Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Constitutional Review Group.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Official Visit to Canada.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Seanad Éireann Vacancy.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Cabinet Confidentiality.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Job Creation.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Press Group.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Payment of Grants to Foreign Companies.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Local Employment Service.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Statutory Leave Entitlements.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Companies' Report.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - International Investment.
Adjournment Debate Matters.
Order of Business.
Report of Task Force on State-Sponsored Bodies: Statements.
Private Members' Business. - Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme: Motion.
Adjournment Debate. - Universities Governing Bodies Selection.
Adjournment Debate. - Cork District and Family Courthouse.
Adjournment Debate. - Shipment of Irradiated Nuclear Fuels.
Adjournment Debate. - British Munitions Dumping off Irish Coast.
Written Answers. - Uncompetitive Environment.
Written Answers. - Review of Industrial Relations Act.
Written Answers. - Septic Tank Regulation.
Written Answers. - Job Creation Agencies.
Written Answers. - Unemployment Position Paper.
Written Answers. - Review of Community Employment Schemes.
Written Answers. - Cost of Employers' and Public Liability Insurance.
Written Answers. - Official Trade Statistics.
Written Answers. - Access to Finance Scheme.
Written Answers. - Scéimeanna Fostaíochta.
Written Answers. - Access to Finance Scheme.
Written Answers. - Below Cost Tendering.
Written Answers. - Departmental Recruitment.
Written Answers. - Trade Balance with Northern Ireland.
Written Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.
Written Answers. - Trade Marks Law.
Written Answers. - Local Employment Service.
Written Answers. - Charter of Rights for Scheme Workers.
Written Answers. - Access to Finance Scheme.
Written Answers. - Brick Production.
Written Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.
Written Answers. - Access to Media Ownership.
Written Answers. - Commission on Newspaper Industry.
Written Answers. - Public Procurement Procedures.
Written Answers. - Employment of Photographic Agencies.
Written Answers. - Irish Immigration Centre.
Written Answers. - Business Expansion Scheme Relief.
Written Answers. - Designated Seaside Town.
Written Answers. - Companies Registration Office.
Written Answers. - Review of Finance Act.
Written Answers. - Local Authorities' Properties.
Written Answers. - Debt Levels.
Written Answers. - Inflation Rate.
Written Answers. - White Paper on Education.
Written Answers. - Blood Samples.
Written Answers. - Alzheimer Society Funds.
Written Answers. - Drug Treatment Measures.
Written Answers. - National Deaf Studies Centre.
Written Answers. - Mental Hospital Reports.
Written Answers. - Eye Testing Service.
Written Answers. - Tallaght Regional Hospital.
Written Answers. - Pre-School Playgroups.
Written Answers. - Divorce Referendum Funding.
Written Answers. - Money For Recycling Companies.
Written Answers. - National Waste Strategy.
Written Answers. - Derelict Sites Levies.
Written Answers. - Castlecomer (Kilkenny) Sewerage Scheme.
Written Answers. - Deterioration in Roadgrip.
Written Answers. - Local Authority Lettings.
Written Answers. - Exchequer Road Funding.
Written Answers. - Grant Aid.
Written Answers. - County Monaghan Water and Sewerage Schemes.
Written Answers. - Delors Peace Initiative Funding.
Written Answers. - Rates of Truancy.
Written Answers. - Aide for Disabled Person.
Written Answers. - School Accommodation.
Written Answers. - Secondary School Placement.
Written Answers. - Additional Tuition.
Written Answers. - School Caretaker.
Written Answers. - Grant Aid.
Written Answers. - School (Dublin 1) Refurbishment.
Written Answers. - Community College Proposal.
Written Answers. - Íocaíochtaí do Chúrsaí Samhraidh.
Written Answers. - Rathmore (Kerry) Community School.
Written Answers. - School Transport.
Written Answers. - Cavan Teachers' Centre.
Written Answers. - School Psychologists.
Written Answers. - Consultations with Sporting Organisations.
Written Answers. - Third Level Places.
Written Answers. - Grant Aid.
Written Answers. - University Fees Exemption.
Written Answers. - Early Start Programme.
Written Answers. - ESF Funding Entitlement.
Written Answers. - Keenagh (Mayo) School.
Written Answers. - Application for First Registration.
Written Answers. - Garda Personnel in Westport.
Written Answers. - Land Registry Validation.
Written Answers. - Refugee Bill.
Written Answers. - New Drogheda (Louth) Court House.
Written Answers. - Bag Snatches in Dublin.
Written Answers. - Cherry Orchard (Dublin) Youth Project.
Written Answers. - Truancy Prosecutions.
Written Answers. - Statistics on Judicial Separation.
Written Answers. - Medical and Dental Services.
Written Answers. - Disability Benefit
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Allowances.
Written Answers. - Ticéad Saor-Thaistil.
Written Answers. - Disability Benefit Claimants.
Written Answers. - Christmas Bonus.
Written Answers. - Grants to Voluntary and Community Organisations.
Written Answers. - Carer Allowances.
Written Answers. - Child Benefit.
Written Answers. - Staff Statistics
Written Answers. - Social Insurance Fund.
Written Answers. - Recycling Companies.
Written Answers. - Music Copyright Agencies.
Written Answers. - SFADCo Board Membership.
Written Answers. - Commission on the Newspaper Industry.
Written Answers. - Timber Processing Industry.
Written Answers. - Community Employment Schemes.
Written Answers. - ICC Loan Scheme.
Written Answers. - Business Industrial Start Ups.
Written Answers. - Irish Deaf Society.
Written Answers. - Environmental Protection.
Written Answers. - Community Employment Schemes.
Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Pension.
Written Answers. - Vehicle Approval.
Written Answers. - Private Nurseries.
Written Answers. - Investment Company Forestry Interests.
Written Answers. - Forestry Acreage.
Written Answers. - Hardwood Statistics.
Written Answers. - Tiered Afforestation Grant Scheme.
Written Answers. - Forestry Premiums Applications.
Written Answers. - Land Restructuring.
Written Answers. - Milk Quota Buy-Out.
Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.
Written Answers. - Milk Quotas.
Written Answers. - Milk Restructuring Subsidy.
Written Answers. - Teagasc Long-Term Temporary Staff.
Written Answers. - Deer Imports.
Written Answers. - Leased Milk Quotas.
Written Answers. - Grant Eligibility Review.
Written Answers. - Leader Programme
Written Answers. - Land Division.
Written Answers. - Early Retirement Scheme.
 Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.
An Ceann Comhairle: Due to printing difficulties, questions to the Taoiseach on today's Order Paper do not reflect the correct sequence. A supplementary Order Paper listing the questions in the correct order has been circulated to Members generally and questions will be called in the sequence in which they appear on it.
Miss Harney: It seems we will have to change the order so as to move my Question No. 7 which the Taoiseach wishes to pass to a Minister of State. I very much regret this as the Taoiseach raised this question when in Opposition and I was anxious to ascertain whether he had changed his view on the issue. Unfortunately, I will not be able to ascertain this as the question will be handled by a Minister of State.
The Taoiseach: It was a Minister of State who answered it previously.
Miss Harney: The Taoiseach vigorously pursued this issue in Opposition and I wanted to ascertain if he had changed his view.
An Ceann Comhairle: I accept  responsibility for the error involved; my office is responsible. I apologise to the Deputy and the House for this error.
Miss Harney: I will be happy to accept this, Sir, if the Taoiseach gives an undertaking to answer the question which will appear as Question No. 21 tomorrow.
An Ceann Comhairle: That is a separate matter.
Miss Harney: It is not a separate matter.
1. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach if he has received any progress report or communication from the Constitutional Review Group. [13364/95]
The Taoiseach: I have not received any communication from the review group since its launch on 11 May nor have I communicated with it. As envisaged in my reply to parliamentary questions on 3 May 1995, the group was requested to furnish, by the end of this calendar year, provisional observations on any range of matters which by then will be at an advanced stage of consideration. To comply with that request, the review group is endeavouring to have ready before Christmas provisional observations on a number of Articles. The review group, which was given a year to complete its work, hopes to present its final report by Easter 1996.
Miss Harney: I know it has not invited submissions but have the Government parties made a submission to the review group?
The Taoiseach: There have been no submissions of which I am aware. The parties will primarily make their input at the next stage when the joint committee has been established to process the recommendations of the review group.
Miss Harney: Does the Taoiseach  envisage that this report will be published?
The Taoiseach: Yes.
Mr. B. Ahern: I accept that the group has been working for only four or five months but has the Government referred matters such as bail and reform of the electoral system to it?
The Taoiseach: Specific matters were not referred to the group which was given a mandate to look at all aspects of the Constitution in its review. However, as the House will remember the Government drew attention in the group's terms of reference to the fact that certain constitutional matters, namely, Articles 2 and 3, divorce, the right to bail, Cabinet confidentiality and votes for emigrants are the subject of separate consideration. While the group is not precluded from considering any of those matters I expect that it will prioritise other matters given that the ones to which I referred are being dealt with separately.
Mr. M. McDowell: Does the Taoiseach envisage that the second phase of this process, that is involvement by Members of the Oireachtas, will start before the group has furnished its final report? In other words, will the Oireachtas Members begin their involvement as soon as there is something on which to work? Has he been told by the group the Articles on which it is focusing and in respect of which Articles we will get a provisional report before Christmas?
The Taoiseach: The group operates independently of the Government and, therefore, has not furnished it with any reports on the Articles with which it is dealing or the Articles with which it is not dealing. All I have been informed is that the group is endeavouring to prepare provisional observations on a number of Articles before Christmas. The  choice of those is a matter for that group. I hope it will be possible to start Oireachtas committee work early next year before the final report will be received and the committee will be able to study the preliminary report furnished by the group and consider the full report at a later date when it comes to hand.
Mr. B. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach agree that it would be worth-while to co-ordinate that work because otherwise issues which parties in the House may wish to put to the committee or to be considered on stage 2, particularly electoral reform, may be omitted? Every committee of the House since the foundation of the State which studied the Constitution discussed electoral reform. The Taoiseach did not include it on the list to which he referred. I accept it may not be complete. The Constitutional Review Group should consider the issue of electoral reform.
The Taoiseach: The list I gave relates to matters that I expect the committee would not deal with as priority because they are being dealt with otherwise. Issues such as electoral reform are not on the list and, if the committee wishes to address it, it will be free to do so. Equally, if the committee does not address a particular matter in its report that will not preclude the Oireachtas committee from analysing that matter subsequently. Nor is any obstacle being placed in the way of any party of the House making a submission to the expert committee if it so wishes. I stress it will be up to the expert committee to make decisions as to what matters it does or does not want to report on. That is the best way to proceed.
Miss Harney: Is the committee free to make recommendations on what could be regarded as matters of policy as opposed to technical or legal issues?
The Taoiseach: The committee is being asked to review the Constitution and in light of that review to establish  those areas where constitutional change may be desirable or necessary. The words “desirable” and “necessary” encompass policy and technical and legal questions. The committee is free to address the full range of potential change in the Constitution. That is the situation. Ultimately, it will be up to the people to decide what changes will be made.
2. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to Canada. [13371/95]
3. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Canada, in particular his discussions with the Canadian Prime Minister. [13409/95]
The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 3 together.
I undertook an official visit to Canada from 11 to 14 September. The objectives of my visit were to further develop the ties between Ireland and Canada and to promote Ireland's economic interests by strengthening Ireland-Canada trade and investment links.
During my visit I met with Mr. Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister of Canada. We had a very constructive discussion on recent developments in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister expressed his support for the continuing efforts to consolidate and advance the peace process and assured me of his desire to assist our efforts in a meaningful way. I conveyed my appreciation for his support and offer of assistance and for the high level of Canadian involvement in areas such as the International Fund for Ireland. In relation to decommissioning, we discussed possible roles for an international commission. The Prime Minister responded very positively, stressing Canada's interest in participating, and he referred to his country's long historical links with both Britain and Ireland. I pointed out that the international commission proposal is still under consideration.
 Among the other issues we covered were relations between Canada and Europe and the possibility of a more structured relationship between the European Union and North America. I also raised the issue of United Nations reform with the Prime Minister and we discussed the problems with the current system in relation to funding and peacekeeping.
In addition I referred to the issue of boneless beef exports from Ireland to Canada and indicated to the Prime Minister that Ireland was anxious to resume access to Canadian markets which Canada is blocking in reaction to European Union subsidies on those products. I was informed that Canada remains open to pursuing a resolution of this issue in bilateral consultations with the European Union.
One of the aims of my visit was to bring senior Canadian politicians, business leaders and decision-makers up-to-date on the peace process. I achieved this through my meetings with the premier of Ontario, the Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the House of Commons in Ottawa, my attendance at functions organised by the Apostles Group and at a function organised by the chairman and chief executive of the Bank of Montreal in Toronto.
In the course of my visit I met with Mr. Michael Harris, the premier of Ontario. I briefed him fully on the current situation in Northern Ireland. Our discussions focused principally on investment and trade between Canada and Ireland and the Canadian political situation.
While in Ottawa, I had a meeting with the Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I availed of that opportunity to inform them of the present position on the peace process and general issues relating to Canada-Ireland relations.
In Toronto I addressed the Apostles, a group of business people.
Mrs. O'Rourke: All 12 of them?
The Taoiseach: It is a well named group.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Are any of them women?
The Taoiseach: There were women there, but I must admit the majority were men.
Mrs. O'Rourke: They were not among the Apostles.
The Taoiseach: The majority were men, but I am sure that will change as a result of my visit.
A further key objective of my visit was to promote Ireland's economic interests. This was achieved by attendance at a trade function organised by An Bord Tráchtála.
In order to maximise the gains from my official visit, An Bord Tráchtála organised a trade delegation to Canada to coincide with my visit. Most of the participants on the trade mission were established exporters to Canada who used the opportunity to further develop contacts in the Toronto area. New business developed during the mission included a joint venture arrangement by a software company with a Canadian partner, registration of a new liquor product in Toronto and extended distribution arrangements for a tool company throughout Canada.
I had the opportunity to meet with many representatives of the Irish-Canadian community at community receptions in Ottawa and Toronto and to express my appreciation for their contribution. I also gave media interviews which centred primarily on the peace process and the attractions of Ireland for investment.
I was very impressed and heartened by the goodwill and support expressed for our efforts to consolidate and advance the peace process and to work towards an agreed political settlement. I am satisfied that I have achieved the objectives of my visit despite the fact that, as the House will recollect, it was shorter than that originally planned.  The visit was due to extend over eight days but had to be reduced to three. Nevertheless, I believe the principal objectives of the visit were achieved.
Miss Harney: The Taoiseach referred to discussions about Canada's possible role in an international commission on decommissioning. Are the two Governments close to agreement on the composition and role of such a commission? They appear to be the main outstanding issues.
The Taoiseach: The purpose of such a commission is to break the logjam on the road towards all party talks. While there is increasing movement towards agreement on the concept of some international body being involved, there remain differences not only between Governments but among others whose concerns about the composition of the commission are of importance to us. The terms of reference of the commission, whether the emphasis will be primarily military, political or a combination of both, are issues of concern. We have been working hard to find a solution acceptable to everybody because we believe the twin track approach is the right one to reach talks. A generally constructive approach to the subject has been taken by all contributors in recent times. The meeting I had the privilege to attend with Unionist representatives, the first between a Taoiseach and leaders of that party for a quarter of a century, was also important in establishing a mechanism for being satisfied about Unionist opinions and concerns as well as outlining the concerns of the Nationalist community.
Mr. B. Ahern: Did the Taoiseach discuss with the Canadian Prime Minister the possible involvement of Canada or a Canadian representative being involved in the work of the commission?
The Taoiseach: Yes, we did. Indeed the Canadian Prime Minister, in his  initial address of welcome on the tarmac of the airport in Ottawa, brought that matter up specifically and we followed it through in our discussions. I indicated to him we would be interested in having Canadian participation but obviously it is not solely a matter for us and we have not finalised the issue, the terms of reference or the type of personnel we need. That matter is subject to ongoing discussions as I indicated in my response to Deputy Harney. I was heartened by the positive attitude of the Canadian Prime Minister in particular and the Government in general to helping the peace process in any way they can. What struck me most forcibly during my visit to Canada, in all my informal discussions, was the balanced view the Canadians have of the problems in Ireland. They understand this is a problem with more than one dimension. There is an understanding of the points of view of both sections of the community in Northern Ireland, for example, which is particularly helpful in so far as Canadian involvement in the peace process is concerned.
Mr. M. McDowell: In relation to the Taoiseach's statement that his discussions involved consideration of a more structured approach to North American-European Union relations, will he indicate the nature of those discussions, whether the Canadians proposed some kind of North Atlantic community and if this Government has evolved any independent view as to whether it favours a closer institutional relationship between the North American Free Trade Area and the European Union?
The Taoiseach: My recollection is that prior to my meeting — not during the meeting — the Canadian Prime Minister indicated he would be interested in the concept of a North Atlantic free trade area; I think that was more the proposal than an institutional structure. That would link the NAFTA, which now includes Mexico and may  possibly include Chile, with the European Union in making it by far the biggest market in the world. We discussed that proposal and I indicated I was favourably disposed towards the idea but suggested there were certain difficulties for Ireland in particular and for Europe in general in areas such as agriculture, where there are differences in agricultural pricing practices, and steel. I indicated that while these difficulties were not insuperable, it would take some time to overcome them. The Deputy will also be aware that one of the five priorities identified by the Spanish Presidency is the promotion of EUUS relations. One of my predecessors, Mr. Haughey, was instrumental in institutionalising that for the first time during the Irish Presidency when he was acting on Europe's behalf. I hope that will become something of an Irish tradition and that when Ireland holds the EU Presidency next year, we will be able to carry forward work on intensifying relations between Ireland and North America generally rather than specifically and solely with the United States.
Mr. B. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach identify the remaining part of the trio? He has already said Senator George Mitchell will be the chairman and that the Canadians will possibly hold the second position. Who will be given the third position? On another matter, I notice the Canadian Prime Minister and his Finance Minister have been taking the lead on the International Development Association and lobbying vigorously on behalf of the World Bank; I assume the Minister for Finance will be speaking on that issue today or tomorrow in Washington. Did the Canadian Prime Minister raise that matter with the Taoiseach and, if so, did the Taoiseach reiterate Ireland's support for the IDA fund, our continuing support for the NGOs and the alleviation of the debt problem in Third World countries?
The Taoiseach: I do not have any recollection of Prime Minister Chrétien raising that matter specifically. However, we discussed the general question of UN subscriptions to international organisations not being up-to-date. We agreed that we were among the minority of countries whose contributions are up-to-date but we did not specifically discuss the International Development Association. As the Deputy said, this matter will be addressed by the Minister for Finance during his annual meetings with the World Bank. As the Deputy is a former Minister for Finance he will be aware that Ireland and Canada are members of the same constituency — at least they were when I was Minister for Finance — in the IMF and World Bank and, therefore, we will be working particularly closely with Canada on this matter.
Miss Harney: Much of the Taoiseach's visit concerned investment in Ireland. Did those investors whom the Taoiseach met ask about the Government's view on ending the 10 per cent manufacturing tax, and what view did the Taoiseach express about that matter?
The Taoiseach: I believe I was asked that question by one of the people but I do not remember exactly. My position is that of successive Governments, namely, that we have given a commitment to maintain the 10 per cent manufacturing tax up to the year 2010. That position has not changed. It makes Ireland particularly attractive for foreign investment, particularly profitable foreign investment.
Mr. B. Ahern: The Taoiseach referred to the involvement of a previous Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. During his discussions with the Canadian Prime Minister, did he mention a predecessor of his John A. Costello who, in 1948, made the sudden  announcement to pull out of the Commonwealth? Did any such announcement cross the Taoiseach's mind?
The Taoiseach: No, although in the course of the discussion John A. Costello's name did crop up a few times as did the name of my other predecessor who visited Canada.
Mr. M. McDowell: Did it cross the Taoiseach's mind to announce in Ottawa that we would be rejoining the Commonwealth?
The Taoiseach: No, that did not flash across my screen but Canada is a member of the Commonwealth and obviously is one of the international organisations with which it is involved.
Mr. Allen: We will have to get an apology first.
4. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach when he intends to nominate a person to fill the vacancy in Seanad Éireann. [13374/95]
The Taoiseach: This vacancy will be filled in due course and an announcement will be made in the normal way.
Miss Harney: Some time ago I wrote to the Taoiseach in relation to this vacancy and suggested a particular name. I do not want to go into that now but has the Taoiseach given consideration to appointing somebody free from a party whip, particularly someone who might reflect the Unionist perspective in Northern Ireland?
An Ceann Comhairle: We are having quite an expansion of this question now.
The Taoiseach: I have been accused of representing that perspective; one of the Sunday newspapers has portrayed me in that way. A final decision has not  been made in regard to filling the position. It has been vacant for approximately three months but the previous Seanad vacancies, which were filled by my predecessor the day before he left office, had been vacant for eight and six months respectively and those people have been voting consistently against measures proposed by my Government even though they are my representatives.
Miss Harney: Will the Taoiseach give an assurance that he will give serious consideration to appointing somebody from Northern Ireland to fill this vacancy?
The Taoiseach: We will give serious consideration to it but I would not like to belittle the unusual situation in which the Government finds itself. Notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution provides that the Taoiseach of the day can nominate 11 Members so that the Government would have a majority in the Seanad, we are in a situation where the majority of those 11 nominees are now voting against the Government which I believe is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, although I am sure other people would argue a different point of view on that subject. I am sure they will listen to my views on that, now that they have been expressed in such a friendly tone. Obviously the Government's majority in the Seanad, in common political prudence, is a matter I have to take into account.
An Ceann Comhairle: May I remind the House before I entertain Deputy Bertie Ahern, that 30 minutes only are available to us for dealing with questions to the Taoiseach? I shall be going on to priority questions at 3.5 p.m. because of our lateness in commencing.
Mr. B. Ahern: As you will recall we were here. Will the Taoiseach accept that the vacancy created by the death of Gordon Wilson, who personified a desire for peace in the country, is not a  normal vacancy? He represented a particular viewpoint in Seanad Éireann to great effect, as we all said in the House on the occasion of his death. There would be a hollow ring about it if he were not replaced by somebody from the North. I agree with the remarks made by Deputy Harney.
The Taoiseach: As the Deputy is aware my predecessor, on the day before he left office, appointed a person from Northern Ireland, a member of the Deputy's party now, Senator Haughey. It would be wrong to say that Northern Ireland is not represented. My understanding is that that Taoiseach's nominee, who is now my representative in the Seanad even though he does not vote frequently for my Government's proposals, represents Northern Ireland. I would have assumed that was one of the motives of my predecessor in appointing him. The void left by Gordon Wilson in the Seanad is unfillable in the sense that Gordon Wilson was able to fill it. He was quite a unique person in the oratory, compassion and commitment he had and his ability to bring a sense of truth and spirituality to the discussions in the Seanad on the most difficult moral issue this country is facing — namely, the peace process.
5. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach when it is intended to hold a referendum on Cabinet confidentiality. [13425/95]
The Taoiseach: The Government will consider this matter shortly and an announcement will be made in the normal way.
Miss Harney: Given the change in the composition of the Supreme Court, has the Government given any consideration to introducing an ordinary Bill in relation to Cabinet confidentiality with a view to testing its constitutionality rather than necessarily going down the road of a constitutional referendum?
The Taoiseach: I have not considered it in great depth; it is something we could consider. On the other hand it is a hazardous business to make gambles on the basis of changes in the composition of the Supreme Court as to what decisions judges will make. In this House we should make our own decisions rather than postulate or speculate about possible changes in the position of the Supreme Court in some future case, given that the previous judicial decision on this subject was clear and that this Government was formed on the basis of a commitment that it would promote a change in the Constitution to allow some relaxation of Cabinet confidentiality. Having said that, I regard the suggestion by the Deputy as a constructive and helpful one and it is one that has been made in other areas of constitutional law as well. I will consider it carefully and ask the Attorney General to advise me on it.
Mr. B. Ahern: I wish to raise two issues. Other Governments issue a communiqué after every Cabinet meeting of the issues discussed, rather than briefing as we do here. For example, the French Government, which would not be considered the most open on all issues, gives a formal communiqué. Second, historians have argued extensively, in the recent past, that minutes of Cabinet meetings, rather than decisions, should be kept even if the 30 year rule was extended. I would like to hear the Taoiseach's views on those two issues.
The Taoiseach: It is a very interesting question and I have given it some thought. I think it would prolong Cabinet meetings enormously if full minutes of what everybody said at them were kept. What would happen is that people would say things for the record so that it would show they said them, even though they did not necessarily want to press them very hard. Literally, on every decision, people would recite their departmental position for the record.
Mr. Martin: Then the historians could not be blamed.
The Taoiseach: One of the characteristics of Government in this country in recent times — certainly it is a characteristic of this Government and the previous Government — is that we are able to get through the business quite expeditiously and make the decisions that have to be made. The case is well made for decisions and we make them. The change the Deputy is putting up for discussion would not be helpful in that regard.
The other question raised by the Deputy is also an interesting one, I have not thought so much about it. There is, as the Deputy said, a system whereby there is a formal briefing, after each Cabinet meeting, of the press on the decisions that can be announced. There is no recorded document. That particular item does not appear in the paper the following day. There is no record of it other than in the Cabinet minutes which are restricted as to their circulation. I think we could consider the Deputy's suggestion. I would like to think more carefully about its implications. One of the things we have been doing — I hope in saying this I am not breaching Cabinet confidentiality — is where a decision is being proposed, this is one of the initiatives I took since becoming Taoiseach, in addition to asking that the decision appear on the front of the memorandum that a draft press statement would be appended later at the back of the memorandum so that one would see both the decision and the way it was to be presented publicly when one was making the decision. That would facilitate, possibly, the adoption of the Deputy's proposal because already we have gone some distance towards it.
Mrs. O'Rourke: What happened at the meeting this morning? Was it a good meeting?
The Taoiseach: We had our usual very good meeting this morning.
Mr. M. McDowell: I am quite satisfied that the Government is working well because the Labour Party members seem to have been working so hard that they cannot make it here today. Will the Taoiseach agree that if it were possible to deal with this matter by legislation, rather than by constitutional amendment, it would be preferable, bearing in mind that if we alter the Constitution to make, say, Ministers amenable to tribunals and committees of the House, we may cement in place, by inference, all the other problems attached to the ruling of the Supreme Court such as historical records not being available and Minister's memoirs and diaries never being published? Would it not be desirable in those circumstances to view, if possible, the decision as one which should be dealt with by legislation in the first instance? Many people believe — I think I speak for lawyers from every shade of political opinion — that the rule on Cabinet confidentiality can be invoked with malice but ignored with impunity and, therefore, that it should not be part of our law.
The Taoiseach: As I said already to Deputy Harney, I had not given much thought to that proposal. We had been and are proceeding on the basis of a constitutional amendment. There is, as put by both Deputy Harney and Deputy McDowell, a very serious and sensible proposal that should be looked at. I expect we will be looking at this matter generally, quite soon. I will be asking, in addition to the processing of the proposal already in hand, that the suggestion made by the two Deputies be considered very carefully. It deserves careful consideration. If that approach can achieve the certainty we are looking for, possibly by reference subsequent to enactment to the court for validation prior to coming into force, that is something that might well have a lot of merit in it. I can go no further than this. I did not have notice of this suggestion and can do no more than say that I think it is worth while.
An Ceann Comhairle: That disposes of questions to the Taoiseach for today. I have gone seven minutes beyond the appropriate time. I am proceeding to deal with questions nominated for priority.
28. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the specific measures, if any, he plans to introduce to convert the high growth rates in the economy into jobs. [14483/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): It would be incorrect to suggest that Ireland's current performance is weak in this respect. In fact, Ireland is forecast to have, over the period 1994-96, the strongest performance in terms of economic growth and also in respect of employment growth in both the EU and OECD countries.
According to OECD forecasts as of June this year, employment in Ireland will grow by an average of 2.3 per cent over the period 1994-96 while the EU and OECD averages will be less than 0.5 per cent. Economic growth over the same period is forecast at 5.6 per cent in real terms in Ireland, while both the EU and OECD averages will be about 2.8 per cent.
In 1995 and 1996, it is estimated that 70,000 jobs will be created in industry and service sectors in Ireland. In 1995 we are on target for creating over 38,000 jobs in services and industry. This would represent an estimated 5 per cent increase in employment in the industry and market service sectors. The latest ESRI-IBEC monthly industrial surveys show manufacturers are optimistic on the production and employment fronts over the coming months.
No matter how good our record growth is — whether in comparison with other countries or historically — I recognise that this economy must achieve higher employment from our economic growth.
 The Government is pursuing policies and initiatives designed to further strengthen and sustain employment in the economy. These are as follows: changes in employers' and employees' PRSI and the corporation tax rate both to improve incentives for taking on workers and to increase the return from working for those on low pay; the industrial adjustment initiative, designed to assist vulnerable sectors of our industry to adapt to new competitive market conditions; the small business initiatives, for example county enterprise boards and the launching of the new 6.5 per cent long term loan service for small and medium size businesses, etc; the strengthening of linkages between indigenous business and the foreign owned sector; establishing a competitive base of companies in key growth sectors such as electronics and internationally traded services; the programmes designed to strengthen the capabilities of indigenous business in key areas — innovation, product design, customer service, etc. The Government will continue to develop policy in all these areas.
Furthermore, I have initiated a review of employment strategy in the Department. One of its major objectives will be to identify measures that can further increase the employment intensity of growth. In addition to those policies which I have outlined above, I expect to bring forward specific measures and proposals as part of this review.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I am aware that we are only a very tasteless hors d'oeuvre before the main course today and nobody in the House or outside it is very interested in Question Time. Having said that, the Minister has a hard neck to give the bureaucratic speak on jobs when I asked what plans, if any, he had to convert what is supposed to be a very high growth rate into jobs — although Deputy Michael McDowell has tabled a question questioning the actual rate of growth — bearing in mind  that the Minister of State, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, said on television on Friday that the level of unemployment was not acceptable to him. Neither, I presume, is it acceptable to the Minister or his Minister of State, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, the first Labour sighting we have had today. Surely the Minister has answers for me rather than reading out what was prepared by worthy people. What will he do to create more jobs?
Mr. R. Bruton: Let me refer the Deputy to the question she asked. She did not mention unemployment in her question——
Mrs. O'Rourke: Jobs.
Mr. R. Bruton: If the Deputy cared to listen to the reply, I indicated that this year it is expected that 38,000 extra jobs will be created in the non-agricultural market sectors.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): The Deputy is not accustomed to listening.
Mr. R. Bruton: There is very significant progress in employment and a very significant increase in the number at work. The problem, and I fully recognise it, is that the transfer of the very good growth in employment into a reduction in the live register is disappointing. Clearly, I am very determined to address that and I am undertaking initiatives. The Government is committed to a new approach in this area. It is significant to note that in recent years there has been continuous growth in unemployment but it has been against a background of difficulty in the jobs market. Now even though we have good employment growth we continue to have a problem on the unemployment front and that is why I believe targeted measures such as the local employment service are required. The Government will be working on the problem over the period. Immediately there will be a review within my own Department and  in the run up to the budget measures will be looked at which will address unemployment, which is creating concern. I would be the first to admit that. Had the question asked about unemployment I would have addressed it.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Minister is quite a disgrace. He knows quite well that I asked for the specific measures to convert the high growth rate in the economy into jobs. The Minister need not try silly gobbledegook on me because there is no way I can accept it. The Minister says he is thinking of a new approach. He has been exactly ten months in office. Is it only now that he is going to address the issues of “employment” and “unemployment”? Is it only now that he is thinking of a new approach, having said last January that employment was his first priority as Minister for Enterprise and Employment? Ten months on the Minister is talking about a new approach. Is he going to fulfil what he said last January or preside over month after month of increasingly depressing statistics, particularly for those who are unemployed?
Mr. R. Bruton: The Deputy refuses to acknowledge that the question she asked does not address the issue she clearly wants to discuss. It is manifestly true that the economy is providing great employment growth, unprecedented historically — a 38,000 increase in employment in the non-agricultural sector is an extraordinary achievement way ahead of any other country. It is apt to ask why that is not translating into a reduction in the number on the live register. That is an issue about which I am concerned. If that is what the Deputy wishes to discuss, it is a pity she did not raise that question. It is a little bit rich of the Deputy, who presided over a growth of 60,000 on the live register in the past five years, to lecture in the way she is seeking to do. The reality is that this Government has initiated a number of changes to address the needs of the unemployed, particularly the long term unemployed. Among those have  been the new initiative in the local employment service. The Government is committed to continuing to offer schemes that will help those who are unemployed transfer into the work-force. It is important in the run up to the budget that we would focus on measures that will help in that task.
Mrs. O'Rourke: What is the target reduction in the numbers unemployed in 1995?
29. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the meetings, if any, he has had with groups interested in investing in the Irish Press Group since the creditors' meeting; the investors, if any, involved with the groups he has met; the discussions, if any, he has had with Independent Newspapers since he made his ruling that the company could not be involved in a relaunched Irish Press Group; the discussions, if any, he has had with any groups regarding the launching of new titles to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Irish Press Group; and the plans, if any, he has to introduce a White Paper on the newspaper industry. [14484/95]
59. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to take legal action to prevent the relaunch of some or all of the Irish Press titles; if so, the grounds on which he is doing so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14434/95]
Mr. R. Bruton: I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 59 together
I have had one meeting with a group of potential investors, involved in the examinership process, since the Irish Press Newspapers creditors meeting on 8 September 1995. Previously, I had a meeting with another group of prospective investors also involved in the examinership process. The purpose of these meetings was to hear from them their  intentions in respect of the Irish Press titles in the aftermath of the unsuccessful examinership. The investors indicated to me that they would still be interested in entering commercial arrangements that would enable them to publish titles held by Irish Press Publications. While I was heartened to learn of this it is a matter that would have to be explored between these potential investors and the existing shareholders in IPP, who are Irish Press plc and the Irish Independent Group.
I also met with representatives of Irish Independent plc in early September 1995 as a follow-up to my letter of 24 August 1995 to them. In that letter I outlined my views concerning the interim report of the Competition Authority on the newspaper industry. I recalled that the authority concluded that the acquisition by Independent Newspapers of a 24.9 per cent shareholding in Irish Press and the provision by Independent Newspapers of loans totalling £2 million to the Irish Press represented both an abuse of a dominant position by Independent Newspapers and an anti-competitive agreement contrary to the Competition Act. I indicated to the Irish Independent that I shared the Competition Authority's views. At my meeting with representatives of the Irish Independent, I reiterated my views on competition law vis à vis their involvement with the Irish Press. I also sought information from them as to their future plans in respect of the Irish Press titles. Independent Newspapers' representatives undertook to let me know of their intentions in due course.
Taking a legal action on foot of the Competition Authority's interim report remains an option. I reiterate that I will resist any future involvement by Independent Newspapers with a relaunch of Irish Press titles as I have stated in this House on 7 June last and in my press statement of 25 August 1995. I have also made it clear that any action to prevent or hinder the relaunch of the Irish Press  titles with non-Independent Newspapers investors would infringe the Competition Act. I clearly do not view the initiation of legal challenges as necessarily the best approach to resolving the Irish Press problem.
I have made it clear to both Independent Newspapers and the Irish Press that I am prepared to take the necessary action to ensure compliance with the Competition Act. I will decide at the appropriate time any such action in the light of all of the circumstances.
I recognise that there are serious issues facing the newspaper industry and that they must be addressed in a coherent manner. I expect that the Commission on the Newspaper Industry the Government has established, under the distinguished chairmanship of the former Chief Justice, Mr. Thomas Finlay, will give the most careful of analysis to all these issues in dealing with its comprehensive terms of reference. I have asked the commission to undertake its work speedily and I expect to have its report, with recommendations, early in the new year. I genuinely want the commission to bring forward real ideas and recommendations that can chart the course for a profitable and dynamic newspaper industry well into the next century. It is premature to comment on the possibility that a White Paper will be produced in advance of the outcome of the commission's deliberations.
Mrs. O'Rourke: What are the Minister's views on newspaper reports that the Independent Group wishes to enter on the relaunching of the Sunday Press?
Mr. R. Bruton: I cannot comment on newspaper reports. However, I made my view clear in my letter to Independent Newspapers Ltd. Any such involvement would be contrary to the competition law and, if necessary, I will be prepared to act appropriately under that Act.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Minister says he will not give permission to Independent  Newspapers to become involved in relaunching the Sunday Press. The answer was long and convoluted and did not, therefore, hold my attention.
Mr. Rabbitte: Where does the Deputy stand on the issue?
Mrs. O'Rourke: This is Question Time to the Minister for Enterprise and Employment.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister of State may not intervene at this time.
Mr. Rabbitte: I apologise.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Minister said he will not allow Independent Newspapers to become involved in relaunching the Sunday Press. Has he, subsequent to or prior to that announcement, met any other group of investors to whom he could give encouragement to become involved in relaunching the Sunday Press?
Mr. R. Bruton: The Deputy's question had four separate parts to it. I had to address the separate elements, and that is why the reply was long. Since the meeting to which the Deputy referred, I have had meetings with the company involved in the examinership process. I do not have the power to order the release of the titles — that is for the current shareholders of the titles in IPP, namely, Irish Press plc as the major shareholder and Independent Newspapers. I cannot offer to any company what I do not have the power to give.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Minister has been very open about these matters at all times. If it is to be relaunched in time for the Christmas market in advertising and circulation terms, the time span is very short. Have there been any further approaches to the Minister in the past week with regard to investment in the Irish Press Group?
Mr. R. Bruton: There have been no approaches to me in the past week. The  only development I am aware of relates to yesterday's court hearing in respect of the Ingersoll action against IPP.
30. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment his policy in relation to the payment of grants to foreign companies to establish in Ireland in direct competition with existing Irish manufacturers. [14541/95]
43. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the policy in relation to job-creation agencies under his control with regard to the payment of grants to foreign companies to set up in Ireland where these companies would be in direct competition with existing Irish manufacturers. [14437/95]
Mr. R. Bruton: I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 43 together.
In the first instance, I assure the Deputy that it is the policy of the industrial development agencies under the remit of my Department not to pay grants to foreign companies whose sole intention would be to compete directly with an Irish company on the domestic market and thereby displace existing production and employment.
On the other hand, it must be recognised that all companies located in Ireland, whether Irish or foreign, must expect competition both at home and overseas and they in turn are free to compete in foreign markets. In that regard, it is certainly conceivable that a foreign company could be grant-assisted to set up in Ireland to service, for example, UK or European markets where these markets are already serviced by an Irish company with a similar product, essentially on the basis that the market concerned will be large enough to sustain both companies without disruption.
Specifically, the following tests are used by the agencies to evaluate the effect of proposed overseas start-up  projects on existing manufacturers: is the market large enough to sustain the new project in addition to the viable capacity already established? Is the start-up company providing import substitution for products which the existing manufacturer is already competing against? Would the new company, in the absence of grant assistance, locate elsewhere in Europe, e.g. Northern Ireland and Wales and provide the same competition to the existing manufacturer?
If these tests are negative, and as a consequence the agency considers there is sufficient capacity to supply market demand, then grant assistance is not provided to the newcomer. To the extent that the tests prove positive, and the agency proposes to assist the project in question, this will only be done in the context of careful deliberation to ensure any impact on the existing operation is minimised to the greatest extent possible, if indeed not entirely eliminated.
In addition, of course, my Department, which is represented on each of the boards of the agencies concerned, may take a view on the matter and discuss it with the particular agency. While I am satisfied that appropriate consultation takes place between relevant agencies as the need arises, given the possibility that the separate existence of Forbairt and IDA Ireland may have created an extra degree of uncertainty in this regard, I will issue the necessary instructions to ensure that this does not arise in practice.
Miss Harney: I very much welcome the latter part of the Minister's reply because we have two agencies — one with a role in indigenous Irish industry and one with a role in foreign-based industry — that are now in conflict with each other on this matter. It is important that the Minister draws up guidelines to eliminate this conflict. I wrote to the Minister in the summer about a Shannon-based company in the smoke detector market. This company is the market leader in Europe and one  of the four big players in the world. It has 240 employees and never been grant-aided. Would the Minister agree that it would be wrong for this State to grant-aid one of the competitors of that company with the effect of simply displacing jobs from Shannon to Fermoy?
Mr. R. Bruton: It is the responsibility of the agencies concerned to do an assessment and impose conditions relating to grant-aid for an incoming project, designed to ensure that it would not interfere with an established viable operation. Where the possibility of grant-aid is under consideration and there might be displacement of jobs, conditions to deal with that can be applied. It is my understanding that, in the instance to which the Deputy refers, that is what occurred.
Miss Harney: I do not know what conditions can be applied here. What the Minister is saying is that it will not be able to compete on the domestic market. There are 240 people employed at Shannon to supply the domestic and European market. Will the Minister not agree that it is wrong to use taxpayers' money to subsidise a foreign competitor to that indigenous Irish company?
Mr. R. Bruton: The final decision on a grant package of this nature lies with the agencies. It is not a political decision. I, as Minister, create the framework within which those decisions are taken. That framework requires that the question of displacement of jobs be considered. In the case to which the Deputy refers there was detailed consultation on the subject involving both agencies. It is my understanding that as a result of those consultations specific conditions were applied to the issue of grant-aid in order to meet the concerns. It is a matter of judging what is in the national interest when grant aiding projects.
Miss Harney: Who makes that decision?
Mr. R. Bruton: All companies compete, be it with Irish or overseas based competitors and the agencies have to take a balanced view against the background of those criteria. I am determined to ensure there is no falling between the crevices because of the separation of the IDA and Forbairt. In the case to which the Deputy referred, detailed consultation took place as a result of which the board imposed certain conditions on the grant-aid package.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Has the Fermoy industry gone?
Miss Harney: When a conflict exists between the IDA and Forbairt because of their different roles, who makes the final decision? How is a judgement arrived at?
Mr. R. Bruton: In practice the board makes the final decision and is obliged to comply with certain negotiating guidelines which specifically set out the procedure for cases that might impact on the domestic economy. In addition my Department, which is represented on the board, identifies key vulnerable sectors where incoming industry might create difficulties. In such cases there are even more developed antennae for identifying possible displacement effects. The responsibility for a final decision of this nature rests with the board but if the figure for grant-aid is above a certain amount the decision is referred to the Government for approval.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: As the time for priority questions is exhausted, we will deal with the remaining two questions in the time allocated for other questions.
31. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the amount of the £6 million allocated in the 1995 budget for a local employment service that has actually been spent. [14485/95]
Mr. R. Bruton: The Government approved an allocation of £6 million for establishing a local employment service of which £5 million was provided in respect of the additional costs of intensive guidance, counselling and placement service and other associated overhead costs of delivering service which cannot be met from within existing resources and £1 million was provided for a local training and education fund.
That funding will be disbursed only on foot of plans agreed and submitted by local management committees. The Government decision was taken on foot of the interim report of the Task Force on Long-Term Unemployment.
The task force recommended that the 12 established area based partnerships should be in a position to submit their plans by the end of June of this year. This was an ambitious target and all concerned worked hard to achieve it. In the event, five plans were received in August and a further two in September. The remaining plans are expected in the coming weeks.
Last week I gave the go-ahead for the local employment service to commence operations in Tallaght and Limerick. I was impressed by the quality of these two plans, but it took time — well spent time — to develop this quality. The local employment service is designed to provide an integrated service to meet the needs of the long-term unemployed. The service will provide the gateway or access point to the full range of options which should be available to enable an unemployed person move from the world of unemployment to the world of work.
In this context, it must be able to provide a planned programme for progression for the unemployed person, including guidance and counselling and an active employment placement service. As part of the programme it must be possible for a long-term unemployed person to access appropriate placements  on education, training or work experience programmes.
The local employment service must be specifically tailored to the needs of its clients — the long term unemployed of its area. The local response has meant the active involvement of numerous organisations to co-ordinate and develop their plans. Representatives of FÁS, social welfare, the vocational education committee, the national rehabilitation board, the local partnership, local business representatives, local youth services, centres for the unemployed, unemployed persons and other local groups made valuable contributions to the plans.
Before approval is granted. I wish to ensure that the plans are focused with priority given to the target group, the long-term unemployed. As the Deputy is aware, the temptation may be to focus on too wide a target group. I am satisfied that the time and effort taken to develop plans by the partnerships, with the active assistance of my Department, will result in meaningful and effective local responses to the long-term unemployed. I expect that the local employment service will draw down significant amounts of the moneys earmarked for its use.
While no funds have been disbursed to date, I expect that the partnerships in Tallaght and Limerick will now move quickly to draw down the necessary funds to establish the local employment service in their areas. Similarly, funds will be disbursed to the other areas once their plans have been received and approved in the near future.
I emphasise that the local employment service is a new initiative. It must be established on a proper basis so that it adds value and is a good use of taxpayers' moneys to tackle long-term unemployment.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Minister answered my question in the second last paragraph of his reply when he stated that no moneys have yet been drawn down out of the £6 million granted to  him by the Minister for Finance in the budget last February. Deputy McDowell will recall that at the Estimates meeting we asked if the Minister would spend this money and I referred to him as a “thrifty lad”. However, he is extremely timid and parsimonious in that, ten months later, he has not spent one penny of that £6 million while, unfortunately, the number of long term unemployed continues to increase. I understand the need for proper plans but I do not understand why the Minister, with £6 million in his kitty, did not see fit to urge that the new measures be submitted and implemented. In the words of the Minister of State, is it acceptable to the Minister that the number of long-term unemployed has increased while £6 million lay idle?
Mr. R. Bruton: It is not acceptable that the number of long-term unemployed has increased and we will continue to devote a great deal of attention to this area. As the Deputy acknowledged, the local employment service must be properly planned. It is pointless proceeding without proper local consultation, without targeting the groups in need of assistance or without interventions designed to meet the needs of the areas in question. That requires consultation and invigilation of the proposals by the Department to ensure proper focus on what we wish to achieve. I am satisfied that proper plans are in place to commence operations in two areas and we will be in a position shortly to approve additional plans. The plans being submitted are of sufficient quality to convince us that the local employment scheme will add value and be a permanent feature that will ensure greater value for future programmes. The unemployed will not be thrown, like cherries into a cake, from one programme to another but will be helped in a targeted manner.
Mr. M. McDowell: I agree with Deputy O'Rourke's remarks. At the Estimates meeting before the summer we were led to believe the delays would  be overcome shortly. If the programme was carefully planned and that planning accounted for the delay, was it not apparent at budget time that most of the money would not be required this year? As the Minister specified two projects he hopes to fund in the near future, will he confirm how much money each of those projects will receive from the £6 million? Will he also indicate, in respect of the balance of the projects under consideration, if it is the case that moneys will not be paid out in 1995?
Mr. R. Bruton: The position is not as the Deputy suggests. I have approved plans on which significant sums of money will be spent — hundreds of thousands of pounds in each case — and I hope to be in a position to approve additional plans in the near future. A total of 14 local employment schemes will be in operation and drawing down funds in the next month to six weeks. However, they will draw down funds only on the basis that they represent good value for taxpayers' money. It is pointless setting up schemes that would not stand up to scrutiny as in the case of Leader 1, under which schemes that did not meet the required standards were implemented rapidly.
Mr. M. McDowell: While I sympathise with the Minister's view that taxpayers' money should not be wasted, what Members on the Opposition benches find hard to stomach is that at budget time we were told £6 million would be spent on this programme to tackle unemployment for which the Government received all the kudos, but now we discover in October that not one single halfpenny has been spent and, from what the Minister has said, although he has been vague and evasive in his replies, it looks as if less than £1 million in toto will be spent in this calendar year. The Minister should at least make a public statement admitting that the figure will be less than £1 million and apologise to all those who believed the spin doctors last February when the  budget was presented that the Government was serious about tackling this problem.
Mr. R. Bruton: The Deputy is incorrect, considerably more than £1 million will be spent on the programme by the end of the year. We will continue to make sure that the essence of the plans on which money will be spent is quality so that the long term unemployed in particular areas will see that this service will genuinely do something worthwhile to improve their chances of re-entering the workplace. The local groups share our view that there should be proper local consultation and that they should put together a plan that is tailored to meet the needs of their own area and will produce genuine benefits. I am satisfied that the approach being taken is both wise and prudent.
Mrs. O'Rourke: There are only ten weeks to Christmas. With the best will in the world I cannot see how the Minister will be able to fruitfully spend £6 million during this period when not one single penny has been spent to date. What will happen to this money? It is apparent that the Minister has not been busy motivating the local groups to submit their plans. Will he be able to roll over this money in 1996?
Mr. R. Bruton: The discussions on the 1996 Estimates are ongoing. I am determined to make sure that provision is made for the continued development of the local employment service.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Will the money be rolled over?
Mr. R. Bruton: I have no wish to see X million pounds spent by a certain date. I wish to see a quality programme introduced. Significant sums of money will be spent in a worthwhile fashion under this programme before the end of the year and it will be developed and strengthened in the years ahead. It will be an important measure in targeting  assistance at the long term unemployed in particular areas.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The term “roll over” is used in the Budget Statement. Will this money be rolled over to 1996 and added to?
Mr. R. Bruton: It is my understanding that the amounts available each year are included in the Estimates. The Estimates will determine how much will be available in 1996. No provision has been made in the system of Government accounting for rolling over sums in that way, although this may be the system used in many private businesses.
Mrs. O'Rourke: When I was in the Department of Education, part of the allocation for primary school buildings remained unspent for two years running and the then Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, arranged for the introduction of a financial roll over mechanism to allow funds to be rolled over from one year to the next. I notice in the newspapers that the Minister has been one of the few good boys and girls with regard to the Estimates. Will he surrender this money?
Mr. R. Bruton: The Government is fully committed to the development of the local employment service and will make provision for this in the 1996 Estimates. I am not aware of the roll over mechanism which the Deputy availed of in respect of capital spending on primary schools, but the Government is determined to make sure that the programme succeeds and will make the necessary funds available.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Blather.
Mr. T. Kitt: The Minister has told us in flowery terms what the Government is determined to do and he is determined to fight for, but will he give us a categoric assurance that these moneys will not be lost in the Estimates for next year?
Mr. R. Bruton: I plan to secure extra funding for the development of this service on a greater scale in 1996. That is what the Government is determined to do.
32. Mr. T. Kitt asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the Government's position regarding the implementation of the EU Directive on working hours which requires statutory holiday leave being extended to four weeks by 1999. [14486/95]
Mr. R. Bruton: The existing holidays legislation in Ireland allows for three weeks' paid annual leave. Most workers have, however, negotiated leave allowances in excess of that statutory minimum. The EU Directive on the Organisation of Working Time, adopted in November 1993, provides, among other things, that member states must take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks. While the directive must be implemented no later than November 1996, member states can avail of the option of a transitional period of not more than three years, up to November 1999, in relation to the annual leave provisions.
This means that member states have direction in deciding whether, and to what extent, the directive's three year transitional period should be used in implementing the entitlement to increased holidays. This issue, among others, was addressed in a discussion paper on holidays legislation published in November 1994. Here, it was suggested that phasing in the additional statutory entitlement over the transitional period might be the best way to enable employers to plan for and absorb the extra costs. The social partners responded to that document and significant consultations have taken place with them subsequently. The ICTU has sought the immediate introduction of extra leave, which it considers should be 21 days in line with negotiated norms.  On the other hand, IBEC has argued that all employers should be allowed, on a voluntary basis, to avail of the three year transitional period. Other organisations representing employers have put forward a similar view.
I have given very careful thought to the views of the social partners. As I have just outlined, their views are almost diametrically opposed on this subject. I could not easily see how the State could readily reconcile their views without coming down on one side or the other. It would be preferable to advance on a consensual basis in the interests of the overall public good.
In this light, I have decided that the best approach to giving effect to the directive's annual leave provisions is for the draft legislation not to set out any legal obligations in relation to phasing in extra holidays in the period up to November 1999. The most appropriate approach to introducing the additional holidays is for the social partners to negotiate the issue in line with normal collective bargaining arrangements. It may very well be that they will conclude the best way to absorb the costs associated with the extra holidays would be to phase in the increase.
However, I am of the view that management, employees and trade unions are in the best position to make assessments on cost, competitiveness and employment issues and arrive at suitable, negotiated agreements on the basis of the individual circumstances of each firm.
While the majority of employees in the State already have 20 days or more, those businesses most affected by the extra holidays would be the most vulnerable to increases in labour costs — small enterprises, start-up companies, firms seeking to ensure survival in the highly competitive services sector. I would very much like to be in a position to introduce legislation for the extra holidays with immediate effect. However, we must all be conscious of our competitiveness position, particularly with unemployment so high and must avoid the imposition of measures  that could put existing jobs at risk and stunt the generation of badly needed new ones.
Mr. T. Kitt: Does the Minister accept that he has fudged the issue? Would he explain what happened to the proposal made by the Minister of State, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, that the extra holidays entitlement be phased in? This was seen as a compromise. Does the Minister have figures for the number of workers limited to the statutory minimum entitlement of three weeks holidays? Is it true that they are in the main low paid and temporary workers? The Minister and his colleagues sitting beside him should have the interests of these workers at heart in dealing with the issue. Was the Minister responsible for having the proposal put forward by the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, changed or was it due, as reported in the media, to a revolt by the mandarins?
Mr. R. Bruton: I have not in any way fudged the issue. The intention is very clear. The legislation will not give legal force to phasing it in and it will be open to the social partners to proceed on the basis of consenus. This is a well established and successful procedure. The issue will be discussed, at the appropriate level, in line with normal collective bargaining arrangements. That is the correct way to proceed and will give management, unions and employees an opportunity to ensure that the legal obligation to have four weeks leave by 1999 is dealt with in a way that is sensitive to the work conditions in each area.
Mr. T. Kitt: The Minister did not state the number of workers involved. There are approximately 200,000 workers involved, many of whom are low paid. Does the Minister accept it is his duty to protect their vulnerable position? Is it true that some employers will not be obliged to bring in the new scheme by 1999?
Mr. R. Bruton: All employers will be  obliged to bring in the scheme by 1999. I am aware of the figure mentioned by the Deputy. Surveys carried out by various employer organisations describing the impact on the different sectors appear to be consistent with the figure of 200,000. It is the Department's task to protect both the vulnerable position of workers and issues of competitiveness that might undermine employment. Everyone will be entitled to four weeks leave by 1999 but in order to implement it in a way which is sensitive to the needs of different employments the matter should be discussed at the appropriate level in line with current negotiating arrangements.
Mr. M. McDowell: Any politician who talks about holidays takes his life in his hands and any politician who is a barrister and talks about holidays is doubly foolish. Will the Minister agree that in implementing a minimum four week holiday entitlement he must be careful to ensure that it is not seen by those with clout to deliver on industrial relations matters as additional to present informal leave arrangements? Ireland must remain internationally competitive. Existing Irish habits, such as extensive factory closures at Christmas time and so on, should be taken on board. This should be a net entitlement and not a gross additional entitlement.
Mr. R. Bruton: I am conscious of the need for competitiveness and am confident that the social partners will be in a position to deal with this in a way that is sensitive to our needs and will not add unnecessary burdens of cost. That is why I am leaving it to management, unions and employees to work out in accordance with normal negotiating procedures.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Did the Minister present his proposals to Cabinet?
Mr. R. Bruton: No. The Heads of the Bill will be drawn up in my Department  and will go to Cabinet. Then they will go to the parliamentary draftsman for detailed drafting.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I meant the altered proposals. Were the proposals worked out by the Minister of State. Deputy Fitzgerald, and overturned by the Minister presented to Cabinet?
Mr. R. Bruton: No proposals were presented to Cabinet. The procedure is that the Heads of the Bill will be drawn up in the Department and will go to Cabinet in the normal way. They will then go to the parliamentary draftsman for detailed drafting and will return to Government for decision before final publication.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I am sorry if I appear obtuse. The Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, drew up proposals, presumably in consultation with her civil servants, but they were overturned at a mac meeting. Was that matter brought to Cabinet?
Mr. R. Bruton: The matter has not been discussed at Cabinet. That is the norm.
33. Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason a report under section 392 of the Companies Act, 1963, has not been presented to the Oireachtas since the presentation of the report for the period 1 January 1992, to 30 June 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14440/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): The latest Companies Report presented in accordance with section 392 of the Companies Act, 1963 was published in November 1993. The drafting of the next report to December 1994 is at an advanced stage. The present computer systems in the Companies Registration Office have  presented difficulties in providing secure statistics for the report. These are being addressed in the finalisation of a new information technology plan. These difficulties, allied to pressures of work and stretched resources in the Companies Office and in handling company investigations and High Court actions, have played a significant part in delaying the finalisation of the next report. It is my intention to present an updated report to my Government colleagues and the Oireachtas as soon as possible.
Miss Harney: What percentage of companies filed returns each year?
Mr. Rabbitte: I do not know that figure but the most recent report published shows a very large number of recalcitrant companies were prosecuted for failure to file returns; 1,963 companies were prosecuted that year. The terms of compliance are being improved under the 1990 Act and an evaluation made of the considerable injection to the IT area which will enable the Companies Office to be more effective. That will impact on the level of compliance.
Miss Harney: In awarding contracts does the State discriminate against companies that have not filed returns?
Mr. Rabbitte: I am tempted to say I will leave that until the main event later today — the procuring and handling of Government contracts.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: The Minister of State is very confident.
Mr. Rabbitte: Extremely.
Mr. T. Kitt: He is the relief man.
Mr. Rabbitte: It will also deal with the manner in which they were awarded under the ancien regime.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: The Minister of State was wheeled out for the 6 o'clock news on television.
Mr. Rabbitte: A tax clearance certificate is the primary requirement. I do not know if a search is carried out in the Companies Office to see if returns are filed. I do not believe it is mandatory to do so.
Miss Harney: Will the Minister of State consider discriminating in favour of companies that file returns? Is there any merit in commercialising the office and making it operationally independent? It would not cost anything extra as it could sustain itself financially and the office might not suffer the staff constraints it has at present.
Mr. Rabbitte: The procedures and systems in the Companies Office are being examined. I referred to the IT injection envisaged given the evaluation of a plan we are considering. If the latest computer capacity is adopted by the office, there is no reason it should not be able to provide the quality of service which Deputy Harney correctly expects it to provide.
I have not examined the question of its privatisation. I have an open mind on the issue and whether it would contribute to the efficiency with which it does its job. The current review in the Companies Office and the application of the most modern systems ought to put the office in a position to do the job adequately.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Is the Minister satisfied the office is adequately staffed and has the necessary expertise to evaluate the companies which make applications?
Mr. Rabbitte: Companies Office reports issued over the years, as required under the 1963 Act, have tended to be mainly statistical. The provision in the 1963 Act is very general in nature. It is only in the recent past that the compilation of the report has gone beyond mere statistics. Assessments are now contained in the report in terms of different aspects of the responsibilities  imposed by the Companies Acts and this is likely to be the trend in the future.
It is difficult to give the Deputy a categorical assurance regarding the adequacy of staff. I am not aware of any office which would claim to be adequately staffed, particularly an office which took on the onerous duties included in the 1990 legislation. As Deputy O'Keeffe is aware, extensive impositions resulted from the 1990 Act and this has involved both the Companies Office and the company law section of my Department in extensive new functions. One only has to look at the number of company investigations carried out in the short time since the 1990 legislation was enacted. I cannot say to the Deputy, with my hand on my heart, that the office claims it has adequate and appropriate staff. However, measures have been taken to boost its capacity to do its job and discharge its functions under the legislation.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: The Minister mentioned the number of prosecutions taking place within the office. Up to what year did the review, which led to these prosecutions, cover? Many Members are aware of companies which were registered for a number of years, but which never made returns and have not faced prosecution.
Mr. Rabbitte: The figures I quoted were from the latest report. The trend has been that the report is published approximately one year after the end of the relevant year. Although the position was much worse in the 1980s, the current position probably reflects the additional business I mentioned. I referred to the year 1992 to 30 June 1993. An arbitrary period of 18 months was taken for the report which was presented to the House on 15 November 1993. The prosecutions to which I referred would have taken place within that 18 month period and up to 30 June 1993.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: When does the Minister envisage the 1993-94 Companies Report will be published? Is it in the course of preparation? It is unsatisfactory that we are in the tenth month of 1995 and the report is not to hand.
Mr. Rabbitte: I agree the situation is not ideal.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: I am not blaming the Minister of State.
Mr. Rabbitte: The report is virtually complete and I expect to be able to bring it to Government within the next couple of months. It will be published before the end of the year. As I indicated, it is not, unfortunately, out of synch with the practice heretofore. For example, the report for 1987 was published on 26 January 1989. The report for 1988 was published on 25 January 1993, which is five years later. I accept the situation is unsatisfactory and although it has improved, it is still inadequate. I have asked my Department to indicate whether it can comply with my wish that the report be available for presentation to the Houses of the Oireachtas not later than six months after the end of the relevant year.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: I thank the Minister for the information. Can he give a categorical assurance that all the files and registrations up to 1992 have been reviewed by the Companies Office? Is he in a position to state that companies registered prior to 1992 but which did not make returns have all made returns as a result of the 1992 review?
Mr. Rabbitte: I will have to take advice on that matter. I do not think I would be in a position to assure Deputy O'Keeffe or the House that all companies prior to 1992 which were required to register did so or that the Companies Office is in a position to state there is no company unregistered prior to that period which it has failed to follow up. Based on nothing other than anecdotal knowledge about Ireland and the Irish  people — what we are and the way we were — it would be most surprising if every company in the State formally filed returns, was appropriately registered and complied with all aspects of company law. I do not think that is the case. It would be a rather expensive exercise to put in place the type of trawl envisaged by Deputy O'Keeffe. However, this is not, in any way, to condone companies which do not comply with the law. I do not think the Deputy's suggestion is feasible.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: It seems quite simple to me. If a company is registered, it is mandatory to make a return at the end of the year. It seems a simple process to establish whether a company has made its returns.
Mr. Rabbitte: If one examines the statistics for any given year, one would be quite surprised by the number of transgressions. Some of these are merely technical but others are more serious.
Mr. M. McDowell: I am pleased the Minister's mind is open to the question of privatising the management function of the Companies Office. However, it is virtually the universal experience when one is in Opposition — a role I have always played — that when an amendment is proposed to legislation suggesting an annual report should have a specific deadline, every Minister from every party I have confronted always says they will do their best but ask not to be limited in time. Is it not the case that if the Companies Office, which plays the role of the policeman of companies, cannot get its own reports ready in time, it has no moral authority to tell any company to get its annual returns filed within a certain time?
The Minister can tell the management of the Companies Office to get its act in order. It deprives itself of moral authority in its dealings with all the companies it is supposed to kick around when they do not submit their returns on time  if its reports on what it is supposed to be doing are years in arrears.
Mr. Rabbitte: Before I reply to that, I wish to indicate to Deputy O'Keeffe that in the last report to which I referred, annual company formations were in excess of 14,000 since 1989, so we are talking about a fairly large number of new companies each year.
I agree with Deputy McDowell; it is not good enough. I have tried to sketch the background, I have tried to indicate that the situation has been improving, but anybody who has ever been to the Companies Office on any kind of search would concede that there is a very hefty backlog, for a variety of reasons. Considerable resources have been devoted towards modernising the procedures in the Companies Office and as a result of that its capacity to discharge its functions is much better than it has been.
I indicated to Deputy McDowell that it is my wish to bring about a situation where, within six months of the end of the relevant year, the Companies Report as required by this section of the Companies Act will be ready, that is about as ambitious a target as one could reasonably expect to meet. It also is as ambitious a target as most private companies would meet in terms of their own shareholders, so if we could reach that situation, it would be acceptable and certainly a major improvement on the situation that has obtained up to now.
34. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the international mobile investment located in this country over the last five years; and the potential employment accruing from this investment. [13393/95]
Mr. R. Bruton: Over the last five years IDA Ireland has negotiated a large number of new and expansion projects with overseas mobile investors. They are as follows, and I will list the number of projects approved and the  job approvals for these five years. I will round up the figures:
|Year||No. of Projects Approved||No. of Jobs Approved|
It must be stressed that job approvals have long ceased to be used as a measure of performance, given the divergence between them and the jobs created by particular projects and overall for specific years. This can be seen from the actual number of jobs created for the years in question, as follows:
|Year||New Jobs Created*|
*(First Time Jobs and Recoveries)
In that regard, new jobs created in any one year are not directly related to projects approved in that year, and grants are not paid for jobs approved but not created.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: I thank the Minister for the information. Is the Minister concerned at the competition from Scotland and Northern Ireland? Is he concerned that under the counter deals are being offered to lure these companies to Scotland and latterly, to Northern Ireland?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are going beyond the bounds of this question as tabled.
Mr. R. Bruton: Of course the IDA has to be concerned all the time with the competition. The Deputy is right that  competition for internationally mobile investment has become more intense but the last number of years have been very good for the IDA which has been very successful last year and this year. We will have to get used to competition from newly industrialised countries in Europe and existing competition such as Scotland and Northern Ireland, but I am confident that the IDA has the capacity to identify the correct growth sectors and build up sufficient residue of skill in Ireland so that it can continue to be a very attractive location for inwardly mobile investment.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Does the Minister share my concern about the lack of international mobile investment in the Cork area over the last five years, given that we have lost the Siemens project and another project to Belfast? A senior executive of that company is reported to have said that they chose Belfast because they did not know where Cork was. Is the Minister satisfied that the IDA is approaching international investment in Cork in an assiduous way?
Mr. R. Bruton: I am satisfied. I do not have the sort of figures to which the Deputy is referring to hand so I cannot quote the performance in relation to Cork in recent years but I know that the IDA has put considerable effort into developing and attracting companies to the Cork area, with notable success in certain instances. I will get the Deputy additional figures in relation to the IDA's performance in Cork.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Does the Minister propose a new strategy to attract more mobile investment because of the fierce competition in the marketplace from the state agencies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales? When does he propose to put this strategy in place?
Mr. R. Bruton: I am currently reviewing the approach to enterprise strategy in Ireland and in particular the approach of the industrial agencies to  mobile investment. As I pointed out to Deputy O'Keeffe, the IDA is currently enjoying very considerable success. All Deputies will recognise that its performance in the last two years has been exceptional, but it must continue to be alert to trends in the marketplace. I can assure the Deputy that we are currently reviewing those trends and expect the IDA to respond in ways that will ensure that we are well placed to continue to attract large inflows of foreign direct investment.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: How can the Minister justify the argument that there is potential investment after the loss of one of the most important industries this island has seen, the Siemens project? Would he agree that industries locating here are the periphery of major multinational industries and that there has been no solid investment in the last two years?
Mr. R. Bruton: As I outlined to the Deputy in my reply, the increase in net employment growth from IDA companies in the last number of years is from 6,300 in 1991 to 9,800 in 1994 and I believe that in 1995 the IDA will match if not exceed that figure, so there is real growth in this area. It is part of a general good employment growth being enjoyed by the economy at the moment and the IDA deserves credit for that performance.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That concludes questions for today.
Mr. Leonard: My question was next but we had a sort of Cork monopoly there. In fairness, less time should be spent on questions and Members who have been waiting months to have a question answered should be given a chance.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I concur with the Deputy's aspiration. I have been exhorting Deputies to be brief.
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 Keogh — the implications for universities of the reported proposals by the Minister for Education to control selection in their governing bodies; (2) Deputy D. Ahern — the shipping of plutonium from Douneray in Scotland to Sellafield; (3) Deputy B. O'Keeffe — the installation of proper facilities for persons with mobility difficulties at the new district and family courthouse at Old Model School, Anglesea Street, Cork; (4) Deputy E. Byrne — reports that the British authorities have dumped an estimated million tonnes of munitions, including phosphorous incendiaries, in Beaufort's Dyke and other sites around the Irish coast since 1920 and that 2,517 tonnes of nuclear waste were dumped in Beaufort's Dyke in 1981; (5) Deputy S. Ryan — the need to amend legislation to enable planning authorities to have regard to the previous record of developers and builders when considering planning applications.
The matters raised by Deputies Keogh; B. O'Keeffe; D. Ahern and E. Byrne have been selected for discussion.
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 5. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements should apply in relation to No. 5. Statements shall be confined to the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and to the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party. The statement of the Minister shall not exceed 45 minutes. The statements of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case. Following the opening statements, the Minister shall take questions. Such questions shall be brought to a conclusion within one hour. At the conclusion of questions, the Minister shall be called on to make a concluding statement which shall not exceed five minutes. If No. 5 concludes before 7 p.m., the sitting shall be suspended until 7 p.m.
Private Members' Business shall be No. 24. It shall be taken for one and a half hours on the conclusion of No. 5 or at 7 p.m. whichever is the later. The Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business  shall be interrupted on the conclusion of Private Members' Business tonight.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There are three matters to put to the House. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 5 agreed to?
Mr. D. Ahern: While we on this side of the House will not press a vote on matters relating to No. 5, I would like to propose an amendment on the basis that we want more than one hour for questions and answers from the Minister. We made this clear in our negotiations with the Government over the past few days. The Minister on the airways undertook that he would sit in the Dáil until midnight. We have not looked for that but we would like him to stay to 8 p.m. answering questions. We would like two hours for questions.
The Taoiseach: There is only one precedent for such a debate.
Mr. Andrews: This time last year.
The Taoiseach: On that occasion questions were allowed for 40 minutes. Questions are being allowed for 60 minutes on this occasion. I remind the House that the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications will answer questions in the Dáil on Thursday in the normal way. I have no doubt the Opposition will have ample opportunity to put any questions relevant to him and to have them answered.
Mr. D. Ahern: Will the Taoiseach respond to the reaction of the Minister on the television the other night? When I questioned the Government Chief Whip the next day, I was told it did not matter and that it was poetic licence on the Minister's behalf.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy has quoted fairly accurately what was said. It was, as he said, a figure of speech. The Opposition will not only have an hour to put its case, which it has been  putting quite freely elsewhere, but a further hour to ask questions. Furthermore, there will be questions again on Thursday in the normal way. This debate is exceptional.
Mr. Dempsey: It is not exceptional.
The Taoiseach: We are providing for the debate in this form to allow the Opposition the opportunity not only to put questions but also to make statements.
Mr. Andrews: There are precedents.
The Taoiseach: That is adequate in view of the fact that the Minister will take Parliamentary Questions on Thursday. I am interested in Deputy Andrews's reference to precedents. The idea of Ministers making statements and answering questions was not one which his party was willing to put into practice when in Government.
Mr. B. Ahern: I am interested in getting on with the debate. However, when we debated the Greencore issue and last year when we discussed the matters which brought down a Government, the discussion was fairly free flowing as the Taoiseach, then Leader of the Opposition, will remember. Will the Taoiseach allow the Opposition to ask questions until 8 p.m.?
The Taoiseach: I have made the proposal which will allow one hour for Opposition speeches and one hour for Opposition questions. There will be questions on Thursday again. There is other legislation and matters of public business to be transacted. I know this issue has absorbed a lot of the energy of the Opposition for the past number of months, whether productively or not remains to be seen. I assure the House it is the Government's view that it is providing sufficient time on this occasion in view of the fact that there is a lot of other business to be transacted.
Mr. B. Ahern: I remind the Taoiseach that from 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. is Opposition Private Members' Time. We will concede our time. I ask the Taoiseach for the last time if we will have an extra hour.
The Taoiseach: I am sorry the Deputy must keep asking the same question. He must not be able to comprehend the answer. I said clearly it is my view that affording the Opposition one hour to make speeches about this matter and one hour to put questions, in view of the fact that it will be able to ask the same Minister questions which it has tabled on the same subject on Thursday, represents a reasonable amount of limited available parliamentary time being devoted to this matter. It is for the Opposition to explain why it is attaching such priority to this issue. It is being afforded ample opportunity through the speeches and questions which it is being allowed to ask to demonstrate the priority which it is giving to this matter over many others for which parliamentary time might be made available. The Government has made a decision which it recommends to the House.
Mr. B. Ahern: Unfortunately, we do not have enough Members on this side of the House to stop the Government guillotine on this.
An Leas-Ceann Comhairle: Is Deputy Ahern pressing his amendment?
Mr. D. Ahern: Yes.
Mr. Rabbitte: Where is Deputy Cowen? I see the brawn but not the brains.
Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand” put and declared carried.
An Leas-Ceann Comhairle: Are the arrangements for Private Members' Business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for a late sitting agreed? Agreed.
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): I welcome this opportunity to place before the Dáil today the facts surrounding a number of important issues which have been brought to the attention of the public in recent weeks. It is unfortunate that some of these issues have been misinterpreted and that my intentions have been misrepresented, but I now intend to set the record straight on both counts.
In my speech today, I will set some events of the past few months in their proper context so this House and the public can clearly see what is important and what is not. I will give details of some questionable activities affecting the sale of assets in the semi-State sector and inform the House about the findings and recommendations of the task force.
When I inherited this portfolio I discovered an airline maintenance company on the brink of collapse, a peat company overwhelmed by debt, a transport company where the staff was totally demoralised, a postal service with no strategic direction—
Mr. Dempsey: On a point of Order, could we please have a copy of the Minister's script? It is a normal courtesy.
Mr. Lowry: That is not my prerogative.
Mr. Lowry: ——and electricity and telephone companies which had not been given a clear mandate for the future. I have confronted and tackled these problems in a determined and decisive manner. My policy is to ensure the long term future of these companies by facilitating changed management so that they will be able to grow in an increasingly competitive environment.
The campaign which has been waged  against me has been based fundamentally on words I did not use and actions which have been deliberately distorted. It is nothing less than an attempt to drive a wedge between this Government and the State companies under my aegis. This campaign is wrong and it will fail.
I fully support the State sector.
Mr. Dempsey: The Minister had better speak to his own spin doctors.
Mr. Lowry: I want these companies to develop in a viable manner. I want them to realise their full potential for stimulating growth in this economy. I want them to provide good careers and sustainable jobs for the people who work in the sector. Those people, chairmen, board members and notably, staff, through their diligence and endeavours, have contributed enormously to the wealth of this nation.
Dr. Woods: It is only lately the Minister discovered it.
Mr. Lowry: As Minister, I want to increase the competitiveness of the commercial State companies, to improve quality and broaden the range of services available to the consumer and to provide value for money and perhaps, most importantly for the future, to position these sectors strategically so they can deliver superior performance in a future of unprecedented change.
Since I became Minister, this Government has introduced a comprehensive, integrated approach across the whole range of transport, energy and communications. My strategy emphasises competitive pricing, customer focus, performance measurement, forward planning and effective management of change. Within the overall strategy, the issue of good corporate governance and good management practice for the commercial State companies within my remit is central. This  includes two areas of particular relevance to us today, procurement and asset disposal.
Best practice in those areas is founded on two key principles; first, to get the best possible value and second, to allow all qualified contenders to compete for business. The two are linked; getting the best value depends on open competition and without competition, we cannot be sure we have got the best value.
This is particularly important in the State sector where enterprises are publicly owned and where there is an extra responsibility to give all those qualified the opportunity to compete. There must not be any room for favouritism or golden circles. This is precisely why for some years now formal guidelines have been laid down for procurement practices.
I remind the House that there has always been a certain amount of scepticism as to whether these principles are being fully applied in the public sector. As recently as last August, Deputy Harney stated on radio that one only has to look at very significant contracts awarded in this State over the past ten or 15 years, and to look at the political association of some of the companies involved, to see that the system is not satisfactory, even though new tendering procedures were introduced for the State sector some years ago. It is interesting that Deputy Harney should have got from her network of contacts exactly the same feeling as I received from those who have indicated to me that they believe a cosy cartel operates in the State sector. Many people feel excluded from State business for reasons other than price and quality.
Contrary to the impression given by the Opposition, I did not dig for any dirt on any file since I took over as Minister, but I regret to advise the House that it was brought to my attention that the two best practice principles which I have outlined have not been fully observed in the recent past in two of the commercial State companies for which I have responsibility.
 The following example led directly to my decision to set up the task force to review the controls and procedures governing procurement and sale of assets.
In 1992, following a competitive tendering process. Bord Gáis appointed a firm of architects for a £1.6 million refurbishment of its headquarters at Little Island. The company was subsequently approached by a neighbouring firm in Little Island to sell its existing headquarters there. Bord Gáis agreed to do this in June 1994 and in November 1994, decided to consolidate all its Cork based activities at its existing Albert Road location in the city.
In April this year, the board decided to extend the appointment of the architects originally appointed for the refurbishment of the Little Island premises to undertake the necessary design work relating to Albert Road site. Even though the new project is three times the size of the original project, the board decided to extend the architectual contract without competitive bidding, saying that it did so to meet the timescale set by the prospective purchaser of the Little Island complex. This deal was meant to be concluded by August last.
While I acknowledged that the board's decision of April was broadly in accordance with the guidelines for State bodies on competitive tendering, my clear preference would have been for BGE to have gone to tender for the revised and much expanded project at Albert Road. This project was sufficiently different in scale and nature to warrant such an approach.
On 2 June 1995, I met with the Bord Gáis chairman in the company of the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Stagg, and made it clear that I was not happy with what had happened. I had also asked my officials to review the Bord Gáis case in the light of the guidelines for State companies. It informed me, after a review, that the guidelines, in fact, were silent on the issue of asset disposal.
It was on 2 June 1995, that I  announced publicly my intention to conduct a full review of procurement and tendering in the commercial State companies for which I have responsibility. I ask the House to note that date; it was 2 June 1995. I am pleased that since my meeting with the chairman, Bord Gáis has announced strict new procedures in relation to property disposals, property valuations and property consultancy. Despite the original apparent urgency, the deal has not yet been done for the Little Island property and no decision will be taken by the prospective purchaser until November of this year. This directly contradicts the reasons cited by the board for not putting the architectural contract out to tender in April last. Speed, it seems, is no longer of the essence. In line with my earlier expressed preference for competitive tendering. I have asked the board to review those transactions and notably the continuation of the architectural contract and to report back to me in the matter.
Meanwhile, another disturbing incident was brought to my attention. This matter involved CIE. The specific case I want to look at has to do with the sale of land owned by CIE in Cork and is a vivid illustration of what has been described as a cosy cartel.
I am referring to the sale of CIE-owned land at Horgan's Quay in Cork. The land in question was a strategic three acre site at Horgan's Quay forming part of the Kent Railway Station. It is close to Cork city centre with excellent road frontage. This site has long been regarded as a valuable piece of property and has attracted attention from potential purchasers over a ten year period. CIE's own property consultants advised as recently as May 1994: “this is a very important site which should appreciate substantially in value over the next 20 years”.
There were two firm inquiries about the sale of the Horgan's Quay site from the Cork Harbour Commissioners between 1983 and 1993. No deal was done because, according to CIE, the site was considered to be of strategic  importance to the company's operations. There were also other inquiries about land at Kent Station from other substantial companies.
On 22 July 1994, just three weeks after Dermot O'Leary was appointed chairman of CIE, Mr. Owen O'Callaghan of O'Callaghan Properties (Ltd) phoned CIE's property manager and said that he was interested in acquiring property at Horgan's Quay. On 13 October, less than three months after this approach, the board of CIE approved the sale of the property to O'Callaghan Properties. Given the ten years of inactivity which had preceded this sale the speed with which this deal was completed is nothing short of remarkable.
Mr. D. Ahern: Like Deputy Coveney's phone call. The Minister has some neck.
Mr. Lowry: The following facts are drawn from a report prepared by accountants Craig Gardner on behalf of CIE and submitted to the company on 28 August this year. It is a report, incidentally, which in my view raises more questions than it answers. The report concludes that there has been no breach of CIE's procedures in relation to the disposal of the Horgan's Quay site. This conclusion clearly raises a major question mark over the effectiveness of the procedures which operated in CIE at the time.
In 1986 the CIE board adopted a policy of more active management of the group's property assets in order to maximise their return to the company. Central to this was the formation of a property sub-committee, chaired by the chairman of CIE and comprising other CIE directors and executives as well as a number of outside property experts. The property sub-committee was very much involved in considering the development of Kent Station. The Craig Gardner report shows that it was mentioned at committee meetings in April and October 1992, in March, April,  June, September and November 1993 and in February, March, April, May and July 1994.
However, just three months after the appointment of Mr. Dermot O'Leary as CIE chairman the property was sold without any reference to the property sub-committee for its advice. Mr. O'Leary would have been aware of the role and activities of the property sub-committee. He was, after all, a board member since his appointment by the then Minister, Deputy Brennan. A number of questions arise in relation to the development of this property and its eventual sale in September 1994, to O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd.
The report shows that a firm of estate agents and valuers retained to provide professional advice in relation to Horgan's Quay recommended in May 1994: “that development proposals for a Joint Venture Development be sought on the basis of an open brief... that this would yield the optimum value of the site and the optimum return over a long term to CIE”. They also advised that: “in order to maximise value, it would be necessary to expose the site to the market in a wide ranging manner, emphasising all the benefits”. Indeed, they suggested that the site could attract overseas interest. None of this was done. This professional advice was conveniently ignored.
The report shows that CIE did not keep any interest in the Horgan's Quay site even though the estate agents were of the view that the company should: “retain an on-going equity in what is a very important site which should increase substantially in value over the next 20 years”. It is clear, given the level of interest in the site and the views of the estate agents, that this property should have been advertised widely with a view to achieving the maximum return for CIE and the taxpayers. This was the stated intention of the CIE board when it decided to adopt a more aggressive attitude towards its property portfolio in 1986.
Instead, as I understand from the Craig Gardner report, on the basis of  one phone call, O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd. found itself on a fast track, unlike other would-be buyers who were shunted off into the sidings. Others who had expressed an interest in the site were ignored.
Mr. D. Ahern: The former Minister, Deputy Coveney, tried that.
Mr. Lowry: Let us look in more detail at the property sub-committee. The report notes that the property sub-committee, “performed a useful oversight role and allowed independent property expertise to be brought to bear in a complex and specialised area”. The report shows that the property sub-committee of CIE, at a meeting held on 11 July 1994, considered the development of Cork station and Horgan's Quay to be a category 3 project.
A category 3 project is one which has a long term development time frame. Yet, just 11 days after the meeting and following the approach from O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd., the project was, without any explanation, catapulted into category 1 status, which means it was to be developed or disposed of within one year. It was sold shortly afterwards without any reference to the property sub-committee.
The report shows that papers prepared for the September 1994 meeting of the property sub-committee indicated that the proposed development of Horgan's Quay was being examined as a joint venture. In late September 1994 the secretary of CIE had to consult with the acting chief executive of CIE in order to get clearance to put the O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd. proposal before the October board meeting. He did this because it was no longer possible to bring the matter before the property sub-committee as the committee had been disbanded by Dermot O'Leary shortly before this.
Mr. Creed: Who appointed him?
Mr. Lowry: The report shows that the  last meeting of the property sub-committee took place on 11 July, just 11 days after Mr. O'Leary was appointed chairman of CIE. No further meetings were ever held, despite papers being prepared for the abandoned September meeting. The report notes that there is no record of the precise date of Mr. O'Leary's decision but concludes that it was in late September.
Mr. O'Leary's decision to disband the property sub-committee was not communicated to the CIE board until its meeting of 2 November 1994. I quote from the relevant CIE board minute: “The Chairman said that he wished to re-appraise the organisational process leading to approval of property transactions by the board. He said the current system was somewhat bureaucratic and over-elaborative”. The board then approved a decision which had actually been taken unilaterally by the chairman the previous September.
What was the role of the board? CIE board papers clearly suggest that the board did not know, when presented with and agreeing to the O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd. proposal on 13 October 1994, that it had not been assessed and recommended by the property sub-committee, the very committee formed to assess deals of this nature. The board could not have known since it did not even know that the property sub-committee had been disbanded.
The report shows that the board of CIE was not advised about the independent valuation of the site and neither was it shown the independent valuer's report.
A memorandum prepared for the October 1994 board meeting of CIE stated, “it is now proposed to develop this land, fronting Horgan's Quay, as a Technology Park in conjunction with O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd.”. Yet, when an agreement to dispose of the site to that company was reached, there was no mention of a joint venture; it was simply sold off.
Much has been made of the fact that O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd. paid £200,000 an acre for land which was  valued at £150,000 an acre — a total of £602,000 for the 3.01 acres sold. The property may have sold for more but we will never know.
Mr. D. Ahern: How much less?
Mr. Lowry: CIE was in possession of what it had been advised by its professional advisers was a prime property likely to attract wide interest if advertised for sale nationally and overseas. It ties itself into a shut-out deal and sold the property on the basis of just one offer. How many Deputies would sell their own house on that basis, never mind a commercial property of strategic significance?
Mr. D. Ahern: They would if they received a good price.
Mrs. O'Rourke: Like the Minister sold his own company.
Mr. D. Ahern: We are not talking about a house.
Mr. Lowry: The report shows that the heads of agreement approved by the CIE board in October 1994 provided that £50,000 was payable within 21 days of the property being made available by CIE, £200,000 was payable within one month following the granting of planning permission for the proposed development, £160,000 was payable 12 months after the date of the grant of planning permission and £192,600 was payable two years after the date of receipt of planning permission. Any Opposition Deputy who would sell their house in those circumstances would be rapidly homeless.
Some 12 months after the board of CIE approved this sale, the company has not received one penny for this land. Contrary to what appeared in the newspapers last week, no contracts have been executed — nothing has been paid by O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Does it have the deeds?
Mr. Lowry: In effect, here is a State company, strapped for cash, bank rolling a significant element of a project for a private developer. The effort of these curiously generous terms would be to reduce the real value of the price paid. Allowing for the cost of money and the risk element involved, CIE's proceeds will be much less than the nominal amount paid.
Further, the heads of agreement on the sale approved by the CIE board gave the purchaser an open-ended option to buy adjoining CIE property at a price to be agreed. The original professional advice had suggested that any such option should be for three years only. Instead, the option in the heads of agreement was open-ended, increasing the value of the option to the buyer, again at the expense of CIE, which would effectively have lost control of that adjoining property.
In light of the facts I have outlined, I have today written to the chairman of CIE inviting the board to review its earlier decision on the Horgan's Quay site and to report back to me within a couple of weeks.
My statement to the House will be followed by a question and answer session and I note that Fianna Fáil have four Deputies lined up against me, who, I understand, are the party's best and brightest. Before the day is over, it would be helpful to the House if we could learn the answers from the Fianna Fáil front bench to the following questions. Does it unreservedly endorse the CIE handling of the Horgan's Quay site? Would it regard this as a model of behaviour for the State sector? Does Fianna Fáil endorse the exclusion of all except one bidder from the sale? Does Fianna Fáil endorse a payment arrangement with long deferred instalments with CIE in effect committing to hand over the property without a penny being paid? Does it endorse the granting of an open-ended option at an unspecified price over valuable adjoining lands?  Does it endorse the rejection of the independent valuer's advice that the site should be exposed to the market in the widest possible fashion? Does it endorse the bypassing and disbandment by the chairman of the property subcommittee, which included independent property experts? Does it endorse the decision not to advertise the site and not even to seek a bid from particular parties which had expressed an interest in the property over the years?
Mr. Lowry: The fundamental question is this: does Fianna Fáil wish to endorse and stand over the role of the then chairman of CIE, who, as chairman both of the board and of the property subcommittee, oversaw each step in this unhappy saga?
Mr. Dempsey: This is about the Minister's actions.
Mr. Lowry: Are these the standards Fianna Fáil wishes to set for us all? Last April I asked Mr. O'Leary to resign as chairman of CIE. Shortly after this two events took place. First, five Fianna Fáil appointed non-executive directors of CIE attempted to engineer a coup designed to reverse my appointment of Mr. Eamon Walsh as the new chairman of the company. A meeting held by this group of dissidents was attended by the former chairman, Mr. O'Leary. As is now well known, that attempt to undermine me proved to be a complete and utter failure.
Secondly, I received reports of questionable expenditure on foreign travel at CIE during Mr. O'Leary's period as chairman. I heard Mr. O'Leary say on television recently that foreign travel he has undertaken during his chairmanship had been of enormous benefit to CIE. He also stated that the trips in which he had been involved had a total cost of £32,000. I draw the House's attention to the comments of the present chairman of CIE who, having investigated these trips, concluded that they were of no  value to the company and that the amount spent on them was not £32,000 as claimed but £54,258.
One of these trips involved a businessman, Mr. Ambrose Kelly, who at public expense travelled as a guest of Mr. O'Leary from New York to Florida in November 1994. This is the same Mr. Kelly who in 1993 and 1994 submitted a proposal to CIE on the development of its property at Kent Station in Cork and who on 15 September 1994 acted on behalf of O'Callaghan (Properties) Ltd. in negotiating this extraordinary deal with CIE on the purchase of the Horgan's Quay site. The events at Horgan's Quay were first brought to my attention on 21 June this year. A few weeks earlier, on 27 May, other members of the Government and I had begun to receive letters making serious claims about certain individuals.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Were they signed?
Mr. Lowry: The allegations in these letters fell into three categories. In the first instance there were a small number of claims directly related to State companies for which I have responsibility and these could easily be checked. Secondly, there were allegations which were clearly wrong or contained information of a non-specific nature and, therefore, could not be checked. Thirdly, there were a number of allegations of wrong doing, some of a criminal nature, touching on various aspects of public life which could only be checked out by the Garda Síochána. These letters contained allegations of fraud, abuse of procedures, the existence of cartels, forgery, bribery, failure to comply with warrants issued by the courts, abuse of public funds, attempted interference with planning applications and other possible non-criminal breaches of good practice in the State sector.
I would like every Member to consider my position. I was a Minister of the Government in receipt of information which alleged serious abuses and malpractices. I could have filed away  the letters or even, as has been suggested, consigned them to the bin. I can imagine the reaction in the House and elsewhere if it was discovered that I had ignored allegations of wrong doing in the State sector just because they came from an unknown source. Given the serious nature of the allegations, I would have been failing in my duties if I had taken the easy option of doing nothing.
One of the letters claimed that a surveillance operation had been arranged to investigate my commerical and private life as well as those of two of the most senior executives in CIE. Clearly, I had no way of knowing whether the allegation of surveillance was true or whether, as the writer suggested, this was an attempt to intimidate me and senior management in CIE. A few days later, following consultation with the Taoiseach, I passed the letters onto the Garda. This decision was perfectly reasonable and I would expect a Minister from any other party to act in the same way if faced with a similar dilemma. In fact, not alerting the Garda to the possibility of criminal offences would have been a dereliction by me of my duty. Since my Department was in a position to investigate only a small number of claims made in the letters, it was clearly best left to the Garda to decide what further inquiries, if any, could usefully be carried out.
The measured manner in which I approached this allegation of surveillance and the fact that I left it to the Garda to decide what action, if any, should be taken makes me wonder why I was accused of sparking a “major security alert”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mr. D. Ahern: Public relations.
Mr. Lowry: I welcome this opportunity to put it on the record that I had, and still have, reasonable grounds to be concerned that a surveillance operation was put in place. I say this for four  reasons. First, there were the letters. The earlier letters, which included the allegations of surveillance, included other claims which turned out to be correct. Second, security sources confirmed independently to journalists that approaches had been made to put me under surveillance. On 6 August last a report in the Sunday Tribune stated:
A reliable private security source has told the Sunday Tribune that he was approached to spy on Mr. Lowry the security source did not take the contract which eventually went to another firm that carried out the surveillance.
Mr. Cowen: The lowest tender.
Mr. Andrews: Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean leí.
Mr. Lowry: On 20 August last an article in the Sunday Business Post stated:
Another private security firm told the Sunday Business Post that they had been approached three weeks ago by two sets of senior political people to discuss the possibility of mounting surveillance on Lowry.
Mr. D. Ahern: Is the Minister quoting from Sam Smyth, by any chance?
Mr. Lowry: Third, the chief executive of CIE, Mr. Michael McDonnell, believes he was under surveillance. Before I mentioned the matter to the Taoiseach. Mr. McDonnell had reported his personal concerns to the Department of Justice. Fourth, I received independent evidence from a reliable journalistic source who, without any prompting from me, was able to provide information on meetings I held, the names of people I met, the locations of those meetings and other information known only to a few people, information which had been supplied to this source by a third party. I leave it up to those with open minds to decide whether it was reasonable for me to be  concerned that surveillance was taking place. I am confident that the general public will accept that I had reasonable grounds for my suspicions, that I acted in good faith at all times and that my actions were responsible and soundly based.
Three sets of High Court proceedings were instituted against me by individuals claiming defamation for libel and slander. These court proceedings were prompted by media reports linking particular individuals to the surveillance issue. Against this background, I sought senior counsel's advice as to how I should deal with further media and other queries relating to the surveillance issue. Senior counsel has advised that by virtue of the High Court proceedings which had been instituted against me all matters within the scope of these proceedings are now sub judice and that it would be inappropriate, therefore, to discuss further in public any such matters pending the outcome of these proceedings.
Mr. Callely: Who was the senior counsel?
Mr. D. Ahern: Did they change the Minister's mind?
Mr. Lowry: Senior counsel has also pointed out that there are well established precedents and rulings of the Chair of this House for dealing with this type of issue.
Mr. Dempsey: The Minister is not up to date as we changed that in 1993.
Mr. Lowry: On the basis of this advice, therefore, I do not propose to name any individuals in relation to this matter.
Mr. O'Dea: Surprise, surprise.
Mr. Lowry: If this was an attempt to intimidate me it failed.
Mr. O'Dea: The Minister is a tough man.
Mr. Lowry: If this was an attempt to destabilise me and the new management team at CIE it failed. If this was an attempt to get me to dilute or to abandon my overall strategy for my Department it failed.
Mr. H. Byrne: Why did the Minister run away?
Mr. D. Ahern: All the Minister has is reports.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the Minister without interruption.
Mr. Lowry: I now wish to address the issue which I believe is of prime importance to every Deputy in the House, that we must have a State sector which is beyond reproach.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: That has always been the case.
Mr. Lowry: The commercial State companies for which I have responsibility are very important parts of the economic infrastructure and they play a critical role in the State. There has never been a root and branch examination of the controls in operation in these companies and I considered such a review long overdue. I regarded this as important in its own right so as to ensure that the controls in place were adequate and also to give me some idea as to the changes which were necessary to enable the commercial State companies to be in a position to operate in the increasingly competitive market in which they now find themselves.
Given the number of companies which had to be examined it is sheer and utter nonsense to suggest that the task force could have carried out it work without the assistance of a consultancy firm. Will anyone honestly claim that a once-off fee of £150,000 is too much to pay to ensure that a turnover of £4 billion a year is fully protected.
Mr. Dempsey: It is too much when one could have got it for half that.
Mr. Lowry: A saving of even 1 per cent in the turnover of these companies would translate into savings of £40 million every year. Interestingly, even Deputy Brennan, who has consistently criticised the task force, admitted during an unguarded moment in a radio interview that he had no problem in reviewing existing guidelines. He stated: “I do welcome the thrust of looking at how you can upgrade and improve the guidelines, that is important”.
Mr. S. Brennan: We are agreed on that.
Mr. Lowry: The task force was given the following terms of reference: to review the procedures which applied in the ten commercial State companies under the aegis of the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications in relation to capital investment, procurement of goods and services, disposal of assets, internal audit and corporate governance with a view of preventing potential fraud and achieving value for money.
It should be clear that the whole thrust of the task force was not to rake over the past, never mind to engage in what some Opposition Deputies have mischievously called “witch hunts”.
Mr. D. Ahern: It should have asked the employees.
Mr. Lowry: It was designed to protect the reputation, assets and resources of State companies, assets and resources upon which the jobs of people in those companies depend. I have a right and duty as Minister to protect those assets and resources and to take whatever steps are necessary towards that end. That is what I did when I established the task force.
The task force was not set up to root  out so called corruption in the State sector. I have never mentioned the word “corruption” and I challenge any Deputy on the Opposition benches to prove otherwise. The task force did not, as claimed by Deputy Brennan, investigate 3,000 contracts entered into by State companies. The only contract examined in detail was Horgan's Quay and this was carried out by Craig Gardner, CIE's auditors, in a totally different capacity. Rather the emphasis of the task force was a positive one. It was one of seeing what procedures were in operation in companies and then suggesting what improvements could be made to them and the general guidelines applicable to commercial companies for which I have responsibility. This was done as part of my overall strategy for preparing these companies for the future. I am pleased to report that in this respect the task force has been hugely successful and I thank the members of the task force, and all those who co-operated with it in their work.
The value of the task force is obvious when one considers it has made 31 recommendations for changes in procedures and in the current guidelines. These recommendations quite rightly strike the correct balance between providing flexibility to the commercial companies and at the same time providing the accountability required of State companies. I fully agree with the recommendations of the task force and I will seek to implement them immediately.
I will elaborate on some of them. In the area of procurement the full rigours of tenderng procedures, as specified in the Public Procurement Rules, will apply to all commercial State bodies under my aegis. These will cover public advertising, receipt and opening of tenders, evaluation of tenders, awarding of contracts, informing unsuccessful tenderers and cost overruns. They will also cover annual updatings of suppliers lists.
Each company will be required to have fully documented procedures covering procurement. Board approval will be required for all contracts in excess of the revised thresholds where  no competitive tendering takes place. The board will be made aware annually of the number and value of contracts with suppliers which, in cumulative terms, exceeded threshold levels. Each tender advertisement will include a statement warning that improper influence will not be allowed. All rollover contracts and contracts for a duration of more than one year will require board approval. The significance of this particular recommendation has already been proven in CIE where examination of a rollover contract led to increased revenue of £2 million a year from one contract. In the area of threshold levels, above which competitive tendering is required, the task force has recommended a doubling of existing levels and I endorse this proposal.
Regarding the disposal of assets the guidelines will be amended to include a provision that the disposal of assets should be by way of competitive tender, public auction or private treaty after public advertising. Exceptional circumstances will require board approval.
I will not deal with the internal audit. I want to highlight the fact that some of the key recommendations of the task force relate to corporate governance, the manner in which companies are directed from the top. The governance of the State companies is an area of profound importance which has not been criticially reviewed since the era of Seán Lemass, when many of these companies were set up. In 1959 he set out an admirable governance framework for State companies which has survived almost intact to this day. This governance framework needs to be transformed to cater for the type of environment in which these companies now operate.
First class corporate governance is central to the smooth and efficient running of the commercial State sector and I firmly believe that the key forum for accountability for commercial State companies must be their boards of directors. I am making changes to invest these boards with the authority and the necessary flexibility to operate in the increasingly competitive environments  in which they find themselves. I want to be able to devolve sufficient authority to the boards and to trust them to get on with the job.
It is essential that the State's commercial companies be provided with boards of directors who are capable of effectively overseeing the companies as they prepare to enter a new and more competitive environment. The task force has made seven key recommendations in respect of the corporate governance of the State's commercial companies. I accept these recommendations in principle and will take action along the lines indicated. I will shortly bring to Government proposals in this area.
Some of the issues that I have dealt with are specifically addressed in the Ethics Act, passed last July. This new approach will send out a very clear message that appointment to a State board is a major responsibility rather than mere recognition of past service. It will, for the first time, put these appointments into proper perspective and ensure that on the one hand the State companies get the boards to which they are entitled and on the other hand that individual directors know what their jobs involves.
If these companies are to grow and flourish in the emerging more competitive environment, they must be provided with a management framework which is world class.
My actions to date indicate my overriding concern for the dedicated public service staff in the State companies for which I am responsible. I want to help in the process that will maximise opportunities for continuing employment, and indeed to create such opportunities where possible.
I want certain unmistakable messages to go out from this House this afternoon. I want those who have thrown every diversionary tactic they know into this debate over the summer to understand that I will not be diverted from the path I have outlined.
Mr. Lowry: Those who have been throwing the parliamentary equivalent of the smoke bomb into this debate need to know that the smoke will be cleared once and for all from this area of public life. I want the many first class semi-State companies to know that the review carried out is fair, reasonable and even-handed and that they can continue to expect that sort of treatment for as long as I am Minister.
Mr. Callely: When will we see a copy of it?
Mr. Lowry: I want those who do or who hope to do business with the semi-State sector to have confidence that merit and value for money are the criteria which apply on every occasion upon which a semi-State company goes into the marketplace to do business.
Mr. Callely: They have lost confidence in the Minister.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: He undermined them.
Mr. Lowry: I want those who conveyed concern to me about the way in which some public business was allocated to know that their concerns have been addressed in a fair and straightforward way. I want the many dedicated people who work in the semi-State sector, directors, managers and notably staff, to have confidence that the resources for their companies will be used on every occasion to best effect.
Mr. O'Keeffe: They have lost confidence in the Minister.
Mr. D. Ahern: He blew it.
Mr. Lowry: Most of all I want the taxpayer to know that the review I carried out has produced real results and that the procedures now in place will give the public the confidence and reassurance they are entitled to expect in the way in which State companies do business.
 I want to thank all my colleagues in Government for their unswerving support in this important undertaking and in particular to thank my Government colleagues in the Labour Party and Democratic Left and my party colleagues.
Mr. D. Ahern: The Minister is grovelling to Dick because he did not ask for his head.
Mr. Lowry: I want the public to know that vigilance, one of the most important obligations I have as Minister, will be maintained on their behalf so that they and this House can have renewed confidence in public enterprise and the manner in which it is conducted on behalf of all of us.
Mr. D. Ahern: The politicians opposite should look to its cosy cartel.
Mr. S. Brennan: The speech we have just heard is a humiliating climb-down. The main allegations of the Minister, Deputy Lowry, are unsubstantiated.
Mr. Rabbitte: Did you renounce O'Leary?
Mr. S. Brennan: The speech leaves most questions unanswered. It falls disgracefully short of his promise to tell all to Members of Dáil Éireann. For three months the country has been convulsed by fantastic claims from the Minister and his army of expensive consultants.
Mr. Durkan: Who appointed O'Leary?
Mr. S. Brennan: These claims of cosy cartels, fraud, white collar crime and surveillance dragged in the Garda, the Taoiseach's office, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Justice, the Attorney General and the Minister, Deputy De Rossa. One would think at times that the very security of the State was at risk. Much of what the Minister has told us is totally irrelevant to the reason for this debate today. There is room for  improvement in procedures. There is some merit in considering——
Mr. Rabbitte: If you had been Minister for much longer, there would be no State property left.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the Deputy in possession.
Mr. S. Brennan: There is some merit in considering how we might continue to improve the expertise available to companies. There is always room for updated guidelines and better procedures but they are not the reason we are here today. This consultant junkie Minister is presenting these items today as a diversionary tactic to try to avoid justifying the serious allegations he made during the summer.
I am aware that the task force report, of which the Minister is about to release a summary, contains the following gems: control ethos in each of the companies is very strong; the companies generally have good detailed procedures for the disposal of assets; the commercial semi-State companies stand up to scrutiny — in many cases the system in place is far better than in most publicly quoted companies. In particular, the task force report states that the ethos of the companies is strongly focused on principles of control and integrity. It goes on to state that it does not make commercial sense to burden companies with items with which their competitors do not have to deal. It is further of the opinion that these procedures provide assurances that assets are fully safeguarded and the risk of fraud is minimised.
Mr. Durkan: They will be minimised now.
Mr. S. Brennan: I put it to the Minister that this task force report states what Fianna Fáil and this country always believed.
Mr. S. Brennan: It states that the semi-State companies have integrity and honesty and are clean. Fianna Fáil will stand up for them at any time.
A Deputy: Tell us about Florida.
Mr. S. Brennan: These are Irish companies employing Irish people who are taxpayers. The Minister's task force report states that these companies have integrity and we on this side of the House second that. I call on the Minister to release the full task force report so that we can see what took place.
Mr. Allen: Tell us about O'Leary.
Mr. S. Brennan: Last December the Minister received his seal of office from the President. These were heady days for an ambitious man. He came from the Opposition backbenches where he laboured on behalf of his party and took over a major ministerial post. The winning of an office of State would be just the beginning. This was a Minister who would make a real impact. In his Department, history would start the day the man from Tipperary took over. Nothing happened before that.
Mr. Rabbitte: Not much happened when the Deputy was Minister.
Mr. S. Brennan: All his predecessors would be laggards and knaves. They would all be Lilliputians on the shoulders of this Gulliver. That is what would happen.
Minister Lowry's personal hopes took a leap forward when he got a letter on 16 July 1995 which appeared to give him information with which to attack Fianna Fáil, three private businessmen known to be Fianna Fáil supporters and the operations of some semi-State companies. This letter appeared to have been written by someone who had previously written to the Minister of State, Deputy Hugh Coveney. The sender of the letter to Deputy Coveney had supplied a false address and clearly could not be trusted  by the Minister, Deputy Lowry, or anybody else. The Minister totally ignored his responsibility to check this matter out and that is where the matter began. He apparently preferred to believe that letter's contents rather than adopt a sensible course of action such as throwing it in the bin.
To launch a major public attack on three people and on semi-State companies based on information provided in anonymous letters was an extraordinary decision.
Mr. Rabbitte: That is untrue.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister Lowry public relations programme took off following that as a result of a briefing which appeared in the Sunday Independent. This resulted in a dramatic front page story in the Sunday Independent on 30 July 1995. Among other allegations, that article contained the following allegations attributed to the Minister: “Minister Lowry is under surveillance by criminal elements attempting to prevent a clampdown on the semi-State sector”.
Mr. Allen: They probably are.
Mr. S. Brennan: The article continued: “Dublin businessmen with criminal connections are spying on the Minister and senior executives of State companies”. As anticipated, that newspaper report sparked some favourable press comments to support the Minister. When the Minister's concerns were communicated to the Garda later that week there was no evidence to support the existence of any surveillance. The Minister, buoyed up no doubt by widespread praise in some parts of the newspapers, and not wishing to lose face, launched further allegations to maintain his popularity after the Garda showed no interest. As he did this, he also tried to subtly change the focus of further press interest by announcing his first red herring — the establishment of a task  force which would sort out the cosy cartels. The Minister made additional allegations on 9 August reported in The Irish Times on 10 August, to the effect that Mr. Eamon Walsh and Mr. Michael McDonnell had been spied upon.
Mr. Rabbitte: This is like “What It Says In The Papers”. The Deputy is out of date.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister, Deputy Lowry, has claimed that efforts by him to smash a cosy cartel in the semi-State sector led to sinister surveillance operations. He has also confirmed he had asked CIE to look into the Horgan's Quay site, and I will refer to that in a moment.
The result of this additional set of allegations was widespread laudatory articles and editorials supporting the Minister. He was now faced with the problem of trying to feed his growing hunger for favourable headlines with no facts at his disposal.
Mr. S. Barrett: Who wrote this for the Deputy?
Mr. S. Brennan: However, this did not stop the man from Tipperary. He simply selected any old evidence that came his way which suited his personal and rather vindictive plans to round up the usual suspects, and he is doing that again today. What the Minister did not understand, however, was that while the newspapers sometimes accept what Ministers tell them as being accurate, they want Ministers to support those allegations. By mid-August newspapers had begun to suspect that the Minister had sold them a pup. Instead of responding to press questions or requests to attend or provide information to Dáil committees, the publicity conscious Minister became shy and retiring, an instant recluse. The Minister could not face the music. He ran away, first on hastily arranged holidays and then on business trips. He also refused to attend Dáil committee meetings or to  furnish documents to the Dáil committees. We have waited many weeks for the Minister to account publicly for his actions.
I want to refer now to the Horgan's Quay site about which the Minister made a great fuss.
Mr. Rabbitte: What did Dermot say about it?
Mr. S. Brennan: In his contribution the Minister quoted the following facts drawn from a report prepared by Craig Gardner: “The report concludes that there was no breach of CIE procedures in relation to the disposal of the Horgan's Quay site”. He further stated: “Much has been made of the fact that O'Callaghan Properties paid £200,000 an acre for land which was valued at £150,000 an acre”.
Proinsias De Rossa: They paid nothing for it.
Mr. S. Brennan: Were they not stupid to pay £200,000 an acre for land valued at £150,000? If the Minister regards that as bad business, it is a very slim case indeed.
An Ceann Comhairle: The interruptions must cease.
Mr. S. Brennan: According to the Minister, they paid over the odds for it——
Mr. Allen: They did not pay over the odds for it.
Mr. S. Brennan: ——and it was proved by the Craig Gardner report. The deal was done, they could go and collect their money.
Mrs. Owen: Not even the price of a bus ticket.
Mr. Rabbitte: Like a site on the Internet, it was free.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister further stated: “The board then approved a decision which had actually been taken unilaterally by the chairman the previous September”. The full board approved the decision, not a subcommittee.
Mr. S. Brennan: In regard to that site, if the Minister chooses to stop the sale of any site in CIE — and he has had seven months to do it — it is his job to pick up a telephone and organise it. He does not have to spend £150,000 to do it.
Mr. Rabbitte: That is a new guideline.
Mr. Durkan: That is the way Deputy Brennan would have done it.
Mr. S. Brennan: In regard to the Horgan's Quay site, the Minister accuses CIE of undue haste and of not talking to a subcommittee but the Minister would not come before a subcommittee of the Dáil. He comes in here today and tells us that a subcommittee of a CIE board, comprising of a couple of non-executive directors, is somehow the be all and end all. The board approved the sale on two occasions and a subcommittee is not needed.
Mr. S. Brennan: When I and my predecessors had the honour of sitting in the Minister's place, Deputy Cowen, Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, other Fianna Fáil Ministers and I had to deal with many difficult questions in State companies.
Mr. Allen: Who appointed Mr. O'Leary?
Mr. S. Brennan: We did not resort to private or public abuse of anyone to do our jobs. We need no lectures today from a Minister on how to behave as  members of a Government. The Minister's frantic posturing for nice notices in the newspapers has now been replaced by bluster and a bullying inability to admit mistakes. Public policy to achieve long term goals can best be served by discussion, not by megaphone management and name calling semi-State companies. The Minister became intoxicated by the initial success of his PR activities over the last ten months. He has moved from being a new boy in the block to being the bully in the Government in less than one year.
During the summer I drew attention to the fact that although the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry, had threatened to go through the semi-State companies like a dose of salts he had done almost nothing since he took office. The semi-State companies continued with the policies of Deputies Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Brian Cowen and me. The Minister took no action other than the most minimal follow-on of our policies. No major issues, which the last Government had begun to address, have been tackled effectively since the Minister came to office.
The Minister has had no effect except to increase uncertainty and anger among the members of our semi-State companies. The latest example of this was last Friday when the Minister said they should stick to their knitting, having led the ESB and Bord na Móna to believe they could apply for mobile phone licences and so on. Having invited these applications he told them, on second thoughts, to stick to their knitting, that is this week's policy on semi-State companies; next week we will have another.
This debate is not about policies of the semi-State companies. That is for another day and I look forward to it. To discuss that today would be to fall into the Minister's trap of discussing the future of semi-State companies. What we want to talk about today is surveillance, cosy cartels and those allegations of white collar crime attributed to the  Minister. That is what today's debate is about.
Is it any surprise then that the boards, the management and the employees of our semi-State companies have never had less of an idea what the sponsoring Minister or Department had in mind? While the Minister spends his energy convincing the world that for the first time in his Department there is a clear thinking, decisive Minister, the reality is that he is the sole author of chaos, confusion and uncertainty in all of the companies to which he is supposed to show leadership, not rapping them on the knuckles like a school teacher. Fianna Fáil designed and built the social partnership model which has helped this country move forward. The Minister is setting out to wreck that work. The seriousness of the position of the semi-State companies was highlighted by Bill Attley's comments last week when he said that Minister Lowry's hamfisted handling of the semi-State companies could result in serious industrial unrest.
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick-East): He said worse about the Deputy's party.
Mr. S. Brennan: The semi-State sector has made an enormous contribution since the foundation of the State. These companies have provided thousands of good jobs on which whole families in Ireland have been reared. Unfailingly, they provided essential services to the economy. The companies have shown enterprise throughout their history. The Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry, has tarnished the public service and caused enormous anger among the thousands of workers in the semi-State companies with his allegations of cartels and fraud. His trawl through the files of semi-State companies for venial sins and mis-demeanours has created enormous resentment and has devastated morale in these companies.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister's private passion for personal publicity has undermined the discharge of his proper ministerial priorities. A man cannot indulge his ego and do his job well at the same time.
A third red herring mentioned in the newspapers recently is that we are supposed to have a commission to advise on the suitability of the nominees to semi-State companies. Since coming to office, this Government has made 527 appointments and now it wants a commission to look at future appointments. What about the past appointments?
A Deputy: Do you hear who is talking?
Mr. Rabbitte: The Government of which the Deputy was a member made 550 appointments before it left office.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister's fourth red herring has been to announce today the new tendering procedures for semi-State companies. He has some nerve and is trying to divert the House and the people he has defamed from forcing him to present evidence today of his allegations of surveillance and so on. The Minister has failed totally to provide any evidence whatsoever to support even a single allegation.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Deputy wrote that script before he heard the Minister.
Mr. S. Brennan: He has not even given a good reason for initiating his public attack on 30 July on the three businessmen whom he subsequently, I believe, named in off the record briefings. Does he seriously expect the Dáil to believe that these newspaper reports were based on anything other than the direct briefing of the press by his agents? That is where it came from. Whatever the merits of the commission, they will not be debated here today.
A Deputy: What commission?
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister knows  what I am talking about. We will debate those on another occasion. It is a diversionary tactic, just like the inspired leak at the weekend about the Ericsson contract. What a timely, obliging anonymous letter writer we have here. He or she comes up to meet the deadlines of the Sunday newspapers and suddenly there is a new scandal, the Ericsson contract. The Minister did not mention this in his speech because there were nine bids. It was above board. It was professionally done. It was vetted by a committee and that is the reason it is not referred to in the Minister's speech. I am surprised the Minister did not say here today, to clear Ericsson and the people who dealt with it, that there was no truth whatsoever in that allegation at the weekend.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister never referred to this.
Mr. Durkan: Is the Deputy suggesting it was a rarity?
An Ceann Comhairle: Order, there is a time limit to this debate. Interruptions should cease.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister talked about trips. I am sure he could get a bigger figure for trips if he spoke with some of his Government colleagues. Perhaps the Tánaiste could tell him a thing or two about trips. The facts given by the Minister in his contribution in regard to trips are not accurate according to my inquiries. If the Minister wishes to talk about expenses at CIE, will he confirm that Mr. O'Leary's salary, as chairman of CIE was £7,500——
Mr. Rabbitte: That was not half enough for the work he did.
Mr. S. Brennan: ——while the salary of the new appointee is £84,000? Do not tell us about trips. Now we have two people at the head of CIE receiving £84,000 each.
Mr. S. Brennan: So much for cutting down. The issue in question today is not whether our semi-State companies need review or tightening up or whether new guidelines are needed. Fianna Fáil tightened up those regulations in 1992. Deputies Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Brian Cowen and I systematically tightened up those guidelines year in year out. It is not enough for the Minister to say that suddenly he will tighten up the guidelines. That is not what the Minister should do.
Mr. Durkan: The Deputy should never have looked for this debate.
Mr. S. Brennan: The most shameful aspect of this whole affair was——
Mr. Dempsey: He had to go away on holiday in July.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy might help his colleague to be heard.
Mr. S. Brennan: ——when the Minister went into hiding. When all of this hit the headlines and when the questions were being answered the Minister, at taxpayers' expense, decided to call retrospectively for evidence and to vanish. In the meantime those whom he had maligned by inference, the Fianna Fáil Party and others had to continue to bear rumours and suspicions while the Minister vanished on business and holidays. How much did this investigation into the sale of one site in Cork approved by the board cost? It cost £150,000, but his officials could have given him that information if he wanted it.
We now return to the question of whether the Minister was under surveillance and, if so, by whom. Most fair-minded observers now accept that the Minister was not the victim of a murky plot either by shadowy figures in the semi-State sector or the Fianna Fáil Party. Is the Minister still sticking to that story? The time has come for the cool clean hero, as he has been branded, to answer that question. The most charitable explanation of the Minister's  actions is that he simply acted foolishly and should now seek a fool's pardon. Even at this late stage he has the opportunity to salvage something from the mess by issuing an ungrudging unequivocal apology to all those thousands of people who have been wronged by his briefings and innuendo.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Deputy will never displace Johnnie Cochran.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister also made fools of his colleagues. His claims were supported in the strongest possible fashion by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Leader of Democratic Left, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Health. A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said he was satisfied that it was of grave concern. As it was coming from the Taoiseach's office, we were entitled to take it seriously. The Minister for Justice also swallowed the surveillance story and ordered the Garda inquiry. When the Garda Síochána completed their inquiries, did the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, pursue her colleague for the additional information which he promised he would give her? The answer is “no” and he did not provide it to the Garda Síochána. On 16 August, a spokesperson for Deputy De Rossa said that he, Deputy De Rossa, was quite happy with the way Deputy Lowry handled the situation. The Tánaiste, who had also been briefed by the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, said he had good reason to believe that he was under surveillance and Deputy Lowry, of course, had his full support. Is it any wonder that the Minister's colleagues today are deeply embarrassed?
Fianna Fáil did not start the sorry saga, the Minister did. Since the Minister came to office, he has spent his time briefing, leaking and shin-kicking his political opponents. As a man with leadership potential he believed he could make his career by manufacturing intrigue. He knew that Fine Gael needed a new hero after years of being in the doldrums. He believed he could  restore pride to Fine Gael by using his ministerial office to smear Fianna Fáil by spreading the fog of innuendo, the old Fine Gael story. After all it was surely the way to move up the ranks of the Fine Gael Party — you simply had to smear Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil has had enough and it will not take any more.
There was a time in this House when Ministers had honour and did not engage in muckraking. My party greatly resents being linked by Deputy Lowry to alleged spying. He has failed to justify that smear. He has not apologised to anybody else for the damage done by his allegations, damage to individual families, damage to reputations and to public staff. The Minister should think of cleaning up his own act.
The Minister is volatile, inexperienced and ambitious. He cares little for the language he uses and how it hurts ordinary families. His response today is deeply disappointing. He has irreparably damaged his relationship with semi-State companies. He has lost the trust of the State companies, he has lost the trust of the Irish people and that trust cannot be rebuilt.
I deliberately refrained all summer, in spite of questioning, from seeking this Minister's resignation, waiting to hear his story. Having heard it today, it is full of side issues, diversionary tactics, red herrings and smokescreens. My party believes the Minister has no choice but to do the honourable thing and resign from this Government immediately.
Mr. Molloy: On behalf of the Progressive Democrats Party may I state that the Minister's revelations in regard to the decision-making process affecting the sale of a site by CIE at Horgan's Quay, Cork and his reference to the appointment of architects by Bord Gáis are considered to be serious matters that warrant the action the Minister has indicated to the House he has taken in regard to Bord Gáis and CIE.
 If one wants to put the debate into context, one has to go back to the events during the summer recess and the statements made by the Minister to the media, statements that were fed to the media by sources attributed to be close to the Minister. We had a long saga of media articles throughout the summer recess in which serious allegations were made that an elaborate cosy cartel existed in the State sector and certain well placed political friends of a particular political party were in a position to obtain contracts for the gain of their company. To be quite honest I had expected the Minister to come forward with the detail of the contracts that had been awarded to the members of the cosy cartel. All we have heard from the Minister, unfortunately, is more details of two cases that have been in the public arena for some time. That does not justify the hype and accusations that have been flying in the media during the past three to four months.
I think politics is debased by the allegations and counter allegations we have heard and which the public has been fed through the media during that period. I can remember quite distinctly during the course of the Cork by-election issuing statements questioning the then Government, the Fianna Fáil and Labour parties, on the sale of Horgan's Quay site by CIE. The Minister has the Fianna Fáil Party on the mat but the Labour Party were members of the Government during the time of the by-election and they were being asked to explain the rumours that were rife in Cork on the manner of disposal of these lands. I do not recall a Labour Party spokesperson coming forward on local radio or in the print media to justify its inactivity on the matter. The issue was raised by Fine Gael Deputies shortly after Deputy Lowry became Minister in December 1994.
The Minister's speech contains some contradictions. I understood he fired Mr. O'Leary, the chairman of CIE, on 25 April, but now he says he did not know about these matters until 21 June 1995. It is difficult to know where the  truth lies or why the Minister would indicate that he knew nothing about the Horgan's Quay sale until 21 June when he now cites that as the reason he fired Mr. O'Leary.
In the Dáil on 17 May I asked the Minister to state his reasons for removing Mr. O'Leary from the board of CIE, to say what severance or other special payments were offered or agreed, and if he would make a statement. In supplementary questions I asked the Minister if in his discussions with Mr. O'Leary he had criticised any decisions he had made as chairman of CIE, alleged impropriety on Mr. O'Leary's part, or made any allegations to the outgoing chairman regarding the making of decisions where there may have been a vested interest. In reply the Minister explained that the change in the chairman's role from part-time to new full time executive chairman was being made in the context of the reorganisation of CIE and that the Government's decision did not reflect in any way on the chairman's fitness for office or conduct within office. There is a contradiction between what the Minister told the House today and what he told the House on 17 May. I only draw these matters to the Minister's attention because far too much time, energy and taxpayers' money have already been expended on seeking to justify the spin-doctoring of the summer months when allegations were made in a sweeping, all-encompassing way that practically every semi-State company was being nobbled for the profit of people who were closely connected politically, and that this cosy cartel was reaching enormous proportions and was of serious consequence. Yet today, after waiting months for the Minister's explanation, all we have heard is a rehash of two cases that have been in the public arena for many months, and the Minister's statements as to when he found out about it are contradictory.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Mr. Molloy: Some of the Cork Fine Gael Deputies told us that they approached the Minister about this issue shortly after his appointment. How then could he only have found out about the matter on 21 June?
The proposals relating to the tightening up of procedures for granting contracts in public and semi-State companies are very welcome. Regarding the other proposals mentioned by the Minister concerning the appointment of people to State boards, we are not told whether that is Government policy or merely a recommendation of the task force.
There is no doubt that over the past four months the Minister has dominated the media. Scarcely a week went by but he was not on the front page of our newspapers with allegations and counter allegations which were becoming more bizarre by the day. Indeed the whole saga of anonymous tip-offs, clandestine meetings and undercover surveillance read more like a cloak-and-dagger episode in a second-rate spy thriller than the workings of a modern Government. This fiasco has damaged the Minister. It has damaged the Department and the Government's ability to manage the companies in the State sector, and the handling of it has damaged politics.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Mr. Molloy: Transport, Energy and Communications is arguably the second most important Ministry — the Minister is in charge of the Department with responsibility for telecommunications, postal services, bus and rail transport, airports, aviation, electricity, oil, gas and peat development, as well as overseeing the operations of the State-owned companies which operate these sectors. He has a key role to play in industrial development. By promoting competition in key areas, such as telecommunications, electricity and aviation, the Minister can do a great deal to boost the competitiveness of Irish industry and encourage job creation. However,  the Minister made a “show biz” style entrance to his Department earlier this year and, with the spin-doctors working in top gear, every newspaper was full of stories about how he would blaze a reforming trail through the semi-State sector. The Progressive Democrats would have welcomed a major reform of the semi-State sector and would have supported the Minister enthusiastically in such an endeavour, but, unfortunately, the reforming package did not materialise. We had indications today of some changes in regard to procurement guidelines and appointments to State bodies, but we do not know when they will be implemented. The Minister has allowed himself to be distracted from his task. He has become preoccupied with political point scoring and protecting himself from imaginary pursuers. He had very little to say about the surveillance today, but much to say about it during the summer months. For the past several months the Minister's eye has been well and truly off the ball, and public policy has suffered as a result.
It seems we no longer have any coherent policy regarding the management of the State sector. There is considerable confusion about the strategic direction of the State-owned companies, virtually all of which fall within the Minister's remit. Does anyone understand, for instance, what is happening regarding the new mobile phone licences? It is stated Government policy to promote competition in telecommunications, and mobile' phone licences provide an opportunity to put this policy into practice. However, virtually the entire semi-State sector, most of which is in the Minister's stable, now seems to be bidding for the licence. Bord na Móna, RTE and CIE are all trying to get involved in consortiums of one kind or another to spend public money competing with Telecom Éireann. The Minister, Deputy Lowry, who has responsibility not just for Telecom Éireann but for national telecommunications policy generally, seems quite content to preside over this state of affairs. We shall soon have a ludicrous situation whereby  the Minister, as effective controlling shareholder in virtually all the State companies, is not just competing with himself but trying to regulate himself as well.
Confusion also abounds in the area of electricity policy. We need to introduce competition to benefit both private and industrial consumers. We are, in effect, being directed to do so by the European Union. A key aspect of any competitive arrangements that might be put in place is the role of the power procurer, the authority which will be responsible for buying electricity from ESB generating stations and other suppliers. No great understanding of electricity markets is required to know that the power procurer must be independent and capable of operating a transparent price policy. However, this Minister wants the power procurer to be a fully owned subsidiary of the ESB which already dominates electricity generation here. Under the Minister's proposals the ESB would effectively be buying electricity from itself. It is difficult to see how such a move would do anything to introduce an element of competition into a sector where it is badly needed. Incidentally, the Minister might also like to confirm a press report that a firm of American consultants had to be paid £5 million to tell us that the ESB was over-manned to the tune of 2,000 staff. It says little for management skills in the public sector if outside consultants are needed to point out home truths like that. I understand the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications appointed consultants NERA, Arthur Anderson and, in my own time, Coopers & Lybrand. The ESB appointed its consultants, McKinseys, so that it could compete with the Minister's proposals. Prior to that the ESB drew up its own corporate development plan. This means there are five different proposals for the future development of the ESB. Who is paying for all this?
This consultancy spree is costing taxpayers millions of pounds. In the leadup to this debate consultants have been  paid approximately £150,000. I have enough problems in my constituency without people from Tipperary telephoning me to complain about the state of footpaths there and stating that a great deal of work could be done with the £150,000 their representative is spending on employing consultants for this purpose. They do not know that not merely was £150,000 spent on consultants employed to examine the problems in semi-State companies, but millions of pounds and one consultants' report is in conflict with another. The Minister is so consumed with his problems that he has effectively abdicated much of his responsibilities for State companies and the Labour Party is driving the agenda on that front. It is interesting to note the recent appointment of a prominent Labour Party supporter to the key position of deputy chairman of the ESB, an appointment supposedly in the Minister's gift. One wonders what policy lies behind that appointment.
The Minister also failed to indicate a view on the ESB's continuing presence in the electrical retailing business. There is no rationale for the ESB's involvement in this business and as a State supported monopoly it has an unfair competitive advantage over private sector operators. Despite the difficulties experienced by electrical retailers, the Minister does not appear to have any views on levelling the playing field in this area. Similarly, it is difficult to see the logic of the Minister's position in regard to Telecom Éireann.
The Progressive Democrats favour the privatisation of Telecom Éireann from the point of view of introducing competition and, once the company has made a good start at sorting out its cost base, that should happen. The taxpayer would reap the maximum reward by floating a highly profitable company on the Stock Exchange. Telecom Éireann would then have independent access to any capital it requires to fund its future development. In contrast, the Minister is obsessed with the need for a strategic partner for Telecom Éireann that would  be sold a stake in the company before its cost problems are dealt with properly. In two or three years' time the partner would be in a position to take full control of the company and the taxpayer would be the loser. Well managed companies do not necessarily need strategic partners, the technology or expertise they require can be brought on the open market.
I fear the Minister's plans for Telecom Éireann are aimed, not so much at promoting competition and generating value for the taxpayer, but at satisfying the political needs of the Labour Party and the public service unions, a real cosy cartel. There is an urgent need to restore coherence to policy so far as State companies are concerned. For several months the Minister has obviously had his mind on other matters and it is beginning to show. It is not satisfactory that he should allow himself to be effectively rubbished in the media by senior managers in some of our State companies. The Minister is supposed to be the controlling shareholder of these companies, a position he holds in trust for all our people.
We need a clear and coherent policy for the governance of our semi-State companies. We need a clear commitment to the creation of real competition in areas such as electricity and telecommunications. Instead, we are likely to get an administrative fudge, reflecting the ideological contradictions inherent in the competition of this rainbow Government. The Minister's policy in this area appears to be grudging and minimalist, designed to satisfy the requirements of European Union directives while making the least possible progress towards increased competition.
The Department of Transport, Energy and Communications is one of the most important Departments in the economic sphere. It is much too important to be run on a part-time basis by somebody closeted away with hired guns from the public relations industry and engaged in a long drawn out political slagging match through the public print. Instead of chasing private eyes,  perhaps the Minister should try to privatise or at least show some evidence that he knows what is going on in terms of Government policy on the semi-State sector generally.
An Ceann Comhairle: We now proceed to questions to the Minister which will be brought to a conclusion within one hour. I remind Members that the usual rules governing supplementary questions apply to this question and answer session.
Mr. Andrews: A number of questions arise from the Minister's statement. Does he stand over his story that the surveillance was linked directly to three businessmen and resulted directly from his work in the semi-State sector? The answer to that should be simply “yes” or “no”. The Minister failed to justify his many strange and unsubstantiated allegations today and during the summer months. His series of allegations and counter-allegations were extremely tedious and included cosy cartels, surveillance, white collar crime and spurious charges against the semi-State sector. As the Minister's statement failed to substantiate many of the claims he made, will he consider his position?
Mr. Lowry: Fianna Fáil should first examine its position——
Mr. N. Treacy: The Minister should answer “yes” or “no”.
Mr. Lowry: ——and the disgraceful role it played in bringing the semi-State sector into disrepute during the summer months, using that sector to gain political advantage.
A Deputy: The Minister did that on his tod.
Mr. H. Byrne: The Minister should answer the question.
Mr. Lowry: I was asked to come in  here and answer questions and I am happy to do that.
Mr. Callely: The Minister was asked a specific question.
Mr. Allen: We are not in a court room.
Mr. Lowry: A number of questions were raised in the statements made and I want to avail of this opportunity to answer them. I will take them in the order in which they were asked.
Mr. M. McDowell: On a point of order, the order of the House is that the Minister answers questions and does not reply to speeches until the last five minutes of the debate. He will not get away with a shambolic approach to this debate.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Thank you, Deputy.
Mr. M. McDowell: On a point of order, is it in order for the Minister to reply to the speeches instead of answering questions?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The order of the House is that time will be allocated at a later stage for answering questions raised in the statements. The Minister will now answer the questions put to him.
Mr. Lowry: In response to Deputy Andrews's first questions, I made it clear in my statement that, on the advice of senior counsel, it would be entirely inappropriate for me to answer specific questions in respect of the involvement of those responsible for putting me under surveillance.
Mr. Andrews: What about the names?
Mr. Lowry: In response to the Deputy's second question, I believed then and I believe now that I had and still have sufficient grounds and reasons for  the actions I took in regard to the surveillance.
Mr. O'Donoghue: In accordance with the rules of the House, will the Minister answer the specific question put to him? The question he was asked, but failed to answer by hiding behind High Court proceedings, was whether he believed the surveillance was linked to his role as Minister. In this context I will read out the Standing Order of the House behind which he appears to be hiding.
Mr. Lowry: The Deputy need not read it out. I believe the surveillance on me was connected with my duties as Minister and I do not have reason to believe anything else.
Mr. O'Donoghue: Does the Minister believe the surveillance was carried out at the behest of three businessmen?
Mr. Lowry: I already clearly outlined that I received advice from my senior counsel.
Mr. Lawlor: It is a pity the Minister was not advised sooner.
Mr. Lowry: During the past six weeks I have been accused of not being available for public comment. That is correct; I was not available because I was advised by my senior counsel, on receipt of three High Court writs, that the appropriate action to take in the circumstances was not to make any further comment on that aspect of the matter. I do not intend to prejudice the case against me in the High Court by referring to the people who were responsible for putting me under surveillance.
Mr. O'Donoghue: The Minister is refusing to answer the question. Mr. Denis Coughlan wrote in The Irish Times of 10 August——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There  should be no quotations during Question Time, Deputy.
Mr. O'Donoghue: This is relevant.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Questions, please.
Mr. O'Donoghue: I must predicate the question on the following quotation:
As for the employment by three Fianna Fáil businessmen of a firm of private investigators to keep the Minister under surveillance, Mr. Lowry felt they had “something going for themselves” within the semi state sector and had targeted him because he was determined to “clean it up”... The three men were “out of control”.
Is the Minister now withdrawing that allegation?
Mr. Lowry: I have already told the Deputies in explicit terms that I am not in a position to give him the answer he wants. As a legal person, he understands the full implications of what I said.
Mr. O'Donoghue: I am asking for a ruling on the sub judice rule as it is applied in this House. Standing Orders Relative to Public Business state:
Subject always to the right of Dáil Éireann to legislate on any matter and the guidelines drawn up by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges from time to time and unless otherwise precluded under Standing Orders, a Member should not be prevented from raising in the House any matter of general public importance, even where court proceedings have been initiated.
The only proviso is that a matter may not be raised where it relates to a case where notice has been served that it is to be heard before a jury or is then being heard before a jury. The position is that no notice of trial has been served in this case. In those circumstances it is incumbent on the Minister to answer direct questions about a matter of public  importance. He has no right to refuse to answer.
Mr. Rabbitte: The action is against the Minister.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has no control over the answers of Minister.
Mr. Martin: You have.
Mr. O'Donoghue: On a point of order, Standing Orders must be enforced by the Chair. The Minister is not entitled to hide behind a rule which does not exist. Why is he doing so?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There is no need for repetition, Deputy.
Mr. Lowry: The Opposition wish to ask me hundreds of questions. In my opening address I advised the House that senior counsel had given me advice——
Mr. Cowen: Senior counsel does not organise Standing Orders or have a say in this House.
Mr. Lowry: The cross-examination Deputy O'Donoghue wishes to engage in can take place in the High Court where I will vigorously defend my position.
Mr. Cowen: On a point of order, when the Minister refused to appear before a Dáil sub-committee — he was basically saying that he would appear before the Dáil when it suited him and at his own time — I pointed out that a dangerous precedent was being set whereby a Minister was determining for this House when and in what manner he would be held accountable to it.
When court proceedings were initiated against Members of this House in the past the previous Government modified the sub judice rule to avoid the charade whereby a Minister could seek to hide behind the fact that proceedings had been instituted. It is only where a  notice of trial has been issued and where a trial is being heard before a jury that a Minister can claim this protection.
I do not care if 20 senior counsel have advised the Minister, based on their understanding of the old rules of this House the Minister cannot decide when and in what manner he will be held accountable to it. He will be held accountable under Standing Orders which Deputy O'Donoghue has outlined and should now answer the question.
Mr. Allen: The Chair is being lectured.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: By way of clarification, Deputy Cowen is correct; the sub judice rule has been relaxed since April 1993, but notwithstanding that, the Chair cannot force a Minister to reply to a question.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister is refusing to reply. Why?
Mr. Lowry: I appreciate the efforts of Deputy Cowen who has legal training to be of assistance to me in legal matters——
Mr. Cowen: For openness and frankness.
Mr. Lowry: ——but I prefer to take my own legal advice.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister cannot do so in this House.
Mrs. Doyle: He can.
Mr. Lowry: I have taken the advice of senior counsel. Deputies, particularly Deputy Cowen and Deputy O'Donoghue, will be aware that the High Court writs have been served on me in my capacity as Minister and on a personal basis. I have a right to vindicate myself in court and I intend to do so.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister has absolute privilege here.
Mr. Lowry: I have not taken anyone to court. Writs have been served on me. I intend to preserve my personal integrity when the matter is dealt with in court. I have an entitlement as an individual to defend my position vigorously.
Mr. Molloy: Why did the Minister inform the House on 17 May that the removal of Mr. O'Leary as chairman of CIE in accordance with the Government's decision had nothing to do with his fitness for office or conduct in office?
Mr. Lowry: The Government's decision to remove Mr. O'Leary as chairman of CIE was based on the report I had received on the future requirements of the company. It was patently obvious that the management structure needed to be strengthened. The Government made a decision to appoint a full-time chairman with the necessary professional skills that could be put to use on a daily basis in the interests of implementing Government policy.
I acknowledge that the Progressive Democrats have made constructive arguments. They have made criticisms, but these have been valid and they are entitled to answers. For that reason I am anxious to answer the question.
Neither I nor the Government knew at the time of any irregularities in CIE. Neither I nor my Department had any investigation carried out. Inquiries were made by the board and incoming chairman of CIE. He requested the board to appoint consultants to conduct an investigation into the Horgan's Quay site. Deputy Brennan mentioned that this cost £150,000, but, as usual, he was inaccurate. The acutal cost of that report to CIE was £10,000.
Mr. O'Dea: In view of the Minister's refusal to answer questions put to him  by Deputy O'Donoghue I remind him of a report written by Deaglán de Bréadún in The Irish Times on 18 August in which he is quoted as saying that while he was constrained by legal considerations from making any further comment to the media about his allegations of surveillance he would answer all questions when the Dáil convened. Is the Minister going back on that?
Mr. Rabbitte: Ask him one.
Mr. Lowry: As soon as I am asked a question I can answer I will answer it.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Does the Minister know the answers?
Mr. Callely: It is a poor show.
Mr. N. Treacy: There are shadows behind the Minister.
Mr. E. Ryan: We did not ask the right questions?
Mr. Lowry: I presume the Deputy wants to hear the background to the surveillance.
Mr. Lowry: I received a letter on 1 July which alleged I had been placed under surveillance because of my work as a Minister. As information in previous letters proved to be accurate I was concerned about that allegation and brought my concerns to the attention of the Taoiseach. There was nothing dramatic about that intervention. It was a simple discussion with the Taoiseach during the course of other political matters. I informed him I had these letters and a letter claiming I was under surveillance. He correctly advised me to give them to the investigative authority, the Garda.
Mr. E. Ryan: What did they do with them?
Mr. Lowry: That was on the 25th.  That evening I made contact with the Minister for Justice and asked her to make some official in the Garda office available to me to take receipt of the documentation. The Minister pointed out that this was not the first she heard of it. Mr. Michael McDonnell, chief executive of CIE, met with the Secretary of the Department of Justice to convey his strong feelings about the fact that he felt he was under surveillance. I have been accused of all kinds of things regarding the media. I wish to make it abundantly clear that I did not release the story of surveillance to the media. On the Tuesday after I received the letter I was approached by a journalist outside the restaurant in this House. He asked me about the story and I told him it was only a claim, it probably was not factual and he should not print it. I asked him to desist from doing so. On Saturday of that week I was contacted by a journalist from the Sunday Independent. I refused to co-operate with the publication of the story and told him I did not wish it to get into the public domain. I told him that the matter was being dealt with by the appropriate authority, the Garda.
Mr. Cowen: Did the Minister speak to him?
Mr. Lowry: Neither I nor anyone associated with me released that story or approved it.
Mr. Cowen: Did the Minister speak to him?
Mr. Lowry: I did not know then but I know now that the letter, and the detail of the surveillance, was in wider circulation.
Mr. Cowen: Did the Minister speak to the journalist?
Mr. E. Byrne: In his statement the Minister referred to substantial expenditure on travel incurred by the former chairman of CIE which has been described by the current chairman as  being of no value to the company. Can the Minister give us further information on the nature of the trips and people who were involved? Can he explain how such large expenditure was incurred by the former chairman?
Mrs. O'Rourke: A plant.
Mr. Callely: How does the Deputy know it was large?
Mr. Barrett: Any more threats?
Mr. Lowry: I referred to this matter in the course of my speech. If my Department refers to something in public I expect people would accept that the figures furnished are accurate. The claim that the foreign travel cost £32,000 is not factual. It cost £54,256.
Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister said £58,000 earlier.
Mr. Lowry: It included two visits to the United States——
Mr. S. Brennan: It included officials.
Mr. Lowry: ——as well as long haul trips to Africa and Australia.
Mr. S. Brennan: As the previous chairman did.
Mr. Rabbitte: Was the Deputy with him?
Mr. Lowry: In South Africa the chairman had one official meeting; in Australia, which is a long distance to travel, he had no official meeting. That trip revolved around golf and sight-seeing and there was a trip to the wine district.
A Deputy: Very nice.
Mr. S. Brennan: Even Deputy Rabbitte goes on wine tasting trips.
Mr. Rabbitte: And pays for his trips.
Mr. Lowry: On one of those trips Mr. O'Leary, who was then chairman of a semi-State company, availed of the opportunity, obviously by coincidence, to visit a Fianna Fáil fund-raising event in New York. One of the trips also included a flight to Miami where Mr. O'Leary was accompanied, at the taxpayers' expense, by his guest, Mr. Ambrose Kelly.
Mr. S. Brennan: For which CIE did not pay.
Mr. Lowry: This type of wasteful expenditure cannot be justified. In a company such as CIE where the new chief executive stated in the past few weeks that staff should not be expected to work in conditions which would be unacceptable in Calcutta——
Mr. S. Brennan: Ask the Tánaiste about trips.
Mr. Lowry: Imagine the demoralisation in that company when staff see this kind of wasteful expenditure.
Mr. B. Allen: Was it during the World Cup?
Mr. Lowry: These extensive trips included using limousines and entertainment such as theatre, golf and various outings. On the second trip to New York they went out to open a new office for the second time. It had been opened previously by the then Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds.
Mr. Rabbitte: There was probably a back entrance.
Mr. Cowen: Wrong again.
Mr. Dempsey: It is still costing £18,000 less than the new chairman's salary.
Mr. Lowry: I want to put this in perspective.
Mr. Callely: Be careful with those notes.
Mr. Lowry: The notes are perfect. During the course of the defence for these elaborate trips it was stated clearly that he was invited out there some way or other, that it was a necessary part of his function and was to generate additional business and revenue. I made inquiries since this statement was made and I have in my possession a letter from CIE Tours International. I will read the important parts of it. I can say with certainty that the initiative and request or instruction for all of these four trips did not come from them but from Mr. Kennedy of CIE. I did not suggest or require that any of the trips would be undertaken.
Dr. Woods: The Minister should have those people here to answer.
Mr. Cowen: This is outrageous.
Mr. Lowry: He went on to say that all of the trips were non-revenue and were dealt with outside the normal method of dealing with passengers. The amount of management time and energy taken up in putting the arrangements together was enormous and totally unproductive in that no revenue was added. In fact, the reverse was the case.
Mr. Cowen: We will go on to something of substance.
Mr. Barrett: These are things the Deputy does not want to hear.
Mr. Cowen: I have a right to speak and ask questions. If the Minister can answer my questions I will be happy.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy without interruption.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister made much play about cosy cartels getting the lion's share of the business. The expenditure  of semi-State companies is of the order of £2.6 billion per year. The Minister spoke about people at the heart of the cartel getting the lion's share of the business. He never disowned newspaper reports of meetings with him or briefings by him. When setting up the task force the Minister is reported in the newspapers as saying the surveillance was an attempt to stop his clampdown on corruption in the semi-State sector. Those are the Minister's words. He can pussyfoot in the House all he likes, but nobody other than he mentioned surveillance. The Minister has produced no evidence and he continues to refuse to answer a simple question as to whether he still thinks he was under surveillance. He claims the surveillance came about as a result of the work he was doing at that time — clamping down on corruption in the semi-State sector.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: A question to the Minister, Deputy.
Mr. Cowen: He spoke about it being evident that there was a cosy cartel in the semi-State sector.
In relation to the details of the Horgan's Quay site, the Minister used the analogy of buying and selling a house. If I had a house which had been falling into disrepair over ten years and somebody offered me £157,000 more than a subsequent independent valuation, I would be inclined to sell the House.
Mr. Cowen: I want to ask the Minister specifically——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Let us hear the question.
Mr. Creed: The Deputy has not asked a question.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister attaches such importance to the Horgan's Quay site but can he explain why the vetting of that contract was held up by two  reviews, one in the Department and another by Craig Gardner which started in August? Why was it that last Friday the lessee acquired the contract from CIE to sign? Did the Minister ever buy a house or put a deposit on a house before signing a contract? Was it not the Minister who vetted the contract? The contract has been passed and has gone to the lessee and the Minister is getting £157,000 more for it than his predecessors were offered in the last ten years. Is that a fact?
Mr. Lowry: No reasonable person could dispute the fact that the information I have laid before the House——
Mr. Cowen: Answer the question.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Answer the question.
Mr. Lowry: The Deputy asked two questions and I will take them in the order in which they were asked. The first question related to cosy cartels.
Mr. Cowen: The lion's share.
Mr. Lowry: The Deputy or any reasonable person in the House would accept the information I have placed before the House is compelling evidence——
Mr. Cowen: No, not at all.
Mr. Lowry: ——of the existence of a cosy cartel.
Mr. B. Ahern: Rubbish.
Mr. D. Ahern: There are only cosy cartels in Cork.
Mr. Lowry: That sums up the whole problem as far as Fianna Fáil is concerned. That is the type of culture it accepts; I do not.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Order please.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister is doing nothing. His culture is criticising everybody.
Mr. Lowry: In this instance the names of a small number of people of similar political outlook kept cropping up in regard to questionable activities.
Mr. Cowen: Why did the Minister pass the contract?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Let us hear the reply. Other Deputies are offering and I want to facilitate them.
Mr. Lowry: Here we have the same people travelling the world at the expense of the taxpayer — friends on a cruise at the taxpayers' expense.
Mr. Cowen: That can be explained too.
Mr. Lowry: These are the same people who are at the heart of one of the most questionable property deals ever in the history of this State. That is the reality.
Mr. Cowen: Who turned around CIE Tours after five years?
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mrs. Doyle): Down in Australia?
Mr. Lowry: This was not just a cosy cartel. This was a sweetheart deal and I am sure the Deputy knows what that involves.
Mr. Cowen: Why did the Minister send the contract last Friday?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Allow the Minister to finish.
Mr. Lowry: The Deputy should relax. He will get the answer.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister is not giving me the answer.
Mr. Lowry: Give me a chance. I am sure the Deputy would like the problems and key weaknesses with regard to Horgan's Quay outlined again.
Mr. Cowen: No, I want the Minister to tell me——
Mr. Lowry: We received two firm inquiries——
Mr. Cowen: There is no contract in existence.
Mr. Lowry: If the Deputy is not interested——
Minister for Defence (Mr. Barrett): That is good ground for the Deputy to defend himself.
Mr. S. Brennan: Craig Gardner had it.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputies on both sides are preventing the reply being heard.
Mr. Lowry: The Deputy is obviously not interested in hearing the chronology of events. The position is that, as of now, I have asked the chairman and board of CIE to review it.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister had it for the last 12 months.
Mr. Lowry: I had not.
Mr. Cowen: He had.
Mr. Lowry: No legal documents have been executed. The draft CIE documents are now based on an original intent and CIE sent it without my knowledge——
Mr. Cowan: The Minister is really in charge.
Mr. Lowry: ——and I have now informed the board and executive of CIE that they should review this matter.  Furthermore, the campaign of misinformation——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: ——Deputies on both sides are repeatedly preventing the Minister from replying. Time is passing and this is a restricted debate. Many Deputies are offering.
Mr. Lowry: In respect of the Horgan's Quay site, I have asked the board and executive of CIE to review it as a matter of urgency. Reports which appeared recently in the newspaper in respect of this contract are totally inaccurate.
Mr. Cowen: The Minister had it for 12 months.
Mr. Molloy: Was the Minister involved in the Cork by-election last year on behalf of the Fine Gael Party as its director of elections? Did the Fine Gael Party, under his direction, issue a statement calling for an inquiry into the Horgan's Quay site sale/CIE affair? Did the Minister of State, Deputy Bernard Allen, approach the Minister shortly after his appointment as Minister with regard to the Horgan's Quay affair, as he stated publicly? Why is the reason given by the Minister in his contribution today for removing Mr. O'Leary from office different from the reason he gave to the Dáil on 17 May?
Mr. Lowry: I campaigned during that by-election and I had a most successful campaign with Deputy Hugh Coveney. I heard the stories and rumours; I heard numerous people, especially business people in Cork, casting serious doubts; I recall it being referred to as “the by-election jobs” in respect of this particular project.
Mr. M. McDowell: What did the Minister do about it?
Mr. Cowen: What about the Greystones light rail project?
Mr. Lowry: I also recall listening to the local radio station and hearing Deputy Micheál Martin complimenting the then Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, for his involvement in bringing about the campaign.
Mr. Martin: That is not true.
Mrs. Doyle: It is true. I can give the Deputy chapter and verse if he wishes.
Mr. M. McDowell: What did the Minister do about it between December and June?
Mr. Molloy: Those are the gaps in the Minister's statement.
Mr. Lowry: When I became Minister I was not aware at that stage of any difficulty with regard to Horgan's Quay other than what I and others had heard in Cork. When I became aware of a problem in respect of this project——
Mr. Molloy: I had heard of them.
Mr. Lowry: ——I asked the new chairman, as one of his priorities, to look at this particular arrangement. He immediately took action on my request. He appointed consultants——
Mr. M. McDowell: That was after April.
Mr. Molloy: The Minister's story does not stand up.
Mr. Lowry: The consultants recently reported and I am giving the House details of the report.
Mr. M. McDowell: There are four months missing in the Minister's explanation.
The Taoiseach: Who was the chairman at that time?
Mr. O'Donoghue: I ask the Minister to reply to the original question about surveillance by speaking in his own  defence, within the rules of the House, and in no way prejudicing any case which might be before the High Court. Since the Minister has refused to answer the initial question, perhaps he would answer this one in the interests of openness, accountability and transparency. Why did the Garda not treat the Minister's complaint of surveillance seriously and what precisely did the Garda say to him? If there was criminality involved, would he not have expected the Garda to have followed up his complaints in relation to surveillance and taken them seriously?
Mr. Lowry: When I met the Garda I simply did what anyone would do in the circumstances. I handed over all of the correspondence I had, including the letter which alleged surveillance. I gave no specific instruction or direction. As far as I was concerned, they were the professionals, they were the appropriate authority and it was for them to make a decision on the contents of the letters.
Mr. O'Donoghue: Did that not undermine the Minister's confidence as regards his belief that he was being followed, in his capacity as Minister, by sinister forces?
Mr. Lowry: My confidence has never been undermined then or now. The details of the letters were a matter for the Garda. I gave no direction or instruction. When I handed over the letters I asked the Garda to make inquiries in respect of the contents of the letters. That was the only discussion we had.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy O'Donoghue has had a lot of time. I am calling Deputy Flanagan.
Mr. D. Ahern: On a point of order, we asked for a one hour question and answer session. Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Byrne are blatantly flying in the face of the commitment I was given in  relation to this question and answer session and of the procedures of this House, and we see it for what it is.
Mr. Flanagan: As an elected Member of this Assembly I deeply resent the outrageous insinuation of Deputies opposite. As an elected Member of this House I have rights and privileges. In the course of the Minister's shocking revelations of the Horgan's Quay saga this afternoon, he made reference on a number of occasions, as did Deputy Molloy and others, to the interest of Mr. Dermot O'Leary in this matter. I ask the Minister to indicate the number of boards to which Mr. O'Leary was appointed, when, for what duration and by whom.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister to reply. We are wasting precious time.
Mr. Lowry: It is a matter of public record that Mr. O'Leary was appointed to seven State companies by three Fianna Fáil Ministers — Deputies Brennan, Cowen and Geoghegan-Quinn. He was the chairman of CIE, Bus Éireann, Bus Atha Cliath, Iarnród Éireann, Aer Rianta, Aer Rianta International, and the Great Southern Hotels Group.
Mr. Lowry: I have been asked a question and I am anxious to answer it. The reality is——
Mr. Lowry: May I answer the question?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Let us hear the Minister's reply, please. I want to get on to Deputy Brennan's question.
Mr. Lowry: It is obvious from that that Mr. O'Leary, who is a very prominent member of the party, highly regarded, was rewarded in this fashion by these seven appointments.
Mr. S. Brennan: I have two questions and I would like straight answers to them. Is the Minister aware that in this debate, he is apparently maligning an individual who cannot be here? Is he aware that that person has stated that the CIE Tours part of the trips brought £5 million worth of business to Doyle's Hotels and £4 million to Jury's? Is he aware that Mr. Paul Conlon went on similar trips, and there was nothing wrong with those trips? Is he further aware that many aspects of these trips and many of the flights were paid for privately? The Minister has not answered my question as to why he is paying £84,000 to his appointee and he paid Mr. O'Leary £7,000.
My second question is an important one and the Minister should pick his words very carefully when he answers it. Did the Minister, in private conversations with members of the media and or with third parties, name the three individuals whom he suspected organised surveillance? There is a straight yes or no answer to that. He either mentioned their names to the media, which led to the speculation, or he did not.
An Ceann Comhairle: May I advise the House, before the Minister intervenes, that question time will end at 7.05 p.m. I therefore invite Members to utilise the time as equitably as possible.
Minister for Defence and the Marine (Mr. S. Barrett): Is a journalist reporting private conversations to Deputy Brennan now?
Mr. S. Brennan: That is what is in the papers.
An Ceann Comhairle: Minister Barrett's intervention is quite unhelpful at this time.
Mr. Lowry: To answer the first part of the question, I have already read into the record an extract from an official letter from CIE Tours which states specifically and clearly — I am sure the Deputy does not doubt the veracity of that letter or the person who wrote it — that:
...all of these trips were non-revenue, were dealt with outside our normal method of dealing. The amount of management time and energy taken up just putting the arrangements together was enormous and totally unproductive in that no revenue was added, in fact, the reverse was quite the case.
The answer to the second question is that fundamental to this whole affair is the fact that I attempted to ensure that this story was not published; and I have outlined how I did it. I succeeded initially. When the story did surface it was presented in a cautious way as no more than a claim of surveillance. The strategy of my office which applied to all my advisers — my PR people have been accused of other things here today — was to play down the story and we did spend a considerable period of time keeping it under control.
Deputies must also remember — this is the fundamental point — that the story originated outside my Department, so there is no truth in the suggestion that either myself or my advisers promoted it. We now know that these letters were widely circulated to politicians and to journalists before any story was ever published.
An Ceann Comhairle: Questions have been asked, let us listen to the Minister's reply.
Mr. Lowry: Before any story was published, one journalist said he had  received two unsigned letters making allegations about business people and claiming that CIE executives and I were under surveillance. My advisers did not deny the existence of the letters, the fact they had been sent to the Garda for consideration or that they had been drawn to the Taoiseach's attention. Two journalists have confirmed in print and on radio that I made very stringent efforts to stop the publication of the stories.
Mr. S. Brennan: Did the Minister mention the three names to the journalists?
Mr. Lowry: I will not leave this House with a pall over my public relations team. They acted fairly and honourably with the media and everyone else in this regard. The type of allegation the Deputy is making now he made publicly in a statement against my PR team. If he continues to make those allegations, he will need to do what he did on 20 September when his legal people wrote to my communications team saying that in the circumstances of the current controversy, their client wished to state that nothing released by the party press office was intended to defame and in so far as it caused any distress or embarrassment to Bill O'Herlihy, their client very much regretted it and no statement would be issued by the Fianna Fáil press office impugning the integrity of O'Herlihy Publications.
Mr. Lowry: I already pointed out that, for policy reasons, we appointed a full-time executive chairman of CIE. Mr. Eamon Walsh, in his capacity as chairman, has——
Mrs. O'Rourke: Who appointed him?
Mr. Lowry: ——already made very significant progress in turning around that company. That is acknowledged by management and employees who feel  they have leadership and guidance which is necessary for the future of the company.
Mr. Dempsey: The reason for this debate is that the Minister made allegations of a cosy cartel in the semi-State sector.
Mr. Connor: And proved it.
Mr. Dempsey: I want to ask him under the privilege of this House to name the cosy cartel operating in the semi-State sector——
Mr. Barrett: Ask Deputy Brennan.
Mr. Dempsey: ——which he alleges has cornered millions of pounds annually — three businessmen were allegedly at the centre of it — this cartel, as the Minister announced in The Cork Examiner on 10 August 1995, which has frozen out other business people and tied up business deals. Will the Minister tell the House if the only evidence he has is the Horgan's Quay site in Cork? Will he publish the full report of the task force and not only the recommendations he has selectively mentioned today?
Mr. Lowry: I am happy to inform the Deputy that the full report of the task force is already in circulation. In respect of cosy cartels, I have already indicated to the House where I saw a cosy cartel in operation. The Deputy quoted The Cork Examiner and I am glad it has a wide readership in County Meath. On 10 August I was quoted correctly in The Cork Examiner following an interview in my office with Mark Hennessy of that newspaper. He wrote: “Insisting that he was not alleging widescale semi-State corruption, the Minister declared that ‘it is more the case that the system is flexible enough to allow few people to manipulate affairs to their advantage’.”. There has been a gross distortion of what I said and comments have been attributed to me which I never made. It is not my intention to attempt to justify  comments which have been put into the public arena for mischievous reasons and for political advantage by Deputy Brennan and others.
Mr. M. McDowell: I would like to follow on from Deputy Molloy's question. If the Minister was aware in November-December 1994 and January this year of a controversy in relation to Horgan's Quay and if he called for an inquiry in the course of the Cork by-election into this matter, what did he do when he was Minister between December 1994 and June 1995 in pursuance of this matter? Did he ever ask the then chairman of CIE, Mr. O'Leary, to account for himself in this regard? Did he make any inquiries of CIE about this matter or ask for an explanation until he had removed Mr. O'Leary from the chairmanship? Is it the case that one of the reasons that actuated his removal of Mr. O'Leary from the chairmanship was that he wanted to get to the bottom of the Horgan's Quay controversy?
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): It is like asking Bart Simpson if he was bold.
Mr. Lowry: Yes, I was aware of the rumours. When I appointed a new chairman at the end of April, I gave him an instruction in respect of the policy the Government wished implemented in the company which meant restructuring, strengthening management, lifting the morale of the workforce and generally giving a sense of direction to the company.
Mr. M. McDowell: Will the Minister answer the question?
Mr. Lowry: During my initial discussions with the new chairman, I asked him——
Mr. M. McDowell: I asked about the old chairman.
Mr. Lowry: ——as a priority to examine the Horgan's Quay site.
Mr. M. McDowell: Did the Minister ever ask the old chairman?
Mr. Lowry: I felt that was the appropriate form of action to take.
Ms F. Fitzgerald: I believe that the taxpayer, tired of scandals like passports for sale, an expensive beef tribunal and EU fines because of malpractice, supports what the Minister is doing today. He has no apology to make for insisting on higher standards. As regards the CIE boardroom revolt in July where certain confidential information was leaked to the media, was this an orchestrated revolt organised out of concern for CIE or an attempt to destabilise the new management of the company?
Mr. S. Brennan: Let us cut it short; it is a Fianna Fáil plot.
Mr. Lowry: Deputy Brennan would be well able to answer this because he was involved in the orchestration of this attempt. The reason the attempted coup failed was that Deputy Brennan was involved.
Mr. S. Brennan: A well known Fianna Fáil plot.
Mr. Barrett: Where did the Deputy hold the meeting?
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Did the Minister attempt to mislead the House in his speech when he said that 12 months after the board of CIE agreed the sale of the Horgan's Quay Site, no money has been passed? However, there were two reviews in the interim period and the contract was only presented to O'Callaghan Properties last week.
 Did he, in trying to support the argument in his speech, indicate an openended agreement? The Minister selected material from paragraph 16 of the heads of agreement of the sale approved by CIE and failed to inform this House that there were conditions pertaining to it and the contract to be signed. He particularly omitted to tell the House there was to be an agreement at a price to be negotiated but more importantly, in the event of the land becoming available and not being required for operational purposes. I hope the Minister will rectify that by giving the full details to this House and not try to mislead us in this manner.
Mr. Lowry: Payment of a deposit is normal in any transaction. For 12 months, a strategic public property has effectively been in the ownership of a private developer without a penny passing hands. Will the Deputy stand over that?
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: There was no contract.
Mr. Lowry: The report shows that the heads of agreement approved by the CIE board in October 1994 provided that £50,000 was payable within 21 days of the property being made available by CIE, £200,000 was payable within a month, £160,000 after 12 months and £192,600 after two years. Any Member in this House could make a career as a property developer if those generous terms were made available to them.
Mr. S. Brennan: How could they pay?
Mr. Cowen: Much controversy has been generated by this Minister about consideration being paid for a site in Cork city. I refer the Minister to another site in Killarney, owned by Bus Éireann. Will the Minister confirm or  deny that upon meeting Mr. Matson from a company called——
Mr. Rabbitte: Florida Enterprises.
Mr. Cowen: ——European Market Outlets, at his direction, Bus Éireann is to transfer its operations from that existing commercially important site beside the train station to an alternative site being offered by European Market Outlets at the proposed development, which is a less advantageous site? Can the Minister also confirm or deny that Bus Éireann wishes to retain that site and that no consideration was paid by that company to Bus Éireann in compensation for his direction, which was arbitrarily given, to insist upon that site being available to those developers? Can he further confirm that when he makes so much noise about a site for which was paid £157,000 over the odds, he arbitrarily involved himself in the day-to-day operations of Bus Éireann on that matter, flying in the face of the Moriarty report and the Government's task force report adopted by the Government?
Mr. Lowry: The site in question was the subject of intense negotiation and consultation between my Department and CIE. It was the subject of numerous representations by numerous public representatives in the area. The matter was——
Mr. Cowen: The Minister involved himself against the better judgment of Bus Éireann and got no consideration.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Cowen, if you put a question to the Minister, you should be courteous enough to listen to the reply.
Mr. Lowry: The answer is simple. All due procedures were followed in this case. It was the subject of discussion between my Department, Bus Éireann and the people who wish to purchase it.
Mr. O'Dea: The Minister's central allegation related to surveillance. However, after 50 minutes of farce, he has produced no tangible evidence of this. The only evidence he has produced to support that outrageous allegation are anonymous letters, backed up by statements from unnamed people quoting other unnamed people and of course, his infamous sixth sense. Since the Minister has produced no verifiable evidence of surveillance, he should consider his position. The Minister said in his speech that he wants to clear away the smoke. Will he publish these anonymous letters or will he continue to hide behind legal advice he got from his senior counsel?
Mr. Lowry: I have already outlined the detail and chronology of events in respect of the surveillance issue. As regards the letters in my possession, I had, and have, reasonable grounds for my statements, as outlined to the House today. Everything I did was in good faith. I acted properly and responsibly in this matter and I am satisfied that the points I made today are justified.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister may now give his five minute reply to the overall debate on this subject.
Mr. Lowry: I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister only has five minutes to reply.
Mr. O'Keeffe: On a point of order——
An Ceann Comhairle: I will not hear you, Deputy O'Keeffe. Resume your seat. The Minister has only five minutes to reply.
An Ceann Comhairle: If some Members feel they cannot listen to the Minister's reply, there are many exits from this Chamber. I would advise them to take one before they are forced to take one.
A Deputy: The Minister is no Johnny Cochrane.
Mr. S. Brennan: He is not O.J. Simpson either.
An Ceann Comhairle: If the House does not want to hear the Minister's reply, we should go on to other business.
Mr. Lowry: I welcome the opportunity to speak today. I have oulined my case, answered the questions put to me——
An Ceann Comhairle: If a debate of this nature is to end up as a shouting match, we shall have to look again at this procedure. I do not like it.
Mr. D. Ahern: The Government will not follow procedures.
Mr. Lowry: I have outlined my position. I have justified the comments I made——
Mr. H. Byrne: To whom?
Mr. Lowry: ——and I have answered the questions put to me.
Dr. Woods: The Minister did not answer the questions.
Mr. Lowry: I rest my case.
Mr. Callely: The Minister's case is a shambles.
Mr. Cullen: The Minister did not set up his rumour machine to do that.
Mr. Lowry: I want to get on with the real purpose of a Minister with my portfolio which is to manage the fundamental and radical change necessary to prepare our semi-State companies for a new working environment, to ensure that they are capable of operating within that environment, that they have a viable future, that the positions of those working within the semi-State sector are protected and that the semi-State sector makes a positive contribution towards making our economy competitive.
It is obvious that the case put forward by Fianna Fáil had only one purpose — to undermine me as Minister——
Mr. Lowry: ——in the hope of finding even a slight chink in the solidarity of this Government.
Mrs. O'Rourke: The Government has no chink — it is glued together.
Mr. Lowry: Fianna Fáil has failed and failed miserably. The next time——
Mr. O'Donoghue: The Minister will know better.
Mr. Lowry: ——Deputy Smith or somebody from Tipperary tells you that Lowry is a soft touch, pick a different issue.
Mr. Martin: I move:
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Minister for Education to fulfil her  promise to provide 1,000 additional places on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme in the 1995-1996 academic year.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Coughlan and Flood.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Martin: We table this motion in a positive and constructive spirit. We seek to persuade the Government to reverse the decision taken by the Minister for Education not to proceed with the 1,000 additional VTOS places promised in the budget for the 1995-1996 academic year. This decision was mean, cynical and unnecessary. It represented an unacceptable attack on the long term unemployed and an undermining of an education programme that is both innovative and effective. It sent the wrong signals to those on the dole queues wishing to return to full-time education. It told them that they were last on this Government's list of priorities.
This motion is about priorities. We are saying that the educational needs of the long term unemployed come before the total abolition of undergraduate third level fees or the building of a third level college in the Minister's constituency. Even in the context of the necessary curtailment of public expenditure the last sector that should be hit is the long term unemployed. The Minister for Education had choices last June. She made the wrong choice.
The vocational training opportunities scheme was established to enable unemployed people to return to education and to progress to employment or further training and education. Since its establishment the number of participants has grown dramatically from 247 in 1989 to 613 in 1990 to 1,649 in 1992 and to over 4,000 in 1994. My source for these figures is the report by Helen Keogh, national co-ordinator of the VTOS, the expansion of which has been facilitated by considerable funding from  the European Social Fund. Of the £29 million spent this year on VTOS, £19 million will come from the ESF.
It is generally agreed that the scheme has been an unprecedented success despite the reservations of people at the outset, many of whom doubted its potential. The White paper on education stated that the success and achievement of VTOS are widely recognised. The Economic and Social Research Institute, in its evaluation of the Community Support Framework from 1989-1993 describes the scheme as a “high quality programme which attempts to provide a bridge back into the education and training systems for the long term unemployed”. The National Economic and Social Council's report Education and Training Policies for Economic and Social Development, 1993, endorsed the role of VTOS. In the Programme for Government a commitment was given to expand “an improved” VTOS scheme “from the current level”. Tonight we are asking the Government to honour this commitment.
As Helen Keogh pointed out in her report on VTOS, unemployed people are a relatively new target group in adult education in Ireland and elsewhere:
In practice, in Ireland at any rate, unemployed people tend to share certain characteristics, viz., low levels of educational attainment, poor or outdated occupational skills, discontinuity in the labour market history or, in the case of under 25s, no experience or only very limited experience of paid work.
Long-term unemployment reduces income and potential for development, lowers morale and creates insecurity and low levels of self esteem. Helen Keogh, in her report, divides applicants to VTOS into three categories: those who have completed most or all of primary education only, those who have completed most or all the post primary junior cycle only and, in the minority,  those who have completed some or all of the post primary senior cycle.
In my capacity as chairman of the City of Cork vocational education committee, I have had first hand knowledge of the success of the scheme. Coláiste Stiofán Naofa, with Coláiste Eoin Naofa and the College of Commerce, have played a pioneering role in the development of the programme to date in Cork. The full range of courses from the junior certificate to a wide range of post leaving certificate courses are on offer. A considerable number of students over the years, having completed these courses, went on to third level education.
About one third of VTOS students in Coláiste Stiofán Naofa last year completed their leaving certificate — the other two thirds secured places on PLC courses on merit. No preferential treatment was given to them. VTOS students on post leaving certificate courses in this college performed well. Coláiste Stiofán Naofa's student of the year in art and design this year was a VTOS student. This year, also, the college will watch with pride its first generation of VTOS students graduating from UCC, with more students to follow next year. This illustrates the wonderful and extraordinarily positive impact the programme has had on many individuals. I witnessed this as chairman of Cork vocational education committee and as a member of the respective boards of management of the colleges involved.
So successful was the follow on to third level education, that Coláiste Stiofán Naofa was planning to provide a new access to third level education course for VTOS students to equip them with the necessary research skills to successfully complete a third level course. Figures I obtained from the school illustrates the success of the scheme to date. Of 155 VTOS students in the 1993-1994 academic year, 24 went on to third level, 25 went to FAS, 45 went on to a second year course, seven emigrated and 37 went back on the live register.
Teachers involved in delivering the  programme all commented on its impact on the students' self-image and selfesteem. They felt this was the most important benefit deriving from the programme. Students felt a new sense of identity and sense of purpose in life. One teacher told me that within weeks one could see visible changes in the demeanour and attitudes of students. Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa is but one example. Its experience is similar to that of colleges throughout the country delivering the VTOS programme.
The most recent research carried out by Helen Keogh, national co-ordinator of VTOS, illustrates the success of the scheme. The data is based on returns from 24 out of 38 vocational education committees and refers to 1,707 participants who were registered as VTOS students in the two years prior to November 1994 and who left the course before its completion, completed a one year course in June 1994 and completed a two year course in June 1994.
Of all the 1,707 participants, 31 per cent returned to the live register while 69 per cent progressed to further activity. Of this 69 per cent, 22.22 per cent found employment, 2.5 per cent became self-employed, 11.83 per cent went on PLC courses, 9.25 per cent went on third level courses, 7.6 per cent went on community employment schemes, 3.7 per cent engaged in further training; and other activities accounted for 10.83 per cent. Of the 1,083 participants who completed a VTOS course, 25 per cent returned to the live register while 75 per cent progressed to further activity. There are separate but similar statistics for participants who completed a one year VTOS course and a two-year VTOS course, which confirm the positive impact that the programme has had on individuals. The Minister had no real excuses for cutting back. The data was readily available to justify the continued expansion of what has been the most successful interventionist strategy of dealing with the problems of the long term unemployed and returning them to  mainstream education and the workforce.
It is regrettable that in preparation for this debate the Minister did not see fit to forward me a copy of a consultants' report commissioned by the Department in 1993 and handed to the Minister in February 1994. The report was entitled Developing Educational and Vocational Provision for the Long-Term Unemployment and included an evaluation of VTOS. I asked for a copy of this report last Wednesday but received a faxed message stating that the question of publishing this report was “under consideration and a decision will be made shortly.” Why was this report not published in February 1994? Surely all those involved in VTOS and in the education debate were entitled to see its contents and learn from its findings? Why under this Minister has there been such a lack of transparency in the Department of Education? Why is there such secrecy? Why are reports suppressed for so long? I can count four reports which I have had difficulty securing from the Department. We need more transparency from the Minister and greater accountability to the Members of this House.
In any event it is clear that VTOS has proved to be the most effective interventionist strategy adopted by the State in its attempts to reduce the unacceptably high level of long term unemployment and of reversing the cycle of poverty. The national plan recommended its continued expansion. Instead of running the scheme at last year's levels the Minister should not have cut back on this year's provision for an additional 1,000 places but should have maintained it and planned for future expansion. This programme reaches out to the most educationally disadvantaged groups in society — people who for a variety of reasons had to drop out of the education system early. It is a socially progressive scheme and genuinely broadens access to education to include people who heretofore had been alienated by the system.
The manner and timing of the  decision to cut back was also deeply disturbing. In the letter to the chief executive officers of the vocational education committees throughout the country advising them of the cut-back in places, they were told “It is necessary to deal with this on a confidential basis for the present. In other words, do not tell your committees. This is a most reprehensible development. The chief executive officers are the employees of their vocational education committees and legally must inform their members of all matters pertaining to the committees' business. The Minister in a reply to a Dáil question tabled by me last week stated that the correspondence was only preliminary and hence confidential. The real reason of course was a desire on the Minister's part to try to prevent news of the cut-back from emerging. Since the Government's decision to curb public expenditure in June we have learned of cut-backs through leaks to the media or through our own contacts within the educational system. In a reply to a Dáil question tabled some weeks ago by me, the Minister refused to specify where savings in the education budget were realised. She evaded the question. The Minister has not been accountable to the House and refuses to provide information when specifically asked to do so.
Some providers of VTOS only learned about the cut-backs in the last week of August, having just come back from holidays. This has caused immense problems for administrators. It has also generated waiting lists throughout the country as original expectations have been, of necessity curtailed. The City of Dublin vocational education committee has experienced particular problems as a result of the timing of the decision. In June of this year it organised 18 feeder programmes which essentially operated as introductory briefing sessions for participants. Commitments were entered into with the applicants which cannot now be fulfilled. The offer of the second level allowance by the Department of Social Welfare to some of these applicants is not an acceptable solution. VTOS is an integrated programme  which from day one takes people off social welfare altogether and from the psychological perspective is much different from other educational programmes operated by the Department of Social Welfare. Schools operating VTOS are also, of course, entitled to administrative support and extra teaching provisions.
Another success story is the Liberties Vocational and Continuing Education College in Bull Alley. Of the 21 students who finished in the 1993-94 academic year, 17 went into further education. This college, as a result of the Minister's cut-backs has 40 applicants on a waiting list.
I have spoken to representatives of the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed on this matter. It told me in no uncertain terms that in unemployment centres throughout the country there is deep and bitter anger at the decision. The wrong signals have been sent out to our unemployed. Today, I received faxes from the Mallow area resource centre, from County Kildare and from various centres throughout the country conveying their disillusionment, despair and bitterness at this wrong decision. Unemployed people now feel that the programme itself is under threat and that this decision could be followed by further decisions to cut it back even further. They also feel they are the first to suffer when it comes to cuts in Government expenditure. Some 1,000 unemployed people have been denied an opportunity to avail of VTOS this autumn. More than that, they have, in the words of Fintan O'Toole writing in The Irish Times recently, been reclassified “from the category of individuals with needs and goals to the category of the anonymous and forgotten mass of the unemployed”.
The decision is also cynical and has more to do with interdepartmental and interministerial conflict than educational priorities. According to a reply from the Minister last week in the Dáil, the net saving of 1000 places in VTOS to the Exchequer in 1996 will be £2.5 million. The Department of Education,  however, will show a saving of £5 million by transferring the costs of the VTOS allowance back to the Department of Social Welfare and will claim that it is bearing its full share of Government cut-backs. Again in the words of Fintan O'Toole “it is, in other words, a bureaucratic sleight of hand”.
I am simply amazed that the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Proinsias De Rossa, did not try to prevent this from happening. Given his responsibility for the long term unemployed and the eradication of poverty, the Minister should have intervened and cried halt. Did the Minister for Education consult with the Minister for Social Welfare on this issue? Did she have his agreement prior to making this decision on VTOS? I would appreciate if the Minister for Education could provide clear answers to these questions and if the Minister for Social Welfare could clarify his role in the process.
In the current issue of Democratic Left's party bulletin Forum, this cut-back is described as “a retrograde step” and the bulletin says Democratic Left wishes to reverse it. It also makes the following observation:
The decision on where spending cuts would be applied in their Departments was a discretionary one for each Minister. Applying the cuts entirely on VTOS indicates a marked lack of commitment to educational deprivation and high unemployment on the part of the Minister and contrasts markedly with the vigour of her pursuance of the proposal to abolish third-level fees.
Obviously Forum's sources are impeccable and its observation would indicate a lack of cohesion within the Cabinet generally in the decisions on cut-backs and the lack of any clear defining philosophy underpinning Government policy. It would be helpful if the Minister would clarify the manner in which these cut-backs took place.
I note also in today's newspapers that  the Democratic Left's executive chairperson, Councillor Catherine Murphy, has called on the Minister for Education to reverse her decision not to allocate the promised 1,000 extra places on the vocational training opportunities scheme. In recent newspaper articles, Democratic Left Leader, Deputy De Rossa, Minister for Social Welfare, was described as being angry at the decision. Clearly Democratic Left have let their opposition to the decision be known to all and sundry. They have clearly distanced themselves from the Minister for Education, Deputy Niamh Bhreathnach.
This motion provides an excellent opportunity for Democratic Left Deputies to effectively reverse the decision to cut back on VTOS. There is little point in articulating one's opposition to such cutbacks through party bulletins if one is not prepared to take the next logical step and vote against them and in favour of a Dáil motion which calls on the Minister to reverse her decision. Without Democratic Left the Government would not be in power. It should use its position to protect the long term unemployed from such decisions and vote accordingly in the Dáil.
As I have stated previously in the House, the Minister for Education is primarily motivated by electoral gain and her initial attempts at cutbacks reflected this. We on this side of the House were successful, through political pressure, in having a number of the cut-backs reversed, for example, the reprehensible decision relating to the 30 child care assistants in special schools. Due to the combined threat of legal action by the successful applicants to those positions and substantial political pressure the Minister made the welcome decision to reverse that cutback. She also reversed the decision to reduce the number of places on the Youthreach programme. I call on her tonight to go further along the road and reverse this cutback.
The Minister is a Minister for the well off in our society. Securing votes is now  more important to the Labour Party than providing help for the long term unemployed. What would Larkin and Connolly make of this? The Labour Party has strayed far from the ideals and principles of its founding fathers. It is unbelievable that the decision to cut back on the number of places for the long term unemployed was made by a Labour Minister for Education. This decision should never have been made and the Minister should be ashamed. I commend the motion to the House.
Miss Coughlan: Ba mhaith liom mo cuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta Flood.
While preparing for this debate over the weekend I looked at the many suggestions put forward to deal with the awful problem of long term unemployment. As politicians we should take note of the statement in the Green Paper on European Social Policy to the effect that it would be wrong to reduce investment in people to a simple economic calculation. Such a move would be fundamentally, politically and socially flawed.
The decision to reduce the meagre number of places on the VTOS by 1,000 has political and social implications, is very wrong and exemplifies a total lack of caring and disregard for the unemployed by the rainbow coalition. What we are talking about is the decision to remove hope, ability and opportunity from those who most need our help. For many years elected representatives have been accused of not giving a strong voice to the unemployed and, in particular, the long term unemployed. I hope their voice will not go unheard tonight by the Minister.
The long term unemployed are relatively disadvantaged as many of them lack the necessary skills in education to compete for the new jobs we have created in the economy. In its interim report, the Task Force on Long Term Unemployment indicated that VTOS was a very useful model for tackling long term unemployment and recommended that the number of places should be increased to meet demand.  Yet the Minister and her Department took the easy option and retracted the increase in the number of places announced in the budget. It makes absolutely no sense to transfer money from the Department of Education to the Department of Social Welfare merely to give credence to a mathematical calculation. It has been rumoured that the Department of Education will save £5 million through this cutback but I believe the amount will not be very great.
The cancellation of the approved courses on the scheme not only affects the people but means that 600 of the 4,600 places given out to vocational education committees this year must disappear by February 1996. In addition, approximately 50 teachers will lose their jobs. This means that more money will have to be found in the Department of Social Welfare to help those people who will lose their jobs. This is a regressive economic step.
County Donegal vocational education committee advertised for and recruited people for VTOS and 30 people on the waiting list hoped to commence their course last September. This scheme was built up as a result of a great deal of voluntary effort by the vocational education committee which commenced a recruitment programme as it was not led to believe that the expansion of places was impossible or that any cutbacks were intended. We read about the cut-backs in The Irish Times. It is horrendous that we should learn about departmental decisions in the newspapers.
Ms Keogh: We should be used to it by now.
Miss Coughlan: During the summer we read about many of the catastrophic decisions made in regard to, for example, inservice courses, the introduction of the curriculum, the reduction in the part-time teacher equivalent etc. One cannot manage an education system by making decisions willy-nilly in the month of August when people are  away on holidays. Given the two year debate on the future of education I hoped that sort of practice would be eliminated and that we would at least know where we were going with regard to education policy.
The population of County Donegal is 130,000 which represents 3.71 per cent of the total population. County Donegal should have received an allocation of 155 places and not the 100 places we thought we would be allocated for the academic year 1995-96. What will the Minister do for the 30 people on the waiting list in County Donegal who are disappointed that they have not been given an opportunity to acquire skills which would enable them to obtain employment or further education?
Is it not very ironic that we can afford to abolish university fees while at the same time slashing 1,000 places on the vocational training opportunities scheme? The Minister described Wednesday, 13 September 1995, as University Day with the welcome announcement of an increase of 2,000 to 3,000 university places. I would like to know from where the money to cover the cost of those places will come and I hope she will find it. When will we have a day for the unemployed in the context of educational opportunities?
Níl ciall nó cáil leis an rud ata déanta ag an Aire agus tá suil agam go mbeidh athrú ar a intinn anois mar níl fhios agam cén fath nach bhfuil sé ábalta leanúint ar aghaidh leis an méid a bhíle rá aici i mí Aibreán.
This is a regressive step and an easy option. As a young person, a member of a vocational education committee and a member of a party, who is doing her best to give a voice to the unemployed, I cannot support a whim to write off 1,000 places under that scheme on the basis of a mere economic calculation.
Mr. Flood: I am delighted to have an opportunity to participate in this debate. It is an important issue as decisions were made during the summer when our eyes were off the ball and it  has taken some time to focus on the real and dramatic effects of the Government's decision on the matter we are discussing.
When addressing the Dáil Select Committee on Social Affairs, of which I am a member, the Minister, on 8 June 1995, said provision had been made for an average of 5,000 places under the VTOS this year as against the participation of an average of 4,000 last year. That figure may be slightly inaccurate as I understand the average participation last year was around 4,500 to 4,600. The Minister went on to say the VTOS addresses the low level of education among the long term unemployed. She also said it is an essential element of the strategy for helping such people access employment or education and training which would lead to employment and it complements the other measures to combat unemployment being undertaken by the Government. If that is the case, I do not understand why the Minister would feel compelled to target this vulnerable section of our community to save approximately £5 million.
I recognise the Minister is bound by financial constraints and must manage budgets, but I fail to understand why in a series of announcements made in June or late July this year, she initially targeted 1,000 places under the VTOS scheme, 450 additional places under the Youthreach scheme and 30 special childcare assistant places in special schools. I do not understand why the Minister, who comes from the Labour element of the Government, would target specifically those areas because if those cutbacks were fully implemented they would have a considerable impact on those affected.
I accept the row-back by the Minister in respect of some of those measures but I am disappointed that 1,000 VTOS places have been cancelled. In the interim report of the Task Force on Long-term Unemployment published by the Office of the Tánaiste in March 1995 two references are made to the VTOS scheme. Regarding education  provision for the adult unemployed, it states:
In this regard, the number of places on Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) should be increased on a phased basis, to meet demand.
The provision of educational programmes, including VTOS, and the manner in which they are delivered must ensure that the most educational disadvantaged among participants should have the opportunity to achieve the same result as those less disadvantaged.
There should be more widespread availability of pre-VTOS provision to provide transition routes into VTOS for the most educationally disadvantaged.
I want to direct attention to that reference in the report because there is a direct link between poor education, a lack of education, and the long term unemployed in the minds of professionals and others who study long-term unemployment. Those who are knowledgable about the operation of this scheme suggest that it has been a tremendous vehicle particularly in helping to ease the long term unemployed back into the workforce, and the number of participants in that scheme confirm that. In 1989 247 participated in the scheme, in 1993 the number rose to 293 and the figure quoted for 1994 indicates a total of 4,604. On the basis of available evidence, I cannot understand why, to make financial savings, the Minister should seek to cut back the number of places available to the most seriously disadvantaged in our community. The 5,000 places allocated under that scheme in the 1995 budget were welcomed in the House and many Members said it was a good decision. What happened within a period of four to five months that will result in a return not only to a standstill position but to a significant cutback in the number of places provided under that scheme? What happened to the Government's thinking in that regard? Having regard to the  interim report of the Task Force on Long-term Unemployment why are we introducing serious cutbacks in the scheme?
I am aware of the impact of such cutbacks in my constituency. I represent a constituency in which there are areas of significant unemployment, particularly long term unemployment; I acknowledge that areas in other constituencies are similarly disadvantaged. I am aware of the benefit of the VTOS scheme in my constituency and I equate those benefits to other areas also. Bearing in mind that the Minister has changed her mind about some of the other cutbacks announced in July this year, and I appreciate her doing that, in supporting my colleague, Deputy Martin, I ask her to reconsider the proposed changes to this scheme.
The proposed cutbacks severely impact on the most disadvantaged who, because they are unemployed for such a long period, do not have a real reason to find their way back to a work ethic. Those people are grossly disadvantaged when they go in search of employment. Employers often pass over job applicants who are long term unemployed in favour of others who have been unemployed for a shorter period or those who are employed. That is the problem faced by people who are affected by the cutbacks in this scheme. I was surprised by the Minister's decision in mid-summer which slipped through when we had our eye off the ball. What changed so significantly and dramatically since budget day when we were all applauding the Minister and the Government for their work in this area? Why is it that over 96,000 of the 135,000 long term unemployed have been unemployed for three years or more? Why is the number of places on this scheme — the only lifeline for these people — being reduced significantly? Why is this Labour Minister doing this to the unemployed? She should not do this. She should fight back if the attack on her budget is coming from the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa.
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:
—commends the Minister for Education for doubling the number of places on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme from 1992 to the current year;
—notes the various initiatives taken by the Minister to tackle problems of disadvantage, such as the Early Start programme, additional resources for schools in disadvantaged areas, smaller classes, extra resource teachers, more home-schools links teachers, additional places for early school leavers on the Youthreach programme and substantial increased funding for adult literacy and numeracy programmes; and
—reaffirms the commitment of the Government in line with the Programme for a Government of Renewal to take various measures to enhance the prospects of the long term unemployed by continuing to increase their access to educational opportunities”.
I welcome this opportunity to indicate my continuing commitment to disadvantaged groups and individuals and to show how education is being made more accessible to them. I am pleased to place before the House the abundant evidence of my targeting effort and resources towards disadvantaged and marginalised groups since I became Minister for Education.
Disadvantage can result from missed educational chances, early school leaving due to economic or social pressure or a disability which makes it difficult to get the full benefit from education. What is certain is that those who leave  school early are likely to find their life chances severely restricted.
Early school leavers are more likely to leave education without qualifications, and become long term unemployed. That is why we must ensure young people are encouraged and supported in education and that adults who missed out on education are given a second chance.
Tackling disadvantage in education requires a combination of several different approaches. The strategies I have adopted to remove barriers to educational participation include: early intervention and prevention measures to provide additional support for young people at risk aimed at optimising their participation in and benefit from the education system. These include initiatives such as pre-schooling, remedial and home school links services, guidance services and targeted services and resources for schools in disadvantaged areas; curricular reform to ensure a diverse range of options which will encourage a larger number of young people to remain in school and get full benefit from education; second chance education and training through the provision of programmes such as Youthreach for early school leavers, provision of the vocational training opportunity scheme for long term unemployed adults and provision of adult and community education measures for those who did not benefit from education in the past; improved quality of education through investment in in-career development of staff, with special attention paid to responding to students with special needs, to the needs of adult education and literacy programmes and to the needs of pupils in areas of disadvantage and the provision of national certification which has been strengthened through the recent establishment of TEASTAS, the Irish National Certification Authority.
Many of these strategies are designed to encourage young people to stay in education, to benefit from the opportunities offered and to enhance their life chances. Other strategies are targeted at  those who have already left the system through a variety of schemes aimed at second chance education. They form the most comprehensive, far reaching and targeted set of measures ever aimed at alleviating educational disadvantage.
I will outline the evidence of targeted policies in action. I have implemented measures aimed at adults who need to avail of second chance education and specifically with the vocational training opportunities scheme. The Opposition has wept crocodile tears about this scheme. They paint a picture of cutbacks, allege denial of access to education and accuse me of compounding deprivation, yet nothing could be further from the truth. I remind the Opposition that when its party had responsibility for the Department of Education, there were approximately 2,000 places on the vocational training opportunities scheme.
Mr. Martin: It increased by 269 in its first year.
Ms Bhreathnach: Through my commitment to this scheme, that number is now 4,000.
Mr. Martin: Who was in the Department of Finance?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister, without interruption.
Ms Bhreathnach: I have every confidence that the figure of 4,000 a doubling of the number since I came into office, can be sustained in 1996.
Mr. Martin: The previous Minister left office only last December.
Ms Bhreathnach: I remind them also of the increase in financing of the vocational training opportunities training scheme since I came into office from £7 million in 1992 to £18.5 million last year.
Mr. Martin: What about the European Social Fund?
Ms Bhreathnach: Unlike the Opposition, who provided only half the present number of vocational training opportunities scheme places when they were in office, who provided a mere £7 million for the scheme and who are now criticising without making positive suggestions, I have taken steps to secure this scheme.
Mr. Flood: Restore the 1,000 places.
Ms Bhreathnach: I have planned ahead and developed policies for the vocational training opportunities scheme. I have received recommendations from Work Research Co-Operative Consultants about the effectiveness of the scheme and its future development. The evidence indicates that the vocational training opportunities scheme is making an important contribution in helping people who are unemployed. It is addressing in a unique way the low levels of education among this group. There is also evidence that attention needs to be paid to facilities for people on the scheme such as guidance services and personal support such as creches.
We must emphasise not only the number of places in the scheme but also the quality of provision. I have taken action to address these recommendations.
One strand of the action is to plan, within the financial provision for education, to address these specific recommendations of the report. A second strand, one which is of major significance, is sitting the vocational training opportunities scheme firmly within the framework of the area based partnerships.
The Task Force on Long-Term Unemployment report, published in June of this year, led to the establishemnt of a countrywide network of local employment services. These services will operate as part of the functions of area-based partnerships. Statutory, voluntary and community groups and employers in the various areas will be  involved in the operation of these bodies.
In a parallel initiative, the Government decided in 1994 to expand the number of partnerships from 12 to 35, as well as expanding the areas covered by some of the existing partnerships.
Mr. Flood: Fianna Fáil again.
Ms Bhreathnach: The aim of establishing the partnerships and local employment services is to co-ordinate and integrate the existing measures under various Departments for the benefit of unemployed people. The services provided will include the provision of information and guidance on the opportunities available to unemployed people and their placement in employment and in education and training. The intention is to provide contact points for unemployed people which will enable them to get all the help available by making one call.
I envisage, therefore, that the future expansion and development of the vocational training opportunities scheme will be very much integrated into the partnerships. This will include identification by the partnerships of vocational opportunities training scheme programmes and use of the support services offered by the partnerships.
The value of the vocational training opportunities scheme will be greatly enhanced through operating in this environment. The partnerships and services are being developed.
I pledge here that my Department will co-operate fully with the other agencies involved in the partnerships and that the vocational training opportunities scheme will develop in future to contribute to the integrated action taken by the area based partnerships to tackle disadvantage and long term unemployment. That is what I mean by planning for the future provision and quality of the vocational training opportunities scheme and by building on the  achievements so far — a doubling of places on this scheme in three short years.
Mr. Flood: Under Fianna Fáil.
Ms Bhreathnach: That is what I mean when I say that Opposition comments on this issue have been bankrupt of policy and devoid of initiatives——
Mr. Martin: We actually started it.
Ms Bhreathnach: ——in contrast with the way the Government is planning for the future of the vocational training opportunities scheme. The vocational training opportunities scheme is only one of the educational provisions for people who have left education and who require a second chance.
As we consider my planning of the vocational training opportunities scheme, let us remember that it is one element of a comprehensive range of measures aimed at supporting disadvantaged and marginalised communities by making access to education available and welcome. Let us remember the adult and community education scheme and the special initiatives for disadvantaged adults. The vision of second chance education which underpins all these schemes is expressed in the White Paper, Charting Our Education Future as follows:
the recognition of the central importance of adult education for personal development, for updating knowledge and skills, and for overcoming disadvantage suffered during initial education.
Poor literacy skills are ofter a source of severe disadvantage among adults. The adult literacy and community education scheme is the Department's main instrument in helping adults to overcome this problem. It is the first step for many in getting back on the education path. Since I became Minister, funding for this scheme has expanded from £1 million to almost £2 million this year — a  doubling of the provision. That is evidence of my personal committment to adult literacy, and it demonstrates that I appreciate and value, in a very practical way, the work being done in adult literacy nationwide.
In addition, I have provided funding for the National Adult Literacy Agency to enable it to provide additional support for the scheme. This includes the provision of training courses for literacy tutors and organisers to improve the quality of the service.
The special initiatives for disadvantaged adults scheme has experienced an even more spectacular expansion since I became Minister. Funding has increased more than fourfold, from an expenditure of £273,000 in 1992 to a provision of over £1.2 million this year. This scheme is also aimed at the most disadvantaged adults in our community. It provides intensive literacy and basic education courses and builds on the work done under the adult literacy and community education scheme. The provision for the two schemes to which I have just referred — the adult literacy and community education scheme and the special initiatives for disadvantaged adults scheme has increased by almost two and a half times over the 1992 expenditure. The aim of all these measures, including the vocational training opportunities schemes, is to build a framework of opportunities for adults which will enable them to progress from a basic education level to third level.
There are also young people who have left the formal education system too early. The Youthreach programme is targeted at these young people who need a second chance. I am committed to the expansion of the Youthreach programme which offers integrated education, vocational training and work experience to young people who have left school as young as 14 years of age, without any qualifications, any junior certificate or any vocational training. In  1994 alone, I expanded the programme by 400 places bringing the total number in the education sector to 2,000
This year, I am providing a further 450 places. What more evidence is needed of my commitment to second chance education, both for young people and for adults including those who are long term unemployed?
Prevention is better than cure. Research has shown time and again that retaining young people in education is more effective, more successful and more life-enchancing than trying to remedy the situation in latter years. We have to concentrate resources on those who missed out on education the first time around. I have done this, as is abundantly clear from the record of this House. I have also worked and planned, targeted and provided to encourage young people who suffer from disadvantage, great or small, to continue in education.
I have concentrated on prevention of dropout from school and on helping young people to succeed. I have concentrated on these aims at first, second and third level, from the infant at playschool to the student in further or higher education.
At first level, I have, for the first time since the State was founded, provided concrete and official recognition of the key role of early childhood education and its importance in combating disadvantage.
I have already provided for eight pre-schools under the early start programme in 1994 and a further 25 this year, giving a total to date of 33. These pre-schools are located in areas of severe disadvantage. The progress made in initiating the early start pre-school pilot project is being monitored by a committee charied by a distinguished Irish expert on early childhood education whose work is internationally recognised. Thus I have not only begun an initiative in combating disadvantage, I have also  ensured that the early start programme is implemented wisely and well.
Mr. Flood: And in full consultation with the employers.
Mr. Martin: There were lots of problems in Ballymun. Blanchardstown and Cork.
Ms Bhreathnach: The early start programme is not, of course, one which stands alone. It is part of early childhood education for children in disadvantaged areas which is continued and developed within the ordinary primary school system. A very important feature — perhaps the most important — of strategies to combat educational disadvantage is the involvement of parents in the education of their children. For this reason I have placed great emphasis on the development of the home-school link scheme. I have increased the number of home school links teachers in primary schools from a mere 45 in 1992 to 105 today — an increase of more than 130 per cent.
Literacy problems are often associated with educational disadvantage. Research has shown that restricted access to books contributes to reading difficulties and that library facilities can help to greatly improve reading skills.
I have taken steps to provide school library facilities throughout Ireland. This year alone I doubled the school library grant. Since I came into office, the fund to provide textbooks for disadvantaged pupils in primary schools has increased by more than £1 million pounds or by over 70 per cent. In the face of this evidence, how can anyone on the Opposition benches cast doubt on the commitment of this Government to make education accessible to all? There has been a doubling of the library grant in one year alone and a 70 per cent increase in the free books fund in  three short years. Surely this is evidence to convince any impartial observer.
There is much more evidence of my commitment to combating disadvantage in our primary schools. Capitation funding is targeted specifically at disadvantaged schools. Since I became Minister, the grant per pupil has risen by almost 50 per cent, from £45 to £65 per pupil. What a stark contrast to the previous years, from 1990 to 1992, when the grants to disadvantaged schools did not increase by a penny.
In our primary schools, remedial teachers are needed to ensure pupils do not suffer permanent school failure. Since becoming Minister, I have increased the number of remedial teachers from 947 to 1,188. In addition, I have almost doubled the special education equipment fund, which provides remedial equipment, increasing this fund from £274,000 to £514,000 this year.
The disadvantaged fund, which is targeted at communities in most need has shown another spectacular rise, being more than doubled, from £1.6 million to £3.37 million. The number of additional teachers in schools designated disadvantaged has risen from 947 to 1,188 this year. The number of child care assistants, a miserable 70 when I came into office now stands at 229. Perhaps most significantly of all, the maximum class size in disadvantaged schools has fallen dramatically from 39 to 29 since I became Minister for Education. It is not enough. We have never enough for the vital task of education, but it is a massive improvement on the legacy at primary level which I received from those who now sit in Opposition. That is why I am proud to propose this motion and to point to the real improvements achieved in three years.
Mr. Flood: Ridiculous.
Ms Bhreathnach: At second level the  story is the same. The same targeting of disadvantaged groups has taken place.
Mr. Martin: Were we not in Government during the past two years?
Ms Bhreathnach: When I came into office there were a mere 13 home-school links teachers — now there are 55; there were 252 remedial teachers — now there are 353; there were only 359 guidance teachers — now there are 568, an increase of 209 or more than 50 per cent, an increase of 100 guidance teachers this year alone.
I am especially pleased that I was able to increase the number of guidance teachers so dramatically since I firmly believe that a professional guidance service can combat disadvantage, raise expectations and open pathways which would otherwise be closed to some young people.
Capitation funding for disadvantaged secondary schools has increased from £150 to £180 per pupil since I came into office. The second level disadvantaged fund has increased almost threefold, from £340,000 to £850,000. The free books fund has increased by more than half, from £2.6 million to £4.2 million this year.
I defy any Member of the Opposition to criticise this record. I defy them to say when this record was ever equalled.
Mr. Martin: We were part of it. It was a Fianna Fáil-Labour Government.
Ms Bhreathnach: I defy them to dispute the results. In three years, retention rates in senior cycle have risen from 73 per cent to 80 per cent approximately, which sees us well on the way to our goal of 90 per cent by the year 2000 as identified in the White Paper Charting our Education Future.
This success in retaining young people at school is due in part to the major restructuring of the second level curriculum which is now taking place so  as to adapt it to the needs of more pupils with a wider spread of abilities and backgrounds.
We are working actively to provide an alternative school programme for pupils whose needs are not met by the main junior certificate programme; the transition year programme available to all schools; the leaving certificate programme with three orientations — the leaving certificate vocational programme, the leaving certificate applied and the ordinary leaving certificate programme.
The House will be aware, too, that the syllabuses at senior cycle are undergoing changes in virtually all subjects.
A comprehensive in-career development package for all teachers underpins the progress we have made in adapting the curriculum to the needs of all our learners, both young people and adults returning to education. Between 1991 and 1992, when the Opposition was in the Department of Education, the provision for teachers in career development actually fell, from £1.69 million to £1.49 million.
Mr. Martin: Did the Minister ever hear of European moneys?
Ms Bhreathnach: So much for a commitment to quality in education and to meeting the needs of our students. The current provision for in-career development is £6.6 million this year alone, more than four times what it was when I came into office. I assure the House of my continuing commitment to ensure that this massive provision will be specifically targeted at providing for the needs of those students who need it most — a targeting which is clearly spelled out in the White Paper Charting our Education Future.
Mr. Haughey: Promises.
Ms Bhreathnach;: I have already outlined the huge increase in the amount of teachers in the home school programme aimed at breaking the cycle of disadvantage. This programme encourages parents actively to participate in their own child's education, to encourage their children to stay in school, to enhance their children's life chances.
Mr. Flood: Who set it up?
Mr. Martin: The Minister is loath to give credit to the then Minister, Deputy O'Rourke.
Ms Bhreathnach: The programme is backed up by other practical initiatives. Programmes being delivered by the National College of Industrial Relations are aimed at enhanching parental involvement in their children's education. These programmes develop parents' effective participation and involvement in their childrens' education and are targeted at parents of children in disadvantaged areas.
At third level, access to college has been placed within the grasp of all our young people by my success in replacing a highly regressive convenant system which favoured the better off, especially those earning in excess of £60,000 per year, with abolition of third level tuition fees. Free tuition will redress this imbalance, will encourage young people to stay in further and higher education and will help us to ensure that education contributes both to the benefit of each individual and our nation as a whole. Of course, free tuition alone is not enough. That is why I have supported a range of other initiatives to encourage and advance retention of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds right through the education system, including third level education. This includes the development of links between disadvantaged schools and third level institutions which have been strengthened and encouraged since the first day I took  office. The huge increase in the disadvantage fund I referred to earlier, an almost threefold increase, has allowed these initiatives to flourish.
These initiatives include arrangements between Ballymun comprehensive school and Dublin City University, between the Southhill area in Limerick and the University of Limerick, between schools in Tallaght and the regional technical college, between Trinity College and Dublin inner city schools.
Mr. Martin: They are not the Minister's schemes.
Ms Bhreathnach: I have increased the number of third level places. Only last month, I was able to announce a further 6,200 places in the university sector between now and the year 2000 in partnership with private sector funding.
Investment in our universities and regional technical colleges has never been so high. From European and matching Exchequer funds alone, we will invest more than £70 million in the regional technical colleges and more than £40 million in university buildings.
These initiatives will help us to realise the White Paper commitment:
The Higher Education Authority, in consultation with third level institutions, will be asked to advise on the most appropriate and effective means of achieving an annual increase in participation of 500 students from lower socio-economic groups in third level education over the next five years.
The post-leaving certificate sector is expanding and 18,000 people now study in this sector. Comprehensive plans to set up a further education authority to plan for the future expansion of this sector will be helped by the estsablishment of TEASTAS. This last point is of special importance for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It means that people can start from relatively modest courses and build on their achievements  to proceed to further study. It means that there will be no cul de sacs in State education; all courses will carry the appropriate credits.
I have demonstrated a record of achievement in education which I can confidently say is without parallel. The annual education budget has increased by some £350 million — more than one fifth in three years. This immense increase has been targeted at the most disadvantaged members of our community. This targeting of resources towards marginalised and disadvantaged groups is clearly laid out by the Government in the White Paper.
In the White Paper Charting our Education Future, the Government has endorsed the policies which will allow me, as Minister for Education, to continue the work for the disadvantaged, the early school leavers and the long term unemployed which I have outlined today.
Mr. J. Walsh: I wish to share my time with Deputies Haughley and Noel Ahern.
The cuts which the Minister inflicted on the vocational training opportunities scheme are penny-pinching, extremely short-sighted, and cast serious doubts on the Government's commitment to its own national anti-poverty strategy announced with fanfare and the usual PR operation earlier this year. This strategy was signed by the three leaders of the parties in Government, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Social Welfare. It stated in lofty terms that for the first time an Irish Government was committing itself to an across-the-board national strategy to address all aspects of poverty and social exclusion and that under the strategy all Government Departments and State agencies would be expected to include the reduction and prevention of poverty as key objectives in the development and implementation of their policy programmes.
 Bearing this lofty sentiment in mind, will the Minister for Education explain how the cuts in the VTOS will contribute to a reduction in poverty? The national anti-poverty strategy also states that all Government Departments will be required to consult and involve people affected by poverty. Will the Minister for Education explain what consultation processes were entered into prior to the surreptitious announcement of cuts in this scheme which, to a large extent, simply involve the transfer of responsibility from one Department to another? Persons who do not now participate in the VTOS will simply remain on the live register and become the responsibility of the Minister for Social Welfare; expenditure will simply be transferred from the Department of Education to the Department of Social Welfare but fewer people will be able to avail of the excellent opportunities offered by VTOS, and considerable damage will be done to an imaginative, innovative and worth-while scheme.
These cuts fly directly in the face of all the advice the Government has received from international bodies such as the European Union and the OECD who have emphasised the need to switch from passive labour market measures, that is, paying people money not to work, to active labour market measures which involve spending money helping people to get back into the labour market.
The Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, has been strangely silent during the debate on these savage cuts. Does he, with his party colleagues, agree with such policies which effectively relegate more people, particularly younger people, to the live register? The Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed put it succinctly when it said that this decision was even more appalling, given the direct relationship between lack of educational qualifications and unemployment, more specifically, long term unemployment.  This is one of the few programmes which gets very good feedback from unemployed people and various evaluations, including a recent consultant report on educational provision for the long term unemployed, carried out on behalf of the Minister for Education, show that a very high proportion of people participating in the VTOS successfully obtained educational qualifications and that a considerable number got employment or went on for further training and educational courses.
In a nutshell, this is a tremendously good scheme which provides people with additional educational opportunities and shows some light at the end of the tunnel rather than the misery of the dole queue. It cannot be ignored that the VTOS helped those who are among the worst off in society, the long term unemployed. With the help of this scheme they had a chance of obtaining good qualifications and getting back into employment. These cuts are a slap in the face to them.
An information leaflet from the Department of Social Welfare on educational opportunities schemes highlights the importance of schemes such as VTOS, the second level certificate allowance scheme and the third level educational allowance scheme. The introduction to the educational opportunities scheme leaflet issued by the Department of Social Welfare states: If you are getting an unemployment payment or a long parent's allowance you may want to resume your education and improve your chances of getting a job”. What will happen to those people now? Their chances of getting a job will be further reduced. These circulars are current, but they are hypocritical. It is a disgrace to cut one of these schemes.
The fact that 46 per cent of school leavers under 25 years of age are unemployed testifies to the extremely strong relationship between lack of educational attainment and the chances of  being unemployed. This is a stark and depressing figure. There is no excuse for cutting this scheme and it is deplorable to do so. In all fairness, and in all the circumstances, I ask the Minister to look again at this scheme. Slashing the funding for such a scheme is no way to save a few thousand pounds for the Minister for Finance. Savings should not be made at the expense of the worst off in society. Without question the Minister for Education, backed by the Minister for Social Welfare, should reappraise this appalling decision and seek to ensure that this beneficial and profitable scheme is restored to the people who most need it.
Mr. Haughey: Deputy Bhreathnach is the Minister for Education, but that is not the full story; she is first and foremost the Minister for Dún Laoghaire. The steering committee of the Higher Education Authority strongly recommended that a regional technical college be established on Dublin's north side. That body felt there was a genuine need for a third level institution in this part of the city which includes many areas of disadvantage.
Mr. Broughan: We are going to get it.
Mr. Haughey: I am hearing good news. That has not been officially announced by the Minister.
It has been proved conclusively that there is higher participation in third level education where the institution is nearby. However, the Minister has ignored the report of the Higher Education Authority and, as Cabinet Minister for announcements, has announced the establishment of a new regional technical college for Dún Laoghaire on the south side which already has several third level institutions.
Mr. N. Ahern: There are more middle class people there.
Mr. Haughey: This is a scandal. The Labour Party, in particular, has failed Dublin's north side.
Mr. Broughan: We have DCU.
Mr. Haughey: I call on Deputies Ryan, Broughan, Kenny, Derek McDowell, Shortall and Costello to seek to reverse this decision in the interests of their northside constituents. Dublin's north side is entitled to its fair share. We heard much from those Deputies on the Aer Lingus crisis.
Mr. Broughan: Why did Charlie not establish one?
Mr. Haughey: Charlie did enough for the north side, including the provision of Beaumont Hospital and several other institutions.
Mr. Broughan: What about a regional technical college?
Mr. Haughey: We heard much from those Deputies regarding Aer Lingus but nothing about the regional technical college. It is a scandal.
The announcement of the abolition of third level fees, while welcome, came as no surprise either. This too benefits the Minister's constituents in Dún Laoghaire but ignores the real issues of maintenance, inadequate third level places and — despite everything the Minister said tonight — a poorly financed primary and secondary education sector. The Minister could claim to be the Minister for the middle classes.
The cutbacks in places on the vocational training opportunities scheme, saving £2.5 million, is the greatest kick in the teeth of all for the long term unemployed. All summer the Minister cut back and we got more of the same — giving to those who have. Reports are also circulating about cuts in the Youthreach programme which aims to help those whom the education  system has failed. Nevertheless, my advisers informed me that in the last few days there was a flurry of activity about the Youthreach programme because this motion was being taken tonight. Fianna Fáil should table more Private Members' motions because that appears to be the only way to get matters dealt with in this House.
Mr. Broughan: The Deputy's party was in power not long ago.
Mr. Haughey: Motions put down by Deputy O'Donoghue resulted in the Minister finally confronting the drugs crisis.
The Minister failed to mention that the VTOS was introduced by Fianna Fáil, particularly by Deputies Woods and O'Rourke. It has been an outstanding success, providing the long term unemployed with a real opportunity. A constituent of mine, who is in his 20s and has never worked, was one of the first to avail of the VTOS. He did his leaving certificate and this year was conferred with a degree in law from one of our national universities, thus illustrating the success of the scheme.
A VTOS course in metal sculpture proposed for the North Strand vocational college has been cancelled. During the summer applications were made, interviews were organised and places were even offered for the course. This is the only course of its type on offer, but the school was informed on 31 August that the course could not go ahead. Those who applied for the course were disappointed that the opportunity to learn a skill was taken from them. In that regard, I received a letter from a constituent in St. George's Avenue, Dublin 3, which states:
I am a lone parent and I genuinely want to do this particular course — there is no alternative available anywhere. I have nothing to gain financially from it as I would have to pay someone to mind my child but what I  would get is a chance to learn a skill and something to occupy my time. I don't want to sit around all day doing nothing and this setback is very demoralising to say the least. I feel that just as I was getting back into the real world, meeting new people, I have — along with many others — been given a kick in the teeth. The teachers at the school are excellent, they know we applied for places because we want to learn, it is entirely our choice.
I cannot express properly in writing the disappointment and disgust I feel over the way both students and teachers have been treated over this cancellation.
I also received a letter about that course from another constituent which states:
This is the only course of its kind in the country. I feel that as I had been awarded a place on this course I am entitled to same or to some explanation for this treatment of people whose hopes have been raised only to be frustrated by this appalling decision.
Mr. Broughan: When did the Deputy write those letters?
Mr. Haughey: I will give the letters to the Clerk who can assess their authenticity. Those are two genuine cases of people who are disappointed at the cutback in the number of places on the VTOS.
As Deputies, we received submissions from members of the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed who are also flabbergasted at this cutback. They want all Deputies to support their campaign to have the cutback reversed by making representations to the Minister for Education on their behalf. They believe this decision is scandalous given the Government's stated commitment to tackling unemployment.
This raises a wider issue. It appears  unemployment is no longer on the Government's political agenda, but that will be rectified following the next election.
Mr. Broughan: It was not on the agenda when the Deputy's father was Taoiseach.
Mr. Haughey: The area based partnerships established under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress between the then Taoiseach and the social partners for the first time devised a strategy to tackle long term unemployment.
Mr. Broughan: That came from ICTU.
Mr. Haughey: That was when Fianna Fáil was in Government and, as Deputy Broughan is aware, many of his constituents benefited from those partnerships. It is pleasing to note that specific commitment by a Fianna Fáil Government is to be expanded by the Minister for Education using EU Structural and Cohesion Funds. Unemployment is not on the Government's political agenda, it raises environment or social issues instead. People from middle and working class areas who do not have jobs are seething with anger because they are not being represented by the Government parties, but that will be rectified at the next election.
The area based partnership schemes were a successful Fianna Fáil initiative under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and I am delighted the Minister is expanding that scheme.
Mr. Broughan: It was a Labour movement.
Mr. Haughey: The Minister dealt with everything in her speech except the specific issue raised by Deputy Martin, namely, the cutback of 1,000 places in the VTOS, a saving of £2.5 million to  the Exchequer. She gave us a very good overview of education generally but, unfortunately, did not deal with that issue. Many people are disappointed and bitter about the position and I call on her to reverse that wrong decision.
Mr. N. Ahern: I welcome the opportunity to support Deputy Martin's motion. The Minister's decision in this regard is disgraceful and an insult to the unemployed. It is a dreadful decision from a so-called Socialist Minister. It will not entail a great saving to the Exchequer because those involved are already receiving unemployment benefits. It is merely the case of a bureaucratic row between two Ministers, Deputies Bhreathnach and De Rossa, who pretend to be Socialists. They should be able to sort out their petty interdepartmental rows without the unemployed suffering.
Why will the Minister not give those people the dignity to which they are entitled by allowing them to qualify for the VTOS? If affects 300 to 400 people in Dublin alone and many others, if given the opportunity, would apply for the scheme. Is it necessary to put them through the wringer by signing on every week? Does the Minister not have respect for their dignity? They are entitled to qualify for the scheme.
There has been a great deal of talk in the past week or so about a second chance for those whose marriages break down. What about giving a second chance to those who do not have a career? What about giving a second chance to those who did not fully avail of the education system first time round? How can the Minister turn a blind eye to those people? How can she make lofty statements and give commitments to the disadvantaged and not follow them up? Is it necessary for the unemployed to be permanently set aside? Are they not entitled to a second chance? Traditionally, irrespective of whether I agreed with the sentiments of  members of former Labour Parties, I always found them to be decent people with a genuine commitment to the unemployed, but this decision is pathetic. The Minister makes all the right noises, statements and promises and plays to the militant dinosaurs in her party — such as the Member behind her — but she does not deliver on the issues. What is the end result?
We all know that job prospects are linked to education. Yet, we heard Deputy Haughey campaign for a regional technical college on the north side of the city. The priority afforded it by the Higher Education Authority has been ignored. The Minister could look after Minister Lowry in terms of the college in Thurles and her own constituency with a college in the middle class area of Dún Laoghaire, but she does not give a damn about a college on the north side of the city which was afforded priority by the Higher Education Authority.
Mr. Broughan: What did the Deputy's party do about it?
Mr. N. Ahern: The report produced by the Higher Education Authority has been ignored by the Minister who has promised to build colleges in constituencies which are represented by a Minister. The constituency of Dublin North-West is represented by the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, but he has no clout. The policy seems to be to give him a few bob and let him rant and rave.
I wish to raise a local matter, the need to have repairs carried out to the roof of the comprehensive school in Ballymun. The poor and disadvantaged are entitled to the same conditions as anyone else. This project, which was approved by the previous Government, has been taken off the list by the Minister. How can students from this disadvantaged area be expected to motivate  themselves when water is seeping through the roof?
The Minister mentioned the early start programme which was introduced with intellectual arrogance. It may well be a good programme, but the Minister is refusing to consult with anyone. She should at least explain to people what she is doing and listen to their suggestions. For weeks people from Ballymun, and other areas, have waited outside the gates of Leinster House, but the Minister has refused to speak to them. She should at least agree to meet with them.
Ms Keogh: I wish to share my time with Deputy Martin.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.
Ms Keogh: Notwithstanding the fact that the Minister of State, Deputy Allen, is an able person, it is a matter of regret that the Minister for Education is not present to listen to what I have to say about a matter of great importance. While I thank the Minister of State for attending, he is not the person who makes the policy decisions in the Department of Education.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Minister has failed to turn up for a debate on the Adjournment. I do not think she has listened to one debate on any topic raised by me, Deputy Martin and others.
The topic I wish to raise relates to the autonomy of the governing bodies of universities. The Minister is attempting to seize control of the education system by stealth. If media reports that she is proposing to control the selection of the  governing bodies are true, the implications are serious.
There have been disquieting rumours about the proposed legislation dealing with the governing bodies. In the White Paper on Education an amendment to the legislation dealing with the National University of Ireland was heralded. I do not know what the current status of that legislation is. From what I can gather from the new list of Bills to be dealt with this term, the Minister is lumping legislation together. All we have heard are rumours and innuendoes; it is a case of hints and management by press release. Unfortunately, this is a theme which has run through debates on education — including the debate on the VTOS which has just been adjourned — both this year and last. This is very unsatisfactory.
What philosophical stance has the Minister taken on the control of universities? Is it her intention to provide for even greater State control? Will she spell out her intentions in this regard? Is there a discussion document in circulation which includes the proposed heads of a Bill dealing with the autonomy of universities? Does she wish to exert control over the universities so that they are subject to her party's ideology?
Mr. Martin: The Minister should not have been so rude and insulting to Deputy Keogh. She was present for the debate on the VTOS and could not stay for an extra ten minutes to hear what we have to say on this issue. This goes to the core of the Government's commitment to Dáil reform about which the Taoiseach was so enthusiastic.
I have in my possession a position paper which was distributed to the heads of the universities, but which no politician has seen other than the Minister. It outlines all the changes she wishes to make.
Reforms were introduced recently to allow committees, such as the Select  Committee on Social Affairs, either to initiate or consider legislation at a preliminary stage in order to make a meaningful contribution. The tradition has been to present legislation as a fait accompli. This is a classic example of the secrecy which surrounds the formulation of legislation. The Minister has been extremely unhelpful in releasing information and reports on education matters to Opposition Deputies.
The proposal that the new chairperson of universities should be appointed by the Minister is unacceptable and needs to be reassessed. Under this proposal the universities would be expected to put forward the names of three outside people from which the Minister would pick one. This defies reality and shows up the shortcomings of the formulation of legislation.
Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): I assure Deputies Keogh and Martin that the Minister was present during the day but she has official business to attend to and cannot be present now. No discourtesy is intended to the House.
Mr. D. Ahern: She always seems to be on official business.
Mr. Allen: I will answer any points raised. I spent a year on the governing body of a university and worked for 18 years in one so I know how they operate. I assure Deputies that what the Minister is doing is in the interest of universities, taxpayers and consumers.
The Minister for Education intends to bring forward amending legislation for the universities. Anyone who read the White Paper will know that, arising from the Government's decisions on the implementation of the Culliton and Moriarty reports, there is a commitment to a broadening of the composition of governing bodies of universities to provide wider representation. I am sure  Deputies Martin and Keogh welcome that.
The White Paper indicates that academic staff, non-academic staff and students will have statutory representation on all governing bodies. No one will disagree with that. Coupled with that there will be appropriate provisions to ensure gender balance. There will also be statutory provision for ministerial nominees on all governing bodies.
As stated in the White Paper the legislation will seek to underpin a number of principles — regard for proper institutional autonomy coupled with appropriate public accountability; affirmation of the ethos and tradition of universities together with changes to reflect the role of universities in modern society and preservation of the diversity of universities and the enhancement of their development role. The White Paper sets out clearly the intentions for governing bodies. Preparation of the draft legislation is under way in the Department of Education in accordance with the commitments given in the White Paper.
As part of this process officials in the Department prepared a consultative working document which was circulated on a personal and confidential basis — I stress “confidential”— to the chancellor of the NUI and the heads of the seven university institutions. If it was circulated on a confidential basis it is odd that Deputy Martin should have a copy.
Mr. Martin: It came into my possession.
Mr. Allen: It just shows the use of the consultative process.
Ms Keogh: What is the big secret?
Mr. Martin: I am fed up reading announcements made by the Department in newspapers, so do not try to lecture me.
Mr. Allen: The Deputy was quiet today. He got his answer on another issue where there were many leaks. He was speechless.
Mr. Martin: I did not get any answers today. To what does the Minister of State refer?
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us deal with the matter before the House.
Mr. Allen: Officials are developing the proposals in the working document in consultation with the university heads. I hoped there would be consultation with the university heads and the chancellor but obviously the old tricks are being played again. Their observations will be considered fully when finalising the Minister's proposals. The Minister intends to formally table legislative proposals in due course and the House will have every opportunity to examine and debate the legislation when it is brought forward by the Minister.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: I condemn the lack of proper facilities for persons with mobility difficulties at the new district and family courthouse at Old Model School on Anglesea Street, Cork. The Access Group in Cork, an umbrella organisation representing 18 associations for the disabled, is extremely disappointed. It made a submission to a Fianna Fáil Minister in 1993 and a further one before the building commenced in 1994 offering to co-operate and assist in the planning of the necessary facilities at no charge. As it is not a specialist group it called in the NRB. It met officials in the Department of Justice in May 1995. A solicitor who is confined to a wheelchair was not allowed to attend the meeting but met the representatives of the NRB on the  footpath outside the courthouse. That is regrettable.
I understand the NRB made 14 recommendations in its submission which was presented to the Department of Justice. Unfortunately there was no positive response to any of them. We understood the renovations would cost £1 million. Recently the Minister for Justice indicated that it would cost £2 million and I am sure that matter will be examined by the Committee of Public Accounts.
It is important to outline the problems experienced by those with mobility difficulties. The entrance doors are extremely difficult to open to allow safe and independent use by the visually impaired, those who are frail and those in wheelchairs. There is no lift to the solicitors' room on the first floor and to the public offices. It is significant that a solicitor who uses the courthouse on a regular basis is in a wheelchair and must be lifted to the second floor. Two pairs of double doors have been installed and there is a small lobby which makes access to the court rooms practically impossible. The entrance steps are extremely steep. No hand rails are provided. There is an open mesh ramp and the frail or infirm could catch the heels of their shoes in it. The witness box is not wheelchair accessible. One would expect the Department to give an example in such cases given that people with disability will use the courthouse.
The president of the Law Society and the secretary of the Bar Council have come out openly in support of the Access group. It is strange that cognisance was not taken of that. The letter of a person who is in a wheelchair reads as follows:
I spent all night last night wondering how on earth such unnecessary and thoughtless mistakes could be made. The N.R.B. is a Gov. funded Body employed to give advice and  recommendations to builders, architects, planners, etc. Yet their advice was not sought and when it was given it was not acknowledged. We now have a Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities, an E.U.-Gov. funded Body spending thousands of £s researching what is required to make life accessible in all ways for those with disabilities. If the Gov. Depts will not take the advice offered to them by the N.R.B. then why on earth are they spending all this money on the Commission? WHO will listen to them at the end of the day? Who will listen to me and my problems?
That is a cry from the heart. I ask the Minister to take this in hand and ensure the courthouse is accessible to people with a disability.
Mr. Allen: I am answering on behalf of the Minister for Justice. This planning occurred a long time ago. There were political changes in the last eight months.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: I acknowledged that a Fianna Fáil Minister was involved but that does not take away from the facts.
Mr. Allen: I will give the facts. The old Model School in Anglesea Street was refurbished as the new district courthouse in Cork City at a cost of £1.78 million. This building now includes three courtrooms, a family law suite, judges' chambers, office space, consultation rooms, legal practitioners' rooms, a detention area and toilets. The first court sittings were held on Friday, 1 September 1995. We were conscious of the need to provide for people with disabilities. Consequently the building has proper facilities installed for persons with mobility difficulties. These include car parking spaces for the disabled, a  ramp at the main and family law entrance——
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: It is defective.
Mr. Allen: ——a toilet for the disabled and a position in the courtrooms from which a witness in a wheelchair can give evidence.
All public areas of the courthouse, with the exception of part of the court office and the legal representatives room, are accessible to persons with mobility difficulties. However, such persons may conduct all their business on the ground floor.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: In a corridor.
Mr. Allen: Sufficient, suitable facilities have been made available at this level. In relation to the provision of a public telephone for the hard of hearing, such a facility is not available in such a format.
The National Rehabilitation Board examined this building and issued a report which included a number of recommendations which were over and above the regulatory requirements. All of these, with the exception of two items, the installation of a lift and a telephone for the hard of hearing, have been or are in the process of being implemented. To those who do not know this building — I understand a number of Deputies attended school there — it is a single storey building. A mezzanine floor has been installed as part of the office area. This and the legal practitioners' robing room are the only areas not accessible to all.
To access both of these areas would require not one but two lifts as they are not connected. These areas represent only 15 per cent of the floor space, and we have fully complied with the building regulations. The need to preserve the building meant that the space available was limited and its use had to be maximised. As previously stated, all  members of the public can conduct all their court business on the ground floor.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: In a corridor.
Mr. Allen: This building is not only user friendly to persons with mobility difficulties but also for other disabled persons.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Absolutely not.
Mr. Allen: Examples of this include the installation of suitable lighting to assist the visually impaired and loop systems in the courtroom to assist the hard of hearing.
There are still some works ongoing, but I am assured it will be ready when the Minister, Deputy Owens, opens the excellent facility in Cork city at the end of this month.
Mr. B. O'Keeffe: I am very disappointed. The Minister should tell that to the Minister for Justice.
Mr. D. Ahern: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this urgent matter. I also thank the Minister of State, Deputy Gilmore, for attending once more for a matter on the Adjournment. I seem to drag him in quite often.
Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. Gilmore): I must stop doing it. I am giving the Deputy bad habits.
Mr. D. Ahern: Over the years, all sides have complained bitterly about the nuclear industry on the west coast of Britain. Given that the THORP station will soon be on stream, everybody on this island is worried about the increased transportation of spent nuclear fuel, as admitted by BNFL, on  the Irish Sea, one of the busiest marine routes in the world.
I received a call late on Saturday night from a local person who had been in contact with a Scottish colleague involved in CND. People in Scotland were very worried about the transportation which took place that night during the hours of darkness. The ship left Douneray and headed out to sea towards its apparent destination in Sellafield. I understand the ship, European Sheerwater, is owned by BNFL although there may be some doubt in that regard. It was a large ship, approximately 200 feet in length, and its sole cargo was two small flasks containing approximately eight litres of plutonium nitrate, which is extremely volatile and dangerous if damaged in any way.
As a result of this call, I immediately contacted the duty officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs. He took my points on board and I asked for a response on Monday. I saw fit to ring the Department earlier to find out the exact position because I received further contact from people in the locality between Saturday night and Monday morning who were concerned about this issue. I was informed by an official in the Department of Foreign Affairs that, through the Department of the Marine, they had investigated this matter. Perhaps the Minister could clarify this point but it appears that no Department or agency on this side of the Irish Sea was informed about this transportation. The Minister of State is nodding and it is totally unacceptable that there was no notification.
Communiqués in relation to the peace process and better relationships are issued after meetings of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. However, Britain could start having better relations with its neighbour in this area by at least telling us the position. We do not want such material travelling on the Irish Sea but if it is to happen without our consent, we should at least be told  and warned about it. I understand the code of practice only involves notifying the local coast guard. They maintain it is none of our business because it does not enter out territorial waters and remains within its territorial waters. I do not accept this point because if a major accident involving such a vessel occurred, it would have implications for everybody on each side of the Irish Sea.
The Minister of State and his colleagues made great play in the programme, A Government of Renewal, of the fact that they intended to do everything possible in relation to this subject. It continues to amaze me that some contact was not made with the British authorities to find out why we were not informed of this matter.
This is one of many such transportations; I understand there was another last week involving a similar load. One worrying aspect is that this ship sailed in extremely inclement weather conditions; force nine to ten southwesterly winds were imminent. It was very windy last weekend and conditions at sea apparently caused the ship to be delayed for almost 12 hours. It finally docked today at approximately 1 p.m. in an area near Sellafield. The material was then transported by road under armed guard to Sellafield.
This all took place without our knowledge. The Minister of State will say his Department is raising this matter at all types of fora and that we are trying to secure agreement on a code of practice in relation to the transportation of such material in the world's seas. However, that is not good enough and the same applied in relation to Wylfa and other incidents during the Minister of State's stewardship. This side has called on the Minister and the Government to call in the British Ambassador and say it is not good enough. It is high time that was done. There is a suspicion, which is long held, that we are pussy footing with the British in this area because of the peace process. I do not accept that and I did  not accept it when this side was in power. I do not accept it now and we should demand that the British Ambassador comes in and explains why this is happening without our consent.
Mr. Gilmore: I fully share the Deputy's concerns in this matter. The Deputy is aware of the Government's strong opposition to the reprocessing facility at Sellafield. Our concerns about the shipment of spent nuclear fuel and plutonium through the Irish Sea are fundamental. The implications of an accident or collision need no spelling out to this House.
Such shipments are governed by the requirements of the International Maritime Organisation Code on the Safe Carriage of Irradiated Nuclear Fuels, known as the INF Code. Before direct shipments can begin these requirements must be met and registered as such with the United Kingdom's Marine Safety Agency. However, the requirements themselves are deficient and I wish to inform the Deputy and the House of the steps which I am undertaking to have them changed.
The INF Code, drawn up jointly by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requires that the ships used be of a special type and construction, in full compliance with the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, 1974, as amended, and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code of that Convention and meet strict requirements as regards damnage stability, fire protection, temperature control of cargo spaces, radiological protection equipment and management, training and shipboard emergency plans etc. Each ship must hold a document from its Flag Administration indicating full compliance with all requirements. The IMO adopted the code at its 18th Assembly in November 1993.
 The following deficiencies have been identified in the code relating to the handling of the most hazardous of all dangerous cargoes transported by sea. There is no route planning, or notification of or consultation with coastal and island states en route on the movement of vessels carrying nuclear cargoes. Deputy Ahern is right. Under the existing international maritime organisation code there is no requirement, unfortunately, on states or the shippers concerned to notify bordering coastal states like ours when a shipment of this type is passing by our seas. There is no restriction or exclusion of certain routes. I would like to see an exclusion of the Irish Sea as a route on which this type of cargo can be carried.
There is no emergency response preparedness and reaction to emergencies should they arise along the route, there is lack of data on the actual cargoes being carried, lack of hazard assessment of nuclear cargoes or proper evaluation of the flasks used in transport. There is a lack of salvage equipment capable of retrieving either ship or nuclear cargo in the event of an accident occurring, particularly if the ship were to sink in deep water. There is no means of locating nuclear cargoes which might be lost from the ship, or the ship itself, in the event of an accident and no liability regime for compensatory damages in the event of an incident involving nuclear cargoes or leakage therefrom. These issues are complementary to the code and I am giving them my full attention at present.
I am actively seeking to have some, if not all, these deficiencies remedied as early as possible and already my Department has instituted steps to have them looked at through the mechanism of IMO which is the international body responsible for such matters. There is a meeting of IMO next month which I propose to attend to advance the matter  and I hope to meet IMO's Secretary-General in advance of the meeting to the same end.
I am also seeking provisions for improved reporting arrangements for vessels transiting the territorial waters of EU member states generally and in particular I am seeking amendments of the HAZMAT Directive which governs the movement by ship of hazardous materials in European waters. As the Deputy knows, it is Government policy not to admit entry to an Irish port of any vessel carrying nuclear materials and in line with that policy I decided earlier this year to refuse entry to Dublin port of a vessel carrying nuclear materials.
I agree with Deputy Ahern that there is agreement across the floor on this issue generally but I regret that he introduced a partisan note at the end of his contribution. I do not want to respond in kind to that other than to say that I wish that more work had been done by previous administrations in amending the international maritime organisation codes dealing with the transportation of these type of shipments, and that I did not have to start virtually from scratch on taking up office on this issue.
Mr. E. Byrne: I thank the Minister for coming in at this late hour to deal with this very important issue.
As with most scandals, the truth about British munitions dumping has been drip-fed to the public, both here and in the United Kingdom. It is disturbing it is now emerging that over one million tonnes of munitions, including highly toxic matter such as phosphorous incendiaries, were dumped in sites such as the Beaufort Dyke off the Irish coast since World War II and very probably since 1920.
It has also emerged that in 1981 Beaufort Dyke, which is a 1,500 foot trench  in the sea bed which lies between Scotland and Ireland, was used as a dump for 2,517 tonnes of toxic waste when a vessel originally destined for deeper, and supposedly safer waters on the Atlantic shelf was forced to turn back. The scandal does not end there. It was reported over the weekend that the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission may have misled the International Atomic Energy Authority by forwarding official documents claiming that the waste had reached its intended destination in the Atlantic Shelf rather than being dumped, as it was, off the Irish coast. We now learn that British Gas may be considering building a pipeline in the Beaufort Dyke area. Gas, munitions, phosphorous and nuclear waste will lie in close proximity to each other. This makes for an explosive combination.
The Irish people are not merely disinterested spectators watching a growing scandal unfold on the other side of the Irish Sea, because the dumping of munitions and nuclear waste off the Irish coast affects us all. It is incumbent on the Irish Government to seek full clarification from the UK authorities regarding the quantities dumped, the safety procedures, if any, observed at the time of dumping, and whether the UK authorities acted in accordance with international procedures and regulations, not only in regard to the dumping, but in regard to disclosure.
We also need full information regarding the chemical composition and the projected stability or otherwise of the items dumped. For example, just how impermeable and long lasting are the concrete casings supposedly containing the nuclear waste? Will the Minister inform the House whether the dumped munitions included any chemical or biological weapons or their by-products, and if so, in what quantities they were dumped? What, if any, contingency plans have been formulated by the UK authorities to ensure environmental and  public safety as these munitions become increasingly unstable with the passage of time?
I do not doubt that the Minister shares the concerns, not only of Members but of the public and I hope he will seek clarification from the UK authorities as well as making representations in the appropriate international fora. I would appreciate the Minister addressing this in a very serious way and I look forward to his response.
Mr. Gilmore: I thank Deputy Byrne for raising this matter. The Department of the Marine has been in touch with the corresponding UK authorities over a period of time regarding these various matters and has been informed that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) used to undertake sea dumping of chemical weapon stocks and conventional munitions as means of disposing of redundant and surplus stocks and dealing with the legacy of weapons produced in the World Wars.
According to the information made available some 150,000 tonnes of obsolete chemical munitions were dumped at sea in the aftermath of both World Wars in locations situated 200 miles to the south-west, of Ireland and 65 miles to the north-west, in both cases in very deep water going down to depths of 4,500 meters.
As regards the Beaufort Dyke, the information made available to us was that this location (a long, deep trench up to 900 feet in depth on the Scottish side of the North Channel) was used historically until 1973 for the disposal of conventional munitions ranging from small arms ammunition to large calibre artillery and naval shells to heavy aerial bombs. We have been informed that the only dumping of chemical munitions at this site was in 1947 when 14,000 tonnes of phosgene-charged materials were disposed of there.
The UK authorities have given assurances at all times that no dumping of  nuclear material or material containing heavy metals has taken place either at Beaufort Dyke or the other dump sites mentioned.
I am concerned at recent reports that radioactive and other waste materials may have been dumped by the UK authorities at these various sites in recent decades and I have written to the UK Secretary of State for Defence asking for urgent clarification of the reports in question. I have stressed the public disquiet that the suggested disposal operations give rise to here both in terms of environmental damage and public health and have asked in particular to be provided with the following information in respect of the dumping in question: the exact location of the  dumping operations, the volumes, nature, radioactivity, casing etc., of the material involved; an assessment of their present state, their likely impact on the local and Irish Sea environment generally; the steps the UK Government have taken, or intend to take, to monitor the materials, sites and contiguous marine conditions, and the measures the UK Government plan to implement to minimise any adverse impact the materials are having, or are likely to have, on the areas.
I assure the Deputy that I will follow up this matter closely with a view to obtaining disclosure of the full facts.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 October 1995.
35. Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he has examined the point made by the Small Firms Association in its press release of 9 November 1994 relating to the uncompetitive environment between North and South; and if so, the way in which he proposes to redress this problem. [11586/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Officials in my Department have been examining the press release referred to by the Deputy. I and my Department welcome constructive contributions on the issue of competitiveness. The study highlighted cost differentials which can create difficulties in competing for certain sectors. Specifically the study highlights a higher average industrial wage in the South, a higher rate of PRSI, and a higher rate of corporation tax, for services as opposed to manufacturing operations. The study uses the example of a small retail business but the wage rates quoted for that business are average industrial earnings. While it is difficult to be specific with regard to earnings in the retail sector, they are unlikely to be at the same level as average industrial earnings. Many employees in the retail service sector in the Republic would qualify for the new low rate of employers' PRSI of 9 per cent on earnings up to £231 per week.
If one looks at any particular overseas market there will most likely always be competitive gains and losses as compared with the domestic market. On the general issue of competitiveness, the Deputy will be aware of the continuing efforts of this Government to enhance the competitiveness of Irish business so that it can compete successfully in all relevant markets. These efforts cover many economic areas important to business competitiveness. I have already referred to the reduced PRSI regime for  low income sectors. In this year's budget, specific measures were introduced to reduce employers' PRSI and corporation tax. Employers' PRSI charges were reduced through increasing the threshold for the lower 9 per cent contribution rate of PRSI from £173 to £231 per week, £12,000 per annum.
The focus of the current operational programme for industrial development is on improving the competitiveness and ability of Irish business to compete in the international trading place. The operational programme for transport is building on the last operational programme and will significantly improve the physical infrastructure for business operating in the South.
In regard to the UK opt-out from the EU social Protocol, to which reference also is made in the SFA press release, I do not believe that this factor has conferred any material competitive advantage on Northern Ireland vis-à-vis the South. I do accept that we must keep that position under review and we are doing that.
I can assure the Deputy that I and my Department will continue to monitor closely and seek improvements in the competitiveness of Irish goods and services so as to maximise employment levels in the economy.
36. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the proposals, if any, he has to review the operation of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14317/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The Industrial Relations Act, 1990 was enacted following extensive consultations with the social partners. The intention of this lengthy consultation process was to ensure that the measures brought forward under the Act would have as much support as possible. In this regard,  therefore, I am satisfied that the Act strikes a fair balance between the rights and responsibilities of employees, trade unions, employers and the public interest. I feel that, as the Act did not become fully operational until July, 1992, a detailed review at this stage would be premature. Nevertheless, I am aware of recent developments which have given rise to criticism of the Act from some quarters and would advise the Deputy that my Department continues to monitor the Act, having regard to such developments and other changes in industrial relations, on an ongoing basis.
37. Mr. E. Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to review SR6 as a method of regulating septic tanks. [12558/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Burton): All national standards and standard recommendations are kept under constant review by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. However, there is no plan specifically to review the standard recommendation for septic tank systems, S.R.6: 1991, at present.
38. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to reduce the number of semi-State job-creation agencies during the term of this Government. [14438/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I can confirm that I have no plans at present to reduce the number of semi-State job-creation agencies, under my Department.
39. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he has prepared a position paper on unemployment; the submissions sought; the plans, if any, he has to address unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14393/95]
158. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he has satisfied himself with the progress in reducing the number of people unemployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14411/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 158 together.
The Government recognises that the latest Live Register figures underline the fact that unemployment remains a significant problem. However, the available indicators show that employment is growing substantially. Recently published figures show that industrial employment increased by 3.8 per cent in the 12 months to August 1995. Also, employment related Exchequer returns for the first three quarters of 1995, which were released last week, indicate that employment is growing. In addition, total notified redundancies between January and August 1995 are 19 per cent lower than the same period in 1994.
I am cognisant of the fact that many of the unemployed, and the long term unemployed in particular are not benefiting adequately from these positive trends. In that regard, I have already taken a number of measures aimed at assisting these particular groups. As I outlined in reply to Question No. 31 the local employment service is to commence in Tallaght and Limerick shortly and I will be approving plans for this service from other area partnerships in the coming weeks. I have also given approval to Kildare and Clare to be included in the new service as non-partnership areas.
I am engaged in a major review of employment strategy. One of its central objectives will be to deal with the problem of unemployment. In particular I am preparing a White Paper on training  and also reassessing labour market strategies. The training requirement of the unemployed and other groups at a disadvantage in entering the labour market is a core issue in this White Paper. As regards strategies which impact on the labour market I am examining how best to improve the effectiveness of active labour market measures as well as any possible structural impediments in the labour market. The aim of this work is to ensure, as far as possible, that the labour market is functioning in an effective manner and, in particular, to improve the employment opportunities of those groups particularly hard hit by unemployment.
40. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to review the community employment schemes in order to determine if any positions can be made into long term jobs in view of the fact that many schools that need secretaries are currently depending on community employment schemes. [14467/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Community employment is primarily aimed at assisting the long term unemployed progress to mainstream employment by way of providing temporary work experience of 12 months duration. Qualitative improvements in the form of development or training modules have been added to the work experience element so as to assist in the process of re-integration into the labour market or to facilitate progression onto higher skills acquisition levels. The programme itself does not generate permanent employment although it can be the case that such employment can emerge from specific projects. It is also the case that there is provision for participants to be engaged for further periods where such participants would benefit from additional work experience-training or where participants have a key role to  play in the project and no other suitable eligible participant is available. In addition FÁS has been asked to make a special effort to facilitate those over 45 years with a place on the programme for up to three years as it is recognised that this category have greater difficulty than others in obtaining mainstream employment.
While the availability of mainstream employment posts as school secretaries is a matter for the Minister for Education, I am pleased to inform the House that the task force on unemployment, as part of its second report, is currently examining the existing employment options, including how community employment can be further strengthened in order to enhance participants' employment prospects.
41. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the measures, if any, he intends to introduce to address the escalation in the cost of employer's and public liability insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14394/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The high cost of employers' and public liability insurance in Ireland reflects, in large measure, the frequency of accidents and the high cost of claims. Clearly, therefore, greater attention and commitment by employers to implementing safety practices and procedures on the shop floor and to encouraging operatives to observe safety procedures can have a significant impact on reducing both the frequency and cost of claims and, ultimately, in reducing the cost of liability insurance.
As previously indicated, I have commissioned a detailed economic evaluation of insurance costs in Ireland and of the key factors contributing to the high cost of insurance here. I expect to  have the consultants' report in November and, on the basis of the recommendations made in that report, I would propose to bring forward a package of measures aimed at reducing the burden of insurance costs on the economy. These measures will be mainly targeted at the key factors contributing to high insurance costs.
42. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he has satisfied himself that the official trade statistics for 1994 give a true and accurate picture of what is happening in the Irish economy in view of the fact that a small group of foreign-owned companies accounted for up to 90 per cent of the £2.96 billion growth in merchandise exports last year, with software exports alone rising in value by over £500 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14435/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The accuracy of the official trade statistics is a matter for the Central Statistics Office and the Minister for Tourism and Trade in the first instance.
The continued high sales and exports growth rate of the overseas owned sector in Ireland is reflected in the 1994 trade statistics. I am satisfied that this growth does have a real and substantial impact on the Irish economy, raising GNP, and creating employment throughout the economy. Evidence for this view is contained in the Forfás Irish economy expenditure survey which shows that over the 1987-93 period the sales of IDA Ireland companies, which comprise the bulk of overseas industry in Ireland, grew by 62.6 per cent in real terms, but their expenditures in the Irish economy comprising wages-salaries, Irish produced raw materials and services, and corporation tax payments grew even quicker, by 74.1 per cent. Therefore, the proportion of overseas companies sales retained and benefiting the Irish economy rose from 32.6 per  cent in 1987 to 34.9 per cent in 1993 and it is quite likely that the continued strong growth in sales and exports among overseas companies in 1994 had led to a commensurate increase in value added accruing to the Irish economy, and the support of employment throughout the economy.
Specifically in relation to linkages and the purchases of Irish materials, the Irish raw materials purchases of IDA Ireland companies rose from 15.7 per cent in 1985 to 21.5 per cent in 1993. The rise in real terms over the period 1987 to 1993 was £492 million. This rise represents a substantial gain in Ireland's market share of the sub-supply opportunities provided by the overseas firms located here. However, there is a real potential for Irish firms to increase their supplies to overseas companies located in Ireland even further. Forbairt has continued its two-pronged approach of obtaining information about the needs of overseas companies and the ability of Irish companies to meet these needs. It has recently expanded its link activities.
Until mid 1994, all Forbairt's link executives were based in Dublin. At that time, as a result of a review of the effectiveness and success already achieved, it was decided to regionalise them. The primary objectives in this were to take on board many more supply companies than was possible before, to directly assist these companies to make significant improvements in their capability and in their competitiveness and to scan a much wider range of multi-nationals in pursuit of attractive business opportunities for regional indigenous companies.
Under regional linkage considerable resources are being added through the appointment of locally based regional executives. The regional executives are supported by a core unit in Dublin which will co-ordinate the individual regional activities thus ensuring balanced national coverage and the best possible exploitation of all linkages opportunities. The core unit will also provide specialist advice on the major purchasing sectors.
 In addition, the Forfás update of a study by the ESRI shows that on average in 1993 every direct job in IDA Ireland companies generated an additional job elsewhere in the economy through their purchase of Irish produced services, spending of wages/salaries and the Government tax revenue generated. In addition, it is estimated that for every 100 direct IDA Ireland jobs an average 17 jobs are supported indirectly through purchases of raw materials and components from Irish owned companies.
An industry panel comprised of purchasers and suppliers in each region advise Forbairt on how the effectiveness and the regional efforts can be increased. One result of this to date has been the development of the programme for international competitiveness which is targeted at bringing the capability of local indigenous suppliers up to the level necessary to compete successfully in the world marketplace. During 1995 the regionalisation process is being extended to all regions following the initial launch in the west region in 1994.
Finally, in addition to the overall impact of foreign companies, total employment in these companies has increased substantially by 5,300 in 1994 — from 77,300 people in 1993 to 82,600. A total of 9,740 new jobs were created and recruited in 1994. Job losses were at their lowest level since 1990 at 4,470.
44. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason the subsidised loan scheme is being administered by a commercial bank and not by any of the State-owned banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14443/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I wish to advise the Deputy that the access to finance scheme which, I presume, is the “subsidised loan scheme” to which he refers  is, in fact, administered by four commercial banks who were successful in an open tender process initiated by way of press advertisements placed in the national daily newspapers on 5 May 1995. A key element in the final selection process was the amount of “own resource” funding which the bidding banks were prepared to contribute towards the loan subsidy. Only one State bank expressed initial interest in participating in the scheme but declined in the subsequent process to pursue its bid.
45. D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Fiontair agus Fostaíochta an bhfuil sé sásta, i gcásanna nach bhfuil éinne os cionn bliain is fiche d'aois le fáil do scéimeanna fostaíochta, daoine idir ocht mbliana déag agus bliain is fiche d'aois a ligean ar na scéimeanna seo; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [13019/95]
51. D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Fiontair agus Fostaíochta cén fáth nach bhfuil cead ag daoine idir ocht mbliana déag agus bliain is fiche dul ar scéimeanna fostaíochta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [13018/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Togfaidh me Ceisteanna Uimh. 45 agus 51 le céile.
Glacaim leis gurb é atá i gceist ag an Teachta ná an scéim fostaíochta fostaíocht phobail. Tá an scéim so dírithe faoi leith ar lucht dífhostaithe fad-téarmach agus is ar an bhonn sin atá na coinníollacha leagtha síos. Mar sin féin, áfach, tá daoine níos lú na 21 bliain d'aois, atá ag fáil sochar dífhostaíochta ar feadh breis is 12 mhí, maraon leo siúd atá ag fáil liúntas tuismitheora aonair ar feadh breis is 12 mhí, iontofa don scéim. Freisin, is féidir le h-ógánaigh a h-ainmnaíonn an Bord Athshlanúchain páirt a ghlacadh sa scéim.
Ag an bpointe seo, tá breis agus 211,000 daoine iontofa don scéim agus  tá mé sásta go bhfuil sé so dóthaineach chun na spásanna ar an scéim a líonadh. Dar ndóigh, tá an-chuid scéimeanna tréanála á reachtáil ag FÁS nach mbaineann coinníollacha aoise leo in aon chor.
46. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason additions to the transport infrastructure are specifically excluded from the subsidised loan scheme in view of the fact that this sector is suffering heavily from lower-taxed United Kingdom competition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14445/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I assume the subsidised loan scheme to which the Deputy refers is the access to finance scheme which is currently proving very successful in facilitating employment growth and company development in the small business and services sector. The access to finance scheme is the principal measure of the small business operational programme which is delivering a wide range of supports to the small business and services sector. The operational programme had to be approved by the EU Commission in advance as they are providing the bulk of the funding and as such had to meet a variety of EU requirements. One of these relates to the necessity of not infringing EU state aids regulations which provide for the application of an overall aid ceiling as well as the exclusion of state aid to sensitive sectors. Road haulage is one such sector specified in the state aid regulations and is covered by the state aid rules of the common transport policy which provides that the only basis on which aid may be approved by the Commission is “where aid is granted as an exeptional and temporary measure in order to eliminate, as part of a reorganisation plan, excess capacity causing serious  structural problems and thus to contribute towards meeting more effectively the needs of the transport market”.
I should add that, having received representations from road haulage interests, I am in contact with my colleague the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications to see whether it is possible for certain types of projects related to the road haulage sector to be considered for inclusion in the access to finance scheme.
47. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the proposals, if any, he has to address the increased level of litigation arising from the practice of below cost tendering in the construction industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14319/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I am not aware of the specifics of the matter raised by the Deputy.
From a competition perspective the Competition Act, 1991 sets out the conditions under which free and fair competition takes place, by prohibiting anti-competitive practices and the abuse of a dominant position. At present the Act is enforced primarily by way of private civil actions in the courts between disputing parties.
Section 4 of the Act prohibits and makes void all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition in trade in any goods or services in the State or in any part of the State. Section 5 prohibits any abuse of a dominant position.
Section 6 provides that any person aggrieved in consequence of anti-competitive activity has right of action in the courts for relief, by way of injunction or declaration and damages, including exemplary damages. The Minister has a similar right of action but the reliefs  available to the Minister are restricted to an injunction or declaration.
While the Act illustrates examples of what may be prohibited, it is ultimately for the courts to decide what constitutes a breach of the law in any case brought before them. As Minister, I have no function in adjudicating whether the matter referred to by the Deputy, or any other practice, is in breach of competition law. This is a matter entirely for the courts to decide.
I would also refer the Deputy to the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 1994 which proposes to give the Competition Authority powers to investigate anti-competitive activity, either on its own initiative or as a result of third party complaints, including the power to take court actions where necessary. In line with the policy agreement for Government I am committed to strengthening the enforcement of competition by giving the Competition Authority powers of enforcement and by enabling the courts to impose stiff fines on those found to be engaging in unfair competition. I intend to seek to have the Bill enacted as soon as possible.
48. Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if his Department has recruited a limited number of individuals with industrial experience as recommended by the Culliton Industrial Policy Review Group in 1992. [14439/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The Moriarty task force was charged with establishing how the recommendations of the Culliton report could best be put into effect. In this regard, the task force recommended, inter alia, the recruitment of a limited number of people with the appropriate experience to assist in policy work and programme evaluation within my Department. Following an open recruitment campaign, five people with relevant experience were recruited in the context of the setting up of the  industrial programmes evaluation unit in 1993. In addition, two people with relevant industrial experience were seconded from Forbairt to my Department to work in the competitiveness and employment protection unit. The industrial policy formulation role of my Department has also been strengthened, in my view, by the advisory and co-ordination work being carried out by Forfás since its establishment in January 1994.
49. Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if the rapid decrease in our trade surplus figures with Northern Ireland is set to continue now that the Northern Ireland industrial economy is starting to reap a peace dividend; the implications, if any, for employment in this part of the island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14446/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): According to CSO figures, the trade surplus with Northern Ireland fell from over £298 million in 1993 to over £186 million in 1994. As to the reason for this fall, I would refer the Deputy to a reply given by my colleague, the Minister for Tourism and Trade on 5 October 1995 in which it was stated that it seems clear that for the past 25 years, economic development in the North has been inhibited by the situation obtaining there. As the North attempts to develop its exporting sector, their exports in the short term will tend to rise at a faster pace than our own. As my colleague commented, this is to be welcomed because as the economy of Northern Ireland benefits, the economy of the island of Ireland as a whole will benefit. In the same reply the Minister, Deputy Kenny gave details of the initiatives being pursued by An Bord Tráchtálá to assist Irish companies in taking advantage of the increased opportunities which the improved economic environment in the North should bring.
 On the implications for employment arising from the change in the trade balance, it is too early to say at this stage whether this is having a specific impact on companies in the South. However, I understand that the Department of Tourism and Trade is monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis. I would also add that there is no definitive implication that increased exports to this country from Northern Ireland are displacing Irish made goods.
50. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment whether he has satisfied himself that moneys disbursed by the county enterprise boards are producing an acceptable return in terms of job creation and industrial regeneration; the proposals, if any, he has to further review the operation of the county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14318/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The county enterprise boards have been in operation since late 1993. To date, they have in the main been involved in the provision of a business advice and agency referral service for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and in the administration of the county enterprise fund grant scheme for small business start-ups and expansions. Since their inception in 1993, small business projects nationally have been approved for county enterprise fund grants to a total of some £34.6 million. These projects have a total potential to create some 6,300 full-time and 1,340 part-time jobs. Returns by the county enterprise boards indicate that by end-1994, some 1,776 full-time and 263 part-time new jobs had already been created in county enterprise fundassisted projects.
I am broadly satisfied by the level of performance of the county enterprise boards to date, all the more so since it was achieved in what were essentially start-up conditions. I would expect to  see it enhanced in future years in the context of the wider range of enterprise supports now becoming available to the boards under the operational programme for local urban and rural development, 1994-1999. Under the operational programme, launched by the Taoiseach on 2 February 1995, the county enterprise boards may avail of Structural Fund supports for their current activities, and for a range of additional activities including the provision of an expanded advice and counselling service for small businesses; management development support including mentoring; and the provision of support for the development of an enterprise culture generally at local level. To allow them to avail fully of the opportunities extended by the operational programme, the county enterprise boards have been established as independent, locally-controlled enterprise development companies, limited by guarantee, which will operate in accordance with a strategic agenda for local enterprise developed in their enterprise plans.
The Deputy also raises the question of future review of county enterprise board operations. My Department will carry out a review of the implementation of county enterprise plans in the course of 1996. The review will be undertaken at two levels, assessing the progress achieved at the overall level of the local enterprise programme and at that of each particular county enterprise board. The review will examine the success of the boards in achieving the aggregate quantitative and qualitative targets set out in the programme, and in the enterprise plans prepared for each area.
This review will also contribute to the mid-term review to be carried out over the community support framework. I believe that the current OECD country review of local development in Ireland should also serve as a valuable guide to possible improvements to facilitate greater effectiveness, accountability and subsidiarity in the operation of the various local development strategies.
52. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment when our trade marks law will be reformed in order to comply with the European Union recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14442/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): My Department has now completed consultations with the Patents Office on a new Trade Marks Bill to replace the Trade Marks Act, 1963. This Bill will implement Council Directive 89/104/EEC to approximate the laws of the member states relating to trade marks. It will also make provision for the Community Trade Mark in line with Council Regulation 40/94 as well as other international arrangements.
The Government intends to include the Trade Marks Bill in the legislation to be introduced in the Dáil during this session. Progress on this Bill has been facilitated by Deputy McDowell's own Private Members' Bill which he introduced in March 1993.
53. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the further plans, if any, he has to establish an advisory committee to monitor the new local employment service; and if he recognises the difficulty for the local employment scheme in handling all types of job opportunities in the absence of a national minimum wage. [14480/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): An interdepartmental advisory group consisting of representatives of relevant Government Departments/State Agencies has been set up to advise me on the establishment and ongoing implementation of the new local employment service. While I am conscious of the difficulties that will be faced by local management committees with regard to the task they are taking  on, I am heartened by the approach that is being proposed in the plans I have received so far and am confident that this new service will have a real benefit in terms of its impact on the employment opportunities of unemployed people. However, I do recognise that no single measure in itself can solve the problem of unemployment.
54. Miss Quill asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he is in receipt of the Charter of Rights for Scheme Workers as published by INOU; and if so, his response to its provisions. [10756/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I have received the INOU Charter of Rights. The majority of the proposals outlined in the charter are already in place in respect of CE participants. In addition, FÁS in consultation with my Department has been considering a number of ways to give FÁS clients a greater say in the organisation's programmes and services. Among the issues to be determined are whether the new arrangements should be centrally or regionally based and whether one set of arrangements would be appropriate given the diverse range of clients using FÁS services. In determining the most appropriate arrangements, account will be taken of the relevant recommendations in NESF Report No. 6 “Quality Delivery of Social Services” and also of the INOU “Charter of Rights for CE participants”.
55. Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he intends to raise the employee and turnover ceilings that apply to the subsidised loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14444/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I do not intend  to raise the employee and turnover ceilings that apply to the access to finance scheme. The reason being, I am concerned to make a particular effort to focus assistance towards those enterprises in most need of assistance which, by definition, are small i.e. employing less than 50 persons or with an annual turnover of less than £3 million. This focus in support is the result of the taking on board of the recommendations of two Government task forces which have examined the business environment needs of the small business and services sectors specifically. I should point out that the vast majority of Irish enterprises come within these criteria.
56. Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the percentage of bricks used in building construction which are imported; and the efforts, if any, being made at Departmental level to increase the level of brick production in view of the potential of this industry. [11846/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The data sought by the Deputy is not available from the Central Statistics Office. The industrial development agencies have advised that the percentage of imported bricks used in building construction is approximately 50 per cent of an estimated total market of 50 million bricks, £12.5 million in 1995.
The Irish market for bricks has grown by about 30 per cent over the past two years. An important element of the increase in brick usage is driven by fashion and consumer taste requiring large ranges of brick types to be available. Brick types incorporate a large variety of colours, textures and finish and these elements are primarily determined by two factors, clay type available and the firing process. The high iron content in the native Irish clay means that Irish brick naturally fires  red. Builders and architects are currently showing a preference for yellow coloured brick. It is estimated that this type of brick now accounts for c.50 per cent of the Irish market. Consequently a major share of the increased demand is being satisfied by imports. The major importers of bricks into Ireland have as many as 170 brick products whereas Irish brick manufacturers are limited to about 25.
For some years Irish brick manufacturers have been engaged in attempting to develop new brick types, textures and colours with varying degrees of success. Their efforts to produce a wide variety of bricks are limited by access to local clay types. New entrants to the market from overseas would similarly be hampered by the limited range of clay sources in Ireland.
In order to maintain competitiveness the industrial development agencies will continue to encourage and assist brick manufacturing companies to invest in research and development for the purposes of producing colour variation in their products. Forbairt will also assist them through the medium of the construction linkage programme which seeks out linkage opportunities with overseas companies setting up here.
57. Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the funding provided for each county enterprise board in 1994; and the allocation in 1995. [14405/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The statistical information sought by the Deputy in relation to 1994 is set out in a tabular statement which I will circulate to the House. Regarding 1995, each county enterprise board has been allocated an approval capacity of £365,000 in respect of their capital grant support programmes and an additional £135,000 in respect of soft supports.
 County Enterprise Fund — approvals and drawdown, 1994.
|Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown||580,133||70,859|
58. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the statement by the Internal Market Commissioner, Mr. Mario Monti, to the effect that he intends proposing a Directive on access to media ownership; if he will be supporting such a directive in view of the increasing globalisation of the media market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14316/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I am aware of  the statement by the Commissioner of 26 September 1995 concerning concentration and pluralism in the media. While my Department has not been consulted in this regard, the Deputy may be assured that the Government will decide its approach to such a Directive as and when a firm proposal is tabled by the Commission.
The recently established Commission on the Newspaper Industry will, inter alia, be examining the matter of concentration, plurality and diversity in the newspaper industry in Ireland. I have drawn their attention to the Commissioner's statement in this regard.
60. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason women journalists were not appointed to the Commission on the Newspaper Industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14441/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The Commission on the Newspaper Industry was set up by me following a comprehensive debate on the newspaper industry which took place in the wake of the publication of the Competition Authority's report on newspapers. Following receipt of that report, I had discussions with all interested parties and I hosted a forum on the newspaper industry. The commission was given wide-ranging terms of reference which required broad membership from many walks of life. In drawing up membership, I invited nominations from representative organisations within industry including IBEC, ICTU, NUJ, NNI and PNI. Those invited to nominate took the request very seriously and I am certain, nominated those whom they considered to be the best qualified for membership of the commission. It was not my function to  interfere in their individual choice of nominee.
In addition, in order that the commission would be representative of as many facets of Irish life as possible, I nominated persons with special insights from advertising, economics, business and media law, communications, business, culture and equality sectors. The commission is independent and consists of 20 members under the distinguished chairmanship of the former Chief Justice, Mr. Thomas Finlay. Six of the members are women; two are involved in the media, one being the managing director of a large public relations company and the other a media law expert and a university lecturer. I am confident that the membership of the commission is balanced and I look forward to their important report.
61. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Taoiseach the State bodies under the aegis of his Department that have been specifically asked to comply with the 1994 Public Procurement Booklet; and when each of the State bodies was asked by his Department to comply with the principles contained in the booklet. [14265/95]
The Taoiseach: The State bodies under the aegis of my Department are fully aware of their obligations with regard to public procurement procedures. I understand that each of these bodies — NESC, Law Reform Commission and the Central Statistics Office have complied with and will continue to comply with these procedures.
On publication, copies of the 1994 Public Procurement Booklet were received in my Department and the Central Statistics Office. Copies of the booklet were not issued separately to the NESC or the Law Reform Commission at that time but have now been forwarded to them.
62. Mr. Callely asked the Taoiseach the specific events for which photographic agencies were engaged since January 1995 by his Department; the dates, location, photographic agency and costs involved; the personnel from his office and from the offices of his Ministers of State that were involved; and the likely annual cost to other Departments of such photographic contracts. [14268/95]
The Taoiseach: The information sought by the Deputy to the specific  events for which photographic agencies were engaged since January 1995 by my Department is contained in the following schedule. It is normal practice for officials of my Department to accompany the Taoiseach and Ministers of State to official functions. The Government press secretary or officials from the Government Information Services attend such events where representatives of the media are present.
The annual costs for photographic contracts are a matter for individual Ministers and accordingly I am not in a position to provide details of photographic engagements undertaken in other Departments.
|03-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Photos of new ADC||210.38|
|05-01-95||Maxwell||Dublin Castle||Taoiseach — IFA 40th Anniversary||90.00|
|09-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with members of IBEC||108.56|
|09-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting reps. from farming organisations||90.00|
|10-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Construction Ind. Federation||101.25|
|11-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||New Cabinet Group Project||386.44|
|18-01-95||Maxwell||Aras||President with Cabinet||90.00|
|20-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with French Minister for F/Affairs||115.88|
|26-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with SDLP||147.38|
|27-01-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Sinn Féin||118.19|
|01-02-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Extra Prints — President with Cabinet & Taoiseach with John Hume & Gerry Adams||135.00|
|03-02-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Alliance Party||90.00|
|03-02-95||Maxwell||Supply of prints of Taoiseach receiving Seal of Office||61.87|
|08-02-95||Maxwell||Extra Prints of John Major with Taoiseach at Christmas||56.25|
|17-02-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with J Kennedy Smith & US Senators||101.25|
|20-02-95||Maxwell||Dublin Castle||Taoiseach 250th Anniversary of St. Patricks Hospital||90.00|
|22-02-95||Maxwell||Belfast||Taoiseach Balmoral Conference||445.50|
|03-05-95||Maxwell||Dublin Castle||Forum Prints||90.00|
|02-02-95||Maxwell||St. Andrews Resource Centre||Taoiseach — Launch of Local Development Programme||106.31|
|05-05-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Acceptance of NESF's 7th Report||115.31|
|08-06-95||Maxwell||Taoiseach Prince Charles visit — Prints & Folders||56.25|
|06-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Visit of children from Northern Ireland||120.38|
|10-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Visit of Deputy PM of Poland||111.94|
|11-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Visit of President of EU||56.25|
|11-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Joint Press Conference with EU President||76.50|
|11-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Vintage car photos||165.94|
|19-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Visit from Congressman Bill Gilman||113.61|
|14-03-95||Maxwell||Dublin Airport||Taoiseach Departure for US||126.56|
|22-03-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Steve Collins||163.13|
|23-03-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Daffodil Day, Ted Kennedy visit||84.38|
|25-03-95||Maxwell||Dublin Airport||Taoiseach Meeting with Anthony Family “Share a Dream” Foundation||115.86|
|28-05-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Meeting with Gerry Adams||90.00|
|24-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Visit of President||84.38|
|26-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Visit of Alzheimer Society of Ireland||119.25|
|28-04-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Meeting Chinese Minister for Foreign Trade||84.38|
|11-05-95||Maxwell||Island Bridge||Taoiseach War Memorial Ceremony||309.37|
|11-05-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Mayor of Boston||84.38|
|22-05-95||Maxwell||Sycamore Room||Taoiseach Lunch with Dr. TK Whitaker||56.25|
|22-05-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Launch of Alan Gray book on N. Ireland||84.37|
|22-05-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Meeting with Seán Murray, Grant Thornton European Business Survey||120.37|
|01-06-95||Dublin Castle||Prince Charles|
|01-06-95||Pearse St. Centre|
|01-06-95||Aras an Uachtarain||1,822.50|
|02-06-95||Maxwell||Prince Charles visit — supply of prints||1,057.50|
|06-06-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||MOS Gay Mitchell — Communicating Europe Essay Prizegiving Ceremony||206.44|
|13-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||MOS Gay Mitchell Report||84.37|
|27-06-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||MOS Avril Doyle Press Conference re. Gt. Famine Comm.||112.50|
|18-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||MOS Avril Doyle Two Cheques for Self Help Int.||113.06|
|05-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach Photos with Jean Kennedy Smith & Senator George Mitchell||127.13|
|12-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with new Lord Mayor||127.12|
|13-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister||84.38|
|18-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Sir Brian Unwin||119.25|
|20-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Dr. John Ross||106.87|
|24-07-95||Maxwell||Govt. Buildings||Taoiseach meeting with Bruce Morrison||131.06|
|Inv Sep 95||Maxwell||Dublin Castle||Formal Inaugural Meeting||33.75|
|10-02-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Meath St. Centre||MOS Gay Mitchell — Presentation of FÁS Certificates||72.00|
|16-02-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Oblates Retreat House||MOS Gay Mitchell — Launch of Local Development Partnership Company||119.25|
|10-01-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Govt. Buildings||MOS Gay Mitchell — Photos at Ministers Office for portriat “stills” for official use (75 copies)||654.75|
|07-03-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Tallaght||MOS Gay Mitchell — Presentation to “Get Tallaght Working”||95.62|
|09-05-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Pearse St. Station||MOS Gay Mitchell — Europe Day Promotion||117.00|
|May 1995||Dave Kenny Studios||Dáil Éireann||MOS Gay Mitchell McDaras School Group Visit to Dáil||117.00|
|23-05-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Submarine Bar, D.12||MOS Gay Mitchell — Book Launch||209.25|
|24-05-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Dáil Éireann||MOS Gay Mitchell — Crumlin boys and girls Schools Visit to Dáil||213.75|
|06-06-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Walkinstown Social Services Centre||MOS Gay Mitchell — Launch of Fundraising Walk||103.50|
|06-06-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Dolphin's Barn Comm. Centre||MOS Gay Mitchell — Presentation of Awards to Inner City Children||117.00|
|08-06-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Dáil Éireann||MOS Gay Mitchell — D.12 Neighbourhood Watch visit to Minister for Justice||83.25|
|June 1995||Dave Kenny Studios||Guinness Reception Centre||MOS Gay Mitchell — Presentation of FÁS Certificates||146.25|
|08-06-95||Dave Kenny Studios||Mansion House||MOS Gay Mitchell Lord Mayor 110 Year Awards Presentation Ceremony||144.00|
|23-03-95||Jimmy Wash Photography||Ballybay & Monaghan||MOS Donal Carey — Launch of Partnership Company||250.00|
|30-05-95||Deasy Photography||Lullymore Peat Co. Kildare||MOS Gay Mitchell — Local Development Launch||196.87|
|06-07-95||Peter Cavanagh Photography||Govt. Buildings||MOS Donal Carey — Meeting with Forbairt||106.03|
63. Miss M. Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the important role of the Irish Immigration Centre in Boston; the funding he intends to give to the centre in the next two years; the plans, if any, he has to increase this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14334/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): I am well aware of the excellent work of the Irish Immigration Centre in Boston. On 26 September last I announced grants for 1995 totalling £150,000 (US$241,500) to ten voluntary organisations serving the needs of Irish immigrants in the United States. The Irish Immigration Centre received $34,500, an increase of $9,500 on the amount that they received in 1994. I am committed to continuing to assist organisations like the Irish Immigration Centre in the future but at this stage I am not in a position to indicate how much any individual organisation may receive in the next two years.
64. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance if recycling companies can qualify for business expansion scheme relief. [14302/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): In order to get business expansion scheme relief, a recycling company would have to qualify as a manufacturing entity which can avail of the 10 per cent corporation tax rate. I am advised that the Revenue Commissioners are of the opinion that, on the face of it, by virtue  of section 39 (5) of the Finance Act 1980, recycling would not be regarded as the manufacture of goods for the purposes of the legislation. However, should a recycling company wish to apply for classification as a 10 per cent company a specific application would have to be considered on the basis of the particular facts of the case.
65. Mr. B. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to designate Crosshaven, County Cork, as a designated seaside town. [14550/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The new renewal scheme for traditional seaside resorts commenced on 1 July last for a three year period. The purpose of the scheme is to renew and update the tourist amenities and facilities in a certain limited number of seaside resorts.
I would stress that this new initiative is a pilot scheme and is thus of an experimental nature. It must therefore be applied to a limited basis in order to evaluate its efficacy.
As the Deputy will appreciate, it is not possible to designate every area of the coast for the purpose of this pilot scheme. Until this scheme is firmly established it would seem inappropriate to consider the designation of any further towns.
66. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, there are to relocate the Companies Registration Office out of Dublin Castle; and if so, if he will consider a north-side location in view of the considerable imbalance in the location of office accommodation north and south of the River Liffey. [14356/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Coveney): It is planned to relocate the Companies Registration  Office from Dublin Castle and the search is under way for more suitable accommodation. Properties on both sides of the city will be examined before a final decision is taken as to where the requirements of the Office can best be met.
67. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to review section 20 (1) and 20 (2) of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1992, in order that vehicle licence duty is not payable for the duration that a vehicle is not used on Irish roads and where satisfactory confirmation is given that the vehicle is off the road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14549/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): I refer the Deputy to section 117 of the Finance Act, 1995 which provides for two amendments to section 20 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1992. First, where there is a prolonged delay between the first registration of a vehicle and subsequent licensing, the vehicle licence duty will be payable from the beginning of the month of licensing provided certain conditions are met and on payment of a special fee of £20 to the licensing authority. Second, where a vehicle is registered within the last seven working days of a month and a licence application is made in the following month because the vehicle owner has not had the use of the vehicle until then, the vehicle licence duty will be payable from the beginning of the month of licensing. Arrears of road tax will not arise in either case except when the vehicle is detected in use in the period when it was not licensed.
I hope that these provisions deal satisfactorily with the Deputy's concerns.
68. Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Finance the valuation of properties in each local authority for each of the years 1991 to 1995. [14556/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The information requested by the Deputy is shown in the following table which indicates the total rateable valuation,  land, domestic and commercial properties, for each local authority as at the dates shown. The figures for 1995 will not be available until November.
Total R. V. for each Local Authority as at the dates shown.
|Counties and Urban Districts||08/11/91||10/11/92||09/11/93||09/11/94|
|Co. Carlow (Rural)||218,941.90||219,324.05||223,010.75||226,223.15|
|Co. Cavan (Rural)||371,817.10||372,486.80||373,363.55||378,591.45|
|Co. Clare (Rural)||736,005.85||738,528.05||735,639.30||751,053.50|
|Co. Donegal (Rural)||559,191.10||566,962.65||566,579.20||573,304.55|
|Co. Dublin (Rural)||4,301,238.05||4,360,565.75||4,401,768.45|
|Co. Dublin (South)||1,742,101.65|
|Co. Dublin (Fingal)||1,380,889.85|
|Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co. Co.||2,022,302.10|
|Boro' of Dún Laoghaire||661,320.45||681,104.60||691,193.40|
|Co. Galway (Rural)||756,295.80||758,782.40||758,933.30||765,896.30|
|Co. Kerry (Rural)||580,835.70||585,000.65||585,075.35||588,328.00|
|Co. Kildare (Rural)||686,728.80||689,846.95||714,390.10||722,219.20|
|Co. Kilkenny (Rural)||521,008.40||527,260.30||537,211.85||536,247.30|
|Co. Longford (Rural)||203,966.80||203,761.70||203,657.45||202,325.20|
|Co. Louth (Rural)||309,623.25||309,482.42||308,281.95||313,466.50|
|Co. Mayo (Rural)||548,462.75||552,150.90||552,051.45||554,033.30|
|Co. Meath (Rural)||846,260.85||849,107.15||849,596.15||854,427.50|
|UD An Uaimh||36,291.10||37,472.60||37,426.60||38,052.35|
|UD Ceanannus Mór||13,577.70||14,045.20||14,016.20||13,991.20|
|Co. Offaly (Rural)||349,525.95||354,177.95||436,694.80||356,672.70|
|Co. Sligo (Rural)||277,838.75||278,572.25||276,818.75||276,415.75|
|Co. Tipperary NR (Rural)||358,857.35||360,151.15||363,230.50||364,249.45|
|Co. Tipperary SR (Rural)||468,253.35||470,661.45||471,767.05||472,067.30|
|Boro' of Clonmel||89,246.75||95,333.15||95,046.15||96,412.20|
|Co. Waterford (Rural)||372,119.75||372,547.80||372,419.80||375,501.80|
|Co. Wexford (Rural)||571,698.55||574,663.20||576,281.00||584,012.35|
|UD New Ross||28,679.90||28,498.90||28,589.90||28,589.90|
|Boro' of Wexford||57,539.55||61,521.05||60,969.05||62,216.80|
|Co. Wicklow (Rural)||445,284.25||452,073.80||448,414.80||451,455.25|
R.V.= Rateable Valuation.
69. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the level of the national debt as a whole and the level of the foreign debt as at 30 September 1995. [14564/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The national debt at 30 September, 1995 amounted to IR£29,952 million, the foreign portion of which amounted to IR£10,981 million.
70. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the forecast rate of inflation for 1996 underlying the discussions on the Book of Estimates. [14565/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The forecast rate of inflation for 1996 underlying the discussions on the Book of Estimates is 2¼ per cent.
71. Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he will publish the cost framework study undertaken by his Department on the proposals contained in the White Paper on education. [14585/95]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): The White Paper on education was published by the Minister for Education following consideration by the Government, which included consideration of its possible cost implications.
As already indicated by the Ministers for Finance and Education in reply to questions by Deputy O'Donnell on 24 May 1995 and Deputy Martin on 28 September 1995 respectively, the cost of implementing the White Paper is contingent on a number of factors including the time scale in which proposals contained in the White Paper are to be introduced, the outcome of discussions/negotiations with concerned interests and notably pay costs which in turn reflect numbers employed in the sector. Initiatives in the White Paper will have to be considered by the Government within the framework of the budgetary parameters and the Maastricht Treaty convergence conditions. In view of the various imponderables involved it is difficult to say with any certainty what the cost of implementing the White Paper will be.
Therefore, I do not intend to publish costings undertaken by my Department which were prepared in the context of the Government's consideration of the White Paper.
72. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Health the steps, if any, he intends taking to encourage general practitioners to take blood samples from patients at their surgeries in order that patients need not spend up to three hours queuing in general hospitals for a blood sample to be taken. [14325/95]
73. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Health the reason a general practitioner should refer patients to general hospitals for blood tests; the reason general practitioners do not take blood samples and have them conveyed to the hospital thereby saving patients several hours of queuing in busy general hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14326/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 73 together. I understand that many general practitioners take blood samples in their surgeries and organise delivery of these to hospitals for analysis. However, in a situation where the practice is a distance from a hospital, patients often attend the hospital because undue delay in transmission of the blood sample for processing can give rise to inaccurate or misleading results. In order to overcome this problem, a number of health boards are co-operating with general practitioners to organise regular deliveries of blood and other samples to hospitals for analysis. For some specific blood tests, however, it is necessary for the sample to be taken directly at the hospital and analysed immediately.
In line with the objectives of the Health Strategy, health boards are also facilitating general practitioners, through the provision of infrastructural support, in undertaking procedures which have traditionally been provided in the hospital setting and which are more appropriate to the primary care services. I have asked the health boards to give priority to the further development of linkages between general practice and hospital services which should lead to a more accessible and timely service for patients. In this way, I am hopeful that the difficulties highlighted by the Deputy can be surmounted.
74. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for Health when he will pay the £30,000 promised to the midwestern branch of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. [14328/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan: Limerick East): The Mid-Western Health Board inform me that an interim payment of £7,500 was made to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland in April, 1995. The remainder, £22,500, will be paid to the society shortly.
75. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health his response to the list of drug treatment measures submitted by the Inner City Organisations Network, ICON, (details supplied) as part of their drugs crisis campaign. [14354/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of services for drug misusers in Dublin is a matter for the Eastern Health Board in the first instance. I am aware of the need for additional treatment facilities for drug misusers in the Dublin area and the Eastern Health Board will continue with the development of services to respond to their needs.
The Inner City Organisation Network requested that additional facilities be provided to deal with the problem of drug abuse in the north inner city and I am aware that the board is putting a number of measures in place including the provision of detoxification beds at Cherry Orchard Hospital, the extension of opening hours at its satellite clinics, the recruitment of additional addiction counsellors and outreach workers, the introduction of special arrangements to deal with emergency cases and the provision of a special helpline to respond to such cases. The Eastern Health Board has been provided with the necessary additional funds to put the services in place. I have also agreed to meet with representatives of ICON on 17 October to discuss with them their concerns about the problem of drug abuse.
76. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for Health the proposals, if any, he has to provide funding for the proposed National Deaf Studies Centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14404/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): My Department has received a proposal from the Irish Deaf Society for the establishment of a National Deaf Studies Centre and is currently examining it. I will keep the Deputy informed of developments regarding this issue.
77. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health when the report of the inspector of mental hospitals for each of the years 1993 and 1994 will be published. [14487/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The report of the inspector of mental hospitals for 1993 is nearing completion and will be published before the end of this year. The inspector's report for 1994 is at an advanced stage of preparation and will be published in early 1996.
78. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the Eastern Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14488/95]
79. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the Midland Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14489/95]
80. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the Mid-Western Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14490/95]
81. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the Western Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14491/95]
82. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the Southern Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14492/95]
83. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the South-Eastern Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14493/95]
84. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the North-Western Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14494/95]
85. Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health the action, if any, that has been taken by the North-Eastern Health Board to respond to the recommendations of the inspector of mental hospitals for the year ended 31 December 1992. [14495/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 to 85, inclusive, together. The Deputy will appreciate that the information requested is not immediately to hand in my Department. I have, however asked the individual health  boards to furnish it as speedily as possible. On receipt it will be collated immediately and I will then communicate bilaterally with the Deputy in the matter.
86. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Health, arising from the reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 85, 86 and 87 of 20 September 1995, whether the information with regard to funding is now available for each health board area. [14537/95]
87. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Health the effects anticipated in each of the health board areas in view of the distribution of the additional funds to health boards to reduce the average waiting time for eye testing and spectacles announced during national eye care week. [14538/95]
88. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Health the reason the majority of health boards do not operate the choice of optician scheme for medical card holders; and the action, if any, being taken to reduce excessive waiting times and the uneven availability of service throughout the country. [14539/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 to 88, inclusive, together.
The provision of eye testing services for eligible adults is a matter for each health board in the first instance. Eye testing services for eligible adults may be provided by health boards through their own community ophthalmic services or through the adult sight testing scheme under which private ophthalmic practitioners have contract arrangements with the boards.
Each health board has the discretion to determine whether and to what extent it will avail of the adult sight testing scheme. A number of health boards, having regard to the resources available  and other considerations, prefer to provide sight testing services through community ophthalmic physicians employed by the boards. In addition, where the adult sight testing scheme is in operation, eligible persons may, with certain constraints, be given the choice of using this scheme or using the health board community ophthalmic services.
The funding made available to health boards on an annual basis by my Department does not contain a specific allocation in respect of the adult sight testing scheme. Annual expenditure on the scheme is a matter for each health board.
I expect that the additional £750,000 made available this year to health boards for the provision of a sight testing service to adults will result in services being provided in the coming months to an additional 15,000 persons from the waiting lists and substantial reductions in waiting periods for those remaining on the waiting lists. The funding was allocated on the basis of priority needs as identified by the health boards.
The following is the amount allocated to each board:
|Eastern Health Board||£250,000|
|Midland Health Board||£30,000|
|Mid-Western Health Board||£50,000|
|North-Eastern Health Board||£85,000|
|North-Western Health Board||£75,000|
|South-Eastern Health Board||£75,000|
|Southern Health Board||£85,000|
|Western Health Board||£100,000|
My Department has commenced discussions with health boards on a range of issues relating to the provision of eye testing services to adults including the most cost effective use of resources, the  use of the adult sight testing scheme and equity in the provision of services. Progress in reducing the waiting lists will be monitored and the needs of the service for 1996 will be considered as part of these discussions.
89. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Health the plans, if any, he has to appoint a consultant specialist in haematology to the new Tallaght Regional Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14540/95]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): The new hospital at Tallaght will require a range of specialist support services to meet its operational needs. Details of specific speciality requirements are currently being considered as part of the planning process which is now under way.
90. Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Health the total amount of Exchequer funding provided by his Department to pre-school playgroups throughout the country in each of the years 1994 and 1995. [14586/95]
Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie): My Department does not provide funding directly to pre-school playgroups. Health boards provide financial assistance to pre-school services which cater for children who are regarded as being disadvantaged or at risk. Details of financial assistance provided in 1992, the latest year for which statistics are available, are outlined in the following table. My Department is at present in the process of collating statistics for the year 1994. I will forward the information to the Deputy when it becomes available.
 Pre-school services supported by health boards in 1992
|Health Board||Number of Centres||Number of Children Attending||Amount of Grant|
*These health boards provide additional assistance towards pre-school services as part of block grants made to local social service councils or similar organisations. It is not possible to give a breakdown of amounts which were utilised for pre-school purposes.
91. Mr. O'Leary asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform the percentage of the £500,000 he intends to allocate to the anti-divorce lobbies. [14400/95]
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor): The Government has no proposals to fund groups supporting or opposing the referendum proposal on divorce. It is, however, providing a facility for those groups, by way of the ad hoc commission on the referendum, to make their case for and against divorce. The establishment of that commission has been the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment. The cost, when it arises, will be met from the Exchequer and it will not fall to be determined as a percentage of the cost of the Government's information programme on the referendum.
92. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment the moneys he will make available to recycling companies to help them increase the numbers of employees taking into account the amount of money saved by local authorities because of recycling initiatives. [14302/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): Since 1989, my Department has provided financial support of £2.1 million for both small and large scale recycling initiatives.
The main financial support at national level for the development of recycling in 1995 and subsequent years is to be provided under the waster management sub-programme of the Operational Programme for Environmental Services, 1994-99. Support will be available under this sub-programme for investment of some £18 million by public and private sector agencies in waste recycling infrastructure during the period of the operational programme. I hope to be in a position very shortly to invite applications for financial support for waste recycling projects from the private sector when the details of the scheme have been approved, as required, by the European Commission. Additional support may be available in appropriate cases from the enterprise development agencies at local and national level.
93. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment the proposals, if any, he has in relation to recycling in view of the concern expressed by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the lack of a comprehensive national waste strategy and the fact that the agricultural sector, the largest waste producer, is not governed by satisfactory regulations. [14303/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): A national strategy for recycling has been published in the Government document “Recycling for Ireland”. This strategy will be implemented inter alia with the co-operation of industry and business, and through measures provided for in the Waste Bill, 1995.
As regards agricultural wastes, extensive controls are already operated under the Water Pollution Acts, 1977 and 1990. Suitable further controls will be developed under Environmental Protection Agency licensing arrangements, under codes of practice being developed under the auspices of both environmental and agricultural authorities, and under the Waste Bill, 1995.
94. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for the Environment the amount of money collected by each local authority under the Derelict Sites Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14308/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The amount collected by each local authority, based on the returns received for 1992 and 1993, is given in the following table. Information for 1994 is currently being sought from local authorities.
Derelict Sites Levies Received by Local Authorities (£)
|Urban District Councils|
*No returns received.
95. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, there are within his Department for the upgrading of the sewerage scheme at Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. [14335/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): There are no such proposals with my Department.
96. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for the Environment the deterioration, if any, in roadgrip on the road network caused by the unusually hot weather during the summer; the plans, if any, he has to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14360/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The exceptionally hot weather this summer resulted in the softening of road binders which, in certain areas, resulted in the “fatting up” of the binder and embedment of the chippings. The solutions depend on the extent of this and may include gritting, surface dressing, planning or overlaying the surface with a bitumen bound material. It is a matter for individual local authorities to determine and implement appropriate remedial action in the circumstances of each case.
97. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for the Environment the criteria set down by his Department for the letting of local authority houses; the role, if any, that can be played by elected members in the letting procedures; the rights, if any, they have in deciding the criteria or procedures to be followed by County Managers or housing officers for the letting of such houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14390/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): Local authorities are required to let houses in accordance with a scheme of letting priorities made under section 11 of the Housing Act, 1988. My Department issued explanatory notes and guidelines to housing authorities in 1989 on the making by authorities of such schemes. Subject to compliance with section 11 and regard being had to the guidelines, it is a matter for each housing authority to determine the detailed criteria to be included in their scheme of letting priorities. The making or amendment of a scheme is a reserved function of the elected members of the authority. The letting of houses in  accordance with the scheme of letting priorities is an executive function performable by the manager.
98. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for the Environment the amount of funding provided for regional and county roads from Exchequer funds, inter-regional funds, other European funds and local contributions in counties Cavan and Monaghan in 1994. [14468/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): All State funding for regional and county roads is paid from the  Exchequer. European Regional Development Fund assistance is remitted to the Exchequer at an aid rate of 50 per cent for the EU co-financed scheme of specific improvement grants for projects which promote employment and economic activity. There were no grants to any local authority under the INTERREG II Programme in 1994 since the initiative was not approved until February of this year.
The following table shows the amount of funding provided in 1994 to Cavan and Monaghan County Councils for maintenance and improvement works on non-national roads and the contributions from the local authorities' own resources for these purposes.
|Grants||Cavan County Council||Monaghan County Council|
|Reopening of Cross Border Roads||121||410|
|Own resources contribution||650||1,017|
99. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for the Environment if he will give details of the application for grant-aid by the local authority concerned in respect of surface flood measures for Clonakilty, County Cork; the application in particular for the eastern end of the town; when the application was received by his Department; and when he will approve the application for grant-aid. [14588/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): A proposal to provide a surface water drainage scheme for the eastern end of Clonakilty, at an estimated cost of £87,000, was received in my Department on 19 April 1995. Having regard to the high level of demands under the water and sewerage programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve it.
100. Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for the Environment when funding will be made available for the provision of a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Monaghan. [14517/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): A preliminary report for this scheme was submitted to my Department in February 1994. Given the high  level of demands under the water and sewerage programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve it.
101. Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for the Environment the water and sewerage schemes in County Monaghan which are awaiting sanction from his Department. [14464/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The following is a list of schemes at various stages of planning awaiting sanction from my Department: Monaghan County Council — Iniskeen sewerage scheme: preliminary report in Department; Tydavnet sewerage scheme: preliminary report in Department; Carrickmacross UDC — Carrickmacross sewerage improvement scheme, Phase 3: updated preliminary report being technically examined; Carrickmacross water supply augmentation scheme: brief being technically examined; Clones UDC — Clones sewerage treatment works: brief being technically examined.
102. Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for the Environment if funding from the Delors Peace Initiative will be allocated for improvement of county road surfaces. [14462/95]
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): The level of funding for roads under the individual measures of the special support programme for peace and reconciliation is currently being finalised. Individual road projects will have to meet the eligibility criteria set out in the programme to qualify for funding.
103. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for Education her views on whether the rate of truancy in Ireland is increasing steadily; the steps, if any, she proposes to take to rectify this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14504/95]
118. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for Education the reported rates of truancy for each of the years 1990 to 1994. [14505/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 118 together.
My Department does not currently have available detailed or reliable data on the incidence of truancy in Ireland during the years in question. In the absence of such data, it is not possible to comment with any assurance as to emerging trends in this area.
On the last occasion on which comprehensive data on school attendance was collected, in 1983-84, the average daily attendance was fairly constant at 90 per cent to 91 per cent.
The Deputy will be aware that I published the report of my Department's working group on truancy in April, 1994. One of the issues highlighted in that report was the absence of adequate data on school attendance and the working group made a number of recommendations in relation to this matter.
Following the publication of the truancy report, my Department received a range of submissions from interested parties on the measures which should now be taken to address this very difficult area.
In keeping with its commitment to address the problems of truancy and early drop-out, the Government appointed the Minister of State Deputy Austin Currie with special responsibility for this area. The Minister of State subsequently announced the establishment of a task force, the terms of reference of which are to examine the submissions received from interested parties in response to the report on truancy, and consider and make recommendations as to future action required to address the problem of truancy at first and second level.
The work of the Truancy Task Force  is well advanced and it is anticipated that the final report will be presented to the Minister of State Deputy Austin Currie shortly.
104. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Education if she will have arrangements made to have an aide assigned under the FÁS teamwork scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Cavan who is disabled; and if she will have arrangements made to have the equipment promised to this person on 15 November 1993, by her Department provided to him forthwith. [14293/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): My Department is in consultation with the appropriate authorities with a view to having an aide provided for the person in question. It is hoped to have the matter resolved very shortly.
My Department has made provision for a scheme of grants towards the purchase of special equipment for use by pupils with a disability in second level schools. An application for assistance under this scheme has been received in respect of the pupil in question and a grant has been sanctioned.
The applicant's school has been advised to purchase the equipment and that the grant will issue on submission of proof of purchase.
105. Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Education if she will immediately sanction funding and facilities for a school (details supplied) in County Galway; the date on which the sanction will be given; the amount of funding to be allocated; the facilities to be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14299/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): An application for additional accommodation was received  in my Department from the school in question.
As this application is at the early stages of evaluation, it is not possible, in the circumstances, to provide the details requested by the Deputy.
However, as soon as the evaluation is completed, the Department will be in contact with the school authorities.
106. Mr. E. Walsh asked the Minister for Education if she will have arrangements made to have a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 admitted to a secondary school in the Tallaght area in view of the fact that he has been without education for 17 months and needs education in order to provide a future for himself; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14333/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Inquiries are continuing in the case referred to by the Deputy with a view to having the pupil placed in a school in his locality. I will advise the Deputy of developments in due course.
107. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Education if she will sanction as a matter of urgency the application for additional tuition for a child (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [14337/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I am pleased to advise the Deputy that home tuition has been sanctioned for the child in question for the remainder of this school year.
108. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education the arrangements, if any, that can be made to provide a caretaker for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 1 where deteriorating conditions in the school yard and general area require constant cleaning in order for children and teachers to have an acceptable environment. [14351/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The enrolment in the school concerned is at present below the threshold for inclusion in the scheme of additional capitation grants for the provision of caretaking/clerical services in primary schools.
109. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education the contents of the report received from her professional advisers, arising from her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 309 on 25 October 1994, regarding the steps that were taken to ensure proper protection of the school yard; the decision, if any, that has been made in relation to grant aid for the school authorities in view of the deteriorating conditions, including open access across the yard where two syringes have been found in recent weeks, where 107 children between the ages of five and 13 years play and where both children and teachers are at risk. [14352/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The report received from my Department's professional advisers recommends that a more secure palisade type fencing be provided at the school.
The work is at present being planned and costed by the Office of Public Works. I expect that my Department will have details for the school authorities within the next couple of weeks.
110. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education if she has received a submission from the board of management of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 1 regarding the overall refurbishment of the school; and the plans, if any, she has in this regard. [14353/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): My Department has not  received a submission from the board of management of the school in question regarding refurbishment of the school. If such a submission is received it will be given due consideration.
111. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education when a decision will be made regarding the community college proposal for the Seán Mac Dermott Street area of Dublin 1, following her meeting with an inner city delegation. [14355/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Arising from my meeting with the inner city delegation in June last, it was agreed that City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee would submit revised proposals to my Department regarding the provision of a community college on the Waterford Street site.
The vocational education committee's submission was received in September and is currently under examination in my Department. This examination is now well advanced and I expect to be in a position to give a decision in the matter shortly.
112. D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais cé mhéad airgid atá le híoc fós le Coláistí Gaeilge do scoláirí a bhí ar chúrsaí samhraidh do na trí mhí, Meitheamh, Iúil agus Lúnasa, faoi seach; agus an bhféadfaidh sí a dheimhniú cén uair a dhéanfar na híocaíochtaí seo. [14372/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): Tá na híocaíochtaí leis na coláistí geall le bheith déanta agus níl ach timpeall £47,000 le híoc fós.
Tá na híocaíochtaí ar fad a bhaineann le mí an Mheithimh déanta ach amháin i líon beag cásanna a bhfuil fiosruithe riaracháin le críochnú ina leith.
 Tá ocht gcoláiste nach bhfuair íocaíocht fós d'Iúil agus do Lúnasa. Déanfar na híocaíochtaí leis na coláistí seo laistigh de sheachtain.
113. Mr. O'Leary asked the Minister for Education when will work commence on the construction of the proposed new community school for Rathmore, County Kerry; and if full planning permission has been granted for the school. [14398/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The architectural planning of the proposed new Community School for Rathmore, County Kerry has been completed and arrangements are being made for the invitation of tenders. The project will proceed to construction as soon as possible.
Planning permission has been granted by Kerry County Council for the proposed development.
114. Mr. O'Leary asked the Minister for Education if she will have arrangements made for school transport services from the Maulykeavane area in Kilcummin, County Kerry, in respect of children attending Annabla national school in the parish of Kilcummin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14399/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The question of establishing a service to Annabla National School for children in the Maulykevane area was investigated by my Department earlier this year.
Of the seven children offering for transport, four were eligible and the remaining three were ineligible on age and distance grounds.
I understand that the children of two other families are now offering for transport and my Department has  sought a report from Bus Éireann to determine their eligibility.
If it is found that there are now ten or more eligible children involved, my Department will immediately re-examine the possibility of establishing a service, and the Deputy will be informed of the outcome.
115. Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Education the current position regarding the conferral of full-time status on the Cavan Teachers' Centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14403/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The matter of the development of a national network of education centres is currently under active consideration. No decisions have yet been made. The position of Cavan Teachers' Centre is being given consideration in the decision making process.
116. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the need for an increase in the number of school psychologists in Counties Monaghan and Cavan; when she proposes to make these appointments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14472/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): During the current year, 1995, ten additional psychologists have been recruited by my Department in order to improve access to psychological services in schools. In assigning these additional psychologists to schools priority has been given to primary schools serving disadvantaged areas. In any future development, the needs of schools, and of children, in particular areas, including Counties Monaghan and Cavan, will be borne in mind.
117. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Education the consultations, if any, her Department has had with sporting organisations on the issue of discouraging participation by touts in the market for tickets for sporting events; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14474/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The Minister of State at my Department is currently finalising the code of practice for safety at sports grounds and the problems created by ticket touts is being referred to in the code.
The code of practice will be published very soon and will be made available to all groups involved in the organisation of sports events including governing bodies of sport, event promoters, Garda, health boards and local authorities.
119. Mr. T. Kitt asked the Minister for Education the universities and faculties in which additional third-level places will be provided. [14514/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The Government has recently approved the provision of £30 million funding by the State over the period 1996 to 2000 towards capital developments in the university sector provided it was matched by a similar level of funding by the universities from private sources. The investment programme of £60 million will enable the universities to accommodate an additional stock of 6,200 students by the year 2000.
About 1,000 of the additional places have been allocated to University College Cork through investment in the proposed new building for food marketing, business trading, languages and computers on the recommendation of the Higher Education Authority. The  allocation of the remaining 5,200 additional places will be subject to on-going discussions and consultations between my Department and the Higher Education Authority.
120. Mrs. T. Ahearn asked the Minister for Education if she will provide the grant due to a school (details supplied) in County Waterford as the project in question is completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14534/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): In June 1994, my Department agreed to provide grant-aid towards the cost of a single prefabricated classroom at the school referred to by the Deputy. The school decided to build a permanent extension and use the grant-aid to offset the cost. My Department has requested the local Office of Public Works to certify that the work has been completed to a satisfactory standard. On receipt of this certification grant payment will be made.
121. Mrs. T. Ahearn asked the Minister for Education if a person (details supplied) in Trinity College, Dublin, will be entitled to half fees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14535/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): The individual in question is not eligible for exemption from payment of fees as she already has a primary degree from an Irish university.
122. Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Education the amount of money spent on the early start programme in the 1994 financial year. [14583/95]
124. Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Education the amount of money allocated to the early start programme for the 1995 financial year. [14587/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 124 together. The amount of money spent on the early start pre-school programme in the 1994 financial year was £238,320. The allocation to the programme for 1995 is £1,518,590. The increased level of funding reflects the establishment of an additional 25 early-start projects with effect from September 1995.
123. Mr. Martin asked the Minister for Education if she will seek to ensure that students of Athlone Regional Technical College who are transferring from the national certificate in office information systems course and from the national certificate in front office administration course to the national certificate in business studies year 2 course will still be entitled to ESF funding. [14584/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): My Department has acceded to a request from Athlone Regional Technical College to recognise the transfers in this instance for the purpose of ESF grants. This approval is being granted as an exceptional matter subject to a review, by the college, of the progression options available to students following these courses.
125. Dr. Moffatt asked the Minister for Education if she will have arrangements made to put the primary school at Keenagh, Ballina, County Mayo, in the disadvantaged category in view of the fact that this school meets the usual criteria and consequently merits such classification. [14590/95]
Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): An application for disadvantaged status from the school in question was considered in my Department in 1994 in the context of an expansion of the disadvantaged areas scheme being undertaken at that time. Unfortunately, the school did not rate high enough in terms of priority of need to justify its inclusion on that occasion.
Earlier this year I commissioned the Combat Poverty Agency to conduct a detailed study of current approaches to the identification and support of pupils in disadvantaged areas. The criteria used to determine eligibility for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas scheme are among the matters covered by the study.
A report on the outcome of this study has now been received in my Department and is currently being considered. This report will provide a basis for development of future approaches to the identification and support of children suffering educational disadvantage. The needs of the school referred to by the Deputy will be considered in the context of any future expansion of the disadvantaged areas scheme.
126. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Justice if she will have arrangements made to expedite an application for first registration by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [14322/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that dealing nos. T2782/95 and T2783/95 refer to applications for first registration which were lodged on 30 March 1995 and that the applications must be considered by an examiner of titles. Because of the complicated nature of the type of dealing involved, it is not possible at this stage to predict the date of completion.
It is the policy of the Land Registry to try, as far as possible, to expedite cases in which it can be established that  special circumstances of urgency exist. Any such cases would be specially considered if details of the reasons for urgency are submitted to the registrar of titles.
127. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Justice the total number of Garda personnel attached to Westport Garda Station for each of the years 1992 to 1994 and to date in 1995; and the number of each rank. [14324/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The Garda authorities are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda manpower and resources to individual areas. They have informed me that the strength of Westport Garda station for the years 1992 to 1994 and to date in 1995 is as outlined in the following table:
Garda Strength at Westport Garda Station
A vacancy for district clerk will be filled as soon as possible.
128. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice if she will ensure that the land registry dealing authenticated by the United Kingdom authorities for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be swiftly validated by the Irish Land Registry Office. [14329/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Registrar of titles that there is no dealing pending in the Land Registry in the name of the person referred to by the Deputy. However, an application for registration in respect of folio 1139F County Westmeath, which coincides with the address supplied by the Deputy, was rejected by the Land Registry on 21 July 1995, in accordance with section 21 (1) of the Registration of Title Act, 1964, on the grounds that the court order has to be ratified by a court within this jurisdiction.
129. Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Justice when she intends to introduce the proposed Refugee Bill. [14336/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The Refugee Bill, 1995 was presented to Dáil Éireann on 5 October 1995.
130. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Justice the plans, if any, she has to provide for a new District and Circuit Court House in Drogheda, County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14391/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): This matter is the subject of on-going High Court proceedings. I do not propose to comment further until such time as the High Court proceedings are finalised.
131. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice the number of bag snatches on a weekly basis at a road junction (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and the plans, if any, he has to install security cameras in order to deter this activity. [14401/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that statistics are not compiled in such a way as to extract the specific information requested by the Deputy. The junction in question is patrolled by uniformed members of Store Street Garda Station. In addition, the area is patrolled by both uniform and plain clothes mobile patrols and receives attention from the divisional task force.
The installation of a closed circuit television (CCTV) system as an aid to policing in the Temple Bar area of Dublin city centre has been completed and it is intended that it will become operational shortly. The Temple Bar system will be operated on a pilot basis under the control of the Garda Síochána and when this system has been operational for a short period a full review of all aspects of the system will be carried out to determine future policy in relation to the use of CCTV by the Garda Síochána. It is intended that proposals for further systems in other areas of the city will be examined in detail in the light of the overall policy established following the review.
132. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice if her Department has committed funding and resources to a youth project in the Cherry Orchard area of Dublin 10; if so, the amount involved; to whom it has or will be allocated; and the time-scale for the project. [14469/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): My Department has not committed funding and resources to a youth project in the Cherry Orchard area of Dublin 10. However, proposals for a community based youth diversion project for the  area are currently at the early stages of evaluation.
133. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for Justice the number of prosecutions for truancy that have taken place in each of the years, 1990 to 1994; her views on whether truancy is a factor in the rise of juvenile crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14504/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Truancy is the responsibility of the Department of Education. Prosecution rests with school attendance officers. School attendance officers are appointed by the local authority. In the absence of a local authority officer, a member of An Garda Síochána appointed by the local Garda district officer acts as a school attendance officer. The matter of the number of prosecutions should be addressed to the Department of Education.
The co-relation between truancy and juvenile crime is difficult to estimate with any degree of accuracy. Garda figures for 1994 indicate that 31 per cent of crime committed by juveniles (i.e. those aged under 18 years of age) occured between 8.01 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. However, in considering the extent to which truancy is a factor in these cases, it must be borne in mind that the above figure includes crimes committed during school holidays and on week-ends.
134. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Justice the number of judicial separations granted under the Judicial Separation Act, 1989; and the number on the waiting list for separation under this Act. [14551/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Court statistics are maintained on the basis of the legal year which runs from 1 August to 31 July. The number of decrees of separation granted under the  Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act, 1989 from the commencement of the Act to 31 July 1995 is 4,396. The number of applications for judicial separation under the above Act which are currently awaiting hearing is 1,543.
135. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice the annual cost to the State of medical and dental services provided to prisons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14562/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The estimated cost of medical and dental services for prisoners in 1995 is £1.405 million. This is accounted for as follows:
|Salaries/Fees for medical personnel (Director of Prison Medical Services, Pharmacist, 20 part-time Doctors)||0.332|
|Fees to Visiting Psychiatrists (10)||0.125|
|Hospital and other charges||0.030|
|Total Medical Costs||1.037|
|Dublin Dental Hospital (Service to Dublin prisons—5 full-time dentists, 1 micro-biologist and 3 dental nurses)||0.215|
|Dublin Dental Hospital—supplies||0.063|
|Visiting Dentists' fees (5)||0.090|
|Total Dental Costs||0.368|
In addition, there is a provision of £1.334 milion in respect of salaries and allowances for prison officers assigned to paramedical duties.
136. Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of applications received for disability benefit for each of the years from 1990 and to date in 1995 which were allowed for payment to claimants in respect of periods more than six months before the date on which the claim was made; if he will have arrangements made to analyse the reasons for these exceptions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14286/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Under social welfare legislation a person claiming disability benefit is required to give notice of illness within seven days of becoming incapable of work. This time limit can be extended for up to six months if the person claiming benefit can show good cause for his-her failure to claim.
In certain circumstances, arrears of benefit may be paid in respect of a period greater than six months. This can arise where it is established that a claim for benefit was in fact made previously but medical evidence of incapacity was not supplied and there was good cause for the failure to supply such evidence. It is estimated that the number of such cases is five or less per year.
137. Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Social Welfare the legal entitlement of non-nationals to supplementary welfare allowance; if he will confirm that health boards are entitled to seek evidence of work permits from persons residing in this State for more than 13 weeks; and if he will make a statement on such persons' entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance generally. [14288/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Under section 171 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993 “every person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet his needs and the needs of any adult or child dependant of his shall be entitled to supplementary welfare allowance”. Thus, non-nationals, including asylum seekers, may be eligible for assistance under the SWA scheme depending on their circumstances.
Applications for supplementary welfare allowance are determined by the health boards and under Article 10 of the Social Welfare (Supplementary Welfare Allowance), Regulations of 1977, a health board may ask applicants to furnish any documentation that the health board requires in order to determine the claim.
Although it is not necessary for non-nationals to have a work permit in order to claim SWA, such evidence may be sought in order to establish whether the applicant may have an entitlement to unemployment benefit (UB) or unemployment assistance (UA).
Where the right of entry to and residence in the State is based on the non-national being self sufficient, there are arrangements in place whereby the health board may refer the applicant to the Department of Justice if a claim is made for assistance under the SWA scheme, to ensure that that Department is aware that such non-nationals are not satisfying the “self sufficiency” requirement.
In the case of those seeking asylum,  identity cards were issued by the Department of Justice to asylum seekers from August 1995. Any asylum seekers who apply to the health board for assistance under the SWA scheme and who do not possess this identity card are referred to the Department of Justice.
138. Mr. O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Welfare his views on whether the present rate of national fuel allowance is adequate in view of the fact that it has never been increased since its introduction; and the plans, if any, he has to increase it. [14327/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders who are on long term social welfare or health board payments and who are unable to provide for their own heating needs.
In 1988 the national fuel scheme was amalgamated with the urban fuel scheme to form one single fuel scheme. In recognition of the fact that it can be unpredictably cold in Autumn and Spring, the scheme is not confined to the winter months but runs for six months of the year, from mid-October to mid-April. The 1995-96 scheme will run from Monday, 16 October 1995 to Friday, 12 April 1996.
An additional smokeless fuel allowance of £3 per week was introduced in October 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 in these areas. This allowance was extended to cover the Cork city and adjacent areas to coincide with the ban on the sale of bituminous coal which came into effect there on 13 February 1995. In October 1994 an estimated 2,000 additional people benefited from the weekly fuel allowance when the national fuel scheme was extended to include recipients of disabled persons rehabilitation allowance.
Expenditure on the national fuel scheme has increased by almost 54 per cent in the last five years from £26 million in 1989 to £40 million in 1994. This  year a sum of £44.5 million has been set aside in the estimates for the scheme. This includes an amount for the increase in the income limits from £5 to £10 which I announced in this year's budget.
Any increase in the rate of the fuel allowance would have to be considered in light of the modest increase in domestic fuel prices since the current rate of the fuel allowance was fixed. In addition, increasing the level of the allowance would have financial implications. The estimated annual cost for every £1 increase is nearly £10 million. Any increase in the allowance could only be considered in a budgetary context. However, it is my intention to undertake a review of the scheme to ensure that it is operating effectively and equitably. This review will commence at the earliest possible date.
Although the national fuel scheme is relatively inflexible and is only paid for a fixed period, there is a facility available through the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme to assist people in certain circumstances who have special heating needs. Under that scheme a person who may have exceptional heating costs due to ill health or infirmity may qualify for a heating allowance. An application for a heating allowance may be made by contacting a community welfare officer at the local health centre.
Also under the SWA scheme, a health board may make a single payment to meet an exceptional need. These payments are made on a once-off basis and may provide assistance towards expenses such as exceptional heating costs. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or health board payment and each case is decided on its merits by the health board. As before, an application for assistance may be made by contacting the local community welfare officer.
139. Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans, if any, he has to change the system of means testing for applicants for disabled person's maintenance allowance from a notional system to a factual system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14362/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): When the disabled person's maintenance scheme is transferred from health boards to my Department I will examine all aspects of the scheme to see what changes are necessary or warranted. In this connection I will also take account of any recommendations emerging from the work of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities.
The first step in the process of transferring responsibility for the scheme was taken when responsibility for funding the health boards in respect of disabled persons maintenance allowance expenditure was transferred to my Department with effect from 1 August 1995.
The legislative basis for transferring the administration of the scheme will be contained in legislation to be introduced in this Dáil session. It is my intention that the scheme will begin to be directly administered by my Department in early 1996 following the enactment of that legislation.
The transfer process is a complex one given the task of adapting what are in effect eight different administrative systems to produce one system. There is considerable detail to be addressed in the arrangements for this transfer and the operation of the means assessment will be considered as part of the process.
I am confident that the transfer of the disabled persons maintenance allowance scheme to my Department will improve the existing arrangements for people with disabilities and my intention is to ensure that the new arrangements provide a more consistent and streamlined service.
140. D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Leasa Shóisialaigh an bhfuil sé i gceist aige líon na dturas atá ceadaithe faoin ticéad saorthaistil, atá curtha ar fáil ar eitleán Aer Árann d'oileánaigh, a mhéadú ón líon sé thuras in aghaidh na bliana atá ar fáil anois. [14371/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Faoi choinníollacha conartha idir mo Roinnse agus Aer Árann, is féidir le breis agus 200 pinsinéirí, atá ina gcónaí ar Oileáin Árann, taistil ar eitleán idir na hOileáin agus Gaillimh. Tá an socrú seo i bhfeidhm ón 1 Meitheamh an bhlian seo caite agus ciallaíonn sé gur féidir lena pinsinéirí sé thurais fillte a dhéanamh ar Aer Árann gach dhá mhí déag. Níl aon teorann curtha leis an méid turais gur féidir lena pinsinéirí a dhéanamh ar bháid farantóireachta na n-oileán.
De gnáth tá costas £33 an duine ar thuras fillte le Aer Árann. Mar sin is fiú £198 an socrú breise seo dona pinsinéirí gach uile bliain. Níl sé i gceist agam aon athrú a dhéanamh ar an méad saorthurais atá i bhfeidhm faoin socrú seo.
141. Mr. Hughes asked the Minister for Social Welfare his views on the number of claimants for disability benefit who failed to turn up when called for medical assessment, which amount to nearly 40 per cent of those who claim in the first instance, and the fact that, of the remainder, approximately 20 per cent are deemed fit to work; and the plans, if any, he has to encourage good practice amongst general practitioners in view of the serious impact that the temporary absence of certain employees can have, particularly on small businesses. [14397/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The medical referee system is the principal control mechanism for the sickness payment schemes administered by the Department of Social Welfare.
A new focus on the referral of clients for medical referee examination was introduced in May 1993 to ensure more  effective targeting of short term disability benefit cases and to reduce the time period in which new claims are referred for examination. In order to achieve these objectives, priority was given to the referral of disability benefit claims of less than one year's duration.
One of the results of this new focus has been the increase in the number of final certificates submitted by clients following notification to attend for medical referee examination.
In 1994 some 59,274 disability benefit and invalidity pension customers were called for examination by the Department's medical referees. Some 41,294 were examined and 7,995 such persons were found to be capable of work and had their payments withdrawn. However, the majority, 33,299 — over 80 per cent, were found to be still incapable of work and entitled to benefit.
Final certificates in respect of 8,756 cases were received and these people were not examined.
A person who is disallowed following a medical referee's examination, has the right to appeal his-her case to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Many, in fact, do. Of the 3,241 disability benefit appeals submitted last year some 2,000 had their benefit restored mainly on the basis of a second medical referee examination and as a result of further medical evidence or other relevant information being provided in support of the appeal.
The Department requires a doctor to personally complete and issue medical certificates to persons claiming disability benefit where she or he is satisfied, after medical examination, that the persons in question are incapable of work due to illness.
The vast majority of doctors operate the certification system correctly and conscientiously. Many avail of a confidential report system that alerts the Department of the desirability of getting a second medical opinion in a particular case. In addition, they co-operate satisfactorily with the Department in its operation of the medical review system.
 When a person is called for a medical referee examination his/her doctor is invited to attend the examination and to furnish a report of the medical condition of the person to assist the medical referee in considering the case. All such reports are carefully considered. These liaison arrangements have proved to be very worthwhile.
Having regard to the large volume of certificates received each week, some 28,000 very few are found to have been issued irregularly. A serious view is taken of any doctor found to have issued certificates irregularly and under the terms of his/her agreement, the doctor may be reported to the Medical Council or fined or have his/her contract terminated, depending on the seriousness of the case.
To promote a better understanding and co-operation between the Department of Social Welfare and medical certifiers a seminar on the medical review system was held on Friday, 6 October 1995. The seminar was facilitated by the Irish Society of Occupational Medicine. It proved to be very useful and further seminars may be organised as the need arises.
142. Miss Flaherty asked the Minister for Social Welfare the ranges of payment of the Christmas bonus to social welfare recipients; when this bonus will be paid; and the level of this bonus. [14475/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The Government last week approved the payment of a Christmas bonus to certain social welfare and health board recipients at a cost this year of almost £40 million. All participants on community employment will also benefit from the bonus this year.
The bonus will amount to 70 per cent of normal weekly payments and there will be a minimum payment of £20. It will be paid during the first week in December. Over 1.25 million people  will benefit, that is about 755,000 recipients and their 500,000 dependants.
As in previous years, the bonus will be paid to people on long term payments including those receiving old age, retirement, widows', widower's, invalidity pensions, lone parent's allowance, unemployment payments at the long term rate, carer's allowance, disabled person's maintenance allowance as well as FÁS and CERT trainees.
143. Mr. P. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) asked the Minister for Social Welfare the grants approved by his Department in each of the years 1993 and 1994 to voluntary and community organisations; the amount of each grant; the name of the organisation in each case; and the purpose to which the grant was to be applied in each case. [14497/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): My Department has funded a large number of schemes of grants to voluntary and community organisations in the years 1993 and 1994. Because of the large number of individual grants under the various schemes in the years in question, I do not propose to circulate the details with this reply. Details of all grants paid in 1993 were placed in the Oireachtas Library for the information of Members in March 1994 and details of all grants paid in 1994 were likewise placed in the library in March of this year.
144. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social Welfare the financial assistance or allowances which a carer can claim in circumstances where a single parent enters a full-time drug treatment centre, losing her allowance and leaving her children in the care of her mother. [14498/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): In the circumstances outlined by the Deputy, the lone parent in question would normally continue to qualify for both the lone parent's allowance and child benefit payable in her case. Arrangements can be made to have both of those payments made directly to the person caring for the children while the recipient is undergoing treatment in a hospital or other medical institution.
If the Deputy provides me with precise details of any specific case(s) he may know of, I will arrange to have the matter examined and the person concerned informed of the procedures involved in nominating her mother as her agent to receive the payments in question.
145. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans, if any, he has to increase the level of carer's allowance where an applicant is caring for more than one elderly person. [14499/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): There are no plans to do as the Deputy suggests. The carer's allowance is a social assistance scheme which provides an income maintenance payment to people who because they are providing elderly or incapacitated pensioners with full-time care and attention are not available to seek outside employment and do not therefore qualify for unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit. The future development of the allowance needs to be addressed in the context of health care provision in the home and I will shortly initiate discussions with the Department of Health on the scheme generally.
146. Mrs. T. Ahearn asked the Minister for Social Welfare his views on the fact that early school leavers who do not find employment are not eligible for child benefit; the plans, if any, he has to correct this inequity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14536/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Child benefit is generally payable in respect of children up to 16 years old. This year we have increased payment by £7 per month and extended it to 19 years of age in respect of children who are physically or mentally handicapped or are in full-time education including those on FÁS training courses who are not in receipt of a training allowance. This extension is intended to assist in maintaining young people in education and training. To extend it to all children would remove this incentive. I would rather see steps taken to ensure that young people take up training and education which would then make them eligible in most cases for child benefit.
147. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of staff employed directly in the maintenance enforcement section of his Department. [14563/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Four staff are employed directly in the administration of the “Liability to Maintain Family” provisions of the Social Welfare Acts. They operate under the general supervision of two officers at more senior level. Review of entitlements under the various schemes as a result of the efforts of these staff are conducted by deciding officers whose main function is to determine entitlement under the various long term schemes.
The scheme is administered by four staff directly, based in the Pension Services Office, Sligo. The following are the grades involved: one higher executive officer (section manager); one executive officer; and two clerical officers. The section is managed generally by an assistant principal officer working to a principal officer in the PSO. These staff  are very experienced in all aspects of the administration of this system.
This unit works in close conjunction with the lone parent's allowance and deserted wife's benefit allowance decisions area. Where liable relative action necessitates a more general review of the relevant lone parent claim, the claim is passed by the unit to this bigger pool of staff for reassessment. In effect, this broadens the range of staff resources available to deal with maintenance issues.
Social Welfare inspectors are briefed to deal with liable relative cases whenever they arise. Most such cases are sent to the relevant inspectors for investigation. These inspectors provide further support and additional resources, in processing liability matters.
Since the provisions of the 1989 Act came into force on 29 November 1990 15,753 cases in payment have been examined to determine liability on the part of a spouse to make contributions to the Departmenmt.
Priority is being given at present to the cases already examined which are in the process of having a determination raised on them and to new cases coming on stream weekly.
The circumstances of the liable relatives in these cases examined to date can be classified as follows: (1) employed/self employed, 25 per cent; (2) social welfare recipient, 48 per cent; (3) whereabouts cannot be traced, 27 per cent.
Maintenance recovery action is at present pursued by the Department only in the case of persons within category (1) at present, that is, those in employment with the means to make some contribution towards the relevant payment of benefit or allowance.
There are 4,015 cases identified so far in this category including 83 cases where the liable relative is resident in the UK.
A total of 542 determination orders have been issued to liable relatives directing that weekly payments be made to the Department. Some 512 of these are still current, the circumstances of  the remainder having changed in the meantime.
Total receipts so far amount to £630,000 from 236 contributors.
In addition to moneys recovered by way of contributions from liable relatives, the operation of the maintenance recovery provisions is also yielding some savings on scheme expenditure. These savings have arisen where the “recovery” operation has resulted in the withdrawal, by the deserted wife or lone parent herself, of some claims which were actively in payment, or by claim termination by the Department on the discovery of new facts. To date, 52 such claims have been withdrawn, resulting in savings of £533,000 in total. In some such cases the couple may have arranged adequate maintenance bilaterally, while in other cases, the lone parent herself has formed a new relationship without need for social welfare support. In summary, the total savings and appropriations-in-aid of the social welfare vote amount to £1.163 million so far.
The small number of cases in payment is indicative of the level of difficulty associated with the present collection process, rather than any direct reflection of staffing resources provided.
Problems encountered in the five year period since the system commenced include the following: only about 25 per cent of liable relatives are traceable and in a financial position to pay and liable relatives are resisting investigation and subsequent payment.
There are a number of issues which have emerged during the course of the operation of the system. These include the lack of an appeals mechanism in the legislation; the administrative rules for assessment of ability to pay, and the correlation of these to court assessment rules in family law maintenance cases; the effect of the system on existing informal maintenance arrangements, part-time child custody, provision by liable relatives of “maintenance-in-kind”, for example, VHI, mortgage  repayments etc. for their spouses; transfer of maintenance from women recipients, particularly when they have mortgage commitments and other regular outgoings; the identification and pursuit of putative fathers in unmarried cases; the need to interact more effectively with family mediation services, at initial desertion/separation stage, to ensure that maintenance issues are resolved then; the tracing of deserting spouses who have disappeared without making any contribution at all to their families.
148. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Minister for Social Welfare the level of payments and receipts out of the social insurance fund; the anticipated percentage of payments receipts will represent in 1995; and the percentage represented in each of the years 1982 to 1994. [14589/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The latest 1995 estimates for the social insurance fund indicate that payments, including the cost of the Christmas bonus recently approved by the Government, will amount to around £1,785 million and that receipts will amount to around £1,715 million. The payments figure excludes a sum of £200 million in respect of equal treatment payments which will also be paid through the fund in 1995.
The percentage that receipts represent of payments in the years 1982 to 1994, together with the latest estimates for 1995, are as follows:
|1995 96% (a)||1990 94% (b)||1985 71%|
|1994 98%||1989 83%||1984 74%|
|1993 94%||1988 77% (c)||1983 72%|
|1992 91%||1987 70%||1982 72%|
|1991 90%||1986 69%|
(a) If the equal treatment payments in 1995 are included, this figure would be 86 per cent.
(b) The Occupational Injuries Fund and the Redundancy and Employer's Insolvency Fund were absorbed into the Social Insurance Fund in 1990.
(c) Social insurance was extended to the self-employed in 1988.
149. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if recycling companies can get support from Forbairt. [14302/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Forbairt provides financial assistance to developments which are based on the use of collected waste as a raw material, and used to produce products in a traded sector. Projects which must satisfy normal commercial criteria are considered on their merit on a case by case basis.
Forbairt also provides assistance under the feasibility study grants programme to assist companies to investigate market opportunities for recycled products.
Under the Industrial Development Act, 1986, Forbairt assistance is restricted to manufacturing projects and to a list of service activities designated under Section 21, which to date have been confined to certain internationally traded activities, for example, software development, data processing, technical and consulting services, commercial laboratory services, administrative headquarter services, research and development services, media recording services, training services, publishing services, international financial services, health care services.
150. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to introduce an appeals mechanism to adjudicate on disputes between music copyright agencies and businesses which play recorded music on their premises. [14368/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I am very aware of the difficulties which have arisen between music copyright agencies and businesses which play recorded music on their premises and of the need for an effective dispute resolution mechanism  wherever disputes arise in the area of copyright.
To this end, my Department is currently conducting a detailed examination of this complex issue as part of a comprehensive general review of copyright law. Wide-ranging consultations have been taking place with all interested parties following the receipt of written submissions.
I intend to address this issue specifically within a new piece of legislation which will generally update copyright law, implement a number of EU Directives which have been agreed in the area of copyright and enable us to sign up to the Paris text of the Berne Convention. I hope to be in a position to bring this new legislation before the House in the near future.
151. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to nominate a Clare person to the board of SFADCo. [14428/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): There is currently no vacancy on the board of Shannon Development, and the next vacancies are not expected to arise until April or May of 1996 when, in accordance with the company's articles of association, the two longest serving directors will be required to retire on the occasion of the company's annual general meeting. I have therefore made no decisions as yet regarding future appointments to the board of Shannon Development. I have, however, noted the Deputy's representations in the matter.
152. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he will confirm that the recently appointed Commission on the Newspaper Industry will be formally seeking submissions on its published terms of reference from interest groups. [14294/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The autonomous commission, under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice, Mr. Thomas Finlay, is currently examining the position. The matter of whether the commission formally seeks submissions from interested groups is a matter for the commission itself and one in which I have no function.
153. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the amount of money he envisages being invested in the timber processing industry in 1995. [14341/95]
154. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the number of new jobs that will be created in the timber processing industry in 1995; and the numbers created in each of the past three years. [14342/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together. The total amount of money forecasted for investment in the timber processing industry in 1995 by the industrial development agencies operating under the aegis of my Department is £5.1 million. During the years 1992, 1993 and 1994 employment in the sector has averaged 1,350 with no major fluctuations. A net increase of about 80 in the employment in the major sawmills and board mills is expected in 1995.
155. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the number of persons currently on community employment schemes; the comparative figures for each of the years 1993 and 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14408/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The number of participants on community employment at the end of September 1995 was 37,275. This figure represents an increase of approximately 12 per cent over the participation level at the end of September 1994 when 33,296 people were on the programme and is slightly more than double that of September 1993 when 18,546 were on the programme.
156. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the number of new jobs that were created from the last ICC Bank subsidised loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14409/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): Job creation and or maintenance of jobs at risk was one of the main appraisal criteria for the small business expansion loan scheme operated by the ICC Bank. As part of the assessment system potential borrowers were vetted with reference to the employment potential of the proposed investments. The latest information I have from ICC is that 3,716 new jobs are attributable by borrowers to the scheme. If one includes jobs which were assessed to be at risk one gets a total of 4,814 jobs created and/or maintained directly attributable to the scheme. While incremental employment is, perhaps, the most important indicator it is also important to mention that the scheme has engendered considerable investment with resultant security and growth in small business.
157. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the number of new business industrial start ups for the first six months of 1995; the comparative figures for the first six months of each of the years 1989 and 1992; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14410/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available.
The industrial development agencies, under the remit of my Department, conduct a survey of their client bases once a year, usually in November, from which annual statistics are then compiled. The latest figures available are in respect of the year ending 1994. Results for 1995 will be available early in 1996. The statistics for the years 1989, 1992 and 1994 are as follows: 1989 — 516; 1992 —378; 1994 — 355.
159. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he will give priority status to the Irish Deaf Society's Forum Project under the Horizon Programme. [14427/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): A total of 188 applications seeking over £48 million from the Horizon — disabled strand of the EMPLOYMENT Programme were received by my Department earlier this year. The total European Union funding available for the period up to the end of 1997 amounts to £7.61 million. In order to ensure that each application was comprehensively and fairly considered, my Department constituted a selection committee which included representatives of the Department of Health, Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities (2), Department of Social Welfare, National Rehabilitation Board, Department of Education, Support Structure for Horizon disabled (NRB), and Department of Enterprise and Employment: National Co-Ordinator.
At the outset, members of the committee were given a general briefing on the role which my Department required them to discharge. All project applications submitted were made available  to each member of the committee. All applications were given a rating and, following a rigorous selection process, an agreed list of projects was recommended to me for approval.
Unfortunately, the application submitted by the Irish Deaf Society was not among the projects recommended by the committee and all of the available funding will be taken up by the 45 projects that are now approved. However, in the course of 1997, applications will again be sought for the part-funding of projects to operate up to the end of 1999. Accordingly, a further opportunity to apply will exist for all promoters whose applications were not successful on this occasion.
160. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he will be opposing the proposals of the EU's independent expert group on legal and administrative simplification which include weakening of EU environmental protection measures and approval of deregulation measures; and if he will object to the failure of this expert group to consult environmental NGOs and trade unions. [12084/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I assume that the Deputy is referring to the report of the group of independent experts on legislative and administrative simplification known as the Molitor group which was published recently and which was submitted to the meeting of the Council held at Cannes on 26-27 June 1995. The European Council noted the outcome of the discussions of the Molitor group and indicated that it would like the Commission to propose specific measures for administrative simplification which could be taken by the competent bodies before the end of year.
The onus is therefore on the Commission to bring forward proposals in relation to the matters reported on by the Molitor group. Proposals being developed by the Commission for the  Madrid Council will be assessed as they emerge.
In responding to any proposals that may be brought forward by the Commission in relation to environmental protection we will place paramount importance on the need to maintain a high level of environmental protection in line with the approach set out by the Government in its programme, A Government of Renewal.
As regards consultations carried out by the Molitor group, this was a matter for the group itself, which was an independent one consisting of people with considerable experience in business, administration and related fields. I am therefore not in a position to comment on this aspect.
161. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment his views on whether it is appropriate to use marital status to prevent people qualifying for community employment schemes or whether the only criterion should be unemployment; and the proposals, if any, he has to change the law to prevent discrimination on the basis of marital status. [14501/95]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): No discrimination on marital status exists in so far as qualifying for community employment is concerned. As such both men and women — married or single — who fulfil any of the following eligibility criteria can participate on the programme: persons on unemployment benefit (UB) for over 12 months or persons over 21 years and in receipt of unemployment assistance (UA) or persons in receipt of lone parent's allowance for over 12 months or persons referred by the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB).
162. Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be paid a farm retirement pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14332/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): My Department has no record of an application in this case.
163. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the number of vehicles approved by his Department for the export of weanlings to mainland Europe; and the efforts, if any, being made to increase the number of vehicles available. [14343/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The number of vehicles approved by my Department under the Diseases of Animals (Protection of Animals during Transport) Order 1995, for the transport of cattle to mainland Europe is as follows:
|(A) Cattle of any age||22 Vehicles|
|(B) Cattle over 8 months old only||7 Vehicles|
|(C) Cattle under 8 months old only||2 Vehicles|
I am conscious of the importance of ensuring that all vehicles which meet the conditions of the above order are approved as rapidly as possible. Transporters are aware that any inspections or reinspections can be carried out by my Department's veterinary inspectors by appointment at a mutually convenient time. I am satisfied that these arrangements provide sufficient opportunity to enable suitable vehicles to be inspected and approved.
164. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the number of private nurseries that have been funded in each of the years 1985 to date; and the location of these nurseries. [14344/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The forest service did not operate a grant scheme for the period 1985 to 1989. From 1989 grant aid has been available under the Forestry Operational Programme 1989-93 and the current Operational Programme for Agriculture, Rural Development and Forestry 1994-99. The details are as follows:
|Year||Number of grantees||Location|
|1994||3||County Wexford (2) and County Wicklow|
|1995||2||County Wexford and County Kerry|
The total number of grantees is 5.
165. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the total amount of forestry held by investment companies in this State. [14345/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The area of privately owned land in the State under forestry at 31 December is estimated at 160,000 hectares. The records in my Department do not distinguish between the areas of forestry owned by investment companies and by other private individuals.
166. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the total acreage planted by people who own less than 40 hectares of forestry for each of the years 1991 to 1994. [14346/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): My Department does not have details of total land ownership of applicants for forestry grants and is unable to say specifically how much land was planted by applicants with less than 40 hectares. However, for the years in question most planting undertaken by farmers and other private individuals was in respect of areas under 40 hectares. The total area of plantations less than 40 hectares in the years 1991-94 is as follows:
167. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the total number of hectares of hardwoods, oak, elm, chestnut, ash and beech planted in this State in each of the years 1992, 1993 and 1994. [14347/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The total area of hardwoods planted for each year 1992 to 1994 is as follows:
A breakdown of the different species of hardwood planted is not readily available.
168. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the plans, if any, he has to introduce a tiered grant scheme for afforestation, in order to keep the price of land competitive vis-à-vis agricultural purposes and forestry. [14348/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I have no plans to modify the current afforestation grant scheme for the purpose suggested by the Deputy. The current rates of support are necessary in maintaining the momentum of our national forestry programme and in enabling us to meet planting targets. It is worth mentioning that 71 per cent of afforestation on privately-owned lands in 1994 was undertaken by farmers themselves. This was equivalent to almost half of all afforestation undertaken in that year.
169. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the number of applications for forestry premiums that have been rejected for each of the years 1992, 1993 and 1994. [14349/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): Eligibility for annual premiums is based on satisfactory maintenance of the related forestry plantation. Premium applications are rejected only in circumstances where the plantation has not been properly maintained or the applicants have not satisfied income and residential conditions of the scheme. The number of cases in each year 1992-94 is as follows:
170. Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the plans, if any, he has regarding land restructuring; and when he will be in a position to bring out a White Paper on this matter. [14350/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): My Department is already active in the promotion both of land restructuring and of structural change in farming. Measures such as the current EU early retirement scheme, the scheme of installation aid for young farmers, the provision of certain tax reliefs on income from leased land, the inclusion of leased land in certain EU schemes and the provision, at the request of owners, of technical and legal assistance for certain commonage divisions and for the rearrangement of scattered or fragmented holdings are designed to meet these aims. I have no immediate plans to bring out a White Paper on land restructuring.
171. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will have arrangements made to pay the final instalment for surrendering of milk quota to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [14358/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The person named is a participant under the 1992 EC milk quota buy-out scheme. Under the terms of the scheme the final instalment will be paid in 1996.
172. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry when payment under the rural environment protection scheme will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cavan. [14361/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): Under the rural environment protection scheme (REPS) all applications are subject to checks by the Department prior to or after payment has issued. To satisfy audit requirements a minimum of 5 per cent of all applications must be the subject of a full plan check and farm visit.
The applicant referred to by the  Deputy has been selected, at random, for such a check. Following this check, a decision to make or withhold payment will be made. If everything is found to be in order, a payment will issue without delay.
173. Mr. P. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the arrangements, if any, that exist to ensure that smaller milk producers get a fair chance to lease milk quota on a temporary basis; if his attention has been drawn to any abuses in the system; if his attention has been further drawn to those who may have milk leased in excess of quota; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14370/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): In accordance with the arrangements for the distribution of milk quota under the temporary leasing scheme, first priority is given to smaller-scale milk producers with quota of less than 30,000 gallons. The operation of the temporary leasing scheme is dependant on the amount of quota made available to the co-operative or dairy for redistribution in any particular year, thus determining the extent to which producers' requirements can be met. Overall the scheme has been very successful in directing available quota to the smaller-scale producers and I am not aware of any abuses in this area.
174. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will have arrangements made to pay a 50 pence milk restructuring subsidy to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [14432/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): An application for subsidy in respect of additional milk quota purchased under the 1994 milk  quota restructuring scheme is still under consideration and further information is awaited from the applicant in regard to eligibility criteria before a final decision can be made in this case.
175. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry when the ruling in relation to long term temporary staff in Teagasc given by the Labour Court will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14470/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): An examination  of the clerical and administrative staffing position in Teagasc is being undertaken at present by the management services unit of the Department of Finance. The recommendations of the Labour Court will be dealt with in the context of the outcome of that examination.
176. Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the number of deer imported in each of the years 1988 to 1992; the country of origin; and the number that came from each country. [14471/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The number of deer imported for each of the years 1988 to 1992 by country of origin based on advance notifications is as follows:
177. Mr. Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the number of gallons of milk available for temporary leasing within each co-op area at 27 pence per gallon in each of the years 1993 to 1995 for redistribution to farmers in need of a leased quota; and the number of farmers per co-op area who availed of these temporary leasing arrangements in each of the years 1993 to 1995. [14507/95]
178. Mr. Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the amount of milk quotas taken up on 12 month temporary lease arrangements in each co-op area; the number of producers estimated to have made quotas available for this purpose in each co-op area; and the monitoring that is taking place in his Department to ensure that there is full compliance with the necessary conditions for such leases. [14508/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 178 together.
The following are the overall figures relating to the operation of the temporary leasing schemes in the years outlined. Specific details relating to individual co-operative/dairy areas are not available for publication.
|Milk Quota Year||Gallons Temporarily Leased||Number of Participants|
 The temporary leasing scheme is operated by the co-operative/dairies in accordance with detailed rules which are set down by me. As with all such schemes, its implementation is subject to the scrutiny of my Department's officials to ensure that all the requirements have been met.
179. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the plans, if any, he has to review the regulations governing eligibility for suckler cow grants as they relate to small scale milk producers; and if he will consider raising the threshold to 30,000 gallons. [14522/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The current eligibility requirement for small scale milk producers is laid down in EU regulations and can only change by a decision of the Council of Ministers.
The premium arrangements are to be reviewed next year and any suggestions for changes will be taken into consideration at that stage.
180. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry in relation to the Leader programme in the Mayo area, the number of employees involved in Leader; if the chief executives have been paid since the Leader I programme finished in December 1994; the cost to the State of the Leader I programme; the date on which the employees contracts finish; if they are they now full-time civil servants; the number of Leader employees who have been paid since Leader I finished; and the cost of Leader to the general taxpayer. [14525/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): The four groups approved to implement business plans  under Leader I in parts of County Mayo had 19 employees (including six parttime staff administering the programme). While the Leader I programme ended in December 1994, my Department agreed that in order to ensure continuity, the administration costs of Leader I groups who were approved for funding under Leader II could be claimed against their Leader II administrative budgets. Although the groups have incurred such costs, no contribution from public funds has been paid by the Department to date. The total national contribution to Leader I funding in Ireland was £13.58 million, with £3.276 million going to the four groups in County Mayo.
The recruitment, terms and conditions of service for Leader group employees are matters for the groups themselves. There is no provision for them to become full-time civil servants.
181. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry when a decision will be made on a case (details supplied) in County Galway. [14542/95]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): An application to divide this commonage has been received by the Land Commission. Following receipt of the application, preliminary investigations showed that 12 of the 24 shares or 50 per cent of the commonage appeared to be unregistered. As the assistance provided by the Land Commission for commonage division is restricted to cases where all the shares in the commonage are registered and all the applicants for division can show title to their shares, the Land Commission is not in a position to assist with the division of this commonage at present.
The case is being examined at the request of the solicitors for the applicant to see whether the Land Commission can be of assistance in clarifying the position as to title and I have arranged  for my Department to communicate with the solicitors as soon as possible.
182. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the plans, if any, he has to introduce an early retirement scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Forces; and if so, when he plans to issue the details of any such scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14392/95]
Minister for Defence (Mr. Barrett): The Government has accepted the broad conclusions of the Efficiency Audit Group (EAG) arising from its review of the Defence Forces. As many of the reforms proposed by the EAG can only be attained over a long time-frame, the Government has asked me to bring forward, in the first instance, proposals which are attainable within the next three years.
An implementation group has been established to prepare a fully costed development plan aimed at producing an organisation with an overall target strength of 11,500 members, based on a three brigade structure. In that context the implementation group is addressing the formulation of a voluntary early retirement scheme which will be the subject of consultations with the defence forces representative associations. I intend putting my proposals on these issues to Government shortly.