be able to determine the type of house finance available to purchasers. I acknowledge that the difference between a shared ownership [837] scheme and a typical mortgage is that the £1,000 deposit is paid directly to the local authority. I do not know if that has anything to do with the attitude of estate agents. It would be regrettable if that were the case. I asked the Department of the Environment to comment and it records that some reports were received which indicate that a number of estate agents in the Dublin area are reluctant to accept bids for houses from prospective shared owners. It is understood this reluctance is based on alleged delays by Dublin Corporation in processing the legal formalities in individual cases. In response to this the corporation referred a number of cases to private solicitors last year and has employed additional staff in the conveyancing section of its legal department. I am advised that the scheme is now running more efficiently and delays have been reduced to 12 weeks with a target of ten weeks which, I am advised, is normal practice.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister of State will remember that we discussed shared ownership loans during the debate on the Consumer Credit Bill. They are progressing reasonably well in County Westmeath. The problem lies with the £1,000 deposit which is paid to the local authority, not to the auctioneer. I accept that auctioneers do not come within the remit of the Minister of State but rather that of the Minister for Justice. However, consumer protection, as Deputy Rabbitte was wont to tell me, straddles many areas. I remember one hot sunny afternoon when he berated me for not assuming the mantle of the Ministers for Finance, Justice and Enterprise and Employment. Rather than saying it does not fall within his remit, the Minister of State should use his good offices, as he sits around the Cabinet table, not voting but speaking volubly I am sure, to bring the case to the Minister for Justice. It is not good enough in a matter such as this where a couple who possibly cannot express themselves correctly are turned down as a result of accepted Government policy.

[838]Mr. Rabbitte:  I thought it was time for role reversal and I was about to ask if I could put a number of supplementaries.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister of State was asleep and needed to be woken up.

Mr. Rabbitte:  It would have been feasible for Deputy O'Rourke to take over the mantle of those Ministers in the last Government. She could have done it effortlessly.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Get off with your soft talk.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I brought this matter to the Minister for Justice and am advised that the dimension relating to Dublin Corporation, which is the question raised by Deputy Kenny, has been tackled. I am not in a position to say that the £1,000 which is put into the coffers of the local authority rather than the coffers of the estate agent is the critical issue. I hope it is not and if some estate agents refuse to implement the shared ownership scheme and act for clients because of that I hope that practice will be terminated.

Mr. S. Kenny:  I agree that there are no longer extended delays and this is not a valid reason for estate agents being reluctant to accept shared ownership clients. The point about the deposit being paid to the corporation rather than the estate agent is valid because some estate agents are up front in declaring to the purchaser that is the reason they should get lost.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Deputy is correct.

Mr. Rabbitte:  That is not acceptable and the Deputy should bring his observations to the attention of the auctioneering body.

[839]

  10.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the reason it has been decided not to allocate 65 per cent of the Horizon Programme specifically for disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7630/95]

Mr. R. Bruton:  The distribution of the Horizon funding has been negotiated and agreed with the European Commission. This provides 55 per cent of the budget for projects in favour of people with disabilities. The balance will fund projects for disadvantaged people such as the very long term unemployed, substance abusers and lone parents. The agreed allocation takes account of the operational experiences under the Horizon programme to date. It is designed to ensure that the impact of the expenditure is maximised and that the projects funded are those which are most likely to inform and improve national training and employment policies for disabled and disadvantaged people.

These allocations are not set in stone and can be reviewed during a mid-term review if that proves desirable. All training programmes funded under the human resource programme are open to people with disabilities.

Miss Harney:  Why did we not subscribe to the 65 per cent requirement that other countries, with the exception of two others, subscribed to?

Mr. R. Bruton:  I understand it was based on experience of the previous Horizon programme. They looked at the nature and quality of the proposals. Given the success of the previous programme which was based on a 55 per cent/45 per cent they felt that was the appropriate balance. Clearly it is open to review and the Department is open to considering that. There are substantial human resource budgets available. The interests of persons with disability are not confined to the Horizon programme. Other programmes endeavour [840] to ensure that persons with disability have access to training through them.

  11.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the progress, if any, which has been made in selecting a site for a science and technology park in County Dublin; and the third-level institutions he proposes to link to such a park. [6770/95]

Mr. Rabbitte:  As the Deputy may be aware, I announced last Friday, 28 April that, following consideration of proposals from me by the Cabinet, discussions had commenced between an expert group chaired by Forfás — the policy and advisory board for industrial development — and Citywest concerning the establishment of a science and technology park at the Citywest Business Campus on the Naas Road.

The Government believes that the considerable investment that has already taken place in the Citywest campus and the high quality design concept involved provides an ideal opportunity to develop a science and technology park in a timely and cost-effective manner at that location.

Obviously, a key aim of such a park is to promote greater synergy between providers and users of knowledge so that third level resources are harnessed and applied to greatest national economic benefit.

To that extent, the co-operation of the three Dublin universities and the Dublin Institute of Technology has been invaluable in getting the idea off the ground. I look forward to their ongoing participation and that of the Regional Technical College at Tallaght. I greatly appreciate their public statement of support for the project.

It is the hope that the mission statement of the working group on the science and technology park will be realised. It was to the effect that the Dublin science and technology park will build on the research, technical and [841] business development and knowledgebased skills of all the Dublin colleges and of the other knowledge based businesses created in Dublin in order to attract inward investment in knowledgebased industry, high technology manufacturing, R & D and skill-based international services; that it will bring together entrepreneurial driven indigenous companies to provide mutual support in a growth phase on the park; that it will create new and further develop existing networks which help to sustain new businesses in developing areas; that it will provide services from college and college-based research teams to clients of the park and, via networks, to international markets and that it will provide any ancillary activities related to the foregoing.

Mr. N. Ahern:  I congratulate the Minister of State on bringing home the bacon, so to speak, in so far as his Dublin South West constituency is concerned. I further congratulate him on recognising that the solution to long term unemployment is jobs and not handouts which seems to be the philosophy of some members of his party, particularly his leader. How can the Minister justify setting aside the recommendations of the independent consultants who said some time ago that the science park should be located in his leader's constituency of Dublin North West? Abbotstown was the preferred choice of that group.

Mr. E. Byrne:  The Deputy should be serious for a change.

Mr. N. Ahern:  The Minister tossed this idea between other groups in the meantime and if one asks enough expert groups sooner or later one of them will give one a free hand. How did the Minister manage to catch his leader asleep? Is his chair at the Cabinet table padded and more comfortable?

(Interruptions.)

[842]Mr. N. Ahern:  As a public representative for Dublin North West, I am horrified that the science park will not be located at Abbotstown, the preferred choice. The people of the area thought the decision on the location was in the bag given that one of their public representatives is a Minister. Yet the Minister of State has managed to swipe this park from under the nose of his party leader.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is adequate, Deputy.

Mr. N. Ahern:  How does he justify this type of petty constituency politics? It is a bloody disgrace.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is larceny.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Our time for questions is well exhausted and I want to facilitate the two Deputies who have offered.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I take that as a speech in favour of the concept of a science and technology park.

Mr. N. Ahern:  Yes, but it is in the wrong location.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I acknowledge the compliements of the Deputy on my efforts to bring home the bacon. If I told him it was the high quality of the site concerned he would not believe me, so therefore I will not tell him that.

Mr. N. Ahern:  Is the Deputy against the site owned by the State? Has he changed his colours?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Minister without interruption, please.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The official group which was required to make a recommendation on this issue——

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This is the fifth one.

Mr. Rabbitte:  ——did not make any [843] specific recommendation about Abbotstown or anywhere else.

Mr. N. Ahern:  The original one did. If one asks enough questions one will get the right answers.

Mr. Rabbitte:  This concept has been there for more than a decade. Deputy Ahern's former leader, Mr. Haughey, promoted this idea and while unfortunately it foundered at the time, this Government was determined this would not happen. I have no doubt about the suitability and attractiveness of the site concerned and I sincerly hope it will have the support of the Deputies on the opposite side of the House.

Miss Harney:  I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, on what he has done for our constituency. While it is a very prestigious development I note the Minister of State has chosen to locate it on a private sector developed site. Why was an announcement which weakened his position made before the negotiations were completed? Have the negotiations been completed in terms of the costs etc?

Mr. Rabbitte:  The decision to locate the science park on a private sector site derives from conclusions within my Department that if we were to locate such a developmant on a green field site we would be talking of an investment of the order of £20 million. Some people who are concerned about the concept are of the opinion that it would be more than £20 million. In any event it was my view that that kind of investment was unlikely to be forthcoming and that the type of joint venture which is under way now is the ideal arrangement in terms of driving the project to ensure that it is successful both in protecting the character and concept of a genuine science and technology park on the one hand and attracting high tech suitable investments on the other. I assure Deputy Harney that the announcment did not impact on [844] the negotiations which are concentrating on protecting the character and concept of the type of projects which will be permitted to locate there, the dimensions etc, of the university research centre will be located on the campus and that kind of detail.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The short answer is that it is an ideal solution as it is in the Minister of State's constituency. Nevertheless I wish him well with it.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I am prepared to agree with the Deputy. It is a further reason why it is suitable.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That concludes questions for today.

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 Shortall — the need to control horses in urban areas; (2) Deputy Brendan Smith — the need to provide additional funding to Cavan County Council in respect of regional and county roads; (3) Deputy Martin — the urgent need to provide a facility similar to Oberstown Girls Centre in the [894] south of the country to accommodate a minor who is currently without suitable accommodation; (4) Deputy Eoin Ryan — the concerns regarding the use of organo-phosphorus dips for sheep scab and the effect of these dips on human health; (5) Deputy Matt Brennan — the need to commence the construction of a new fire station at Enniscrone, County Sligo; and (6) Deputy Ned O'Keeffe — the need to upgrade Mallow Racecourse.

The matters raised by the following have been selected for discussion: (1) Deputies Eoin Ryan, (2) Martin, (3) Brendan Smith and (4) Matt Brennan.

Miss Coughlan:  Molaim go Mórmór an sár-obair a rinne an t-Aire, an Teachta Breathnach, agus gach duine a bhí páirteach sa díospóireacht thábhachtach a bhí againn le dhá bhliain anuas, chun an Páipéar Bán a chur os ár gcomhair. Tá sé an-tábhachtach anois, ag éirí as an Páipéar Bán, go mbeidh muid ábalta leanúint ar aghaidh leis an obair atá os ár gcomhair. Tá súil agam go mbeidh muid ábalta comhoibriú a fháil idir gach duine chun an cúrsa oideachais is fearr a fháil do mhuintir na tíre agus go mórmór do na daltaí agus na tuismitheoirí.

One of the aspects of the White Paper which has attracted widespread attention has been the lack of significant comment on resourcing, the co-called missing chapter. The level of resourcing for education generally and the relative funding of the different branches of education are where the real decisions are to be made. For example, the chapter on primary education tells us that 91 per cent of the expenditure on primary education is devoted to salaries and pensions, mainly for teachers, while the corresponding figure for post-primary education is 82 per cent. The salary scales of teachers are the same at both primary and post-primary level. This [895] means that the non-pay expenditure for a child in a primary school is approximately £133 while the non-pay expenditure for post-primary students is £387. The real issue is whether the Minister intends to improve the expenditure on primary students relative to that in the other sectors or, perhaps more accurately, whether she will face up to this very vital question. Primary schools and primary children are more than photo opportunities.

On the level of pay, the fundamental decision regarding primary education was taken in 1988 by the then Minister for Education, Deputy Mary O'Rourke.

In 1988 it was decided that staffing freed up by the demographic change would be retained in the primary system by way of reduced class sizes. This has resulted in dramatic improvements in the quality of education available to young people and for the first time since we took over responsibility for education from Great Britain we do not have to be ashamed of the size of our primary classes.

The fundamental question relates to how children get to school, what happens while they are at school and how they get to the next stage. Issues such as school transport, school books, the weight of the school bags, whether children are happy at school and whether they like the teacher are of major concern to parents. It is not of importance to parents who sits on the board of management or whether the Department of Education handles the teachers' payroll. The White Paper is a grand document but much of it has little relevance to the real world of parents, teachers and boards of management who are trying to provide a decent education for young children and teenagers in the cities, towns and villages throughout the length and breadth of the land. The fundamental decision on primary staff funding was taken in 1988 by the former Minister for Education, Deputy [896] O'Rourke — in that connection tá scéal beag agam mar gheall ar sin.

A few weeks ago the Minister took exception to remarks I made in the House with regard to her habit of spending more time talking than listening. I quoted one observer here who said: “she comes to talk, she should stay to listen”. During the conference session at Easter some of the journalists noted the same ministerial custom. The Minister left the INTO Easter Congress in Galway rather hastily to travel to Ennis.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I was not invited for the second session. I left at the coffee break. I did not even feature on the invitations.

Miss Coughlan:  I am quite sure she was invited to the lunch.

Ms Bhreathnach:  I was not invited to the lunch.

Miss Coughlan:  If she was not invited to the lunch——

Ms Bhreathnach:  The Deputy should not believe everything she reads in the newspaper. The Deputy is setting a poor precedent for my successor.

Miss Coughlan:  If the Minister was not invited to luncheon then——

Ms. Bhreathnach:  I was not invited to lunch. I attended six conferences in one week. Anyone in Opposition who suggests that attending lunches, accepting coffee, attending six conferences in one week is not enough is setting a poor precedent for whoever follows.

Miss Coughlan:  I beg to differ. It does not take five hours to travel from Galway to Ennis on probably the best road in Ireland. Members of the Opposition parties——

Acting Chairman:  Can we hear [897] Deputy Coughlan without interruption? Perhaps, the Minister will reply later.

Miss Coughlan:  If the Minister had cared to remain a little longer at the INTO conference she would have met a particular teacher.

Ms Bhreathnach:  I did not see the Deputy.

Miss Coughlan:  Bhí mé anseo cinnte. Ní fhaca tú mé. I was down at the back where I should have been to hear exactly what was going on and stayed for three days in Galway.

Ms Bhreathnach:  The Deputy was lucky she did not have to move.

Miss Coughlan:  This tit for tat has absolutely no relevance to the White Paper but it has to the fact that the Minister takes umbrage at remarks which went too near the bone. At the conference I met a teacher who is a long time member of the INTO and attended conferences on numerous occasions. He told me a scéal about a Minister for Education some years ago who did not attend the conference and had to send his parliamentary secretary, what we would call nowadays a Minister of State. That Minister of State had been educated in the more affluent private sector and was less than familiar with the conditions of ordinary people and national schools. He assured the delegates at that conference that class sizes had no effect on the efficiencies or the quality of education provided in a school. Needless to say, his views were not well received. I cannot help wondering why Deputy John Bruton, who was the Parliamentary Secretary, has changed his views in the past 20 years.

I must at this juncture advert to the campaign for early retirement. I am sure the majority of teachers would prefer to continue to serve up to the age of 65 but — and it is a major but — numerous teachers no longer feel capable of [898] answering fully the children's needs up to the current minimum age for retirement on pension. This situation has become intolerable. It is fraught with difficulty for the teacher — that is a matter of serious concern — and more importantly for the children who, through no fault of the teachers concerned, are denied the standard of education to which they are entitled under the Constitution. I appeal to the Minister to settle this problem on the basis that will do justice to all concerned.

A special problem arises in the area of funding for teachers who are employed as substitutes over a lengthy period, sometimes years. Invariably these teachers are fully qualified. They are victims of a serious injustice in that they are denied the full benefit of annual salaries and superannuation credit for the period they serve as substitutes. Without the service of substitutes the primary system would break down. No financial consideration, whether imposed by the Department of Finance of otherwise, can be held to justify the treatment at present meted out to substitute teachers. A straightforward principle of equality is involved and should be upheld.

I welcome the Minister's announcement regarding the establishment of a commission on school accommodation needs. I urge her to waste no time in setting up that commission which should be given specific targets for the completion of its deliberations. I strongly recommend that the commission be enjoined to bear in mind the social and economic implications as well as the educational implications of any decision on the closure of schools in a particular area. This applies particularly to primary schools. The school is a focal point of the entire community in rural areas. With the local post office and the Garda station it establishes the area as an individual community. This individuality is of crucial importance and should be safeguarded at all costs, consistent with the overriding need to provide a full and comprehensive education for all the children within the community.

[899] The White Paper asserts that the provision of adequate resources for primary education will continue to be a priority. If the primary education provision is to continue as in the past it can only mean the Minister will shrug off any real commitment to the funding of what the White Paper declares to be “of fundamental importance in determining children's life chances”. Let us continue to commit essential funding to primary education. It is the most important sector and we should get away from disadvantage with regard to other sectors, at second or third level.

I welcome the Minister's commitment to the implementation of recommendations of the special education review committee. I ask her to ensure there is no unavoidable delay in the process of implementation. This report has been with the Minister for the past 18 months. There is an urgency about the committee's recommendations which must not be ignored. While the committee paid a well deserved tribute to those agencies already involved in the provision of special education it recognises that the resources available to these are wholly inadequate. This point was underlined in a recent radio interview by the incoming President of the INTO, whom I compliment on her election to high office, in which she outlined her priorities in relation to special education. The necessary resources must be provided for special education without delay. There is a special need for the provision of adequate psychological services to cope with the needs of this area. I am pleased to note the Minister's commitment to an expanded psychological service. Perhaps the Minister would indicate in her concluding remarks the timescale she has in mind for this most urgent development.

With regard to the education of traveller children, how does the Minister propose to maintain continuity and how are the schools to cope with the special problems of traveller children who tend to move during the school year to locations sometimes far distant from the [900] school in which they commenced the school year? These are practical problems to which I hope the Minister will be able to find practical solutions. Otherwise the White Paper simply pays lip-service to the principle of equality in the case of traveller children. These problems will be even greater when the children are engaged in second level education.

According to the White Paper the Minister proposes to establish new education boards. Someone a little older than me, and probably also the Minister, pointed out to me at the weekend that the regions mentioned by the Minister bear remarkable similarity to the regions proposed in 1940 for the evacuation of children from the Dublin area in the event of a breakdown of Government consequent on bombing or invasion during the war. I know the Minister does not anticipate a breakdown of Government for those reasons but it is interesting that these regions are mentioned at a time of remembrance.

Perhaps it indicates no more than that it is dangerous to put any plan on paper in a Government Department, particularly in the Department of Education. We no longer have the borderland region of Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. We now have a region stretching from Malin Head to Carrick-on-Shannon, and it is a brave distance from Malin Head in County Donegal to Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim.

Despite the serious arguments presented in the White Paper, I take the view that the verdict on the Minister's proposals for the establishment of education boards must be marked “not proven”. I am particularly persuaded by the argument about the desirability of releasing the Department from its current involvement in the detailed delivery of services to schools. We are a small country. Already a substantial degree of decentralisation is in operation at primary and secondary level. Boards of management of national schools are responsible for the day-to-day running of activities within schools [901] without being over-intrusive into the roles of their principals and of the teachers subject, of course, to the general guidelines laid down by the Department. The Department is not generally involved in the detailed management of schools.

At second level the degree of decentralisation is greater than at primary level. Private secondary schools operate under the overall direction of the Department in respect of the curriculum. The examination system is strongly centralised, and long may it remain so in the interest of impartiality, equity and equality. The vocational school system has a high degree of independence of the Department and operates largely on its own initiative, subject only to keeping within the budgetary limits set down by the Department. Naturally the Department's influence in the area of curriculum and examination systems is much the same as in the secondary school system.

Similarly, the detailed operation of the comprehensive and community schools is largely independent of any interference from Marlborough Street. Where is the need, therefore, for the introduction of an additional layer of bureaucratic control at first and second level by way of the proposed education boards? It seems that the Minister is trying to justify a proposal by assembling a hotch potch of functions and responsibilities for these new boards which are scattered throughout the White Paper. They do not justify separately or in the aggregate the extremely high level of expenditure which these boards will involve.

On the subject of expense the Minister was quite breathtaking. She acknowledged that additional costs would be involved but did not go into detail as to the amount. Is the Minister content to say that any such costs the Minister may have to pay out of Department funds, which are overstretched, will be outweighed by positive outcomes? Can the Minister seriously expect a blanket approach for her proposals on the basis of such an assertion?

[902] I accept the need for rationalisation, particularly in the area of vocational education. The scope for rationalisation in the vocational education committees is evident and, by the outline given of the geographical remit of the proposed educational boards, that is something that would be properly pursued as a separate issue. However, I am not convinced of the need for the new education board structure or the justification for the expenditure of very substantial resources at a time when there is a crying need for investment at all levels of the education system.

I am happy with the Minister's proposals for the governance of individual primary schools by an eight-member board representing a reasonable attempt to resolve the many difficulties that have arisen in this area. I hope the proposed discussions on second level and post primary education will lead to a similar resolution of the difficulties in regard to a difficult and vexed issue.

The White Paper refers to the new leaving certificate structure and what are referred to as three separate orientations. The case for the structures is a sound one, but I would strike one note of caution. The White Paper states that the leaving certificate is accorded a high social status by students, parents and employers. It is essential that there be no diminution of this status as a result of the projected development of the three separate orientations and that the students who follow the two new programmes should not suffer in any way in regard to self-esteem or social status by comparison with those who follow the established leaving certificate programme. This will be a matter of primary importance for the students concerned and their parents, and it is clear that the ultimate status of the two new leaving certificate programmes will in the end depend upon the attitude of the employer.

What specific modest change in the examination system does the NCCA consider would bring “substantial improvements to the teaching and learning process and to the quality of [903] the educational outcomes in the schemes”? I refer in particular to page 60 of the White Paper. I would never have expected that the NCCA or the Minister would be so coy about the prospect of such an improvement. Who will carry the heavy responsibility for external scrutiny or internal assessment so as to ensure no falling off in the overall standard of assessment or of the acceptability to the community and to the employers in particular? Clearly the value of a system of internal assessment will depend primarly on the elimination of any undesirable element in the carrying out of that assessment in either a positive or negative direction. It will be a very heavy responsibility to ensure the internal system is not open to attack on such grounds. It is essential that the system is not open to attack.

I wholeheartedly welcome the recognition given in the White Paper to the role of further education which has up to now been discharged by the vocational education committees, community and comprehensive schools and to the indication that a wide range of second level schools will be encouraged to provide such programmes and activities. The contrast between the contribution in this area of the first category of schools and the secondary schools, of which only a small number is actively engaged in the provision of further education, could not be more marked. I would support any initiative taken by the Minister with a view to rectifying the imbalance. Can she give us any idea of the initiatives she is contemplating to prepare for this?

I wish to refer briefly to the proposals in the White Paper to extend participation by students from the lower socioeconomic groupings in third level education. It is important that all necessary steps are taken in the selection of such students and in the process of their integration in the college community to ensure that they benefit fully from the third level experience.

I note that the Minister has put a new system in place to facilitate students [904] who wish to transfer from a PLC to an regional technical college but she has made one vital mistake. The one regional technical college over which she has complete control, Letterkenny, has not been included. This is a worthwhile and innovative programme and the Minister should ensure that Letterkenny is included to allow young people to benefit from the third level experience. Access to third level education is now an aspiration cherished by more and more members of the community. It is only right that all those with potential should have the opportunity to profit from the third level experience and proceed to degree level.

What is not always reckoned is the likely negative effect of the third level experience on those who fall by the wayside while pursuing college courses. This fate should be avoided at all costs and it behoves the authorities, particularly the third level institutions and the HEA, to ensure that the optimum support and advisory services are made available to all students given the projected annual increase in third level participation rates contemplated in the White Paper.

I am glad to read in the section dealing with quality assurance and accountability that emphasis is being placed on the need for the development of the teaching skills of third level staff. There has long been a belief that one of the key factors in the achievement by third level students of results equal to their potential is their relationship with their lecturers and tutorial staff. Just as much as it is desirable that ineffective teachers should not feature at first or second level it is vital that third level staff have the ability often lacking even in gifted research personnel, to explain their subject to students, to resolve problems of interpretation and communication and have an understanding of the problems encountered by the most gifted students following the trends of their lectures. Lecturers who lack this ability should not hold posts and it should be the task of the responsible authorities to ensure they do not.

[905] The chapter dealing with sport is most intriguing. It states: “Sport covers a wide range of activities, including organised competitive sport, recreational sport and active leisure pursuits within the Sport for All concept”. One almost expected this “aiste” to be followed by “lá ar an bportach” ending with “thángamar abhaile, tuirseach traochta, tar éis an lae”. I have read the chapter several times and I am as wise now as when I started. It is as if someone decided that a chapter on sport should be included and some unfortunate officer in the Department in Marlboro Street was asked to write it but it was a poor iarracht.

It further states: “There is a close relationship between the physical education programme in schools and sports in the community”. Whoever wrote this aiste could have gone a little further: there is a close relationship between the games programme which teachers engage in with their students during school hours and, more particularly, after school and participation rates in games and sporting activities throughout the community. People in County Donegal know this well; the close relationship between school games and participation rates in sporting activities throughout the community is one of the reasons Donegal has qualified for the national league final on Sunday week. Tá súil agam go mbeidh bua agaibh feasta. Given that we are trying to encourage people to be active in sport and reduce the health bill this chapter does not befit a White Paper.

While I welcome the White Paper, it is unfortunate that this debate is taking place the day after it was published. Parents and teachers are anxious to read it and to consider how we can develop what is an excellent education system. There is no need to fix something which is not broken but there is a need for change. This will present us with a challenge. Irrespective of which philosophy the Minister pursues in running her Department it will be irrelevant and the White Paper “Charting our Education Future” will gather dust unless she can [906] secure the required funding package for the development of the education system. We need to ensure full participation at all levels. This will cost money. When decisions are made they should be justifiable and we should not put bureaucratic structures in place whereby moneys are spent on chief executives, principal officers, HEOs and typists with the result that pre-schools, national schools, secondary schools and third level institutions are starved of resources.

I wish the Minister well. She has a difficult task and we will do our best to keep her on her toes. We look forward to the implementation of the legislative programme as soon as possible. I hope the Minister will consider some of the ideas we have put forward given that politicians were not offered an opportunity to participate in the discussions which took place in the formulation of the Green Paper or at the convention. While it is important that the education providers make a contribution the legislators should also be entitled to have an input. I hoped we would have had time to read each of the 257 pages at least twice; some of us only had an opportunity to read the White Paper once.

Ms Bhreathnach:  The Deputy did well.

Miss Coughlan:  It is a large document and we will have to go through it page by page but the bottom line is that the resources will have to be made available and we do not need white elephants in providing education. I hope the Minister will be able to persuade the Minister for Finance to make the necessary funding available.

Mr. Costello:  I welcome the White Paper Charting our Education Future. I regret that Members on the opposite side of the House have been negative and mean-minded in their remarks——

Miss Coughlan:  It was not all negative: I commended the Minister.

[907]Mr. Costello:  I would have expected better from Deputy Coughlan who is a teacher by profession.

Miss Coughlan:  I am a social worker.

Mr. Costello:  My apologies, but the Deputy is certainly a member of a vocational education committee. The question of resources is a red herring dragged in by Deputies on the opposite benches who did not take cognisance of the Minister's track record to date. The Deputy will acknowledge that at primary and secondary level there has been a greater input of resources since this Minister came to office than we have seen for many decades.

I recently attended the opening of a primary school in Dublin and was impressed by Archbishop O'Connell's blunt statement that in his experience this Minister has the best track record in providing capitation grants to the primary sector. Statistics show that at primary and second level there has been an increase in capitation grants each year, caretakers and secretaries have been appointed, as have remedial teachers, the pupil-teacher ratio at primary and second level has improved and resources have been made available for school buildings.

When the Minister abolished tuition fees at third level there was a negative and mean-minded response from the Opposition who said that the money should be put elsewhere.

Miss Coughlan:  The Deputy is aware that there should be priorities.

Mr. Costello:  The Minister has a fine track record of providing resources at primary, second and third level, yet the Opposition tries to divert attention from this extremely important document.

This White Paper, which is a seminal document, is perhaps the greatest contribution to education in the history of the State. In the past we had no philosophy and no statutory structure for education. It is totally off the mark for people to say that we should not fix [908] something that is not broken. We are talking about a totally different approach to education, about ending an ad hoc system whereby decisions were implemented by ministerial circular without a statutory basis and without going through the proper porcedures of debating the issue. Through this framework document we are providing for the first time in the history of the State a philosophical base and a statutory framework for our educational system. Such an initiative was not taken in the past and proper tribute should be paid to the present Minister.

Throughout its history education has undergone many twists and turns,from the bardic schools and hedge schools up to the present system. It is interesting that this year we are celebrating the bicentenary of Maynooth College, one of our foremost formal education establishments. Before that period our students were educated in hedge schools or in various colleges on the Continent, Louvain. Paris and Salamanca. Maynooth College represented the beginning of our formal education system which continued with Catholic emancipation after 1829. That period saw the proliferation of the system of religious primary and secondary education, much of which exists at present. At third level the Queen's Colleges were established at the end of the 19th century.

The education system had become so convoluted that when the first Dáil sat in 1919 it decided not to establish a Department of Education but a Department of Irish. It did not wish to be involved in the education scenario because that was controlled by other interests. In 1930 for the first time the State intervened, putting education on a statutory basis by the introduction of the Vocational Education Act, 1930. That Act, which has proved eminently successful, showing flair, creativity and initiative, went far beyond what was envisaged at the time. It was responsible for an enormous number of developments in the education arena. I would [909] hate to see the abolition of the body established under that legislation. I am delighted a strong role is still envisaged in the new structures for vocational education committees and much work has to be done in that regard.

The White Paper on Education was first mooted at the annual conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in 1989 in Bundoran at which I was a delegate. The motion passed at the time provided that a Green Paper would be drawn up in 1990, a White Paper in 1991 and legislation introduced in 1992. The gestation period has been longer than anticipated, but there was a different Minister in office up to 1992, to whom we will not refer. I compliment the Minister on the proposed changes in education which were teased out and analysed and on which the various interests were consulted. The legislation in this area will be introduced very soon.

I compliment the Minister on the National Education Convention held in Dublin Castle, to which interests from all sectors were invited to present their views. With the debate in the House on the Green Paper politicians had an opportunity to put forward their proposals on this matter.

The key element of the White Paper is the question of philosophy of education. As a State we must define what we understand by the term “education”. We must set out its underlying principles, our aims and where we perceive ourselves going. A Government of Renewal states that we are committed to a high quality education system which is democratically managed and publicly accountable, to which each person has equal access and which enables people to return to education at various stages of their lives. The White Paper states that the ultimate objective of its strategy is an education system which will provide every student with fulfilling educational experiences at every stage in a lifetime of learning. It is an excellent [910] approach that a new educational framework envisages that education should extend from the earliest learning age of the child to the latest one of the adult. Education is a continuing lifelong process.

Pre-school education has been greatly neglected in the past and I am delighted the Minister introduced the early start pilot pre-school intervention programme designated for disadvantaged areas and that the number of areas at which it is targeted has been increased during the past two years. I am critical of the statement issued by the Primary Education Review Body in 1989 or 1990, the intent of which is included in the White Paper, that much of what is considered pre-schooling in other countries is already incorporated in the primary school system in Ireland. As a result, the Primary Education Review Body decided that where resources are made available they will be targeted at the primary rather than the pre-school sector. I regret the decision of the review body in 1989 or 1990 which has delayed the putting in place of a proper pre-school programme.

Private pre-school programmes are in place and we are aware of their importance in giving young people a head start in education. However, it is crucial that such programmes are in place in disadvantaged areas which have been neglected in the past. While the primary school system is good it is not a substitute for a pre-school programme. That is recognised by the authorities and by the introduction of the early start programme. The importance of an early intervention pre-school programme was emphasised by the Education Convention held in Dublin Castle. One of my greatest desires is that the Minister would press ahead with that programme, extend it nationwide and that it would become an integral part of our State funding for pre-school, primary and post primary education.

I hope the Minister will be able to [911] accommodate many of the voluntary staff who have worked hard under difficult circumstances to maintain play-groups and pre-schools in disadvantaged areas when such services did not exist on a statutory basis and private funding was not available to support them. They could be incorporated into the new system the Minister is putting in place.

Debate adjourned.

Mr. E. Ryan:  I raise this matter to alert public attention to the effects on users of organo phosphorous sheep dips. Research commissioned by the UK Health and Safety Executive carried out by the Institute of Occupational Health published today in The Lancet reveals disturbing findings. Organophosphorous sheep dips are a by-product of the petrol industry. They derive from the same family of chemicals of nerve gases like Sarin. Their poisonous effect on the soil has been known for a long time. Alarmingly, under the regime of compulsory use that existed until this year, always under the supervision of a local authority official, this poison was often discharged directly into rivers.

Also, their harmful effects on humans has been suspected. Those substances approved for use by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry under a compulsory and supervised regime came equipped with advice on protective clothing. That precaution was widely ignored and is attested to in a study carried out by Trinity College to which I was referred by Teagasc. The implications for the quality of supervision carried out by local authorities and paid for by farmers is devastating.

The report of the health and safety executive pointed to the negative effect of the substance on users who did not [912] use protective clothing and it appears that many users of the substance did not use such clothing. The most recent study is hardly less comforting. Its findings of the study carried out over three years show a change in the nervous system resulting from exposure. Affected individuals are reported to have poor mental health and difficulties with memory and concentration. In the most difficult test there was evidence that farmers with the greatest exposure to organophosphates showed the most pronounced effects. The report found a greater vulnerability to psychiatric disorder among those exposed. The findings concluded that chronic effects on the nervous system had occurred in the farmers surveyed which was likely to be associated with long term exposure to organophosphates.

A mandatory certificate of competence is required by anyone purchasing OPs in the UK. In the meantime abolition of compulsory sheep dipping has resulted in an alarming rise in sheep scab. The abolition of the previous regime relieved farmers of the cost of a largely ineffective scheme. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the local authorities who enforced its regulations have a great deal to answer for. It is my understanding that cases are already pending in the UK courts. I hardly need outline the many possible grounds for seeking compensation.

It is appalling that people's health has been irretrievably damaged by compulsory use of products licensed by the Government. I call on the Minister to initiate a full scale investigation. It is time to alert the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to this matter as health and safety must always be an overriding imperative.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie):  I thank Deputy Eoin Ryan for having raised this issue but, as he said, what he had to say was [913] based on something published today in The Lancet. I congratulate him on having been quick off the mark but I am not sure that some of his allegations ought to have been made without some additional inquiry. The position is that the Department of Health keeps in close touch with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and with other relevant agencies on aspects of the agricultural industry which would have any implications for human health.

The position in relation to products which contain organophosphates is that they are subjected to continuous monitoring by the National Drugs Advisory Board, from which agency the Department of Health has requested a full report on the matter. In view of what the Deputy said, I am sure no time will be wasted in the production of that report. I will be in touch with the Deputy when I receive it.

Mr. Martin:  I raise this issue to highlight a most urgent matter requiring immediate intervention by the Minister to provide accommodation for a 12-year-old Cork girl.

In Cork District Court yesterday it was revealed that this young girl cannot be held in detention by the Southern Health Board because the board does not have the power to do so. The Southern Health Board applied to the court yesterday to have an order, imposed on the board some time ago, to care for the child revoked. The board argued that, while it has always maintained this child, it appeared she needed more than they had power to offer her. In turn, the girl's solicitor argued that, although the board was unable to fulfil its function in regard to her, it was better than nothing and no other agency was prepared to intervene to help.

This girl has had a very traumatic background. It is an appalling indictment of the Government that its only response is one of inertia and paralysis. [914] Judge Uinsin MacGruairc said that if there was a facility in Cork similar to the Oberstown Girls Centre, he would be able to fill it with five similar girls. He said this facility should be provided by the Department of Education and not by the Southern Health Board. I share the frustration and annoyance articulated by that judge who is accurate in his assessment of the need in Cork for the provision of a facility such as that at Oberstown to accommodate children in similar positions in Munster.

I am annoyed reading daily in newspapers complaints by judges about the lack of such facilities nationwide. Children with behavioural difficulties are very low indeed on the agenda of this Minister for Education. We hear of the establishment of task forces and of many committees but we want immediate action. Such a facility for young girls is urgently required in the Munster region. Many social workers have contacted me, complaining about the lack of such facilities for young girls in the southern region. The Southern Health Board has done everything possible to find suitable accommodation for this girl but without success. The judge requested the board's solicitor to contact Oberstown, to beseech the authorities to find a place for her.

In the short term it is my understanding that new places could be sanctioned in Oberstown. It is my hope that, in the case of this girl, a place will immediately be sanctioned. Furthermore, I hope a centre for such girls will be provided in the southern region without further delay.

Mr. Currie:  The details of the case to which Deputy Martin refers came to my attention only today. I share his concern that appropriate accommodation be provided for the girl. I am having all the circumstances of her case urgently investigated.

I regret the highly political and tendentious nature of some of the Deputy's [915] remarks. When he speaks about an appalling indictment of Government, I would remind him that is hardly a phrase one should use about a Government which came into office a mere five months ago.

Mr. Martin:  The Minister for Education has been in office for three years; the Minister should not wash his hands of that.

Mr. Currie:  The information at present available to me indicates that the girl in question was assessed at Oberstown Girls Centre early in 1993, having been referred there by the Southern Health Board on a voluntary basis for that purpose. I understand that the outcome of that assessment indicated that the girl was in need of long term residential placement, with psychiatric treatment, for which purpose it was recommended that she be made the subject to a fit person's order under the Southern Health Board. I understand that her case was raised in Cork District Court again on 25 May 1994, on which occasion the possibility of her placement in Oberstown Girls Centre was considered. However, on that occasion, it is my understanding that the Southern Health Board and the judge dealing with her case agreed that given her particular needs Oberstown Girls Centre did not represent a suitable long term placement for her.

I understand that the girl appeared in court on a larceny charge in September 1994 and was placed on remand at Oberstown Girls Centre from 7 September 1994 to 5 October 1994, at the end of which period the court ordered the girl's release and her return home. Furthermore, I understand that, subsequent to her release by the court, the girl was made the subject of a fit person's order early in 1995 and placed under the care of the Southern Health Board, which has and continues to make [916] strenuous efforts to endeavour to meet her needs. I understand that fact has been acknowledged by the courts.

Deputy Martin will appreciate that I must await a report on the urgent inquiry I have initiated into this matter and that, pending its receipt, I am somewhat inhibited in commenting on detailed aspects of the case. While I am not yet in a position to comment on the accuracy or otherwise of press reports on this matter, I understand from such reports that the case of this girl was heard again yesterday at Cork District Court. According to these reports the judge dealing with her case directed the Southern Health Board to contact Oberstown Girls Centre with a view to seeking a long term placement. Furthermore, I understand that the judge adjourned the matter to 15 May 1995 and requested the presence of a representative of Oberstown Girls Centre in court on that occasion.

I understand also from the reports there was reference at yesterday's court hearing to the fact that the girl is due to face criminal charges on 15 May 1995. I am not in a position to comment on the accuracy or otherwise of this report. However, I should point out that a placement on Oberstown Girls Centre reformatory school can be provided only on the basis of a decision of the court to impose a custodial sentence, which sentence may be imposed when a juvenile is convicted of an offence which would result in imprisonment if committed by an adult.

The Deputy will appreciate that any such decision is entirely a matter for the courts and that I have no function in this regard. I can confirm that a representative of Oberstown Girls Centre will be present in court on 15 May 1995 and that, in the event of the court deciding on a referral to that centre at that time, the necessary arrangements will be made. In the meantime, I understand that the girl in question remains in the care of the Southern Health Board. I am [917] at present making urgent inquiries into the provision currently being made and what, if any, additional measures might be taken.

I might also draw Deputy Martin's attention to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 23 yesterday in which I outlined a range of measures being taken by the Department of Education and the relevant health authorities to increase the level of overall accommodation for male and female children in need of care or in conflict with the law. Consideration is at present being given to the detailed planning of these developments, focusing on these additional places. I consider that these measures being urgently pursued will make a major contribution to resolving present difficulties in relation to cases of this nature.

Mr. B. Smith:  I thank you, Sir, for allowing me raise this matter on the Adjournment and the Minister for coming in to respond.

Serious road problems in County Cavan have been well documented but, unfortunately, no progress will be made in the county this year because of the inadequate funding provided by the Government. The reality is that the allocation to Cavan County Council for regional and county roads has been reduced substantially from the 1994 figure of £4.641 million to £4.085 million for 1995. The picture is much gloomier when one considers that, within this year's allocation, there is included INTERREG funding of £1.3 million. Excluding that INTERREG funding, the 1995 allocation, represents a decrease of almost 40 per cent on that provided in 1994. Yet, we were given continuous assurances that the INTERREG funding would be additional to the normal Exchequer allocation.

Therefore, it is totally unacceptable [918] that the Minister should severely cut the allocation to the Border counties and thereafter offset those cuts, in part only, by INTERREG funding, originally designated as additional funding for Border counties. The purpose of the INTERREG programme is to provide additional resources for Border areas, not to substitute for national expenditure.

Road allocations by this Government indicate a total disregard for rural Ireland, particularly for the Border counties where there is an urgent need to upgrade the road network. Since the cessation of violence we have received numerous assurances from members of the Government, Government Departments and State agencies that funding designated for development in Border counties would be additional to the normal Exchequer contribution. It has been accepted, particularly since the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland, that a new urgency exists in regard to the need to remedy the serious infrastructural deficiencies in the Border region. The INTERREG II programme designated for that purpose is, in effect, being raided by the Government for other purposes.

No presentation of figures can disguise the fact that the national provision for non-national roads for 1995 represents a significant decrease on the 1994 allocation. When one considers that total Government expenditure increased by 8 per cent this year, it is evident that the interests and concerns of this Government do not stretch to rural Ireland. Government expenditure has increased substantially while the allocation for non-national roads, particularly in Border counties, decreased substantially. It is interesting to note that the Government decided to increase funding for non-national roads in the Dublin area only.

The Minister's predecessors in the Department of the Environment accepted that particular problems were experienced in Border counties, such as [919] Cavan, and that they had a special case in regard to funding. There were increases in funding in recent years, progress was made on strengthening and improving the non-national road network in County Cavan and, with this Government being offered every opportunity to substantially increase the funding in the 1995 allocation, it was expected that further substantial and necessary progress would be made. The people had every reason to expect a substantial increase on the 1994 allocation in view of the healthy state of the public finances, the increase in public expenditure, the public commitments made by the Government and the European Union to a regeneration of the Border economy, the additional mileage of roads as a result of the reopening of cross-Border roads needing substantial repairs and the long spell of bad weather which adversely affected the conditions of roads.

In his reply to my parliamentary question last week, the Minister stated that the Government had sought a report. To my knowledge the local authorities — particularly Cavan County Council — have drawn up a substantial report on the condition of regional and county roads and the means and funding needed to bring them up to an acceptable standard, a standard to which the people are entitled. More reports are not needed, the urgent and essential requirement is more funding.

There is an unanswerable case for increased investment in regional and county roads. Such investment is vital from numerous points of view, such as the need to reduce costs for industry, tourism, agriculture and road users generally. It has been accepted nationally and at European Union level that the Border areas suffered immeasurably over the past 25 years due to the troubles in Ulster. To attract inward investment and tourists and to provide employment locally we need a decent and acceptable road network. Rural [920] regeneration and development will not take place if the necessary funding for our rural road network is not provided. Rural decay will spread faster and more widely.

We must acknowledge the advanced state of the Border counties on the northern side in terms of infrastructure, roads and urban renewal. The greatest impediment to private investment in the southern Border counties is the total inadequacy of our roads and general infrastructure. The people of Cavan, Monaghan and other rural areas deserve proper access to their homes, farms and work places. They are paying taxes, are contributing significantly to the general economic wellbeing of the country and are entitled to have the serious road problems which beset their everyday life addressed.

I appeal to the Minister to provide substantial additional funding to Cavan County Council at the earliest possible date. The funding provided already will not enable the council to carry out the essential and much needed roadwork schemes in 1995. Every age group, from schoolgoing children to senior citizens, is harshly affected by the condition of our roads. I thank the Minister for coming into the House to respond and hope he will be able to give me good news this evening for the good people of County Cavan.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I am glad to have another opportunity to address the House on this important subject.

The funding which will be available from my Department in 1995 for non-national road maintenance and improvement in Cavan amounts to £4.085 million. This includes £2.2 million by way of discretionary grants, including £700,000 as a supplementary improvement grant. The latter grant is reserved for the purpose of making supplementary allocations to counties in which the condition of the roads is particularly [921] poor and is only available to a limited number of areas. Cavan's share represents 14 per cent of the total amount available for such grants in 1995.

I have also allocated £585,000 to Cavan County Council by way of European Union co-financed specific improvement grants which relate to road projects which help to generate employment and local economic activity. Local authorities, including Cavan County Council, submit annually to my Department proposals for improvement works on non-national roads which can be considered for funding under this scheme.

Cavan County Council has received an indicative allocation of £1.3 million under the cross-Border element of the new EU INTERREG II programme which is targeted at the problems encountered by Border areas in promoting economic development due to distances from the main centres of economic activity. Relevant local authorities, including Cavan County Council, were invited on Tuesday last to nominate projects for consideration under this programme.

Overall grants of almost £103 million will be paid to local authorities this year for non-national roads. As the Deputy and his party are well aware, the resources provided in 1994 were significantly boosted by a once-off allocation from the receipts of the tax amnesty. It is disingenuous of Deputies opposite to comment as if that were not the case. When the Minister for Finance at the time — the present leader of Fianna Fáil — announced this provision in this budget speech he specifically stated it was being allocated on a once-off basis. At the same time he allocated £100 million to the Department of Health on a once-off basis to deal with problems in the health services. The Department of Health is not comparing its allocation this year to that £100 million. It was understood that figure for non national roads last year was once-off as was the [922] case in respect of the tax amnesty receipts. When that is excluded from the equation one will note that this year's allocation is the best ever. That is the reality and we must be fair in endeavouring to bring our non-national roads up to an acceptable standard. It is a national challenge and should be met on the basis of co-operation and work and not on the basis of presenting an unfair and unreal picture.

Mr. B. Smith:  The Minister is omitting the fact that Government expenditure increased by 8 per cent this year.

Mr. Howlin:  When this exceptional allocation is excluded, the overall 1995 figure, as I have indicated on a number of occasions recently, is up on the underlying figure for previous years. We cannot count once-off allocations as part of the norm. That is not the case in the health services or in any other Department which received a once-off allocation last year. The Department of the Environment received a once-off allocation last year to assist people in installing new windows in their houses. That will not recur and this was made explicit by the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, last year.

Furthermore, as part of a longer term strategy a report on county roads is being prepared for Government which will assess the overall state of the network and the cost implications of bringing it up to an acceptable standard. When this report, which is at final stage of preparation, is available to me, a coherent and integrated plan will be put in place to achieve the necessary improvements in standards over the next ten years. That will be a major challenge and I want the help and co-operation of all Deputies, local authorities and county engineers in tackling it.

No matter what form of assistance may be available to local authorities —[923] Cavan included — it would not be sufficient to reach the needs of every area. Unfortunately, for someone in my position, it is necessary to balance all the competing demands and to make overall decisions in the interests of the greater public good and balanced development. Such decisions are not easy but they are, nevertheless, an inevitable part of any Minister's role if he is to act responsibly.

This is not in any way to play down the particular problems affecting Cavan. I am glad to have the opportunity to address those in so far as the non-national road network is concerned. I and my predecessors recognised the nature and extent of the needs arising in Cavan and practical recognition has been given to these problems by way of substantial additional grants being allocated to Cavan over and above the county's entitlement based purely on a pro rata mileage basis. This is appropriate and I will continue to do this within the limits of the resources available to me and the legitimate needs of other parts of the country.

An important point which I am considering in the context of the report is that one must not lose sight of the fact that non-national roads are the responsibility of the local authorities and that State grants are intended to supplement local expenditure, not to substitute for it. Local authorities have a significant role to play in this area. I am interested to note the disparity of contribution at local level between certain counties.

As the Deputy knows, this year's road grants have been determined and notified to local authorities. I assure him that the position of Cavan County Council received careful and full consideration. I am sure the House will agree that the situation which I have outlined represents a reasonable response to the road problems in Cavan while, at the same time, taking account [924] of the very real needs elsewhere in the country. The future position will be addressed in the context of the report on county roads which I hope to finalise in the very near future.

Mr. B. Smith:  Will there be additional funding this year?

Mr. M. Brennan:  Thank you for allowing me to raise this important matter on the Adjournment. I thank the Minister also for being present.

I last raised this issue on the Adjournment on 9 March 1994 in the context of seeking approval for the provision of a new fire station at Enniscrone. Approval was subsequently granted by the former Minister for the Environment, Deputy Michael Smith, and I quote from a letter received from him dated 8 June 1994:

You will be pleased to learn that I will be approving in principle proposals from Sligo County Council to invite tenders for the construction of a new fire station at Enniscrone shortly. I trust that this information will be of interest to you.

Following this, tenders were received by Sligo County Council, the lowest of which was from Kilcawleys, contractors. This tender was recommended to the Minister by Sligo County Council on 12 December 1994. The Department requested further information from Sligo County Council which was promptly supplied. However, to date the necessary funding has not been provided by the Department of the Environment to enable Sligo County Council to formally accept this tender.

The thriving developing seaside resort of Enniscrone is in urgent need of a new, modern, state of the art fire fighting facility. The population of Enniscrone quadruples during the summer months. This fire station serves not [925] only Enniscrone but also a large catchment area of approximately 18 miles long and 15 miles wide. It covers the townlands of Skreen, Templeboy, Dromore West, Culleens, Rathlee, the town and seaside resort of Easkey and the densely populated area along the coast.

Enniscrone now has a modern fire fighting engine which, when being reversed into the station, must first have all of its 35 foot extension ladder removed and dismantled to fit into the building. When this manoeuvre has been successfully completed there is only a four inch clearance at the front of the vehicle when the doors are closed. There are no facilities for fire fighters to carry out necessary work such as cleaning hoses, ladders and essential equipment such as a breathing apparatus, etc. All maintenance work on the vehicle, the ladders and the hoses must be done outside.

There are no facilities for fire fighters to carry out regular fire drills and the nearest station in which this could be done is in Sligo, 35 miles away. There are no facilities to attend lectures or watch videos on up-to-date fire fighting practices or pollution which, in a seaside resort like Enniscrone, is more of a threat to our beaches now than ever before. If there was a major oil spill off the north west coast the fire brigade, with Civil Defence personnel, would be the first on the scene.

Because of the location of the existing building there is a great difficulty in entering and exiting from it. We must not forget that every exit from a fire station is an emergency. The provision of a new modern fire station in Enniscrone fully equipped with the latest fire fighting apparatus, particularly a 64 foot ladder, is essential. I want to pay tribute to the nine fire fighting personnel for the wonderful work they are doing in coping with such facilities.

I thank the Minister for coming to the House and I urge him to make the necessary funding available to Sligo [926] County Council having regard to the number of people who will visit Enniscrone during the summer months.

Mr. Howlin:  I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Approval was granted to Sligo County Council in September 1990 for the preparation of detailed design and cost plans for the construction of a new two-bay fire station with drill yard and training tower in Enniscrone subject to an overall cost not exceeding £290,000.

The present proposal was submitted in October 1991. Following technical examination of the documentation in my Department, the council was given approval, in June 1994, to proceed with the invitation of tenders, and the Deputy was notified of that by the then Minister.

On 12 December 1994 the council submitted a recommended tender in the sum of £304,508 to my Department for approval and this is under consideration at present.

While the capital sum of £4.5 million available for the fire services development programme in 1995 represents an increase of £0.5 million or 12.5 per cent on the sum of £4 million provided last year, the financial commitments in respect of work in progress or recently completed place heavy demands on the capital available. While the case for a new fire station in Enniscrone is accepted, the question of approval to the acceptance of the tender from Sligo County Council will be considered in this light.

In recent years major advances have been made in the development of the fire service nationwide. This Government is fully aware of the importance of a modern and effective fire service to the community and strongly supports the valuable work being done on the development of the service and the improvements in fire safety in general.

Since 1981 some £76.5 million has been invested in the provision of over [927] 80 new fire stations, the purchase of nearly 300 new fire appliances and other fire fighting equipment, and the development of a new regional computer-based mobilisation and call-out system. In addition the Fire Services Council has over the past 11 years provided 147 training courses, at home and abroad, for a total of 2,686 participants.

County Sligo has benefited from the [928] recent investment in fire services provision. In 1985 a new fire station was built in Sligo town at a cost of almost £1 million. In addition, two new fire appliances and a range of equipment have been delivered at a cost of around £384,000. I look forward to the facilities in Enniscrone being added to the list of those available in Sligo as soon as possible.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 May 1995.

  13.  Mr. T. Kitt    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will reverse his decision to reduce the number of places on community employment schemes in view of the fact the cutbacks will have severe consequences for the participants and the projects concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8058/95]

  23.  Miss Quill    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he has received an up-to-date report on community development projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8104/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 23 together.

I and the Government are well aware of the impact of the current level of funding for the community employment programme on both participants and sponsors of projects.

However, I wish to state the reality of the situation which faced me as Minister when I came into office. The reality is [845] that the Fianna Fáil caretaker Government last December had imposed massive cuts in community employment. Their funding estimates would have cut numbers by a massive 16,000 from 42,000 to 26,000 by the end of this year. In effect Fianna Fáil would have decimated community employment.

On coming into office the new Government, in line with its commitment to tackling unemployment, immediately provided more money for more people. We have provided £256 million for an average participation rate of 38,500 during the year. Average participation last year averaged 31,000. It is disingenuous of Fianna Fáil to suggest that it is the new Government that has imposed cut backs.

I fully accept that if you have about 42,000 on the scheme there will have to be some reductions to achieve the 38,500 average for the year as a whole. What FÁS is now doing, in line with its budgetary allocation, is managing the scheme in a structured way to achieve the average target of 38,500.

I have met with John Lynch, the FÁS director general, to ensure that the unemployed get maximum benefit from the scheme this year, that there is minimum disruption to schemes locally and that the taxpayer gets good value for money. I will be keeping the operation of community employment under constant review in consultation with FÁS.

I have also asked FÁS to look at ways of managing community employment over a three year timeframe. The objective of such an approach would be to avoid the stop-go approach that has bedeviled employment schemes for many years.

Community employment is only one string in the Government's bow so far as addressing unemployment is concerned. The Government has, in addition, provided an extra £6 million for the establishment of the local employment service in 14 disadvantaged areas. This new service is designed to promote “hands on” guidance, counselling and placement services for the long term unemployed. This new initiative is a further [846] sign of the Government's commitment to tackling long term unemployment as a high priority.

I am currently examining the possibilities of making further funding available for the programme within overall financial parameters and will be reporting back to my Cabinet colleagues as soon as possible.

  14.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    whether he intends introducing a nationally recognised system of structured training, assessment and certification for retail employees in key occupations in view of the recommendations in the report carried out for FÁS by Goodbody Economic Consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8091/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The recently completed report on the retail sector, referred to by the Deputy, contains a number of important recommendations including, in particular, the introduction of a nationally recognised system of structured training, assessment and certification. The report and its recommendations are being considered by FÁS in consultation with the various employer and trade union organisations involved in the sector.

  15.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if his attention has been drawn to the Leonardo Scheme; the way in which it applies to people with disability; and the way in which he intends to proceed with the programme. [7631/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I am familiar with the EU Leonardo da Vinci Vocational Training Programme, which I launched in Dublin Castle on Monday [847] 24 April 1995. This is an important European programme, the objectives of which are to support member states' efforts to develop their own national policies in vocational training and to add a European dimension to national policies. Leonardo will operate from January 1995 to December 1999. For 1995, the total budget for the programme will be £115 million approximately. There is no preallocated amount for Ireland and Irish projects will have to complete with those from other member states for support.

The call for proposals under the programme will be made within the next few weeks. The national co-ordination body responsible for the operation of Leonardo in Ireland will be based at Leargas, 189-193 Parnell Street, Dublin 1.

The Leonardo programme covers all aspects of vocational training. Support will be available for eligible measures which assist in improving the quality of vocational training arrangements for persons disadvantaged on the labour market owing to physical or mental disability. Groups which are active in this area, should contact the national co-ordinating body in the first instance.

  16.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    when he intends to introduce a new business expansion loan scheme in order that small companies can have access to low cost finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8108/95]

  78.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    when he intends to introduce a new business expansion loan scheme to enable small companies to have access to low cost finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [88205/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 78 together. I am [848] keen to introduce a new loan scheme for small business as soon as possible in order to build upon the success of the small business expansion loan scheme in 1994.

The new scheme, to be called the access to finance loan scheme is the major component in the draft Small Business Operational Programme which was Ireland's response to the European Union's SME Initiative under the Structural Funds.

The small business expansion loan scheme which was run by the ICC Bank last year was very well received and the excellent take up and results of this scheme have shown the need for a further scheme. I am particularly anxious to develop a strategic programme to address the funding gap that constrains small business and services companies from growing. I want to see speedy progress in bridging the gap. The new access to finance loan scheme represents a very significant pillar of the strategic approach that the Government is adopting in respect of the small business and services sector.

Based on the experience gained as a result of the pilot SBEL Scheme operated by the ICC Bank I envisage a number of important improvements to the new scheme. There will be a fund greater than £100 million, there will be broader eligibility for a wider range of small businesses and services and a lower minimum loan size to give access to the vibrant smaller end of the business spectrum.

I am awaiting the adoption of that programme by the European Commission. However, on the basis of firm assurances from the Commission services, I am now about to invite expressions of interest from financial institutions so as to initiate the scheme without delay. I expect to receive preliminary information from interested financial institutions late in the month. A number of interested financial institutions will be selected arising from this process and complete a formal tender for the scheme within weeks of the closure of this preliminary phase.

[849] I am pleased to be afforded the opportunity by the Deputy to outline progress in relation to this very important issue. I am confident that the new access to the finance loan scheme will be of major assistance to the growing small business and services sectors.

  17.  Mr. L. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    when he intends to establish the task force he has promised for the implementation of the report of the National Science, Technology and Innovation Council; the timescale he proposes to set for the implementation of this programme in view of its importance to the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7914/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. B. Bruton):  When I launched the Tierney Report on Science, Technology and Innovation on 27 March, I announced that the Government had decided to establish a Cabinet committee and task force to progress the recommendations in the report.

The Chairman of the task force is Mr. John Travers, chief executives of Forfás, the national policy advisory body on industrial development and science and technology. The core membership of the task force will be senior representatives of the Departments of Finance, Enterprise and Employment, Agriculture, Food and Forestry, and Education. Other Departments will be represented as appropriate. Mr. Dan Tierney and Professor Dervilla Donnelly, formerly chairman and member of the council respectively, are also on the task force. The role of the task force is to report to the Cabinet committee on how best to address the implementation of the recommendations. The work of the task force will be overseen by the Cabinet committee which I will chair and which will comprise the Ministers of the relevant Departments.

As regards the timescale, I share the [850] Deputy's view of the importance of this issue to the economy. The task force has already had its first meeting, on 2 May, and I have set a target deadline of end-October for the completion of its work.

  18.  Mr. T. Kitt    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the measures, if any, he is taking to deal with the exploitation of part-time workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8057/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  Since the introduction of the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Act, 1991, regular part-time employees have enjoyed the same rights as full-time employees under worker protection legislation.

Prior to the introduction of the 1991 Act, part-time workers were generally excluded from the protection of labour legislation, with the exception of certain areas such as health and safety and equality. The 1991 Act extended to regular part-time employees 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 Act, 1977, the Maternity Protection of Employees Act, 1981 and the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Acts, 1984 and 1990.

The 1991 Act also extended 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.

Any employee who feels that his-her employer has contravened the legislation or who feels that he-she is not receiving the correct statutory entitlements may refer the matter to my Department where the matter will be [851] investigated on their behalf or may refer a claim to the relevant adjudicative authorities, where approprite.

General conditions of employment which are not encompassed by the legisation to which I have referred are generally a matter for agreement between employers and employees. However, in certain sectors of employment, rates of pay and conditions of employment are set down in Employment Regulation Orders or Registered Employment Agreements. Where part-time workers come within the scope of such orders or agreements, they are entitled to the same benefits and entitlements on a pro-rata basis to full-time employees. If any employee feels that he-she is not receiving his-her statutory entitlements under such Orders or Agreements, he-she may refer a complaint to my Department where the matter will be investigated.

  19.  Mr. Ryan    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he has received the report of the enterprise development task force at Dublin Airport; if so, does he propose to implement its recommendations, particularly given the loss of jobs at the airport and in North Dublin in recent times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8080/95]

  83.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will publish the final report of the enterprise development task force which was established to identify new employment opportunities based around Dublin Airport or within the Aer Lingus structure; if he intends to implement its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7893/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 83 together.

The task force's report was formally presented to me on 5 April 1995. My [852] Department is considering and progressing the recommendations made by the task force. In line with those recommendations, Forfás proposes to purchase 40 acres of land for industrial development purposes at Swords Business Park which will provide a focal point for development in the area. Forfás are confident that private sector involvement will be forthcoming in the provision of advance factory space on the site which will prove attractive for new companies wishing to locate in Ireland. A community-based group such as the Swords Chamber of Commerce might wish to submit a proposal to Forbairt under the enterprise centre scheme for location of an Enterprise Centre in Swords.

The other recommendations made by the task force concern other Departments and are being discussed with those Departments. I will ask the Chairman of the task force to make arrangements for the publication of the report.

  20.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will introduce a registration of title for architects to enable critical architectural functions affecting the health, safety and welfare of the public to be carried out by responsible and qualified persons. [8097/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I would refer the Deputy to my reply to a similar question on 15 March 1995 (Official Report, column Nos. 1524-1525), in which I indicated that my Department is currently examining the comments, received from interested parties, on a discussion document dated 20 October 1994, regarding legislative proposals for the registration of title for architects.

[853]

  21.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the steps. If any, the State is taking to relieve, assist and counsel homeless young Irish people who have emigrated to Great Britain in search of work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6733/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The Government recognises that a minority of Irish people in Britain encounter severe difficulties either on arrival or at a later stage. To assist them, there is a scheme of Government grant aid to Irish welfare organisations in Britain. These grants are made by me on the basis of recommendations submitted by DÍON, the Advisory Committee on the Irish Community in Britain. The DÍON committee, which was set up in 1984, comprises eight members, six of whom are based in Britain, and they consider applications for funding received from a large number of Irish welfare organisations in Britain.

I met with the members of the DÍON committee on 27 February, 1995 and they explained to me the problems encountered by Irish immigrants in Britain and particularly the difficulties experienced by the homeless.

In the 1994 allocation of DÍON grants, 12 organisations which received funding concentrate primarily on the needs of the homeless, mainly through day-centres or through direct provision of accommodation. There are four Irish housing associations in London providing accommodation to single people and families and all of these have received grant aid from the Irish Government for research or advice work.

The main purpose of the DÍON grants is to support salary costs for professional workers in voluntary organisations in Britain to assist both young new arrivals and older longer-established Irish people in Britain. The actual provision of accommodation is essentially a matter for the relevant authorities in the host country. However, various studies carried out have shown that the Irish in Britain are substantially over-represented amongst both those who are street-homeless and those who [854] must avail themselves of temporary and hostel accommodation.

£500,000 has been allocated to the DÍON committee in 1995 and the DÍON committee will soon be submitting its recommendations for the 1995 grants to me. I will be attending a reception in London on 28 June 1995 where I will be announcing my decisions. A significant number of applicants currently under the consideration by the DÍON for the 1995 grants concentrate primarily on the needs of the homeless.

  22.  Miss Quill    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will introduce a certificate system which audits and accredits in-house training provided by businesses which would improve the technical standards and expertise of their employees. [8096/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  FÁS, using its statutory powers of certification, already assesses and certifies skills acquired in on-the-job training.

The new standards based apprenticeship system places increased emphasis on the apprentice's on-the-job training. Assessment procedures are prescribed and must be completed for the award of the national craft certificate.

Accreditation of prior learning (APL), which provides for certification of skills acquired outside formal courses, is becoming increasingly important. Certification, using APL, can be achieved by two alternative methods (a) portfolio development and (b) formal assessment using the same assessments as would be used in a formal training course. FÁS have used both these methods in pilot projects and this work is being further developed. The development of skills acquired in the workplace is one of my priority policy objectives and the forthcoming White Paper on Training will highlight the need for due recognition to be given to skills acquired in this way. This will be an important element in my proposals [855] to improve the skills base in Irish industry.

  24.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the additional role, if any, he proposes for the county enterprise boards in the Border counties in the dispensing of EU funding. [6349/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  Under the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development, the European Union will co-finance the boards' expanded range of activities in support of small business, including financial supports and the provision of advice, information, counselling and mentoring.

The boards will also seek to maximize the provision of resources for small enterprises from European Union and other funding sources.

To enable them to discharge this role, the boards will be kept informed by my Department of the potential of any EU-funded Border package for the promotion of enterprise activity in their areas.

  25.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the discussions, if any, he has had with the banks and financial institutions regarding the level of charges on banks and institutions to be paid to the Director of Consumer Affairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8099/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I met separately on 19 April with representatives of Irish Bankers Federation and Irish Mortgage and Savings Association to discuss Section 125 of the Consumer Credit Bill, 1994 concerning customer charges.

I undertook, without commitment, to examine any proposals for amendments which they would put to me.

[856]

  26.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the meetings he has had with the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed, the ISME and the SFA since taking office. [8101/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  Since taking office, I have had one meeting with the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed at which we discussed the new local employment service, community employment and other issues relating to long term unemployment. My colleague, the Minister for Labour Affairs, has also met with INOU to discuss issues in relation to long term unemployment.

I have also met with each of the councils of the ISME and the SFA at which we discussed a broad range of issues affecting the small business sector including access to funds, budgetary issues, competition, regulatory framework and their relations with various State agencies. I have also participated in various events organised by both bodies as part of the ongoing dialogue which myself and my Department has with the representative bodies of the Small Business Sector.

My colleague, the Minister for Commerce, Science and Technology, has attended a quarterly lunch meeting arranged by the ISME, at which a number of general issues of concern to that body were discussed.

[857]

  29.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if the report and recommendations of the task group of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce on small and medium-sized enterprises has been brought to his attention; if he supports the view that the recommendations deserve the earliest implementation; if he will indicate a time schedule for their implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8121/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I have received the report entitled “Assisting Small and Medium Sized Enterprises” prepared by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and, subsequently, my officials have had discussions with the Dublin Chamber. Many of the recommendations of this report align closely with those of the Small Business Task Force and many of the recommendations have been implemented or are in the course of implementation.

The small business and services division in my Department is actively pursuing the recommendations of the Small Business Task Force and the report of the Task Force for Jobs in Services. In so far as the recommendations of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce report are aligned they are being pursued or are a point of reference on business opinion. The implementation of the recommendations is a high priority and I am keen to develop new initiatives which will improve the operating environment for small business.

  30.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will ensure that the assistance given by county enterprise boards to small companies is given by way of low cost loans rather than grant aid, to ensure that small companies reach their full potential for job creation in order to maximise the benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8105/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The county enterprise boards have been operating on an informal interim basis since they were set up in late 1993. Their activities to date have been confined to the provision of grants and advice for small businesses starting up or expanding.

In the absence of specific legislative [858] authority, I am not empowered to permit the county enterprise boards to issue loans from the public funds made available to them through my Department's Vote. I also regret that in the course of the negotiations on the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development last year, the European Commission declined to support the Irish Government's proposal that co-financed funding support be made available to enable the county enterprise boards to issue loans as an alternative to grant support for small firms. I intend to seek to rectify the position in relation to the scope of financial assistance which the boards can make available.

The boards are at present being established as companies limited by guarantee. The incorporation of the boards will be followed by the signing of an operating agreement between my Department and each board setting out the guidelines under which the boards will operate as autonomous local development bodies. I also intend to include provision in forthcoming legislation which will put the operations of the county enterprise boards on a statutory footing.

I am confident that the effect of the incorporation of the boards, the signing of the operating agreements and the enactment of the legislation will be to provide a wider and more independent remit for the boards and to assist them in supporting new small enterprises to reach their full potential.

  31.  Mrs. O'Rourke    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the number of official receptions hosted since the change of Government on 15 December 1994; the number planned for the remainder of 1995; the events or meetings these receptions mark; and the number and purpose of such receptions during 1994. [7957/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I assume the [859] Deputy is referring to official departmental receptions hosted either by myself or the Ministers of State at my Department. Since the change of Government on 15 December 1994, I hosted one official reception for the chairpersons and acting chief executive officers of the 35 city and county enterprise boards which was held on 2 February 1995. The reception preceded the offical launch of the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development by the Taoiseach on the same day.

Two official receptions are planned for the remainder of 1995. The first will be to mark the second North-South Irish Innovation Lecture which will take place in Dublin Castle on 16 October next. The second will be held on the occasion of a meeting of one of the bodies of the Administrative Council of the European Patents office, which will be held on dates yet to be finalised during the autumn in Dublin.

During 1994, a total of six official receptions were hosted, as follows:—

Date Purpose
28 March 1994 Joint Department of Enterprise and Employment-EU
Commission Conference on EU
Social Policy (Hosted by Minister for Labour Affairs)
20 April 1994 Awards to outstanding achievers under the PRISMA Operational Programme (Hosted by Minister for Commerce and Technology)
31 May 1994 34the General Assembly of CENELEC, the European Committee of Electrotechnical Standardisation (Hosted by Minister for Commerce and Technology)
27 June 1994 North-South Irish Innovation Lecture (Co-hosted by Minister for Commerce and Technology and Northern Ireland Minister for Economic Development)
14 July 1994 M.S.F. International Conference (Hosted by Minister for Enterprise and Employment)
21 November 1994 Launch of “Continuity and Change in Irish Employee
Relations” (Hosted by Minister for Labour Affairs)

[860]

  32.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will review the application of section 20 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1992, in relation to the circumstances of a person (details supplied). [8153/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Under section 20 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1992, motor vehicle excise duty, motor tax, is payable from the commencement of the month of registration of a vehicle in the State. There is no provision in existing legislation for exemptions from this requirement.

The Finance Bill, 1995 does, however, include a proposed amendment of the current legislation, which, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled, will deal with prolonged delays between licensing and first registration arising after the Bill becomes law. I regret that this provision cannot be given retrospective effect.

  33.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will consider raising the maximum VAT and VRT reclaim limits for cars purchased by disabled drivers and disabled passengers. [8154/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The monetary limits on reliefs of VAT and vehicle registration tax, VRT, for disabled drivers and passengers were considered in the context of a comprehensive review of the operation of the disabled drivers scheme which was completed late last year. The review concluded that the existing combined limit of £7,500 for disabled drivers was reasonable in respect of qualifying vehicles and recommended that no change should be made. This ceiling allows for full tax relief on vehicles up to a retail value of £20,500 at current rates of VRT and VAT. In the case of disabled passengers, the review concluded that the ceiling on relief on qualifying vehicles should be increased from £9,000 to £12,500 in recognition of [861] the potential need for larger, more expensive vehicles. In the case of certain vehicles used by organisations catering for the disabled, the monetary limit may be waived.

The current Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Regulations, giving effect to the review recommendations, came into effect on 1 December 1994. I consider that the limits concerned are both reasonable and appropriate and are not restrictive for qualifying individuals.

  34.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Health    when the report of the review body for people with physical and sensory disabilities will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8122/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I expect to receive the report of the Review Group on Physical and Sensory Disability within the next few months. I would hope to be in a position to publish the report shortly thereafter.

As indicated in the health strategy, it is my intention to proceed to implement the review group's recommendations in the coming four years. The Deputy may wish to note that additional funding of £2 million revenue and £2.5 million capital has been provided in 1995 for [862] the development of services for people with physical disabilities.

  35.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Health    when the advisory group on personal assistance will report to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8123/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The Advisory Group on Personal Assistance Service for people with Physical Disabilities finalised its deliberations in March. The implications of the group's report are currently being studied in detail by my officials.

  36.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Health    the number of people, male and female by county, who died from lung cancer over the past five years; if he will indicate the increase or decrease in the numbers who have died over the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8124/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The number of deaths from lung cancer by county and sex for the years 1986 to 1990, inclusive, is set out in the following table. The latest year for which such a breakdown is available is 1990.

[863][864] Deaths from Lung Cancer by County and Sex, 1986 to 1990.

1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 % Difference 1986 — 1990
County
Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female Total
Carlow 13 2 15 16 3 19 11 9 20 11 6 17 20 7 27 54 250 80
Cavan 18 5 23 22 2 24 11 6 17 19 8 27 15 9 24 -17 80 4
Clare 21 8 29 21 10 31 29 6 35 27 15 42 18 10 28 -14 25 -3
Cork 123 57 180 122 54 176 115 57 172 125 69 194 124 45 169 1 -21 -6
Donegal 44 10 54 26 7 33 41 14 55 32 15 47 38 18 56 -14 80 4
Dublin 319 172 491 335 165 500 350 169 519 328 210 538 314 195 509 -2 13 4
Galway 56 15 71 51 11 62 49 19 68 41 11 52 38 17 55 -32 13 -23
Kerry 38 9 47 40 12 52 24 9 33 21 16 37 45 10 55 18 11 17
Kildare 35 12 47 25 11 36 33 8 41 30 11 41 33 15 48 -6 25 2
Kilkenny 21 2 23 14 3 17 22 13 35 26 8 34 15 6 21 -29 200 -9
Laois 17 3 20 23 6 29 13 3 16 20 6 26 15 5 20 -12 67 0
Leitrim 11 2 13 4 7 11 15 3 18 10 3 13 11 3 14 0 50 8
Limerick 41 22 63 37 21 58 41 25 66 52 21 73 39 15 54 -5 -32 -14
Longford 6 2 8 9 4 13 9 1 10 14 1 15 10 2 12 67 0 50
Louth 31 7 38 35 5 40 26 13 39 18 15 33 32 10 42 3 43 11
Mayo 50 10 60 26 10 36 41 13 54 37 9 46 30 19 49 -40 90 -18
Meath 32 9 41 18 6 24 34 7 41 34 18 52 32 14 46 0 56 12
Monaghan 22 3 25 10 3 13 15 10 25 20 5 25 16 4 20 -27 33 -20
Offaly 15 11 26 13 8 21 21 4 25 12 10 22 15 7 22 0 -36 -15
Roscommon 16 4 20 15 1 16 23 7 30 19 3 22 22 4 26 38 0 30
Sligo 19 11 30 24 8 32 11 8 19 19 6 25 20 9 29 5 -18 -3
Tipperary 40 13 53 27 20 47 35 24 59 32 24 56 44 12 56 10 -8 6
Waterford 39 14 53 19 10 29 23 12 35 23 11 34 24 13 37 -38 -7 -30
Westmeath 19 8 27 14 5 19 13 9 22 24 5 29 15 6 21 -21 -25 -22
Wexford 37 13 50 36 12 48 28 16 44 28 15 43 27 16 43 -27 23 -14
Wicklow 32 19 51 33 15 48 27 21 48 32 19 51 32 14 46 0 -26 -10
Total 1115 443 1558 1015 419 1434 1060 486 1546 1054 540 1594 1044 485 1529 -6 9 -2

As can be seen from the table, there are considerable fluctuations both regionally and between sexes from year to year. It is not possible, therefore , to draw any meaningful conclusions from a sample of this size.

[865]

  37.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the severe difficulties frequently faced by young adults with severe physical difficulties due to the lack of back-up from health services on discharge from residential care when they reach the age of 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8125/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I am aware of the need to develop services further to enable young adults with severe physical disabilities to live as independently as possible within their own community. Health service provision for people with physical disabilities is currently being examined by the Review Group on Services for People with a Physical or Sensory Disability which is due to report to me within the next few months. The group's report will examine and make recommendations on services needed to ensure that all people with physical disabilities receive the appropriate level of support and care to enable them to live in the community.

The Deputy may wish to note also that funding provided for the development of health services for people with physical disabilities increased by £1.5 million in 1993. An additional allocation of £4.5 million has been approved for the development of services for people with physical disabilities this year — £2.5 million for capital development projects and £2 million revenue funding for the development of new services. This funding will be used to develop a wide range of services including home care, day care, respite care, community-based therapy, residential care, technical aids and appliances and for providing funding to voluntary organisations. I am confident that this additional funding will enable significant progress to be made in improving services for people with physical disabilities, including those who are leaving residential care.

[866]

  38.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Health    the counselling that is currently available to people who have had amputations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8126/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): Counselling is provided in the acute hospitals to people who need amputations prior to and after their operations through the regular hospital social work services and through the medical and nursing staff. On occasion, counselling is provided also by public health nurses or psychologists to patients after they leave hospital. The Amputee Support Association also provides counselling and support services to people prior to and following amputation and acts as a coordinating body for all agencies concerned with the care of people with limb deficiencies.

  39.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Health    the proposals, if any, he has for the promotion of women in health boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8127/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The issue of promotion of staff in the health boards and other health agencies is a matter for the management of each agency. I am, however, anxious that each health agency observe equality principles so as to ensure that all staff, irrespective of gender, have an equal opportunity to develop their potential and to advancement on the basis of merit. Health boards and voluntary hospitals are currently reviewing their respective policies in relation to equality of opportunity. The recently published report “Barriers to Women's Promotion in the Midland and MidWestern Health Boards” will provide an informed and valuable input to this review process. Based on the outcome of these reviews, my Department will [867] consider later in the current year the need to develop a policy for the health service generally. The aim of the employing agencies and of the Department is to incorporate best employment practices in a comprehensive equal opportunities policy and action plan for the health service.

  40.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Health    when approval will be given to the South-Eastern Health Board for the provision of a coronary care unit at St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, as part of the overall plan for the development of services for this hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8128/95]

  41.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Health    the plans, if any, he has for the provision of additional medical beds at St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, in view of the serious overcrowding and as a sufficient number of medical beds are not available for the level of services demanded by the public and general practitioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8129/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 41 together. The provision of hospital services in Kilkenny is a matter for the South-Eastern Health Board in the first instance. However, in relation to St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, a major development has recently been completed at a cost of approximately £6 million. This development included three theatres, three maternity delivery suites, a 20 bed paediatric unit and an intensive care unit.

In 1994 an additional £780,000 was allocated for the commissioning of this new development and a further £100,000 has been made available in 1995. Towards the end of 1994, 12 extra beds were brought into operation for medical patients. New coronary care [868] equipment amounting to £71,000 was also sanctioned.

At present, proposals are at an advanced stage for the development of a 45 bed acute psychiatric unit at St. Luke's Hospital. The question of the provision of further services at this hospital will be considered as sympathetically as possible in the context of the many competing demands for resources.

  42.  Mr. Briscoe    asked the Minister for Health    the reason directions from the Minister for Agriculture made under Article 7 of the Food Hygiene Regulations, 1952, which have the force of law, are not being implemented by the health boards; the duration the non-application of these directions occurred in the various health boards; the action, if any, that has been taken to stop this activity; if so, by whom; the action, if any, he proposes to restore overall veterinary supervision and control of the home meat supply pursuant to these directions; and when these proposals will be implemented. [8132/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The arrangements for the inspection of meat and meat products provided for under Article 7 of the Food Hygiene Regulations, 1950-89 are being implemented by the Health Boards, in co-operation with the local authorities where appropriate. I am, however, aware of a difficulty in one local authority area and I understand that efforts to overcome that difficulty are on-going.

[869]

  43.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    if he intends to introduce amending legislation regarding the Statute of Limitations; his views on whether an amendment would be particularly necessary in the case of conveyancing negligence which is unlikely to come to light until such time as a person goes to sell property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8164/95]

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  Under section 11 of the Statute of Limitations 1957 the time limit generally for initiating proceedings based on tort or breach of contract is six years and time begins to run from the date the cause of action accrues. The Act allows for extension of the period of limitation in the case of disability, acknowledgement, part payment, fraud and mistake. In some cases the time period is different. In cases of personal injuries, for example, the period is three years and under the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991 time for those cases runs from the date of accrual of the cause of action or from the date of knowledge, if later. The policy of that Amendment Act, which took into account a report of the Law Reform Commission on the matter, did not extend to any other cases.

The provisions of section 11 of the 1957 Act as they apply generally to cases of tort and breach of contract were upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1994 case of Tuohy v Courtney. However, I am keeping this area of the law under review and the details of any amending legislation that may be decided upon will be announced in the normal way.

  44.  Mr. T. Kitt    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    the present position regarding a person (details supplied) who was suspended from her position at the National Museum for refusing to accept a transfer from her post as staff officer/office manager. [8182/95]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  The person in question, a staff officer in my Department formerly assigned to the National Museum, was instructed on 24 October 1994 to transfer to the Department's [870] headquarters. The officer has not reported for duty as instructed, and as a result was taken off-pay with effect from 18 November 1994 in accordance with the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956.

My Department has inquired into allegations of bullying made orally by the officer subsequent to the instruction to transfer. On the basis of these inquiries my Department has found no evidence to substantiate the allegations made.

The officer has refused to accept any of the efforts made by my Department to resolve this matter, including offers of mediation.

The current position therefore is that the officer remains off-pay, although my Department's offer to assign the officer to alternative duties remains open.

  45.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    the groups which include people with disabilities which receive aid from his Department; and the amount received by each group. [8184/95]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  Assistance is provided by my Department to groups operating in the areas of arts and culture, the heritage and the Irish language which number the disabled among their members but the Deputy will appreciate that the detailed information requested is not readily available.

I would like to assure the Deputy, however, that I very much appreciate the fact that arts, culture and heritage can provide a way in which to help integrate, in a non-discriminatory way, people with disabilities into the wider community and my own Department and the bodies under its aegis remain committed to assisting in this regard in any way possible. An example of this commitment is contained in the recently published 3 years Arts Plan of An Chomhairle Ealaíon. One of the Plan's Strategic Objectives aims to encourage real participation in the arts in terms of [871] availability and access to, inter alia, people with disabilities. In order to give effect to this Objective, the Plan proposes the carrying out over two years of a joint action research project, involving people with disabilities, with the National Rehabilitation Board to establish means to enable people with disabilities to participate in the arts. Another example of developments in hand is the provision of fishing facilities on the Grand Canal at Ballyteigue to include fishing for people with disabilities, integrated into the general facility, with similar facilities planned for other waterways.

  46.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will provide funding for Castleblayney Urban District Council to pipe a dangerous drain at Drumillard, Castleblayney, County Monaghan. [8147/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Castleblayney Urban District Council submitted a proposal to my Department in 1992 for the appointment of consultants to examine the drainage collection system in the town, including the Drumillard area. Given the high level of demands under the water and sewerage programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve the proposal.

  47.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for the Environment    the maximum and minimum costs per site of halts approved over the last six years in the South Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8148/95]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  In the past six years, four permanent halting sites consisting of 21 days were completed in South Dublin. The cost per bay ranged from £29,650 to £58,880.

[872]

  48.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of people killed and injured in road traffic accidents for each year since 1990. [8150/95]

  49.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for the Environment    the main areas of risk where road traffic accidents occur. [8151/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 49 together.

The report “Road Accident Facts”, published on an annual basis by the National Roads Authority, sets out the available information relating to road accidents. Copies of the reports are in the Oireachtas Library. The most recent report is in respect of 1993.

  50.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for the Environment    when funds will be made available for the construction of a fire station at Enniscrone, County Sligo. [8152/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Sligo County Council's proposal to accept a tender in this case is being considered in the light of the funds available for the fire services programme in 1995 and the competing demands on those funds.

  51.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for the Environment    the timescale for completion of work on the extension of the Clonakilty sewage scheme to the Fernhill Road area of the town. [8185/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Given the high level of demands under the water and sewerage programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve this proposed extension.

[873]

  52.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Education    the number of travelling special needs teachers; the areas covered by each teacher; and the number of students seen by each teacher. [8133/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  There are 37 teachers employed in the visiting teacher service at present. This service is available throughout the entire country. The role of the visiting teacher service is to assist ordinary school staff in meeting the special educational needs of children with certain types of disabilities. At present this service extends to the needs of children attending ordinary classes and special pupils who suffer from visual or hearing impairment and Downs Syndrome children. The work of the visiting teacher can involve instruction to individuals or groups of pupils, together with an advisory and support service for both teachers and parents.

The frequency of visits to individual children can vary depending on the level of need. Details of the number of students visited by individual visiting teachers are not readily available to my Department.

There is a separate visiting teacher service dedicated to the needs of traveller children attending ordinary primary schools. A total of 12 visiting teachers are employed in this service. I propose to appoint a further five teachers with effect from September next. This service is currently available in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Wexford. Arrangements are being made to fill a vacancy in Laois-Offaly.

I should also point out that in recent years my Department has introduced a new innovation whereby a special resource teacher can be attached to a school in a local area to meet the needs of groups of children with disabilities attending ordinary schools in that area.

To date, a total of 26 resource teachers have been put in place. I recently announced my intention to [874] appoint an additional ten resource teachers with effect from September next. While the role of the resource teacher is similar to that of the visiting teacher, the resource teacher model can be the more appropriate response in circumstances in which a significant number of pupils with special needs are identified in a local area.

  53.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Education    if she has satisfied herself with the level of teacher training for meeting the needs of students with disabilities within non-special schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8134/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Graduates of the colleges of education for primary teaching are qualified to teach in both ordinary and special national schools.

From the information available to my Department about the content of both the pre-service primary teacher training courses and relevant in-career development courses, I am satisfied that the level of teacher training is adequate to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

  54.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Education    when a decision will be made on an application from Letterfrack National School, County Galway, for an extension to the school building. [8136/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  A decision on the school's application for an extension was conveyed to the chairman of the board of management on 22 March 1995. My Department decided not to grant-aid the provision of additional permanent accommodation at this school on the basis that a projection of future enrolments indicates that the [875] school will not require additional classrooms in the long term. The school was advised that my Department would consider the grant-aiding of temporary accommodation.

  55.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Education    if she will provide funding to encourage schools to engage in cross-Border exchanges and projects. [8139/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department currently provides funding for several cross-Border exchanges and projects. In recent years considerable progress has been made to develop partnerships between schools in Ireland North and South.

The two Departments of Education on the island of Ireland jointly fund and manage the European studies project. This curricular-based pilot project involves post-primary schools in the Republic, in Northern Ireland and on the European mainland. Both Departments of Education are examining the possibilities for further developing the project.

In addition to the European studies project, there is a North/South teacher exchange scheme and a study tour for principal teachers which is co-ordinated in the Republic by Leargas.

The Pushkin project is a further North/South project which aims to use the arts, particularly creative writing, to integrate children across social, religious and political divides; again, funding is provided by both Departments.

The Department of Education also aids Co-Operation North in respect of the operation of its “Youth Links” and “School Links” programmes.

Socrates, the new European Community Action Programme in the field of education, will assist in the development of school partnership projects in future years.

[876]

  56.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Education    the plans, if any, she has to encourage students to take music as a leaving certificate subject. [8140/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  As Minister for Education. I support the further development of music at all stages of the educational system and, in particular, at leaving certificate level.

Much excellent work is already going on as part of the development of this subject in post-primary schools. Three main areas of achievement can be clearly identified to date:

—A new Music syllabus for Junior Cycle, prepared by the NCCA and my Department, was examined for the first time in 1994. This new programme encourages the practical and creative involvement by all pupils and enhances their ability to enjoy and appreciate Music. The whole-hearted enthusiasm it has received is most encouraging.

—The new Transition Year Programme, which was extended to the majority of second-level schools in 1994-95, gives an opportunity to schools to include interesting and varied programmes in the Arts, including Music, for all Transition Year pupils, without stress of examination. I expect that some of these young people will continue to study Music, either formally or informally, for the remaining two years at school.

It is hoped that these two developments will enhance Music education in schools and will result in increased participation in the Leaving Certificate Music programme.

—A new Leaving Certificate syllabus in Music is at an advanced stage of planning by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. It will provide progression from the [877] new Junior Certificate Music Syllabus. It will take account of recent developments and modern techniques and approaches in Music education.

The course is designed to cater for a wider range of pupil interests and aptitudes. This will result in an increased participation rate in Music as a subject at Leaving Certificate level.

—In 1994, a special committee was convened to draw up interim arrangements for Leaving Certificate Music until such time as the revised syllabus is introduced. In addition to looking at aspects of the Junior Certificate syllabus, the members recommended imaginative possibilities for performing, including Solo Singing. These recommendations have been implemented.

  57.  Ms F. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for Education    the plans, if any, she has initiated to provide additional third level places in the coming year. [8142/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department is at present proceeding with the implementation of a major capital development programme for the third level sector. The development, which includes the £120 million European Regional Development Fund programme I announced on 13 January 1994, is designed to assist the institutions in meeting expected growth in student numbers.

[878]

  58.  Mr. Foxe    asked the Minister for Education    the progress to date in researching the problems arising from the proposed amalgamation of the three post-primary schools in Ballaghaderreen; if the problems will be resolved satisfactorily for the next school year; and if not, the plans, if any, she has for the pupils and teachers of the three schools involved. [8143/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Discussions are ongoing between my Department and the interested parties in relation to the proposed amalgamation of the three schools in Ballaghaderreen.

Every effort is being made by my officials to ensure that the matters of concern to the management authorities and the teachers will be resolved in sufficient time for the amalgamation to take place, as planned, at the commencement of the 1995-96 school year.

  59.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Education    if she will specify the criteria used by the governing body of the Dublin Institute of Technology in deciding whether lecturers should be allowed to undertake work outside the institute; and if she has satisfied herself that these criteria are applied impartially and in a manner which minimises disruption of courses and ensures the best service to students. [8144/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The Dublin Institute of Technology was established on a statutory basis under the provisions of the Dublin Institute of Technology Act, 1992. The governance and day to day activities of that institute are matters for the governing body and the management of the institute. Accordingly, I would refer the Deputy to the President of the institute for any further information which she may require.

[879]

  60.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Education    if she has satisfied herself that suitably qualified candidates were interviewed for all lectureships filled in the last ten years in the Aungier Street College of the Dublin Institute of Technology formerly the College of Commerce, Rathmines. [8145/95]

  61.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Education    if proper procedures were followed for all promotions to lecturer 2 in the Aungier Street college of the Dublin Institute of Technology over the past ten years; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that on at least one occasion interviews for a lecturer 2 post were held during the summer holidays and that all eligible staff were not invited to be interviewed. [8146/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 61 together. The Dublin Institute of Technology was established on a statutory basis under the provisions of the Dublin Institute of Technology Act, 1992. The governance and day to day activities of the institute are matters for the governing body and the management of the institute. Prior to the 1992 Act, the colleges of the institute operated under the provisions of the Vocational Education Act, 1930.

I have no reason to believe that the procedures in relation to interviews and promotions operated by the institute have been other than proper.

If the Deputy has particular concerns about specific cases she might wish to raise them in the first instance with the President of the institute.

  62.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Education    if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a classroom aide is required for a school (details supplied) in County Limerick in view of the fact that there is a child who is physically handicapped in the school; and if she will make a statement of the matter detailing the assistance, if any, her Department will provide. [8183/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I recently announced that I intend to allocate an additional [880] 100 child care assistant posts in 1995, to assist school teaching staff in dealing with pupils with special needs. My Department is currently assessing needs in this area to ensure that the posts in question are allocated to best effect.

The needs of the school referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered in the context of this allocation.

  63.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Justice    if she has received a Garda report regarding tyre slashing in the Donnybrook and Ranelagh areas during the Easter weekend; the number of tyres slashed; the volume of the property damaged; and if she will make a statement on the progress of the Garda investigation. [8179/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that 72 vehicles were subjected to these attacks. 118 tyres were slashed and the total cost of the damage is estimated at £4,720. Garda inquiries into the incident are continuing.

  64.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Justice    the steps, if any, she is taking to ensure that the portion of the basement of Longford Court House now in the occupation of the owners of the adjoining premises are brought back into county council occupancy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8190/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  Longford County Council are the owners of the courthouse and it is a matter for them to pursue this matter with the occupiers of the basement.

[881]

  65.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Justice    the number of post offices and sub-post offices in the greater Dublin area and the rest of the country which have been the subject of robberies in the years 1992, 1993 and 1994; the number of persons injured during theses robberies; the amount taken in each incident; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8191/95]

[882]Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the available information sought by the Deputy is as follows:

Number of Post Offices which were the subject of robbery or aggravated burglary using firearms.

Year Dublin Metropolitan Area (DMA) Outside DMA Total
1992 26 12 38
1993 51 9 60
1994 29 19 48

The information sought by the Deputy regarding the number of persons injured during these robberies and the amount taken in each incident is not readily available from Garda files but I understand that it may be available from the records of An Post.

  66.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Justice    the views, if any, she has regarding comments from residents in the Donaghmede area of Dublin that the Garda presence in the area is insufficient to combat the rising crime incidence in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8192/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are satisfied that the present deployment of resources is sufficient to deal with crime in the area and that policing arrangements are continuously monitored in order to ensure that the area receives the maximum possible Garda attention. The Donaghmede area is regularly patrolled by foot and mobile units, with back-up support from specialist units. In this regard, the Crime-Drugs Unit, which was recently established in the Coolock sub-District, has targeted the Donaghmede area for attention.

It is noted that crime in the Coolock sub-District, which includes Donaghmede, has declined since 1992:

Indictable crimes in Coolock sub-District.

1992 1,240
1993 1,096
1994 1,138*

*Provisional

  67.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the voluntary groups of people with disabilities which receive funding from his Department; and the amount received by each group. [8167/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  My Department operates a number of grant schemes for voluntary and community groups, including the scheme of grants to voluntary organisations, scheme of grants for locally-based women's groups, scheme of grants for locally-based men's groups and scheme of grants for lone parents. These are all once-off grant schemes. The 1995 schemes were advertised on 9 March and the closing date for receipt of applications was 26 April. Details of all grants paid under these various schemes in 1993 and 1994, including the grants paid to disability groups, have been placed in the Oireachtas Library for the information of members.

In addition to these once-off grant [883] schemes, my Department operates a community development programme. The aim of this programme is to provide financial assistance to projects towards the staffing and equipping of local resource centres which provide a focal point for community development activities in an area and to other specialised community development projects. Participating projects are funded for a three year period. One such specialised project is a special project for people with disabilities operated through the Irish Wheelchair Association. This project was established in 1993. It received funding of £20,000 in that year, £30,000 in 1994 and has a commitment to £40,000 in 1995.

The Deputy may wish to note that the Department of Health has responsibility for funding of voluntary organisations providing social services appropriate to the health services. This includes organisations dealing with people with disabilities.

  68.  Mr. Hughes    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the number of persons in Mayo in receipt of non-contributory old age pension. [8171/95]

  69.  Mr. Hughes    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the percentage increase in non-contributory old age pension from April 1975, to date; and the corresponding figures for the rate of inflation from 1975 to date. [8172/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 68 and 69 together.

At end March 1995 there were approximately 7,250 people in Mayo in receipt of an old age non-contributory pension.

The rate of pension increased by 572 per cent in the period 1975 to date while inflation in the same period is estimated at 359 per cent, resulting in a real increase in the rate of pension of over 46 per cent.

[884] In addition these pensioners are entitled to the free fuel allowance, and to the other free schemes i.e. free travel, free electricity allowance, free TV licence and free telephone rental allowance subject to the eligibility conditions applicable to each scheme.

  70.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the cost of the fuel allowance scheme for the season just ended as compared to the same period last year; the amount provided for the next scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8173/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  The fuel scheme assists people who are in receipt of long term social welfare or health board payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs. A payment of £5 per week is paid to eligible households. An additional smokeless fuel allowance of £3 per week was introduced in 1990 to assist people living in the built up areas of Dublin to help meet the additional costs arising from the ban on the sale of bituminous coal. This allowance was extended to the Cork city and adjacent areas in February 1995.

The fuel scheme runs for a 26 week period from mid October to mid April. Expenditure on the fuel scheme, however, is recorded in the Department's appropriation account on a calendar year basis and the information is not readily available in the form requested by the Deputy.

The following figures provide expenditure on a calendar year basis i.e. for the periods January to April — the last 15 weeks of the previous year's heating season, and October to December — the first 11 weeks of the next heating season. Final figures are not yet available for expenditure on the fuel scheme in 1994. However, provisional returns indicate that expenditure in 1994 will be in the region of £39.9 million. In 1993 expenditure on fuel was £37.55 million. A sum of £44.5 million has been provided for the fuel scheme in the 1995 Estimates.

[885]

  71.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the main categories of appeals which were made against social welfare decisions for the last year for which data is available; and the number in each category. [8188/95]

  72.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the total number of social welfare appeals and the numbers which were successful for each year since 1990. [8189/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 71 and 72 together.

The numbers of appeals received by the independent social welfare appeals office against deciding officers' decisions during the period from 1991, when the office was established, to 1994 were: 1991 — 19,314; 1992 — 17,610; 1993 — 18,285; 1994 —13,504.

The main categories of appeals received in 1994 were as follows: 1. unemployment (payment and means issues) — 7,096; 2. sickness benefits (including invalidity and occupational injuries) — 4,574; 3. old age and retirement (including pre-retirement allowance) — 875; 4. widows and lone parents — 538.

Precise information on the outcome of appeals is only available for the years 1993 and 1994. In 1993, 45 per cent of appeals were wholly or partly successful on appeal arising from revised decisions by deciding officers or favourable determinations by appeals officers. The corresponding figure for 1994 was almost 54 per cent.

  73.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the efforts, if any, which are being made to develop Ireland as a tourist destination for people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8157/95]

[886]Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The rapid expansion of the tourism sector in recent years has seen a proportionate increase in the number of tourists with disabilities. This has led to an increasing level of inquiries from tourists and potential tourists about accessibility of tourist facilities in Ireland. As a result, the National Rehabilitation Board, with the assistance of Bord Fáilte, held a conference on tourism and people with disabilities on 18 January 1994. At this conference, tourism by people with disabilities in Europe was estimated as being worth £31 billion, £22 billion of which is unsatisfied demand. Bord Fáilte currently estimate that Ireland's share of this market could be worth as much as £180 million. While some research may be needed in relation to both supply and demand, it is clear that this is a very valuable market which we cannot afford to ignore.

In line with the commitment of both the Government and the European Commission to improve the position of the socially disadvantaged, the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-99, which is the main vehicle for tourism development in Ireland over the next five years, makes support available to hotel proprietors to help meet the additional costs of providing suitable access-friendly accommodation and related facilities for the disabled in existing hotel premises, and to assist hotels and major visitor centres to provide access for the disabled, where this can be provided on a cost-effective basis. Furthermore, in inter-Departmental discussions aimed at ensuring consistency and complementarity between the tourism and other operational programmes, my Department has stressed the importance of improved access for disabled tourists.

There is a growing awareness in the tourism industry of the importance of the disabled holiday market. Ultimately, of course, it is the industry itself which must adapt its facilities and product if it is to appeal to the disabled holiday-market and his/her family and friends.

[887]

  74.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the efforts, if any which are being made to improve the trade efforts and links between Zaire and Ireland. [8195/95]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Irish exports to Zaire totalled £9.1 million in 1993, the bulk of which consisted of dairy products and food preparations. Imports from Zaire in 1993 were negligible. An Bord Tráchtála and An Bord Bia will continue to monitor this market and if any opportunities arise we will seek to exploit them where possible.

  76.  Mrs. O'Rourke    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the estimated number of companies or directors that have availed of the Phoenix Syndrome, as outlined by the Company Law Review, to restart businesses; and the action, if any, that has been taken on the Company Law Review's recommendations on examinership law changes and disqualification of company directors. [88202/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  The provisions of chapter 1 of Part VII of the Companies Act, 1990, which provides for the restriction of directors from becoming directors of other companies, were intended to be a major contribution to the solution of the “Phoenix Syndrome” problem, where the directors, having liquidated one company leaving substantial liabilities owing to creditors, open another company carrying on the same or similar business where the process could be repeated. Restrictions are imposed by the courts normally after application by a liquidator.

A director subject to such restriction shall not be involved as a director of or in the promotion or formation of any other company for a period of five years [888] unless that company meets minimum capitalisation and other requirements.

Under these provisions, the court has declared 24 directors subject to restriction. However, I do not have any information on the estimated number of such directors who have become or remain involved in other companies. Neither do I have details of the number of persons who close one company owing debts and open another, without any restrictions having been imposed on them by the courts under Part VII of the 1990 Act.

The Company Law Review Group has made a number of recommendations which would significantly alter the approach dealing with this issue, emphasising disqualification rather than restriction.

I propose to examine and implement the recommendations of the review group on an incremental or phased basis. I intend to bring forward legislation to deal with the recommendations regarding examinership and the audit of small firms at an early date. This would then be followed by other areas examined by the review group, including the suggested changes regarding restrictions on directors.

  81.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will support the proposals before his Department from the Irish Wheelchair Association under the EU Horizon Initiative and if he recognises the potential which these proposals have to help promote the employment prospects of people with disabilities. [8162/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  Seven hundred and twenty applications for funding under the Employment Programme, which incorporates Horizon, have been received in my Department. One hundred and eighty-eight applications requesting funding for projects for people with disabilities have been received. All applications will receive [889] careful consideration. I recognise the work of the Irish Wheelchair Association and the important contribution it has made in promoting the employment prospects of people with disabilities and many of these will have applied for funding under Horizon also. Every project will be afforded equal and careful consideration to ensure that the best submissions are supported. The intention is to notify the outcome to applicants by end June next.

  82.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the changes, if any, he has introduced to date to give effect to the commitment in the Government's Programme to develop and promote the services sector. [8197/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  In accordance with the Government's commitment to the services sector, as set out in our policy document A Government of Renewal, I am examining recommendations which will extend the service sector qualifying for assistance by the development agencies and also reviewing the corporation tax structure for the international services sector. Various changes have taken place or are planned to give effect to this commitment.

The budget changes in taxation for services included a reduction in employers PRSI and a reduction in corporation tax to 38 per cent. The surcharge on close service companies was also reduced. The budget also announced changes in the VAT monthly control statement and a new direct debit facility and these are among the recommendations in the report of the task force on jobs in services. The recommendations in this report are being systematically examined and implemented by my Department. Officers with responsibility for services have been appointed in all Government Departments and strategic plans for the [890] development of services are being prepared by all Departments.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Small Business and Services was established in March 1995 and will examine Government policies on the development of small business and services. A representative body for the services sector, The Irish Coalition of Service Industries was launched on 2 March 1995. The Operational Programme for Small Business will include initiatives for the services sector including a subsidised loan scheme, in respect of which, it is intended to extend eligibility for services. The Industry Operational Programme provides for a £15 million venture capital fund for software companies in this sector.

The introduction of further changes and initiatives to assist the services sector to develop and expand is a priority to which I am committed.

  85.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when flexible opening hours will be introduced in agricultural offices throughout the country; when he intends to upgrade accessibility to such offices and staff at local level; the progress, if any, he has made towards ensuring the right to privacy and confidentiality to the public in their dealings with the Department and its staff; when the right of appeal will be introduced for farmers; if he will outline the way in which these measures will be financed due to the level of Government spending in 1995 and its commitment to keep Government expenditure at 2 per cent in 1996; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8131/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  As part of the commitments laid down in the Charter of Rights for Farmers, all of my Department's offices will be open to the public from 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with effect from 1 September 1995. In the interim, a full phone [891] service is available and personal visits can be arranged by appointment. The need for more flexible opening hours will be considered in 1996. The upgrading of local offices is being undertaken over two phases. Work has already commenced in some offices and will be undertaken in the remainder over the shortest possible period. This upgrading involves, as a minimum, the adaptation of reception areas to facilitate privacy and confidentiality and the provision of interview rooms where they do not already exist.

Farmers already have the right of appeal against decisions under the premia and headage schemes. The appeals system will be put on a more formal footing and include the right to an oral hearing under the procedure announced in the charter of rights for farmers. The appeals unit will be operational later this year when it will be available to deal with appeals against decisions under 1995 premia and headage schemes. The Deputy will be aware that in this year's budget the Government allocated £5 million to my Department to ensure that the charter is implemented. This funding has been granted within the context of overall government spending limits. As regards 1996, I will be assessing the Department's financial needs for the charter in the context of the normal estimates cycle which all Departments engage in.

  87.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the grants or funding, if any, available for equestrians to complete in international competitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8175/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  I assume the question refers to horses competing in international showjumping events. There is no direct aid available from my Department towards participation in such events. However, assistance is provided [892] to the Irish House Board by way of grant-in-aid and the board generates some resources from registration fees etc. Within the guidelines laid down, it is a matter for the board itself to determine how such funds should be allocated.

Some Structural Funds are also available to the board for the development of the sport horse sector subject to a plan agreed with my Department. These funds are not available for supporting horses competing in international competitions. The board contributes Ireland's share of the funds required to run the world breeding championship for sport horses and generally promotes the Irish horse at international equestrian events.

  88.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    when his Department's inspector will call to examine the stock and fencing of a person (details supplied) in County Laois in respect of his application for grant assistance under the alternative enterprise system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8176/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The staffing situation at Portlaoise is the subject of continuous and ongoing review by my Department's management to ensure that, within the resources available, the best possible service is provided and, in particular, that applications are processed and grants paid with the minimum of delay. The application in this case will be processed as soon as possible.

  89.  Miss M. Wallace    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    the efforts, if any, which are being made by his Department to make public transport more accessible to people with disabilities. [8158/95]

[893]Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry):  I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 54 of 23 March, 1995 — Official Report, volume 451, No. 1, columns 144/5 — which sets out my Department's policy in relation to access to public transport for the mobility handicapped, including people with disabilities.

  90.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Defence    the number of trips the Government planes or helicopters have made to Farranfore Airport, County Kerry, during 1993 and 1994; the number of trips which were for training or other military purposes; the number of flights made at the request of individual Government Departments; and the names of the Departments who made the requests. [8163/95]

Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney):  During 1993 and 1994 a total of 195 flights were made to Kerry Airport by aircraft operated by the Air Corps. Forty-nine per cent of these were for military purposes and the balance were made at the request of the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Defence, Enterprise and Employment, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Taoiseach.