Dáil Éireann

05/Mar/1997

Prelude

Order of Business.

Wildlife Bill, 1997: First Stage.

Ministerial Rota for Parliamentary Questions: Motion.

Social Welfare Bill, 1997: Order for Second Stage.

Social Welfare Bill, 1997: Second Stage.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Departmental Costs.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Unemployment Statistics.

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Local Drug Task Forces.

Priority Questions. - Tourism Programmes.

Priority Questions. - National Conference Centre.

Other Questions. - Gulliver System.

Other Questions. - Tourism Brand Ireland.

Other Questions. - Tourism Concept Extension.

Other Questions. - Tourism Policy Monitoring.

Other Questions. - Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor.

Other Questions. - Meetings with Bord Fáilte.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Social Welfare Bill, 1997: Second Stage (Resumed).

Irish Takeover Panel Bill, 1996: From the Seanad.

Private Members' Business. - Water Charges: Motion.

Private Members' Business. - Credit Union Bill, 1996: Second Stage (Resumed).

Adjournment Debate. - Cork School Funding.

Adjournment Debate. - Transport and Ferry Services.

Adjournment Debate. - Waste Contract Allocation.

Adjournment Debate. - Soldiers' Hearing Injuries.

Written Answers. - Review of Tourism Bodies.

Written Answers. - Tourism Brand Ireland.

Written Answers. - Tourism Statistics.

Written Answers. - Tourism Funding.

Written Answers. - Resorts' Designation.

Written Answers. - Trade Promotion.

Written Answers. - Tourism Development.

Written Answers. - EU Barriers to Trade.

Written Answers. - Tourism Funding.

Written Answers. - Tourism Statistics.

Written Answers. - National Trade Development Programme.

Written Answers. - Duties on Information Technology Products.

Written Answers. - Costs to Exporters.

Written Answers. - Currency Fluctuations.

Written Answers. - Tourism Promotion.

Written Answers. - Tourism Funding.

Written Answers. - Departmental Staff.

Written Answers. - Tourism Promotion.

Written Answers. - Common Commercial Policy.

Written Answers. - Tourism Development.

Written Answers. - National Monitoring Committee.

Written Answers. - Tourism Information.

Written Answers. - Tourism Audit.

Written Answers. - Cycling Holidays.

Written Answers. - Export Credit Insurance.

Written Answers. - Strategy Group on Sport.

Written Answers. - Export Licences.

Written Answers. - Tour de France Funding.

Written Answers. - Tourism Information Offices.

Written Answers. - Job Creation.

Written Answers. - Tourism Promotion.

Written Answers. - Tourism Operational Programme.

Written Answers. - Oidhreacht Na Gaeilge.

Written Answers. - Domestic Tourism Market.

Written Answers. - Tourism Job Employment.

Written Answers. - Export Markets.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Chief State Solicitor's Office.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - VAT Refunds.

Written Answers. - Third Banking Force.

Written Answers. - Tax Liability.

Written Answers. - State and Semi-State Pensions.

Written Answers. - Department Properties.

Written Answers. - Decentralisation Programme.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Meetings.

Written Answers. - Economic Indicators.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Children in Care.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funding.

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Service.

Written Answers. - Personality Disorder.

Written Answers. - Communicable Diseases.

Written Answers. - Rights of Psychiatric Patients.

Written Answers. - Independent Living Fund.

Written Answers. - Hospital Services.

Written Answers. - Medical Treatment.

Written Answers. - Mental Handicap Services.

Written Answers. - Employment of People with Disabilities.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Equal Status Bill.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Legal Aid Centres.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Cliabhán an Chultúir, Carna.

Written Answers. - Museum Funding.

Written Answers. - Departmental Projects.

Written Answers. - Tipperary Excel Project.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Housing Aid for the Elderly Scheme.

Written Answers. - Traffic Offences.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Traveller Halting Sites.

Written Answers. - Dundrum (Dublin) By-Pass.

Written Answers. - Traffic Signs.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Traffic Levels.

Written Answers. - Swimming Pool Projects.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Housing Projects.

Written Answers. - Water Charges.

Written Answers. - Public Library Projects.

Written Answers. - Urban Renewal Scheme.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Window Replacement Programme.

Written Answers. - Fire Service.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Second Level Schools.

Written Answers. - Teacher Appointments.

Written Answers. - School Facilities.

Written Answers. - School Placement.

Written Answers. - Schools Building Projects.

Written Answers. - Recreational Facilities Scheme.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Fees.

Written Answers. - Youth Services.

Written Answers. - Swimming Pool Projects.

Written Answers. - School Computer Facilities.

Written Answers. - Leaving Certificate Art Examinations.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Educational Programmes.

Written Answers. - School Accommodation.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Staff.

Written Answers. - Auctioneers' Fees.

Written Answers. - Release of Prisoners.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Garda Stations.

Written Answers. - Release of Prisoners.

Written Answers. - Syringe Attacks.

Written Answers. - Court Prosecutions.

Written Answers. - Garda Deployment.

Written Answers. - High Court Ruling.

Written Answers. - Witness Protection.

Written Answers. - Garda Investigations.

Written Answers. - Crime Scene Preservation.

Written Answers. - Garda Responsibilities.

Written Answers. - Garda Escorts.

Written Answers. - Policing Boundaries.

Written Answers. - Garda Stations.

Written Answers. - Garda Transport.

Written Answers. - Civilians Employees in Garda.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Prisoners' Temporary Release.

Written Answers. - Drugs Seizures.

Written Answers. - Mountjoy Visiting Committee Report.

Written Answers. - Subversive Prisoners

Written Answers. - Chief State Solicitor's Office.

Written Answers. - Prison Costs.

Written Answers. - Garda Pensions.

Written Answers. - Community Alert Scheme.

Written Answers. - Prisoner Statistics.

Written Answers. - Judicial Separations.

Written Answers. - Detention Centres.

Written Answers. - Discussion Document on Crime.

Written Answers. - Bench Warrants.

Written Answers. - Murder Statistics.

Written Answers. - Firearms Offences.

Written Answers. - Firearm Certificates.

Written Answers. - Court Cases.

Written Answers. - Garda Deployment.

Written Answers. - Crime Levels.

Written Answers. - Drugs Abuse.

Written Answers. - Community Service Orders.

Written Answers. - Garda Deployment.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Staff.

Written Answers. - Registration of Title.

Written Answers. - Court Appeals.

Written Answers. - Working Groups and Committees.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Appeals.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Combat Poverty Agency Funding.

Written Answers. - Unemployment Levels.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Eligibility.

Written Answers. - Customer Service Programme.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Functions of Semi-State Bodies.

Written Answers. - Tourism Training.

Written Answers. - Tourism Employment.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Trade Barriers.

Written Answers. - Tourism Development.

Written Answers. - Export Market Figures.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Job Losses.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - BSE Compensation.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Written Answers. - Control of Horses Act.

Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Written Answers. - BSE Compensation.

Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Written Answers. - Live Exports.

Written Answers. - BSE Infected Herds.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Light Rail Project.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Retirement Scheme.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

Written Answers. - Lobster Licence.

Written Answers. - Departmental Reports.

Written Answers. - Ballycotton (Cork) Harbour Works.

Written Answers. - Air Sea Rescue Service.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Appointments.

[1533] Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.

Paidir.

Prayer.

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  It is proposed to take No. 8a on a Supplementary Order Paper; motion re. ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 4 — Social Welfare Bill, 1997, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; No. 1 — Irish Takeover Panel Bill, 1996, Amendments from the Seanad; and No. 2 — Credit Union Bill, 1996, Second Stage (resumed).

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: (1) The Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; (2) No. 8a on a Supplementary Order Paper shall be decided without debate; (3) The Second Stage of No. 4 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be adjourned at 6.45 p.m. tonight; and (4) Private Members' Business shall be No. 53 — motion No. 20 re Water Charges (resumed) and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. this evening.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are four questions to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting this evening satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal that No. 8a be decided without debate satisfactory? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with item No. 4 satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal appertaining to Private Members' Business this evening satisfactory? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Since the Minister for Finance is taking the Order of Business will he inform the House when he hopes to have the Finance Bill, 1997 passed by both Houses and signed by the President?

Mr. Quinn:  I could not possibly anticipate the co-operation of the Opposition in relation to a matter like that. Clearly it would be a matter for the Opposition Chief Whip with whom we shall be happy to discuss the matter in due course.

[1534]Mrs. O'Rourke:  Would the Minister for Finance have a little dream about it?

Mr. B. Ahern:  As the Minister for Finance and I know, the Department of Finance usually preempts all these issues. No doubt the Minister has in his possession a note of when it is hoped to have the Finance Bill, 1997 passed and signed by the President. Perhaps he would give the House the benefit of that information.

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy will be happy to hear that the Department is under democratic control and subject to the wishes of this Assembly. As the House will be aware, the Finance Bill has to be passed and signed by the President no later than 90 days after the budget, which timetable will be met in the normal way.

Mr. Callely:  Would the Minister for Finance answer the question?

Ms Keogh:  Will the Minister for Finance say whether the Government intends taking any action in relation to the students of the Advanced Technology College at present outside the gate of this House?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sorry, the Deputy cannot raise that matter now.

Ms Keogh:  It is a very important matter.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I feel sure the Deputy will find another way of dealing with that matter but it does not arise on the Order of Business.

Ms Keogh:  Unfortunately it is now so urgent we must deal with it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  It does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mr. Martin:  In relation to promised legislation mentioned in the programme for Government, will the Minister for Finance say when and if it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill in respect of the financial bonding of third level private colleges? Can he report to the House on the Tánaiste's statement of yesterday, indicating whether any progress has been made or whether the Government has met the students involved?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is seeking to circumvent the ruling of the Chair on this matter.

Mr. Martin:  On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, I am not seeking to challenge any ruling. I attempted to raise this issue by way of parliamentary question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I will allow the earlier part of the Deputy's question if the Minister wishes to intervene, no more.

[1535]Mr. Quinn:  I was not here yesterday but I gather the matter was dealt with extensively then. The legislation to which the Deputy refers is contained in the programme for Government and is being considered at present.

Mr. Martin:  The Tánaiste indicated that he would seek to do something for the students and college concerned. I received a letter from you, Sir, this morning in relation to this specific matter. I had tabled a normal parliamentary question. You wrote to me saying that because the Minister says she has no responsibility in the matter——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Martin, you may not challenge my rulings in this matter.

Mr. Martin:  I am not challenging anything. As a Member of this House, how can I raise this issue when a parliamentary question I had tabled is ruled out of order and I am not allowed raise the matter on the Order of Business?

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are other ways of dealing with the matter.

Mr. Martin:  A Private Notice Question is ruled out of order and permission to raise it under Standing Order 31 is also ruled out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If he wishes, the Deputy can table a substantive motion. He must resume his seat.

Mr. Martin:  The Minister is saying she has no responsibility in the matter. It is a crazy position. Five hundred students are on the streets and we cannot raise the matter formally in this House.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy must resume his seat forthwith.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Will the Minister for Finance inform the House whether the Government is willing to make time available to debate a report from the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs on economic and monetary union? Its chairman, Deputy Jim Mitchell, is most anxious that we have a debate on the subject. It is most unfortunate that the whole issue should go by without debate. Will the Minister indicate whether Government time will be made available for such a discussion?

Mr. Quinn:  I must take issue with the Deputy's remark to the effect that the whole issue would go by without debate. The Deputy will be aware that there was a debate within the relevant committee — if my memory serves me correctly — in March 1996. It is timely that that debate be updated. There will be a meeting of the Whips this afternoon. I will request the Government Chief Whip to discuss the matter with the Whips of the Opposition parties in order to decide whether such debate should take place within the [1536] confines of the committee or, if the House so wishes, on the floor of the House.

Mr. M. McDowell:  This is an important issue and what goes on in that committee might as well be happening in a shoebox most of the time.

Mr. Dukes:  Speak for yourself, Deputy.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Will legislation arise following the report on group water schemes?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That matter is before the House.

Mr. Quinn:  That issue is being dealt with in the House by way of Private Members' motion. I am not sure I follow the Deputy's question.

Mr. B. Ahern:  I understand the Minister is preparing a report for Cabinet. Arising from that report will there be legislation on group water schemes?

Mr. Quinn:  We will have to see the report first. It has not yet been presented.

Mr. B. Ahern:  When will it be presented?

Mr. Quinn:  As soon as it is ready. If there are proposals for legislation we will take the necessary time to enact them.

Mr. O'Dea:  Last week I asked the Taoiseach about two fundamental items of legislation promised in the Programme for Government and he admitted they will not be introduced in the lifetime of this Dáil. I refer the Minister for Finance to the programme for Government which promised to establish a parole board to ensure that prisoners will be discharged from prison in an orderly manner and not on an ad hoc basis. Is it the Government's intention to introduce the relevant legislation to provide for this board in the seven or eight weeks of parliamentary time left to this Government or will that commitment be jettisoned also?

Mr. Dukes:  There is no rush.

Mr. Quinn:  I was not aware the Deputy would decide the date of the next election. The matter to which he refers is being considered and as soon as the draft legislation is ready it will be brought before the House.

Mr. O'Dea:  Will it be ready in the lifetime of this Government?

Mr. E. Ryan:  Will the Minister who is a pragmatic and logical individual explain how the Government could send a senior Minister to the opening of the film festival last night and can have a Minister, Deputy Higgins, who promotes the film business——

[1537]An Ceann Comhairle:  I thought the Deputy had something relevant to raise. Clearly this is not.

Mr. E. Ryan:  ——while 500 students, many of whom are studying the film business, are out on the streets? It is an outrage.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is deliberately flouting the rule of the Chair in this matter. Resume your seat Deputy Ryan.

Mr. E. Ryan:  Where is the idealism of the socialist?

A Deputy:  It is gone.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald:  May I ask your advice, Sir? I tabled a question to the Taoiseach and every Government Minister yesterday and the Minister for Finance decided to reply on behalf of everybody and gave me a smart alec reply. How can I go about seeking my democratic rights as a publicly elected TD and insist on getting a reply to parliamentary questions?

An Ceann Comhairle:  My office is at the Deputy's disposal in relation to that matter.

Miss Quill:  What is the status of the long promised broadcasting Bill? Will it come before the House in this session or in the lifetime of this Government? Which Minister or Minister of State is making decisions in respect of the subject matter of the Green Paper on broadcasting? Is the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht concerned that a number of the students picketing outside are students of the Advanced Technology College?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The ruling of the Chair must be obeyed in these matters. Deputy Quill will desist. Resume your seat.

Mr. Quinn:  The matter of legislation and the heads of a broadcasting Bill will be before the Cabinet on Tuesday next when it will be disposed of. It is not possible to say when the Bill will be published.

Miss Quill:  It is the longest long finger I can remember.

Mr. J. Walsh:  Has the Government plans under the programme for Government to provide adequate ferry services to transport cattle from here to other EU countries? We have a major crisis. No transport is available, the Government is doing nothing about it and farmers are in disarray. What does the Government propose to do about it under the programme for Government?

Mr. Dukes:  What about the butter vouchers? The Deputy had better find a few of those for——

[1538]Mr. Quinn:  No specific legislation is promised in this area.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  What is the present status of the proposed bail legislation and has the matter been progressed?

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy will be surprised but, perhaps, not delighted to hear the Bill is making excellent progress and has been discussed. It is intended to have it drafted as soon as possible.

Mr. Molloy:  When can we expect to see the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Bill?

Mr. Quinn:  It is at an advanced stage of preparation and our intention is to have it published before Easter.

Mr. Callely:  On promised legislation, what progress has been made with the licensed drugs Bill to deal with drug abuse in dance halls, pubs and at outdoor unlicensed dances and the likely time-scale for such legislation to be put in place?

Mr. Quinn:  It is a Government priority and our intention is to have it published before Easter.

Mr. Davern:  The Minister will be aware of the greyhound Bill which has been promised. Is he aware the national headquarters of the greyhound industry in Clonmel does not have a dog track as of this week? What does the Government propose to do about this?

Mr. Quinn:  The greyhound Bill will be ready after Easter and the matter regarding Clonmel town will be discussed in the context of that Bill.

Mr. M. McDowell:  When will the Government bring forward legislation, which has been promised on many occasions, to deal with the problem of long-standing tenants in domestic accommodation? The Minister is aware of people in his constituency who are awaiting some alleviation of the 20 year rule which allows them to be dumped out of their homes in the 19th year of their occupation, simply to avoid a rule of law.

Mr. Quinn:  That legislation will not be ready for some considerable time.

Miss Quill:  Will it be in the Minister's time?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Earlier the Minister for Finance said his Department was in democratic control — I am pleased he is carrying on the work of Deputy Bertie Ahern.

Mr. Quinn:  That is not what I said.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  As Minister for Finance will he ask each member of the Cabinet to contribute from their budgets towards helping the students in the Advanced Technology College?

[1539]Mr. Martin:  Will the Minister for Finance indicate a time frame for the publication of the ministerial orders on upgrading regional technical colleges to institute of technology status, as indicated last week at Question Time? For example, Waterford would need a ministerial order. When the Tánaiste went to Cork for the Labour Party Conference it was promised to the students of Cork.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Athlone needs one also.

Mr. Martin:  We need to have a time frame because we had the unfortunate spectacle yesterday when students from Cork tied themselves to the gates of Leinster House.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Students from Kildare were there too.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle:  Ministerial orders cannot be discussed now.

Mr. Quinn:  I am not in a position to give a detailed reply to the Deputy. I suggest he tables a question for written reply.

Mr. Martin:  I did that.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the Minister clarify the difference between the reply he gave to my question and that which he gave to the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Bertie Ahern, about group water schemes in regard to possible or pending legislation?

Mr. Quinn:  The question put by Deputy Bertie Ahern, Leader of the Opposition, asked if legislation would follow the report which the Minister for the Environment was due to bring to the Cabinet. In reply I said that until such time as we saw that report I was not in a position to say whether there would be legislation.

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Minister aware——

An Ceann Comhairle:  Sorry, we cannot debate the matter now nor is it Question Time.

Mr. Molloy:  We are getting inaccurate information from the Minister.

Mr. Andrews:  On a point of information, there are 500 students outside the gates of Leinster House. Will the Minister for Education meet a small deputation?

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are other ways of dealing with the matter.

Mr. Andrews:  It is a reasonable proposal.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We will proceed to the business of the House.

[1540]Mr. Ellis:  The Ceann Comhairle said he would allow me to ask a question on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I did, but there was disturbance in the House. I called on the Deputy repeatedly but he failed to respond.

Mr. Ellis:  I rose to respond but another Member was in possession. I put down two statistical questions last week to the Minister for Health with regard to delays in the provision of orthodontic and spectacle services by the health boards. The Minister replied that he did not have the information on hand but would produce it in due course. I put down a further question but the Ceann Comhairle's office ruled it out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  This matter can be raised at another time.

Mr. Ellis:  The Ceann Comhairle is protecting the Minister because this information should be readily available.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If the Deputy communicates with my office the matter will be clarified. He should not imply anything.

Mr. Ellis:  I thank the Ceann Comhairle but the Minister should make the information available.

Mr. Gregory:  I move: “That leave be given to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the Wildlife Act, 1976 to ban fox hunting.”

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is this Bill opposed?

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  No.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Since this is a Private Members' Bill the Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Mr. Gregory:  I move: “That Second Stage be taken in Private Members' time.”

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. J. Higgins):  I move:

That, notwithstanding anything in the Resolution of the Dáil of 15th December, 1994, setting out the rota in which Questions to members of the Government are to be asked, [1541] Questions for oral answer, following those next set down to the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, shall be set down to Ministers in the following temporary sequence:

Minister for Equality and Law Reform

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications

Minister for the Marine and Minister for Defence

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs

Minister for Finance

Minister for Health

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry

whereupon the sequence established by the Resolution of 15th December, 1994, shall continue with Questions to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Mr. Dempsey:  If it is of assistance to the Minister of State, I have no objection to changing the arrangements with regard to the Minister for the Environment.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the Social Welfare Acts, section 4 of the National Social Service Board Act, 1984, section 7A of the Health Contributions Act, 1979, and section 18A of the Youth Employment Agency Act, 1981.

Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare (Mr. Durkan):  I move: “That Second Stage be taken now.”

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare (Mr. Durkan):  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

The purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to the wide range of social welfare improvements announced in the budget last January. However, to see the Bill merely as updating legislation does not do it justice. It must be considered in the context of the Social Welfare Bills which the Minister has introduced over the past three years.

Mr. Cowen:  Is the Minister not in the House? Is he still in court?

Mr. Durkan:  The provisions contained in previous Social Welfare Acts, combined with those contained in this Bill, have brought about a transformation of the social welfare system. The significant change in the focus and ethos of the Department is now underpinned by a solid body [1542] of legislation. This change in focus stemmed from a realisation that it was no longer sufficient for the Department to concentrate all its energies on delivering essential income support payments to the elderly, unemployed, people with disabilities, low wage workers and families, although that remains, and rightly, a central part of its work. It was also necessary for the Department to ensure that the social welfare system is able to support the aspirations of people to improve their conditions and reduce their level of dependency by facilitating them in gaining access to training, education and employment.

We do not claim the system is now perfect; it is not. There is still need for further reform but it is a more coherent and flexible system. It is responsive to the varying needs of society. This Bill represents a further stage in its transformation.

The 36 sections of the Bill comprise a comprehensive package of measures which provides for an improvement in the living standards of all who depend on social welfare through increases in weekly rates of payment which are double the projected rate of inflation for the year; continues the pro-work and pro-family policies which have been central to the work of this Government; provides a programme of improvements for old age pensioners and carers; completes the process of ensuring equal treatment of men and women in all social welfare schemes; brings about further significant reform of our social welfare system through the introduction of, for example, new pro rata pensions and a new sickness allowance; strengthens the social insurance system by enhancing the benefits available to all workers who pay social insurance; and reverses the damage caused by the infamous “dirty dozen” cuts introduced by the previous Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government.

I wish to concentrate on a number of specific measures in the Bill which are of particular significance. I am pleased to provide for the introduction of pro rata contributory pensions. The present conditions require a minimum average requirement of 20 contributions over a working lifetime in order to qualify for the minimum rate of pension. Under the new arrangements in section 12, reduced rate old age contributory pension will now be payable to persons who have a yearly average of between 10 and 19 contributions over the period from when they first became insured until the end of the contribution year before reaching the age of 66 years. The details will be contained in regulations to be made under the section.

The new arrangements will come into effect in November and will be of benefit mainly to people who have had broken or sporadic contribution records over their working lifetime. Included in that category are married women who worked for a number of years before they married, then spent a long period outside the paid workforce and who may have returned to paid employment in recent years. It will help returned emigrants [1543] whose work period abroad cannot be reckoned for pension purposes in Ireland. It will also benefit self-employed people who started on their own before 1988 when PRSI for the self-employed was introduced.

In line with the recommendations in the final report of the National Pensions Board, section 12 provides for an increase in the number of paid contributions required for entitlement to old age contributory pension from 156 or three years to 520 or ten years. This increase is being introduced in two phases with lengthy timescales which recognise the need for a long lead-in time when making fundamental changes to State pension entitlements in order to meet people's expectations and allay fears as much as possible. The timescales proposed are more generous than those envisaged by the National Pensions Board.

The second issue I wish to highlight is dealt with in section 13 which amends the conditions governing requalification for unemployment benefit and which is aimed at improving the position of workers in a typical employment. The categories of workers involved include seasonal and casual workers such as dockers, firefighters, creamery workers, hotel staff and people in the tourism industry.

By virtue of changes introduced by Deputy McCreevy as part of his notorious “dirty dozen” cuts, these workers were precluded from requalifying for unemployment benefit until they had a further 13 PRSI contributions paid after they had exhausted their entitlement to unemployment benefit. In practice, this meant that, until such time as they acquired the necessary 13 PRSI contributions, they had to have recourse to unemployment assistance which is means tested and which took account of whatever earnings they had from their casual employment in the previous tax year. The method by which those earnings were assessed gave rise to difficulties in areas where the volume of casual work available was declining and many workers found themselves on a reduced rate of unemployment assistance, or no payment at all, on the basis of past earnings which had been spent and/or projected earnings which had not yet materialised.

Under the Bill, a person can requalify for unemployment benefit by having the necessary 13 PRSI contributions paid at any time after the 156th day of unemployment, that is, six months. This means that instead of having to have recourse to unemployment assistance for 13 weeks, a claimant can, in certain circumstances, requalify for a further 15 months of unemployment benefit. At least 5,000 workers who are currently receiving reduced rate unemployment assistance will gain an average of £11 per week from this change. There is also an important non-monetary gain: the additional security which derives from knowing their benefit will generally continue at a particular level during bouts of unemployment, hitherto made worse by financial uncertainty.

[1544] A third notable feature of the Bill — to which sections 15 to 18 refer — involves the introduction of a new social assistance scheme to be known as sickness allowance. Under the existing arrangements, people who are incapable of work due to illness but who do not satisfy the contribution conditions for disability benefit or the qualifying conditions for receipt of disability allowance must have recourse to the supplementary welfare allowance in order to secure income support.

During 1995 supplementary welfare allowance was paid to more than 12,000 people who were unable to work due to illness but had no entitlement to either disability allowance or disability benefit. Supplementary welfare allowance was never intended as a sickness payment and, consequently, provision is being made for the introduction of the new sickness allowance which will complete the cover available under the social welfare system for those who are unable to work due to illness or injury.

Sickness allowance will be payable at the same rate as unemployment assistance i.e. at the short-term rate of assistance for the first 15 months and at the long-term rate thereafter. To qualify for the allowance a person must be aged 18 years or over and under age 66, be incapable of work and satisfy a means test. The provisions as to the assessment of means will be specified in regulations. It is envisaged that sickness allowance will provide for an estimated 13,500 people per year who are incapable of working due to illness and are currently forced to seek supplementary welfare allowance.

A further important reform of the social welfare system is provided for in sections 19 to 21 which introduce a new scheme to be known as the widower's (non-contributory) pension scheme. The introduction of this new payment represents the final step in the implementation of equal treatment for men and women throughout the social welfare code. The new payment is designed to meet the needs of widowers who are not rearing children — those who are will continue to receive the one-parent family payment — and will be available to widowers on the same basis as the existing widow's (non-contributory) pension. This Part of the Bill also extends entitlement to the new widower's pension to divorced men, on the death of their former spouse, provided they have not remarried and continue to satisfy the other conditions of entitlement. Similar provisions have already been put in place for widows in the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act, 1995.

Partnership 2000 contains an important commitment in relation to continuing the reform and development of the social insurance system over the period of the new programme. The programme for Government contains a similar commitment. This is important because of the crucial role social insurance plays within the overall social welfare system. PRSI contributions are paid by approximately 1.35 million workers and [1545] amount to £1.81 billion each year, which is sufficient to pay for almost half of all social welfare expenditure. Most importantly, the social insurance system reflects inter-generational solidarity as well as solidarity between the different income groups. Those who are active in the economy support those who are no longer active, while those at work who are best off support those who are unable to work and are least well off.

The PRSI provisions in the Bill reflect the changes announced in the budget last January. Section 8 provides for a reduction of 1 per cent, from 5.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent, in the standard employee contribution rate. This section also increases from £22,300 to £23,200 the annual earnings ceiling up to which social insurance contributions are payable by employees and increases from £26,800 to £27,900 the earnings ceiling up to which contributions are payable by employers.

The weekly earnings limit for the lower, 8.5 per cent, rate of employer's contribution is being increased from £250 per week to £260 per week. Section 9 increases from £22,300 to £23,200 the income ceiling up to which social insurance contributions are payable by the self-employed. All of these changes will come into effect on 6 April next.

The Minister recently met a delegation from the Small Firms Association to discuss the ways in which the social welfare system supports the needs of small business and whether and how this can be improved further. It was agreed that the black economy was a major check on bona fide employment growth, it puts honest employers at a disadvantage and defrauds all taxpayers. The Minister outlined the improvements which have been put in place over the past six months by my Department to tackle black economy fraud.

The Small Firms Association welcomed the range of supports for employers in recruiting extra staff, particularly from the long-term unemployed, but pointed out that there was a problem in getting the information to employers. Small employers, in particular, did not have the resources or expertise to avail of schemes which were very complex to implement or which required a big administrative input from the employer.

The back-to-work allowance scheme and the employers' PRSI exemption scheme were cited as positive examples of schemes that are easy to understand and apply and consequently work well. In response, the Minister undertook to arrange for the Department, through its regional network, to work with the Small Firms Association in a systematic and focused way to inform small business of the supports available to them through the social welfare system. In this context, the Small Firms Association will work with the Department in preparing a guide for employers on how they and their employees can avail legitimately of support from the social welfare system.

I wish to outline the provisions of the various [1546] sections. Sections 1 and 2 contain the usual provisions relating to short title, construction and definitions used throughout the Bill. The increases in the weekly personal and adult dependant rates of social insurance and social assistance payments announced in the budget are provided for in sections 3 and 4. All personal rates are being increased by £3 a week, while all adult dependant allowances are being increased by £1.50 a week. This gives substantial increases of between 4 per cent and 4.8 per cent, which is approximately twice the expected rate of inflation for this year.

As a result of these substantial increases more recipients than ever are now at, or very close to, the minimum rates recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare. Some recipients, such as contributory pensioners, are currently at 113 per cent which is well ahead of those target rates while others, such as invalidity pensioners, will now reach 100 per cent for the first time. Those previously at 95 per cent of the target rate will now move up to 98 per cent while those on supplementary welfare allowance and short-term unemployment assistance will move from 92 per cent to 95 per cent of the target rate. The significant progress made over the past three years in reaching those minimum target rates is the clearest indication possible of the Government's commitment to achieve the rates recommended by the commission.

Section 5 provides for increases in child benefit which is the best mechanism we have for supporting families and tackling poverty. In line with the policy direction established in the past two budgets, child benefit is being increased as part of a planned strategy of reforming income support for children, removing disincentives and working towards putting in place a system of basic income for children.

The increase of £1 in the lower rate and £5 in the higher rate of child benefit with effect from 1 September next will bring the rates to £30 per month for each of the first two children and to £39 per month for each subsequent child. A family with three children will now receive £99 a month while a family with six children will receive £216 a month. During the past three years child benefit has increased by 52 per cent for a three child family and by 54 per cent for a five child family. In 1991 a four child family received approximately £70 a month, while this year it will receive £138, which is approximately double.

An increase of £10 at each point in the weekly income thresholds used to determine entitlement to family income supplement is provided for in section 6. As a result of this threshold increase virtually all current recipients will get an extra £6 in their weekly payments from mid-June next. The new weekly thresholds range from £205 for a one child family to £344 for a family with eight children or more. This section also provides that from 12 June next the rate of FIS payable will be calculated on the basis of gross earnings less any superannuation, PRSI and levies which may be [1547] payable. This revised calculation method is an important first step towards meeting the commitment in Partnership 2000 to base FIS entitlement on net rather than gross income: it only leaves income tax deductions to be removed from the calculation.

Last year Social Welfare Act provided for the continued payment of child dependant allowances for up to 13 weeks to people unemployed for a minimum of 12 months who take up employment which is expected to last for at least four weeks. This measure has greatly helped to overcome the disincentives facing unemployed people with families who are trying to get back to work. Section 7 extends these provisions to other groups, namely, people on community employment immediately before taking up employment and people on the live register or on community employment who take up employment under the Jobs initiatives announced last year.

Sections 8 and 9 are concerned with new rates of PRSI contributions and increases in the earnings ceilings.

Sections 10 and 11 provide for a further enhancement of the social insurance system through the extension of maternity benefit and adoptive benefit to women in insurable self-employment along the same lines as currently available to women in insurable employment. These sections also provide for a consequential amendment to section 18(1) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993 which extends the benefits covered by self-employment contributions to include maternity benefit and adoptive benefit.

I described earlier the introduction of reduced rate old age contributory pensions, and section 12 gives legislative effect to this measure. I also referred earlier to the reform of the arrangements for requalifying for unemployment benefit. The relevant legislative changes are provided for in section 13.

Section 14 relates to the occupational injuries benefit scheme and provides for two improvements in this area. First, it removes the more restrictive conditions applying to widowers in the scheme, thus ensuring that widows and widowers are treated equally. It also abolishes the requirement that the claimant must be living with, or have wholly or mainly maintained by, the decease. This brings the conditions of entitlement into line with those applying to widow's and widower's contributory pension.

Second, this section extends the scope of the scheme to provide for payment of pensions to widows and widowers to the surviving spouse of a recipient of disablement benefit whose degree of disablement is assed at 50 per cent or more, irrespective of the cause of death. This provision is designed to overcome a problem which arises with the existing arrangements when the cause of death cannot be attributed directly to the occupational disease or injury.

[1548] I spoke earlier about the introduction of a new social assistance payment, to be known as sickness allowance. The relevant legislation provisions are contained in sections 15 to 18. I should mention also that section 17 provides for disability benefit to be renamed sickness benefit and invalidity pension to be renamed disability pension to more accurately reflect the contingencies these payments are designed to meet.

I have spoken already about the introduction of the new widower's non-contributory pension scheme, the legislative basis for which is contained in sections 19 to 21.

Section 22 introduces a number of improvements to the disability allowance. It provides for regulatory powers to extend entitlement to disability allowance to persons who reside in an institution on a part-time basis and otherwise reside at home. The allowance will be payable to such people at half of the standard rate, subject to means. This measure is in line with the views contained in the recent report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities. Section 22 also provides that where one of a couple is in receipt of disability allowance and the other is in receipt of old age non-contributory pension or invalidity pension, each of the couple may receive the full personal rate of payment. This section also provides that the cost of medical certificates issued for the purpose of claiming disability allowance and the new sickness allowance scheme will be met by the Department.

Section 23 provides for two important improvements to the carer's allowance. First, provision is being made for the payment of an additional amount, equivalent to 50 per cent of the existing personal rate, to caters providing full-time care and attention to more than one person. This measure goes some way towards recognising the particular difficulties faced by those caring for more than one person. It is estimated that up to 2,000 carers will benefit from this improvement. Second, this section provides regulatory powers to relax the conditions requiring full-time care and attention so as to entitle to the allowance carers of incapacitated persons attending rehabilitation training or day care centres on a limited basis. This measure has been sought for a long time.

Section 24 provides that people who cease to be entitled to the one parent family payment or the carer's allowance may qualify for pre-retirement allowance without first having to have been in receipt of unemployment payments for 15 months.

It has been one of our objectives to bring about a more uniform, consistent and even-handed treatment of capital for means test purposes across all social assistance schemes. The provisions contained in section 25 mark a further step along that mail by applying new and more generous rules to all means tested pensions and to carer's allowance.

Section 26 consolidates the provisions relating to amounts disregarded in the assessment of means for social assistance payments. It also [1549] makes provision for disregarding rental income from the assessment of means for old age non-contributory pension where the income is in respect of a person who lives with and pays rent to the pensioner. Section 27 simply provides that the measures contained in sections 22 to 26 will be brought into effect by way of commencement order.

The House will recall that the Minister announced in the budget an important reform of the way the earnings of low paid workers are treated in relation to social welfare. The measure announced was designed to deal with the poverty and unemployment trap created by the withdrawal of the adult dependant allowance and half of the child dependant allowance once the earnings of the spouse of a claimant exceeds £60 per week. It involves the introduction of a tapered withdrawal of the adult dependant allowance in the case of recipients of a number of social welfare payments. The provisions of section 28 are being introduced as a direct consequence of that reform.

Under existing provisions, where the spouse of a claimant to a social assistance payment is not his or her dependant, the claimant is assessed with the joint means of the couple. Section 28 amends these provisions so as to provide that on the introduction of the tapered rates of adult dependant allowance, a person in receipt of reduced rate adult dependant allowance will only be assessed with half the joint means of the couple.

Section 28, together with Schedule F, also replaces the term “adult dependant” used for the purposes of paying an increase of benefit or assistance in respect of a spouse or partner with the term “qualified adult”. This change in terminology is in line with a commitment the Minister gave during the passage of last year's Social Welfare Bill. It reflects his wish to completely remove the concept of dependency from the social welfare code and is a small but significant step towards that goal.

Section 29 provides for a significant change to the existing provisions governing decisions relating to what are known as “liable relatives”. Under the existing provisions, where one parent family payment or supplementary welfare allowance is paid to a person, any other person who is liable to maintain the beneficiary, and any child in respect of whom an increase is payable, is liable to contribute such amount as may be determined by the Department, or the health boards in the case of SWA, towards the benefit or assistance payment in question.

These decisions are made on an administrative basis in that they are not formal decisions made by deciding officers appointed under the social welfare Acts. As a result, the person concerned currently does not have the right to appeal. Section 29 provides that such decisions will now become a deciding officer function and will thus afford the person concerned the right of appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office.

[1550] In addition, it provides for regulatory powers to specify the basis on which the contribution a person is required to pay is to be calculated. Section 29 also provides that a divorced person will remain liable to contribute towards the cost of the benefit or assistance paid to their former spouse and extends the definition of “order of the court” to include maintenance, lump sum, variation and interim orders in respect of maintenance made by any court. These provisions will be brought into effect by way of commencement order.

Section 30 contains a number of provisions relating to unemployment payments. First, it provides that the provisions under which a person is not paid for the first three days of a claim for unemployment benefit, known as waiting days, will not apply in the case of a claim for benefit made following a claim for disability benefit in the same period of interruption of employment. Second, it provides for regulatory powers which will be used to eliminate the requirement to serve waiting days for unemployment assistance purposes, in certain circumstances. Third, it enables the Minister for Social Welfare to make regulations specifying the circumstances under which an unemployed person will be regarded as being available for and genuinely seeking employment for the purposes of entitlement to unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance. Finally, Section 30 provides that people who, prior to their participation in the European voluntary service pilot action programme, were in receipt of unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance can resume such entitlement on completion of the programme. This programme, which was recently launched by the Commission of the European Union, is open to young people between the ages of 18 and 25 and is administered on behalf of the Department of Education by Léargas.

The provisions of section 31 state that, where a person who receives a social welfare payment by way of personation is subsequently convicted of the criminal offence of larceny, the amount of the payment to which the offence applies may be recovered from any social welfare payments to which the person is or becomes entitled.

Section 32 provides for the collection of PRSI by the Department of Social Welfare from certain categories of self-employed contributors. The House will be aware that, for purposes of administrative ease, PRSI is normally collected by the Revenue Commissioners on behalf of the Department. These new powers will enable PRSI to be collected from people, such as certain artists, who are exempt from tax liability.

Section 32 also provides that a person who became insured as a self-employed contributor after reaching age 56, and who was previously insured as an employee, will be entitled to a refund in respect of the old age contributory pension element of their self-employment contribution in cases where they do not qualify for old age contributory or non-contributory pension.

[1551] This section also provides for regulatory powers to refund part of the employer's portion of contributions paid in respect of seafarers.

The primary purpose of section 33 is to allow for the amendment of a number of references to regulatory provisions contained in the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993. These regulatory provisions relate to employment contributions and the need for the amendments arises from the consolidation in 1996 of regulatory provisions relating to contributions and insurability.

This section also provides for the deletion of subsection 212(7) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993, which provides that a person shall not be required to give any evidence or answer questions tending to incriminate himself. This provision is regarded as unnecessary in that there is a recognised common law right against self-incrimination and it would be more appropriate for a court to decide whether the right may be relied upon in the circumstances of a case.

Section 34 provides for the amendment of the functions of the National Social Service Board which were bestowed on the board when it was originally established under the aegis of the Department of Health in 1984. In 1995, responsibility for the board transferred to the Department of Social Welfare and, consequently, it is appropriate that its functions should be reviewed in the light of that transfer of responsibility.

In broad terms, the revised functions reflect more accurately the important role of the National Social Service Board in promoting and supporting independent information, advice and advocacy services throughout the country to ensure that all citizens have access to accurate, comprehensive and clear information on the full range of social services. Specifically, the revised functions reflect the reality of activities undertaken by the National Social Service Board in recent years, such as its role in providing impartial social policy feedback on issues of concern to social services users and also its role in providing information, training and development services to the independent voluntary social services sector. The opportunity is also being taken in this section to substitute the Minister for Social Welfare for the Minister for Health in the original legislation — regulations made in 1995 already provided for that — and also to revoke a number of former functions which are no longer relevant in the context of the transfer of responsibility to the Department of Social Welfare.

We are glad to have this opportunity to review the functions of the National Social Service Board and, in that context, to reiterate our support for the continued development of high quality independent information services so that all our citizens can exercise choice in relation to information provision.

Sections 35 and 36 serve three related purposes. First, they provide for an increase from £188 to £197 in the weekly earnings limit below [1552] which employees are exempt from liability for health contributions and the employment and training levy. Second, they provide for an increase from £9,750 to £10,250 in the annual income limit below which self-employed people are exempt from these levies. Finally, they exempt from liability for the levies a distribution from an Irish resident company received by a person who is not an Irish resident. These changes will come into force from 6 April 1997.

This Bill should be viewed in the context of a strategy designed to make the social welfare system more equitable, more innovative, more reforming and more responsive to the diverse needs of Irish society today. It has all of these attributes and it will serve to further enhance the Social Welfare system. This is a substantial Bill which will have the effect of protecting and enhancing the living standards of people who, for one reason or another, are outside the active labour force; further enhancing the pro work and pro worker focus of the socila welfare system; completing the process of bringing about full equality between men and women under the social welfare system; continuing the pro family policy direction which has been central to the reforms that have been introduced in the past few years; and reversing the damage done by the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats dirty dozen social welfare cuts.

This Bill is a carefully sculpted social and economic document designed to encourage participation in the workforce, assist those who are not in the workforce to meet their payment requirements, and to chart the course in the next 12 months in a way that is positive, progressive and supportive. I commend the Bill to the House.

Dr. Woods:  I am sorry the Minister is not with us today. The Minister of State did not apologise on his behalf, but I understand from a note he sent to me yesterday that he is busy in the Four Courts and cannot be here on this occasion.

This Social Welfare Bill implements the strategy adopted by the rainbow coalition in its third consecutive budget. The Minister of State emphasised that this was one of three budgets. These three budgets together have been a bitter disappointment for widows, old age pensioners, unemployed people and others who depend on social welfare payments. What it boils down to is that when this Bill is implemented an old age pensioner will have received, over three years, a mere £2.33 increase on average per week in each year. That is nothing to have a song and dance about. A widow will have received £2.20 per week over the same period, and a person on long-term unemployment assistance or on disability allowance will have received even less at £2.17 per week.

This shows how, in times of greatly increased national prosperity, Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left have once again turned their backs on the poor and disadvantaged at a time when the Taoiseach is embarrassed by the wealth [1553] of the country in the context of EU grants we will receive in the future. The Minister criticised his predecessor who negotiated considerable grants. He should have stayed quiet because he will not deliver anything. He will not be there, so he probably does not care very much.

At a time when the Taoiseach is embarrassed by the size of the wealth, the growth and the GDP per capita, created by his predecessors and on which he got a free ride which is just over, all that the widow, the old age pensioner, a person on disability allowance or on unemployment assistance has received is between £2.17 and £2.33 per annum in each of three years. The Minister for Finance highlighted that when he said that in the three years old age pensioners would receive a £7 increase. He did not stop to think, however, that that is an average of £2.33 per annum. They are the harsh realities. That is where the real poverty, the disadvantage lies. It was Fine Gael that reduced the old age pension by one shilling, to nine shillings, and it will never live that down.

Mr. Connor:  The Deputy is living in a time warp, but I did not think he would go back that far.

Dr. Woods:  At a time of enormous prosperity, the Government gave old age pensioners £2.33 per year over three years.

Mr. Connor:  That is twice the rate of inflation.

Dr. Woods:  The Deputy should not talk about inflation but about the wealth in the economy, about GDP and the growth in national income.

Mr. Connor:  It sticks in the Deputy's throat to talk about it.

Dr. Woods:  That is where the real income is. The Government is ensuring that while it is in office those who depend on social welfare will not benefit.

Each Social Welfare Bill provides an opportunity to improve existing schemes and introduce new ones. The major element in the Bill, the one for which the people look to the Government, is the increase in basic payments on which people live from week to week. That is where the need is greatest.

Mr. Durkan:  What about the dirty dozen?

Dr. Woods:  The Minister and his rainbow partners paid much lip service to the poor, but failed to deliver where it really matters, in the payments on which people live. That is the criterion that will sink this rainbow coalition because the people who receive those payments know what is happening.

Mr. Durkan:  What about the dirty dozen?

Dr. Woods:  I will come to that. The Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, made it a [1554] baker's dozen by introducing another very severe cut which will have a great effect, but I will come back to that matter. The people deserve better from their leaders. In the past three years the Government has been stagnant in the social welfare area. It simply carried on the work that had already begun — before I left office I mapped out the disability allowance.

Mr. Durkan:  Did the Deputy map out the dirty dozen? Is he claiming responsibility for that?

Dr. Woods:  The same applied with other measures, and if the Minister asks his officials he will find out that is the case. He should not crow about normal developments. What really matters is that people get their money, and the Government will find that out in due course.

The Government did not introduce one new scheme or take innovative action to improve the lives of those who depend on social welfare. On the other hand, it recently removed half the butter vouchers provided to widows, pensioners, carers and unemployed people on means tested assistance payments. More than 900,000 people are affected by that move. The income of those people, the poorest of the poor, the most defenceless, has been ruthlessly cut back, and nobody takes the blame. The Minister for Social Welfare blames the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry who, in turn, blames the European Union. Everybody blames somebody else. The reality is that the Government allowed the ball to slip. It was not concerned about the elderly or widows, the people who depend on social welfare, as can be seen by its actions.

Mr. Durkan:  We dropped the dirty dozen.

Dr. Woods:  The Minister should talk to the people. The record of the Government, when measured against the achievements of previous Fianna Fáil Governments, is very poor. Fianna Fáil showed leadership and flair by introducing children's allowance, free travel, carer's allowance, back to work allowance, second chance education for the long-term unemployed and many other initiatives which had a fantastic impact on the lives of many thousands of people. The whole approach to social welfare is badly in need of updating to cope with our dramatically changing lifestyle in the Ireland of the new millennium. People are living longer, the birth rate is falling and flexi-time, part-time work and job-sharing opportunities are increasing. Many other changes are taking place which we must anticipate and for which we must be prepared.

Young people are staying in education longer. Drop-out rates in primary and second level education are remarkably low. The needs of the family in the new millennium are changing and must be addressed. The social welfare system must be sufficiently flexible to respond to the demands placed on it by these changes. If we are to be successful, we must forget a new partnership with [1555] the many community and voluntary organisations working in the area of family and social affairs. Many of those were set up by the Department of Social Welfare over the years. That is an area in which the Department was involved in innovation and change, in meeting the need.

The Minister said there has been a significant change in focus and ethos in the Department of Social Welfare, but that change has been made in innumerable innovations over the years. We must build a new partnership for the future. The Minister said that he recognises the importance of community and voluntary organisations, but it is not sufficient to find out what happened in the past ten years or so, we must look forward to the new partnership for the future. The responsibility is to plan ahead, have a vision and develop that vision, but that is not being done here.

The range of programmes which come under the umbrella of social welfare is vast. This spread of activities and their importance to the community needs to be recognised in the way in which the system is administered. A new approach is needed to successfully meet the challenges which face us today. In an increasingly prosperous society there is a grave danger that the most vulnerable groups will be overlooked. All disadvantaged groups must be supported in ways which improve their circumstances through adequate incomes, educational opportunities and participation in the workplace.

The interim report of the Commission on the Family highlights a fact which we recognised a long time ago and which needs to be developed further, that if we want to overcome poverty and disadvantage we must develop many kinds of education, some of which have not been introduced yet. We must work with local communities and groups in tackling the real problems and build on the educational opportunities — I am very happy the current schemes are operating so well in the Department. In so doing we must set clear priorities and be flexible enough to alter those priorities as circumstances change. The priorities should include supporting families and directing resources to pensioners, widows and those who are poorest and most disadvantaged. If we are to achieve our objectives we must mount a new assault on poverty and disadvantage. That is what I had hoped to see in this Bill, a new assault, a new approach, further development, looking ahead rather than simply filling in the pieces that are falling into place from work done earlier.

There is an onus on all of us to balance our improved economic prosperity with being a caring society. It is remarkable and encouraging that young people today want a caring society. They want to do well in life, but not at the expense of those who are genuinely disadvantaged. They want the Government to tackle disadvantage. Fianna Fáil has a proud and excellent record in this regard. We have the vision, enthusiasm and imagination to implement policies that will ensure the social balance we desire is achieved.

[1556]Mr. Connor:  The Progressive Democrats does not have a similar vision on social welfare matters.

Dr. Woods:  I will deal with that later. In contrast, the Government's approach which underlies this Social Welfare Bill is shortsighted and irresponsible. The Minister, Deputy De Rossa, stated he would like the social insurance fund placed on a solid basis. He also claims to be concerned about pensioners' incomes. The rhetoric is attractive, but the reality is different.

In one step today the Government has undermined the solvency and stability of the social insurance fund by substantially reducing its income. This will mean a deficit of some £114 million this year. This is a workers' insurance fund to provide for illness, maternity benefit, occupational accidents and pensions. When we handed over the fund at the end of 1994 it was breaking even for the first time in many years. As employment and income to the fund increased we reduced contributions.

Mr. Connor:  That is not correct.

Dr. Woods:  That is correct. The Deputy should get his facts right before heckling me.

Mr. Connor:  The Deputy is wrong.

Dr. Woods:  I allowed the Minister of State to speak without interrupting him.

Mr. Connor:  The Deputy should not mislead the House.

Dr. Woods:  I am not misleading the House. I am stating the facts. Reducing the fund will weaken the position of workers because every future Minister for Social Welfare will have to go cap in hand to the Minister for Finance to get taxpayers' money to meet the annual deficit before seeking funds to protect workers and increase pensions to meet the needs of pensioners.

This is a disastrous strategic error by the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, and his Labour and Fine Gael partners in Government. Rather than attempting to buy pre-election popularity by reducing the PRSI contributions by 1 per cent, the Government had an alternative which would not have damaged the social insurance fund. It could have removed the 1 per cent levy, or an equivalent part of it, without undermining the fund. Why did the Minister not insist on reducing the levy? Why did he reduce the social insurance fund which he wants to place on a solid basis? That will not happen because of this Bill. The Taoiseach is in Brussels today pleading for funds from 1999 onwards while at home we are reducing a fund that would provide for pensioners, widows and workers from 1999 onwards.

Mr. Connor:  He will not be £3 billion short when he comes back.

[1557]Dr. Woods:  The Minister had an alternative but did not take it. He is delivering a sharp and undeserved slap in the face to pensioners because they are excluded from the Government's pre-election sweetener. Pensioners paid into the social insurance fund all their working lives to provide for retirement, invalidity or widowhood, but in retirement, on relatively low incomes, they are still required to pay the 1 per cent PRSI levy. This cunning Minister is specifically excluding pensioners from the 1 per cent PRSI reduction to the social insurance portion of the PRSI contribution, a mean and calculated step by the Government to exclude pensioners from the benefit of the pre-election hand-out. The rainbow coalition is telling vulnerable pensioners they must continue to pay the levy because it is the better off who need the relief. Pensioners know they pay a 1 per cent levy from which they will not benefit.

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy must be reading from the wrong page. He must be talking about a previous year.

Dr. Woods:  I am not. Before we left office at the end of 1994 I transferred the disabled person's maintenance allowance, the main support for people with disabilities, from the Department of Health to the Department of Social Welfare. Our plan was to introduce a disability allowance and this has been accomplished. We wanted to improve the scheme and make it more relevant. We must support and encourage people with disabilities in their quest for paid work. Accordingly, the earnings allowances should have been raised to match those provided for the one parent family allowance. If those on disability allowance had benefited under the new working arrangements they could have gained a foothold in the jobs market. Unemployment among people with disabilities is currently as high as 80 per cent. That matter must be dealt with urgently.

There is a strong argument in favour of individual pensions for adult dependants, who are mostly women. The case for such a development is most obvious when the adult dependant is an old age pensioner. On a non-contributory pension she will receive the princely sum of £40 per week. I am sure most commentators and the Government would agree that is not acceptable. What has the Minister done for these people? Adult dependants received an increase of approximately £1.17 per week in each of the three budgets and associated Social Welfare Bills, about which the Minister of State boasted in his contribution. That would buy about two litres of milk. Why does the Government not see what it is doing?

Mr. Durkan:  Because what the Deputy is saying is not correct.

Mr. Connor:  He is talking rubbish.

[1558]Dr. Woods:  If the Minister of State does his sums he will know what I am saying is correct. That is rainbow reality for some 120,000 adult dependants on unemployment payments and retirement and non-contributory pensions.

The Government parties should hang their heads in shame at their miserly treatment of the lowest paid in our society. A miserable increase of £1.17 per week shows how little value this spendthrift Government puts on the well-being of those women, the foundation on which this modern society was built.

Fianna Fáil's introduction of social security for the self-employed in 1988 was a major breakthrough. It provided old age and widow's pensions for the first time for many thousands of people — small business people, skilled contract workers, professionals and farmers. Great concern was expressed about the collection of the contributions and the solvency of the fund. Contributions increased from £46 million in 1989 to £93 million in 1996. To date self-employed people have contributed £587 million to the social insurance fund. The scheme is working well and funds are available to improve benefits.

Two priority areas for improvement are as follows: extending the benefits to include occupational injury benefit and invalidity pension. Contract workers on building sites must have cover for occupational injury and fishermen and farmers should also be covered as should other categories of self-employed people; and providing pensions for those who were over 56 years of age when they were brought into the system. Since they have less than ten years' contributions, they cannot receive old age pensions unless previously insured. The Government, notwithstanding the success of this cash rich scheme, has failed to take the steps necessary and feasible. Instead, it raided the scheme, and took cash from it to gain electoral popularity in this election years. This scandalous and highly irresponsible action is one of the hallmarks of this rainbow coalition. The addition of maternity benefit to the scheme is welcome but, as the Minister knows, is a relatively inexpensive addition.

This was a year when the Government could have advanced the date for the payment of increases in social welfare to 6 April in line with the new tax year. With an unprecedented cash income, this was the year to make a once-off investment to bring forward the increased payments from mid June. However, the Government decided against this option. It was Fine Gael and Labour during the coalition Government of the mid 1980's who, when short of cash to balance the budget, put the date of payment of increases back to late autumn.

Fianna Fáil brought the date back to July and later this Government brought it back to June. Widows, unemployed people and thousands of pensioners expected that the pay date for increases would be restored this year to April but alas, more disappointment for them. It may be a good year but not for those who depend on social [1559] welfare. This is another missed opportunity by the Minister which affects 1.4 million people.

The increases for widows, those on disability allowance and long-term unemployed people, especially if they have families, are much less than the Government claims. For instance, a widow on a contributory pension with three children gets an increase of only 2.5 per cent. Similarly, a person on disability allowance with a dependant spouse and three children gets an increase of 2.9 per cent while a person who is long-term unemployed gets 3.2 per cent. The larger the family, the smaller the percentage increase. The Minister likes to talk about personal rates which are the highest rates, but not about the adult dependant or children. A widow with five children will only get an increase of 1.9 per cent in her widow's pension.

I tell families not to heed the rhetoric because the rainbow coalition does not care. It gives me no pleasure to recall the appalling financial irresponsibility of the 1983-7 coalition which brought the country to the verge of bankruptcy. The dire state of the nation's finances in 1987 was successfully tackled over the period 1987 to 1994 because of the political courage of Fianna Fáil led Governments. Ultimately, these Fianna Fáil Administrations succeeded in retrieving the State's financial viability because of the willingness of the people in every sector of our society to accept temporary sacrifices to secure the long-term good.

It took a great deal of hard work to bring about the current prosperity which was built on good strategy, work and a good relationship with the social partners set up under a Fianna Fáil Government. That partnership is the basis for the present low interest rates, cheap mortgages, low inflation and excellent growth in the economy.

However, under the rainbow coalition, the partnership is doing little to tackle the main problems facing our society, including social deprivation, long-term unemployment and spiralling crime, particularly the increasing levels of drug abuse. Those in need — for example, the long-term unemployed — have only one opportunity each year to achieve a change in the payments they receive from the State, namely the budget. In contrast, an employed person can perhaps look forward to three routes through which his general well-being may be enhanced, namely Partnership 2000 pay increases, tax and PRSI changes in the recent budget and annual salary increments.

It is, therefore, interesting to note that income distribution under the rainbow coalition via three budgets, two years of the PCW and one year of Partnership 2000 will do little for people who are most in need. One only need examine some figures to realise how this Government has failed to fulfil its social obligations. According to CORI, a single person will be £338 a year better off if long-term unemployed while a person earning £20,000 will be £1,763 better off and a person earning £40,000 will be £2,532 better off. That makes [1560] stark reading. So much for the rainbow coalition's idea of social partnership.

The Minister talks about the famous dirty dozen, the bulk of which were long gone before he came into office. If one reads the booklet on how to qualify for the old age contributory pensions one will see that a person needs to be over 66 years of age and satisfy PSRI contributions, that is, 156 PRSI paid contributions. The Minister said that in future a person will need 520 or ten years paid contributions.

Mr. Durkan:  It will be phased in.

Dr. Woods:  That is the baker's dozen — number 13. How will an unemployed person qualify if he does not have enough paid stamps?

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy's party was more effective with the dirty dozen, which hurt more people.

Dr. Woods:  The Minister is excluding such people. That is the baker's dozen and it is all down to the Minister, Deputy De Rossa. Workers should know that in future they will need 520 or ten year paid contributions to qualify. Although the Minister will phase it in, he will have left Government before it happens. He will have high tailed it out of here when the baker's dozen comes home to roost.

Mr. Clohessy:  The function of the Department of Social Welfare is to look after the less well off — the unemployed, the unemployable, the poor and pensioners. Although the economy is doing well the greatest blackspot is unemployment. I will not criticise the increases because it is the Minister's function to provide increases in the budget, in line with inflation, to old age pensioners and the unemployed. However, the increases were small. As my party has been preaching for many years, there is a remedy which I will outline.

An expanding economy should mean less pressure on the welfare budget. When the economy is expanding, employment should be expanding and when the numbers at work are rising the numbers out of work should be decreasing, even allowing for an increase in the labour force. When one considers that unemployment payments account for more than one quarter of the welfare budget, the message is clear. Economic growth and falling unemployment should yield huge savings to the Exchequer. It is estimated that for every 1,000 people who leave the live register the Exchequer saves £3.5 million per year, before taking into account the extra taxation that will be collected when people start to work. That does not seem to be the case in Ireland.

Total spending on social welfare has risen by almost 40 per cent or £1.2 billion during the past five years. This should have been sufficient to fund generous increases in the rates of benefit [1561] payable to most welfare recipients. For the most part, that has not been the case. Mass unemployment lays claim to £1 billion in the social welfare budget each year. If a fraction of this was available for distribution to other welfare recipients, we could bring about a real improvement in their standard of living. Ireland is probably unique in combining rapid economic growth with mass unemployment. This appears to defy all the laws of economic logic.

When the rainbow coalition came to power two and a half years ago there were 272,000 registered as unemployed. Following the most rapid economic expansion ever, the figures are almost unchanged today. It seems we have succeeded in translating economic growth into higher employment. The numbers at work are on the increase but why is it that we are unable to translate economic growth into lower unemployment?

Tax is the key issue. A typical worker is taxed four times on his or her income. He or she pays income tax, PRSI, training and health levies. This places a heavy burden on the average worker and means that those on modest wages pay high rates of tax. A single man on £200 per week pays approximately £43 per week in tax and PRSI.

There is a major problem in relation to the higher rate of tax. In other countries workers are taxed at the higher rate only if they fall into the higher income bracket. That is not the case here. A worker is hit at the higher rate of 48 per cent when his or her earnings go above £262 per week, which is well under the average industrial wage. It is hardly a fortune. He or she is also caught for PRSI, training and health levies. This means that if he or she receives a pay rise of £10 per week or £10 in overtime, the Government will take £5.50. It cannot be right that the Government should receive more than the man or woman concerned.

The system of taxation is a disincentive to work. Throughout the country one hears the same refrain from unemployed persons: “Why should I go out to work when I am just as well off on the dole?” Nobody is saying that benefits should be reduced but everybody recognises that taxes should be. We need to focus on employees' and employers' PRSI as well as income tax. In simple terms, we must make it worthwhile for the unemployed to take up employment and for firms to create it. Unless we are prepared to tackle this issue in a radical way, we will never be able to deal seriously with the unemployment problem.

We must look at the system of public administration. Many years ago we had a network of labour exchanges, as they were then known, but we have reached the stage where no labour is exchanged in these centres. We have two arms of State doing different jobs. The Department of Social Welfare is concerned with registering individuals as unemployed and paying them benefits as efficiently as possible, while the unemployment services division of FÁS is concerned with helping them to find work.

[1562] The upshot of this is that the basic regulations are no longer being properly enforced. To qualify for the dole a person must be available for and actively seeking work but the Department of Social Welfare has made little or no effort to ensure this is the case. We should not be too shocked at the findings of the CSO report published last year which showed there was massive abuse of the system. In the 12 weeks after the report was published approximately 25,000 people stopped signing on. There is still a huge gap, however, between unemployment as measured by the live register and that measured by the labour force survey. The difference between the two figures is approximately 80,000.

The system is not fair to the taxpayer or the unemployed. The Government has a duty to the taxpayer to ensure money is properly spent and to the unemployed to ensure their needs are properly met, but that is not happening. We need a single agency, a national employment service, to meet the needs of the unemployed, from benefit payments to assistance, in searching for jobs. This agency should provide a professional service and treat the unemployed as its clients. Its success should be measured by the number of people it places in paid employment. I understand the Minister for Enterprise and Employment is working on this idea as part of the White Paper. Will we see this document before the forthcoming general election?

The White Paper should also deal with issues such as training and education. It is clear that we have considerable problems to contend with in this area. Even though there are almost 300,000 people out of work, there is increasing evidence that firms are unable to fill vacancies when they arise because of the low wages on offer but it is hardly the full answer. This week ISME, the small and medium enterprises body, published a report on the way the jobs market is operating. It points out that there are skills shortages and companies are finding it difficult to fill vacancies in high-tech areas such as the computer industry. It seems strange that this is the case. After all, the IDA is trying to attract high-tech industries while FÁS is spending £150 million per year in training individuals to take up jobs which are becoming available in industry.

The term “misfits” is used in the report to describe certain sections of the unemployed. I disagree strongly with this. The unemployed are no different from the rest of us. The vast majority are willing to work and we must do everything we can to help them find suitable job opportunities. The use of emotive language is not helpful at this time.

The issue of unemployment and training must be addressed by the Government. It makes no sense to have hundreds of thousands of people drawing the dole while companies cannot find people to work for them. The strategy on unemployment and training seems to have gone seriously wrong.

[1563] The system is costing the taxpayer a fortune. We are paying out £20 million per week in dole payments. The unemployed are excluded from the rest of society, a marginalised group which cannot share in the fruits of economic growth. It is better for people to be at work than on the dole as it gives them the opportunity to play a normal role in society.

We have shown that we are capable of achieving much in the economic field. We have shown that we are capable of creating jobs but we have yet to show that we are able to deal with the problem of unemployment. There must be a shift from the welfare system to employment. That should be the Government's number one priority and I have no doubt it will be in the case of the incoming Government.

Mr. Connor:  I welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation as it is one of the major Bills in the financial and social area which this House must deal with each year. The main Opposition spokesperson's speech was a terribly long moan and groan. The important point is that this Government has substantially reformed the social welfare code in the past three years. The Minister for Social Welfare did not throw money at every unproductive area in the social welfare system as those who criticised him said he would when he came into office. He reformed the system by targetting the anomalies.

The report of the Commission on Social Welfare was published some years ago and it outlined what should be the minimum payments. Deputy Woods was the Minister for Social Welfare the year it was published.

Dr. Woods:  I was not.

Mr. Connor:  The progress in realising the targets set down by the commission during his term in office was minimal. The Minister stated that contributing pensioners are now on 113 per cent of the target contribution, other categories have reached 100 per cent while the worst cases have reached 95 per cent. I contrast that with the abysmal failure of Deputy Woods and his colleague Deputy McCreevy as Minister for Social Welfare.

Dr. Woods:  Look at the facts.

Mr. Connor:  This is a fundamental method of examining the performances of respective Governments and respective Ministers for Social Welfare in recent years.

Deputy Woods continued in a rather incoherent way about the Taoiseach being in Brussels negotiating for Objective One status in structural funds. This has nothing to do with social welfare. Whatever the Taoiseach achieves, he will have accurate figures and will not be wrong by at least £2 billion as the previous Taoiseach was. We all remember Deputy Reynolds's famous statement [1564] after the Edinburgh summit when he said there was more than £8 billion in the bag.

Dr. Woods:  The Government enjoys spending the money.

Mr. Connor:  He had to shake hands afterwards on a final deal which gave the country £5.9 billion. That is how wrong he was. This is irrelevant to the debate but I say it in response to Deputy Woods.

There are a number of provisions in the Bill which I welcome and they relate to matters on which I have spoken during debates on Social Welfare Bills since 1989. I especially welcome the reduction of the minimum contributions to qualify for contributory old age pension from an average of 20 weeks during one's working life to an average of ten, halving the previous requirement. Many have examined this issue over the years, including the Commission on Social Welfare and the Ombudsman, and all have said it was unjust. I am delighted the Minister and the Government have introduced this badly needed reform. It is especially gratifying to see that persons with an average of between ten and 14 weeks' contributions will now qualify for half the maximum contributory pension. Persons with average contributions of between 15 and 19 will now qualify for 75 per cent of the maximum. Many people whose working lives have been interrupted may have had almost full contributions for ten years. Those who worked prior to 1953 lost the value of their contributions prior to that date by a legislative action of this House. Many people worked for ten years, ceased work to go into business or raise a family and found on retiring that they did not have the average of 20 weeks' contributions to qualify for a contributory pension. They naturally had a great sense of injustice on finding that, after the contributions they made during their working life and the contributions they made to society in business or raising a family, they did not qualify for a contributory pension. Every compliment must be paid to the Minister and the Government for bringing about this badly needed reform which I welcome.

I also welcome the introduction of a new sickness allowance for people on unemployment assistance. If a person on unemployment assistance became ill and was not able to declare availability for work on a weekly basis he was given supplementary welfare allowance which was much harsher in its qualifying conditions. Many people also had small means and found during their illnesses that it was taken into account thus reducing the amount they received under the supplementary welfare allowance. Many people receiving reduced rates of unemployment assistance who became ill and badly needed that money, small as it might be, to sustain them found that they qualified for nothing under the supplementary welfare system. Every compliment must be paid to the Minister and the Government for introducing this badly needed reform.

[1565] I welcome the ending of the notorious “dirty dozen”. The Minister received a deputation led by me from the National Union of Firefighters which, along with people in my constituency working for Bord na Móna, were examples of those adversely affected by these measures in the Social Welfare Bill, 1993. I am delighted the injustice which existed for three or four years has been removed and I pay every compliment to the Minister for removing it.

I also welcome the introduction of a widower's pension, thus removing the discrimination which existed between widows and widowers in the area of pensions. There was a pension for widowers who qualified if they had a family but it was a maintenance for their children, not for them. I raised this on previous Social Welfare Bills on Second and Committee Stages and I am delighted the issue has been addressed so generously by the Minister. Widowers are now treated the same as widows in that they can claim maintenance by the medium of a widower's pension as a result of the loss of a spouse.

I welcome the introduction of a 50 per cent supplement to someone caring for a second elderly person. Many adult children found themselves caring for their elderly parents but were only paid in respect of caring for one person. In some cases, there might have been three elderly people and I have known of cases with more than that where elderly people had to be cared for by an adult, usually a family member living with them. It is welcome that there is now a supplement of 50 per cent to care for a second person who qualifies under the carers' allowance scheme.

I propose a further reform of the carer's allowance scheme. I raised this matter before. Many carers, for one reason or another, cannot live with the person for whom they care. They can live beside them or in close proximity to them but not under the same roof. Nevertheless, they provide the same level of care as carers who live with those for whom they care. A provision to extend the scheme to carers who do not live with the person they care for should be included in the Bill and a prescribed distance, necessarily one of close proximity, should be set in terms of where the carer and the cared for person lives. Many members of families provide care for parents, an aunt or uncle and often full-time care for an elderly neighbour, but they do not live under the same roof as the person they care for. While this reform would have a financial implication, the scheme should be extended to cover such carers. Those who are cared for often have to be moved at a later date to one of our welfare hospitals, homes or care for the aged homes. That type of care as opposed to that provided by a carer involves a much greater cost for the taxpayer. I ask the Minister to consider this proposal in the context of further reforms to the carer's allowance scheme.

Another reform relating to old age contributory pensioners should be made. A relatively small number of people, a few hundred or more, [1566] on reaching retirement age do not apply for contributory pension. They may have good reasons for not doing so. Some people who enjoy good health continue to work after reaching the age of 65 or 66 and consider they are not entitled to claim their contributory pension because they are working, but they are entitled to do so. They learn later that they could have drawn their pension for two or three years. Under the old rule, the Minister could decide at his discretion to give those contributory pensioners benefits backdated for six months. It has now been changed to 12 months and that is welcome. However, those contributory pensioners should be entitled to claim their pension benefits from the date they reached retirement age. The Minister should exercise the ultimate discretion. They paid their contributions and were entitled to claim them on reaching retirement age. The social welfare code should recognise that. If contributory pensioners claim their pensions two or more years after retirement age, their pension benefits should be backdated to when they reached retirement age provided they can give a good reason for their delay in claiming their pension, which is often an error or oversight on their part.

The Department of Social Welfare should notify, in writing, persons who qualify for old age contributory pension on the basis of their contributions record and do not claim their entitlements because they may be engaged in economic activity for which they receive remuneration and may wish to continue doing so for another year or two. Such information should be given to that category of pensioner. The Minister and Minister of State should give this matter careful consideration.

I welcome the inclusion of capital allowances or an allowance for capital write-down for means testing, which I have sought for many years. For example, farmers who applied for small farmer's assistance whose income was determined following the deduction of expenses from the gross income earned from sales, subsidies and so on, were, like old age pensioners, not allowed to make a write-down for capital allowances as one could under the tax code. I am delighted capital allowances will be included for means testing. I congratulate the Minister and the Minister of State on introducing this change.

In my contributions on previous Social Welfare Bills I have criticised medical referees employed by the Department of Social Welfare. They treat unfairly the people they examine periodically who are in receipt of disability, invalidity or other benefits. That has been proven because most of their decisions are appealed. They are dealt with by appeals officers usually at oral hearings. The vast majority of decisions made by medical referees are overturned by the appeals officers. The instructions given to medical referees may not have been updated for many years. This area needs to be addressed. I knew a man who was taken off disability benefit on the basis that he was able to work and one week later he died of [1567] a heart attack. The instructions circulated to medical referees need to be updated.

I compliment the social welfare appeals office and the appeals officers on their work. That office is almost independent of the Department of Social Welfare. I have some experience of dealing with the staff in that office as I often attend oral hearings with constituents. I have found them, especially since the introduction of the new regulations which made that office more independent, to be fair and impartial in their decisions. They do excellent work. They do not get credit for it and often unfavourable comments are made about them, but they are highly professional, well informed and in recent years have become more informed of the realities facing the people who come before them.

I welcome the changes to the occupational injuries benefit scheme. The acting chairman and I represent the same constituency which had a mining industry. Many miners in our constituency suffered from miner's lung and subsequently died. Their widows found they were not entitled to claim benefit under the occupational injuries benefit scheme because the primary cause of death of their husbands was not lung disease but perhaps flu — that was often recorded on their death certificates. This reform addresses that problem and I welcome it. I am sure the Acting Chairman, who may have had as many representations on this issue as I, will also welcome it.

Social welfare is not only about increases in benefit. Increases in line with the cost of living must be given. However, I remind Deputy Woods that the across the board increases in social welfare in this year's budget are twice the rate of inflation. When Deputy Woods and his successor, Deputy McCreevy, were Ministers for Social Welfare, I always criticised them for giving increases that did not even meet the rate of inflation. I set Deputy Woods's record as Minister in compensating people for cost of living increases against what the current Minister and the Government has done. We have not only compensated people but have given them an increase at twice the rate of the cost of living index in the past year.

Dr. Woods:  Deputy Connor needs to get his pen out and do some calculations. He will find it is not so rosy.

Mr. Connor:  I have criticised the Department of Social Welfare, which requires further reform. This Bill is a major step towards badly needed reform. I hope the Minister will be here for years to come to continue all the reforms needed.

Éamon Ó Cuív:  I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk about this Bill. We welcome certain provisions relating to equality between widows and widowers. However, I do not thank the Minister for that because under all current legislation, males and females have to be treated alike. It was a remaining anachronism. Before the [1568] provision was announced, I tabled a parliamentary question on the matter. I am delighted the anomaly has been corrected.

In reality, nothing fundamental has been done as regards social welfare reform in the past few years. Some of us thought this Minister would have been a reforming Minister having known what it is like to depend on social welfare. All he has done is tinker with the system here and there.

I agree with Deputy Connor that there is a need to look at the carer's allowance. It should be a money saver. If generous provisions are made for carers in the home we will not have the huge cost of institutional care, which can never replace home care as long as a person can be cared for at home. This Minister has not seen fit to change the rule of having to live in the same house. He has a problem with and is anathema to rural Ireland. Anything which is common in rural Ireland and does not relate to his constituency is forgotten about or denied.

Every rural Deputy knows of the common situation in rural Ireland where over the years, sons and daughters of farmers have built houses immediately adjacent to the family homestead. The houses may only be 50 yards apart and the two households interact daily. As the members of one household get older, the young family in the adjacent house give them more care. At all times, they preserve the independence that most old people like to retain as long as is possible. It is a sensible arrangement. Under current regulations, which the Minister is unwilling to change, unless either the young people move out of the new house or the old people move out of the house where they have lived their lives, they cannot get carer's allowance. That is bureaucracy gone mad. It is about time that regulation which does not pay any heed to normal social relationships, traditions and values was changed.

I want to highlight means tests. Time and again we table questions on means testing to the Minister for Social Welfare. We ask him about means testing and the self-employed, for example, people who may have three or four cows, which is common in my constituency. The Minister is under the great illusion that if someone owns two cows, he is a millionaire. I assure him that a farmer in my part of the country who, after a rigorous means test, has a net assessable income of £6 or £10 and a little social welfare, is not a millionaire. I invite the Minister to come to my constituency and visit the islands, Connemara, Leitir Mór or Tír an Fhia to see for himself what the people there are trying to do.

Fine Gael talk about enterprise and people helping themselves and sit idly by while a pound for pound means test is imposed on small farmers, currach fishermen and those who keep a few guests for three or four months in the summer. This means that unless someone can get a PAYE job, all the self-employed income is assessed at a 100 per cent rate. The net effect of that is that the person who has done a year's backbreaking [1569] work, finds out he is no better off than if he sat at home for the year and did nothing.

Does the Minister have any idea of the hard work involved in shellfish farming or fishing from small boats and the hazards involved? I do not know how he can continue to assess them by a pound for pound means test. I compliment Deputy Woods, who, during his time as Minister, recognised this problem and was dealing with it step by step. He dealt with it in the case of the Mná Tí Ghaeltachta in one of the most innovative and progressive moves. He dealt with it in relation to the seaweed harvesters, to whom he gave an exemption. I have no doubt that if he had continued as Minister, this situation would have been dealt with in a reasonable manner.

The Minister has come up with the most ingenious arrangement which makes a mockery of everything. We have received the old, fallacious, anti-development and anti-enterprise excuse that to do something about the problem would cost money. However, this year the Minister introduced an exemption of £6,000 per annum or £115 per week in the case of a lone parent family, which was a progressive move. It is good because it gives lone parent families a chance to earn some money and move up from the bottom rung of the ladder. However, surely we are constitutionally obliged to treat people equally, particularly families.

The Minister has tried to dodge parliamentary questions I have tabled on this issue. For example, can he explain how a household of a husband, wife and child with a self-employed net assessable income, after a means test, of £115.38 when the new rates come into force next June, is entitled to net unemployment assistance of £3.82 per week? Next door, a family with one parent and one child, with a net assessable income of £115.38 per week, under the new rates, is entitled to assistance of £82.70. I do not begrudge them one penny of it. Will somebody on the Government side explain how two families living side by side, with the same net assessable income, can apply to the same Department, yet one winds up with £78.88 a week less even though there is one less member in the household? Will somebody explain the rationale of having three people living on £78.88 a week less than two people? It is a question that begs an honest answer. The Minister of State looks surprised but that is the way it is. After twice tabling parliamentary questions I elicited the correct information in replies from the Minister for Social Welfare. The Minister of State had better explain it to the people in my constituency.

Someone rang me about a means test which had been carried out by social welfare officers. They asked me why they were being means tested because they were a married couple with one child. I told them the best thing they could do was for one spouse to get rid of the other because under our current social welfare system they would do a lot better apart than if they stayed together.

[1570] As rents increase and property becomes dearer, more and more people on unemployment assistance, particularly in cities, are dependent on rent allowances. As we have operated the rent allowance system there is a pound for pound claw back. In simple terms that means people are caught in a poverty trap because if they get part-time employment and earn above the basic social welfare allowance, they find there is no net gain. Somebody in receipt of £50 a week rent allowance has to get a net increase, after social welfare deductions, greater than the rent allowance before they have any profit from employment. This is the Government of enterprise and progress. My proposal is that rent allowances should not be paid by health boards but incorporated into the social welfare system in such a way that we would have a comprehensive system. We would abolish, once and for all, the pound for pound clawback.

The assessment of board and lodgings against parents' income is another issue that is costing the State a huge amount of money. It could be abolished without any net cost and would introduce equity into the system. We all know the reality of that chestnut. Any unemployed young person who wants to have independent means and is living with parents who happen to work is forced by the system to leave the family home and live in rented accommodation. They end up getting full social welfare payments while the State has to pay their rent allowance. Is this a good use of national resources? If this is considered to be efficient I would like to know how it can be explained. It is adding to our housing problems. Everybody knows this is happening. It is putting pressure on the rented housing sector, pushing up rents and costing us in rent allowances. Everybody knows that no one will sit at home and get £5 a week if they can leave home and receive £67.50 a week plus a rental allowance, but this Government is not doing anything about it. It is incredible.

The greatest reform of all is the increase in the dependent spouse's disregard from £60 to £90 on a sliding scale. Even though I read it several times I could not believe it. It cannot be true. I do not know who worked this out. Maybe I just do not understand but, as I see it, if your spouse has an income of up to £60 and you are in receipt of a means-tested social welfare payment, such as unemployment assistance, you are still entitled to the dependent spouse's allowance which is £38.50 at present and will rise in June to £40. When you go over £60 you lose the whole £38.50 and £6.60 for each dependent child.

The Minister says he will taper it off on a sliding scale between £60 and £90. The difference between £60 and £90 is £30. It still means that a person will lose a minimum of £40 plus £6.60 for every dependent child, while the maximum gain is £30. If you reach the magic figure of £90 you will lose a minimum of £10 for getting an extra £30 income, plus £6.60 for every dependent child. If you manage to get £70 you will have lost an [1571] equivalent proportion, one third, of that amount, yet we talk about reform and providing an incentive to work. If it had been tapered off at £120 at least you would have received 10 pence for every £1 you earn, which is something, but to call it a major reform when for every pound you earn you are still losing money has to be one of the greatest non-giveaways of all time.

This Government has been very unfair to the children of the most disadvantaged in society — those dependent on social welfare. We have all benefited equally from the increases in child benefit. However, it must be noted that since Deputy De Rossa became Minister for Social Welfare not a ha'penny increase has been added to the child dependent allowance paid to social welfare recipients. A millionaire gets the same child dependent allowance increase as a pauper. That is not social equity. When we talk about big increases in child benefit we must not forget that there has been no increase in the child dependent allowance.

We should also remember that it is easy to increase child benefit because the demographic dividend — or to simple people like myself, the reduction in the number of children in the country — has meant that there is no net cost in giving more money because there are fewer children to give it to. One reform that could have been introduced would have been to extend child benefit to students in full-time education up to 21 years of age. This has not been done, yet it needs to be because that is the age at which parents find their children most expensive. This Government cannot understand that, however.

The reforms are more a mirage than a reality. All the old problems that have existed in the system for a long time still remain. We will have to wait until Fianna Fáil returns to office to see major reform in the social welfare code.

Mr. Boylan:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Ring.

Acting Chairman (Mr. McGrath):  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Boylan:  I congratulate the Minister on his excellent stewardship since taking over this portfolio. I have full confidence in him; he is doing an excellent job, having inherited an incredible mess in his Department. The Department is in need of reform which could be effected over a number of years. For that reason alone it is important that this Government continues in office for a further five years to complete its programme.

I pay tribute to the Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Durkan, who is also doing a marvellous job. Most of my representations are made through his office. Invariably I receive immediate, well researched, detailed replies which I very much appreciate. The social welfare payments system is complex and recipients need to have the appropriate facts spelled out for [1572] them. There is need to streamline all facets of that Department, so that all relevant factors are taken into account in assessing people's needs. I am happy that the necessary reforms, which will take some time to introduce, will be implemented.

I welcome the substantial increases in social welfare payments granted in the last three budgets, particularly the most recent one which, with low inflation, will be all the more beneficial. While they are not sufficient, at least it is being acknowledged that those on social welfare are entitled to the standard of income expected within our booming economy.

The carer's allowance is a most important aspect of social welfare. Its recipients care for the elderly, those who handed on this State to us and who must receive proper attention. Tragically, institutionalisation had been the norm over the past 20 years. The trauma created for old people sent to the local county home was not fully realised. Old people feared being put into the local county home. Although I acknowledge the tremendous work done by the staff in those homes and institutions who looked after the elderly we must remember that elderly people have similar feelings to younger people, want to remain in the home they have built, and to be cared for and die in dignity there.

The carer's allowance goes a long way to meeting that requirement. It involves a saving for the State, but those who undertake this work are entitled to recognition by the State. Their services are much less costly than institutions and their attendant expenses.

I do not agree with all of Deputy Ó Cuív's remarks but he touched on the matter of carers and the position in rural areas where many young families build homes adjacent to one or other set of parents, and live as a family unit but independent of each other. Any younger couple in such circumstances will care, but it is grossly unfair that because they are not doing so under the one roof, they will not be entitled to a carer's allowance. That anomaly could be overcome by one or other of the young couple moving in with the elderly relatives. Believe it or not, even if that young couple were to extend the roof of their house, making a corridor between the two houses, they would be eligible for a carer's allowance. Young people caring for the elderly should be recognised and be eligible for the appropriate allowance, an aspect that should be seriously examined.

Means-testing is another problem, particularly in the case of small farmers, who have worked hard throughout their lives ending up with some little savings of between, say, £3,000 and £5,000, which sum could very easily be spent on a month's holiday in the south. Rarely will such farmers take such a holiday, preferring to retain their savings for a decent burial. It is grossly unfair that such savings, not easily acquired, are means-tested. Even if such an elderly couple own a couple of cows, looking after them is therapeutic. [1573] Why are they means-tested? People experience enormous difficulty making a living from 60 acres, yet an old couple with 20 or 30 acres, two or three cows and a few calves are means-tested. It is time that practice ceased, particularly since looking after the few cows involves occupational therapy for old people. In means-testing, rather than the Department going into the nitty gritty, it should examine people's overall circumstances, remembering that their homes are dwelling places involving no great expenditure, probably containing a radio and television, their only means of communication and entertainment.

Another matter brought to my attention I should like examined by the Minister's officials is the case of those people who formerly paid voluntary PRSI contributions. I have had representations in respect of two such people who will reach the appropriate age in November next but who will be nine months short of fulfilling the requisite ten years' contribution criterion. I have made inquiries but I am uncertain whether they will qualify for the contributory old age pension. Having begun to contribute in 1958, now being nine months short of the relevant contributions, surely they could buy the relevant number to become eligible. Since such contributions would have represented quite a dent in their income over the relevant period, there should be greater flexibility in assessing them.

I might revert now to the family income supplement and FÁS. Although I may not have homed in sufficiently on this, I must admit that the schemes being operated by FÁS are excellent and remove many people from the live register allowing them engage in constructive work for which there is considerable demand. The relevant rate of pay is approximately £173 less £5 for some social contribution, leaving a take-home pay of £168, in the case of a husband, wife and four children. Yet I note that the minimum income which would render them eligible for the family income supplement is approximately £250, £205 in the case of a husband, wife and one child and up to £344 in the case of a husband, wife and eight children. In the case of the family income supplement, a husband, wife and four children would be entitled to something in the region of £250 to £270 whereas, as participants in a FÁS scheme, their take-home pay amounts to £168 only. I have spoken to one couple, three of whose children attend secondary school, who have told me they have no social life and simply cannot make ends meet. They thought they were eligible for the family income supplement. If the husband was engaged in some type of private employment — that level of wage being available in many small industries — he could take on other odd jobs to supplement his income. But participation in FÁS schemes precludes him from so doing.

When the family income supplement falls under the heading of social welfare such a family is not deemed to be eligible. If the qualifying limit in the case of the family income supplement is [1574] £250, surely another arm of social welfare, FÁS, should pay what is considered to be a minimum wage. Obviously there is a conflict which should be examined. We cannot have one arm of the Department of Social Welfare paying £250 under FIS and a lesser amount under FÁS. This will not encourage people to take up these meaningful and worthwhile jobs. I am aware of a number of young people who have gone into the building industry, having acquired skills with FÁS.

The Ministers are doing excellent work and people's incomes have increased. There are anomalies but I have every confidence the Minister can deal with them. However, it will take another five years because in the previous ten very little happened.

Mr. Ring:  To those in the Department of Social Welfare, those on the ground, in employment exchanges and those who assess clients I say well done. I do not have much time for the Civil Service in general. I wrote to a particular Department in November and I had to write to the Minister later as I had not received a reply by 1 February. That is not the way the Civil Service should work, it should be efficient and on the ball. The best and most efficient Department is the Department of Social Welfare. I do not say it is always right but it is the most efficient and can respond to the public. I ask the Taoiseach and the Government to take every other Department on a tour of the Department of Social Welfare to show how the Department works, how to deal with queries, problems and public representatives. I pay tribute to the officials in the Department of Social Welfare and those I mentioned earlier for work well done.

I was pleased with the budget as were most people who are in receipt of social welfare. For the first time in many years an increase was paid which was above the rate of inflation. It says much for the Department that 19,000 people who collected social welfare under false pretences have come off the live register. Those who draw social welfare under false pretences are taking money from those who need it. If more money can be saved, more money can be spent on those in genuine need.

Without wishing to get into a political argument I remind the Progressive Democrats that in the west and many other parts of the State people depend on social welfare. Irrespective of what Government is in office after the next election or what Government will be in place for the next 20 years we will not have full employment. There will always be a need for the Department of Social Welfare and there will always be people in need of an income from the State. There is nothing wrong with that.

Since coming to office the Government has tackled some of the difficulties which had not been dealt with for many years. In respect of child benefit, the Government has granted major increases over the last three budgets for which it [1575] must be complimented. There is a strongly held view that, for many years, Governments did not look after the family. For a husband and wife who have three or four schoolgoing children there is no such thing as free education. Every day my children have to get a few pounds because the schools are always asking for help or assistance. We are always contributing towards the upkeep of the school, for extra teachers and so on in addition to what is being provided by the State. It is extremely difficult for the family and I am pleased the Government has recognised the problem. The best way to help a family is to provide assistance in the form of child benefit to the mother. It is right and proper that it is paid to mothers, and it must continue, because for too long men collected child benefit and spent it on drink. The people accept the increase has been generous.

The carer's allowance is one area about which I am not satisfied with the performance of this or any Government. The allowance is paid to those who look after elderly people in the home. I do not understand the reason civil servants and the Minister will not deal with this issue and give carers a proper income. That the allowance is means tested is wrong. Any person who is caring for an elderly person and keeping them out of a State institution saves the taxpayer and the Government a huge sum of money. I cannot understand the reason it will not give carers £50, after which they can be means tested. The Government has examined the carer's allowance and is considering that a threshold of about £150 be written off. This is wrong and I ask the Minister's officials to examine the matter before the next budget. It is cheaper for the Government to give money to carers to look after the elderly at home than it is to put them into a nursing home, a hospital or in State care. I do not understand the reason the Department of Social Welfare has to means test the first £50.

Many people come to my clinics who are genuinely looking after elderly people and doing a good job. Because their husband has a good job they do not qualify for the carer's allowance. That is wrong and the Government will have to examine the matter for the October budget. While I do not know who will present that budget I am confident the Government will be in office. I ask the Minister's officials — they will not be going before the people — to examine the carer's allowance regardless of who is in Government. Any person or Deputy who knows their neighbours and friends will realise an injustice is being done. We talk about the family and the elderly. It was a tradition here that, regardless of who inherited the homeplace, some member of the family looked after the elderly. Italy had a similar tradition and looked after its elderly. For too long we have depended on the State to look after the elderly. I never want to see the day when the elderly must be put into State homes. There is nothing wrong in giving families a generous contribution [1576] towards caring for an elderly member of the family at home.

A problem can arise when there is a dispute about the amount of money people should get from the Department of Social Welfare. Such a dispute must be referred to the appeals system. The system should be examined because in certain cases it takes too long for appeals to be heard. Can something be done to speed up the process? The delays are wrong. People should also not lose their income until the appeals system is exhausted. Usually people's benefits are withdrawn and they must go to the community welfare officer for payments until their appeal is heard. They should not lose their income until after the appeal has been heard and, if moneys are owed to the State, arrangements can be put in place for repayment. That would lead to a more speedy appeals system.

It is great to see people of the calibre of the Minister and the Minister of State having responsibility for the Department of Social Welfare. They understand the operations of that complex Department and they have done an excellent job. I hope they will look at the issues I have mentioned. A welcome development is the provision of benefits for people who adopt children. It is only right that adoptive parents who have paid their contributions should be given the same benefits as other parents. I compliment the Taoiseach, the Minister and the Department for their work.

Mr. Ellis:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Killeen.

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

Mr. Ellis:  The Minister is not present due to circumstances beyond his control but Deputy Eric Byrne will be capable of adequately representing him.

The proposed changes in the Social Welfare Bill are worrying. The rate of increase in the old age pension is derisory. It is equivalent to the price of a pint of Guinness.

Mr. Durkan:  The pint is expensive in the Deputy's area.

Mr. Ellis:  The price of a pint can hurt. The Minister of State is aware that £2.30 per week is the scale of the increase. He might claim there is no inflation but the rate of inflation will outweigh the increase being given to pensioners.

Mr. Durkan:  It will not.

Mr. Ellis:  Time will prove me correct. Under this Government, old age pensioners have been given the lowest increases ever. They are not enough to sustain them in reasonable comfort.

[1577]Mr. Durkan:  It is 110 per cent of the recommendation.

Mr. E. Byrne:  Is Charlie complaining?

Mr. Ellis:  People who are dependent on social welfare are the people who are most in need. We cannot walk away from that fact. Deputy Ring referred to the carer's allowance. I support the suggestion that the carer's allowance should have a minimum element that is not means tested while additional payment should be means tested. The saving to the State as a result of somebody being kept out of an institution is approximately £450 per week, a considerable amount of money. The health board cost of maintaining a patient in a geriatric hospital is approximately £450. Private nursing homes cost between £200 and £300 per week and patients are usually given a subvention. A proper carer's allowance would generate major savings for the State.

The Bill provides for subtle changes. Section 12 provides for changes in the number of PRSI contributions to qualify for certain benefits. There is a need to warn people that they should ensure their contributions are paid and recorded. People should also be notified on an annual basis as to whether their contributions have been lodged with the Department of Social Welfare and the Revenue Commissioners.

Major discrepancies have been discovered with regard to contributions paid during the 1950s and 1960s. The records in the Department for those decades do not appear to be thorough. Every Deputy has had problems trying to trace contributions for constituents who are approaching pension age. That issue should be examined with a view to establishing a system to resolve the problems encountered by such people. The fact that self-employed people are now making PRSI contributions is important. They should be made aware of the fact that if their contributions are not up to date they will be in difficulties when they require retirement and old age pensions.

There is also a need to examine the unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance schemes. In some cases people have a great desire to go to work but there is no incentive for them to take up lower paid jobs. While the FIS and other schemes are helpful, in some cases factors such as the cost of travelling to work make it unattractive for unemployed people to take up those jobs. The Department should examine the possibility of giving these people an extra benefit if they take up work in their local communities for a number of hours per week. Similar schemes exist but they are not being publicised to the maximum extent to give people the opportunity to go back to work. Most of the unemployed want to go back to work and those who say the unemployed are unemployable are being most discourteous to people who are genuinely seeking work and are unable to get it.

There are major unemployment problems in both rural areas and cities. Sometimes one's [1578] address will decide whether one will get a job. It is wrong that the area in which one lives can determine whether one can get a job. That attitude imposes a social stigma and it must be got rid of before it causes long-term damage to communities.

The Bill provides only nominal increases for some social welfare recipients. Previous increases in child benefit were considerable but the increases this year are low. Short term unemployment payments have been increased by £3 for a single person but by less than £5 for a married couple. That is worrying. One must worry about the standard of living such recipients will have. We do not want people caught in the poverty trap to be sent into the black economy. Our unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance schemes must be sufficient to maintain people. The increases provided for in the legislation are not sufficient to meet recent increases in some local authority rents. I worry when I am confronted with tenants of local authority houses seeking an explanation as to why their social welfare increases are insufficient to meet increases in their rents. That is a serious problem.

Mr. Durkan:  That should not occur.

Mr. E. Byrne:  They should get in touch with their local authority.

Mr. Durkan:  That is correct.

Mr. Ellis:  The local authority has a job to do. If it does not have the money to carry out necessary repairs it has a serious problem.

Mr. Durkan:  That is not correct.

Mr. Ellis:  Look at the percentage of social welfare benefits taken by a local authority and look at the effect on recipients and on their standard of living. This problem must be addressed urgently.

The free telephone rental scheme is also running into problems. People in receipt of pensions from outside the State do not qualify for the full allowance. A disabled single person in receipt of an American pension of £80 per week has been told he is not entitled to free telephone rental because he is under 66 years. Qualification for this allowance should be decided on a case by case basis, not on a global basis.

I ask the Minister to reconsider the eligibility criteria for companion passes. Some people in rural areas who are not able to travel on their own have been refused companion passes on very thin grounds, to put it mildly. An appeal system to consider such cases should be put in place and the necessary medical certification from specialists should be accepted. I know a person who has cataracts in his eyes and who has to make regular visits to a doctor in Dublin but who has been refused a companion pass on the basis that he is not in receipt of a blind pension. A person with impaired vision or a very serious heart condition [1579] who has to travel for medical reasons should be entitled to a companion pass. The increases proposed in the Bill are not sufficient to meet the needs of people on social welfare.

Mr. E. Byrne:  Does Deputy McCreevy agree with the Deputy?

Mr. Ellis:  That is a sore point.

Mr. Killeen:  This Bill tinkers around with the social welfare code but does not address the basic deficiencies in it. The entire social welfare code needs to be overhauled and the Government will not be able to do this if it continues to address it from different angles.

The last person who made a decent attempt to overhaul the system was Deputy McCreevy. It is only fair to assess the requirements at that time when there was a different economic climate. The attack on the then Minister which followed that overhaul underlined the paucity of talent among those who mounted it. That attack was shortsighted, dishonest and showed a lack of analysis and inability to face up to the issues. The improvement in the economy since then has to some extent taken the focus off the need to address these issues. Nevertheless, they still need to be addressed in a fundamental manner. I did not agree with some of the measures taken at that time but it was an honest attempt to address the weaknesses in the social welfare code. If we do not address these issues now we may not be in a position to do so in the future. The Government could have availed of the opportunity in the Bill to deal with these issues.

The increases in the basic social welfare rates are paltry and, in a three year context, disgraceful. Those in Government circles who recognise reality will agree with me. Deputy Ring and others referred to the carer's allowance, which has been increased by 50 per cent in cases where there is a second incapacitated person. This increase has more to do with public relations than giving recognition to the work carried out by carers who save the State millions of pounds but who have been badly treated over a long period. However, the attempts to rectify this in the Bill are very weak. This is tied into other issues relating to health boards, health provision, respite places and the provision of care by the health boards. However, it must be recognised that carers provide a very important service but are not being properly looked after.

I wish to refer to a family in my constituency who are trying to build a house which meets the needs of their wheelchair-bound ten and 12 year old children. I have made representations to all Ministers who have a responsibility in this area and who refer to their concern for the downtrodden and those in need. The father of these children is unable to work as a result of an accident. If the family qualifies for the £3,000 new house grant it will not qualify for the £8,000 grant for [1580] the building of an extension to an existing house to cater for incapacitated family members. If the State was genuinely committed to helping such people it would find a way of giving this family both grants. Having raised the matter at every level, the caring face presented by the Government is not reflected in its actions when it is put to the test.

Section 25 amends the provisions dealing with property. In the past the provisions in this area created problems. Many elderly people who worked hard over the years managed to put aside some money, most of which was assessed for means purposes under the social welfare system at 10 per cent. While I welcome the decision to reduce the rate to 7.5 per cent in some cases, the Minister has only made a half hearted attempt to address the problem. He should give further consideration to this point.

This problem could be dealt with through the introduction of schemes in which these people could invest their hard earned income and be exempt from the provisions of the social welfare code. Given that it would apply for such a short-term in most cases, there is an excellent case for doing this purely from a mathematical point of view. If the money was invested in credit union and post office schemes it could be used to benefit the community or the nation as a whole. I exclude the commercial banks from this proposal as I am no great admirer of their modus operandi or systems generally. The Minister has recognised this problem but he has not gone far enough in addressing it.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

  1.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Taoiseach    his views on reports of deficiencies in the Chief State Solicitor's office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5550/97].

  2.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Taoiseach    the steps, if any, he intends to take in view of the leaked reports regarding the deficiencies and inefficiencies in the Chief State Solicitor's office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6348/97]

  65.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Taoiseach    the plans, if any, he has to make a changes in the Office of the Chief State Solicitor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5651/97]

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 and No. 65 together.

As part of the process of reform of the State's legal offices, Deloitte & Touche were appointed in May 1996 to carry out a review of the organisation [1581] and management of the Chief State Solicitor's office. The detailed study, which was the first ever undertaken in respect of the Office in the history of the State, involved extensive investigation and consultation. The report of the study was presented to the Chief State Solicitor in November 1996.

The report was immediately submitted to and considered by Government. At its meeting on 3 December 1996 the Government accepted, in principle, the contents of the report; the recruitment of the number of staff, approximately 20, recommended by the consultants; and that the Chief State Solicitor's office should discuss the implementation of the remaining recommendations with the Department of Finance as a matter of urgency. The Government also agreed to the immediate recruitment of additional staff for the office to undertake duties related to the Criminal Assets Bureau, and to the provision of additional staff for Army hearing loss cases.

Following Question Time on 25 February, I arranged to have the report placed in the Oireachtas Library. Copies have since been supplied to each Member of both Houses. Deputies who have had an opportunity to read the report will have observed that section 6, containing the consultants' recommendations, runs to 41 pages. The detailed recommendations have been considered by the Chief State Solicitor and urgent action is being taken to implement them as quickly as possible. In these circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual detailed recommendations. I am pleased, however, to report that immediate action has been taken by the Government on foot of the report.

Additional financial resources have been provided by the Government in this year's Estimates to enable the Chief State Solicitor's office recruit some additional staff, implement a major computerisation programme, improve staff training and development and enhance infrastructural facilities.

The detailed subhead increases will show, for example, an increase of 26 per cent on salaries, wages and allowances, 204 per cent on incidental expenses, including staff training and development, and 103 per cent on office machinery and other office supplies which include information technology equipment.

Immediate action has been taken to increase staffing numbers. Almost all authorised posts have been filled in recent weeks. In some cases, this has been done through the use of short-term contracts where delays in making permanent appointments were envisaged. Work on an ambitious extension and refurbishment programme for the premises of the Chief State Solicitor's office, at a cost of £4 million, is expected to commence in May.

The Statement of Strategy for the Offices of the Attorney General and Chief State Solicitor under the Strategic Management Initiative will take account of the consultants' report and will [1582] be published shortly. The annual report of the Office of the Attorney General will include a report on the Office of the Chief State Solicitor as well as on his own office, and this is expected to be published in June. I will arrange to have copies placed in the Oireachtas Library as soon as is practicable in both cases.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  Will the Taoiseach accept that lawyers working in the Chief State Solicitor's office are entirely dissatisfied with the progress which has been made on the recommendations contained in the report? Since they have threatened strike action, it is imperative that the Government moves to implement the essential recommendations of the report, particularly in regard to personnel, as the lawyers concerned have expressed the view that there has been a failure to negotiate meaningfully on the contents of the report. Should they commence industrial action it is clear that, at best, cases will be slowed down and, at worst, lost.

The Taoiseach:  I outlined in my reply a range of steps that are being taken to improve the situation in the Chief State Solicitor's office, including a substantial increase in the provision for staff and the recruitment of a significant number of staff in the office. Steps are being taken also to improve the information technology available for use by staff in the office — there has been a 100 per cent increase in the financial provision in that area. Furthermore, the physical conditions for staff of the office are being improved with the £4 million refurbishment programme being undertaken.

Since the report came to hand last November, rapid action has been taken in regard to its implementation. There are outstanding matters in the report upon which decisions have yet to be taken. I understand there would not be any difficulty in discussing the situation fully with the staff concerned and explaining to them exactly what is being done on all of the recommendations. It is important that the staff understand and be supportive of the steps being taken and that their views be heard on the report and on further steps that ought to be taken on the matter. It is fair to say, however, that the Chief State Solicitor's office, which has been neglected over many years as to its many needs, is now being given a very high priority and that, on foot of this report, we are seeing an unprecedented level of action to remedy long existing deficiencies.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  If the Taoiseach's latter remarks are correct, it is extraordinary that law-years in the office should threaten strike action. Perhaps the Taoiseach could reconcile that with what he said. Does the Taoiseach accept that there is duplication and delay because of the nature of the relationship between the office of the Chief State Solicitor, the office of the Attorney General and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions? Would he agree that there should [1583] be a study of all three offices to ascertain the merits of any structural changes and changes in relationships between those offices?

The Taoiseach:  The Deputy is probably unaware of it, but such a study has been under way for some time. A group chaired by the Attorney General is examining how we can better co-ordinate the activities of all the legal offices of the State. That body has met five times so far and is working very actively on better co-ordination between the various legal offices and on making their functions complementary to one another. It is only when one studies the detail of the report and the wide range of steps that have been taken to deal with long-standing deficiencies, which I have only partly touched upon here, that one can come to a judgment in the matter, and any such judgment would suggest that very decisive action is now being taken to deal with deficiencies that have existed for many years without such action being taken.

Ms O'Donnell:  For a long time I have expressed concern about the lack of accountability for the administration or, as it turns out, maladministration in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in particular. Forty-one pages of recommendations are included in this report. Would the Taoiseach agree that, while the report is long on recommendations, it is not a very effective mechanism for accountability? Has there been any assessment in any report of the losses which have been incurred by the State because of maladministration in the office of the Chief State Solicitor? The Taoiseach says that this is the first major report on the office, but the report itself points to six earlier unpublished reports which looked into the administration of the office of the Chief State Solicitor in 1995 and 1996. Will those reports be published, and why were they not published before? Did the Taoiseach have an intention to publish this report before it was leaked?

The Taoiseach:  There is considerable room for improvement in the administration of the office of the Chief State Solicitor. Action is being taken on these matters. The purpose of the commissioning of the report was to identify areas where improvement in administration and other functions of the office could be improved. For the Deputy to suggest maladministration, which is a very specific charge to make, is quite unjustified. I reject it in the case of the office of the Chief State Solicitor and also in the case of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Such a charge is not justified, and I am surprised that the Deputy made it.

Ms O'Donnell:  This report made very specific recommendations for change on the basis of a finding by the consultants that there were major areas of deficiency and delays being experienced in the operation of the office of the Chief State [1584] Solicitor. They pointed to contingent factors such as that cases could be dismissed for not having been filed on time or that criminal charges could be dropped because the book of evidence was not prepared in time. They pointed to significant cost to the State in personal injury matters by litigating up to the end and not settling earlier. All of these things indicate maladministration. I do not know why the Taoiseach is shaking his head. Has the Taoiseach been made aware of any specific case where, because of a fault in the administration of the office of the Chief State Solicitor or of the office the Director of Public Prosecutions, a case has been dismissed, injustice has been done or a criminal has been allowed to walk free?

The Taoiseach:  My understanding is that the term “maladministration” has a very specific meaning and does not simply indicate that there is room for improvement or substantial room for improvement. It is a very specific charge that the Deputy is making and I reject it.

Mr. M. McDowell:  It does not just mean bad faith.

The Taoiseach:  I have no doubt that there is room for improvement in this office and that improvement is now taking place. This Government is committing financial resources on a scale before never committed by any previous Government to improving the situation in the office of the Chief State Solicitor. The services of this office were neglected under all previous Governments, including the one in which the Deputy's party was involved.

Mr. T. Kitt:  The Taoiseach has given a very upbeat reply, but the IMPACT trade union has been campaigning for three years for the reform of this office and for extra staff. Given that the office of the Attorney General was reformed following the Brendan Smyth case, would the Taoiseach not accept that it is unacceptable that it has taken so long and that it is a poor reflection on the Government that action is now being taken following a threat of industrial action? That is the real situation, no matter what gloss the Taoiseach puts on it.

The Taoiseach:  Deputy Kitt is entirely wrong in what he has just said. The action is being taken on foot of a consultant's report and on foot of a Government decision of last December on receipt of that report. The action which is now being taken is in no way related to threats of industrial action.

Mr. Lenihan:  Is the Taoiseach aware of the unhappiness of the technical staff in the office of the Chief State Solicitor who believe that the organisation and management review contains no recommendations for the improvement of their conditions in terms of staff and career opportunities? The technical staff, the law clerks, have [1585] always been a vital cog in the machinery of the office of the Chief State Solicitor. It appears no recommendations have been made to improve their conditions. Is the Taoiseach aware of the unhappiness of the technical staff about the implementation of the organisation and management review to date?

The Taoiseach:  It is important to make the point that the organisation and management review was carried out by independent consultants and any recommendations they made were made on their own responsibility having assessed the matter independently. The Government is not responsible for what the independent consultants did or did not include in their report. That is not to say that the views of the staff will not be taken into account. If there are matters that are supplementary or additional to what is contained in the organisation and management report, these can be considered, and staff views on these matters can and will be taken into account. There is no suggestion that this report is the last word on this topic or that the decision by the consultants to include one topic or exclude another in any way predetermines further consideration of the matter. It does not.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  Does the Taoiseach accept that the existing grading structure of staff will have to be tackled because of the fact that the office is failing to hold on to experienced staff who are extremely necessary in an office which deals with such complex matters as the office of the Chief State Solicitor?

The Taoiseach:  This is a matter that can be considered in the context of the discussions that are ongoing on the further implementation of the report and of improvements generally in the office. It would be appropriate for matters concerning details such as the appropriate grading of particular members of staff to be dealt with, not at the level of the Taoiseach's office but through negotiation and discussion within the office of the Chief State Solicitor itself.

Ms O'Donnell:  What has happened to the proposal which was put forward by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the Government should consider a unified prosecution service to eliminate, to quote the Taoiseach's own words, the absurd duplications and delays which are caused by maintaining the status quo in relation to the Chief State Solicitor being a solicitor for the Director of Public Prosecutions?

The Taoiseach:  That matter is one that is being considered by the high level group on the law offices of the State to which I have already referred in answer to a question by Deputy O'Donoghue.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Taoiseach took issue with Deputy O'Donnell's phrase “maladministration” as if it conveyed some notion of bad [1586] faith. Will he agree maladministration is equivalent to bad administration? In any State solicitor's office, whoever is at fault — we are not talking about ascribing political fault — if a letter cannot be replied to within ten days, it is bad administration. Deputy O'Donnell's phrase “maladministration” is, therefore, fair. My experience of the Chief State Solicitor's office, which is considerable, leads me to the view that clerks are being asked to do complex tasks——

An Ceann Comhairle:  We are having statements from the Deputy rather than questions.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I am asking the Taoiseach if he agrees that clerks are being asked to do tasks that are very complex and that they, unlike solicitors who are free to leave and are leaving in numbers, are prisoners of the system because they cannot use their skills elsewhere? I think Deputy Lenihan will agree the real heroes of the Chief State Solicitor's office are the clerks who do work which nobody else would do for the same money.

The Taoiseach:  The Government is committing financial resources on an unprecedented scale to deal with the problems that have existed for years in the Chief State Solicitor's office. I have indicated an increase of more than 25 per cent in the allocation of staff, 200 per cent in allocations for training and other incidental improvements and 100 per cent in the allocation for information technology as well as £4 million for a new building. That indicates that the Government is committing resources to this subject.

The specific individual arrangements in the office as between one grade of staff and another and the responsibility one grade of staff is asked to take on board in comparison to the responsibility another grade is asked to take on board is not a matter on which the Government should decide; it should be decided through discussion within the office in the best interests of the office. In rejecting the charge of maladministration, I do not believe the improvements in the Chief State Solicitor's office will come without the full support of the staff, who have worked very well under very restricted conditions in the past. To level such a charge at them is not fair.

  3.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Taoiseach    the savings, if any, in his departmental budget for 1997 as a result of no longer having to fulfil EU Presidential duties. [5808/97]

The Taoiseach:  The cost to my Department in 1996 in relation to the EU Presidency was £474,000, from a provision of £500,000. A sum of £50,000 has been provided in my Department's Estimate for 1997 to cover Presidency expenses which were not paid by the end of 1996.

[1587]

  4.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Taoiseach    the number of persons registered as unemployed in each town in County Kerry on the latest date for which figures are available and on the same date in 1996. [5931/97]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. J. Higgins):  Definitive statistics on the level of unemployment are based on the labour force survey. Unfortunately, labour force survey results are not available for towns or catchment areas of social welfare offices. The monthly live register figures include data on claimants of unemployment benefit, unemployment assistance and other registrants classified by the local office of registration. The live register is, howver, not an accurate indicator of the level of unemployment. I propose to circulate in the Official Report a table setting out the number on the live register at each social welfare local office in County Kerry at end January 1996 and 1997.

Office Persons
1996 1997
Cahirciveen 576 559
Dingle 171 163
Kenmare * 815
Killarney 1,900 1,787
Killorglin 839 819
Listowel 1,756 1,741
Tralee 5,074 4,379
Total Co. Kerry 10,316 10,263

*Kenmare office re-opened in July 1996.

Mr. O'Leary:  Will the Minister ask the Taoiseach and the Minister for Enterprise and Employment to set up a special task force to provide the necessary expertise to voluntary organisations in Killarney and south Kerry, including Killarney Urban District Council, to enable them to promote industry and provide employment in Killarney, Kenmare and other towns in south Kerry?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I want to help Deputy O'Leary, but his question is essentially statistical and matters of policy ought not, therefore, arise.

Mr. O'Leary:  The question deals with the serious unemployment position in Killarney and other towns in south Kerry.

An Ceann Comhairle:  There are other ways of raising that matter.

Mr. O'Leary:  It is well known that unemployment has increased rapidly in Killarney, Kenmare and other towns in south Kerry.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy should raise that matter at another time in another way.

[1588]Mr. O'Leary:  Will the Minister respond to my question?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy's question is purely statistical and, in accordance with the procedures of this House, matters of policy do not arise now.

  5.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Taoiseach    if he will give details of the role of co-ordinator to the local drug task forces; whether the primary responsibility of this position is to work with and co-ordinate the activities of the task force or, as appears to be the case, to assist the area operations manager of the health board in implementing the board's service plan. [5930/97]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte):  The ministerial task force report on measures to reduce the demand for drugs recommended that each local drugs task force should draw up a profile of all existing services and resources available in the area to combat the drugs problem and agree a development strategy to build on these. I am pleased to avail of this opportunity to tell the House that all 12 task forces in Dublin are now in place and operational.

The primary role of the co-ordinator is, as the Deputy suggests, to work with and co-ordinate the activities of the local drugs task force in carrying out its mandate. The Deputy will recall the ministerial task force report recommended that in respect of each local drugs task force a chairperson will be proposed by the local partnership board and a co-ordinator provided by the relevant health board. The persons acting as co-ordinators are, therefore, employees of the health board and as such the board is bound by certain requirements under the relevant employment legislation when drawing up job descriptions. It is made clear to each co-ordinator that the most important element of his or her work in the coming months will be to assist the local drugs task forces in preparing and implementing their service development plans.

I understand discussions are in progress between members of the National Drugs Strategy Team and officials of the Eastern Health Board with a view to ensuring that any issues which might arise in regard to the role and work of the co-ordinator are speedily resolved.

Mr. Gregory:  I am happy the Minister is clarifying this point. Does he believe there is a contradiction between the proposal of the ministerial task force, that a co-ordinator be provided to the task force, and the job description of co-ordinators, which specifically states that the role of successful applicants will be to assist the area operations manager of the health board in implementing its service plan and, as an afterthought it states, that it will also be part of their job to liaise closely with the local task force. We [1589] all want the task forces to be a success and I welcome the fact that they are up and running, but they require the full time services of the co-ordinator. Will the Minister agree that while the health board employs the co-ordinator, for the first couple of years at least the co-ordinator should be seconded full time to the local task force?

Mr. Rabbitte:  There may seem to be a conflict in this area — I have only today seen the job description prepared by the Eastern Health Board — but in reality that is not the case. When the recommendation to which Deputy Gregory referred was made by the ministerial group, I envisaged a person being made available on a part-time basis to perform the key role of co-ordinating the various services, which has not been done up to now. The Eastern Health Board has advertised for an entirely new range of personnel under the title of co-ordinator. Those people will be permanent staff of the Eastern Health Board. The board advised me that the job description referred to by Deputy Gregory is no more than an admission that the people involved will be long-term employees of the board. It is clear that the primary role of the co-ordinator in the months ahead — we do not know how long this position will continue, whether it will be a year, two years or five years, or perhaps the problem will never be combated — will be to service the task force and report to the chairman of the local task force.

Mr. Gregory:  I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the matter. However, does he accept the co-ordinator will be employed under the terms of the job description, which does not state the primary role is to work with the task force? It states that the co-ordinator may only attend meetings with community and voluntary groups that have been approved——

An Ceann Comhairle:  This should not lead to argument or debate. The Deputy should ask a brief relevant question.

Mr. Gregory:  The co-ordinator may attend meetings with community——

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is giving rather than seeking information.

Mr. Gregory:  Is the Minister of State aware that the job description specifically states that the co-ordinator may only attend meetings with voluntary and community groups that have been approved by the area operations manager of the health board? Surely the co-ordinator should be responsible to the task force, not to the area operations manager of the health board.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The Deputy will note that the job description also states:

...to assist with the setting up of the task forces on drug misuse, to facilitate and co-ordinate [1590] meetings in relation to task force work, to liaise with local agencies and community groups to ascertain the extent and nature of the drug problem in the task force area, to facilitate the preparation of the development plan, building on existing or planned services in the area, to gather and disseminate information on existing services in the task force area.

It also states that the local area co-ordinator will be answerable to the chairperson of the local drugs task force in the co-ordination of the task force's work. This is a step further than what was envisaged by the ministerial group which published the task force report. Effectively, a person will be appointed in a full time capacity by the key agency involved until the task force is up and running. While the Garda, the probation service and the housing authority are important in this regard, the key agency is the health board.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Is the Minister of State satisfied that the person involved will work on a full-time basis for the task force and not be directed on a day to day basis by the health board? If the co-ordinator is directed by the health board he or she may not be able to work with the community. The health board may direct the co-ordinator to do other types of work.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The day to day direction of the co-ordinator is crucial and is probably the reason Deputy Gregory tabled this question. For whatever reason, people in the areas most afflicted with the drugs problem are suspicious of a number of agencies, but I will not go into the background of that. This structure was designed to allow local communities participate in a solution to the drugs problem and the alienation that exists should be replaced by co-operation and partnership. I accept that some people would be concerned if the co-ordinator was directed by the health board.

Within one year of taking office the Minister for Health appointed a programme manager to drive the fight against drugs in the Eastern Health Board area. Therefore, it is neither possible nor desirable to separate the work of local drug task forces from that of the health board. A local task force could not take responsibility for policing matters. The gardaí should heed what the task force says, but they have their job to do. For the first time ever, a programme manager is employed at a senior level in the Eastern Health Board whose only, but major, task is to drive the fight against the drugs scourge in Dublin.

Deputy Ahern knows as much as I do about labour legislation. I am sure he will accept that, as the employer of the people involved, the Eastern Health Board is required to set a job description for them. I am satisfied it will not cut across the work of the task force. A national drugs strategy team has been set up on practically a full-time basis and we are seeking offices for it outside Government Buildings or a Department of State. If problems arise it will try to resolve them.

[1591]Mr. Gregory:  Does the Minister of State accept I am seeking clarity on this matter? Will he clarify with the health board that the primary role of the co-ordinator will be to work on a full-time basis with the local task force?

Mr. Rabbitte:  Deputy Gregory has been trying to resolve the drugs problem for longer than most Members. I am sure he is seeking nothing other than clarity on the matter and I hope I have given him that. I have already informed the health board on the matters to which he referred.

  6.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the proposals, if any, there are for the mid-term review of the operational programme; if he has met the consultants who are conducting the review; if not, when he will meet them; if he has made a case for the reallocation of resources as part of the review process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6074/97]

  224.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    when he intends to implement the budget to increase skills in tourism; if he has suggested that this budget be implemented as part of the mid-term review; and if he will guarantee that this budget will not be held back during the second half of the operational programme. [6079/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 224 together.

As part of the overall mid-term review of the Community Support Framework and in common with other operational programmes, the mid-term review of the Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-1999 has commenced.

The review process of the Tourism Operational Programme began last year with the drawing up of detailed terms of reference for a mid-term evaluation, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the European Commission, and the appointment by the National Monitoring Committee of a mid-term evaluator. The mid-term evaluator's report was finalised recently and, as part of the next phase in the review process, was considered at a specially convened meeting of the National Monitoring Committee of the Tourism Operational Programme on Friday last, 28 February 1997, which was chaired by my Department. This meeting allowed the various interests represented on the National Monitoring Committee to discuss the report in detail with the evaluator and to put forward initial views. These initial views will feed into the overall CSF mid-term review process and will allow the Government and the European Commission to review the general thrust and direction of CSF programmes, to decide on any strategic changes required and to determine any inter-programme [1592] reallocations which might be required in the first instance, prior to considering changes within individual programmes. The CSF review is due to be completed later this year. Any changes arising from this review process which result in amendments to the Operational Programme for Tourism will be published.

Although I did not personally meet the external evaluator, who is the independent consultant commissioned by the National Monitoring Committee to produce an independent assessment of progress under the operational programme from 1994 to date, he did include my Department in his round of consultations. The Department laid particular stress on the extensive benefits which derive to the economy from tourism and from investment in the sector.

As to the specific subject of increased skills in tourism deriving from the operational programme framework, the training policies and strategies under the programme are designed primarily in anticipation of market-led changes in demand for overall tourism products. CERT's general remit is to provide training for new entrants and the existing workforce to ensure a higher quality of tourism product. CERT also provides training for the unemployed to equip them with technical, interpersonal and other skills necessary to take up employment opportunities in tourism.

Targets for these three training categories both in terms of expenditure and numbers trained are included in sub-programme four of the operational programme and are part and parcel of the overall review process involving the external evaluator and the National Monitoring Committee and ultimately to be incorporated later this year in the wider CSF review process. The desirability of reallocating resources within the total CSF both across programmes and within programmes will be considered as part of that exercise.

Mr. Andrews:  Does the Minister agree the nature of tourism has changed dramatically particularly in recent years since the initiation of the operational programme? He indicated that much consultation has taken place but given the burgeoning tourism industry, there should be a wider consultative process. The Minister might consult niche areas which have yet to be consulted, and which appear to be adrift.

Mr. E. Kenny:  I agree with Deputy Andrews that the nature of tourism has changed in recent years. It is now seen as a major industry, one of the fastest growing in the world. The niche areas to which the Deputy referred are well represented on the National Tourism Council, which I chair and is attended by staff from my Department. In that context, the views of the niche areas are clearly stated in so far as the consultations between the mid-term evaluator and the Department are concerned. The national monitoring committee which will look at the report of the mid-term evaluator represents many of these [1593] areas and will take these points into account. The discussion will be widened in the context of whatever talks take place between CSF and the Commission which will be followed eventually by a Government response to the Commission.

Mr. Andrews:  Having perused the ITIC review of 1996, would the Minister agree it said more consultation is necessary? The ITIC and others have made the point that the status of research has changed dramatically. Regional imbalances, which have been noted, need to be researched, as does the seasonal fluctuation in incoming tourists. It is for that reason the status of research has changed dramatically having regard to the influx of tourists and the domestic tourism market.

Mr. E. Kenny:  I publicly welcomed the report published by ITIC, which is now working on the reasons for the figures and facts in its report. As Deputy Andrews will be aware, one of the main priorities of my Department is to see that each region gets its fair share of the economic boom occurring in the tourism industry. In that sense, the operational programme and the various incentives have been designed to reflect this following the budget. The report was discussed at the most recent meeting of the National Tourism Council, and I await the further report from ITIC with interest so that we may read its evaluation of the reasons behind perceived regional imbalances. These perceptions are heightened beyond reality.

Mr. Andrews:  Will the Minister indicate the percentage of funding under the subheadings of the operational programme expended or committed to various schemes?

Mr. E. Kenny:  The overall spend at the end of 1996 was approximately one third of the total programme target. I would not raise concerns about this because approvals and commitments in the bulk of the programme mean that the spend should be on target by the end of 1999. There are reasons for the delay in expending funds. For example, under subprogramme 1, the cost benefit analysis, the special Commission approval for Collins Barracks, the requirement for greater local consultation there, and planning permission for the major cultural heritage projects must take place. Under subprogramme 2, there has been similar slowness in gaining Commission approval for the national conference centre project together with a lack of large regional projects. These factors have slowed down the actual spend but by the end of 1999, it appears targets will be met. The mid-term evaluator's report said the Operational Programme for Tourism may be judged as being highly effective in terms of comfortably exceeding two of the three major targets — revenue and expansion and employment — and making progress in relation to the third — seasonality.

[1594]Mr. Andrews:  Will the Minister name the independent evaluator or would that cause embarrassment? Is he concerned at the slowness in drawing down moneys under the operational programme? He mentioned three projects of considerable merit. I appreciate the Minister's frankness in his response because that is what Question Time is about.

Mr. E. Kenny:  I have no secrets. The mid-term evaluator is Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick, who was nominated by the monitoring committee. I am somewhat concerned by the draw down in some cases. The independent product management board withdrew some funds allocated to projects because the conditions laid down were not met. It is important that those who make proposals for large or small projects clearly understand that if the conditions laid down are not complied with, the funds will not stand indefinitely.

  7.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that arising from a complaint to the EU Commission, EU funding for the proposed national conference centre at the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin 4, may be delayed and may push the project out of the Structural Funds timetable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6075/97]

  8.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the current position regarding the arrangements for the building of a national conference centre at the Royal Dublin Society grounds, Dublin 4; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6054/97]

  222.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the benefits of a national convention centre in Dublin; the consideration this issue has been given over the past two years; the likely progress and timescale in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6423/97]

Mr. E. Kenny:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 8 and 222 together.

As Deputies are aware, the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-9 makes provision for European Regional Development Fund support for a large dedicated conference centre capable of handling up to 2,000 delegates to be built in Dublin. The tourism potential of a national conference centre has long been recognised and the first Operational Programme for Tourism 1989-93 contained provision for such a development. No progress was made, however, at that stage.

In September-October 1995, Bord Fáilte organised an open tendering competition seeking interested parties to submit proposals for grant assistance towards the development of such a centre and 13 consortia submitted full proposals. These were rigorously assessed by a Bord Fáilteled assessment team and considered by the independent Product Development Management [1595] Board set up under the operational programme to consider such projects. None of the applicants met the criteria which had been set and the tendering competition, accordingly, self-terminated.

Following the failure of the open tendering competition to produce an acceptable private sector proposal, an alternative strategy was pursued whereby Bord Fáilte, under the aegis of the Product Development Management Board, examined an outline proposal from the Royal Dublin Society, RDS, which, as a voluntary body, is potentially eligible for consideration for a higher rate of capital assistance normally reserved under the operational programme for public and similar bodies.

Upon completion of its examination of the RDS proposal, Bord Fáilte, on the recommendation of the Product Development Management Board, commissioned an independent cost-benefit analysis which is required under the operational programme in the case of all large projects. This was undertaken by an experienced UK consultancy firm which was selected by Bord Fáilte on the basis of a competitive tendering procedure. The results were favourable to the RDS proposal.

The Government, having taken into account a number of factors, including the recommendations of the Product Development Management Board and Bord Fáilte and the results of the costbenefit analysis, agreed on 5 November to make a submission to the European Commission recommending formal approval of the proposed development by the RDS. The Government is recommending approval of 75 per cent capital grant aid subject to the existing financial provision for such a project in the current operational programme. The proposal has been submitted to the European Commission for approval as required under the operational programme for projects of this scale and the Commission's response is awaited.

A specific timetable for commencement or completion of the national conference centre project cannot be determined until the proposal has been formally approved by the European Commission and matters such as planning permission are in place. There is, however, no reason to believe the project cannot be developed under the operational programme in accordance with the permissible timeframe.

The potential benefits of the proposed national conference centre are considerable. Europe caters for more than 350 major conventions each year and it is estimated that a minimum of a further 15 such conferences, representing an extra 30,000 delegates, can be secured by developing the proposed centre. When account is taken that international conference delegates to Ireland typically spend slightly in excess of £1,000 per head, the proposed centre would have the capacity to generate additional tourism revenue of approximately £30 million and support more [1596] than 1,500 extra jobs in tourism. It would also help to improve the seasonality of tourism.

Mr. Andrews:  Will there be a requirement to seek planning permission for the proposed national conference centre at the RDS before the go ahead is given? Will the Minister agree it is seen in the operational programme as a flagship project? Is he aware that an objection has been lodged with the European Commission by one of the unsuccessful tenderers? Has he received any documentation on public procurement procedures and, if so, will he furnish me with a copy or place it in the Library of the House? Will he agree that should the Commission decide to investigate the matter the net effect would be to stall or obstruct the project and in those circumstances the position is fraught with danger? If the application to the European Commission is successful can he say with certainty that the RDS will obtain 75 per cent grant aid which he states it is eligible to apply for because of its status as a voluntary body?

Mr. E. Kenny:  This is seen in the Operational Programme for Tourism as a major flagship project which would have the capacity to generate substantial income from successful conventions and to support a significant number of permanent jobs in tourism. The viability of the project depends on the availability of 75 per cent grant assistance from the European Commission. The Royal Dublin Society, as a voluntary body, is potentially eligible for consideration for capital assistance at this rate.

It will not be necessary to seek planning permission in advance and it has not been applied for as a response to the Government's proposal is awaited from the Commission.

I am aware from newspaper reports and correspondence to the Department that a complaint has been lodged with the Commission. The relevant papers were forwarded to it last November. I have not received any formal complaint, although I understand Commissioner Monti who has responsibility for the internal market is to write to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs in respect of the public procurement procedures. I await this letter with interest. I have no doubt, however, that Bord Fáilte, as the responsible body in this case, complied with the procedures laid down.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister will recall that he indicated in response to previous questions about the proposed national conference centre that he expected construction to commence by the end of 1996. He will agree that we are no nearer to it now. Do the objections relate specifically to the public procurement procedures and are they third party objections? Has the European Commission raised any questions in regard to the eligibility of the project to receive operational programme funds?

[1597]Mr. E. Kenny:  The Government submitted its proposal to the European Commission last November. It recommends approval of 75 per cent grant assistance for the RDS project. The relevant documentation has been lodged. I have not received a formal complaint, although I understand Commissioner Monti is to write to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs shortly in respect of the public procurement procedures.

I am aware from newspaper reports and correspondence to the Department that a complaint has been lodged in respect of the procedures adopted by Bord Fáilte for the original tendering competition as part of which consortia were invited to submit proposals. I am awaiting Commissioner Monti's letter to which we will reply as fully and as comprehensively as possible.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister has clarified that the formal complaint is about procurement. Has the EU Commission raised any questions or doubts about the eligibility of this project for EU funding, irrespective of the procurement issue?

Mr. E. Kenny:  I had a meeting with Commissioner Wulf-Mathies some months ago when she was examining regional projects here. I discussed with her the question of the national conference centre. All she would commit to at that stage was to replying when she had fully and comprehensively evaluated the proposal. This complaint or submission has been made to the EU but I have not received any formal complaint nor has the EU Commission complained to me.

Mr. Andrews:  It is not a submission or complaint but an objection. That is how serious it is. We have warned the Minister about the fraught nature of this proposal for the RDS as a conference centre. I have said and will continue to say with the greatest of respect to Bord Fáilte that it is in error on this matter.

God save this country from consultants and consultancies. People seem incapable of making decisions themselves and deal with problems by sending them to some wretched consultancy outside the jurisdiction. If we are to give consultancies, could we give them to our own people?

In the meantime, the Minister uses expressions such as the RDS being potentially eligible for 75 per cent European funding. There is no certainty in that. Can the Minister be sure that it is certain to receive 75 per cent funding? Does he agree that complaints have been expressed in the public domain, especially by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, about the slowness in processing the application for this conference centre? Would the Minister send some of his civil servants to Europe to find out what exactly is the status of this objection? If it is objected to, this proposal will again be delayed and we will be outside the 1999 operational programme limit.

Mr. E. Kenny:  I share Deputy Andrews's views on consultants and many could be bypassed. [1598] However, in matters as important and as serious as this, one must follow the procedure to the letter of the law.

I am in no position to state that this project will receive 75 per cent grant assistance. Under the rules and regulations of the operational programme, proposals of this nature supported by bodies such as the Royal Dublin Society are potentially eligible for 75 per cent funding but I do not make that decision and neither does the independent management board. This is a matter for the European Commissioner and I do not speak for her. The same applies to the independent product management board.

It was a recommendation of the A. D. Little group that European moneys should not be made directly available to the Minister or Bord Fáilte for dissemination but an independent board should make decisions upon it. The same applies in the case of the Commission.

As Deputy Andrews will be aware, the reason there is such slowness is because of this correspondence. It is necessary that people be able to follow through on their legal rights. These complaints or objections, on which I am not clear as I have not been formally presented with them, have been circulating within the legal section of the European Commission for some time. I am anxious and have communicated to the Commission and its representative here that we should be presented with this complaint quickly so it can be dealt with. I share Deputy Andrews's view that it would be preferable to proceed with this matter as quickly as possible but one can only do so in full compliance with the procedures laid down.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister will accept that it is of enormous importance for the development of tourism to have a national conference centre, albeit located in Dublin, which is probably the best location because the centre will be national and because of its size. Does the Minister accept that anyone witnessing the slow pace of this project could not but be alarmed that we may lose out and funding may not be available? Those who are responsible, the Minister, his officials, Bord Fáilte and the European Commission, seem dilatory in the manner in which they are handling this major project. It is of no concern to those in Brussels whether money goes to this project or to some other in Spain or Italy. It is of great concern to us that money is allocated and used for this project and that, at the end of the operational programme in 1999, we have in situ the facility which has been long promised under the operational programme. There is a danger of losing this facility and the necessary funding. Surely the Minister should be more active in pursuing this. He has the full support of the Opposition parties. He should be on the next plane to Brussels to find out what is the delay, clear it and proceed with the project. He should show some action.

[1599]Mr. E. Kenny:  I would like to think I have the support of all the parties.

Mr. Molloy:  Not for inactivity.

Mr. E. Kenny:  Members of some parties might not fully support me. When this matter was brought to my attention in the beginning, we separated the issue of the conference centre from the casino which had become linked with it. The Government concluded its arrangements in respect of making a final proposal for the centre last November and a response is awaited from the European Commission. If the Government had the final say in this, it would be under way but one must await the response of the European Commissioner because she will decide whether to accept or reject this proposal. Its viability depends upon a 75 per cent grant level for which it is potentially eligible.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister has accepted the Opposition claim that his reputation as a doer and a mover is at stake and that it is not looking good for him. We appeal to him to pursue this project and get it approved. He should contact the individuals responsible, find out what is the problem and get to the core of the matter. Too many of these major European projects are delayed in Brussels because of the disinterest, lack of concern or lack of action by Ministers and officials. We are in danger of losing the national conference centre and funding for a major sewage treatment plant in my constituency. It is another example of Government ineptitude.

Mr. E. Kenny:  I thank Deputy Molloy for his compliment that I am a mover and a doer.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister's reputation is at stake.

Mr. E. Kenny:  I communicated my concern to the European Commission representative prior to the national monitoring committee here last week. I would like to see the nature of this complaint and have it presented to us so we can deal with it. I am as anxious as any Deputy that this matter should be off the agenda and that Ireland should have a first-class state of the art conference centre——

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister should find out what is going on.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Let us hear the reply.

Mr. E. Kenny:  ——capable of generating huge income and a substantial number of permanent jobs in the tourism industry.

Mr. Andrews:  If 75 per cent funding is not approved, does that mean this project will be shelved? Will 50 per cent funding be sufficient for a conference centre in the RDS?

[1600]Mr. E. Kenny:  The original competition was based upon a 50 per cent level and none of the 13 consortia which applied met those criteria.

Mr. Andrews:  That is a matter of opinion.

Mr. E. Kenny:  The viability of this depends upon a 75 per cent grant level. I have no reason to doubt that Commissioner Wulf-Mathies will approve the proposal supported by Government and that we will proceed with this with an approved 75 per cent grant level. I respect her authority and she must wait until it is presented to her for decision. I hope that will take place quickly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We have expended too much time on these questions. As we have exhausted the time for priority questions, we may, in accordance with Standing Orders, take the remaining two questions in ordinary time. As the time for dealing with priority questions is exhausted, in accordance with Standing Orders, we may take the remaining two priority questions as ordinary questions.

  9.  Mr. Killeen    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the current position in relation to the Gulliver system; if a new trading partner has been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6076/97]

Mr. E. Kenny:  In April 1996 Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which are joint owners of the Gulliver system, announced their intention to seek potential private sector partnerships to assist in the development of the system in the longer term future. As I indicated to the House on 30 January last, the work of the steering group established to oversee the securing of new partnership arrangements for Gulliver had progressed and discussions with one private sector company were ongoing. These discussions have since concluded and a proposal for a commercial partnership arrangement is now under consideration with a view to a final decision being made as soon as possible.

Mr. Killeen:  Has there been an attempt to make the Gulliver system more responsive to the needs of the industry? I am sure the Minister will be aware that many people involved in providing bed and breakfast and other accommodation have reservations about it and expressed dissatisfaction and disaffection about how it operates. The Minister is aware the cost of pre-booking and the voucher system created considerable difficulties. Has an attempt been made to address those concerns in the context of the commercial partnership?

[1601]Mr. E. Kenny:  Deputy Killeen is aware that the Gulliver system comprises an expansive tourism database which will cater for a wide range of services including accommodation, places to visit, entertainment, activities, events and other similar information. The membership of Gulliver was optional for most categories of accommodation registered with BFE until 1994. The proportion of Bord Fáilte registered service providers in the Irish homes category which includes bed and breakfast accommodation who were members of Gulliver fell from 24 per cent in 1992 to 21 per cent in 1993. However, following discussions between BFE and the organisations representing the service providers, it was agreed to provide Gulliver membership automatically to registered service providers in the Irish homes category and an increase in the registration fee was agreed to include Gulliver membership. As a result, participation in Gulliver increased from 21 per cent in 1993 to 100 per cent in 1994. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is a joint owner of the system and membership of it is voluntary in Northern Ireland. Following finalisation of some matters I hope the system will operate as it was originally intended to. It will be broad and capable of dealing with all that will be required of it.

Mr. Killeen:  The Minister will be aware that people involved in the trade are interested in how this matter is proceeding. He outlined the position that pertained heretofore. Is there likely to be a substantial increase in the levy that will have to be paid by the people in the trade who will be subscribers to the Gulliver system once this new commercial entity has been created with private sector involvement?

Mr. E. Kenny:  I am not in a position to give the Deputy an accurate answer on that. The system is partly owned by NITB. We are awaiting the conclusion of some matters and I hope the system will then become operational, as it was intended. I cannot comment at this stage on whether there will be an increase in fees, but I hope membership will be as high as possible because it will be a good system.

Mr. Killeen:  Will the Minister bear in mind my concerns?

Mr. E. Kenny:  I will.

  10.  Mr. Killeen    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the level of finance which will need to be committed to Tourism Brand Ireland in each of the years to 2007; and the amount of this finance which will come from EU funds, from State resources and from the industry. [6080/97]

Mr. E. Kenny:  As indicated to the House on 30 January last and in a previous statement by the Minister of State to the House on 26 November, Bord Fáilte, as part of its day to day marketing [1602] and promotional activity, is responsible for managing Tourism Brand Ireland including monitoring its costs and the sourcing of funding for the project.

Mr. Killeen:  There are a number of concerns in this area including that of funding post 1999. That will be dealt with in subsequent questions, but it is pertinent to this one. There is a concern in the trade that the cost of the Tourism Brand Ireland initiative will be substantial. It will have to be met from some source. Assuming there will be reduced EU funds after 1999, State resources will have to be invested to a much greater extent than heretofore in this area and the industry will also be expected to contribute. Will the Minister indicate how the industry will contribute? Is it envisaged a levy will be imposed on operators? How is will the cost of Tourism Brand Ireland be met over the next ten years?

Mr. E. Kenny:  The Minister of State gave a fairly comprehensive reply to this on 26 November. He said as he indicated in reply to previous questions on this subject Bord Fáilte estimated that up to £60 million per year is spent on a broad definition of tourism marketing funded by the Exchequer, the EU and industry sources. I had a discussion on this matter at the National Tourism Council in the past two weeks. Frank contributions were made by officials of Bord Fáilte and people in the industry. We do not know the levels of funding that will be available post 1999. That was the subject of some discussion yesterday in Brussels where the Taoiseach indicated Ireland's position.

There has been a major growth in the number of hotels in the Dublin area. I would like those hotels, which are commercial ventures, to understand they must put their shoulders to the marketing wheel to sell the facilities abroad. In that sense I hope Government, EU and industry initiatives will ensure the Tourism Brand Ireland concept will continue into the next century. The stock of material available to Bord Fáilte will last for the next three to five years and it will be well worthwhile.

We do not know what will happen post 1999, but we should begin to discuss that now to ensure the tourism industry understands the importance of its place and that we in Government recognise the part the industry is playing and, I hope, will continue to play in an expanded sense in the future.

Mr. Killeen:  The Minister is aware I strongly support the sense of innovation that underpins the Tourism Brand Ireland initiative, but there is a concern that a large proportion of the £60 million per annum he mentioned may be absorbed in promoting the Ireland concept, that less money will be available for direct selling and the take for people involved in tourism could be greatly diminished or the direct demands on the industry for marketing will become so large that they [1603] could not be sustained. The Minister referred to that in his previous answer. Can he give an assurance that difficulty has been foreseen and an attempt is being made to put in place a long-term plan to address it?

Mr. E. Kenny:  The answer to that is yes. The objective is to reorientate an increasing element of that spend behind the Tourism Brand Ireland initiative. I also chair the foreign earnings committee which deals with the heads of semi-State bodies and various embassies around the world. We are anxious that the branding of Ireland will be done in as co-ordinated a fashion as possible because those people involved in business, tourism and diplomatic circles can influence the way our country is perceived abroad and the business and trade we can do with other countries internationally. We know where we want to go, but to get there we need the co-operation and commitment of everyone concerned and I hope we can get that.

Mr. Molloy:  When the Minister launched the tourism Ireland marketing effort on 11 November he stated the overall theme of the promotion of Ireland would be the motto, “live a different life”. Is he aware the meaning of that motto as perceived in Ireland is different from the way it is perceived in the United States of America? A certain implication is attached to it in the States. Is that theme being used to promote Ireland in America or has it been changed?

Mr. E. Kenny:  I am aware of the sexual connotations associated with living a different life.

Mr. Molloy:  I was more discreet than that.

Mr. Andrews:  We do not talk about that subject in this House.

Mr. E. Kenny:  The marketing in America is done under a different heading. We are conscious of that.

Mr. Andrews:  How successful has Bord Fáilte been in encouraging joint ventures between prominent commercial companies in this country and the tourism brand? My old pet subject of the abandonment of the original logo, the dear little shamrock, is another question.

Mr. E. Kenny:  In one of Deputy Andrews' fine contributions in the House, he said the shamrock was crushed. However, it is alive and well. The new logo is catching on and Bord Fáilte has no intention of abandoning its traditional large shamrock as a central logo. It is in discussion with a number of companies but conclusions have not been arrived at in terms of major sponsorship.

Mr. Andrews:  It has been in discussion for a long time. There has to be an end to these discussions. Can we get this right? I hope the [1604] national conference centre and Tourism Brand Ireland are successful and I do not want to diminish them. We are entitled to ask about the progress of matters which are strategic to the future development of commerce and industry.

Mr. E. Kenny:  The Deputy is entitled to ask the question. The Tourism Brand Ireland concept was initiated at the tourism council and was developed and paid for by the Exchequer, at no cost to the industry. It is a first class product and I know the Deputy attended the national launch. It has been well received by the industry, both at home and abroad. I hope that as people understand its implications and importance those involved in the industry will reorientate more of the marketing fund for Ireland into a more focused and concentrated expansion of Tourism Brand Ireland. It is a great concept and as people understand and get to know it, they will back it financially.

Mr. Andrews:  They will never understand the logo.

Mr. E. Kenny:  The logo depicts two people dancing——

Mr. Andrews:  The poor old shamrock is crushed between them.

Mr. E. Kenny:  ——which is one of the attractions of Ireland. However, I agree that considering some of the styles of dancing around these days, it is difficult to imagine it is like that.

  11.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he will extend the concept of Ireland House overseas as part of the newly enhanced strategy to promote Ireland overseas in view of the launch of Bord Fáilte's Tourism Brand Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5970/97]

Mr. E. Kenny:  The Deputy will be aware that matters relating to the strategic management and deployment of Tourism Brand Ireland are the responsibility of Bord Fáilte. The board's chief executive, along with the chief executives of the other State promotional agencies, is a member of the Foreign Earnings Committee, which I chair, and which also includes senior officials from relevant Government Departments.

The Committee is responsible for ensuring the effective co-ordination of Ireland's overseas promotional activities. Its remit, therefore, includes examining opportunities for the consolidation, wherever possible, of our overseas diplomatic, commercial and consular offices in Ireland Houses.

The Ireland House concept is about bringing together, where appropriate, Embassies, consulates and agencies in one building to provide a single point of contact for anyone who wants to do [1605] business with or seek information on Ireland. Representation has already been consolidated in Ireland Houses in New York, Tokyo, Prague, Budapest and Kuala Lumpur. The Foreign Earnings Committee has also recently agreed to the development of an Ireland House in Madrid.

The Committee will continue to review possibilities for the extension of the Ireland House concept to other locations where it can be justified in terms of cost-effectiveness and the enhancement of the representation of Ireland's interests.

Mr. Andrews:  As a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, I pay tribute to our Ambassadors who have successfully operated a trade mission in addition to a diplomatic one. There is a new breed of Ambassadors who represent this country in a very patriotic manner.

Does the Minister agree there needs to be an expansion of the principle of Ireland House? Does he agree we have been slow in developing this proposal? It helps Ireland that all the agencies serving the nation are under the one roof. The sooner we incorporate this concept in our Embassies or wherever Irish land is located in foreign fields, the better. This can only be done where it is realistic, as the Minister pointed out.

Mr. E. Kenny:  As a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews will be aware of the costs involved in his proposal. There is a Government decision on this matter, going back to 1989, that where semi-State bodies are set up in countries or cities where we have consular offices or Embassies, they should amalgamate and co-ordinate their activities as far as possible.

For instance, the Ireland House concept was opened in New York in 1993 and is the most developed form of it. The accommodation there comprises the consulate, ABT, the IDA, BFE, SFADCo., Aer Lingus and CIE Tours. The Ireland House in Tokyo, opened in 1995, accommodates the Embassy, the IDA, ABT, ABB, BFE and Aer Lingus. The new Embassies in Budapest, Prague and Kuala Lumpur have a trade board representative as a deputy head of mission, making them, in effect, Ireland Houses.

There are also a number of commercial Ireland Houses in London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Milan and Hong Kong, which involve State agencies only and in some instances only some of the agencies participate. There are also a number of agencies sharing Embassy accommodation, for instance, ABT in Beijing, ABT and the IDA in Seoul, ABT in Moscow and Riyadh and ABT and Bord Fáilte in Helsinki. The committee is concerned about the matter. It is a good concept which I and the Government fully support. In so far as is practicable, we will continue our efforts in this area.

Mr. Killeen:  I welcome the progress made in this area. How does the Foreign Earnings Committee relate to some of the Ireland Houses, [1606] particularly where they are part of the Embassy and where Embassy staff appear to be charged directly with some of the responsibilities? I can understand where ABT or the other agencies have specific staff and there would not be any difficulty. In areas where there are not specific staff, how does the promotion of Ireland operate, apart from the Ireland House concept? Is it operational at all?

Does the Minister envisage any benefits to Irish trade from the hopefully successful creation of the Tourism Brand Ireland? I think there will be, but it would be good if the Government had a policy in pursuing it.

Have any State agencies recently opened offices, for example, in New York, outside the Ireland House milieu?

Mr. E. Kenny:  Yes. That is why I referred to the Government decision in 1989, which applies in this case.

The Foreign Earnings Committee deals with embassies, consular offices and semi-State bodies. We co-ordinate activities where possible. However, for instance, Brazil is served from the Embassy in Lisbon. Given the distance, the size of country involved and the cost of accommodation, it is not always possible to have concentrated promotion of Ireland through trade, industry and tourism in all the locations we would like.

Obviously, industry does its own thing in so far as marketing and presentation of its business is concerned. Where possible, this operates effectively through the honorary consular offices or embassies. We all share the same view that we should get the best results for Ireland internationally, based on whatever moneys are available. It is in that context that we receive good reports from the different Ambassadors around the world at the FEC meetings. I intend that we would have a report from a number of Ambassadors at the FEC meetings so they can bring people from the semi-State bodies fully up to date, who in turn can inform the industry of what is happening and what facilities are open to them.

I expect there will be some benefit for Ireland in bridging tourism and business. For instance, 400 American firms employ 60,000 people here. US business people come over here every week and do business on a daily basis. In that context, there is no reason they should not also be in a position to help promote what Ireland has to offer in terms of tourism.

I recently relaunched our honorary ambassador status whereby people in business in the United States can influence their own firms and industries to hold conventions and general meetings here. They can act as honorary ambassadors for Ireland. That is a bridge between business and tourism which I hope will be sustained.

[1607]

  12.  Mr. Cullen    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the role his Department plays in monitoring implementation of policy in the area of tourism; the way in which it does so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6041/97]

Mr. E. Kenny:  The Department of Tourism and Trade, through its tourism division, has responsibility for the formulation of national policy on tourism and for monitoring its implementation. The execution of this policy is a matter for the main tourism agencies, Bord Fáilte, CERT and SFADCo.

Bord Fáilte is responsible for promoting and developing tourism traffic in and to the State in accordance with the Tourist Traffic Acts, 1931-95. Since 1995 Bord Fáilte has been restructured to secure a new focus on aggressively marketing the Irish tourism product worldwide.

CERT, the Council for Education, Recruitment and Training for the Hotel, Catering and Tourism Industry, was established in 1963 with the objective of ensuring the highest management and operational standards through the provision of a trained workforce and advisory service to industry managers.

Shannon Development is responsible for tourism development in the mid-west region, including development of new tourism products and provision of tourist information services.

In their execution of tourism policy the agencies retain day-to-day responsibility for their expenditure and for the operation of the schemes and services provided by them to the tourism industry. The agencies report directly to the Department which monitors their respective performance against policy objectives including overall expenditure of grants-in-aid from the Department's Vote.

The main issues in respect of which the Department is currently developing and monitoring policy are set out in the Department's Strategic Management Statement, 1997-99 recently published as part of the “Delivering Better Government” initiative. A copy of the statement is available in the Dáil Library.

The process of monitoring implementation of policy is carried out by the Department through regular liaison meetings with the agencies and through ongoing contact by my officials at all levels with both the agencies and the sector. This contact is supplemented and expanded in the course of exchanges arising through participation by the Department and the agencies in other consultative and advisory fora such as the National Tourism Council and the National Monitoring Committee for the Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-99.

Overall, I am of the view that the processes which I have outlined adequately serve to position my Department so that it can monitor effectively the implementation of tourism policy. I am also satisfied they are sufficiently flexible and pragmatic to accommodate all incremental changes in policy that are required from time to time.

[1608]Mr. Killeen:  The Minister draws a distinction between the creation of national policy and its implementation and its execution by the agencies. In assessing performance against the policy it appears the Minister and his Department are too far removed from what is happening on the ground. There are many examples of that. One would be the regional disparities which the Minister claims are effectively the responsibility of Bord Fáilte in terms of executing policy. I believe, however, that implementing policy is inherently the direct responsibility of the Department. That is one area where the problems of tourism are not being adequately addressed in this House because it is referred to as a Bord Fáilte matter.

Another example concerns the inspection procedures which have been handed out to the private sector and are creating quite a lot of difficulty, as the Minister is aware. The line which is being drawn between Bord Fáilte and the Department as regards the execution of the policy and its implementation is most unhelpful, and the problems are being allowed to grow.

Mr. E. Kenny:  The Deputy is aware that national policy is laid down by the Minister and the Department. He is also aware that money is then voted by the Exchequer and transmitted through the Department to the agencies, SFADCo, Bord Fáilte and CERT. Without these agencies the policy would have to be implemented by the Department, which could give rise to other problems.

The contacts between these agencies and the Department are sufficiently common and pragmatic to deal with all of this, in addition to which, I have meetings from time to time with the chairmen and members of the boards. We also have the Tourism Council, which acts in an advisory capacity to me as Minister, and the national monitoring committee.

I am not aware of any difficulties in respect of the inspection process the Deputy mentioned. If the Deputy wants to have specific matters raised I will be happy to deal with them. The inspection processes were tendered out to companies on a competitive basis and they implement Bord Fáilte's standards. I make no apology for saying that our standards, irrespective of whether they are in a bed and breakfast or a five star hotel, should be of the highest standard and quality available. This is the imprint which must go on all our facilities and products in order to continuously change this industry so that people will want to return here. That is so important for us.

Mr. Killeen:  I strongly agree with the last part of what the Minister said. Nevertheless, some people say the transfer of functions from Bord Fáilte to some of the private operators has not been as smooth as it might have been, and there are practical difficulties. Some people suggest the very standards which we seek to preserve and improve are not being adequately addressed by some private operators. I will contact the Minister [1609] privately about it. As this is a policy area, I would prefer to have his Department follow it up immediately rather than have Bord Fáilte do it.

Mr. E. Kenny:  When the Arthur D. Little company was asked to look at the question of restructuring Bord Fáilte, it made certain recommendations. The Deputy is aware the board as it operated was unable to deal with all these issues. That is why certain measures were tendered out to various companies even though the Bord Fáilte standards still apply. Essentially, the board's remit is to be an international marketing agency for Ireland. It does that in superb fashion and will continue to do so in future.

  13.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the steps, if any, he will take to ensure continuous development of the Dublin to Belfast economic corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6021/97]

Mr. E. Kenny:  The concept of the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor is an initiative being led by the IBEC-CBI Northern Ireland Business Council. The aim is to enhance the natural tendency of interaction between adjoining large cities to produce growth. The economic corridor is seen as a way of accelerating the development of North-South business thereby adding to the prosperity of the entire island. The corridor concept aims to tackle a range of issues, including the need for improved road and rail infrastructure and the level of contact between firms.

The agencies operating under the aegis of my Department, An Bord Tráchtála and Bord Fáilte, are promoting a number of programmes and initiatives designed to encourage cross-Border trade and tourism on the island as a whole which will further help the development of business on the corridor.

Mr. Molloy:  Does the Minister accept that a large potential market is available to this country in Northern Ireland? We are getting a very small slice, about 7 per cent, of the North's imports and exports. Is there any proposal to establish a suppliers' charter for companies interested in selling goods into Northern Ireland? If the Northern Ireland authorities could participate, it would be a North-South charter, particularly in relation to public procurement contracts. About £7 billion worth of public contracts are awarded annually. Irish suppliers should be helped to get a bigger share of the market in the Six Counties.

Mr. E. Kenny:  The Deputy talks a lot of common sense. We have done a great deal of work on this. The advantages lie with Northern Ireland exporters because the market in the Republic is larger than that of Northern Ireland. However, trade both ways is a good springboard for doing business in Great Britain and in continental Europe.

[1610] A great deal of information is available for those who wish to sell in Northern Ireland, trade there or get involved in joint ventures. I can arrange for this information to be supplied to Deputy Molloy by An Bord Trachtála. In addition, we have also published, through ABT, a number of excellent books and brochures indicating the various sectors in which business can be conducted, giving names and contact references for those who might still be interested. This clearly indicates the volume of potential business. We have actively encouraged these developments in co-operation with Baroness Denton, the economics Minister. Both State agencies are very anxious to co-operate in this regard. I agree there is a lot of potential which has expanded in recent years and which I hope will continue.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister will be familiar with the suppliers' charter established by the Government procurement agencies in Northern Ireland and will have received a request from IBEC to actively promote the establishment of a North/South suppliers' charter to which my supplementary question related, although it was not mentioned by the Minister in replying.

Mr. E. Kenny:  I am not sure what Deputy Molloy means by the suppliers' charter. However, I can assure him that information is available in respect of the sectors in which various industries are interested in conducting business North and South, indicating the relevant contacts and personnel in order to exploit the undoubted market potential. While it may be questionable whether that could be described as a suppliers' charter, that information is available, some of which I will have transmitted to the Deputy.

  14.  Mr. Killeen    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he has responded to calls to establish a regular and fixed schedule of meetings with Bord Fáilte in relation to the discharge of the board's advisory functions; if so, the result to date of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6032/97]

  36.  Mr. M. Brennan    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he has responded to calls to establish a regular and fixed schedule of meetings between himself and Bord Fáilte in view of the statutory responsibilities of Bord Fáilte to advise him on tourism matters; if he has established such a regular and fixed schedule of meetings; if he sees merit in the establishment of such a regular and fixed schedule of meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5969/97]

Mr. E. Kenny:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 36 together.

Though not on any fixed inflexible basis, I meet the board of Bord Fáilte, who have statutory responsibility for execution of tourism policy, from time to time, to discuss Government policy, [1611] its implementation and possible directions for future policy.

In addition, there are regular and frequent meetings between my Department and Bord Fáilte at senior official level to discuss ongoing tourism policy matters as well as day to day contact at all levels over a wide range of issues.

Both the chairman and director general of Bord Fáilte are also members of the Tourism Council and participate fully in the council's deliberations. The council meets at least three times a year and acts as the national forum for consultation with the industry as well as in an advisory capacity to me on tourism policy.

Mr. Killeen:  In view of the radical changes that have taken place in tourism in recent years I am somewhat surprised to learn there is not a fixed schedule of meetings between the Minister, his advisers and Department on the one hand and Bord Fáilte on the other.

The other part of my question has to do with whether the role or remit of Bord Fáilte has changed to the extent that the relevant legislation warrants further amendment. The Minister referred to the Tourism Council, in addition to which there are the National Monitoring Committee and a number of bodies whose roles have become much wider than heretofore. Does he agree that, in some respects, the role of Bord Fáilte has changed from being the body in charge of promoting and marketing Ireland as a tourist venue to one quite different from that originally envisaged? Would the Minister comment on how best he and his Department can keep tabs on developments and, in particular, relate to Bord Fáilte?

Mr. E. Kenny:  Meetings take place between senior officials of my Department and Bord Fáilte every six to eight weeks, the next meeting being due to take place on 10 March. The National Tourism Council is a voluntary body comprising representatives nominated by the tourism industry and its various sectors and others nominated by the Minister. It is merely an advisory body. It is by no means a statutory committee and no remuneration is involved. The National Monitoring Committee chaired by my Department is just that, and deals with matters appertaining to operational programmes. Its first meeting on Friday last was called specifically to deal with the mid-term evaluator's report. These are distinct committees or councils which act in an advisory capacity in respect of which there is no need for any legislative amendment.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing [1612] Order 21 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Martin — the need to provide emergency funding to St. Mary's Special School in Rochestown, Cork to ensure the provision of a proper heating system; (2) Deputy Batt O'Keeffe — the need to provide funding for the replacement of the heating and electrical system at St. Mary's Special School, Rochestown, Cork given that the school has been closed on a number of occasions due to sheer cold in the classrooms; (3) Deputy Lynch — the need to devise a system whereby all exclusions from school are notified immediately to the Department of Education; (4) Deputy Ring — the need to instruct the Western Health Board to appoint a dentist for the Belmullet area, County Mayo, either in a temporary or permanent capacity, in view of the delays in dental treatment for young people in the area; (5) Deputy Seán Ryan — the effects of the phasing out of duty free facilities in 1999 and the need for the Government to reactivate this issue within the European Union; (6) Deputy Hugh Byrne — the urgent need for remedial action in view of the coastal erosion at Cullenstown, County Wexford; (7) Deputy Ó Cuív — the need to ensure that alternative training and employment is obtained for the workers who were laid off recently from the Farah plant in Galway and that a special task force be set up to oversee this work; (8) Deputy Leonard — the allocation of the biomass waste contract on Thursday, 27 February 1997; (9) Deputy Power — the cost to the Army of injuries caused to soldiers' hearing; (10) Deputy Sargent — the need to meet Fingal County Council and various representative bodies to establish a properly resourced harbour authority for Skerries and Balbriggan prior to the vesting of the two harbours in Fingal County Council; (11) Deputy Shortall — the need to put the home help service on a proper footing in order to ensure standardisation of service and rates of pay; (12) Deputy Joe Walsh — the inadequate transport and ferry services to cater for our live cattle export trade; (13) Deputy Molloy — the use of inferior UK reinforced steel being dumped on the Irish market and being used extensively in farm buildings grant-aided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; (14) Deputy Raphael Burke — the need for a total rethink by the Government of its decision to construct a refuse burning incinerator/power station in Fingal, County Dublin; (15) Deputy Tom Foxe — the matter of REP scheme agents and their qualifications; and (16) Deputy Lawlor — the need to clarify the position regarding drug addiction treatment programmes by the Eastern Health Board in the Blakestown and Mountview areas of Dublin 15.

The matters raised by Deputies Martin, Leonard, Joe Walsh and Power have been selected for discussion.

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

[1613]Mr. Killeen:  Prior to the adjournment of this debate I referred to the need to ensure that low paid workers have their income supplemented. The family income supplement is the appropriate vehicle by which this is achieved. That supplement has not been addressed adequately in this debate and warrants further examination by the Minister.

One question we must face up to is how national prosperity should benefit those most in need. An example of its failure to do so is to be found in the position relating to butter vouchers when widows, pensioners, carers and the unemployed had a much appreciated benefit very much reduced. This appears miserly in the context of the national finances.

This Bill fails to bring forward new proposals such as the initiatives of my colleague, Deputy Woods, in respect of the back to work allowance, second chance education and so on. There is need for a number of such initiatives to address anomalies in the system and create a new type of social welfare system more responsive to the needs of the late 1990s. I am disappointed the Bill neither addresses these matters nor introduces initiatives in this area. I am deeply concerned at the undermining of the social insurance fund which has a deficit of £114 million. Clearly it cannot continue. There is no way in which the system can survive the failure to put sufficient revenue in place.

Pensioners still have to pay the 1 per cent PRSI levy which is niggardly and unfair. Questions are being asked about the value of contributory State pensions. This must be addressed in the overall context of the social welfare system and pensions generally. Difficulties still surround the disabled person's maintenance allowance and its transfer to the social welfare system. It is not working well and is a difficult area to address when individual problems arise. The issue of individual pensions for adult dependants will have to be addressed in the near future in the interests of equity and fair play.

Each year a problem arises in respect of those who have fewer than ten years contributions at the age of 66 and an attempt will have to be made to address that matter. It occurs because people were over the age of 56 when the scheme commenced. There seems to be an attempt to give them a reduced pension but I am not satisfied that it sufficiently addresses——

Mr. Durkan:  I can inform the Deputy about that matter.

Mr. Killeen:  I am glad the Minister has an answer to at least one question. There is an effort made in this Bill, more than others, to recognise the problem and to make a half hearted attempt to address it. This is a dishonest attempt in that it fools people rather than benefits them. The Government may have correctly identified the problem but, in seeking to address it, justice has not been done to those in need.

[1614]Mr. Bree:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Bradford.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Mr. Bree:  I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to this debate. I have noticed in my time here that the annual debate on the Social Welfare Bill changes little from year to year. The content of the Bill is different but the response of both Government and Opposition speakers differs little each year. Put simply, the Government sets out to defend the changes it has introduced while the Opposition focuses its comments on measures the Government has not addressed. The possible exception to this process was the Social Welfare Bill introduced by Deputy McCreevy in 1992 which must have had even his backbenchers reeling in horror. For my part I do not intend to deviate from the norm.

I welcome the Bill for two reasons. The first is it contains a series of welcome measures. Foremost among these is the initiation of the pro rata pension. This provision will further legitimise the social insurance system by ensuring those who contribute to the system, even on an intermittent basis, actually benefit. There are other individual measures of note and I hope to have time to refer to them later. The second reason the Bill is significant is it makes further progress towards rationalising what was a complex and unwieldy social welfare system, a hallmark of the approach of the Minister and the Government to social welfare. As Members we often underestimate the extent of the problem for those who do not interact with the system regularly.

I welcome the Minister's intention to establish a new social assistance payment to be known as sickness allowance for people who become ill for short periods without the necessary benefit requirements. This payment fills a gap in the social welfare system. In the past, people were told no payment was appropriate and that responsibility for a solution, that is supplementary welfare, did not lie with the Department of Social Welfare but with the Department of Health through the relevant health board. I am grateful that both these problems have been addressed by the Government.

I welcome the extent to which the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, has been able to proceed towards meeting the appropriate limits for social welfare payments, as outlined by the Commission on Social Welfare and recently confirmed as a target to be attained in the social element of Partnership 2000.

Already we have witnessed the impact which the rates of old age pension have had. In some cases these are running at 108 per cent of the amount recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare. The result has been considerable net immigration by older British citizens, Irish people and people of non-Irish origin. They benefit under our pension and supporting free [1615] schemes. The figures are not provided by the Department of Social Welfare but by the Department of Social Security in the UK.

I welcome also the further improvements in child benefit. This is an area in which there has been considerable improvement not only since the Government came to office when for some families the rates increased by 50 per cent but since my party came to office in 1993. Deputy Harney and her colleagues consistently reiterate that the choice facing the electorate is whether her party or mine will form part of the next Government. She is being presumptuous but if she is right the public need to examine closely both parties' record in the area of child benefit.

Earlier speakers correctly identified the key role played by child benefit and the extent to which it is relied upon by mothers. On child benefit at least, the political record is clear. The Progressive Democrats Party cannot be trusted. Despite the whining of the Progressive Democrats, the policy of concentrating resources for child income support on child benefit which has been a feature of the last two budgets, is continued by this Government. This approach is in line with the recommendations of the expert group on the integration of tax and social welfare and the interim report of the Commission on the Family and is consistent with the commitment in the Programme for Government and the thinking in many earlier reports. The approach involves increasing child benefit as part of a planned strategy of reforming child income support and removing disincentives.

There is no doubt child benefit is the best mechanism for supporting families and tackling poverty. It is given to all families with children, especially large families who are at greatest risk of poverty. It is paid mostly to women who spend it mainly on buying food, clothes, shoes and so on for the children and the household. That the payment is universal and non-taxable and not affected by taking up employment means it has no negative employment effects in terms of unemployment or poverty traps.

The Bill provides for an increase of £1 per child per month for each of the first two children and £5 per child for the third and subsequent children. The new monthly rates will be £30 each for the first two children and £39 for each child thereafter. This will target greater resources at larger families. A family of three children will receive £99 per month and a six child family £216 per month from September. Since the Government came to office a three child family has received a 52 per cent increase in child benefit while a five child family has received a 54 per cent increase. This record stands in stark contrast to that of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. In their last budgets they increased the two child benefit by a grand total of 72 pence and £1.50. In 1991, a four child family received approximately £70 per month. This year the same family will [1616] receive nearly double that amount, £138 per month.

The issue of the family has long been associated with fringe right wing groups who pronounce themselves the only people capable of representing the interests of the family. Judging by last weekend's comments, these groups continue to wreak havoc in Fianna Fáil. The truth is, however, that families have fared better under left wing parties than under conservative parties.

I welcome the £10 increase in the threshold for payment of family income supplement and the fact that from June, in accordance with the provisions of Partnership 2000, family income supplement will be payable on income net of PRSI or any other relevant superannuation payments. Even more important is the effort this Government has put into increasing the take up of family income supplement which plays a valuable role in removing poverty traps for lower paid working families. It is of little use if it is not taken up by the families who are entitled to it. The Government has gone to considerable lengths to increase the take up of the supplement and I am pleased the recent tax allowance certificates issued to taxpayers contained details about it. The Minister for Social Welfare and the Minister for Finance deserve congratulations for this development.

The Bill gives effect to the changes announced in the social welfare code in the budget. The budget had two aims: to continue the Government's commitment to reducing the burden of taxation on ordinary taxpayers while promoting social solidarity and mobility. I welcome the reduction in the key social insurance rate from 5.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent. It is a particularly effective way to reduce taxation for those who need it most. The social welfare increases will, in some cases, be almost twice the rate of inflation. Despite concerns expressed about the inflation rate, it continues to stubbornly conform to many commentators' expectations.

I approve of the Minister's decision to relax the means test applying to the savings of old age pensioners. Members who represent remote rural areas are aware of the need for progress in this regard. Two developments are required. The first is the relaxation of the means test rules which the Minister has embarked upon. Second, and of equal importance, we must inform older people whose savings do not amount to much that the rules hardly apply to them. The Minister is also moving in the right direction with regard to the carer's allowance by removing effective penalties on carers which exist within the system. The system will no longer discriminate against incapacitated people who are prevented from pursuing rehabilitation by a over-stringent means test.

This is a good Bill. The key benchmark by which a social welfare Bill should be gauged is whether it makes the system more user friendly for its clients and whether its measures advance the fate of those to whom they apply. The Bill succeeds in both areas. That is not to say there are not issues which need to be addressed further. [1617] The Minister of State admitted there were and this will remain the case not only after this Bill but after next year's Bill. I look forward to this Government introducing next year's Bill so further substantial progress can be made in the social welfare area.

Mr. Bradford:  I concur with much that the previous speaker said, particularly his anticipation of the 1998 Bill being introduced by the same Government.

There was a time when social welfare was seen as a scheme of last resort. It was designed for the poorest of the poor and the source of small amounts of money for people who had nothing. However, social welfare has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. It is a now a Department which not only looks after the needs of the poorest in society but also plays a proactive role across a number of areas in society. It plays a genuinely pro-economic and pro-development role. Progress in the past three years in streamlining the system, introducing new schemes where necessary and improving rates has resulted in a better social welfare system and in more people, particularly those most in need, obtaining a greater share of the resources being created.

Everybody is pleased the country is progressing economically. However, it is important that when the economy is booming, or exploding as we are told, we try to maximise the resources available to those most in need. This Bill continues our progress in that regard and I welcome its provisions.

I welcome the decision to introduce an averaging system for contributory pensions and to extend pension cover to people with a minimum annual average of ten contributions. This is a progressive and important change because the previous minimum average was 20 contributions. The Minister of State said over 6,000 people will benefit immediately, while an additional 2,000 people will benefit annually.

However, I seek clarification from the Minister of State on behalf of self-employed people who have been paying PRSI but have not managed to accumulate ten years of contributions. Members will be aware from constituency clinics of people who paid PRSI contributions for nine years and 11 months, even for nine years, 11 months and two weeks, but who did not qualify because they did not have ten years of contributions. Could the Minister examine the possibility of introducing a pro rata pension for such people? The only benefit to which these people are entitled at present is a refund of a share of their PRSI contributions. If ten years is the cut off point, we should endeavour to introduce some assistance or reduced payment for people who have between nine and ten years of contributions. I hope progress can be made on this matter, which I brought to the Minister's attention on previous occasions.

I also welcome the decision to change the period for which backdated social welfare payments can be made. The previous maximum limit was [1618] six months and this has been extended to 12 months. It is one of the strengths of our political system, although I am the first to criticise its clientelism, that Members are aware of cases where people did not claim their entitlements on time. I therefore welcome the extension of the maximum limit. However, does the Minister have any proposals to cater for people who should be allowed to claim backdated payments for periods of up to three or four years? Media reports suggested the Department intended to pay all arrears due since the original eligible date and that the proposal would cost up to £6 million. Some of the cases date from before the establishment of the office of the Ombudsman. I do not know if a decision has been made but we should try to be generous to people in that position.

We should adopt a generous approach to the few dozen people who, through no fault of their own, submitted their application forms too late. In some cases people were unaware that they were eligible for inclusion in schemes. They should be paid the arrears owed to them by the State for the past four or five years. If a taxpayer was remiss in making his tax returns the Revenue Commissioners would not be slow in seeking the money due to them and if he did not pay his PRSI contributions the Department of Social Welfare would not be remiss in seeking payment. These clients of the Department of Social Welfare are legally entitled to this money and they should be paid. I ask the Minister to check the figures and to make provision for this once-off payment to these people.

I welcome the improvement in the carer's allowance scheme. While it is a modest improvement in the sense that it relates to a regulation, it will be of assistance to those carers looking after two elderly or ill relatives. I welcome the increase in the allowance and the extension of the eligibility criteria. However, one must look at the issue from a cold economic statistics point of view and take into account the savings made by the State in not having to care for elderly or sick people in hospital at a cost of between £200-£300 per person per week. I welcome the improvements in the scheme since its introduction but I question if these are a sufficient response. In the future many more elderly people will require full-time care and attention. We can respond to this demand by building more nursing homes and providing more beds for elderly people but a better response would be to put in place an adequate carer's allowance scheme which will ensure the maximum number of people are looked after in their own homes.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, and the Minister of State, Deputy Durkan, on their proactive approach to the social welfare system and on ensuring it works better for recipients. I look forward to the introduction of next year's Social Welfare Bill by the same successful team.

[1619]Mr. Kirk:  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I wish to focus on a few specific areas rather than drift over the entire Bill.

The two areas within the social welfare code which need to be addressed are the family income supplement and payments to widows and widowers. It may not be attractive for many people to take up low paid employment depending on family circumstances, eligibility for secondary benefits etc. The family income supplement is a worthwhile initiative and should be used to a much greater extent in encouraging people to take up work. Clearly this would involve the allocation of more funding. If people can derive the same income from social welfare as they do from low paid employment then this has obvious implications for the economy. A case can be made for increasing the family income supplement to make it more attractive for people to take up work.

We all lament the seemingly intractable problem of long-term unemployment. Area Development Management Limited has responsibilities in this area, while the Combat Poverty Agency has philosophical responsibilities. However, the reality is that we have not made any tangible impact on the number of long-term unemployed who mainly, but not exclusively, reside in large urban centres. The economy is doing well as a result of prudent management by Governments in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. In many respects the economy could operate on autopilot as a result of the sound foundations laid during that time, yet the huge number of long-term unemployed people is still a social phenomenon. Despite the introduction of apparently worthwhile initiatives we have not made any impact on this problem, which must be addressed urgently. If the family income supplement was regarded as being in the income buffer zone a far greater and more influential role could be carved out for it.

I am aware from the work in my clinic that the widow's pension is not adequate to enable a widow to look after a young school-going family, meet mortgage payments and deal with a range of domestic responsibilities. This issue should be reconsidered urgently. Widows who have no immediate family and live on their own have to depend on the personal rate of pension. This is not adequate and I am very surprised the Minister did not address this issue.

On 1 October last people in receipt of a disabled person's maintenance allowance from health boards were transferred to the disability allowance scheme. I raised this matter on the Adjournment because of the number of complaints I received from recipients who have to go to the post office to collect their disability allowance. A mildly mentally handicapped person who has to trudge to the local post office to collect his weekly payment could easily be robbed on his way home. This is a very real risk for recipients. The Minister said he would review the arrangement. I do not know if the Department has had [1620] an opportunity to review the scheme and, if not, it should do so as a matter of urgency.

The social insurance scheme for the self-employed is a worthwhile initiative introduced by my colleague, Deputy Woods, when he was Minister for Social Welfare. A previous speaker referred to the possibility of introducing a pro rata payment arrangement for people who did not complete the minimum payment of ten years' contributions. The introduction of such a payment arrangement in other areas is welcome and would be beneficial if it were extended to the self-employed scheme.

The carer's allowance, again introduced by Deputy Woods when he was Minister, is a very worthwhile initiative. We are all familiar with the considerable costs involved for families when elderly parents require private nursing home care or need to be institutionalised because of old age or infirmity. The introduction of the carer's allowance was an innovative measure but, while there has been a gradual extension of the scheme, there is room for a further extension. We should set the objective of caring for the elderly in a home setting for as long as possible. The carer's allowance has afforded that opportunity in many circumstances and, with a further extension of the scheme, it may be possible to care for even more people in such a setting.

The Minister for Social Welfare has failed to identify the serious difficulties faced by the long-term unemployed. It may sound contradictory that a payment under the social welfare code could contribute to getting people back to work, but if more resources were allocated to family income supplement, it might be possible to get more people back to work. I urge the Minister to consider that possibility.

Mr. Creed:  I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Social Welfare Bill and welcome a number of the initiatives contained therein. The rates of increase proposed in the Bill, varying from 4 per cent to 7 per cent, are welcome. We can have many philosophical debates about the social welfare system and its impact on the economy and the labour force, having regard also to the Report of the Commission on Social Welfare, but the bottom line for the people dependent on social welfare payments is the additional money they will have in their pockets. Rates of increase close to three times the level of inflation are particularly welcome.

The hallmark of the Minister's stewardship has been the focusing of resources on eliminating poverty traps, particularly for families. In that respect the increases in child benefit are welcome. Members of this House are familiar with the dilemma faced by many families in our constituencies in terms of taking up job opportunities or remaining on social welfare. The significant increases in child benefit, coupled with the improvements in family income supplement, go a long way towards making participation in the [1621] working economy more attractive, thereby opening the door to social inclusion.

Over the years people who found themselves, through no fault of their own, entirely dependent on social welfare for their incomes were largely excluded from participation in society, but by virtue of a range of initiatives, including the back to work allowance scheme, family income supplement and the significant increases in child benefit, their quality of life has been significantly enhanced.

Opposition speakers referred to paltry increases proposed in the Bill. None of us, on becoming old age pensioners, would like to be dependent on £78 per week. There will never be enough resources. We have never had a Social Welfare Bill that was not criticised by the Opposition because of its meagre increases and championed on this side of the House by front and backbenchers. Such an adversarial system ensures the social welfare agenda is not forgotten in this House and that the Minister for Social Welfare responds to our concerns in that regard on an annual basis. All things being equal, the Bill makes progress in an area where considerable ground remains to be made.

The reduction in the numbers of people signing on represents significant progress which is due to a number of initiatives, including our buoyant economy. There are now 30,000 fewer people signing on, with an additional 100,000 at work compared to the figure three years ago. That progress is due also to the deliberate steps taken by the Department of Social Welfare in the closing months of 1996, and which continue to be taken, to eliminate fraud in the social welfare system. Prior to that we had an annual debate on whether the live register or the labour force survey gave a truer indication of the levels of unemployment.

The measures taken following the study by the Central Statistics Office at the end of last year clearly indicate that there was a significant level of abuse. Many of us in this House have met people in our constituency clinics who, when confronted by a social welfare officer, knew that the game was up in terms of claiming unemployment benefit. That effort must continue. Not a week goes by that somebody does not come to one's clinic who has received a letter from the Department of Social Welfare asking them to outline what efforts they have made to obtain work, whether they wish to avail of the services of the social welfare jobs facilitator, and whether they are registered with FÁS. This constant contact — I would not call it harassment — by the Department of Social Welfare in an effort to help people to find their way off the social welfare register in a structured manner is positive, and it has had the desired effect of bringing abuses of the social welfare system to light, with the result that many people have voluntarily signed off.

Although a significant number of jobs have been created, unemployment remains stubbornly high. One reason is the significant increase in participation [1622] of women in the workforce which is a relatively new phenomenon here, although we are still at the bottom of the European league table in that regard. We have to face the reality that that will continue to increase. Returned emigrants are also taking up many job opportunities that arise. There is also a problem with the hard core of persons who have a low level of education and poor skills and who remain unattractive to employers. A debate is raging currently between the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed and a representative of the business community on foot of a recently published report in which such people were unfairly and unjustly referred to as social misfits. For ISME, the representative group concerned, this was an attempt to get a headline which went one step too far. It was regrettable, but if it serves to focus attention on the problem of long-term unemployment, it is welcome.

We have to question the effectiveness of the role played by the State training agency, FÁS, in trying to construct a meaningful route back into employment for in excess of 100,000 people who have been unemployed for over three years. It raises the question whether FÁS should have its role clearly defined and whether two distinct agencies should be established, one to deal with employers' need of ongoing training and retraining for their employees and another to deal specifically with long-term unemployed people and construct meaningful courses for them. Community employment schemes involve people in working for local authorities and voluntary organisations, but there is little meaningful training built into those schemes, and there is continuous recycling of the same people on the schemes. There is a need for innovation in the types of schemes being constructed by FÁS for the long-term unemployed.

It is ironic that this criticism can be made at a time when we are facing a serious skills and graduate shortage, with the Government actively considering inviting tenders from colleges outside the State to meet demands in the telecommunications, electronics and language skills areas. Much as we need to capitalise on the desire of employers to come here by providing the types of graduates they need, we must not lose sight of that core of long-term unemployed people, and this is one of the areas in which the Department of Social Welfare has been most disappointing over the past few years. I hope we can redouble our efforts to make meaningful progress in that area.

I want to deal with the improvements in the budget for pensioners. The previous speaker referred to the very significant concessions in the budget introducing pro rata pensions for self-employed people who made PRSI contributions. I would like an assurance from the Minister that the Department will adopt a proactive approach to this concession because a significant number of people have reached retirement age over the past four, five or six years since the introduction of [1623] PRSI for the self-employed in 1988. They have been told that because they have not paid sufficient contributions they are not entitled to anything in return, but there is now a possibility of an entitlement to a pro rata pension based on an amalgamation of contributions made earlier in their working life and their PRSI contributions. Some of these people have been through the system and refused pensions while others, by virtue of their own investigations, came to the conclusion that they did not have an entitlement under the regime that existed up to now. It would be appropriate for the Department to take a proactive stance by informing every applicant who has an entitlement that such is the case.

I welcome also the commitment to refunding the pension element of their contributions to persons who made contributions over a ten year period and who have reached retirement without making sufficient contributions to qualify for a pension. That is particularly welcome because it must have been galling in the extreme to find that one was entitled to nothing from a scheme into which one had paid and to find also that a commitment made by Deputy Woods when he was Minister for Social Welfare that the pension element would be refunded was not honoured until now.

The commitment to reviewing the means test for social welfare pensions and other payments signals good intentions, but I am not sure it will work. There is no Member of the House who is not aware of the “broad brush” approach of the Department of Social Welfare to assessing income from capital under the existing arrangements. A rough rule of thumb would be 10 per cent income from money on deposit, but no financial institution is paying that kind of interest on money on deposit. It is only a matter of time before that “broad brush” is challenged in the courts, and any court in the land would find in favour of the plaintiff if such a case were taken because it is clearly the case that there is no such return for money on deposit. The Minister's speech reads well in terms of intention but I am not sure that the small print of the Bill meets the objectives set out. It is stated in section 25 of the Bill that the first £2,000 of the capital value of property shall be excluded. It proposes that the yearly value of the next £20,000 of the capital value of the property shall be assessed at 7.5 per cent, a figure that bears no resemblance to the yield from capital on deposit. It also proposes that the yearly value of so much of the capital value of the property as exceeds £22,000 shall be assessed at 15 per cent. It seems these figures were pulled out of the sky. Money on deposit does not make that much dividend.

We should adopt a transparent approach in terms of assessment, taking the yield for money on deposit as that earned in the previous 12-month period. That would be the fairest system. To say that money on deposit will earn 7.5 or 15 per cent when at present it is earning 3.5 or 4 [1624] per cent is unacceptable and does not meet the objective outlined in the Minister's contribution. That would further aggravate the position in terms of assessment, with which people are already extremely annoyed. It is, therefore, a case of going back to the drawing board.

There is much debate about pension entitlements and early retirement. A concession was made in regard to early retirement for teachers and the matter arose again recently with the nurses' dispute. There is need to consider pension provisions in the public and private sectors. PRSI contributions at various classes meet less than 50 per cent of the entire social welfare budget in any given year. While we clap ourselves on the back for reducing PRSI and income tax rates, a close look at the demographic structure in the future indicates that a significantly greater number of people will be dependent on the Exchequer. At the other end of the scale, a significant number of people will enter the workforce and we should consider mandatory or voluntary provision for increased payments of PRSI to enable persons to assess their pension provisions under the PRSI system and take early retirement at little cost to the State. That is socially desirable in that it would help solve the unemployment problem.

We must consider tax concessions for people who make arrangements through private pension plans. I have one criticism of the Department of Social Welfare in this regard. Where a person who makes provision for a private pension plan covering a ten or 15-year period reaches retirement age in the meantime and applies for noncontributory pension, that person is assessed on the capital value of the pension plan, its value at maturity rather than its immediate value. It is most unfair to people who try to provide in a responsible manner for their retirement to base their assessment on a pension that will not mature for a few years. I am aware of an interesting case which is on appeal to the Department.

I particularly welcome the introduction of the sickness allowance which recognises the plight of self-employed people who may have paid PRSI contributions which apply only for pension purposes. I share the views expressed by the previous speaker about widows. I regret I do not have more time to elaborate on those points. I broadly welcome the Bill and am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Mr. Browne:  (Wexford): I welcome the opportunity to say a few brief words on the Social Welfare Bill, 1997. We all expected the Minister for Finance to announce in his budget speech major developments for the less well off and the poor in society. We had listened to much hype for weeks and read in the media that this would be one of the best budgets ever because the Minister had more money than any Minister for Finance in the history of the State to allocate to the people. In reality, however, very little was provided for those on social welfare.

We then expected that with the introduction of [1625] the Social Welfare Bill changes would be made to reflect the substantial funds available to the Government, that some of the miserly allocations announced in the budget would be increased. At a time when much money is being thrown around by the Government one would expect that this partnership, which includes the Labour Party and Democratic Left who portray themselves as the social conscience of the less well off in society, would make major improvements in social welfare payments to the long-term unemployed, old age pensioners, widows and other social welfare recipients. When the Government was on the Opposition benches they told us what they would do if they were in Government and said that Fianna Fáil, even when it gave increases of 25 per cent, did not allocate enough to people on social welfare. However, the last three years of this Government have proven beyond doubt that its concern for the less well off was only on the surface because during that time social welfare increases have been much less than those of the previous three years when Fianna Fáil was in Government. The Labour Party and Democratic Left in particular let down the people whom they purport to represent.

Like myself, the Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare has tried to find a solution to the problems experienced by firemen. I listened to local radio on my way to Dublin today and heard Labour Party Deputy Pat Gallagher claim that he secured major improvement for firemen. Will the Minister clarify whether section 13, which provides for improvements in the conditions relating to requalification for unemployment benefit, covers firemen? If so, I welcome it.

For some time I have made representations to the Minister and Minister of State about firemen. Unlike full-time firemen in Dublin who earn fat salaries, part-time firemen throughout the country provide a tremendous service to the State at very little cost. As a result of changes in social welfare some time ago those people found it very difficult to requalify for unemployment benefit and lost substantial amounts of money. The Minister of State has taken a very keen interest in this matter on behalf of firemen throughout the country and particularly in his constituency, and I compliment him on that. The change in this area is welcome. Firemen who provide a valuable part time service should, like others who provide similar services, receive special recognition from the State and I thank the Minister of State for ensuring that was done. Will he examine the social welfare appeals system, which has not worked effectively in recent years? In Wexford appeals can take up to six months to be heard. People are told their appeals will not be referred to Enniscorthy or Wexford town until a sufficient number has been lodged. Are there sufficient staff operating the system? This is a major concern for those who have submitted social welfare appeals.

The disabled person's maintenance allowance has been renamed the disability allowance. There [1626] are also long delays in this area. I am not inclined to table parliamentary questions on social welfare matters. I prefer to deal directly with social welfare officers. However, because of the long delays in making decisions on applications for disability allowance I have had to table parliamentary questions on this matter in recent months. While the disability allowance system is fairer than the disabled person's maintenance allowance — when decisions were made at the whim of local community welfare officers — the long delay in making decisions is unacceptable.

The needs of families are changing and we must respond adequately to the needs of those on social welfare. The budget did not provide adequate assistance for those on long-term social welfare benefit. There are still large numbers of people unemployed. In some housing estates in Wexford not only have fathers never worked but their sons and daughters are finding it difficult to get jobs. It is a reflection on all Governments in the recent past that we have not generated a sufficient number of jobs in rural areas.

I welcome the change in emphasis by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment who announced this week that he will seriously consider providing additional grant aid to encourage companies to set up in provincial towns. While Deputy Woods may not agree, there has been an over-supply of jobs in the Dublin area but companies are not inclined to put down their roots in rural Ireland. I hope the grant aid the Minister proposes to provide for provincial areas will encourage companies, particularly major computer companies that create thousands of jobs, to locate there. Virtually every town has benefited from EU funding and put in place major sewerage and water schemes. Local authorities have been to the forefront in providing the necessary infrastructure in rural areas, but foreign companies are not interested in locating there. I hope the recent discrimination in favour of provincial towns will change that.

The biggest scourge in this country is the level of unemployment. We must all endeavour to generate jobs and to provide a decent standard of living for families. There is nothing more depressing for a family than to have a number of its members unemployed. Most parents want their sons and daughters in a work environment rather than claiming unemployment benefit or assistance.

The carer's allowance was introduced by Fianna Fáil, but it is much too restrictive. I fail to understand why there is not more flexibility in the scheme. In the past few weeks I dealt with three cases where the allowance was refused because the carers were slightly over the limit when means tested. One of the people being cared for has since gone into hospital which will cost the State approximately £500 per week. The carer's allowance should be operated on a tiered payment basis. While the system has improved in the past few years, there should be more co-ordination between the Departments of Social Welfare [1627] and Health. In many cases when the allowance is refused the person being cared for has to go into a hospital or home. If the system were less bureaucratic it could save the State millions of pounds in hospital costs.

The Minister made a big deal of the social welfare increases he introduced this year. A widow on contributory pension with three children got an increase of only 2.5 per cent. While that may be in line with inflation, it is not enough. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s everyone, including those on social welfare, was asked to tighten their belts. Surely when the Government has a great deal of money at its disposal we should give substantial increases to people on social welfare. We must care for those who are living on the poverty line and finding it difficult to survive.

Some Ministers have tried to improve the lot of widows, but in general the benefit they receive is far too low. I raise this matter every year during the debate on the Social Welfare Bill. Widows should be given a once off decent increase. When the breadwinner in a family dies many widows, who may have been used to a reasonable standard of living, are unable to cope on the amount they receive in social welfare benefit. In some cases they lose benefits to which they would have been entitled if their husbands were on social welfare, although changes have been made in that area.

There is a need to look at the payment system to widows and to increase payments substantially given that many are left to look after two, three or four children and, in many cases, find they are unable to cope. If I meet a widow when I go out to canvass she will usually say politicians have no interest in her plight. That is not the case — all politicians are concerned about the plight of widows but do nothing to increase the weekly allowance they receive. There is a need to look at their situation.

The free fuel allowance has not been increased for a number of years. The Minister appointed a commission to consider this matter and I hope he will make an announcement before October. Perhaps there will be a change of Government and Deputy Woods will make the announcement. Whoever is in office at the time should look at the free fuel allowance. This allowance has not been increased for years but the price of a bag of coal has increased substantially. One could not buy a bag of coal for £5 and, in some areas, one would only get half a bag for that price. The Minister told me in reply to a parliamentary question that a commission was considering this matter in the context of an overhaul but it is taking some time. I expected the Minister to announce an increase last October to help people this winter. I ask the Minister to bring to his Department's attention the need to increase the free fuel allowance to all applicants.

I thought the Minister would have used this Social Welfare Bill to improve existing schemes, introduce new ones and make extra payments but [1628] he did not introduce any imaginative measures or anything which will benefit the long-term unemployed or old age pensioners. He has increased various benefits, including the family income supplement and the child benefit, depending on the number of children in a family.

We need to look at the entire social welfare system to see if a new and more radical approach may be taken to look after the less well off in our society. We must consider crime, vandalism and attacks on the old and also the extension of the free telephone allowance and telephone watch, a system which the social services operate throughout the country, including Enniscorthy. However, it is difficult for old age pensioners living alone and on the income they receive to find £40 to £60 to pay for this back up service. Because of the unfortunate changes in society and the escalation in crime and attacks on the elderly, there is a need to make this service available free to old age pensioners who cannot afford to pay for it. The Minister should consider how we can improve the quality of life for those living in isolated areas because it is a major concern for old people. After five or six o'clock in the evening, an old person will not open the door. I ask the Minister to consider making the telephone watch system available free to old age pensioners.

Mr. Broughan:  May I share my time with Deputy Eamon Walsh?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Broughan:  I warmly welcome the Social Welfare Bill, 1997, and its excellent introduction to the House by the Minister of State, who made a forthright speech. He reviewed the outstanding progress made by the Government in developing the social welfare system and the safety net for the poorest one third of the population. The budget contained important developments and innovations, many of which came from discussions between the social partners which resulted in agreement on Partnership 2000.

I welcome the further reforms contained in the Bill. One of the greatest fears people have is that the social insurance system will be privatised and dismantled by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Deputy Woods has been out of step with his party in urging people to think twice about dismantling the social insurance system. We welcome the 1 per cent cut in PRSI but others on the Opposition benches, in particular Deputy Michael McDowell, have the clear aim of scrapping the social insurance system. I have heard a rumour — Deputy Woods will be interested in this — that the person who will stand in Dublin North-East for the Progressive Democrats has an interest in social welfare, which is astonishing because that party's main remit is to dismantle the social insurance system.

I hope if Deputy Woods is faced with the calamity of a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government he will rebel, lose the whip and refuse [1629] office rather than be involved in dismantling the social insurance system. I heard the Deputy in my constituency pay tribute to workers and their employers who contribute a large proportion of the £4.5 billion to maintain the system. The present system attempts to provide for people when they are ill, old or unemployed. It is a system of basic human decency, yet these theorists who sit on the Opposition benches want to smash it. This Government will not allow them to do so and is determined to protect the social insurance system. I hope Deputy Woods will be prepared to support that call from the Opposition benches.

It is heartening that the Bill contains many measures designed to protect the children of the poorest segment of the population. I salute the Government for increasing child benefit rates to £30 and £39 per month. This means that a family with three children will receive £99 per month. I am delighted that our partners in Government agreed to our demands that child benefit should continue to be increased to ensure there is adequate income support for children.

I welcome the increases in the weekly income thresholds used to determine entitlement to family income supplement. One of the problems is that there has been a low take-up. I pay tribute to the officials of the Department in the centres in my constituency, including Kilbarrack, for going to great lengths to ensure all eligible families are aware of their entitlements. It is heartening that those who take up employment under the jobs initiatives, which are playing a valuable and important role in facilitating the return of the long-term unemployed to the workplace, will be eligible to receive family income supplement.

The Minister has provided for the introduction of pro rata pensions to assist individuals who do not have the requisite number of contributions to qualify for a contributory pension. He has gone a long way towards removing one of the most irritating anomalies in the system.

Throughout his long working life as a politician and local representative, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will have come across many poignant cases where unemployment assistance recipients found themselves in dire circumstances when they became ill and had no option but to go cap in hand to the local health clinic to seek supplementary welfare allowance. This is not satisfactory. I am aware of families in my constituency who had no source of income on which to survive for weeks on end. I salute the Minister for providing for the introduction of the new sickness allowance. Approximately 12,000 to 13,000 families will be affected. This is one of the best measures in the Bill.

The Minister should be saluted also for pursuing the EU equal treatment directive to its logical conclusion. Over £300 million has been paid out in meeting our lawful obligations to the 70,000 to 80,000 citizens with outstanding claims.

I pay tribute to my constituency colleague for providing for the introduction of survivor's pension. There is at long last a level playing pitch. [1630] This should ensure nobody will be discriminated against on gender grounds.

The Minister has taken the opportunity to reverse to some of the vicious Thatcherite cutbacks — the infamous dirty dozen — made by Deputy Charles McCreevy during his short reign as Minister in 1990-1 when he attempted to limit the rights of workers, particularly those with paid contributions. In an appalling act of vandalism, maternity benefit was slashed by 21 per cent, from £76 to £60. This is an indication of what may happen if Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats come together to form a far right wing coalition Government.

I welcome the general increase of 5 per cent in social welfare payments, some of which are still too low. The Government has attempted to raise them to the rates recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare. There is an obligation on us to ensure the most deprived sections of the population are protected. Those politicians who wish to dismantle the social insurance system for spurious, selfish and monetary or fiscal reasons must be resisted at every turn and must not get their hands on the levers of power, either on their own or with somebody else. I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. E. Walsh:  I pay tribute to the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, for bringing forward this excellent Bill. I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Durkan, on contributing to the process.

I wish to concentrate on a number of matters of concern to me. An attack has been made on the long-term unemployed. This is based on false information and a lack of understanding. It has been suggested that those who fall into this category do not want to work. In many instances, because the wages on offer are so low they would be better off remaining on the dole. Ridiculous pay rates are on offer for some of the jobs being advertised throughout the city and the rest of the country. It is an insult to offer such rates for 40 hours work. Households would have no option but to seek supplementary welfare allowance because of their inability to survive.

Small businesses which employ young people at low pay rates are being subsidised by the State, yet they complain when long-term unemployed persons refuse to take up offers of employment. Because pay rates are so low some have no option but to avoid paying tax, if at all possible. This matter was addressed in the budget.

Many unemployed persons cannot afford to buy television licences. Some have ended up in Mountjoy Prison for the non-payment of fines as a consequence. Many unemployed people cannot afford television licences and some are sent to Mountjoy Prison for non-payment of fines imposed as a result of not having them. Long-term unemployed people do not have money management skills because they have limited resources. They cannot pay the licence because it is demanded in a lump sum, although stamps towards it can be purchased weekly. Rather than [1631] fining them in court and sending them to prison only to be released an hour later, giving free television licences to them should be considered. They have no hope of finding a job in the short-term and they need that type of support.

Some people who decide to live together without marrying are not recognised by the tax scheme as couples. A support should be given to children of such a relationship where one person is employed and the woman minds the children. She has no tax free allowance in that situation and the children are not recognised except through child benefit. The Minister might consider some type of payment paid through the child benefit scheme for people who form a relationship, live together, support a number of children and get no tax free allowance for the woman who does not work. Extra money paid through the child benefit scheme would help and I ask for that to be examined. As the tax system does not address the situation, perhaps the Minister for Social Welfare might consider it through child benefits.

The family income supplement is an excellent scheme which is becoming an important aid to people in low paid employment. However, the supplement allows employers to hire people at ridiculously low rates of pay. It could be argued that subsidies often enable wage rates to be kept low. For example, if we top up the family income supplement, employers will renege on their responsibility to pay adequate wages.

I will conclude by warning many of our constituents dependent on the system now in place of the danger of the Progressive Democrats. I warn Fianna Fáil, especially its members who have agreed to the maintenance through the social welfare system of people unable to care for themselves, of the attacks and comments of some Progressive Democrats members which suggest we withdraw payments from people not prepared to work. That is extremely dangerous.

In the past, social welfare was a transitional arrangement to enable people to go from one job to another. There is now a new situation where social welfare is the only means of support from the day a person is born to the day they die. A person may spend their entire life on social welfare. It is a means for survival whereas, in the past, it was an aid from one job to another or during temporary unemployment. Any attempt to dismantle the system is an attack on people who have no future or means of support. Imagine the horrendous situation if payments were withdrawn from people accused of not wanting to work. Withdrawing payments is no means of solving that problem.

Mr. H. Byrne:  I wish to comment on the last speaker's contribution. It was not coherent but I heard him suggest that some people in Fianna Fáil were hostile to the long-term unemployed or those who could not get a job. This is the usual cheap shot at Fianna Fáil from a party which has [1632] delivered little for the unemployed in the past three budgets. I recall it was Fianna Fáil which introduced social welfare and that it was my esteemed colleague, Charlie Haughey, who established it properly.

Mr. Broughan:  What about Deputy Charlie McCreevy?

Mr. H. Byrne:  I will not stand for any rubbish of that sort from the opposite side. It is a great pity the two Government Deputies cannot recognise Fianna Fáil's contribution because there are elements of this Bill which I welcome.

The weakest people, widows, old age pensioners and the long-term unemployed, have fared badly in the past three budgets. They received an approximate cumulative increase of £2.20 per week, which is small. The great left wing of this Government comprising Democratic Left and the Labour Party, which occasionally claims to be left, has delivered little.

Mr. Broughan:  It is much more left than Fianna Fáil.

Mr. H. Byrne:  It is understood that the Minister of State's party was never very generous towards social welfare recipients.

Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare (Mr. Durkan):  Who understood that?

Mr. H. Byrne:  I am surprised that the left wing, which appears to be in control on most issues and occasions, has failed miserably on this occasion.

This country is enjoying the best economic climate for some time. This was earned the hard way. Difficult decisions had to be taken. It is recognised by most people that Fianna Fáil in 1987 had to take difficult and hard decisions. When the weaker sections of the community saw that the country was doing well, they expected to do better. They were disappointed. At a time when the economy is going well — I would not say it is a boom——

Mr. Durkan:  Do not go overboard.

Mr. H. Byrne:  This is the problem. The Government is already spending money it does not have. It thinks the boom will last forever. We created it, the Government will spend it and we will pick up the tab. Taxpayers would not have begrudged the weaker sections in our community that little bit extra. That is an opinion shared by most people.

Shortly after the budget, I received a letter from an 84-year-old-man. He asked me, having listened to various political broadcasts——

Mr. Broughan:  Was he a relation?

Mr. H. Byrne:  He was not and he even had the stupidity at one stage to support the Labour Party. I do not know whether he has seen the [1633] light but one could judge from the letter who he will vote for in the next election.

He asked how much extra money he got in the recent budget in personal allowance, free fuel, free electricity, free television licence, free telephone rental and living alone allowance. It was difficult to respond because the only change was a slight increase in his personal allowance. The other five areas mentioned were unchanged. It is a sad reflection on a Government which had access to a fine set of books and a little surplus money when an 84 year-old man must write such a letter.

I recently welcomed the Minister of State, Deputy Durkan, to beautiful new offices in Wexford. They are state of the art and custom built. The staff are customer friendly and those who call to the office are afforded privacy. I compliment the Department of Social Welfare on the provision of those offices. They were built during the term of this Government, but we committed the moneys for the building when we were in Government. I noted a Freudian slip by the Minister of State. He forgot to mention people other than Government Ministers were involved in work to ensure the provision of those offices. Senator D'Arcy was also disappointed about that.

I do not want to be parochial, but I wish to refer to the social welfare office in New Ross. The person in that office is providing the best service possible within the limits of the scarce resources provided. The Minister of State should note that the social welfare facility in New Ross has two offices and a long counter at which people must bare their souls. On a wet day the queue is long. People must reveal all without privacy and the community may know their business the next day. That is unacceptable. Privacy must be respected. It must be provided in New Ross. The girl in the New Ross office, Marianne, is doing an excellent job, but sufficient resources must be provided to ensure she is able to provide a service in a manner that will guarantee people the respect they deserve. Most people who are unemployed, through no fault of their own, are forced to conduct their business without privacy. The least they are entitled to is to say their piece in privacy. I know the Minister of State appreciates the need for privacy in such offices.

Will the Minister of State consider granting free travel to retired people aged between 60 and 66, people in receipt of disability allowance and widows? Those people should be entitled to the benefits to which people over the age of 66 are entitled. People aged 60 and over cannot get a job. Will the Minister of State consider providing that people aged between 60 and 66 will be eligible for the benefits to which people over the age of 66 are entitled?

Most previous speakers referred to the issue of butter vouchers. It is hard to understand what the Government is trying to achieve in this regard. I do not know if the decision to reduce the allocation of butter vouchers is because of stupidity [1634] or meanness. The Minister of State may sigh. I know he is telling constituents who raise this matter at his clinic on Saturdays that although there is a boom we cannot go overboard because he believes in saving for the rainy day. The Government has halved the number of vouchers issued. It is hard to understand the reasoning behind that in this election year. I am surprised the Government let that matter slip because it will pay for it. The butter voucher scheme should not be about elections, they should be issued as a matter of common decency and they should not have been reduced at a time when we could afford them, if moneys were spent in the right direction and not frittered away elsewhere.

Means tests are carried out by various Departments and a person could be means tested on three or more occasions. People are means tested to determine their eligibility for a medical card, unemployment assistance, disabled person's maintenance allowance and higher education grants. Staffs in various Departments are responsible for carrying out means tests. There is a duplication or quadruplication of work and it should not be necessary. If we got our act together, one staff could be responsible for carrying out means tests in the four instances to which I referred. Will the Minister of State consider that and give his view on it?

There is usually some delay in carrying out means tests because of a lack of staff. A person who becomes unemployed and is in urgent need of income must undergo a means test and it should be carried out immediately. Will the Minister of State consider increasing the staff in this area?

I wish to refer to means testing of the self-employed whom Department officials often regard as having plenty of money. A self-employed man who is are out of work must undergo a means test to secure benefit to put bread on the table for his family, despite having made a genuine effort to secure work. His application for unemployment assistance is means tested on his earnings for the previous year. If he had realised he would be out of work, he might have saved some money. However, he is penalised because he is means tested on his earnings for the previous year. The means test should apply to earnings for the current year.

Mr. Durkan:  That has been changed.

Mr. H. Byrne:  I am delighted to hear that. The Minister of State is smarter than I thought.

I wish to refer to an unemployed young man who is living at home. He must undergo a means test, but he will not qualify for full benefit if his parents have an income. That young person must move out of his home to a caravan in the nearest village or a flat in the nearest town to claim full unemployment assistance and rent allowance, but if he qualified for full unemployment assistance in the first instance he would not have to move out of home and there would be a saving in [1635] respect of rent allowance. This system has disastrous consequences as it causes families to split up. Vulnerable young people who are 18 years of age are forced to move out of home to qualify for unemployment assistance. That system is socially wrong and it should be immediately changed. That will not be easy. Some people will not be totally honest with social welfare officials, who by and large do good work and are very familiar with their jobs. We must address that problem.

The Government is permitting a tax on the earnings of home helps. I note the Minister of State is surprised because he was not aware of that. However, I am aware of it because constituents have told me about it. A widow or a person who has some free time and becomes friendly with a person who is sick may become a home help and earn about £20 a week. In many instances it is a thankless job. However, it is a wonderful service. Many people who would otherwise have to go to hospital can be kept at home. The Government is trying to steal through tax some of the money earned by home helps. Its scrooge attitude adopted in that and many other respects is hard to take. I suggest that in order to keep the excellent home help service working, the Minister should remove the horrible anomaly introduced earlier this year. A home help is normally loyal, generous and a good carer. I know the Minister recognises that.

Mr. Durkan:  We did not introduce it.

Mr. H. Byrne:  The Minister did. Once a month, people must go to rural Garda stations to sign on, a system which has applied for many years. I can see the Minister is interested in what I have to say.

Mr. Durkan:  I am making inquiries and researching the Deputy's allegations.

Mr. H. Byrne:  The Minister does not have to make inquiries because anything I say is accurate. If the Minister does what I ask the social welfare system will improve substantially.

Garda time is being taken up witnessing the signatures of those signing on, a job that could be done by almost anyone else. What powers do gardaí have if they know someone is working? It is essential that gardaí should be on the beat in rural areas rather than stationed in towns and occasionally driving to the country.

I want to comment on the free fuel allowance. I am not sure what price a bag of coal is in Kildare, but in Wexford it ranges between £7.20 and £8. The free fuel allowance was introduced 11 years ago at £5, which at the time paid for a bag of coal. This has not increased since, despite economic improvements.

[1636]Mr. Durkan:  There have been some improvements.

Mr. H. Byrne:  It is difficult to understand why the Minister does not increase the allowance to cover the price of a bag of coal. This would be a sensible arrangement. There has been no movement in 11 years.

The carer's allowance is important. The carer in our community does a marvellous job. We should encourage more people to care for people in the home rather than resort to hospitalisation, which costs the State far more. It is good therapy for people to be cared for in their home where their friends can visit them. Everyone agrees that carers are not paid too much. The area should be widened to enable more people to be cared for in their homes.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this Bill. This morning we heard the Minister for Social Welfare outline the many changes incorporated in the 1997 Social Welfare Bill. I welcome many of the changes, particularly those in the carer's allowance and the extension in the contributory pension scheme to include those with a yearly average of ten contributions.

While I welcome the extension from six months to 12 months in the period for which arrears will be paid in the case of late applications for contributory pensions, I ask the Minister to extend this period even further to include many pensioners who may be two or three years late applying for a contributory pension, owing to confusion about the pensioner's date of birth. Such a pensioner has paid his or her PRSI contributions and is fully entitled to a pension.

I recently encountered a case where a small but generous contribution was made to a pensioner by the Department of Social Welfare. I am anxious that the payment should be backdated three years because of the failure in notifying the person and in informing him of his rights and entitlements. From the reply I received from the Department of Social Welfare, I now have no option but to forward some supporting information to the Ombudsman, to whom I have already appealed.

If there was more give and take in the Department of Social Welfare, there would not be such huge correspondence with the Ombudsman. There has always been bureaucracy in the Department of Social Welfare and there is more since this Government took office. We were told this would change and there would be a more liberal approach from a liberal Government. They have not been liberated yet. I have brought this case to the Minister's attention. If he is not interested, I will pursue it in the normal manner.

I urge the Minister to consider extending the free electricity allowance scheme to include widows and widowers under the age of 66 years. I have no doubt this can be achieved because we now have one of the most buoyant economics in [1637] the world. The Minister talks about when Fianna Fáil was in office. When we were in office, we had reached the bottom of the barrel. Deputy Woods was one of the most outstanding Ministers for Social Welfare at a time when our economy was on its knees. When he entered office in 1987, the cupboard really was bare. When this Government entered office, it was an EI Dorado for them. They are now distributing the wealth we created.

Mr. Durkan:  We stocked the cupboard first.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  Our hard work in the management of the economy gave the Government that wealth. There are no gold medals for the Government.

At present, the free electricity allowance is applicable to those widows and widowers over the age of 66 living alone or over the age of 80. Very often, those who are under 66 have dependent children. There are many substantial expenses involved when rearing a family, which are often next to impossible to meet when dependent on a pension. Likewise, those under 66 years who are dependent on a widow's or widower's pension and are without a family have financial needs which must be met. I ask the Minister to extend the free electricity allowance scheme and to bring it in line with other schemes where additional allowances are available.

Since its inception, the free fuel scheme has been very successful. Many of those in receipt of the allowance find it invaluable in helping to meet the cost of their heating requirements. However, I ask the Minister to consider increasing the allowance from £5 to £8 per week which would at least cover the price of a bag of coal. I also urge the Minister to extend the free fuel scheme for a further month.

We have had harsh winters in the last few years and those in need have had to beg for a concession from the Department of Social Welfare. We are experiencing harsh weather at the moment which will probably continue for the month of March. There will be a problem, as there was before Christmas. The problem should be addressed in a more flexible manner rather than bureaucracy prevailing. We have all experienced the inconsistencies of the weather in this country, particularly when spring and summer seem more like winter. The elderly often have additional heating requirements. An increase in the free fuel allowance and extension of the scheme would certainly go a long way to meeting those requirements.

I welcome the abolition of the income limit for dental and optical benefits. However, the dental scheme should be extended to include certain orthodontic treatment. Orthodontistry is an important area of dental care which is being neglected. While the responsibility for orthodontic treatment for school-going children lies with the Department of Health, the criteria to qualify for orthodontic treatment under the health board [1638] services need to be revised urgently to include more students who need to be treated but who are not in categories severe enough. This service should be operated by the Department of Social Welfare. The orthodontic scheme is a shambles and no treatment is available for children with serious dental problems. Many families are unable to meet the cost. The scheme is not what it should be. Some relaxation is necessary. It is no good having a scheme in name only if it does not work.

Certain orthodontic treatment needs to be included in the dental scheme for those paying PRSI. While I understand that not all orthodontic work can be included, in view of the costs involved, the Minister should liaise with the Minister for Finance to ensure that income tax relief will be approved for those who undergo extensive work which is not included in the dental scheme.

It is obvious that further improvements, similar to those I have outlined, need to be made in the area of social welfare. The financial resources are available to the Minister to carry out these improvements. We have a buoyant economy, much credit for which can be attributed to Fianna Fáil policies which were pursued, and often criticised, some years ago.

The medical card scale will be increased when the Social Welfare Bill goes through the House. The inconsistencies from one health board area to another in operating the medical card system are questionable. That is the case even within the same health board area when one goes from one division to another. By and large, a medical card must be made available to a person within the guidelines. Guidelines, however, are only guidelines and what is necessary depends on the severity of the problem.

I have seen the scrooge mentality being adopted by some social welfare offices in the south Cork area. Compared with what happens in other areas of my constituency it is amazing and I would like the problem to be addressed. If it were not for the Ombudsman many people would go without their real benefits and back payments. Over the years he has been of enormous help to people on social welfare. Why has there not been more give and take in the social welfare area? Why do we have to have recourse to the Ombudsman all the time?

I welcome the fact we have moved away from the disabled person's maintenance allowance as disability benefits are now the responsiblity of the Department of Social Welfare. That was a step in the right direction which got rid of much bureaucracy and long delays involved in decision making. Delays were also caused by people having to cash their social welfare cheques every week. The new monthly system is working reasonably well, but I will reserve judgement until it has been in operation for another year.

Let us use the resources now available to us to make life easier for those who have contributed to our economy, however many years ago, and who are now dependent on the State for their [1639] bread and butter. Some people who are made redundant, for one reason or another, attend college for three-month refresher courses in computing and other subjects. On becoming redundant they qualify for unemployment assistance, benefit or SAA, but when they enrol for courses to improve their skills in order to get a job, they find themselves without any income because of the scrooge mentality that is prevalent. The policing of the system is over bureaucratic. I am aware of a number of women who were drawing unemployment assistance and then got onto SAA. Because they were doing short courses they were denied assistance and were thus left without any source of income. There should be some relaxation in that area. That happened in Fermoy.

There is little point in telling us about the dirty dozen cuts when the Government's own house is not in order and there is no liberal approach to welfare. I wish the Minister of State well in enjoying the fruits of the good work of Fianna Fáil's years in office.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  The Minister for Social Welfare does not appear to care for pensioners because his first effort in office was to give them the price of a box of matches — an increase of £2.33 per week. A widow receives £2.20 per week and the long-term disability allowance increase is £2.17. The overall increase has been £7 in total for those categories of social welfare recipient. That is devastating at a time when the economy is flush and there is plenty of money around.

When one talks to old age pensioners and widows one finds they are really disappointed. They thought their lot would be improved by the budget but, unfortunately, the Minister did not see fit to do so.

As regards the Social welfare portfolio, we must look at the ad hoc nature of the system. I would have thought that over three years the Minister would have a grand plan for social welfare and that a sustainable rationalisation of schemes and a more progressive outlook on social welfare would have been taken. The cost of social welfare is escalating but one must question whether it needs to escalate to such an extent. While the focus has been on child dependants there has been no focus on elderly people living on their own, such as widows and pensioners. While it may be all right for those people with children who will receive some increase, the Minister appears to have a political entity in mind, or perhaps the Minister of State — at whom I am surprised — has asked himself whether there is any advantage for him in looking after the elderly. They have not been catered for in the recent budget.

I spoke about focus, ad hockery and the fact that I should like the Minister to re-examine a number of measures already in place. It has been claimed recently that identity cards are useless unless they carry the holder's photograph. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that there are [1640] groups buying, selling and exchanging identity cards, without such photographs. While this problem has been brought to the Minister's attention it appears he has decided not to do anything about it.

Mr. Durkan:  Not true.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  The Minister will be well aware that the Comptroller and Auditor General undertook a cost-benefit analysis of all means testing. There is a means test in respect of social welfare payments, another to determine eligibility for a medical card, a separate one in respect of the disabled person's maintenance allowance sometimes entailing five or six different tests overall. Is that not a total waste of money on the part of the Department? Any rational observation of the system would dictate that there should be some rationalisation or co-relationship between the various bodies to obviate waste of administrative funds which could be expended more worthily on realistic increases to social welfare recipients.

The Construction Industry Federation monitors its pension scheme. Simultaneously teams of social welfare inspectors visit building sites also for monitoring purposes. Is it not time we examined the monitoring of that pension scheme and its database with a view to eliminating duplication, if not triplication, within those areas? If the Construction Industry Federation pension scheme were to be brought within the Department's remit, with a common database, it would eliminate much of the groundwork being undertaken by the Department's inspectorate.

There is a fair amount of organised fraud. While there is an anti-fraud unit in the United Kingdom, there is none here. It would be worthwhile examining how we could integrate such a unit here, thus reducing the current level of fraud.

I know the Minister has circulated thousands of questionnaires to social welfare recipients. He may claim to have been successful in the short-term in that this has led to some people being removed from the live register. Time will tell. Although X number of questionnaires may be sent out and returned to Department offices the same number of staff must endeavour to handle all of them. They feel demoralised that no extra staff have been allocated to examine the responses in any great detail. This means that, while many people may vanish from the system in the short-term, the probability is they will gradually return to the fold. The continuance of this practice of desk-top interviews rather than the departmental inspectorate being given the requisite resources to carry out their investigations in the workplace in order to establish the precise level of fraud means that this exercise is doomed to failure in the long-term, with earlier gains being negatived.

I have spoken to many housing officers of local authorities who are very concerned at the evidence of fraud they encounter by people seeking [1641] local authority housing. For whatever reason there is no common database shared by local authorities, health boards and the Department of Social Welfare. This lack has been highlighted in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in which he indicated the importance of such a common database being made available to reduce administrative costs.

Many Members have referred to the carer's allowance. Has the Minister undertaken any survery of the cost of this allowance and its attendant means testing in coparison with nursing home accommodation costs? Many nursing homes cost an average of £250 per week. In the case of an elderly person in receipt of an old age pension of between £74 and £80 this will necessitate the maximum subvention of £120, taking that figure to £200, with a resulting deficit of anything between £60 and £100, depending on the type of nursing home in which an elderly person seeks accommodation.

That takes me to the matter of caring for the elderly at home and the economic advantages of so doing. While any elderly man or women retains any degree of good health, the last thing he or she will want is to go into a nursing home. Most prefer to remain at home within their local community. Because of the means testing of the carer's allowance many young people who might otherwise maintain elderly parents or relatives at home refrain from doing so.

The cost of giving young people who decide to care for an elderly relative a down payment to maintain them in their home environment would be considerably less than a nursing home subvention and would yield much greater social benefits for society as a whole. The loving care and attention a family give an elderly parent or relative in their home would be rewarded to some extent. I strongly advocate the elimination of the means test for the carer's allowance. Bearing in mind the growing numbers of elderly citizens, we will be unable to continue paying nursing home subventions in the long-term. The time has come to seriously examine how we might help to maintain them at home.

While it appears the Minister for Health is not amenable to a pricing structure for nursing homes, I am aware that some two weeks ago a nursing home in Cork raised its weekly cost from £185 to £250 and there is absolutely nothing one can do about them. Perhaps there should be some meeting between the Departments of Health and Social Welfare and nursing homes, as there was in the case of publicans, to arrive at some realistic figure to ensure that these escalating costs are controlled or kept in check to some degree.

The Departments of Health and Social Welfare jointly should examine the very low amounts being paid for home helps who perform an extraordinary task in assisting the elderly in their homes. Something will have to be done about the pittance they receive whether it is £1.40 in the Southern Health Board region or £3.20 in another health board area. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. [1642] Given the interaction between social welfare and health there should be a meeting of minds between the two Departments on a policy that is comprehensive and all embracing. If home helps were given specialist training the elderly could be kept in the home much longer.

If families on social welfare in urban areas have students attending college there is not much in the social welfare system to keep the family intact. We are forcing 17 year olds out of the home from a safe environment into flats and apartments. This is bad from a social and from a family point of view in that it means a break-up at a young age. A number of social difficulties can follow. If the student remains at home the Minister says £27 per week is available to him or her. I beg to differ. That person should be entitled to full unemployment assistance while staying at home. This would ensure a rent supplement is taken out of the system. If my son leaves home and goes to college and into a flat he has to pay rent of £80 per week. He can claim not only a rent allowance but other allowances that go with it. If an unemployed person leaves the home he gets a rent allowance and unemployment assistance. If that person was given full unemployment assistance at home, both he and this country would be better off. There are many social evils which beset young people in terms of drink, drugs and so on.

The Minister has not put a plan in place for the future and has not considered the social ills besetting the country. To do so would be well worthwhile in terms of the social well-being of our people. The elderly have contributed enormously to society and deserve something better than they have got from a Democratic Left Minister.

Mr. Lenihan:  The Social Welfare Bill is a technical measure but its annual introduction affords us an opportunity to review progress in the evolution of our social welfare system. It is surprising at a time of unparalleled economic growth and prosperity that so little fundamental thinking has taken place on the part of the Minister in the reform of the social welfare system. Those of us who have to deal day in day out with a population for whose benefit the system is administered are aware of the widespread public concerns about the operation of our social welfare system.

The Minister has decided for his own reasons in this election year, despite an unparalleled prosperity generated by sound economic management by Fianna Fáil-led administrations, to do little but tinker around with the social welfare system.

Debate adjourned.

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

[1643]Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte):  I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:

Section 1: In page 3, subsection (1), line 27, “holding” deleted and, “holding,” substituted.

This is a drafting amendment which seeks to insert a comma. The need for it was discovered by the parliamentary draftsman since we debated the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We come to Seanad amendment No. 2 Seanad amendment No. 3 is related. It is suggested that Seanad amendments Nos. 2 and 3 be taken together if that is satisfactory.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 2:

Section 1: In page 4, subsection (1), lines 21 and 22, the definition of “offeree” deleted, and the following substituted:

“‘offeree’ means a relevant company—

(a) any securities of which are the subject of an offer that has been made or is intended or required to be made, or

(b) in respect of which, or in connection with which, a person does any act in contemplation of making an offer to holders of securities in that company;”.

These and subsequent amendments to sections 16 and 20 were sought by the interim panel after the Bill had passed all Stages in the House. The panel's proposals were the subject of detailed consultations with my Department and the parliamentary draftsman. I am satisfied the amendments are necessary for reasons that I will explain in a moment.

In relation to amendments Nos. 2 and 3, the panel see it as essential to expand the existing definition of “offeror” and “offeree”. The reason is that the former, i.e. “offeror” is defined as a person who makes an offer while the latter is defined as a company which is the subject of an offer. When one looks at the definition in the Bill of “offer” one sees it is defined as an offer made to the holders of securities. The effect of these three definitions is to limit the applicability of the terms “offeror” and “offeree” to a situation where an offer has been made; in other words, neither of these parties comes into existence until an offer is made.

The problem with anchoring the definitions of “offeror” and “offeree” to the point where an offer is made is that the panel wishes to regulate for an entire range of scenarios and to be able to make and impose rules, rulings, directions and so on on the “offeror” and “offeree” in respect of certain of their actions taken prior to the stage where an offer is actually made. That is the point [1644] of the revamping of the definition — where an offer is contemplated prior to its being made. What the panel has requested is that the definition of “offeror” and “offeree” be redrafted to take in all stages, literally between the point of conception of an offer right through to the making of such an offer. The revised wordings are in amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 3:

Section 1: In page 4, subsection (1), line 23, the definition of “offeror” deleted, and the following substituted:

“‘offeror’ means a person who makes, or intends or is required to make, an offer or does any act in contemplation of making an offer;”.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 4:

Section 16: In page 18, subsection (1), lines 26 to 28 deleted, and the following substituted:

“8, in relation to a takeover or other relevant transaction,

(e) on any person in respect of a document furnished by him or her to the Panel in relation to any proceedings of the Panel concerning a takeover or other relevant transaction.”.

This is purely a technical amendment. The text remains unaltered. Essentially it lays out the paragraphs slightly differently. The necessity for the change arises from a certain ambiguity created by the existing layout of the text which could be read to imply that the panel should make rules under section 8 in respect of charges to be imposed in relation to proceedings of the panel whereas the clear intention is that the panel be enabled to make charges in respect of the lodging with it of documents in the two specified situations, that is, in accordance with the rules under section 8 or any proceedings of the panel.

It would be inappropriate, in any event, to have or to appear to have a provision for rules in relation to proceedings of the panel in a section relating exclusively to the powers of the panel to impose charges in order to finance its activities. Section 11(1) already provides that the panel shall conduct proceedings or hearings in such a manner as it may determine and section 11(3) specifically gives the panel powers, on the production of documents by the parties to such proceedings and hearings.

Amendment No. 4 makes it clear that rules under section 8 do not have to have any provisions in relation to proceedings of the panel. The effect of the amendment is to set out the last [1645] two lines of section 16 (1) (d) as new separate subparagraphs 16 (1) (e).

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  Section 16 refers to the power of the panel to impose charges. Is a substantial change being made to the charges that issue to offerors or offerees who fund the takeover panel?

Mr. Rabbitte:  No fundamental change is being made. The amendment clears up potential ambiguity in the section. I am not convinced there is such ambiguity, but the interim panel is of the opinion that there might be an ambiguity if the section were left unamended. The text is unaltered. Subsection (d) will be the first line of the current subsection (d). The amendment makes a new subsection (e) of the text from “on any person in respect of a document furnished by him or her...”.

There are no fundamental changes in charges. The interim panel is currently considering the schedule of charges it might impose with regard to its functions. I have not seen the charges but I presume they will be no more than is required for the discharging of the panel's functions. Depending on what they consist of in a given year, the charges might be modest or of some significance if a significant case came before the panel.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  Is it not the intention that the panel be self-financing?

Mr. Rabbitte:  Yes.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  I presume the Stock Exchange will make its contribution and that members of the Stock Exchange will be the contributors.

Mr. Rabbitte:  It might be the companies involved in the transactions rather than the members of the Stock Exchange.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  So there is no major change from what was agreed?

Mr. Rabbitte:  No.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 6 is related to amendment No. 5. I suggest amendments Nos. 5 and 6 be debated together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 5:

In page 20, subsection (4), lines 33 and 34, “Subject to the provisions of any enactment or rule of law, the Panel may” deleted, and the following substituted:

“Without prejudice to subsection (5), the Panel may, subject to the provisions of any enactment or rule of law,”.

[1646] Section 20 (4) currently provides that, subject to the provisions of any enactment or rule of law, the panel may indemnify its officer in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him or her in the carrying out of his or her duties as such officer. In line with the practice of the London panel, the interim panel wants to be able to take out insurance policies in respect of its officers against possible legal actions against them for defamation in other jurisdictions.

However, the panel sees the provisions of section 200 of the Companies Act, 1963, as prohibiting it from taking out such insurance. This provision is seen as preventing a company from taking out insurance to indemnify an officer of the company from liability for a specified events, negligence, default, breach of duty or breach of trust. Any policy of that nature taken out by a company is rendered void except in the restricted circumstances set out in the section. Given the nature of the panel's functions, it is important we remove any doubt about the capability of the panel to take out such insurance. However, this solution does not amount to a disapplication of section 200 of the 1963 Act in respect of the panel. The solution involves a slight amendment to the existing subsection (4) and the provision of a new subsection (5). The proposed solution is acceptable to the panel.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  This amendment indemnifies the panel against liability that might occur for mistakes or errors of judgment the panel might make. Is that fair to the offerors or offerees? If the panel makes a bad judgment in a takeover case it could cause a substantial loss for the participants.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The fear in this case arises from a defamation case in another jurisdiction. The panel would normally have the indemnity to which the Deputy refers. This amendment makes it clear the indemnity will apply in a case arising in another jurisdiction. One would be unlikely to get people to serve on a takeover panel if they personally were liable for errors or omissions made in good faith. It does not prevent a company which believes it has been the subject of negligence from prosecuting an action. It merely means the directors of the panel would be indemnified. If the members of the panel act in male fides, it is a different matter. If the directors or members of the panel were to act in bad faith, the aggrieved party could institute proceedings for negligence and the panel would be liable.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 6:

In page 20, between lines 37 and 38, the following new subsection inserted:

“(5) The Panel may indemnify any member, director, officer or employee of the [1647] Panel in respect of any liability on his or her part to pay damages or costs by reason of anything done or omitted to be done by him or her in the carrying out of his or her duties as such member, director, officer or employee, being a liability that —

(a) has been determined in proceedings before a court or tribunal of another state or arises by virtue of an agreement entered into in settlement of proceedings before such a court or tribunal, and

(b) would not have been determined if the provisions of this section had been applied in those proceedings by the court or tribunal or, as the case may be, would not have been the subject of an agreement as aforesaid but for the reliance, in good faith, by the member or other person aforesaid on any legal opinion or advice to the effect that the provisions of this section would not be applied by the court or tribunal in those proceedings.”.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Agreement to Seanad amendments is reported to the House and a message will be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  I welcome the Bill. It will improve our international reputation as a high growth economy. Many takeovers have taken place in this country. When Irish Distillers was taken over by Pernod Ricard the London Takeover Panel had responsibility because we did not have a regulatory authority. We have made great progress. This Bill will help our country and the people who invest in it. We have a small Stock Exchange, with approximately 86 members, and I would like to see more people participating in it. It encourages privatisation and a modern economy and there is nothing to be said against that. It gives the public a right to invest. This Bill gives us necessary independence in the financial sector and I hope it is implemented speedily.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I concur with the Deputy's sentiments. I thank the House for facilitating the conclusion of this business and Deputy O'Keeffe for his interest in the Bill on all Stages. This is a complex and detailed area of law and I thank my officials for their painstaking work on this legislation over a long period.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe:  I also thank the Minister of State and his officials for their assistance on the technical aspects of this Bill. The Minister of State and I worked well together in our endeavours to ensure the country has proper legislation and an effective takeover panel. I look forward to confronting the Minister of State when dealing with future legislation and I hope he will accept amendments on Committee Stage of the Credit Union Bill.

[1648] The following motion was moved by Deputy Dempsey on Tuesday, 4 March 1997:

That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government for its total disregard

—for the welfare of rural communities, and,

—for the principle of equity for all our citizens

in their handling of the water charges issue, and calls on the Government to take immediate action to assuage to deep resentment felt throughout the country.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete the words after Dáil Éireann and substitute the following:

“welcomes the comprehensive proposals of the Minister for the Environment for the reform of local government contained in the document Better Local Government — A Programme for Change, which will provide local authorities with a new buoyant funding system and consolidate local authority domestic water and sewerage charges into general taxation, and also welcomes the commitment by the Minister to undertake a full examination of a range of issues arising in relation to group water supplies, within the framework of a planned approach to the organisation and management of water supplies in rural areas, and to report to the Government thereon.”

—(Minister for the Environment.)

Dr. Moffatt:  I wish to share my time with Deputies Noel Treacy and de Valera.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is agreed.

Dr. Moffatt:  In County Mayo 785 households have no running water, while a number of small groups have been waiting for a water supply for more than 20 years. These people are not impressed by the decision to abolish service charges. They would be delighted to have a water supply and would not mind paying for it.

Mr. N. Treacy:  I support the motion moved by Deputy Dempsey and condemn outright the Government's decision to discriminate against the people of rural Ireland. This decision was made in haste on the afternoon of 19 December last after the Dáil had adjourned for the Christmas recess. The left wing parties in Government, Democratic Left and Labour, are obviously dictating to the right wing party, Fine Gael, which because of its desire to stay in office and to [1649] accommodate its wonderful new friends agreed to this decision. I know from research and representations I have received that there was no consultation with officials in the Department of the Environment or local authorities on the elimination of service charges in the capital city and borough corporations. The people in rural areas have rightly rejected this decision.

On 21 January the Minister decided at the opening of a library in Galway to throw water on the fire which was escalating in rural areas by announcing that people connected to a local authority source would not have to pay domestic charges either. He did not take into account the people in rural areas who had used their own resources to provide a vital water service for them, their families and communities.

In response to this decision, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes was established on a countywide basis. It has met with the Minister and politicians and put various proposals to them. I fully support these proposals. The Minister of State, Deputy Higgins, was probably at the meeting at which this drastic, discriminatory decision was agreed. The Government has failed the people of rural Ireland and stands condemned. Until such time as this decision is reversed all schemes, whether they relate to one or two houses or groups, must be subsidised.

Mr. J. Higgins:  How much would the Deputy give them?

Mr. N. Treacy:  That is a matter for the Government, which introduced this decision without any consultation.

I am sick of tabling parliamentary questions as I am never given a reply which sets out the de facto position. On 25 February my Question No. 183 asked the Minister for the Environment the reason capital grants were not paid to group water schemes throughout the country over the previous 12 months; the number of such schemes awaiting payment; the total amount of money to be paid; the date on which these payments would issue and if he would make a statement on the matter. The Minister replied:

Last year my Department paid £6.6 million in capital grants for group water and sewerage schemes. Instalments of grants are paid on foot of certification of work done as schemes progress. Final instalments are paid on the satisfactory completion of the scheme. There has been no undue delay by my Department in paying grants as they fall due.

This is totally false as group water schemes involving two, three, four and five houses which were cleared by the Department's inspectors in late 1995 and early 1996 were told payment would be made in 1996. My backbench Government colleague announced in the local papers, having been informed by the Minister for the Environment, that payment in respect of these schemes would be made in early 1997. As recently as last [1650] December I raised the matter with departmental and ministerial officials who told me that payment would be made not later than 11 January.

As a result of the confusion created in the Department of the Environment by the Government and immature Minister for the Environment, people involved in schemes approved in 1995 and 1996 have been told payment will not be made until the files have been transferred to the local authorities. These schemes have been cleared by the Department's inspectorate and payment should be made now. I call on the Government to ensure that schemes such as the Boula No. 2, the Baragurrane, Traskernagh and other schemes in County Galway receive payment immediately. The duplication of work by the Department and local authorities should be eliminated and cheques issued immediately. I appeal to the Minister to do this forthwith. I want an update on the position of the schemes in County Galway within seven days.

Miss de Valera:  The handling of the water charges issue shows a complete lack of understanding by the Government of rural communities and, even worse, demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the principle of equity for all citizens. This decision shows that the Labour Party got its way at the expense of rural Fine Gael Deputies. The political cost of this remains to be seen.

There was little or no evidence of consultation or deliberation by the Minister for the Environment on this issue until public reaction proved that his proposals were unjust. He then announced that local authorities would take over private group water schemes. There must have been no consultation with such groups as many of them are vehemently opposed to such a takeover. The Minister seems to have forgotten that private group water schemes were introduced by very strong and influential groups who had done tremendous work in their communities. The Minister said another study will be carried out. As Deputy Dempsey said, we are back to where we started.

Deputy Dempsey outlined four options the Minister could take to deal with this problem and to remove the inequity he created as a result of his announcements on 19 December and 21 January. These are (1) direct subventions to householders; (2) direct subventions to appropriate group water schemes; (3) the taking in charge by local authorities or the Department of schemes opting for this approach; and (4) the provision of a formal scheme between the Department, local authorities and group water schemes which will ensure that those groups which wish to remain independent can do so without suffering any penalties or inequity and will be facilitated in their function of providing and maintaining a portable water supply to their communities. He said that options (1) and (2) could be used in the shorter term to remove the inequity created by the Minister and that options (3) and (4) were, of necessity, [1651] of a longer term nature and would require full consultation with the group schemes concerned before any such schemes could be finalised.

I fully support the motion. This issue has caused great anxiety throughout rural areas, not least in my own constituency where a number of meetings have been held during which views were vehemently expressed. I hope the Minister, even at this late stage, will listen to the proposals put forward from this side of the House to ensure an equitable and fair system in the future.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. J. Higgins):  I wish to share time with my colleagues, Deputies Eric Byrne and Penrose.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Higgins:  I welcome the logical and systematic approach adopted by the Minister for the Environment. I compliment him on being the first Minister for the Environment in decades to take a genuine interest in local government reform and take positive action on it.

Over the years local authority members, particularly at Estimates time, demanded the retention of road tax within the county exchequers. This proposal provides for that. It also introduces an equalisation fund and abolishes water and sewerage charges, which means that householders in urban areas will no longer have to pay up to £150 per house for these services. It also provides free water for rural areas where water is sourced from public authority supplies.

As regards self-sourced rural water supplies, the Minister has given the clearest possible commitment that a comprehensive examination of the rural water supply issue will be undertaken, and a report thereon will be brought to Government. It is administratively easy to abolish water charges for urban dwellers and establish a system for those water schemes which buy their supplies from county councils, but it is not so easy to devise a scheme of remission for private schemes.

I pay tribute to those who availed of Government funding to bring water to huge tracts of rural Ireland where previously there was no domestic water supply. As a secretary, organiser and trustee of a rural scheme I know at first hand the degree of organisation, administration and frustration involved. I pay tribute also to the Minister, Deputy Howlin for the dramatic increase in grants for the provision of such supplies this year. In 1994, £3.4 million was made available to rural group water schemes. In 1996, that figure doubled to £6.6 million. The Minister has brought about a dramatic increase, from £700 to £1,600 per house this year.

Deputy Hughes put his finger on the problem yesterday evening in underlining the fact that Mayo, for example, has approximately 350 group water schemes. The reality is that some schemes are being run at a cost of £40 per household while [1652] others are costing £240. Some schemes are well run, while others are not. Some schemes are efficient and economic while others are plagued with leaks which results in wastage of water, time and resources. Some schemes want to be taken over by local authorities, whereas others want to retain their independence. The reality is that 43 per cent of schemes show levels of coliform contamination. A substantial amount of this contamination occurred over the seven year period from 1987 to 1994 by way of phosphate contamination, proliferation of septic tanks, etc., and nothing happened by way of redress because of Fianna Fáil's typical closed eye solution to most problems.

The difficulty and complexity of devising a uniform scheme involving public funding which can guarantee equity, efficiency and quality is obvious. The Minister is examining all the issues in detail, and I have every confidence that when he brings his report to Cabinet it will be thorough, comprehensive will address the issues fairly. I have every confidence also that whatever formula is proposed will be informed by the vast range of consultation the Minister has had with county councillors and officials at different locations, his dialogue with the IFA and the ICMSA and his meeting with the National Federation of Group Water Schemes.

I listened last night to Deputy Dempsey's timeworn and threadbare cliché about the anti-rural bias. No Minister for the Environment has allocated as much money to rural areas as Deputy Howlin. When we came into office, potholes on rural roads were the norm. Neglect of county roads under Fianna Fáil led to a rash of pothole candidates and pothole councillors. The Minister faced the issue head on, and in 1995 and 1996 there were huge injections of capital into the county and regional roads structure, with a record allocation of more than £0.25 billion in 1997. As a result, the day of the pothole and the pothole candidate is at an end and there will be no need for water scheme candidates either.

I listened to Deputy Hughes in the House yesterday evening and his usual “Mayo, God help us” argument. Can Deputy Hughes read? Does he read his local newspapers, The Western People, the Connaught Telegraph and the Mayo News? Just four weeks ago the Minister announced £3,857,000 for national primary and secondary roads in Mayo. Up to £5 million is being made available for local authority housing as well as a plethora of schemes throughout the county under the voluntary housing programme.

Two weeks ago, the Minister announced £4,160,000 for Ballyhaunis sewerage scheme, to start immediately; £5,350,000 for Claremorris sewerage scheme, which is expected to start in 1997; £11 million for the extension of the Lough Mask regional water supply scheme to Knock and Ballyhaunis, also taking in a network of group water schemes in the south of the county; £1,750,000 for the Bangor Erris water scheme and £762,000 for the Dugort sewerage scheme; construction [1653] on the Achill water scheme will cost £1.9 million; £2.25 million to the Westport water scheme, Deputy Hughes's native town, and a further grant of £120,000 for leakage control.

Not only is the Minister putting in place vital infrastructure by way of adequate water, sewerage and roads to ensure rural areas are poised to harness the benefits of the new industrial policy announced by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and the IDA this week, but more jobs than ever are being created in rural Ireland. The Mayo County Enterprise Board, for example, created 299 full-time jobs in 1995 and an additional 133 full-time jobs in 1996. Under Fianna Fáil, the Castlebar and Claremorris bacon factories, Irish Spinners Limited in Kiltimagh and Clare Morris Limited went to the wall, but this Government has announced more than 240 jobs for APC in Castlebar, the consolidation of additional jobs for Farah in Kiltimagh, a proposal for a new cement factory in Kilkelly employing 200, and 63 additional jobs involving an investment of over £7 million at Western Brand Chickens Limited, Ballyhaunis.

I never cease to wonder at the consistent inconsistency of members of the Progressive Democrats. God was to be removed from the Constitution, but there was a sudden reverse throttle and God stayed put; the Senate was to be abolished, but after a sudden change of heart, they now happily participate in it. The group water scheme band came merrily down the street, and not only did Deputies Molloy and McDowell get into step behind it, they tried to pass it out by throwing £23 million at the problem. If implemented, PD policy would result in a net profit of up to £200 per household. Who would not want to be a member of a group water scheme?

I will answer the allegation about the lack of a distinct Fine Gael policy on this issue. Fine Gael, the Department of the Environment and the Government are at one on this issue. The Government's policies are contained in our tripartite agreement, A Government of Renewal. That is the spirit which continues to reinforce the success of this Government.

I compliment Minister Howlin on his compatent handling of this issue. I do not doubt his capacity to deliver an equitable and adequate solution. I appeal for less panic and more logic to enable him do that.

Mr. E. Byrne:  I congratulate the Minister. That was a very fine slap in the face for Fianna Fáil, and I hope to give them one or two myself.

Miss de Valera:  It is rather like being savaged by a dead sheep.

Mr. E. Byrne:  Fianna Fáil's amnesic Private Members' motions never cease to amaze me. Deputies Dempsey, O'Hanlon and Ahern referred to “the principle of equity for all our citizens”. I would like to examine that further. [1654] Everybody knows that Democratic Left's public representatives and non-elected representatives campaigned against local authority water charges since they were first introduced. Our campaign was based on the principle of equity. The charges were iniquitous. They were a form of double taxation and were levied on an arbitrary basis. In some areas, for example, householders paid nothing; in other areas they had to fork out over £100 and in others in excess of £200.

In 1985, Fianna Fáil appeared to recognise the inequity of the situation. It certainly recognised the depth of feeling which was stirred among the voters and, in its Opposition clothes, stated it was: “totally opposed to the system of service charges and on return to office would abolish those charges”. The rest is history. Fianna Fáil was returned to Government and the charges with the attendant inequities remained, forcing householders to pay twice for the most basic of services.

I applaud the fact that it took Democratic Left's participation in this Government and in the Programme for Government to finally have the charges scrapped.

Mr. B. Smith:  That is a slap in the face for the Deputy's Government colleagues.

Mr. E. Byrne:  At the end of last year Deputy Dempsey, showing a fine disregard for history, accused this Government of pre-election panic. Deputy Dempsey and his Greek chorus in the Progressive Democrats, who are not here tonight, have latched on to group water schemes in their attempt to play to the large farmers' gallery. With the IFA and the ICMSA they are engaged in what is clearly a transparent attempt to manufacture a urban-rural divide on this issue, blithely forgetting that over 235,000 rural households, around 55 per cent, benefited directly or indirectly from the abolition of local authority water charges, and that figure includes 85,000 rural households belonging to group water schemes which were supplied from a public main.

In January the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, announced a new multi-annual programme with capital funding this year of £5 million, the aim of which is to improve water quality and to enable local authorities to take over private schemes where the members wish, a step which would eliminate charges for the householders concerned. In addition, those schemes that wish to remain fully private will continue to be able to avail of the technical and grant assistance available. I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Howlin, because the measures taken by him will inject an element of equity into the system as well as ensuring that the quality of the water supplied by private schemes meets national standards. There are many low income rural households currently paying for private group schemes. I agree that the burden on such households should be alleviated. I wish low income rural households had a more vocal lobby because I would argue strenuously that they are not [1655] served by the local ranchers in the IFA, the ICMSA or the spokespersons on the Fianna Fáil or Progressive Democrat benches.

In campaigning to have local authority water charges abolished, Democratic Left was campaigning for tax equity, and those who have been most vocal in support of private water schemes have steered well away from the topic of tax equity. Many of them know little about taxation, double or otherwise, as is evidenced in the most recent household budget survey which once again highlights the gulf between the tax take from urban PAYE households and that from farm households. It does not surprise me that Fianna Fáil seized on the rural water schemes issue with great glee because they have been desperately searching for some mast to which they can nail their increasingly tattered colours. Like the previous speaker, I was amazed when I heard the Progressive Democrats committing themselves on a radio programme to subsidising private water schemes to the tune of £23 million per annum. I very much doubt whether that promise will survive Deputy McDowell's first “self-help” or “no-help” budget. The fact is that the group water scheme issue is being viewed through the magnifying glass of an impending election, an election that will see this Government returned to office to continue the project of reforming local government financing.

Mr. Penrose:  I thank my colleague, Deputy Byrne for allowing me to make a contribution, however brief, to this important debate.

As somebody who comes from the heart of rural Ireland, a small village called Ballinacarrig in County Westmeath with a population of 550 people, I do not think anybody can deny that I am deeply committed to the concept of rural rejuvenation and regeneration. It is from this perspective that I recently called for an integrated strategy focusing on a rural renewal concept which would ensure that the problems of rural Ireland would be meaningfully addressed. One such problem is the decline in population which is accentuated by increasing migration to the larger urban centres of population. I have called for the implementation of a rural renewal scheme similar to the urban renewal scheme. Special taxation incentives should be granted to entrepreneurs and business people who locate much needed industry in these areas.

I welcome the recent initiative of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Bruton, in implementing, with the IDA, a new regional policy for employment growth in locations outside the larger urban centres. This is just a start. In order to ensure that the drift from rural Ireland is halted, we must have a more focused approach to encourage investors and promoters to locate their industries in rural villages and towns, of which there are many in my constituency.

[1656] Problems have arisen in rural areas concerning the running costs of group water schemes and charges to members for domestic supplies. The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, is considering this matter and has met representatives of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes, the IFA and the ICMSA and has received representations on this issue from Deputies and other public representatives of all parties. I am confident that the Minister will do as he has done so often in his portfolio in the space of two years and two months when he grasped the nettle in regard to issues that had been left on the back burner for years. He will examine the submissions of various bodies and a satisfactory solution to the problems will be found.

Let us not engage in hypocritical cant by saying that rural Ireland and those who reside there have been forgotten by the Government and, in particular, by the Minister, Deputy Howlin. He has done more than all the Ministers in various Governments over the past 20 years to ensure that rural people are placed at the heart of the Government's agenda and are not forgotten. I intend to demonstrate how untrue is that mantra of anti-rural bias which has been glibly trotted out.

Westmeath is a large rural constituency, and I will give some examples of the tremendous work the Minister has engaged in on water and sewerage schemes, local authority housing and county and regional roads, all matters of primary and paramount importance to people living in rural areas. I am aware of these matters because I live in one of the most rural villages in County Westmeath. Let us compare the record of the Minister, Deputy Howlin, to the scandalous level of neglect of rural Westmeath by his predecessor in the Department of the Environment. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, made funds available for urban and village renewal projects throughout the country and County Westmeath received a good share of that funding. The village improvement schemes carried out under the auspices of the local authority have been extremely successful in County Westmeath. Work has been carried out which will enhance and improve the villages concerned and underpin their economic position for the future. Villages such as Castlepollard, Delvin, my village of Ballynacargy, Finea, Clonmellon, Multyfarnham, Fore, Coole, Moate, Glasson, Baylin and Ballinahowen have benefited. The village enhancement schemes provided great impetus for further community development and I am glad I initiated some of those schemes at local authority level.

The Minister increased the rate of grant for group water schemes. The new rate of £1,600 per house, subject to a maximum of 75 per cent of cost, and £1,200 per farm was more than double the previous maximum rate of grant and encouraged people in outlying rural areas to get together and provide piped water supplies for themselves. The Kinnegad-Killucan Cloncrave scheme is one [1657] example where the increased grant provided an impetus to development. Developments also took place as a result of increases for sewerage schemes. It was acknowledged by the Minister that group water schemes were very successful in supplying the water needs of many rural communities. By increasing the level of grant for such schemes he showed his strong support for and commitment to the development of self-help initiatives, which helped many rural householders and farm families to provide a supply of quality piped water for their farms and homes.

I live in an area with high unemployment and for 30 years politicians came to the village telling us we would be looked after in terms of water schemes, but when they rode out of town we never saw them again. When I was elected I gave a commitment that a decent water supply would be provided in my village. I raised the matter on the Adjournment with the then Minister, Deputy Smith, but the reply left me without hope. However, Deputy Howlin was only a short period in the Department when that 30 years wait ended. I was delighted to be involved in securing a scheme for Ballynacargy, Moyvore and Ballymore. The water supply in the area was totally inadequate and unreliable, particularly in the summer period, and the villages of Moyvore and Ballymore had no public supply. The people in those areas will not forget that I delivered on my promise. I pay tribute to the Minister for ensuring that £2.1 million was made available for the area. In the absence of a quality water supply the efforts of local community groups to initiate development and bring worthwhile projects to the area were hindered. As a result of that scheme a project is in line for my village of Ballynacargy which will create a significant number of jobs. That is only one example of the importance of water supply schemes.

The Minister provided £4.587 million for Moate sewerage scheme to allow construction to continue this year. That important scheme, which was promised 20 years ago, is designed to the highest standard and permits the extension of the mains to the environs of the town of Moate and its surroundings. Tyrrellspass, an area with major hotels and businesses, does not have a proper water supply. The source is very unreliable, causing major problems for the residents and farmers of the area. The Minister provided £1.1 million this year for that scheme and tenders are being sought.

I have given examples of only a few rural areas which were neglected by previous Governments. I am glad a Labour Party Minister delivered on the promises for County Westmeath — the people will remember that at election time — and I am proud to have played a role in that regard.

For many years county roads were in a very bad state of repair. I have been a member of a local authority for 14 years and at every council meeting motions were put forward, but no money was available to pay for filling the potholes. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, who made many [1658] improvements when Minister for Health, introduced a ten-year initiative to solve the problem of potholes, which have bedevilled county roads for the past ten years or more. I was acutely aware of the problems of county roads and was delighted the important contribution made by rural people to the economy was recognised by the Minister. The existence of a sound network of county roads is central to the creation and maintenance of jobs in industry, agriculture, tourism and rural development.

The development of county roads has a knockon effect in terms of employment. Not everybody is committed, as I am, to employing a large number of outdoor permanent staff. In the mid-1980s workers were let go willy nilly from the council. That accentuated the problem of potholes because there was nobody to maintain the roads. Some people, particularly those who advocate right wing economics, disagree that local authority outdoor permanent staff are critical to the implementation of these schemes but I will continue to call for increased employment at local authority level.

In the housing area, the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government provided for only six or seven local authority houses in my area, which was very unsatisfactory because there were about 300 people on the housing list. The Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, like his predecessors, Jimmy Tully and Deputy Liam Kavanagh, ensured a decent allocation was provided for local authority housing for those unable to provide their own homes. As a result local authority waiting lists are decreasing. If there is a change to a centre-right Government will there be a repeat of what happened in the late 1980s when there was no provision for local authority housing? Local authorities are building houses in rural areas, thereby keeping people in those areas and ensuring that schools, Garda stations and churches remain open. In some areas there were not enough young people to form a football team, but that position is now changing. Those matters are very important in rural Ireland and I am glad the Labour Party has made a contribution to those areas. We have provided resources for local authority housing and hope to be in Government to ensure that continues.

Mr. Molloy:  I wish to share time with Deputy Brendan Smith.

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

Mr. Molloy:  Local Government has become less effective since it lost its main statutory revenue base in 1983. Prior to that there existed an enlightened sharing of national Exchequer revenue through a statutory formula giving each local authority a rate support grant equivalent in real terms to the amount it would have obtained in receipts from rates on domestic dwellings which were abolished in 1978. That policy was [1659] supported by all the main parties in the Dáil at the time.

When domestic rates were abolished, local authorities enjoyed a level of funding that allowed them maintain all their existing services at a high level and acquire property and invest in projects deemed beneficial for the development of their areas. However, after the general election of 1982, a Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government was elected and Deputy Spring, the leader of the Labour Party, was appointed Minister for the Environment. He immediately set about enacting the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act, 1983, the result of which meant the rate support grants no longer met in full the domestic rates income which had been foregone on the abolition of rates on houses. That Act also introduced service charges, which have been a bone of contention ever since. They did not bring in additional income but were used as a device to justify a reduction in the rate support grant paid annually by the Department of the Environment from Exchequer funds.

In the years since the introduction of those service charges, many Labour councillors — even though their party introduced the charges — urged people not to pay them and indeed many leading Labour councillors voted against them when adopting annual estimates. This was done of course for local political kudos purposes. They were happy to spend the money, but were not prepared to accept responsibility for raising revenue.

The Labour Party's service charges policy introduced inequity into the system. A large local authority like Dublin, because of its huge commercial base, did not have to rely on service charges to maintain its services and decided not to charge them. This introduced a serious inequity between a large urban authority and the many rural councils, who had no choice other than impose high service charges which were seen as double taxation.

In 1997 the Labour Party is back in office, in the Department of the Environment and, true to form, we have another iniquitous proposal. This time it wants to abolish its mistake and replace it with an extraordinary system that copperfastens an inequity between rural and urban dwellers. Out go the service charges and in comes motor taxation as a source of revenue for local authorities, with a right to increase the tax by 6 per cent every year after 1998. In 1998 alone the increase is to be limited to 3 per cent. The service charges which are being abolished applied only to those who had the benefit of a public water supply system. Rural dwellers, who did not have such a service, had to rely on their resources to provide piped water and they invested their capital along with small grants and built a network of group water supply schemes — 5,500 in all — around the country. The 150,000 householders getting supply from group water supply schemes, as well as building the scheme and managing it, have to [1660] pay an annual maintenance charge that could in some cases be as high as £270 per annum.

These householders must continue to pay maintenance on their private scheme while at the same time pay the local authority increases in motor taxation which are being imposed to compensate local authorities for the loss of revenue from the service charges previously paid by urban householders. In other words, rural dwellers pay twice. This is a hare brain scheme. It is not equitable and institutionalises a rural-urban divide in a most retrograde manner.

Considering that the leader of the Minister's party introduced these changes, it is ironic, even hypocritical, of him to state that:

The long-term decline in the financial independence of local authorities needs to be reversed and the basic drawbacks of the existing local finance system needs to be tackled. For a start, the local authority funding base was too narrow and there was little buoyancy. This problem was compounded by the fact that the authorities have been continuously conferred with new function, without any allowance being made for the additional pressure such functions would place on their finances. Furthermore, the authorities were at the mercy of central Government to the extent that they never knew for certain how much rate support grant they would receive in the next year and, in addition, this grant did not always keep pace with inflation.

The sheer audacity of it is breathtaking. There is not a word of regret, nor one admission that the Labour Party got it wrong then, as it has now. There is not the slightest admission that the Labour Party, with its socialist ideology for central planning and central control, is guilty of gross mismanagement of the local government system. Instead we were subjected last night to a lecture from the Labour Party Minister asking us not to engage in political point scoring. This is the party that ruined local government and is now only motivated to abolish its earlier faulty system because it faces a political threat from people such as Joe Higgins and other disenchanted former Labour Party members who nearly won the Dublin West by-election on the single issue of abolishing service charges.

The Minister is not in a position to lecture those who opposed Deputy Spring's Bill in 1983 and who have now been proven right. For the second time, opposition voices have to be raised against the folly of the Labour Party local government reforms that were ill-thought out and blatantly discriminate against 279,000 households in rural Ireland. A major blunder has been made and I call on the Minister to admit what Deputies and Senators from his party and the Fine Gael Party are saying at meetings in their constituencies and behind closed doors at Parliamentary Party meetings.

The Minister sought to rubbish the good work of group water schemes by saying “...the quality [1661] of water in many of these schemes is not up to standard. The recent Environmental Protection Agency report on drinking water quality indicates that 43 per cent of private group supplies suffer some degree of coliform contamination”. A reference for that statistic was not given. Did the 1995 report of the Environmental Protection Agency not indicate that 62.5 per cent of public water supplies suffer some degree of coliform contamination and that the excess of coliform in group schemes was only 32.5 per cent? The Environmental Protection Agency report is more critical of public water supply schemes than of group water schemes, but the Minister sought to put across a different image last night.

On a number of occasions he has also sought to reinterpret the announced system whereby for 1998 local authorities would be able to vary the national rate of motor tax by up to 3 per cent and for 1999 and subsequent years by up to a maximum of 6 per cent. The Minister now says what he really means is a maximum 6 per cent increase on the base year of 1999. His document did not mention a base year. It stated that the net effect of these changes will be that in 1998 local authorities will be empowered to vary the national rate by up to 3 per cent and in 1999 and subsequent years by up to a maximum of 6 per cent. It is only since the Group Water Schemes Federation started its campaign that we heard of the application of a base year. If this is a backing down, why not admit it?

I also dispute the Minister's assertion that “Under the new arrangements, no household, urban or rural, connected directly or indirectly to a public water supply will have to pay for a domestic water supply”. That is not correct. All group water schemes that get their supply from a local authority water main incur the cost of running and maintaining their schemes, which could involve more than one booster pump in hilly territory. These annual maintenance costs remain to be paid by the members of these groups.

The Group Water Scheme Federation sought £80 per house from the 85,000 rural households involved, making a grand total of £6.8 million. That is its estimate of the amount involved. The Federation sought £160 per house for all of the 55,000 rural householders totally dependent on group schemes with a private water source.

The Minister announced a package estimated to cost £18 million, which included a figure of £5 million, to enable local authorities take over group schemes. The federation ridiculed the £5 million figure for the take-over and refurbishment of quality-deficient group schemes and estimated that it would require capital funding of £50 million this year to bring them all up to quality efficient standards. It is obvious the Minister did not do any preparatory work before making his “I'll abolish water charges” statement.

The essence of this debate is that the Minister made a monumental blunder. He has stirred up a sleeping giant in rural Ireland and has not yet moved to resolve all the complex difficulties [1662] which he has created by lack of judgment in a decision which was politically motivated solely for the purpose of seeking to save the seats of Labour Deputies, not one whom has apologised to the House for the current position.

To save a few Labour Party seats, 279,000 households must continue to pay for their domestic water while this Government gives a free gift of unlimited, unmetered water supply to every urban household. The Minister claims no principle of equity is being breached by this decision. That does not bear comment, it is beyond belief.

Group water schemes are an ideal example of rural communities using their initiative to organise the supply of piped water to their homes and managing the maintenance and administration of their scheme on a voluntary basis. This Labour Minister wants to replace this voluntary, no cost to the State, effort with a team of civil servants. Thus in one fell swoop he is dealing a death blow to enterprising self-help groups in rural Ireland, adding another burden to the already overburdened taxpayer and motor car owner and in the process creating a grave inequity between rural and urban communities. I call on the Minister to redress this inequity to give equal treatment to rural and urban dwellers and to stop making irrational, ill-thought out decisions for purely party political gain.

The Minister's party has a record of messing up the local government system. He should get rid of these inequities immediately. The quality of his decisions in office is abysmal. Need I remind the Minister of the dishonourable way he reneged on his solemn commitment to proceed with the Mutton Island sewage treatment plant in Galway as planned again for narrow, politically motivated reasons? Because the director of elections for the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, resigned, he announced a reversal of his solemn commitment in favour of an underground treatment system without an access causeway, a proposal of which the Minister and his Department, the corporation and its consultant engineer, knew nothing in terms of technology, cost or construction. The Minister who speaks about the need for water quality has condemned the citizens of my town to watch the putrification of the water of inner Galway Bay along its beaches and at its harbour and piers where sewage, slime and foul odours permeate the place. This is the Minister's legacy.

If the group water schemes collapse, if the trustees walk away, if the systems fall into disrepair, if rural people become reluctant to ever again join forces in the common good, if all this comes about because of this brazen, selfish, outdated socialist and politically motivated decision, then the Minister's legacy will be even worse and his shame all the greater.

Mr. B. Smith:  May I share my time with Deputies Leonard and Kirk?

[1663]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Smith:  I welcome the opportunity to make a short contribution on this important subject. I support the case put forward eloquently last night by our party spokesman, Deputy Dempsey, and other Fianna Fáil speakers. During a recent Question Time the Minister tried to imply that all and sundry welcomed his local government reform proposals published on 19 December last and that he was the first to foresee anomalies with his announcement in the latter half of January about the provision of funding for the upgrading of group water schemes.

Members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, particularly Deputies and Senators from rural areas, were acutely conscious of the grave injustice being inflicted on rural communities by this Government's ill-thought out approach to the abolition of water charges. That concern was evident given the number of parliamentary questions tabled by myself and other Fianna Fáil Deputies the day the Dáil resumed in January. Those parliamentary questions highlighted in no uncertain terms the anomalies and the discrimination against rural Ireland due to the so-called reform of local government proposals announced by the Minister.

Those proposals are anti-rural and have managed to divide urban and rural communities. It is obvious this Government gave no consideration to the interests of participants on group water schemes or to people sourcing their water supplies from private wells. During recent parliamentary questions to the Minister for the Environment I instanced the substantial costs accruing for the ongoing annual maintenance cost of private group schemes. The Minister and the Government have no proposals to offset those substantial costs for participants in group schemes while households fortunate enough to be able to participate in public schemes receive their supply free of charge.

Some 129,000 homes are served by private water supplies. Those of us familiar with rural Ireland are aware of the enormous cost, in many instances, to people sourcing supplies from private wells due to the cost of boring wells and the provision of pumps, etc. Participants in group water schemes and households with private supplies are not being treated fairly.

Recently I asked the Minister for the Environment if he had any proposals to allocate funds to households that must install a single house mechanical plant for sewage treatment in view of the fact that the average capital cost of such a plant is £4,000. The household must also meet the running and maintenance costs. I sought the Minister's views on whether such households now receive treatment equal to that of city dwellers following the abolition of service charges. His only response was to the effect that there are no proposals to provide public funds or tax allowances in respect of the cost of those facilities. The [1664] single house mechanical treatment plant is common in my constituency due to the nature of the drumlin soil. Is that the creed of equity as enunciated by this Government?

My constituency and most of rural Ireland have been well served by active and committed group water scheme committees. The organisers and committee members gave and continue to devote much time and energy voluntarily to a worthwhile community effort. The group water scheme concept has been of enormous benefit to rural Ireland, but the schemes with which I am familiar in my county and County Monaghan need upgrading. It has been estimated that the appropriate upgrading of those schemes in County Cavan would cost £15 to £20 million. When will such finding be provided?

The only demand the organisers of the group schemes made in recent years was capital funding for upgrading purposes. That was a legitimate request by any standard but the only response of this Government was to create chaos and further inequity. The people of rural Ireland will not accept such treatment from this Government.

Mr. Leonard:  I support the motion proposed by our spokesman on the environment, Deputy Dempsey, but I am critical of the amendment which is a rehash of what many Members listened to in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell a week ago when the Minister and an assistant secretary of his Department launched the document Better Local Government — A Programme for Change. We listened to phrases such as “buoyant funding systems” and “ring fencing”. The programme is based on funding provided from motor taxation, which will bail them out of funding group water schemes. The Minister spoke about an extra 6 per cent which could be obtained over the next two years by increasing motor taxation.

Last night the Minister spoke about county roads which is a popular topic. It was reported in the newspapers yesterday that his boss, the man who carries the purse, had indicated clearly that £40 million of the sum allocated for county roads would be used to meet the nurses' pay demands.

The decision to abolish water charges was ill-advised. The necessary groundwork was not done. It appears the Minister disregarded all of the technical advice available. A sum of £5 million is available to upgrade group water schemes. A further £10 million will be made available by way of a block grant. The constituency I represent requires the combined sum.

The Minister now knows that the local authorities are not in a position to assume responsibility for group water schemes, most of which are supplying water of good quality efficiently and effectively. At least half of the schemes in County Monaghan have treatment plants. While some schemes have agreed a set price for the repair and maintenance of water mains, the members of other schemes carry out this work themselves. No local authority could compete with them. The [1665] members of the small scheme of which I was a member did everything that needed to be done. They took metre readings and collected money on behalf of the council. That is the reason schemes can supply water to their members at a reasonable price.

Group water schemes operate on the principle of self-help. Scheme organisers devote all of their spare time to administration. They are not prepared to transfer responsibility to local authorities because they fear that, in time, supplies could become too expensive. When I first entered politics there were few schemes in my constituency. Supplies were made available by the Western Water Board in Northern Ireland — Monaghan County Council was responsible for the connections — but costs spiralled out of control. Because of this and weak pressure, Monaghan County Council and scheme members had no option but to sink wells and supply pumps.

Members of group water schemes are entitled to be reimbursed for the domestic water supply element. In addition, individuals have spent between £2,000 and £3,000 from their own resources on sinking deep wells. No grants are available for that unless it is provided for in a farm development plan. If motor taxation is increased, they will face additional charges. This is inequitable.

I tabled a question on behalf of the members of a group water scheme who were seeking an extension because the supply was not usable. I asked the Minister if he would make arrangements to expedite approval and was informed in reply:

As already announced, responsibility for the operation of group schemes is being devolved to the local authorities, subject to existing commitments on foot of approvals issued by my Department. Where schemes have not yet been approved, it will in future be a matter for the local authorities to decide on grant applications.

Monaghan County Council does not know what commitments have been made. I ask the Minister to clarify the matter as soon as possible.

The interests of rural dwellers have been disregarded. The Government seemed to have a chip on its shoulder so far as funding for the Border region was concerned. Over a three year period, 24 out of 26 counties received funding from the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Last week an application to have an incinerator provide electricity from waste located in the region was turned down. The project was snatched from us and is to be located instead near Dublin Airport where it is not wanted.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  Last evening the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, dealt fully with all of the issues raised by the motion and placed them in the context of the Government's proposals for fundamental reform [1666] of local government. These proposals provide for a total revamping of the hitherto ramshackle and inequitable system of funding local authorities. Unfortunately, despite the Minister's comprehensive statement, Opposition Deputies have persisted in deliberately misrepresenting the Government's position. I will do my best to set the record straight, again.

The most overused word in this debate is “equity”. Does anyone suggest the previous method of funding local authorities was equitable or consistent? The system of water charges which has evolved mostly under Fianna Fáil Governments could scarcely be less equitable. Can it be equitable that a basic necessity of life such as domestic water provided by public authorities varied from being free in two of our largest cities to a cost of £200 per year in some counties?

The Government has repeatedly been accused by the Opposition of being unfair to rural communities. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Minister referred to the huge programme investment in non-national roads as an example of the Government's support for rural development and communities. The removal of charges from households connected to a public supply benefits both rural and urban communities. The majority of rural households will benefit directly from this measure. The decision to abolish water and sewerage charges and to absorb the cost into general taxation stands on its own merits. If the Deputies opposite believe that domestic water and sewerage charges should be reintroduced, let them say so. Their continued attempts to make this an urban v. rural issue are negative tactics which do them little credit.

The Opposition's other tactic of trying to link the abolition of service charges with an increase in motor tax is a red herring. There are strong reasons motor tax is a suitable basis for the future funding of local authorities. It provides a buoyant source of income, it is already collected by local authorities and is closely related to the services they provide. If local authorities wish to increase the level of this tax by up to 6 per cent, they can do so if they wish to expand local services. It is important to clarify that no local authority will exercise this limited discretion to increase the rate of motor tax because of the absence of water charges.

If anything positive is to come from this issue, it is that it has focused attention on a relatively neglected aspect of the water service, rural water supplies. Water quality in many private group schemes is a major cause for concern. The problems for rural water supplies did not arise overnight or because public domestic water charges were abolished. It is a separate issue to the abolition of service charges and one I am glad to say the Government is now tackling.

I assure the House the Government is united in its determination that the problems affecting rural water supplies are tackled in a fully considered, planned and effective manner. As the Minister has already indicated, we envisage that [1667] such an approach would be based on four broad principles; first, integrated strategic plans for rural water supplies with the improvement of water quality as their main focus will be prepared by each county council with complimentary roles for public and group schemes; second, the continued development of group schemes, whether providing new or expanding or improving existing schemes which includes examining the running costs of schemes and the charges made to members in respect of these costs; third, implementing the new multinational programme to allow local authorities to take charge and upgrade as necessary those schemes which wish to transfer to and be treated as public schemes; fourth, devolving full responsibility for the implementation of all aspects of the group schemes programme and small public schemes to local authorities.

This kind of planned approach which the Government is intent on pursuing will take some time to develop. We will not throw money at the problem like drunken sailors as advocated by the Progressive Democrats. Neither will the “too cute by half” approach of Fianna Fáil solve this problem. Fianna Fáil is long on rhetoric but short on the specifics of a solution, especially on costings. This Government will not act irresponsibly nor be rushed into piecemeal or quick-fix solutions, not even by this motion. I commend the Minister's amendment to the House.

Miss Quill:  I refuse to be provoked. Like Robert Emmet, I offer the charity of my sadness.

Mr. Dempsey:  The Minister of State, Deputy McManus, spoke about Fianna Fáil being short on specifics on this issue. When I tabled questions to the Minister for the Environment on the number of group water schemes, those sourced by local authorities and those privately sourced, the Minister could not provide me with that information. It is therefore difficult for an Opposition party to be specific about a solution to this problem.

As the Minister of State knows, we explained our approach at an early stage by outlining general principles and by specifying the action needed to be taken by the Minister and the Government to ensure equity. Despite the rhetoric of the Minister of State, we know about equity. She preaches about it but we know about it and have put it into effect before. I bow to the Minister of State's superior knowledge only in the area of negative tactics because Democratic Left has never used anything but negative tactics.

In closing this debate, I wish to open the Minister's mind a little. The debate proved to be enlightening for us on this side of the House.

Mr. Howlin:  That is an achievement.

Mr. Dempsey:  We learned much, not from what the Minister said but from what he failed to [1668] say. For example, in a lengthy and tedious recitation which lasted 40 minutes, he failed at any time to acknowledge the hard work, commitment, dedication and community spirit involved in providing group water schemes in rural areas.

Mr. Howlin:  That is not true. I will send the the Deputy the unrevised version of the debates.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  No interruption, please. Let us have the same level of order as prevailed for previous speakers.

Mr. Dempsey:  One would have thought the Minister, despite the pressure he obviously feels, would have had the good grace to acknowledge the commitment of these voluntary workers in rural areas. Instead of acknowledging it or praising them, the Minister chose to insult their contribution, time and effort, not just last night but over the past four to five weeks. This indicates his attitude to these groups. He also shows his contempt for the local effort of these people by tabling the amendment to this Fianna Fáil motion. Government Deputies are tonight being asked to support an amendment which the Minister hopes will kick this issue to touch until after the next general election. He has attempted over the last three to four weeks, to avoid the issue, to avoid meeting the people involved and to avoid resolving it because he and his friends in Democratic Left have no concept of the anger and resentment felt in rural Ireland on this issue. The Minister has decided that kicking it to touch will get it out of the way for the election so as not to affect the Labour Party and Democratic Left too seriously.

The responsibility on the Minister's shoulders is a serious challenge. His and this rainbow coalition's habit of shirking every issue will be judged by the electorate sooner rather than later. There is probably some excuse for the attitude of Labour and Democratic Left in adopting this approach but I fail to understand why the approach is being adopted by Fine Gael. Who would believe that, with its so-called rural roots, it would allow this to happen? I said last night that Fine Gael is in Government but not in power. This amendment proves that case. Despite the obvious pressure on the Taoiseach from rural Deputies, he has managed to get them to allow Labour and Democratic Left to call the shots on this issue. Some Fine Gael Deputies have tried to ride two horses on this issue. I visited Mayo at the weekend and read, with great interest, the local newspaper of 29 January which reported statements by Deputy Ring and the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy Kenny, who warmly welcomed the Minister's announcement on water charges. There was not a word about group water schemes or inequity. We all know about the different tune Deputy Ring has played on a number of occasions since then.

Tonight Fine Gael Deputies have an opportunity in this House to put into effect the sentiments [1669] they are uttering to smooth the feathers of their electorate in rural Ireland. Under the motion we tabled they have an opportunity to support the group water schemes in their constituencies and the Federation of Group Water Schemes set up three to four weeks ago. If Fine Gael Deputies follow the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, through the lobbies tonight, they will endorse his policy of putting this issue on the long finger and postponing its address until after the election. They are ignoring the real anger and hurt felt by people who have organised and availed of group water schemes in rural areas. By walking through the lobbies with the Minister, Labour and Democratic Left, Fine Gael Deputies will be turning their back on rural Ireland. They should know the effect that will have on them. By that decision the electorate will know finally where Fine Gael stands.

Last night the Minister spoke at great length about his programme for local government. During the past week he accused me and other Deputies of not reading what was in the document about the financing of local authorities. That document states local authorities will be empowered to vary the national rates of tax as they apply to vehicles by a margin of up to 6 per cent, there will be no increase in 1997, there will be an increase of 3 per cent in 1998 and up to a maximum of 6 per cent for 1999 and subsequent years.

Mr. Howlin:  From the base.

Mr. Dempsey:  That is not mentioned in the booklet.

Mr. Howlin:  That is implicit in it.

Mr. Dempsey:  It is not stated in it. Does the Minister want me to read it? It states:

...a further change is proposed, with a start date of 1 January 1998 envisaged. Local authorities will be empowered to vary the national rates of tax as they apply to vehicles ... by a margin of up to 6 per cent, subject to a maximum of 3 per cent in the first year (1998). There will be no increase in motor tax in the interim... and for 1999 and subsequent years by up to a maximum of 6 per cent.

Mr. Howlin:  From the base. That will be enshrined in law.

Mr. Leonard:  That word was not used.

Mr. Howlin:  The Deputy does not understand it.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  The Minister has given three versions. Which one is right?

Mr. Dempsey:  On page 8 of the booklet entitled Better Local Government — A Programme [1670] of Change it states that the variation will be up to 6 per cent, but there is no mention of bases.

Mr. Howlin:  I will explain it to the Deputy.

Mr. Dempsey:  The Minister is having great difficulty in understanding it.

Mr. Howlin:  That is an outrageous charge.

Mr. Dempsey:  The Minister attempted to mislead the House last night or he did not understand what is in the explanatory booklet. He does not understand his press release of 19 December which states that local authorities will have the authority from 1998 to vary rates of motor taxation by a maximum of 6 per cent.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  The Minister said that would be in subsequent years.

Mr. Howlin:  That will be enshrined in the law. The Deputy should read it.

Mr. Dempsey:  The Minister should not tell me to read it. He should read his press release, what he said last night and what he said during Question Time last week.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  We are entitled to know which version is right.

Mr. Dempsey:  Last night the Minister took a different tack.

Mr. Howlin:  The Deputy is being mischievous.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Let there not be interruptions from either side.

Mr. Dempsey:  Last night the Minister appeared to abandon the principle of allowing discretion to local authorities. If his latest statement last night is the correct version of this reform, it is clear the power over local government will remain firmly in the Custom House in the future.

Mr. Howlin:  The Deputy cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Dempsey:  The Minister also tried to perpetuate the myth that he was providing free water, but nothing could be further from the truth. He tried to confuse the issue again last night when he talked about motor tax. The Minister, the public and I know that this year motorists will pay £40 million extra in petrol and diesel to pay for the Minister's provision of free water. He knows that as well as I do because that is provided for in this year's budget.

Mr. Howlin:  There were lots of provisions in the budget, but they were not all related to water.

[1671]Mr. Dempsey:  Last night I appealed to the Minister to provide for the making of some payments to group water schemes immediately to cover their running costs and expenses. That is necessary in view of the inequitable manner in which the Minister acted. People in rural Ireland feel they have been treated as second class citizens and that they are entitled to free water. They will not pay fees to the schemes of which they have been members. In many cases the schemes collect their fees in arrears and many are now facing bankruptcy. If those schemes cease to operate because of a lack of money to meet their expenses, the Minister and his Fine Gael colleagues will be responsible and they will have to face the consequences. The Minister believes the forthcoming election will be over in the next six to seven weeks and he will not have to face those consequences for another five years.

Last night the Minister gave no indication that he intended to meet representatives of the federation again to allow them to contribute their views to the study and report that is being prepared. He did not indicate a timescale for the completion of the report and study. A timescale is necessary as this matter should not be put on the long finger. I call on the Minister to open discussions with the federation to avoid further chaos in the coming months. Will he give an undertaking that he will meet the federation, enter into meaningful negotiations and not say something to its members on a Thursday night and something else to us in the House on a Tuesday?

I wish to refer briefly to the contribution by the Minister of State, Deputy Higgins. He complimented Deputy Howlin on being the first Minister [1672] for the Environment for decades to take an interest in local government. That is not complimentary to John Boland, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, Fergus O'Brien and others, not to mention the excellent Fianna Fáil Ministers for the Environment. He mentioned there has been a constant demand from the members of local authorities for the retention of road tax. There has been, but they want to retain it to improve the roads, not to finance local government services generally or to bail the Labour Party out of electoral difficulties in Dublin West.

All this talk about a careful study and devising a scheme shows how badly prepared the Minister was for the announcement he was panicked into making before Christmas. If he had done his job properly, he would have prepared properly for this and would have entered into discussions before he made the announcement. He would not be trying to resolve the difficulty and alleviate the sense of grievance he has created in rural Ireland. Nobody is to blame for that but the Government. He and his colleagues in Government will pay for that in the next few weeks.

The Fine Gael Deputies on the Government side have an opportunity to show their support for group water schemes by voting for this motion. If they do not they will turn their backs on rural Ireland and give in, once again, to Democratic Left and the Labour Party. They will not be worthy of the many Fine Gael Deputies who have gone before them. They are a party with no politics, principles or policies.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): Deputy Dempsey should look into his own heart.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 60.

Ahearn, Theresa.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Peter.
Bell, Michael.
Bhamjee, Moosajee.
Bhreathnach, Niamh.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Bree, Declan.
Broughan, Thomas.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, Richard.
Burton, Joan.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connor, John.
Costello, Joe.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Doyle, Avril.
Durkan, Bernard.
Ferris, Michael.
Finucane, Michael. [1673]Pattison Séamus.
Penrose, William.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Shatter, Alan.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Eithne.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gallagher, Pat(Laoighis-Offaly).
Gilmore, Eamon.
Harte, Paddy.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kemmy, Jim.
Kenny, Enda.
Kenny, Seán.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Mulvihill, John.
Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Toddy. [1674]Sheehan, P.J.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Upton, Pat.
Walsh, Éamon.
Yates, Ivan.

Níl

Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Foley, Denis.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Hughes, Séamus.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Keogh, Helen.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Martin, Micheál.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McDowell, Michael.
Moffatt, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond.
Power, Seán.
Quill, Máirín.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies Dempsey and Callely.

Amendment declared carried.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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

Mr. Callely:  In my contribution on the last occasion I congratulated the credit union movement and its membership. The movement has been a success story and every encouragement should be given to ensure that continues. I said that we were speaking in a vacuum in so far as I understand the Minister has agreed to table a number of amendments but we have not been fully briefed on their contents.

For some time I have been closely monitoring the situation relating to the promised legislation on credit unions, An Post and the third banking force. I have received various replies. To illustrate my point, the Minister for Finance in reply to my Parliamentary Questions Nos. 7 and 64 of 12 March 1996 said:

The issue of how the State banks might be restructured in order to achieve our objective of a vibrant and competitive banking market is such a complex and difficult one that I refuse to be rushed into recommending to the Government a particular solution to it. We will only have one chance to get it right, and getting it right must, therefore, be given priority.

I had tabled another Parliamentary Question No. 81, to the Minister for Finance on the same day. His reply was as follows:

In addition to consolidating and updating existing legislation, the Credit Union Bill proposes to allow credit unions to expand their range of financial and advisory services...

His reply to my Parliamentary Question No. 60 of 12 December last was as follows:

Finally, a Credit Union Bill, which is currently being drafted, will broaden the range of services which credit unions can offer, thus contributing further to competition in the market.

Those extracts clearly indicate that whenever Members of the Opposition manifested an interest in this long promised Bill they were led to believe the priority was to get it right. We were [1675] informed its provisions would allow for the expansion of the financial and advisory services of credit unions, thus contributing further to competition in the marketplace.

In the light of the debate since its publication I am sure the Minister will readily acknowledge the Bill, as it stands, will not achieve any of the objectives outlined in the extracts I have quoted from replies to parliamentary questions. The Minister must come clean as quickly as possible vis a vis his intentions in this respect, clearly enunciating what conditions he is prepared to accept to meet the requisite expansion in the delivery of credit union services.

I received a communication dated 26 February 1997 from the Irish League of Credit Unions on this Bill which touches on many of the issues of which the Minister and others will be aware, such as amendments sought to further enhance the success story that is credit unions. For example, the Irish League of Credit Unions wants a ceiling of £30,000 on shareholdings, recommends that deposits be the greater of 2 per cent of total shares or £50,000 and loans the greater of 5 per cent of total assets or £30,000.

That communication refers to self-regulation, new services, offences and penalties and clearly demonstrates the level of thought given by the members of the credit union movement to the need for this Bill, the level of debate and contribution devoted to preparing their proposals and their vision for the future, which they enunciate as follows:

Our vision is that credit unions will satisfy the social and economic needs of their members, with dignity and integrity by offering, in the co-operative manner and on a not-for-profit basis, full financial services for everyone in the community who wishes to join.

No doubt the Minister received this communication from the Irish League of Credit Unions. It goes into great detail on limits on savings and loans and the impact of this Bill, as it stands, along with the need to have its recommendations and suggestions taken into account.

In recent days I was in communication with a voluntary member of the Artane-Coolock Credit Union. We owe a great deal to the credit union movement, its membership and volunteers for their excellent work. He highlighted the fact that the movement is prepared to accommodate its members and be more flexible than any other financial institution in meeting their requests. Within my constituency there are credit unions at Clontarf, Coolock-Artane, Donnycarney, Beaumont and District, East Wall, Fairview and Marino with a massive membership and an enormous level of activity.

Assuming the Minister was serious in responding to my parliamentary questions last year in relation to the expansion and broadening of the range of services provided by credit unions, I am impatient to see an amended Bill. I plead [1676] with him to take into account the submission of the Irish League of Credit Unions dated 26 February 1997.

Mr. Ferris:  Like all other Members I welcome the opportunity of contributing to this debate which I hope will lead to the further development of the credit union movement. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, on introducing this Bill which had been a long time in gestation.

Members of credit unions in all constituencies, quite rightly, have been lobbying all Members of the House in recent months. Within my constituency there are credit union branches in Tipperary town, the village of Bansha, Clonmel, Cahir, Cashel and Carrick-on-Suir in addition to some subsidiary offices, all of whose members were concerned that, in the event of any further delay, this Bill might not see the light of day.

Whenever Members of the Opposition raised the matter of its introduction on the Order of Business, there was always a positive reaction from the Government. Any perusal of the Bill, as it stands, would lead to one readily understand the delay involved in its preparation. We have endeavoured to reach some measure of consensus among all those involved. I congratulate the Minister on achieving that, and on his extensive consultation before its final drafting.

This Bill will have an impact on all our local communities, yet it is under-rated by the media and political commentators. A true indication of its significance is to be found in the number of Members who have already contributed to this debate and others who no doubt will want to contribute reflecting their constituents' views. This is a testament to the impact of this legislation on the whole credit union movement since its foundation in 1958. No social movement has had such an impact on the lives of so many citizens as the credit union movement. It is in daily touch with the ordinary people in towns and villages in times of need and when the moneylenders are creating havoc in households on the periphery of society. This is important legislation for an important social movement which has an impact across both urban and rural society. No movement has been so successful and so in tune with the needs of the people as the credit union movement.

I listened to the debate last week and I join with my colleagues in paying tribute to the founders of the credit union movement and others involved in developing small credit unions throughout the country. The society we represent and those involved in credit unions owe them a deep sense of gratitude.

I welcome the remarks of the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, that the Bill will continue to emphasise the community spirit which has motivated the credit union movement since its inception in 1958. There is a fear that it could forget the reason for its existence. Without a legal framework or constraints in this legislation what [1677] would prevent the development of credit unions into commercial banks? I doubt that would happen. We are providing a statutory framework for a movement which has grown enormously with popular support and will continue to develop apace. It is right that the embodying principle of the movement is again enshrined in statute.

All sides will welcome the Minister's willingness to consider amendments on Committee Stage. It is consistent with the open and inclusive manner in which the Government has operated in consultation with the people directly involved at the coalface. The Minister's response is reassuring in that the Bill as published is now before the House. He is conscientious enough to realise that sections of the Bill need clarification, if not amendment. Some reservations have been raised by the credit union movement and the Irish League of Credit Unions.

My colleagues have addressed some of these issues, including the maximum limits on shares and loans. I listened to the Minister's contribution on Second Stage and his explanation of the reason limits were chosen. One can understand there are legal constraints in setting limits and perhaps the Revenue Commissioners had some reservations. These fears have been raised by the Irish League of Credit Unions and those of us who are dealing regularly with people who use the facilities of the credit union movement. They are real fears and the limits will impinge on some of the movement's more recent activities which are consistent with their founding principles. I am worried that they may be stymied by limits set down and may not be able to expand into our booming economy by playing their rightful role in the area of financial transactions and in the provision of funding for housing projects, house building and house purchase. We recognise the need for direct involvement by financial institutions in the Government's programme of social housing. This aspect alone is an important factor in communities everywhere. If we do not shackle the credit union movement it will play an important role in the future financing of the housing sector, which is only one aspect of its operations. It assists people who would not be listened to or recognised by some of the commercial banking institutions. These are areas for the small investor and the small borrower. Due to the changing values of money and the booming economy and people's ability to repay reasonable percentages of their total income I have no doubt the limits set down in the Bill can be examined by the Minister. I hope he will treat that aspect of the submission from the Irish League of Credit Unions with the seriousness it deserves.

I thank the Minister for his response to representations I made to him on behalf of various bodies in County Tipperary. I have no doubt he will be amenable to suggestions when the Bill goes to Committee Stage. The credit union movement can be involved in all areas of economic development. The movement represents an emerging force in the housing sector and a considerable [1678] assistance to the Government's policy. It would not be appropriate for any Bill to stymie the efforts of the credit union movement to develop into this sector. Given the representations made to me it is essential to ensure the credit union movement is able and, by statute, capable of delivering a service into new areas of finance and financial assistance. I am sure the Bill will not stymie developments in this sector. It is not beyond the powers of the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, to conceive of regulations to ensure this does not arise. The Irish League of Credit Unions has raised its concerns about section 41. Its view appears to be that if the House is putting a registrar in place to regulate the development of the credit union movement along guiding principles, why not give him or her the leeway to do so?

I welcome the broad terms of the Bill. No other industry in the State is developing as rapidly as the financial services sector. My colleague, Deputy Gallagher, said during this debate last week that he saw potential for the credit union movement to become a benevolent third banking force. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, has advocated the need for a third financial services institution outside the commercial banking sector which will meet the needs of smaller borrowers and depositors, one that is friendly and understanding of their needs and not seek guarantors and the other requirements sought by commercial banks.

If one is a depositor with the credit union, regardless of the size of the deposit, one is considered favourably when one seeks to borrow, whether the amount is a fraction or a multiple of one's deposit. It is possible through this legislation to ensure the credit union movement, together with An Post and other agencies of the State, becomes a third banking force in Ireland. It can be regulated and user friendly and it will not cream off millions of pounds in profits, which other financial institutions do with little regard for the social consequences. That development would not be possible under the 1966 Act, which is why it was necessary to update the legislation in this new dynamic form.

We have the basis of good legislation and the credit union movement recognises this. Most of its proposed amendments should not present difficulty for the Minister of State. I look forward to the Bill being suitably amended on Committee Stage to take on board the reasonable suggestions of the Irish League of Credit Unions. I support the Bill and I hope the Minister of State will respond favourably to the views expressed by all sides of the House.

Mr. R. Burke:  The Credit Union Bill was a long time in preparation and its publication was as a result of pressure from this side of the House and the legitimate lobbying of the credit union movement, its volunteers and members. Our task is to ensure it will provide a basis for the movement to develop in a sound but workable regulatory [1679] environment. The tragedy is that the Bill will not allow such development and it is thus unacceptable to the credit union movement.

Various fundamental issues must be addressed. The credit union movement has done an excellent job in briefing Deputies on all sides of the House on how these issues should be handled. In the first instance, the Bill does not provide the flexibility that is necessary for development. The absolute monetary limits are unrealistic and have no rational basis. These restrictions do not currently apply and limits expressed in percentage terms are required to cater for the range and diversity of the credit unions. Second, the regulatory powers in the Bill go far beyond the requirements of prudent supervision and extend to the internal affairs of credit unions.

The credit union movement is not opposed to regulation. It has put forward a basis on which the respective roles of the registrar and the movement can be fully recognised. Section 94 of the Central Bank Act, 1989, provides a basis for coexistence and co-operation between the movement and the registrar and is, in the opinion of the credit union movement, the only workable and acceptable solution. I support the movement's case. The practical implications of the provisions relating to the new services are unrealistic and need to be amended. The over-emphasis on, and repetition of, offences and penalties in the Bill needs to be reconsidered to ensure the operation of credit unions is not seriously impaired.

The movement has submitted 82 amendments which they view as fundamental. I hope the Minister of State will listen to the opinions of the credit union movement. If not, the Bill will be detrimental to the movement and ultimately to the country. That must not happen. I am not exaggerating when I say that. This movement has branches in every parish and they have done extraordinarily good work. There are many strong credit unions in my constituency which are well supported and utilised by the local communities.

The vision of the Irish credit union movement was illustrated by its strategic plan which was presented at the annual general meeting of the Irish League of Credit Unions in 1996. Its vision, with which every Member can agree, is that credit unions will satisfy the social and economic needs of their members with dignity and integrity by offering, in a co-operative manner and on a not-for-profit basis, full financial services for everybody in the community who wishes to join. That vision embodies the philosophy and ethos of the movement but it is undermined by this Bill. That is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that Deputies on all sides of the House must ask the Minister of State to amend this legislation. Having waited so long for this Bill, it is a tragedy that the Minister of State and the Government should make such a fundamental error in its drafting that the vision and philosophy of the credit union movement will be undermined by it. How out of touch can a [1680] Government be? There is great need for the Minister of State to listen carefully to Members of the House and to the representations made by the credit union movement.

Many features of the Bill will hinder the development of credit unions and frustrate the work of their 12,000 volunteers who demonstrate the value of the co-operative, self help approach to economic development in local communities. While the credit union movement has excellent permanent employees, its real strength lies in its core of volunteer workers who are willing to use their expertise in various areas to benefit their neighbours and community.

The credit union movement has identified a number of issues which it believes are of paramount importance. In this context, it is important to remember that the movement represents 427 credit unions which have assets of between £500,000 and £55 million, no mean sum. This diversity is an indication of the strength and representative nature of the movement which should not be threatened by the Minister or Government of the day or by this House. We must have faith in the credit union movement, give recognition to its achievements and introduce the amendments it regards as essential to meet its future needs.

The success of the credit union movement lies in its voluntary and community nature. The movement wants to move forward and, in this respect, it has identified certain sections of the legislation which need to be fundamentally amended. It is incumbent on us to introduce these changes and not argue against them on some ideological grounds, as the Minister is wont to do. The credit union movement deserves our trust and support.

I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendments which will be tabled by us on Committee Stage. The Irish League of Credit Unions has made the not insignificant statement that it is worried many of the proposals in the Bill will pose a threat to the unity of the credit union movement. No Government should contemplate the enactment of legislation which threatens the unity of the credit union movement. It is, therefore, incumbent on the Minister to accept amendments to the Bill.

I know from my experience in Government that the Minister discussed the legislation in detail with the decent men and women in his Department who try to do their best in preparing legislation and offering advice. In most cases they are wedded to their conclusions and are reluctant to change them. However, this issue is too important to adopt such an approach. The credit union movement is important to every parish and most citizens. I appeal to the Minister to listen to the credit union movement; it deserves nothing less.

The proposed limits on shares and deposits are unacceptable to the movement. It is proposed to increase the limit on shares from £6,000, as set down under the 1966 Act, to £20,000. The limit of £30,000 which we seek is not unreasonable. [1681] Under credit union rules deposits may not exceed 100 per cent of shares. No monetary limit was set on deposits under the 1966 Act and it is proposed to set a limit on these of £20,000. The proposal by the credit union movement that the limit should be 2 per cent of total shares or £50,000, whichever is the greater, deserves our support. The reason given for this proposal is that while the bulk of savings in credit unions are held by small savers — the average is £1,300 — some individuals have savings in excess of £40,000. At present 68 credit unions have members with savings in this region. Any unnecessary restriction on the credibility of a credit union to raise funds will impede its growth. It is of fundamental importance that the limit on deposits reflects a percentage of shares and is not an absolute monetary limit.

Unlike banks, insurance companies and building societies, credit unions do not want to make commercial gains, rather they want to look after their members' interests. The credit union movement has never incurred a loss, which is more than can be said for some financial institutions. I remember when it was thought State institutions would fall as a result of the Allied Irish Banks-ICI affair. We had to use taxpayers' money to prop up these institutions. The credit union movement is concerned only with community development and it deserves our support.

Deputies have referred to the proposed limits on loans. The 1996 Act limits credit union loans to a term not exceeding five years. It is proposed that 20 per cent of loans should be for a period exceeding five years and 10 per cent should be for a period exceeding ten years. I welcome this relaxation but not the proposed limit on loans. There is currently no monetary limit on loans but a £20,000 limit is proposed in this legislation. The credit union movement is suggesting a limit of 5 per cent of total assets or £30,000, whichever is the greater. It argues that while the vast majority of credit union loans are small, to be paid back over a short duration, there is a substantial market for loans in excess of £20,000. Currently, 132 credit unions give loans in this category and, given the potential growth in loan demand as a result of the extension of the loan terms, it is more appropriate to consider the current number of loans in the £10,000 to £20,000 category which are given by 293 credit unions. It is clear that demand for loans in excess of £20,000 will increase. I appeal to the Minister of State to listen to the representations from the credit union movement.

The proposed monetary limits on savings and loans are unacceptable to the credit union movement. A compromise solution which raises the monetary limits, without allowing for the percentage solution indicated, will not be acceptable because it would impede the development potential of credit unions and divide the movement, with larger credit unions in particular seeking a different legal framework in which to operate. If that happened it would be a tragedy because the [1682] unity of purpose and vision of the credit union movement, as outlined in its 1996 AGM document, Protecting the Future Together, should not be damaged by legislation which is intended to improve the potential for development of the credit union movement.

For 38 years the credit unions affiliated to the Irish League of Credit Unions were subject to self-supervision through a comprehensive self-regulatory system. This is operated centrally by the league through the management of the movement's savings protection scheme which has strict rules and procedures. I hope the Minister of State listens to the proposals put forward by the movement in that regard and in respect of new services, offences and penalties.

The Minister of State brought forward the Bill as a result of pressure. We welcome it but, in its present form, it is unacceptable to the credit union movement which has proposed 82 amendments. As a former Minister I recognise that in publishing the Bill the Minister of State would have discussed it with his officials, who would have given their own views, and then published the legislation. To some extent Ministers are married to the legislation they produce because it is the result of cogent, well argued points. I appeal to the Minister of State not to allow the fact that he brought forward the Bill blind him to the issues raised by the credit union movement. I ask him to listen to the reasons put forward by the movement for the changes and to accept those changes as an act of faith in a movement that has done such a wonderful job for the people of this country and, in a special way, for the people.

Dr. Woods:  As my party's spokesperson on social welfare, and a former Minister for Social Welfare, I have a particular interest in credit unions and their work. Credit unions form an enormous voluntary co-operative. They play an important part in the development of our country because they have helped people who started out with small savings become substantial savers. They taught them how to make use of the funds available in an organised way.

Many Deputies came forward to speak on the Bill because they know credit unions play a vital part in their local communities. They know they have contributed substantially to the development and modernisation of those communities.

Credit unions have played an important part in tackling issues of poverty and disadvantage. I know that from my work as a public representative and, before that, as a worker in the community. In those early days, the banks played a part in tackling those issues through their individual managers. It was possible at that time to negotiate with an individual bank manager to get a family out of difficulty. It is difficult to do that today unless the credit worthiness of the individual is well established. I brought many families to the banks 20 or 30 years ago, and the banks established the credit worthiness of those families merely by the honesty of the individuals concerned. [1683] They took a chance on them and it was rare for the banks to be caught out. When they were, it was only for a couple of hundred pounds.

People learned to save with banks in those days, as many learned to save with the credit unions. However, banking has changed. Local managers have less authority and autonomy in dealing with their own local communities. I realise banks are part of a world of competition, investment, return on investment and profit, but we meet the people on the ground and know the difficulties they face.

The credit unions helped in tackling the problems of people in need who could not get support. They developed that work and gave succour to the population to discourage them from going to moneylenders. There were more moneylenders in those days than people realised. We carried out a study which showed the extent of the moneylending problem. People did not understand the percentages being charged by moneylenders. They thought 25 per cent over six weeks seemed like a reasonable deal but, when taken on an annual basis, it was enormous. To the person who needed money urgently and who had nowhere else to go, the moneylender had a role to play.

The research indicated that the moneylending habit was passed on from mother to daughter. A culture of moneylending was clearly highlighted by the research. That problem had to be addressed but who was there to address it? The credit unions were there and they pioneered the work in tackling the problem of moneylending. The Lough Credit Union in Cork did great work in tackling moneylending problems and expended much of its facilities and resources in doing that. I am sure that, at times, they wondered what they were doing and whether they would be successful in helping people to break away from moneylenders — at times they had to face physical and other challenges and sometimes ended up in court. That is history now, but it was the voluntary non-profit-making credit unions who did that work. When we came to tackle that problem on a national basis, we turned to the credit unions. They are the salt of the earth. The Department of Social Welfare was able to work with them. A small scheme was devised which has now become the highly successful MABS — money, advice and budgeting system — as a result of credit unions, the local society of St. Vincent de Paul, community welfare officers and the Department of Social Welfare working as a team to tackle the issues. The credit unions played a central role in that.

I mention these issues because in speaking of the Central Bank, regulation and control, one is inclined to forget that this is about people. The Central Bank is far removed from the people but the credit unions are not, and those who work voluntarily to keep the credit unions going are on the ground working with people. The household budgeting system, under which deductions are made, originated in the Department of Social [1684] Welfare as did many such schemes. Necessity is the mother of invention and if one has initiative and is prepared to tackle problems, new systems will be developed. In Dublin, the household budgeting system has been effective in so far as the payment of rent, ESB and other regular household bills are concerned.

To operate properly in this area, credit unions need a number of facilities, including that of electronic fund transfers and the legislation that goes with it. The movement is developing and improving to meet modern needs. It is doing work which has a large voluntary element and has become much more professional. It is managing huge amounts of money. People are dealing with the credit unions and are happy with them. If people are concerned about elements in the Bill, it is only natural that Deputies in this House are also concerned. Some 80 amendments have already been suggested and there will be more as the Bill goes through Committee Stage.

There is concern about four key points — the limits on savings and loans, self-regulation, the ability to introduce new services, and offences and penalties. The Bill provides for 20,000 shares. Several Deputies have already mentioned that they would like to see this increased to 30,000. In this modern age it would be almost criminal to refuse such a request. Regarding deposits, the Bill provides for £20,000 and there is a demand that it should be £50,000 or 2 per cent of total shares, whichever is the greater. This seems reasonable. Under the Bill, loans are restricted to £20,000 but people want the limit to be 5 per cent of total assets or £30,000 in loans. Several Deputies have said that £30,000 does not constitute a very substantial loan nowadays. It is not exorbitant and there is still a reasonably controlled approach which is beneficial.

The credit unions have their own approach and vision. They operate in a co-operative way as a not-for-profit organisation offering the fullest possible financial services to everyone in the community who wishes to join. Their demands seem reasonable for people who have contributed so much to the country and its development — that hidden development which one does not read about in the newspapers or in Central Bank reports but which occurs. It is only when it has happened that we suddenly realise the difficulties and disadvantages people had to overcome and the credit unions had a major part to play in that.

The movement feels badly about the Bill. It believes its position is being undermined. However, the work of the 12,000 volunteers is worthy of support. There are some 427 credit unions with assets varying in amount between £500,000 and £55 million. There is huge diversity and great strength among credit unions. They have problems and there are issues to be faced. I am quite certain the Minister and his officials will identify these and put it to the credit unions that it is necessary to regulate them.

In practical terms, the limits which are proposed will have a detrimental effect on credit [1685] unions. It will result in some of their members turning away from them. It is fundamental to them that the limits set on deposits should reflect a percentage of the credit union's shares and should not be an absolute monetary limit. The current credit union legislation has no individual limit on deposits which a member can hold. This has not caused major problems over the years. The Minister should not jump to say that there was a little problem here or another problem there. The banks have huge problems; if this House and country did not support the banks they would have even greater problems. However, we all work within society and, at the end of the day, politics has a huge influence on all those activities. The credit unions wonder why the rules are being changed adversely.

I am sure the Minister has heard enough about this issue from both sides of the House to know that he must look at it very seriously. I will not repeat what has been said, but the question of self-regulation and proper recognition of the league and what it is doing is important to the credit unions. It must be recognised that all credit unions operate under rules which are approved by the Registrar of Friendly Societies.

In addition, for 38 years credit unions affiliated to the Irish League of Credit Unions have been subject to self-supervision through a comprehensive self-regulatory system which is operated centrally by the league through the management of the movement's own savings protection scheme which has strict rules and procedures. That was set up by the movement on a voluntary basis in 1989, which is evidence of the responsibility of the league. The SPS currently holds funds of £28.7 million, representing 1.2 per cent of savings, exceeding the actuarially recognised norm for credit unions worldwide of 1 per cent and far in excess of the 0.2 per cent represented by the deposit guarantee scheme of commercial financial institutions. Credit unions are careful and prudent; they are not spendthrift.

The rules of the SPS set out prudential management procedures, standards and ratios which must be adhered to and require credit unions to carry fidelity bonding for all its employees and volunteers. Under the SPS a credit union will receive an inspection visit from the league's monitoring division at least once every 15 months, and in 1996, 317 credit unions received such an inspection. The SPS copperfastens the other levels of support to protect members' savings — these are numerous and are well known to the Minister.

Credit unions want to provide new services and regard as important the system whereby the registrar approves additional services, recognises that such services may be of many different types and introduces approval mechanisms which are appropriate to these differences. They would like to provide services such as ATM machines, with a body such as the league to develop the service, set up conditions and procedures and make a single application for approval.

[1686] In regard to self-regulation, the movement has two fundamental problems with the regulation proposed in the Bill. First, the Irish League of Credit Unions is not recognised as a supervisory body with the appropriate powers to set standards, carry out inspections and enforce the rules of the savings protection scheme, even though the league, on behalf of the movement, administers this scheme. Without such recognition, the movement will not be able to continue in the way in which it has operated for almost 40 years. That is a fundamental issue for credit unions. Second, while for the first time the Bill makes it obligatory for credit unions to be members of a savings protection scheme, it also removes control of the movement's scheme from itself and subjects it to the control of the registrar. That is a basic attack on the self-help, independent ethos of the credit union movement, about which it is very concerned.

The work being done in this area is valuable and important to the development of the credit union movement on an organised and regulated basis. The Minister should, however, listen to the credit union movement. As the practitioner in this area, it makes a huge contribution to the local community and the Minister should work with the movement rather than against it.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte):  Will Deputy Ahern, whom I am anxious to hear, indicate whether we will move onto Committee Stage after his speech, or does he know whether he is the final speaker?

Mr. M. Ahern:  I am not sure. I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this long-awaited Bill, which has been in gestation for a number of years. Given all the discussions that took place between the Minister's office and the credit union movement, we would have expected general acceptance for the Bill, but unfortunately that is not the case. Notwithstanding that, I congratulate the Minister on bringing the Bill to this stage. In recent years we all had discussions with credit unions in our areas which were anxious that a Bill would be published. We have an opportunity now to get matters right for the years ahead to ensure the movement continues to grow and develop on the basis on which it was founded.

Since 1958 when the credit union movement was established there has been phenomenal growth. The credit union movement has a national profile, with 432 credit unions — the number is increasing all the time — membership of about 1.7 million people and £2 billion in savings. Considering that the 1966 Act impacted on only a small number of credit unions, there was need to update the legislation to ensure that credit unions were put on a solid footing.

We are all aware of the problems experienced by commercial banks over the years and we hope similar problems will not arise for credit unions, particularly given that the majority of people who [1687] have invested funds in credit unions are not well off but, without sounding superior, are mostly working class people. Nowadays white collar workers, people living in new housing estates who pay vast amounts of money for their houses, go to the credit union for money to furnish their houses and help finance the necessities such as televisions, cookers, furniture and so on. It is vitally important that rules and regulations are introduced to ensure the future of credit unions.

Some years ago there was great panic at the likelihood that Allied Irish Banks would go down the tubes, thereby causing great problems for the economy. If credit unions were to go under it would have a detrimental effect on the thousands of people who save with them.

The Credit Union Movement developed mainly through the work of volunteers' whom I compliment for giving freely of their time and effort over the past 40 years. While full-time workers are employed in some of the larger credit unions, the movement could not have developed without the unselfish effort of voluntary workers and directors.

I have first hand experience of the operations of credit unions through my profession as an accountant before being elected to the House and in my dealings with constituents. I appreciate the assistance provided by the movement to people who need finance. Some of those they assist would not be entertained by other financial institutions. In the 1960s and 1970s if one had a good reference one could get finance from a bank. However, nowadays when one seeks a loan from a bank one's details are put into a computer and sent to a central processing depot and unless one has a perfect financial record one will not be facilitated. There is no flexibility in the matter. Credit unions are able to help people whom the banks will not entertain because they fell behind in paying back loans. Credit unions have given many people back their confidence. Were it not for them many people would not have the necessities in life. Credit unions have helped people buy new cookers, kitchens, televisions, and to pay for funerals and school fees.

There are some excellent credit unions in my constituency. The Mitchelstown Credit Union was one of the forerunners.

Mr. B. Smith:  Deputy Ned O'Keeffe paid it great compliments.

Mr. M. Ahern:  And rightly so. Mitchelstown Creameries provided a good deal of employment and cash flow in that part of the constituency when the credit union was first established. The credit union movement has spread to many small towns and villages and given a tremendous service to local communities. Credit unions have been set up in Fermoy, Midleton, Youghal, Carrigtwohill, Cobh and Mallow. There are also branch offices in smaller villages and I have not [1688] heard any complaints about the services they provide.

According to a Mr. Paddy Conlon in New Ross, County Wexford, the ethos of the credit union is co-operation. In a letter to the Examiner on 13 February 1997 he stated the movement is a distinct socio-economic system based on a set of well defined principles which underpin three fundamental strands in the social and economic development of individuals and groups. He stated that they uphold the dignity of the individual, ensure a fair sharing of the fruits of labour and promote subsidiarity, encourage self reliance and empower people to provide for all their needs through their own efforts. He went on to state that this Bill would destroy the ethos of the credit union, but I do not believe it will. However, it should not interfere with those three fundamental strands. All co-operative movements are set up to develop local communities.

The main concerns about the Bill have been mentioned by many speakers and I am sure the Minister of State is familiar with them. I hope he will address them on Committee Stage.

Mr. Rabbitte:  If we ever reach it.

Mr. M. Ahern:  We will reach it tomorrow.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The Deputy might have to take Committee Stage.

Mr. M. Ahern:  The debate on this legislation has gone on for so long that a new Government may have formed by the time it is completed.

The limits imposed on shares, deposits and loans are unacceptable to the Irish League of Credit Unions. In 1966 a limit of £6,000 was put on shares. That limit is now £20,000, but the league wants it increased to £30,000. If indexation were taken into account I am sure that figure would be much higher than £20,000.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The £6,000 limit was set in 1986 and would be roughly £9,000 now.

Mr. M. Ahern:  What about the 1966 Act? The matter can be discussed further on Committee Stage. The league wants the limit on deposits increased to £50,000. I accept that if an individual placed a large sum of money on deposit in a credit union he or she could control it, but the £20,000 limit should not apply to all credit unions. Given the difference between credit unions in terms of deposits, placing a limit of £20,000 should be reconsidered on a percentage basis.

As regards the limit on loans, £20,000 is a substantial figure but some people could afford to borrow more. If they are willing to invest their money in the local community, they should be facilitated. The £20,000 limit should be reconsidered before Committee State to see if it is possible to increase it, although if we increase it the limit will become the rule rather than the exception. If we want to keep money in the community, we should make this facility available, [1689] otherwise people will lodge it in one of the large financial institutions.

We will discuss the Bill further on Committee Stage and I hope the Minister will take on board concerns expressed by the Irish League of Credit Unions about limits, self-regulation, new services and offences and penalties. We must ensure that when the Bill is enacted, it copperfastens the future of credit unions which have benefited the communities they served.

Mr. B. Smith:  I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this important legislation. I join Deputies on both sides of the House in welcoming the thrust of the Bill, although I have similar reservations to those expressed by most speakers so far. I compliment the Minister of State and his officials on introducing this detailed Bill. Obviously, much painstaking effort and work went into producing this comprehensive regulatory framework for the credit union sector. That the Taoiseach was asked so often on the Order of Business about the legislation illustrated the widespread interest in it. The Irish League of Credit Unions implemented a successful information campaign for the benefit of public representatives to highlight the need to introduce legislation and deal with the concerns it expressed to us at national and branch meetings.

In County Cavan credit unions are located in Ballyconnell, Cootehill, Cavan, Bailieboro, Ballyjamesduff, Kingscourt, Shercock, Ardagh, Killeshandra and Ballinagh. Such a considerable number of branches in a county with a population of 50,000 shows how important the credit union movement is not only to rural areas, but to urban ones. Recently, I spoke to members of a branch which was established about ten years ago. The chairman of the branch told me it had 2,077 members. A considerable number of people in a small sparsely populated community have shown their commitment and faith in the credit union movement. Its membership comprises people from all income groups and the typical borrower and investor represents all shades of opinion in the community. The chairman also told me that the bulk of borrowing is for productive purposes — for example, the provision of machinery on a farm, additional accommodation in a private residence or improvement works to a farm or a small business. It is, therefore, important the Minister gives favourable consideration to the league's request to lift the cap on borrowing.

Many young people are familiar with the credit union movement because of its sponsorship of the National Community Games. The members of the credit unions, like the members of the community games, give voluntarily. Great credit is due to people in both movements who provide an essential and formidable network of voluntary activity.

Unfortunately, the credit union sector is seen as the poor relation in the financial services sector, perhaps due to a perverse and misguided perception of big being beautiful in financial matters. [1690] The nature of personal and corporate finance has changed radically in the 30 years since the legislation on credit unions was last addressed by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The economic infrastructure underlying financial activity has also changed. We have moved from being a predominantly agricultural society with our trading activity unhealthily concentrated on transactions with our nearest neighbour to a modern industrialised economy with global trade and financial links. The electronic and information technology revolutions have made, and continue to make, significant changes in the way money transactions are effected. The cashless society has not arrived but cash on paper plays an increasingly less dominant role in how we manage our personal and collective financial affairs.

The credit union structure has developed into a strong and essential component of our financial institution infrastructure. It is appropriate that the regulatory arrangements pertaining to it be renewed and undated to ensure it provides the appropriate climate for the credit union sector to continue to play its role. The credit union sector's importance lies not merely in that its assets have risen to £2 billion or that there are more than 400 member unions in the sector, but in its being the sole financial institution whose door is open to those on limited incomes.

Credit unions have played a valuable role in helping people on modest means to manage their incomes and expenditure prudently. There is a perception, which the banks do little to discourage, that the banking sector is not interested in customers dependent on a social welfare income or a basic wage. The bank and building society sectors target customers who are essentially in the middle income bracket. The local credit union has often stood between the hard pressed social welfare dependant and the clutches of the loan shark.

It has adopted a sympathetic and practical approach to the needs of the small investor and borrower and provided many a hard pressed family with a mechanism for clawing their way back from unexpected health or job loss crises and adjusting to living within their means. In so doing the sector has proved that providing a sympathetic approach to personal finance is not a risky practice. There has been a satisfactory safeguarding of the assets of credit unions. Confidence in the trustworthiness of customers has not been misplaced.

Much attention has been focused on the £20,000 loan limit. No one disputes the necessity to maintain the ethos of the credit union sector as a lender and deposit holder specialising in small personal and family transactions. However, £20,000 is not as considerable a sum as one might think. A modest development on the part of a small business or farmer could easily exceed that amount. One hopes it will not be another 30 years before this House revisits the provisions the Minister of State is proposing to enact. We should think of how low the purchasing power of that sum will have plummeted.

[1691] Has the Minister of State given any consideration to allowing himself and his successors flexibility in this connection? Would it be a feasible alternative to specify a higher limit, or perhaps none and allow the Minister of State to determine maximum limits from time to time by way of ministerial order? The limit could be set initially at his preferred level which I hope would be in excess of £20,000. Both he and his successors would have the option of reviewing the limit upwards in the light of experience. Unfortunately, the threshold set seems to have been interpreted in some quarters as an effort to spancel the credit union sector to some degree, which I am sure is a misunderstanding.

We live in an era of competition in which the traditional demarcation between financial institutions is becoming blurred. The demutualisation of one building society and the extension of others into activities which have traditionally been the preserve of banks has been a positive development as far as consumers are concerned. It would not necessarily be a bad thing to have the stronger and more ambitious credit unions diversify into providing a wider range of services. It is important to remember that the customers of credit unions to some degree are not customers of banks. They should have access to as wide a range of financial services as possible and to modern methods of completing money transactions.

I compliment the many people throughout the country who have given loyal and dedicated service to furthering the aims and workings of their local credit union network. They give of their time voluntarily for the benefit of the local community who share in its success. Without the voluntary effort, diligence and commitment on their part, the credit union movement would not be as successful. The fact that we are asking for the borrowing limits to be raised is an indication that the Oireachtas has the utmost confidence in its trustworthiness.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  The Minister of State is quoted in a newspaper article as saying that he will consider increasing the loan limit of £20,000 by way of amendment on Committee Stage, provided the Irish League of Credit Unions makes a convincing case and he can be persuaded there is a significant number of ordinary people with more than £40,000 to invest in their local credit union. As the Minister of State is aware, there are 427 credit unions of varying size with assets ranging from £500,000 to £55 million.

The Irish League of Credit Unions has made the point that the loan limit of £20,000 will cause major problems, in terms of the range of services credit unions will be able to offer, and impact greatly on the number of people with a significant stake. A total of 132 credit unions have provided loans in excess of £20,000 while 293 have made loans of between £10,000 and £20,000 available. The demand for loans in excess of £20,000 is likely to increase.

[1692] I can understand the reasons the Minister of State does not want credit unions to compete with banks and other financial institutions but the imposition of a monetary limit will impede their development. The Irish League of Credit Unions has suggested a figure of £30,000 or 5 per cent of total assets, whichever is the greater. It has made a convincing case. The Minister of State should be amenable to accepting its proposition.

It is important to remember that credit unions operate under the rules of the Registrar of Friendly Societies. A total of £28.7 million is available under the savings protection scheme. This represents 1.2 per cent of total savings. Although self-regulated, credit unions have been well managed and there have been regular inspections. The money is in safe hands.

The Irish League of Credit Unions is seeking recognition by the Registrar of Friendly Societies. The Minister of State met its representatives prior to the introduction of the Bill. This provided an opportunity for a deep discourse on what the Minister of State is trying to achieve. Many of the Bill's provisions are laudable. There is such a measure of agreement on the Bill and such acceptance of its provisions that it would be appropriate in the circumstances if the Minister of State were to concede on the three issues outlined to him. He would not overstep the mark and would improve the Bill. In the circumstances, will the Minister accept amendments to this effect on Committee Stage?

Debate adjourned.

Mr. Martin:  I wish to share my time with Deputies Batt O'Keeffe and Dan Wallace.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Martin:  I raised the matter of Cork school funding to highlight the appalling conditions under which children attending St. Mary's special school in Rochestown must operate due to the breakdown of the heating system. It is disgraceful that their needs have been ignored for so long. On a number of days since January, the school has had to close and the children were sent home due to freezing conditions. Children and staff should not have to endure conditions such as this. Over the past four years, the level of heating in the school has regularly fallen markedly below the acceptable regulation temperature of 16 degrees celsius and the level was nearer to ten to 12 degrees in areas of the school on occasion. Such conditions are in breach of the Government's Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989. It is not possible for the school authorities to use alternative heating as the electrical system is not capable of safely providing the additional voltage. There would be a danger of causing a [1693] serious fire hazard and gas heaters are not allowed in schools for obvious reasons of safety. While most schools close immediately when the temperature is below the regulation level, it is not possible for St. Mary's to send its pupils home once they arrive. The school transport route serves Blarney, Kinsale and Cork city centre as well as intermediate areas of city and county.

Over the past two years, the board of management has worked tirelessly to secure departmental approval to replace the heating and electrical systems in the school. The board has found the process a most frustrating experience. All its consultants' preparatory work has been accepted and approved by the Department. The school requires sanction to proceed to tender and to acquire the necessary funds to ensure the immediate start of the project. Otherwise, children will continue to be sent home with the difficulties this entails for parents, staff and the children. The work will cost about £200,000. The Minister has a budget this year of more than £100 million.

This project is urgent, demanding an emergency response and I am disappointed the Minister for Education is not present this evening to address the issue and to respond to it. I mean no offence to the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Deenihan, who will give her reply but it is disgraceful the Minister is not here. She said in the Dáil a number of weeks ago that emergency funding was allocated to projects which fulfilled the necessary criteria. This project demands such an emergency response and I fail to understand why St. Mary's cannot be funded under this heading. Deputy Peter Barry wrote to the school principal on 22 January 1997 stating that the project was included in the budget Estimates. I have no doubt he was acting in good faith but who told him this? I would appreciate it if the Minister would clarify that. She should act urgently given the circumstances and the obvious need to allow these children to attend their school in comfort and under conditions which will not militate against their health and wellbeing. I appeal to the Minister to make funding available to ensure immediate construction.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  This is a school for children with special needs. The Government and the Department of Education must ensure everything possible is done for such a school. It has had problems with heating and the electrical system over a number of years and has had to close for five days since Christmas. Imagine those special children in a classroom wearing overcoats and gloves because of the cold. Imagine the frustration parents and teachers feel as a result. Imagine the organisational difficulties in closing such a school on a day when the children cannot be sent home because parents may be out of the house. Someone must be in the house to receive them.

[1694] It is extraordinary that special funding was to be provided for this school and Government Ministers indicated it was provided. It is extraordinary that the Minister, replying to my question of a month ago, indicated she would examine this project in terms of providing funding, yet the parents and relatives of these children have had to take to the streets to highlight the issue. Action must be taken now and the paltry sum of £200,000 provided immediately.

Mr. D. Wallace:  I condemn the Minister and the Department for the callous way in which the children attending St. Mary's special school in Rochestown have been treated. It was appalling that, on Monday, the parents of those children had to picket the Department of Education offices in the South Mall to draw attention to the unsatisfactory situation in Rochestown. The case has been made by my colleagues. I strongly urge the Minister to ensure the necessary funding is provided immediately to solve this problem. There is enough pressure on the parents of children with special needs attending the school and I strongly urge the Minister to rectify the situation and announce that funding will be provided to carry out the necessary works immediately.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Deenihan):  I am glad the Deputy has given me the opportunity of outlining to the House the Department of Education's current position regarding St. Mary's Special School, Rochestown, County Cork. The Minister is aware that the school has a current staffing of a principal and eight assistant teachers with an enrolment of 99 and it has been experiencing problems with its heating system.

The position regarding the heating works is that the Department advised the school management to engage a consulting engineer to report on the heating installation. Having considered the report, the Department recommended that the school management instruct the consulting engineer to prepare drawings and specifications for the proposed works. These, along with a proposed tender list, are now with the Department.

Due to budgetary constraints, the Minister is not in a position to authorise the release of this project to tender immediately.

Mr. Martin:  That is disgraceful.

Mr. Deenihan:  The Deputies will be aware she is dealing with a backlog of urgent projects arising out of major cuts in primary school capital funding in the 1988-92 period.

Mr. Martin:  There is plenty of money for Dún Laoghaire.

Mr. Deenihan:  The Fianna Fáil Administration during that period devastated and emasculated the primary education budget. The Minister has been catching up since.

[1695] Recently, she approved 27 national school projects which were already included on a capital building programme for tender and contract stages. However, it was not possible to include all deserving projects in the first round of projects which were allowed to proceed to tender stage. The Minister will keep expenditure on the primary school building programme under review during the year——

Mr. Martin:  That is not good enough.

Mr. Deenihan:  ——and she expects to release a number of additional projects to tender and contract on a phased basis later this year.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  This is very disappointing.

Mr. Deenihan:  Have some respect for the speaker.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us hear the Minister's reply.

Mr. Deenihan:  The Deputies are obviously not here to listen to it. They are not interested.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  I am surprised at this sort of reply being given.

Mr. D. Wallace:  It is nonsense.

Mr. Deenihan:  It is a reflection of the neglect when Fianna Fáil was in office.

Mr. Martin:  We are looking for £200,000 for heating for the school.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Interruptions must cease and the Minister of State must be heard.

Mr. D. Wallace:  He is the bearer of bad news.

Mr. Deenihan:  The number of projects to be released will be contingent on the results of the tender process for the 27 projects already announced, the progress of these projects, and the overall funding position at the time. The school will be kept informed of developments.

Mr. D. Wallace:  We do not want only to be kept informed.

Mr. Deenihan:  The Department was advised by the school management of the necessity to close the school on 28 February last to allow the ESB to carry out essential work in the locality. The Department is not aware that the current difficulties have necessitated the pupils' withdrawal from school.

Mr. Martin:  That is not true. It is aware.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Deputy Martin, please desist.

[1696]Mr. Martin:  I apologise, but that is an inaccurate statement. I spoke to someone in the building unit this morning who confirmed the local inspector had made a report.

Mr. Deenihan:  The Deputies can be assured that the needs of the school will receive every consideration at the appropriate time. The Minister will do everything possible to ensure this project will go ahead.

Mr. D. Wallace:  The only matter we need to be informed about is the provision of money for this project.

Mr. Deenihan:  I am disappointed at the behaviour of the Deputies. They were not prepared to listen.

Mr. D. Wallace:  It is easy for the Minister of State to be disappointed, but if he was in Cork and had to put up with this problem he would be very annoyed.

Mr. J. Walsh:  I thank the Chair for allowing me the opportunity to raise the important matter of the provision of adequate ferry space to the UK market in particular. Anyone with an interest in agriculture knows the live trade has been cut to third country markets. There is a market for it in Europe, but that is not facilitated because we do not have adequate ferry facilities. This trade is important because it is a safety valve and it is an insurance against factory cartels. Not alone is a lack of a ferry service a problem, but many farmers believe the Minister is colluding in allowing this problem continue.

As late as today the President of the IFA, Mr. John Donnelly, issued a statement on the collusion by the Minister and the Department on this matter. Its states:

IFA President John Donnelly said today (Wednesday) that he was disgusted and dismayed that the Minister for Agriculture Ivan Yates would preside over the further strangulation of the EU Live Export Trade by introducing a 400kg weight limit on two tier trucks which will effectively ban finished live cattle from the European Market.

Mr. Donnelly called for the immediate lifting of this outrageous imposition on the European Live Export Trade. The IFA President said it was now clear that the Minister and the Department with this latest weight limit rule were “making up the rules as they go along” and were intent on strangling the trade with bureaucracy and red tape.

Given the difficulties resulting from BSE, the cutting off of live trade to third countries and weight limitations on intervention, it is regrettable the facility to provide transport to European markets for our most important industry is stymied not [1697] only by the lack of carriers but by red tape and bureaucracy introduced and implemented by the Minister. It is extraordinary that taxpayers here and in the European Union have invested large sums of money in road networks and port developments here and in European Union destinations to facilitate carriers, yet the carriers cherry pick what they will carry. The Government has a responsibility to insist that the carriers cannot do so. The investment has been made for them and it is incumbent on them to ensure that our live trade and our food industry is facilitated. It is a scandal that this important artery to the European Union markets has been cut off to this last remaining island nation of the European Union.

I call on the Minister of State to give an assurance to the House that the carriers will be directed to provide for the transport of live cattle in particular, but also some delicate fresh consumer foods, a trade we have built up during the past few years. Will the Government make a connection between Whitehall and Dublin Port as the ring roads are gridlocked from Whitehall and carriers are delayed for hours? I look forward to the Minister giving us some ray of hope to resolve this difficult problem.

Mr. Deenihan:  I thank Deputy Walsh for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I am aware of the difficulties being caused by the restrictions being placed on live exports from Ireland. In the first place, Irish exporters are being seriously hampered by the restrictions on exporting through the United Kingdom and onwards to the Continent. However, this is an inevitable consequence of the ban on exports from the United Kingdom. Secondly, there are some other restrictions in place which are not justified.

The House will be aware of our commitment to ensuring the highest welfare standards for all animals being transported. It will be recalled that we brought in national rules dealing with the transport of animals in April 1995 in anticipation of EU rules which eventually came into operation throughout the Union from January 1997. Under the rules currently applying, all animals being sent for export are inspected by a veterinary inspector and a certificate of fitness to travel is issued only if the inspector is satisfied that the conditions are satisfactory as far as both the livestock and transport vehicle are concerned. For this purpose, transport vehicles must be approved in accordance with strict criteria and similar controls are applied in the case of transport by ship. These controls include provisions relating to ventilation, drainage and the feeding and watering of animals. On a number of occasions, my Department has refused permission for consignments to travel on the basis of unsuitable transport arrangements.

Having regard to the stringency of these transport conditions, no restriction should be applied to the export of livestock from Ireland, which complies with these conditions as well as the [1698] appropriate EU animal health conditions. The livestock should be allowed to travel unhindered to their intended destination.

Regarding ferry services to the Continent, the House will be aware that one company is currently carrying certain categories of live animals. A second ferry company is to resume operations this month and, subject to availability of space, three sailings per week will be available for exports of all categories of livestock. As I indicated, the Minister does not believe that any restrictions should be placed on the export of any category of animal and he will continue his contacts with the company to seek to persuade it to remove this restriction. In this regard, the Minister met representatives of Pandoro today and is confident that a substantial resolution will be achieved on this issue in the near future.

On the approval of ships, new rules on the transport of cattle by sea were introduced by the Minister at the beginning of 1996 following serious concern as a result of a number of incidents which had taken place during the transport of cattle by sea from Ireland. Nine ships with a total capacity of 15,500 animals have now been approved under this legislation while a further two ships have been approved subject to the completion of a number of modifications.

These actions have placed the transport of animals from Ireland on a more secure and defensible footing and in line with our position as a major exporter of live animals. I am satisfied that without these measures the position regarding the export of animals would be far worse than it is at present. The Minister is committed to ensuring that due recognition of these high standards of animal welfare is accorded by all concerned in the animal transport business. He is not in collusion with anyone and I expect he will make a positive announcement on this issue shortly.

Mr. Leonard:  For the second time, the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications has ignored the legitimate claims of my constituency to secure a contract to generate electricity from farm waste under the AER waste to energy competition. What this means to the local economy is a restriction on the primary production of poultry and mushrooms. It also creates a serious problem for the local authority.

In 1993, Monaghan secured £100,000 from INTERREG to carry out a waste management study. The study found that in 1971, 83 per cent of Monaghan's river channel length surveyed was unpolluted which was comparable to the national average. By 1990, the unpolluted river channel length had declined to 29.5 per cent in Monaghan while the national average was 77.5 per cent. Poultry and mushroom production account for 47 per cent and 12 per cent respectively of the county's gross agricultural output compared with 4 per cent and 2 per cent of national GAO. The farming pattern in the Blackwater and Finn catchments [1699] is even more skewed in favour of poultry and mushroom production. It is projected that poultry and mushroom production will grow at 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent respectively each year over the next decade.

Monaghan's failure to secure this waste contract means it will be difficult to maintain current targets not to mention meeting the projected ones. The Minister will talk about independent assessments but it is time that the jobs and the development of the economy were considered. We need a co-ordinated examination of projects such as this by the various Departments involved — the Departments of the Environment; Agriculture, Food and Forestry and Transport, Energy and Communications. They have responsibility to ensure the environment is clean and that we get an opportunity to meet our agricultural commitments.

The contract was awarded to Foster Wheeler Power Systems Incorporated and ESB Power Generation at a cost of £113 million for a 30 megawatt project. The Monaghan proposal would cost £50 million for a 20 megawatt project. This requires an explanation. The Dublin based project will not meet the 1999 deadline. There is serious opposition to it and there are nightly meetings to ensure it will not be built, while we are clamouring to have it built in Monaghan. The Monaghan project is in order and the proposal is suitable for the disposal of large quantities of meat and bonemeal.

Following the issuing of an EU directive in 1993 requiring member states to provide alternative energy sources, in the summer of 1994, I arranged for a deputation from Monaghan County Council to meet the then Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Treacy, to discuss the proposed alternative energy requirement competition.

The Minister explained that he proposed to target 75 megawatts for alternative energy source with 10 megawatts for biomass waste. Following discussions, he agreed to increase the biomass waste to 15 megawatts as 10 megawatts would not allow any extra capacity. Concern had also been expressed by the British company, Monopower, that the 40 per cent corporation tax was too high. Following representations to the Department of Finance, I received a letter saying that generation of electricity would be regarded as coming within the definition of manufacturing and would be subject to a 10 per cent tax rate. A site was subsequently obtained at the IDA industrial estate in Knockaconny, County Monaghan.

However, with the change of Government in 1994, Minister of State, Deputy Stagg succeeded Deputy Treacy and, on 7 March, he announced the results of the competition which did not include the 15 megawatts for biomass waste. He promised another competition, which was launched last Friday, for 30 megawatts at a cost of £7.5 million under the Economic Infrastructure [1700] Operational Programme. This was meant to be done in October last year but was held over until now.

We did our homework. I travelled to England and saw a similar plant in operation. A subsidiary company of Fibrowatt in England called Monopower has been set up in Monaghan. When we recommended the benefits of such a plant to the Minister, he travelled to England to see it. He and his officials admitted it was a good venture. It is not surprising that the people of Monaghan are frustrated. Development in that area is at a standstill. We have been told there will be no more AER. The current project will not meet the 1999 deadline as there are objections to it. When Dublin people start objecting one can be sure the project will never become a reality. Will the Minister site the project in Monaghan?

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Stagg):  I thank Deputy Leonard for raising this matter. The first Alternative Energy Requirement, AER 1, competition resulted in power purchase agreements being offered by the ESB power procurer for a 111 megawatts of renewable generated electricity. This included six projects totalling 12 megawatts in the landfill, gas and waste category.

Following on the success of AER 1, I launched AER 11 on 21 December 1995 with the aim of securing an electricity generating plant of between 10 and 30 megawatts using biomass or waste as a fuel. In order to ensure the fairness, impartiality and objectivity of the competition process, I decided to appoint independent consultants to run the competition, assess the technical and commercial bids and recommend a winner. My Department invited tenders for an independent assessor and subsequently appointed the UK consultancy firm, ETSU.

ETSU received ten project proposals, two of which subsequently withdrew from the competition. ETSU has advised me that the remaining eight projects involved a range of fuels including municipal solid waste. Following its assessment of the technical and commercial bids, ETSU recommended the proposal from Foster Wheeler Power Systems Incorporated and ESB Power Generation as the winner of the competition.

I stress that neither I nor my Department had any hand, act or part in the selection of the winning bid. My role in the process, having accepted the recommendation of the independent assessor, is to announce the winner and instruct ESB power procurement to offer a power purchase agreement to the winning consortium.

The proposal from Foster Wheeler and ESB is to build, own and operate a £113 million, 30 megawatt waste-to-energy electricity generating plant. The facility will be located at an existing ESB-owned site, contiguous to its central distribution depot at Goddamendy, Ballycoolin, County Dublin. It is now a matter for the developers to proceed with the project and to obtain the necessary permissions and licences. The project [1701] will be required to comply with the relevant planning and environmental licensing requirements.

I am aware some concern has been expressed by residents in the area about the possible adverse effect of the new electricity generating station. This appears to have been fuelled by a certain amount of misinformation or lack of understanding about the development.

Foster Wheeler is one of the world's leading experts in the field of waste to energy technology. The company operates similar facilities in New Jersey and Chicago and is currently constructing one in Lisbon. The Dublin plant will be constructed to the highest technological and environmental standards. It will incorporate a boiler system to recover energy from combustion gases and sophisticated emissions abatement systems. It will, as I have already indicated, have to get planning permission and comply with the very demanding requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency. There will be no storage of waste on site. Covered sealed lorries will drive into the building and deliver the waste directly to the fires. No hazardous waste will be used.

This development is an integral part of the Government's renewable energy strategy which is designed to increase the share of renewable energy generated by independent producers to 6 per cent of the country's installed electricity generating capacity by the year 2000. The price cap in the AER 11 competition was 3.6p per kilowatt hour of electricity. The winning bid price is 3.2p per kilowatt hour. That was the determining factor in who won the competition. It was the lowest bid and had much technical competence. This is 11 per cent below the price ceiling and shows that renewables are becoming more competitive when compared with traditional fossil fuels. Renewable energy is an indigenous, environmentally friendly and sustainable source of clean energy. Combined with my other renewable energy initiatives this project will reduce our imported oil bill by £25 million per annum and, as a consequence, will reduce the level of CO 2 emissions.

It will have a number of positive effects on the environment. As well as reducing the emissions associated with electricity generation from fossil fuels, it will reduce the need for landfill dumps. About 50 per cent of Dublin's non-hazardous municipal waste will be transformed to energy by this new facility. The electricity generated will supply the electricity needs of approximately 200,000 people.

Waste is a resource and we must recognise it as such while seeking to minimise it. It makes no economic or environmental sense to bury it when we can use it constructively and reduce imports.

The development will also bring economic benefits to the locality. Total project investment will come to £113 million and that will be funded by the project's proposers. During the construction phase, the project will create up to 1,500 construction [1702] jobs. Once operational, 75 permanent jobs will be created locally.

Subject to the approval of the European Commission, a European regional development fund grant of up to 9.3 MECUs, or £6.9 million, is available for the project.

I appreciate Deputy Leonard's disappointment that the power station will not be located in his area where there is fuel available from the chicken and mushroom industries to supply the station. This is in sharp contrast to his colleague, Deputy Ray Burke, who has mounted an outrageous campaign of misinformation against the project in an attempt to create hysteria based on that misinformation. His actions are irresponsible in the extreme.

Deputy Leonard should be aware this is not the end of such projects. This competition showed the demand for this type of project. I will as a matter of urgency look to see how the problems outlined by Deputy Leonard can be addressed in this context.

Mr. Power:  I thank the Minister for coming to the House to deal with this matter. The Government faces a massive compensation bill for damage to the hearing of members of the Defence Forces. More than 200 cases have already been settled at an average cost of £35,000. With over 5,000 further cases to be heard the cost to the State will run into millions. In many cases where settlement has been reached, the Department of Defence allowed the cases to go to court, while others have been settled on the steps of the court. It has taken between two and three years for these cases to come before the courts and looking back at the way in which the matter has been handled one cannot be satisfied.

A special forum must be set up to deal with the outstanding claims and ensure that compensation is paid to the victims and not the legal eagles. I realise the Minister for Defence finds himself in a very difficult position. He must provide adequate compensation to the soldiers who have had their hearing damaged and at the same time he must be conscious of the budgetary implications. I realise this year the Minister has provided £16 million for compensation but I am afraid it will not solve all the problems nor settle many of the cases before him. The problem, unfortunately, is a great deal more serious than that.

The Government must acknowledge that the State was negligent in that it did not make proper provision for the safety of the soldiers. Thousands of members of the Defence Forces have had their hearing damaged and the State must pay. The Government cannot continue to challenge all cases. It is only creating enormous legal costs and increasing the total bill.

The present situation is proving to be a real bonanza for the legal fraternity and it cannot be allowed to continue. In relation to the cases settled, a number of different judges adjudicated [1703] and there has been no consistency in the settlements. I appeal to the Minister to set up a special forum. More than 5,000 cases have to be heard and it is simply not possible for our courts to deal with such a number in an acceptable time. Setting up a special forum would expedite the hearing of cases, it would reduce the enormous legal expense and consistency in settlements could be guaranteed.

This is a very serious problem and I appeal to the Minister to deal with it in a constructive manner. It is vital that the compensation is given to those who have suffered.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Barrett):  I am glad to have this opportunity to address the House on this important matter. It has received considerable attention in the media in recent days and, therefore, I am grateful to Deputy Power for providing me with this opportunity to place the factual position before Deputies and into the public arena.

More than 5,200 claims alleging hearing impairment from exposure to gunfire have been initiated by ex-members and currently serving members of the Defence Forces against the Minister for Defence and the State. New cases are arriving at the rate of 100 per week.

The avalanche of claims began in 1992, when 49 claims were received, and has quadrupled each year since. In 1996 some 2,522 claims were received and to date this year there have been an additional 934 cases. The basis of most of these claims is that the individual involved was, in the course of his duty, exposed to gunfire, usually at range practices, whether small arms, rifle fire or artillery.

Since 1992 some 170 cases have been settled at a cost of approximately £6.5 million. The projected cost to the State of the 5,200 claims on hand alone is in excess of £200 million. The plaintiff's legal costs usually run to a minimum of a third of the award, increasing the expenditure to £270 million. This is before any of the State's costs are included, which could bring the total to £350 million.

The damaging effect on hearing from exposure to excessive noise has been recognised for many years. Over the years, since 1952, the Army authorities issued general routine orders, instructions and guidelines on the need to protect the hearing of personnel involved in firing weapons. Subsequent revisions were made in later years. These guidelines were incorporated into a comprehensive training circular in 1987 detailing the incidences of exposure to excessive noise, clearly warning of the danger involved. This 1987 circular which stands as a watershed in the evolution of hearing protection in the Defence Forces, also limited the number of rounds that could be fired even while wearing hearing protection. These regulations continue to be updated from time to time in the light of current best practice. Most recently, in 1993, a “Manual of range practices, [1704] Small Arms 1993” was issued which describes both the cause and effect of noise induced hearing loss and states exactly when ear plugs and/or muffs must be worn. In addition it lays down the duties of an officer or NCO in charge of firing practices, for example, ensuring that appropriate ear protection is available and worn and that the order to check hearing protection is given, repeated and heard by all personnel. This manual also lays down the maximum number of rounds that may be fired in a 24-hour period. Current procedures also include (a) tests of elementary training which must be passed annually by all personnel that include four questions on care of hearing and (b) a lecture on care of hearing to be given to all recruits before attending a range practice.

With regard to hearing loss, I am advised that it is possible to have good hearing at relatively low frequencies, with impaired hearing at higher frequencies. It is also a fact that as age increases, the ability to hear very high-pitched sounds decreases. Other factors can affect hearing. For example illness, such as ear infection, or environment and lifestyle, such as use of motorbikes or attendance at discos, can produce hearing loss particularly when exposure is over a prolonged period. Noise-induced hearing loss usually manifests itself in a loss of high-tone hearing. However, a person may be able to hear quite adequately sounds which would arise in normal conversation at medium frequencies. Some difficulty may be experienced in hearing in a crowded environment such as a public house. I am told that one in four people who have perfect hearing have similar problems.

Once an individual's hearing has been assessed it is necessary to determine whether his hearing deviates so far from the norm as to represent an actual hearing handicap. The major issue facing the State is the present high degree of compensation awarded by the courts for hearing patterns which, I am advised, in other jurisdictions would be regarded as being within the normal range and which would attract little or no compensation. Clearly, against this background I have a duty to the taxpayer to fight those cases where the level of handicap is not significant when judged against internationally accepted criteria.

It has been suggested that a compensation tribunal should be established. In the case of loss of hearing claims, liability is still an issue in each claim. It cannot be automatically assumed that a plaintiff's loss of hearing is attributable to his service in the Defence Forces or that the military authorities were negligent in each case. Ear defenders have been provided to military personnel for very many years. The plaintiff may have exposed himself to some other source of acoustic trauma, as a member of a golf club or at discos where noise levels have been excessive since the late sixties. There may be medical evidence to suggest some other cause of his hearing loss, such as a previous illness or ear infection.

[1705] Under the Army Pensions Acts, compensation by way of a disability pension or a gratuity may be granted to a former member of the Permanent Defence Force who, on retirement or discharge from the force, is found to be suffering from a disablement due to an injury attributable to military service at home or abroad. Such compensation is payable whether the injury was accidentally or maliciously inflicted. These provisions are unique to former members of the Permanent Defence Force in recognition of the fact that Army life can place soldiers at risk from time to time.

I assure Deputies and the public at large that [1706] the issue of Army hearing loss cases, and the huge financial threat they pose, is receiving priority attention in my Department. I am in frequent contact with the Attorney General on this matter and the situation in the courts is monitored on a daily basis. Every avenue to minimise the cost to the State has been explored and the strategy adopted is under constant review. I thank the Deputy opposite for having given me the opportunity to put these matters on the record.

The Dáil adjourned at 11.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 6 March 1997.

[1707]

  15.  Mr. Kenneally    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the plans, if any, he has to review the role of the RTOs and SFADCo in the context of the Ireland brand campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6047/97]

  21.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the plans, if any, he has to change the brief, functions, directions and structures of Bord Fáilte. [6010/97]

  59.  Mr. R. Burke    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the plans, if any, he has to change part of the brief of Bord Fáilte in view of the development of more defined regional tourism, a closer co-operation between Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to market Ireland as a whole, an increasing dependence on resources outside Ireland and various niche areas within the tourism industry which have evolved their own sense of organisation in various specific areas within the tourism industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5992/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 21 and 59 together.

As the Deputies are aware Bord Fáilte Éireann is the executive agency responsible for promoting and developing tourist traffic in and to the State, through implementation of Government policy. It is a statutory body and its powers and functions are set out in the Tourist Traffic Acts 1939-95. It is run by a board of directors appointed by the Minister for Tourism and Trade with the consent of the Minister for Finance and it is responsible to the Department of Tourism and Trade in respect of its use of Exchequer funds in pursuing its activities.

Implementation of the recommendations of the Arthur D. Little review of Bord Fáilte in 1995-96 marked the most recent major change in its structures. This has resulted in a much more focused and dynamic organisation which is now concentrating on its core activity of marketing Ireland as a tourist destination.

For some time, the board has been working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Tourism Board and with the tourism industry North and South in promoting the island of Ireland as a holiday destination, most recently in advancing the roll-out of the new brand Ireland in our key markets abroad.

Shannon Development, on the other hand, promotes development of the tourism sector in the mid-west region, a role similar to that of the regional tourism authorities. It reports to the Department of Tourism and Trade on tourism issues and funds are provided through my Department's Vote to help defray its tourism administration and general expenses.

[1708] Regional tourism authorities were initially established by Bord Fáilte in 1963 under section 5 of the Tourist Traffic Act, 1952. They are structured as private companies registered under the Companies Acts, limited by guarantee with memoranda and Article of Association which contain inter alia, stipulations relating to their management, administration and general business affairs. In accordance with their memoranda and articles, regional tourism authorities are accountable to, and obliged to operate in accordance with the policies and directions of, Bord Fáilte. The last major review of the regional tourism authorities was undertaken in 1993 and resulted in changes in their boards and representation.

Overall, I have found the tourism bodies to be responsive to and energetic in supporting the Government's tourism policies as set out primarily in the current operational programme for tourism. They work co-operatively towards the very demanding targets which have been set for the sector. Processes are in place to ensure an appropriate level of co-ordination and integration between all the main players and in particular the sector itself. Furthermore Shannon development, the regional tourism authorities, Bord Fáilte, the industry and the Department are all represented on the national tourism council which I chair and which advises me on policy matters.

Government policy for Irish tourism is being implemented in a co-ordinated and effective manner with structures in place which are responsive to the requirements of our markets and customers. But, of course, all such structures must continue to evolve and consequently will be kept constantly under review not only to assist with implementation of short-to-medium term policy adjustments, where necessary, but also to help set the parameters for the development of tourism well into the next century.

  16.  Mr. Morley    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he will list the number of companies which were asked to contribute to Bord Fáilte's Tourism Brand Ireland; the number of these companies which accepted; the number which declined this invitation; the amount each company agreed to contribute to Tourism Brand Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5990/97]

  19.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the way in which the niche markets of culture, heritage and activities will be given focus under the umbrella of the Ireland brand; and the other Departments, if any, which are involved in this initiative. [6035/97]

  47.  D'fhiafraigh Mr. Molloy    den Aire Turasóireachta agus Trádála    cén tionscnamh atá tógtha i leith cur chun cinn na straitéise margaíochta nua Tourism Brand Ireland. [6065/97]

[1709]

  57.  Mr. N. Treacy    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the level of finance which will need to be committed to Tourism Brand Ireland in each of the years from 1997 to 2001; and the amount of such finance which will come from EU funds, from State resources and from the industry. [6043/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 19, 47 and 57 together.

As I indicated to the House on 30 January last, Bord Fáilte, working with its tourism industry partners throughout the island and overseas, have assumed responsibility for the management of Tourism Brand Ireland and for putting the necessary resources and effort behind its successful deployment. Matters relating to the operation and management of the brand fall within the day to day responsibility of Bord Fáilte, including, as I have already reiterated today, the monitoring of the project's costs and the sourcing of its funding.

  17.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the number of visitors who came to Ireland on cycling and golfing holidays over the past ten years. [6050/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Bord Fáilte Éireann, who carry out surveys on such matters, estimate that the number of holidaymakers playing golf while in Ireland has increased by 130 per cent from 77,000 in 1987 to 177,000 last year. The numbers for whom golf in Ireland determined their choice of holiday destination increased from 13,000, to 106,000 over the same period.

The board also estimate that the number of holidaymakers engaging in cycling has almost doubled over the past ten years from 83,000 in 1987 to 153,000 in 1996. The number for whom cycling in Ireland was a key determinant of their choice of holiday destination has increased from 6,000 to 59,000 over the decade.

  18.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he has satisfied himself that there is sufficient consultation between the administrators of various development funding organisations, such as INTERREG II, 1994 to 1999, Operational Programme, 1994 to 1999, and Peace and Reconciliation, to secure the maximum benefit for tourism projects from the funds. [5298/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The primary source of EU funding for tourism related projects is the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-99. The main monitoring mechanism for this programme is the national monitoring committee which is chaired by my Department and on which the main interests in [1710] the tourism industry, the social partners, the European Commission and the relevant implementing Departments and agencies are represented. In addition, a tourism operational programme co-ordinating committee, chaired by my Department and representative of all the implementing agencies, meets on a regular basis to ensure proper operational co-ordination within the programme.

Funding for tourism initiatives can also be provided under operational programmes which are the responsibility of other Ministers — including the OP for agriculture, rural development and forestry and the OP for local urban and rural development — and a number of other community initiatives such as the Leader II programme, INTERREG II programmes — both Northern Ireland and maritime — and the special programme for peace and reconciliation. The international fund for Ireland also has a tourism programme. My Department is represented on the relevant monitoring committees of these programmes.

This co-ordinated approach has so far served to ensure that activity under the various programmes is consistent with national tourism policy. As part of its overall monitoring role, however, and to assure that co-ordination remains optimal, the national monitoring committee for the tourism operational programme has asked its external evaluator to report on the relationships between the tourism operational programme and other CSF, programmes and initiatives which have an identifiable tourism component in order to ensure a complementary and cohesive approach. The evaluator's report will be carefully studied by the committee for consideration as to what further action, if any, may be needed.

  20.  Mr. E. Ryan    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the representations, if any, he has made to the Department of Finance to develop designated status for more Irish resorts; if so, the status of these representations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5994/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The pilot tax relief scheme for certain resort areas was introduced in the Finance Act, 1995 and operates for a three year period from 1 July 1995. Since its inception, I have received over 200 requests urging the extension of the scheme to include about 50 separate locations, in addition to the 15 areas already designated.

From time to time, I have consulted with the Minister for Finance, who has primary responsibility for the scheme, about the possibility of extending it but we have agreed not to make any changes to its scope or to designate any new areas until the present three year pilot period has elapsed and a full evaluation has been completed. [1711] At this point it is simply too early to say what will be the outcome of the evaluation.

  22.  Dr. McDaid    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he will encourage the greater involvement of the private sector with State agencies in the promotion of trade; if his attention has been drawn to the success of initiatives such as IBEC's European Orientation programme in developing a cadre of international marketing executives in this regard; if his attention has further been drawn to the potential of such programmes to improve Ireland's trading performance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5999/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  As I stated in my reply to a similar question on 30 January, columns 354-5 of the Official Report, the level of private sector involvement in official trade promotions is already very substantial.

In relation to the agency for which I have responsibility, An Bord Tráchtála, I am aware that virtually all of their programmes have a strong private sector element, ranging from the involvement of sectoral groups in the planning of ABT activities to the joint funding, by ABT and individual firms, of marketing investment projects. Under section 6 (1) of the Trade and Marketing Promotion Act, 1991, it is, of course, the board of ABT which determines the detailed means by which assistance is provided to industry.

In relation to the European Orientation Programme, the Deputy will be aware that this is a joint venture administered by IBEC but involving ABT and other agencies in its funding and overall management.

  23.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    his views on whether the thrust of Government policy is on quantity and not quality within the Irish tourism industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5995/97]

  31.  Mr. Doherty    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if it is his policy to discourage mass tourism in Ireland; and if so, the way in which he proposes to achieve this. [6040/97]

  31.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the plans, if any, he has to review the number of persons visiting areas of natural or archaeological interest in view of concerns that high concentrations of visitors at particular times can place unsustainable pressure on the infrastructure and the environment of some areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6011/97]

[1712]Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 31 and 37 together.

The Government's policy on tourism development takes full account of the value of the image of Ireland's clean, green environment and the consequent need to protect it. The ambitious growth targets set for the tourism sector relate to growth in overseas revenue and job creation and emphasise the need to develop a sustainable industry concentration on a quality product. The strategy of increasing tourism revenue yield is an integral element of the “Tourism Brand Ireland” campaign launched by Bord Fáilte late last year.

The operational programme for tourism, 1994-99, acknowledges that a balance must be struck between tourism development and preservation of the environment. Measures to achieve this objective, as set out in the programme, include improving the seasonality profile of Irish tourism. The aim is that by 1999, 75 per cent of visitors will arrive in Ireland outside the peak July-August period compared with about 70 per cent at present; attracting high yield business. Priority is given to marketing conference and incentive business and other quality niche and activity markets such as cruising, golf, equestrian, shoppers and users of paid services such as accommodation and car hire; where possible having existing product investment rather than creating new developments; a wide geographical dispersal to minimise capacity problems; capital projects recommended for assistance under the programme are required to comply with all environmental regulatory requirements as a condition for grant approval and support for overseas marketing under the programme is weighted towards projects that aim to extend the season; and progress on the consistency between tourism developments and the principle of sustainability will continue to be monitored as part of the programme.

Statutory responsibility for environmental protection and the management of environmental problems generally rests with the Minister for the Environment while the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has certain statutory responsibilities in relation to the protection of heritage areas. I understand that the heritage services — national parks and wildlife service and national monuments and historic properties services — of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht operate an ongoing review of the impact of visitors on heritage sites in order that suitable control and management procedures are exercised and applied as necessary. Similarly, the national monuments and historic properties service aims to keep visiting levels at each heritage property to the optimum number of visitors consistent with site protection and presentation and to manage such properties accordingly.

So far, I believe that any concerns we might have are being adequately addressed in the context of the strategies and monitoring arrangements that I have already outlines. I remain [1713] absolutely determined, however, to ensure that the issue continues to be afforded a high priority by my Department and the relevant agencies and the House may take it that very serious thought will constantly be given to the best ways and means of maintaining the strong environmental quality of our tourism product as we look to development beyond 2000.

  24.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the action, if any, he has taken over the past two years to remove the barriers to trade which still exist within the EU in spite of the creation of the single market and the completion of GATT worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5997/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The IBEC survey on barriers to trade, which was carried out in 1995 at my request to determine if the single market was working for Irish companies, found that one-third of respondent exporters had experienced difficulties in gaining access to other EU markets. IBEC was subsequently requested to further analyse the survey results to ascertain the nature of the problems concerned, to enable my Department to pursue these problems with EU Commission and other member states concerned.

In late November 1995 IBEC confirmed that almost all cases of difficulties reported by Irish exporters had been successfully resolved. Efforts were still being made to settle the small number of unresolved cases and, if these proved unsuccessful, the assistance of my Department would be sought. Because of the progress made through other channels, the need for representations to the EU Commission and other member states regarding difficulties experienced by Irish exporters in EU markets has not arisen to date.

On 26 November last during the Irish Presidency of the European Union, I chaired an open debate on the European Commission's review of the impact and effectiveness of the single market following a presentation by the Commission of the review to council. The review, which confirms that the single market has contributed to increased levels of income and employment, also highlights the need for further action to be taken to ensure that single market legislation is correctly applied and effectively enforced throughout the European Union. The Dublin European Council subsequently noted the Commission's intention to present to the European Council in Amsterdam an action plan and a timetable covering all necessary measures that must be taken to ensure that the full potential benefit of the internal market is achieved before the beginning of stage 3 of European Monetary Union.

[1714]

  25.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the additional resources that the Government intends to provide for the tourism industry for each year until 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5971/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The 1997 Exchequer grant-in-aid to the agencies under the aegis of my Department with responsibility for tourism promotion and development is set out in the Book of Estimates which is available in the Oireachtas Library. It is not possible to say what the provision might be in future years because, as the Deputy is aware, the resources provided from the Exchequer for tourism are decided in the course of the annual Estimates exercise.

The Deputy can be assured that, as the Minister with responsibility for the development of Irish tourism, my objective is to ensure that adequate funding is made available through Government, industry and European Union sources to meet the development and promotional needs of Ireland's tourism industry in a way that will copperfasten its growth into the future as a self-sustaining and quality asset.

With regard to European funding, the Deputy will be aware that the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-1999 sets out in detail the projected funding for each year and for each sub-programme covered — copies of the operational programme are available in the Library of the House.

  26.  Miss de Valera    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he will give a breakdown of the latest tourism figures for each of the four seasons for 1996; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6007/97]

  40.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he will report on the outcome of the tourism industry for 1996 and the outlook for 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6029/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 40 together. The Central Statistics Office has estimated that there were over 4.7 million overseas visitors to Ireland in 1996. The breakdown was as follows: January-March, 685,000; April-June, 1,317,000; July-September, 1,819,000 and October-December, 918,000. This represents an increase of over 11 per cent on 1995.

Foreign earnings from tourism for the first three-quarters of 1996 were as follows: January-March, £265 million; April-June, £512 million and July-September, £741 million. This represents an increase of over 12 per cent on the same period in 1995. Revenue figures for the final quarter are not yet available from the CSO.

It is clear that the pattern of above average growth rates of recent years was maintained in 1996, with particularly strong growth out of the [1715] US, UK and to a lesser extent mainland Europe. I am confident that 1997 will prove to be another successful year for the Irish tourism industry with Bord Fáilte targeting 7 per cent growth in visitor numbers and 9 per cent growth in revenue.

  27.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he will undertake a public review of the performance of the National Trade Development Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6025/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I assume what the Deputy has in mind is the trade development programme, as reflected in the market development sub-programme of the Operational Programme for Industrial Development, 1994-99.

This sub-programme is currently being reviewed as part of the mid-term review process of the entire Community support framework. The external evaluators for the industry OP have completed their report and their findings will be discussed shortly at a meeting of the industry monitoring committee, which comprises representatives of various external organisations, such as IBEC, together with representatives of the European Commission, Government Departments and the State agencies.

  28.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the progress, if any, being made at EU level to achieve further reduction in tariff and non-tariff barriers in the information technology area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6027/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Discussions at the World Trade Organisation's ministerial conference in Singapore in December resulted in a declaration on trade in information technology products being adopted by a number of WTO members including the European Union, the US and Japan. The declaration provides for the elimination of customs duties and other duties and charges on information technology products by the year 2000, with the first rate reductions due to come into effect no later than 1 July 1997.

The declaration is due to be implemented by 1 April 1997 provided that a critical mass of countries subscribe to it. Current indications are that this condition will be met.

The elimination of non-tariff barriers in the information technology area is being pursued by the EU through a number of channels, notably through negotiations on mutual recognition of standards and through ensuring that WTO members live up to their commitments under the relevant WTO Agreements.

[1716]

  29.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the proposals, if any, his Department has produced to reduce the costs to Irish exporters which have been incurred through distance costs from EU markets in order to establish a modern, efficient transport network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5998/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Ireland's location on the periphery of Europe does impose some cost penalties on exporters. Apart from direct transport costs which are not subject to Government price control, and the ability of firms themselves in the management of transport and logistics, transport infrastructure also has the potential to reduce significantly competitive disadvantages of location.

The Government is currently taking a number of strategically important initiatives to ensure that any disadvantage to exporters is minimised. A range of improvements in transport infrastructure are provided for under the Operational Programme for Transport 1994-1999 which is the responsibility of my colleagues, the Ministers for Transport Energy and Communications, Marine and the Environment. Under that programme £2.6 billion is being invested in upgrading our roads network, commercial seaports and airports and our rail network, with particular emphasis on those parts of the transport network which play a critical role in linking Ireland to our main export markets.

  30.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the steps, if any, he has taken to assist exporters under pressure due to the current currency fluctuations; if it is trade policy to align with sterling; and the trade implications this has in the post European Monetary Union scenario if Ireland joins and Britain does not. [5974/97]

  56.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the steps, if any, he is taking to assist Irish exporters who were encouraged to diversify away from the United Kingdom market and who now face exchange rate difficulties in the run up to the introduction of the Euro currency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6022/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to answer Questions Nos. 30 and 56 together.

As a small open economy, we are vulnerable to the impact of fluctuations in exchange rates, hence this Government's commitment to Ireland becoming a founder member of European Monetary Union. The recently published ESRI report on the economic implictions for Ireland of European Monetary Union, which was commissioned by the Minister for Finance, concluded that European Monetary Union membership would be [1717] favourable for Ireland. The net benefit of lower interest rates, coupled with savings on currency costs, would more than offset any competitiveness losses. That conclusion applied whether or not Britain joined European Monetary Union.

Specifically to assist any exporters who may currently be experiencing difficulty due to the present strength of the Irish pound against certain EU currencies, ABT has recently established a special task force to work with such companies, and monitor developments in the French and German markets. ABT is advising exporters to emphasise non-price factors such as quality, design etc. and ensure proper treasury-exchange risk management. This task force will operate on a similar basis to the sterling task force which assisted companies in difficulty in the UK market for similar reasons last year. As Deputies may be aware, the Irish pound has depreciated significantly against sterling in recent months.

I should also mention that ABT is continuing of course to provide very substantial support to firms exporting to Europe as part of their ongoing programmes of activity, known as opportunity Europe, to increase Irish exports to that market; in the current year, this amounts to approximately £10 million.

  32.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he will confirm the view within certain sectors of the tourism industry that the Department of Foreign Affairs should have a greater role in the promotion of Irish tourism abroad; if he has held discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs to assign this brief to a named office within each of our embassies abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5972/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The chief executive of Bord Fáilte and the other promotional agencies are members of the foreign earnings committee, which I chair, and which also includes senior officials from a number of Departments, including the Department of Foreign Affairs. The committee is responsible for ensuring the co-ordination of Ireland's overseas promotional activities. The issue of effective co-operation with the Department of Foreign Affairs is particularly important given that the embassies and consulates constitute Ireland's most extensive overseas network.

In order to encourage greater use of diplomatic missions to support Ireland's business, economic and tourism interests, the committee has established local foreign earnings co-ordination committees, comprising the market-based representatives of the agencies and chaired by the Irish ambassador in the main markets. The purpose of the local committees is to address specific issues requiring co-operation among the agencies, and most importantly, the potential for complementary [1718] action and co-ordinated pursuit of the particular market objectives.

The Deputy will be also aware that the foreign earnings committee has also supported the consolidation, wherever possible, of our overseas diplomatic, commercial and consular offices in Ireland houses. These provide a single point of contact for anyone who wants to do business with or seek information on Ireland and contribute to enhanced co-operation between the diplomatic service and agencies, including Bord Fáilte.

In addition, Bord Fáilte representatives are based in embassies in a number of countries, and in certain countries, where Bord Fáilte do not have a market presence, embassies display promotional literature and service inquiries.

As there is currently a high-level of co-operation between Bord Fáilte and the diplomatic service, which is kept under regular review particularly in the context of the foreign earnings committee, the need for discussions with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs does not arise at present.

  33.  Mr. E. Ryan    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if the Government intends to continue realistic funding of Irish tourism post 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5993/97]

  49.  Mr. Morley    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he agrees with Irish Tourish Industry Confederation (ITIC) that the current levels of EU funding for the tourism industry will fall dramatically after 1999 in view of ITIC's Review of the Year, published in December 1996; and that the Government should initiate active consultations with the various sectors of the industry to develop alternative sources of revenue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5976/97]

  62.  Dr. Moffatt    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the strategy, if any, the Government is pursuing in relation to the financial framework of the EU post-1999, relating to tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6033/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 33, 49 and 62 together.

Together with the tourism industry, I have been conscious for some time of the need to plan properly for the time when the current round of EU Structural Funds expires at the end of 1999. The issue has surfaced already in a number of fora such as the tourism council, the overseas tourism marketing initiative and in bilateral contacts between ITIC-industry representatives and my Department. I have referred to the matter in many speeches over the past two years in which I have exhorted the industry to build on its successes, particularly during this decade, by taking on more responsibility for the development, training and marketing of its own product. More [1719] recently, I have indicated to Bord Fáilte and the sector that my Department has already begun to look at possible scenarios for post-1999, with a view to future consulation and discussion with the industry on this subject. This work will, of course, also provide the necessary background to future negotiations with the European Commission in the lead up to the completion of the current operational programme for tourism which runs up to end 1999.

As to the matter of the EU financial framework post-1999, I understand from the Minister for Finance that the negotiations on the future financing of the European Union, including the structural funds, will not commence until after the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference at which stage the European Commission will submit a communication on the future financial framework as from 31 December 1999. This could happen as early as the second half of 1997. Ireland's overall approach to these negotiations is still under consideration and the House can be assured that when the negotiations commence, the Government will ensure that Ireland's interests are vigorously and effectively pursued.

  34.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the reason for the 300 per cent increase in staff members in his Department; and the additional functions, if any, which have been taken over by him. [6036/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Since the Department of Tourism and Trade was established in January 1993, staff numbers have increased by 37 and not 300 per cent, with the increase being accounted for by additional staffing resources to tourism division in order to meet the demands of an expanding and increasingly important industry; appointment of a Minister of State in January 1995 with specific responsibility for domestic tourism and trade, business competitiveness and cost, and the tourism aspects of the Leader and agri-tourism programmes; establishment of a strategy and competitiveness unit in April 1995 in the Department to monitor key developments likely to impact on the strategic direction and competiveness of the tourism and trade sectors; strengthening of central staff support particularly to deal with personnel, finance and information technology following the gradual transfer of responsibilities for these matters to the new Department from the Departments of Transport, Energy and Communications and of Enterprise and Employment which previously held responsibility for the tourism and trade functions respectively.

My Department continues its establishment in 1993 to exercise lead responsibility for the formulation of national policies on tourism and trade matters and for monitoring the implementation of these policies.

[1720]

  35.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    his views on the need to target tourism promotion more specifically to the appropriate time of the year in order to achieve greater growth in year round tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6018/97]

  60.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the percentage of tourists who visited Ireland in the peak season in 1990 and in 1996; the projected outcome for the year 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6037/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 60 together.

During 1990, 30 per cent of overseas tourists visited Ireland during the peak period of July and August. While there has been growth of 53 per cent in overall visitor numbers since then, the percentage arriving during the peak period in 1996 was down to 28 per cent.

As I said in reply to a question on 30 January, specific targets have been set under the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-1999 for improving tourism activity in the shoulder and off-peak seasons. At the beginning of the programme 30 per cent of visitors came to Ireland during the peak season and our aim is to have 25 per cent of visitors arrive in the peak period by 1999. The mid-term target set out in the programme is for 28 per cent of visitors to arrive in July-August and I am happy to say that this target was reached during 1996.

To achieve the overall 1999 target we need to increase activities during the off-peak season. As part of our campaign many initiatives are currently under way. On 15 January I launched the Celtic Flame Music Festival. This initiative is based on the recommendation of the tourism council and its aim is to further build tourism in the off-season. Festival events took place in Galway from 20 to 23 February, in Cork from 25 February to 2 March and will take place in Limerick from 7 to 9 March next. These events will serve to act as a lively lead-in to the St. Patrick's festivities in Dublin which I am convinced have the potential to become a further major attraction in the shoulder period.

Additionally, on 10 February, Deputy O'Sullivan, Minister of State, launched the 1997 domestic tourism marketing initiative. This major boost to domestic tourism will provide an added impetus to tourism in the off-season.

At the level of product, the improvement in the range and quality of weather independent facilities in recent years and the substantial investment in the marketing of these facilities is designed to improve the seasonality profile of the industry. The assistance which the industry has received under the tourism operational programme has been of considerable benefit in this regard.

It will also serve to complement the success so far of the overseas tourism marketing initiative, [1721] which is a State-industry partnership marketing initiative promoting Ireland on a year round basis in our key markets and whose many campaigns are directed at attracting visitors outside the peak season.

Finally, the launch last year of Tourism Brand Ireland formed a key part of a new strategic approach to marketing designed to address major issues such as yield, regional spread and seasonality. The advertising emphasis is on aspects of the Irish holiday such as human interaction, culture and historical heritage, which are not season-dependent.

  38.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he has satisfied himself that the European Commission has provided sufficient resources to ensure its common commercial policy is fully and effectively implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6020/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I have no reason to believe that the European Commission, within its budgetary limitations, has not provided sufficient resources to ensure that the European Community's common commercial policy is fully and effectively implemented. From my close contacts with the Commission and Sir Leon Brittan during the Irish Presidency. I know that the pressure of work on the Commission in this area is great. However, this has not prevented the Commission from taking a leading role in the World Trade Organisation and in bilateral trade negotiations.

  39.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the measures, if any, he has taken to develop tourism business from South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East; if so, the success that has been achieved to date in this regard; if he will give details of the marketing initiatives, if any, planned in these areas in 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6017/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  At the outset I would like to point out, once again, that overall responsibility for the promotion and development of Irish tourism in overseas markets rests with Bord Fáilte.

In pursuit of the most efficient use of their resources Bord Fáilte advise that its marketing effort is of necessity focused on areas where the best economic return can be realised. Bord Fáilte has, therefore, targeted the Australian and New Zealand market as priority long-haul markets. It recently undertook workshops in five major Australian and New Zealand cities, involving almost 800 travel agents. A co-operative advertising campaign has also been undertaken in those markets with British Airways on television, press and cinema.

[1722] The holiday market sector from Australia increased by 9 per cent in 1996 and inquiries to the Bord Fáilte office for January and February of this year are particularly strong, running at 76 per cent ahead of the same period in 1996.

As to the Far East, the Japanese market also displayed significant growth last year, increasing by 10 per cent and individual specialist segments such as English language schools are now beginning to target this market successfully.

In South America, Bord Fáilte has increased the Ireland programme with tour operators. It also brought selected trade and media to Ireland from four South American countries last year and participated with the British tourist authority in four Latin American workshops.

  41.  Dr. Moffatt    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the number of meetings of the national monitoring committee on funding to tourism-related products which have been held; the date of the most recent meeting; and the outcome of this meeting. [6034/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Paragraph 10.14 of the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-1999 provides that a national monitoring committee be established to have general responsibility for ensuring the smooth implementation of the programme in pursuit of the objectives set, including the right to adjust sub-programme budgets. The committee, which normally meets twice a year, is chaired by my Department.

The tourism OP committee is comprised of representatives from the European Commission, DGV, XI and XVI, the European Investment Bank, the Irish Tourism Industry Federation (ITIC), the Irish Business Employers Confederation (IBEC), the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), Bord Fáilte Éireann, Shannon Development, CERT, the Central Fisheries Board, a regional authority and the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, including the Office of Public Works, Education, Environment, Finance, the Marine, the Taoiseach and my own Department. To date, five meetings of the national monitoring committee have taken place i.e. on 26 April 1995, 26 October 1995, 17 April 1996, 24 October 1996 and 28 February 1997.

The most recent meeting of the committee was held on Friday, 28 February 1997. This was specially convened to consider, for the first time, the report of the mid-term evaluator of the tourism operational programme and it formed part of the overall CSF mid-term review process. It enabled members of the committee to receive a detailed presentation from the mid-term evaluator on his report and subsequently allowed the various interests represented on the committee to express their views on the report. These views [1723] will now be fed into the overall CSF review process.

  42.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the plans, if any, he has to produce a booklet which would be available to all those involved in the tourism industry and would cover the grants available for tourism, the type of projects for which they are available and for whom they are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6006/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I agree that the availability of information on grants and other incentives for tourism development is important if those in the industry and potential new entrants are to avail of the various support schemes.

Information on all EU programmes under which tourism development can be funded is provided in the booklet entitled “European Funding in Ireland”, published by my colleague Deputy Gay Mitchell, Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs, in 1995 as part of the Government's communicating Europe initiative. This is a comprehensive directory of all EU structural fund schemes and programmes in Ireland together with details of implementing agencies and contact points and is available, free of charge, from the Department of Finance.

The Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-99, which contains the largest element of EU grant assistance for the sector is available from the Government Publications Sales Office, and fully sets out the financial framework to the end of the century which will shape the investment decisions necessary to achieve the targets set in the programme. Furthermore, at the launch of the programme in 1994, my Department also published Tourism 2000 which is again available from the Government Publications Sales Office and which, inter alia, contains a comprehensive list of contact points for end-users appropriate to all tourism-related activities covered in the programme.

In addition, both Bord Fáilte and Shannon Development supply comprehensive brochures, with relevant application forms, which contain details of all grant schemes and incentives in the tourism area where these agencies have a role in the disbursing of funding.

  43.  Dr. McDaid    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if he intends to conduct a detailed audit of Irish tourism in terms of its objectives, strategy and impact of marketing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6000/97]

[1724]

  50.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    whether he has requested Bord Fáilte to produce an annual research plan based on the needs of the tourism industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6004/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 50 together.

The Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-99, sets out the principal objectives of Ireland's tourism policy, and strategic targets for the development of the sector up to the end of the century. The programme includes objectives, strategies and targets across such key areas as product development, marketing and training. Progress in achieving key targets has been good to date and the industry is on track to reach foreign exchange evenings of £2.25 billion and total employment of 120,000 by 1999.

This programme is currently the subject of a comprehensive mid-term evaluation, including impact of marketing expenditure, having regard to its stated objectives and strategies. Certain refinements and adjustments may be made to the programme later this year arising from the conclusions of this exercise.

Meanwhile Bord Fáilte Éireann, which is responsible for promoting and developing tourist traffic in and to the State in accordance with the Tourist Traffic Acts, 1931-1995, is also responsible for determining related research priorities and ensuring that such research is carried out satisfactorily. Since 1995, BFE has been restructured with a new focus on the international marketing of the Irish tourism product. As part of this new focus, the board is concentrating on three priorities: (i) selling and promoting Ireland abroad; (ii) helping the less mature elements of the industry to develop their marketing and product development capabilities; and (iii) providing information for enhanced decision making by marketers, investors and managers in the industry as well as Government.

As part of its new remit, Bord Fáilte is in regular consultation with all elements of the tourism industry to assess their ongoing needs and requirements, with programmes and actions being regularly adapted to take account of the outcome of such consultation. The board also provides for structured feed-back in many of its marketing and advertising programmes, forming the basis for ongoing research and review of effectiveness in the marketplace.

  44.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if it is his policy for Ireland to have a comprehensive information service for visitors planning cycling holidays in Ireland; if so, the reason the Cycling Federation of Ireland is frequently contacted by tourists who cannot get information on cycleways, accommodation with cyclists in mind and useful organisations and contacts; and the plans, if any, he has to remedy this glaring defect in Irish tourism. [6049/97]

[1725]Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  There are a number of strategies which are designed to achieve the ambitious growth targets set for Irish tourism for the rest of this decade and among these is the development of niche markets such as cycling holidays. Bord Fáilte, whose role is to market Ireland and the tourism products we have to offer has lead responsibility in this area and, in partnership with the industry, has been involved in the setting up of product marketing groups for our various product areas. Thus a co-operative marketing group for the cycling product has been established in conjunction with the walking product, and is known as the walking cycling Ireland group.

This group comprises 19 members who each pay a membership fee for marketing. It enables individual product suppliers to become more actively involved in how their product is marketed overseas, and Bord Fáilte informs me that a brochure has been produced listing the holidays offered by the members. The brochure is produced in four languages — English, Dutch, French and German — and is distributed to all Ireland's main overseas markets and is available in Bord Fáilte offices overseas. It is also distributed at all major consumer and trade shows in the markets in which Bord Fáilte participates.

Bord Fáilte is not, therefore, aware why visiting cyclist tourists might find it necessary, as the Deputy alleges, to contact frequently the Cycling Federation of Ireland to obtain visitor or specialist information. If, however, the Deputy can provide me with the relevant information, I will be happy to arrange to have Bord Fáilte investigate and report on the matter directly to him.

  45.  Mr. Browne (Wexford)    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the plans, if any, the Government intends putting forward to the EU Council of Ministers in 1997 to standardise export credit insurance conditions across the Community. [6046/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  As I outlined to the House on 30 January 1997, the European Commission submitted, in September, 1994, a proposal for a Council directive on harmonisation of the main provisions concerning export credit insurance for transactions with medium and long-term cover. While the principal of harmonisation was supported by all member states, there was strong opposition to the manner through which the Commission proposed this harmonisation should be effected, and, in late 1995, the issue was considered by the General Affairs Council, who requested the Commission to review their proposal.

I understand that the Commission is currently [1726] finalising a revised proposal, and, when this is received, I will consider its terms, and what our approach to it should be. This will then be pursued, in the appropriate Council forum.

  46.  Mr. Doherty    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    when the recommendation of the recently announced report by the strategy group on sport in Ireland to include sports under the remit of his Department will be implemented; and the changes in personnel, policy or otherwise, if any, which will arise. [6039/97]

  227.  Mr. Killeen    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    his views on the implications for his Department of the recently announced report by the strategy group on sport in Ireland which recommended the inclusion of sport with the tourism and trade brief; and when this recommendation will be implemented. [6083/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 227 together.

Matters relating to the report of the sports strategy group, Targeting Sporting Change in Ireland, which was launched on 18 February 1997, are the responsibility of my colleague, Deputy Bernard Allen, Minister of State at the Department of Education who has specific responsibility for sport. I understand he is currently considering the recommendations in the report.

  48.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the number of export licences for dual-use goods granted in each of the years from 1991 to 1996; the destinations of export licences granted in 1996; the plans, if any, he has to review the implementation of the dual-use regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6013/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

The implementation of the EU regulation and joint action regarding the control of exports of dual-use goods is under ongoing review in the EU groups established for this purpose, which are attended by officials from my Department, and a number of changes to the list of dual-use goods has been approved by the Council of Ministers and published in the Official Journal.

I am continuing to keep under review the implementation of the regulation in this country with a view to ensuring that our control system is effective without imposing an undue burden on business.

[1727][1728] Statistical Information on Dual-Use Export Licences Granted.

Year 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996
Number of Licences Granted 1,987 1,686 1,766 1,553 1,428 876

List of Destinations for Dual-Use Export Licences Granted in 1996

Albania Bhutan Congo French Guyana
Algeria Bolivia Cook Islands French Polynesia
American Samoa Bonaire Costa Rica Gabon
Andorra Botswana Croatia Gambia
Angola Brazil Curacao Germany
Anguilla Brunei Cyprus Ghana
Antigua Bulgaria Czech Republic Gibraltar
Argentina Burkina Faso Denmark Greece
Armenia Burundi Djibouti Greenland
Aruba Cameroon Dominica Grenada
Australia Canada Dominican Republic Guadeloupe
Azerbaijan Canary Islands Ecuador Guam
Bahamas Cape Verde Egypt Guatemala
Bahrain Caymen Islands El Salvador Guinea Bissau
Bangladesh Central African Republic Equatorial Guinea Guinea Republic
Barbados Chad Estonia Guyana
Belarus Channel Islands Ethiopa Haiti
Belgium Chile Faroe Islands Honduras
Belize China Fiji Islands Hong Kong
Benin Colombia Finland Hungary
Burmuda Comoros Islands France Iceland
India Mexico Rwanda Tanzania
Indonesia Moldova Saipan Thailand
Israel Monaco Sao Tome Togo
Italy Mongolia Saudi Arabia Tonga
Ivory Coast Monserrat Senegal Trinidad
Jamaica Morocco Seychelles Tunisia
Japan Mozambique Sierra Leone Turkey
Jordan Namibia Serbia-Montenegro Turks and Caicos Islands
Kampuchea Nauru Singapore Turkmenistan
Kazakhstan Nepal Slovakia Tuvalu
Kenya Netherlands Slovenia Uganda
Kiribati Nevis Solomon Islands Ukraine
Kuwait New Caledonia South Africa United Arab Emirates
Kyrgystan New Zealand South Korea United Kingdom
Laos Nicaragua Spain United States
Latvia Niger Sri Lanka Uruguay
Lebanon Norway St. Barthelemy Uzbekistan
Liechtenstein Oman St. Croix Vanuata
Lithuania Pakistan St. Eustatius Venezuala
Luxembourg Panama St. Kitts Vietnam
Macau Papua New Guinea St. Lucia Virgin Islands (British)
Macedonia Paraguay St. Maarten Virgin Islands (US)
Malawi Peru St. Vincent Western Samoa
Malaysia Philippines Suriname Yemen Arab Republic
Maldives Poland Swaziland Zaire
Mali Portugal Sweden Zambia
Malta Puerto Rico Switzerland Zimbabwe
Marshall Islands Qatar Syria
Martinique Reunion Islands Tahiti
Mauritania Romania Taiwan
Mauritius Russia Tajikistan

[1729]

  51.  Mr. Dempsey    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the current position in relation to the Irish stages of the Tour de France; and the funds, if any, which are being put up by Government Departments for the event. [5975/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  As I informed the House on a number of occasions, most recently on 30 January last, the Government has agreed, in the event of the initial stages of the 1998 Tour de France being held in Ireland, to provide up to £2 million towards its cost as follows; £1.1 million from my own Department's Vote; £0.4 million from the Vote of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry; £0.2 million from the Vote of the Minister of State at the Department of Education with responsibility for sport; and £0.3 million from funds to be provided by local authorities through specific arrangements to be made by the Minister for the Environment.

I understand that local authorities may make some additional contributions over and above the £300,000 already referred to, including helping to meet additional local costs such as crowd control equipment, media power supply, etc.

A formal decision by the Société du Tour de France as to whether Ireland will host the event is awaited.

  52.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    if funding is available under the Tourism Operational Programme or the INTERREG II programme towards the provision of adequate tourism information offices at county town level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6016/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Funding is available under the Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-1999, the INTERREG II programme and Bord Fáilte's capital development fund towards the development and upgrading of tourist information offices.

The six regional tourism authorities, together with Shannon Development, operate a national network of tourist information offices. In 1996, the network comprised 94 offices, of which 38 were open all-year round and 56 were seasonal offices. In addition, at locations which do not justify a tourist information office, but where visitor demand or potential for tourism exists, tourist information points are established. These are either display and sales stands, tourist literature at visitor attractions or tourist-related businesses; or unmanned display boards with maps and tourist information at strategic points in towns or lay-bys.

The level of EU funding currently available is expected to result in a total investment of in [1730] excess of £11 million in the tourist information office network over the period 1994-1999.

  53.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the number of additional jobs created in the six Border counties in the tourism industry since the ceasefire in October 1994. [4438/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  At a national level, Bord Fáilte estimates that direct and indirect employment in tourism has grown from 94,000 in 1994 to 107,000 in 1996, a rise of 13,000, which exceeds the end-1996 target set by the operational programme for tourism. However, such estimates are not compiled on a regional basis and it is not possible, therefore, to provide details of tourism employment growth on a regional basis or in specific county groupings.

In its 1996 manpower survey, however, CERT surveyed a somewhat broader group incorporating those employed in the tourism and catering industries generally, including the licensed trade — the last such survey was done in 1992. In its 1992 survey CERT estimated that 14,705 persons were engaged in the tourism and catering industries, including the licensed trade, in the north west region which, at that time, excluded County Louth. At the end of 1996, the CERT survey showed that there are 21,794 in the extended Border region, including County Louth.

  54.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    his views on whether there is an unnecessary overlap between the brief, and functions of Bord Fáilte and the National Tourism Council as currently organised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6009/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The brief and functions of Bord Fáilte and the tourism council are distinct and quite separate.

Bord Fáilte is an executive agency, and the statutory body with primary responsibility for promoting and developing tourist traffic in and to the State in accordance with the Tourist Traffic Acts, 1931-1995.

The Tourism Council, on the other hand acts, firstly, as a national forum for consultation with the tourism industry and secondly, in an advisory capacity to me on tourism policy and its implementation by the State agencies.

  55.  Ms Keogh    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the proposals approved under the tourism operational project; the arrangements, if any, there are for the mid-term review of this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6028/97]

[1731]Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-1999 agreed between the Irish Government and the European Commission provides that in the case of the marketing sub-programme; and in the case of Bord Fáilte and Shannon Development areas under the product development sub-programme the decision making authority on grant applications shall be exercised by independent management boards, with the excepttion of large projects which also require the specific approval of the Government and the European Commission. These independent management boards are required to operate within the policy guidelines as set out in the operational programme. Each of these boards comprises three independent business-professional members, two relevant state agency personnel and one official from my Department. The membership thus brings broad practical business and professional experience to the decision making process to augment the tourism-related expertise of the tourism agencies and my Department.

Each management board is required to furnish me with an annual report listing all board decisions and advising of any significant developments or trends in relation to applications falling under their aegis. The first three reports, for the period to end December, 1995 were published and were laid before both Houses of Oireachtas. The 1996 annual reports are currently being finalised and when available, will also be laid before both Houses.

As part of the overall mid-term review of the community support framework and in common with other operational programmes, the mid-term review of the operational programme for tourism 1994-1999 has commenced.

The review process of the tourism OP began last year with the drawing up of detailed terms of reference for a mid-term evaluation, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the European Commission, and the appointment by the national monitoring committee of a mid-term evaluator.

The mid-term evaluator's report was finalised recently and, as part of the next phase in the review process, was considered at a specially convened meeting of the national monitoring committee of the tourism OP on Friday 28 February 1997, which was chaired by my Department. This meeting allowed the various interests represented on the national monitoring committee to discuss the report in detail with the evaluator and to put forward initial views. These initial views will now be fed into the overall CSF mid-term review process thereby enabling the Government and the European Commission to review the general thrust and direction of CSF programmes and to decide on any strategic changes that may be required. This overall CSF review process is likely to be completed later this year.

[1732]

  58.  D'fhiafraigh Miss Quill    den Aire Turasóireachta agus Trádála    cé na pleananna atá aige chun turasóireacht bunaithe ar oidhreacht na Gaeilge a chur cun cinn agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas sa chás. [6064/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  Tá an príomhcúram laethúil maidir le Spreagadh Thurasóireacht na hÉireann tarmligthe do eagras feidhmiúcháin An Roinn Turasóireachta agus Trádála-Bord Fáilte Éireann.

  61.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    his views on the fact that there has been a marked failure to develop the domestic tourism market; the growth targets for the recently announced initiative in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6019/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The domestic tourism market is Ireland's largest single tourism market, generating in the region of £350 million in holiday revenue each year. In addition it supports an estimated 27,000 jobs in the economy, over a quarter of the total employment supported by tourism generally.

In recognition of the critical importance of the domestic market to the tourism sector generally, the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy O'Sullivan, established the domestic tourism marketing initiative in 1996 under the auspices of the national tourism council with the primary objective of working with the industry to renew domestic tourism interest. A high level working group comprising representatives from the tourism industry, state agencies and officials of my Department was set up to carry this objective forward by developing an integrated national marketing programme to accelerate growth in home holidays, with particular emphasis on the shoulder and off-season periods.

Following completion of the work of this group, the Minister of State recently launched the 1997 domestic tourism marketing campaign — the biggest marketing campaign ever undertaken to promote domestic tourism in Ireland. This £1 million campaign will include an extensive advertising campaign based on the tourism Brand Ireland initiative and various complementary promotional activities such as the national home holiday awareness week, the holiday of a lifetime competition and a comprehensive direct mail campaign. This level of marketing activity targetted especially at increasing public awareness of home holidays, is unprecedented.

The success of the new campaign will be measured particularly in terms of increased domestic tourism business in the shoulder and off-peak season in the current and future years, and in the level of increased marketing activity by industry in the home holiday market. Bord Fáilte anticipate that the new campaign will result in [1733] growth in domestic tourism of 8-10 per cent over the next three years.

  63.  Mr. Browne (Wexford)    asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade    the plans, if any, he has to increase the number of full time jobs in tourism services and attractions, in which only 29 per cent of positions are currently year round. [6045/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny):  The recently published CERT employment survey of the tourist industry in Ireland, 1996, covered a number of sectors within tourism, including tourism services and attractions as mentioned by the Deputy. This sector comprises tourist and cultural attractions, tourism services and leisure and sporting activities.

According to this extensive survey there are an estimated 25,161 people employed in tourism services and attractions, up 28 per cent on 1992 levels. Of the total employed, 66 per cent are permanent and not 29 per cent as suggested by the [1734] Deputy. A total of 29 per cent are seasonal and 5 per cent are occasional workers.

This sector is performing well in terms of the high level of permanent employment and skill requirements, reflecting both the priority which investment in this category of tourism product has been given in the current and previous operational programmes for tourism, and the rate of tourism growth which Ireland has been enjoying since the late 1980's.

  64.  Mr. Callely    asked the Taoiseach    the top ten highest value export markets in 1996; if he will give comparative figures for 1993, 1990, 1987 and 1984; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6179/97]

The Taoiseach:  The information requested by the Deputy is given in the following table, which provides details of trade with Ireland's ten main trading partners for the period January-September 1996. Comparative figures for the years 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1993 are also provided.

Irish Exports by main trading partner (£m)

Destination Jan.-Sep. 1996 1993 1990 1987 1984
United Kingdom 5,435.7 5,630.7 4,833.9 3,662.6 3,064.9
Germany 2,925.0 2,622.6 1,680.5 1,202.6 903.0
USA 2,127.6 1,789.9 1,178.4 833.8 866.0
France 1,868.5 1,791.8 1,510.0 994.4 745.6
Netherlands 1,515.0 1,095.4 832.0 778.3 621.8
Belgium & Luxembourg 1,079.9 799.9 632.5 512.8 382.6
Italy 780.7 707.7 633.9 392.5 278.9
Japan 637.7 726.6 264.0 181.2 151.2
Spain 499.8 414.4 307.9 164.2 94.3
Switzerland 430.4 352.0 243.0 168.1 100.0

Note: In general, country detail may be understated due to the non-inclusion of some intra-EU estimates (from January 1993 onwards), low value transactions, parcel post and Shannon Free Airport trade. Over 95 per cent of external trade is classified by country.

  66.  Mr. Callely    asked the Taoiseach    the number of reports or studies which have been commissioned by him since his appointment; the cost of each report in each case; whether the report has been made publicly available; and if not the reason, therefor. [6112/97]

  67.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Taoiseach    the number of consultants' reports commissioned by his Department since he took office; the number which have been completed; and the cost to date. [6133/97]

The Taoiseach:  I propose to answer Questions Nos. 66 and 67 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 85 on 28 January, 1997.

The only changes to the information already supplied are Mel Cousins — reporting and editing of proceedings of EU Conference on Local Development in November 1996. This report has been completed. Price Waterhouse — efficiency audit group review of the Irish air corps and naval service. The review has been presented to the steering group who will report to Government in March 1997. Deloitte & Touche — organisational review of the Garda Síochána — the steering group will be presenting its recommendations to Government in March 1997.

No other reviews were commissioned since 28 January 1997.

[1735]

  68.  Mr. Doherty    asked the Taoiseach    the number of solicitors employed by the Chief State Solicitors Office; whether there are different contracts governing different employees in the Chief State Solicitors Office, such as short-term contracts as opposed to permanent civil servants; if so, the number of each type of staff; the annual volume of cases dealt with by the Chief State Solicitors Office under the various headings in this regard including the categories of litigation and criminal; and the costings in this regard. [6254/97]

The Taoiseach:  The information sought by the Deputy is set out hereunder:

Number of Solicitors:

There are currently 64.5 solicitors employed in the office.

Contract Employees:

Fifteen (15) of the solicitors are employed on temporary contracts. There are also three law clerks on contract. The contracts are for either six months or one year.

Volume of Cases:

Total new cases for 1995 and 1996 were—

1995 14,463
1996 15,376

Details of those cases under the various headings are—

1995 1996
Advisory 2,611 2,305
Conveyancing 496 604
Cost Accounting 19 119
Criminal Cases 7,162 7,215
High Court (including Judicial Review) 2,675 2,944
Army Hearing Loss 1,500 2,189

Costings:

It is not feasible to date to cost the different types of cases. However, the total provision of the Chief State Solicitor's office for 1997 is £11,993,000.

  69.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Taoiseach    the number and names of persons appointed to boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees under the aegis of his Department; the remuneration attached to each position; the expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence to date for every member of each relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6290/97]

The Taoiseach:  The following is a list of the boards, committees, commissions or sub-committees under the aegis of my Department. The attached schedule gives the current membership of the boards, etc., remuneration, if any, and expenses incurred by each member where relevant.

1. IFSC Clearing House Group

2. IFSC Funds Group

3. IFSC Banking & Treasury Group

4. IFSC Insurance Group

5. IFSC Education & Training Group

6. IFSC Public-Sector Co-Ordination Group

[1736] 7. Minister of State Gay Mitchell's Long-Term Review Group on the IFSC

8. International Advisory Group on the IFSC

9. Communicating Europe Implementation Task Force

10. National Statistics Board

11. NESC

12. Devolution Commission

13. The Law Reform Commission

14. The Constitution Review Group

15. SMI Co-ordinating Group for the SMI

16. Working Group on Quality Customer Service

17. Working Group on Human Resource Management

18. Working Group on Financial Management

19. Working Group on Open and Transparent Service Delivery

20. Working Group on Regulatory Reform

21. Working Group on Information Technology

22. Frontline Group on Quality Customer Service

23. Frontline Group on Training and Development

24. Frontline Group on Information Technology

25. Efficiency Audit Group Review of the Irish Air Corps and Naval Service

26. Garda Review Steering Group

27. Monitoring Committee for the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development, 1994-1999

28. Steering Group on Technical Assistance for the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development, 1994-1999

29. Monitoring Committee for the Operational Programme for URBAN in Ireland, 1996-1999

30. Interdepartmental Policy Committee on Local Development

31. National Anti-Poverty Strategy

32. Task Force on Funding Arrangements in the Border Counties

33. Area Development (ADM) Ltd.

34. Western Development Commission

35. Famine and 1798 Commemoration Committee

Schedule

1. Membership of the IFSC Clearing House Group (14 Members)

Paddy Teahon (Chairman), Department of the Taoiseach.

Garry Davis (Group Secretary), Department of the Taoiseach.

Don Bergin, Department of Finance.

Ron Bolger, KPMG.

Michael Buckley, AIB Capital Markets.

Torlach Denihan, Financial Services Industry Association (FSIA).

Dervilla M.X. Donnelly, Custom House Docks Development Authority.

Victor Holmes, International Fund Managers (Irl.) Ltd.

Vincent Madigan, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Kieran McGowan, IDA Ireland.

Michael Meagher, Bank of Ireland Group.

Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Frank Mullen, Revenue Commissioners.

Garrett Murphy, Central Bank.

The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

2. Membership of IFSC Funds Group (14 Members)

Maire O'Connor (Chair), Robson Rhodes.

Gary Davis (Secretary), Department of the Taoiseach.

Deirdre Behan, Department of Finance.

Gavin Caldwell, Ulster Investment Bank Ltd.

Willie Cotter, Investment Bank of Ireland.

Paul Cummins, Price Waterhouse.

Paul Dobbyn, A. & L. Goodbody.

Bernard Hanratty, DFIA.

Brendan Logue, IDA Ireland.

Paul McGowan, KPMG Stokes Kennedy Crowley.

Paul McNaughton, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell.

Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

George Treacy, Central Bank.

Pat Wall, Coopers and Lybrand.

[1737] The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

3. Membership of IFSC Banking and Treasury Group (19 Members)

Keith MacDonald (Chairman), Citibank N.A.

Gary Davis (Secretary), Department of the Taoiseach.

Deirdre Behan, Department of Finance.

Walter Brazil, AIB Capital Markets.

Dermot Clarke, Ernst and Young.

Torlach Denihan, Financial Services Industry Association (FSIA).

Brendan Ellison, Department of Finance.

Enda Faughnan, Price Waterhouse.

Muriel Hinch, Revenue Commissioners.

Pat Kenny, Deloitte and Touche.

Peter Kluge, Scotiabank.

Brendan Logue, IDA Ireland.

Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Dan McCarthy, Grand Met.

Brendan McCormack, Revenue Commissioners.

Ronan Murphy, Bank of Ireland International Finance.

Karen O'Leary, Central Bank.

Declan Rigney, Revenue Commissioners.

Roddy Ryan, Arthur Andersen.

The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

4. Membership of IFSC Insurance Group (13 Members)

Ken Porter (Chairman), Eagle Star.

Gary Davis (Secretary), Department of the Taoiseach.

John Fitzgerald, Irish Life International.

Pat Henehan, Ernst and Young.

Dermot Hughes, International Church and General.

Susan Keane, FSIA.

Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Donal Murtagh, Department of Finance.

Eamonn O'Brien, DIMA.

Michael O'Donnell, Coopers and Lybrand.

Walker Rainey, XL Europe Insurance.

David Smith, IDA Ireland.

Ann Troy, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

5. Membership of IFSC Education and Training Group (14 Members)

John Butler, FÁS.

Martin Butler, Scottish Amicable.

Gary Davis (Secretary), Department of the Taoiseach.

Torlach Denihan, FSIA.

Bernard Hanratty, Citibank (DFIA).

Gerry Kelly, Custom House Docks Development Authority.

Brendan Logue, IDA Ireland.

Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Donal Murtagh, Department of Finance.

Joe O'Connor, AIB Capital Markets.

Declan Purcell (Chairperson), Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Jane Richardson, Merrill Lynch Financial Services.

Philip Ryan, Precept Consulting.

Eamonn Stack, Department of Education.

The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

6. Membership of IFSC Public Sector Co-Ordination Group (8 Members)

Ms Muriel Hinch, Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Garret Murphy, Central Bank of Ireland.

Mr. Gus MacAmhlaigh, Custom House Docks Development Authority.

Mr. Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Gary Davis, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Donal Murtagh, Department of Finance.

Mr. Pat Houlihan, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Mr. Brendan Logue, IDA Ireland.

[1738] The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

7. Membership of Minister of State Gay Mitchell's Long-Term Review Group on the IFSC (7 Members)

Mr. Gay Mitchell, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for IFSC.

Mr. Don Bergin, Department of Finance.

Mr. Gary Davis (Secretary), Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Jim Farrell, National Treasury Management Agency.

Mr. Kieran McGowan, IDA Ireland.

Mr. Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Michael Tutty, Department of Finance.

The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

8. Membership of International Advisory Group on the IFSC (7 Members)

Mr. Gay Mitchell, T.D. (Chairperson), Minister of State, Department of the Taoiseach.

Ms Kathy L. Anderson, KPMG, New York,

Mr. Noel Dorr, former Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. D'Arcy Le Clair, Chase, New York.

Mr. Jacques-Phillipe Marson, State Street Bank & Trust Company, Boston.

Mr. Donagh Morgan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Séamus Páircéir, former Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners and former Chairman of the Custom House Docks Development Authority.

The issue of the remuneration, expenses, travel and subsistence does not arise in the case of this Group.

9. Communicating Europe Implementation Task Force (18 Members)

Mr. Gay Mitchell, T.D. (Chairperson), Minister for European Affairs, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Raymond Keane, European Commission.

Mr. Colm Larkin, European Commission.

Ms Patricia Lawler, European Movement.

Mr. Tom Cox, European Movement.

Mr. Odran Reid, Institute of European Affairs.

Mr. Terry Stewart, Institute of European Affairs.

Dr. James O'Brien, European Parliament Office.

Mr. Dermot Scott, European Parliament Office.

Mr. Brian McCarthy, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Aidan Dunning, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Brian Murphy, Department of the Taoiseach.

Ms Kate O'Toole, Government Information Services.

Dr. Stephen Lalor, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Nick Reddy, Government Press Office.

Mr. Dan Mulhall, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Paddy McDonagh, Department of Education.

Ms Carmel Keane, Department of Finance.

There is no remuneration attached to membership of the Task Force and any expense which might be incurred from being a member of the Task Force is not reimbursed by the Department of the Taoiseach.

10. National Statistics Board (8 Members)

Professor Frances Ruane (Chairperson), Trinity College, Dublin.

Ms Marian Harkin, Mathematics Teacher.

Mr. Jim O'Leary, IBEC.

Ms Paula Carey, ICTU.

Mr. Ciaran Dolan, ICMSA.

Mr. Dermot McCarthy, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. David Doyle, Department of Finance.

Mr. Donal Murphy, CSO.

The Chairperson receives £4,000 per annum in quarterly instalments. Ms Marian Harkin, Mr. Jim O'Leary, Ms Paula Carey and Mr. Ciaran Dolan receive £1,000 per annum in quarterly instalments.

[1739]Travel & Subsistence in 1996
Professor F. Ruane 1,906.63 (incl. 3 flights)
Mr. C. Dolan 479.15
Mr. M. Crowley* 208.18
Mr. D. Doyle 133.50 (incl. 1 flight)
Mr. D. Nevin* 67.00
2,794.46

*Member of old board which expired on 1/11/96

Travel & Subsistence in 1997

Nil

11. NESC (34 Members)

Mr. Paddy Teahon, Chairman.

Ms Carol Fawsitt, Fawsitt & Co. Solicitors.

Prof. Patrick Honohan, ESRI.

Dr. David Jacobson, DCU.

Ms Anne Maher, Irish Assoc. Pension Funds.

Prof. Alan Matthews, TDC.

Mr. Dara Murphy, Variety Supplies and Party Rentals Ltd.

Ms Mary Murphy, INOU.

Ms Michelle Norris, National Youth Council.

Dr. Ann Ryan, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth.

Mr. Brian O'Loghlen (Observer from European Communities), DG II Office, Brussels.

Mr. Paddy Mullarkey, Secretary, Department of Finance.

Mr. Kevin Bonner, Secretary, Dep. Enterprise & Employment.

Ms Margaret Hayes, Secretary, Department of Trade & Tourism.

Mr. Eddie Mc Cumiskey, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Julie O'Neill, Assistant Secretary, Office of the Tánaiste.

Mr. John Dunne, IBEC.

Mr. Brian Sweeney, IBEC.

Mr. Tom Toner, IBEC.

Ms Lorraine Sweeney, IBEC.

Ms Rosemary Steen, IBEC.

Mr. Peter Cassels, ICTU.

Mr. Phil Flynn, ICTU.

Mr. Owen Nulty, ICTU.

Mr. Jimmy Somers, ICTU.

Ms Patricia O'Donovan, ICTU.

Ms Lenore Mrkwicka, ICTU.

Mr. Gregory Tierney, ICOS.

Ms Betty Kehoe, ICMSA.

Mr. Ciaran Dolan, ICMSA.

Mr. Tom Curran, Macra Na Feirme.

Mr. George Hennessy, CIF.

Ms Mairead Lavery, IFA.

Mr. Michael Berkery, IFA.

The NESC membership do not receive any remuneration.

Travel & Subsistence in 1996
Mr. Ciaran Dolan 1,695.75
Ms Betty Kehoe 1,249.70
Ms. Michelle Norris 314.90
Mr. Dara Murphy 359.10
Mr. Alan Matthews 23.00
Prof. Patrick Honohan 48.50
3,654.95

Travel & Subsistence in 1997

Nil

12. Devolution Commission (15 Members)

Mr. Phil Flynn, IMPACT.

Mr. John Boland, Former Minister for the Public Service.

Mr. Vincent Byrne, Wexford County Council.

Mr. Noel Dillon, Cork County Manager.

Mr. Jim Doorly, KPMG Management Consulting.

Cllr. Constance Hannify, Offaly County Council.

Mr. John Hurley, Secretary, PSMD, D/Finance.

Ms Anna Lee, Chair, Combat Poverty.

Ms Laura Magahy, Temple Bar Properties.

Cllr. Charles O'Connor, South Dublin County Council.

[1740]Mr. Brendan O'Donoghue, Secretary, D/Environment.

Ms Anne O'Keeffe, Executive Director, IPA.

Senator Jan O'Sullivan, Limerick Corporation.

Mr. Conor Skehan, Environmental Impact Services Ltd.

Mr. Paddy Teahon, Secretary, D/Taoiseach.

Travel & Subsistence in 1996
Mr. Phil Flynn 242.86
Mr. Vincent Byrne 1,754.59
Mr. Noel Dillon 1,087.35
Cllr. Constance Hannify 2,681.77
Cllr. Charles O'Connor 198.11
Senator Jan O'Sullivan 149.73
6,114.41

Travel & Subsistence in 1996
Mr. Phil Flynn 7.02
Mr. Vincent Byrne 445.39
Mr. Noel Dillon 12.01
Cllr. Constance Hannify 443.64
Mr. Conor Skehan 225.10
1,133.16

The question of remuneration in the case of these members does not arise.

13. The Law Reform Commission

The contract of Mr. Simon P. O'Leary, Commissioner Law Reform Commission was extended by two months to 1 March 1997 at an annual salary of £76,246. No expenses (travel & subsistence) were incurred for 1996 or 1997 to date.

14. The Constitution Review Group (13 Members)

Dr. T.K. Whitaker (Chairman), Former Governor, Central bank.

Dr. Dermot Nally, Convenor, Retired Public Servant.

Mahon Hayes, Convenor, Former Permanent Representative to UN.

Mary Finlay, SC, Convenor,

David Byrne, SC,

Dr. Alpha Connelly, Legal Adviser, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Professor Áine Hyland, Professor of Education, UCD.

Dr. Finola Kennedy, Economist.

Professor Michael Laver, Professor of Political Science, TCD.

Dr. Kathleen Lynch¹, Co-ordinator of Equality Studies, UCD.

Diarmuid McGuinness, BL,

Dr. Blathna Ruane, BL,

Mr. Gerard Hogan, BL², Law Lecturer, TCD.

Remuneration 1996
Dr. T.K. Whitaker (Chairman) 3,750
Dr. Dermot Nally, Convenor 3,250
Mahon Hayes, Convenor 3,250
Mary Finlay, SC, Convenor 3,250
David Byrne, SC 2,500
Dr. Alpha Connelly 2,500
Professor Áine Hyland 2,500
Dr. Finola Kennedy 2,500
Professor Michael Laver 2,500
Dr. Kathleen Lynch 2,500
Diarmuid McGuinness, BL 2,500
Dr. Blathna Ruane, 2,500
33,500

¹Dr. Kathleen Lynch's fee was paid, at her request, to the D/Equality Studies, UCD.

²Mr. Gerard Hogan, BL, declined to accept a fee

No expenses (travel & subsistence) were incurred for 1996.

15. SMI Co-ordinating Group for the SMI (21 Members)

Mr. Paddy Teahon (Chairperson), Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach

[1741] Mr. A.D. Barry (Chairman), CRH.

Mr. Kevin Duffy, Assistant General Secretary, ICTU.

Mr. John Dunne, Director General, Irish Business & Employers Conferderation.

Ms Carmel Foley, Chief Executive, Employment Equality Agency.

Ms. Margaret Hayes, Secretary, Department of Tourism and Trade.

Mr. John Hurley, Secretary, D/Finance.

Dr. Caroline Hussey, Registrar, UCD.

Ms Noreen Kearney, Lecturer in Social Studies, TCD.

Mr. John Loughrey, Secretary, D/Transport, Energy & Communications.

Mr. Eddie McCumiskey, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Mamo McDonald, Former President of the ICA.

Mr. Paddy Keating, National Secretary, Civil Service Division, IMPACT.

Mr. Paddy Mullarkey, Secretary, Department of Finance,

Ms Catríona Murphy, Managing Director, Capital Markets Corporate, Finance Ltd., AIB.

Mr. Dan Murphy, General Secretary, PSEU.

Professor John Murray, Department of Business Management, TCD.

Mr. John O'Dowd, General Secretary, CPSU.

Ms Julie O'Neill, Assistant Secretary, Office of the Tánaiste.

Mr. Sean O'Riordain, General Secretary, AHCS

Ms Catherine Treacy, Registrar, Land Registry.

No remuneration attached to membership.

Travel & Subsistence in 1996 and 1997 to date
Ms Mamo McDonald 329.52

16. Working Group on Quality Customer Service (19 Members)

Mr. Cathal Mac Domhnaill (Chairperson), Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Sean Alyward, Department of Justice.

Mr. Maurice Coughlan, Department of the Environment.

Mr. Eric Embleton, Assistant Secretary, Department of Finance.

Ms Marie Kerrigan, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Mr. John Lawton, Counsellor, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Peter Baldwin, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Mr. Brian Murphy, Chairman, Commissioners of Public Works.

Mr. James Rogers, Commissioner of Valuation, Valuation Office.

Ms Frances Spillane, Department of Health.

Ms Frances Stephenson, Office of Minister of State, Deputy Avril Doyle.

Mr. Eddie Sullivan, Director, Social Welfare Services Office.

Mr. John Browne, Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

Ms Bairbre Nic Aongusa, Department of Health.

Non-Civil Service

Mr. Roger Acton, Chief Executive Disability Federation.

Ms Caroline Gill, Consumers Association.

Ms Aine Mizzoni, Operations Director, Sedgwick Dineen International Ltd.

Ms Maria Hegarty, Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed.

Senator Fergal Quinn.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

17. Working Group on Human Resource Management (18 Members)

Mr. John Hurley (Chairperson), Secretary (PSMD) Department of Finance.

Mr. Joe Boyle, Civil Service Commission.

Ms Anna Doughan, Department of Education.

Ms Josephine Feehily, Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Seamus Feely, Tánaiste's Office.

[1742] Mr. John Gillespie, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Mr. Michael Kelly, Deputy Secretary, Department of Justice.

Ms Alice O'Flynn, Department of Social Welfare.

Mr. Brendan O'Donoghue, Department of Environment.

Mr. Tom Power, Department of Health.

Mr. Paddy Teahon, Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Brendan Tuohy, Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

Ms Mary Whelan, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Joe McGovern, Department of Finance.

Non-Civil Service

Ms Mary Darlington, Personnel and Safety Manager, Bausch and Lomb.

Mr. Kevin Heffernan, Former Chairman of the Labour Court.

Mr. Michael McLoone, Donegal County Manager.

Ms Maura McGrath, Personnel Manager, Bank of Ireland.

No remuneration attached to membership.

Travel and Subsistence 1996 and 1997 to date

Ms Mary Darlington, £683.42.

18. Working Group on Financial Management (18 Members)

Mr. Paddy Mullarkey (Chairperson), Secretary, Department of Finance.

Ms Marian Byrne, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Ms Margaret Hennessy, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. John Loughrey, Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

Mr. Joe Meade, Secretary and Director of Audit, Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Mr. Dermot McCarthy, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Eddie McCumiskey, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare.

Mr. Ciaran Murphy, Department of Finance.

Ms Bridget McManus, Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Mr. Jerry O'Dwyer, Secretary, Department of Health.

Ms Niamh O'Donoghue, Civil Service Commission.

Ms Sara White, Department of the Marine.

Mr. Phil Furlong, Department of Finance.

Mr. Colm Desmond, Department of Finance.

Non-Civil Service

Ms Mary Broughan, Ex-chair, Irish Pensions Board.

Mr. Sean Dorgan, Chief Executive, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland.

Mr. Dermot Hegarty, Griffith College (working with D/TEC on Accruals Accounting).

Ms Noreen Hynes, Former President, Leinster Society of Chartered Accountants.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

19. Working Group on Open and Transparent Service Delivery (16 Members)

Mr. Frank Murray (Chairperson), Secretary to the Government.

Dr. Ruth Barrington, Director, Department of Health.

Mr. Tim Dalton, Secretary, Department of Justice.

Ms Vera Dervan, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Anne Doyle, Department of Equality and Law Reform.

Mr. Colm Gallagher, Department of Finance.

Mr. Jim Hamilton, Attorney General's Office.

Mr. Tadgh O'hEalaithe, Secretary, Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Ms Julie O'Neill, Office of the Tánaiste.

Mr. John Neary, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Pat Whelan, Director of the Ombudsman's Office.

Non-Civil Service

Ms Ellen Hazelcorn, Director of Applied Arts, Dublin Institute of Technology.

Ms Leonie Lunny, Director, NSSB.

Mr. Mark Mortell, Head of Marketing, Lifetime Assurance Company.

Ms Olivia O'Leary, Journalist.

Mr. Pat Montague, Montague Communications.

[1743] No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

20. Working Group on Regulatory Reform (19 Members)

Mr. Kevin Bonner (Chairperson), Secretary, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Mr. Tom Carroll, Secretary, Department of the Marine.

Mr. Padraig Cullinane, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Mr. David Doyle, Department of Finance.

Ms Finola Flanagan, Office of the Attorney General.

Ms Margaret Hayes, Secretary, Department of Tourism and Trade.

Mr. Liam Hennessy, Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Wally Kirwan, Department of the Taoiseach.

Ms Bernadette Lacey, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Mary McCullagh, Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

Mr. Bernard McDonagh, Secretary, Department of Equality and Law Reform.

Mr. Paddy McKernan, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs.

Ms Mary Moylan, Department of the Environment.

Mr. Michael Buckley, Chief State Solicitor.

Non-Civil Service

Ms Aisling Doyle, BCL, Steven McKenzie and Co. Solicitors.

Dr. Robert Clark, Professor of Law, UCD.

Mr. Colum Mac Donnell, Chief Executive, Irish Exporters Association.

Mr. Paul Skehan, Director, Chambers of Commerce of Ireland.

Mr. Andrew Whitaker, Competition Press.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

21. Working Group on Information Technology (19 Members)

Mr. David O'Callaghan (Chairperson), Secretary, Defence.

Mr. Noel Doyle, Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Eric Embleton, Department of Finance.

Mr. Martin Higgins, Department of Health.

Ms Eileen Kehoe, Department of the Taoiseach.

Ms Ann McGuinness, Department of the Environment.

Mr. Donal Murphy, Director General, CSO.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Mr. Pat O'Grady, Civil Service Commission.

Mr. Dermot Quigley, Revenue Commissioner.

Mr. Oliver Ryan, Director, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Catherine Treacy, Registrar, Land Registry.

Mr. Don Thornhill, Secretary, Department of Education.

Mr. Fergus Glavey, Data Protection Commissioner.

Non-Civil Service

Ms Una O'Brien, National Instruments.

Ms Loretta Brannigan, Bank of Ireland.

Mr. Billy Glennon, Vision Computing.

Mr. Frank Murphy, Superquinn.

Mr. Mike O'Farrell, Kodak Ireland Ltd.

Mr. Simon Nugent, Chambers of Commerce of Ireland.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

22. Frontline Group on Quality Customer Service (24 Members)

Mr. Cathal MacDomhnaill (Chairperson), Chairman, Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. John Browne, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Mr. Seamus Burke, Ombudsman.

Mr. Gerry Byrne, Department of Social Welfare.

Mr. William Cruise, Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Mr. Seamus Connolly, Valuation Office.

Mr. John Cremins, Collector General.

Mr. Gerry Dolan, Land Registry.

Mr. Bernard Farrell, Ordnance Survey.

[1744] Ms Deirdre Fearon, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Ms Caroline Harte, Passport Office.

Ms Margaret Kelly, Department of Education.

Ms May Maguire, Land Registry.

Mr. Pat Mulvey, Department of Finance.

Mr. Adrian O'Donovan, Department of Health.

Mr. Dick O'Driscoll, CSO.

Ms Collette O'Flaherty, Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Ms Grace O'Malley, Department of Education.

Ms Rose O'Rahilly, Revenue.

Ms Bernie O'Shea, Department of the Taoiseach.

Ms Aine Ni Gallachoir, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Ms Geraldine Tanham, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Barbara Toneycliff, Department of Justice.

Ms Monica Wallace, Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

23. Frontline Group on Training and Development (21 Members)

Mr. John Hurley, Secretary (PSMD), Department of Finance.

Ms Maura Begley, Department of the Marine.

Mr. Hugh Bradley, Revenue.

Ms Linda Carroll, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Patricia Coleman, Department of Finance.

Ms Pamela Conroy, Department of Tourism and Trade.

Ms Ann Costello, Department of the Environment.

Mr. Gaye Dalton, Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Ms Mary Donnellan, Department of Defence.

Ms Marie Hogarty, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Ms Alice Kearney, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Pat Moriarty, Department of Justice.

Mr. Ciaran Murphy, Land Registry.

Mr. Willie McIntosh, Office of Public Works.

Ms Michelle McMahon, Civil Service Commission.

Mr. Frank O'Brien, Department of Justice.

Mr. Ciaran O'Cronin, Attorney General's Office.

Mr. Denis O'Neill, Department of Education.

Mr. David Stokes, CSO.

Mr. Tom Ward, Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

Mr. Pat Wylie, Department of Equality and Law Reform.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

24. Frontline Group on Information Technology (21 Members)

Mr. David O'Callaghan, Secretary, Department of Defence.

Ms Betty Martin, Foreign Affairs Passport Office.

Mr. Mark Brady, Comptroller and Auditor General's Office.

Mr. Michael Carrick, Department of Health.

Ms Maura Conneely, Department of Finance.

Mr. Eamon Cusack, Office of the Tánaiste.

Ms Patricia Doran, Oireachtas.

Mr. Donal Fallon, Met Office.

Mr. Sean Fay, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Ursula Forde, Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Alan King, Department of Agriculture.

Ms Breda Ingle, Office of Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr. John McMahon, Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Conor Murphy, State Laboratory.

Ms Jeanette Nolan, Department of Social Welfare.

Ms Rosanna Nolan, Office of Public Works.

Mr. Sean McConmara, Department of Education.

Mr. Frank McDermott, Department of Justice.

Ms Angela McGeady, Chief State Solicitors Office.

Ms Margaret Oliver/Ms Teresa Sydenham, Department of Defence.

Mr. Seamus Walsh, Met Office.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

[1745] 25. Efficiency Audit Group Review of the Irish Air Corps and Naval Service (11 Members)

Mr. Paddy Teahon, Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach (Chair).

Mr. David O'Callaghan, Secretary, Department of Defence.

Mr. Michael O'Donoghue, Assistant Secretary, Department of Defence.

Mr. Michael Howard, Assistant Secretary, Department of Defence.

Mr. Tom Carroll, Secretary, Department of the Marine.

Mr. Jim McCaffrey, Assistant Secretary, Department of Finance.

Mr. Frank Dunne, Assistant Secretary, Department of Justice.

Brig. Gen. Patrick Cranfield, G.O.C. Air Corps.

Comod. John Kavanagh, F.O.C. Naval Service.

Lt. Gen. Gerard McMahon, Army Chief of Staff.

Maj. Gen. David Stapleton, Quartermaster-General.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

26. Garda Review Steering Group (9 Members)

Mr. A.D. Barry, Chairman, CRH.

Ms Catherine Treacy, Registrar, Land Registry.

Mr. Kevin Duffy, Assistant General Secretary, ICTU.

Mr. Tim Dalton, Secretary, Department of Justice.

Mr. Pat Byrne, Garda Commissioner.

Mr. Jim McCaffrey, Department of Finance.

Mr. Dermot Nally, Former Secretary to the Government.

Mr. John Timoney, Former Deputy Commissioner, NYPD.

Mr. Barry Galvin, State Solicitor.

No remuneration attached to membership.

Travel & Subsistence in 1996 and 1997 to date
Mr. John Timoney £18,222.14

Local Development — Department of the Taoiseach

The Department of the Taoiseach has national co-ordinating responsibility for the two Operational Programmes detailed below, numbers 27-32. To date two committees have been established under the Local Development Operational Programme and one has been established under the URBAN Operational Programme. They are chaired by the Department who also provide secretariat.

Details are also provided below on three other related committees working in the local development area.

The organisations that are represented on the committees are listed below. Representatives are nominated to attend meetings and are often substituted/replaced by colleagues. There is no additional remuneration paid to any member for their involvement in the committees. No expenses have been paid to members to date as these are borne by their organisations.

27. Monitoring Committee for the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development, 1994-1999

European Commission: DG V, DG VI and DG XVI.

Government Departments: Taoiseach; Office of the Tánaiste;

Agriculture, Food and Forestry; Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht; Education; Enterprise and Employment; Equality and Law Reform; Finance; Environment; Social Welfare.

Area Development Management Ltd.

Midland Regional Authority.

Council for the West.

FÁS.

ICMSA.

Macra na Feirme.

Combat Poverty Agency.

Irish Business and Employers Confederation.

National Youth Council.

Irish Trade Union Trust.

Construction Industry Federation.

Enterprise Trust.

Chambers of Commerce in Ireland.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

County Enterprise Boards Representative.

Irish Planning Institute.

National Women's Council of Ireland.

[1746] Community Workers Co-operative.

Partnership for Local Action Network (PLANET).

Irish Leader Network.

Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed.

28. Steering Group on Technical Assistance for the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development, 1994-1999

European Commission: DG V, DG VI and DG XVI.

Department of the Taoiseach.

Department of Enterprise and Employment.

Department of the Environment.

Department of Finance.

Office of the Tánaiste.

Area Development Management Ltd.

29. Monitoring Committee for the Operational Programme for URBAN in Ireland, 1996-1999.

European Commission, DG V, DG VI and DG XVI.

Government Departments:

Taoiseach

Office of the Tánaiste

Education

Enterprise and Employment

Finance

Environment

Social Welfare

Dublin Corporation/North Dublin Steering Committee (ROUND)

South Dublin County Council/West Tallaght/Clondalkin Steering Committee

Cork Corporation/North Cork Steering Committee.

Area Development Management Ltd.

FÁS

EU Business and Innovation Centres in Ireland

Enterprise Trust

Irish Business and Employers Confederation

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Community Workers Co-operative

Combat Poverty Agency

National Women's Council of Ireland

National Youth Council

Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed

30. Interdepartmental Policy Committee on Local Development

Government Departments:

Taoiseach

Office of the Tánaiste

Education

Finance

Tourism and Trade

Enterprise and Employment

Social Welfare

Justice

Agriculture, Food and Forestry

Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht

Equality and Law Reform

Environment

Transport, Energy and Communications

Area Development Management Ltd.

Combat Poverty Agency

FÁS

31. National Anti-Poverty Strategy

Government Departments:

Taoiseach

Office of the Tánaiste

Education

Tourism and Trade

Enterprise and Employment

Social Welfare

Justice

Agriculture, Food and Forestry

Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht

[1747] Equality and Law Reform

Environment

Health

Finance

Transport, Energy and Communications

Area Development Management Ltd.

Combat Poverty Agency

FÁS

32. Task Force on Funding Arrangements in the Border Counties

Government Departments:

Taoiseach

Office of the Tánaiste

Social Welfare

Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht

Marine

Environment

Tourism and Trade

Transport, Energy and Communications

Finance

Foreign Affairs

Enterprise and Employment

Education

Agriculture, Food and Forestry

Co-operation North Ltd.

FÁS

Combat Poverty Agency

Area Development Management Ltd.

33. Area Development Management (ADM) Ltd.

ADM Ltd., are the independent intermediary company established by the European Commission and the Irish Government to implement Sub-Programme 2 of the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development.

The current board of ADM and their nominating bodies are as follows:

Mr. Terry Larkin (nominated by IBEC).

Ms Marie Friel (Enterprise Trust).

Mr. Brian Geoghegan (IBEC).

Ms Anastasia Crickley (Community Workers Co-operative).

Mr. Blaise Treacey (City and County Managers Association).

Mr. Tom Curran (Farming Organisations).

Mr. Bill Farrell (Irish Rural Link).

Ms Orla O'Connor (ICTU).

Mr. Peter Rigney (ICTU).

Ms Mary Lou O'Kennedy (Rural Partnerships).

Mr. Dermot McCarthy (Central Review Committee).

Mr. Joe Greaney (Business Innovation Centres).

Ms. Julie Smyth (Community Development Projects).

There are three vacancies on the ADM board at present;

(i) Dublin Partnerships

(ii) Other Urban Partnerships

(iii) ADM funded Community Groups

Board members receive no salary or allowance in respect of their position on the ADM Board. Details of travel and subsistence expenses paid to Board members in the period from January 1996 to date are given below:

Ms Anastasia Crickley 81.68
Mr. Peter Rigney 50.09
Mr. Blaise Treacey 900.41
Mr. Terry Larkin 80.20
Mr. Tom Curran 658.35
Mr. Bill Farrell 1,924.50

34. Western Development Commission (7 Members)

Mr. Sean Tighe, Club Omega Ltd.

Mr. Pat McDonagh, Businessman.

[1748] Ms Janet Hughes, SIPTU.

Cllr. Peadar O'Tuathail, West Regional Authority.

Ms. Lisa McAllister, Council for the West.

Mr. Michael McLoone, Donegal County Manager.

Ms Mary Butler, Department of the Taoiseach.

The question of remuneration in the case of the members of the Commission does not arise. Commission members may receive reimbursement for costs incurred for travel and subsistence in respect of attendance at meetings. However, as it has only recently been established no expenditure has been made to date in this regard.

35. Famine and 1798 Commemoration Committee (15 Members)

Mr. Maurice Coughlan, D/Environment.

Mr. Denis Colfer, D/Tourism and Trade.

Mr. Seamus Lynma, Office of Public Works.

Mr. John McGinty, D/Education.

Mr. Tom McCarthy, D/Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Mr. Michael Fitzgerald, D/Foreign Affairs.

Dr. Anne O'Dowd, National Museum of Ireland.

Ms Sue Blood, D/Finance.

Representative of, D/Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Ms Muriel Cleary, D/Social Welfare.

Mr. Anthony Murphy, D/Tourism and Trade.

Mr. Michael O'Mathuna, D/Education.

Ms Barbara Jones, D/Foreign Affairs.

Ms Margaret Daly, D/Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Mr. Stephen Lalor, D/Taoiseach.

No remuneration attached to membership.

No expenses (travel and subsistence) incurred.

  70.  Mr. Callely    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    the number of reports or studies which have been commissioned by him since his appointment; the cost of each report in each case; whether the report has been made publicly available; and if not the reason, therefor. [6122/97]

  71.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    the number of consultants' reports commissioned by his Department since he took office; the number which have been completed; and the cost to date. [6138/97]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 71 together.

In replying to the Deputies' questions, I would refer them to my reply to Question No. 86 of 28 January, 1997 where many of the requested details have already been given. The update to those details is as follows:

Department of Foreign Affairs

There are a number of changes in the 1996 consultancy costs under the Irish Aid Programme. These have arisen from payments made in 1997 which relate to the listed projects for 1996. A revised listing of the 1996 costs and the year to date costs for 1997 are set out below:

[1749]Reviews/Studies Cost 1996
IR£
Lesotho
The future development of the Centre for Accounting Studies 4,719.00
Tanzania
Tanzania Country/Framework for future Prog. 25,389.00
Revise/update the Kilosa District Health Plan 9,808.00
Kilosa Rural Infrastructure 4,107.00
Kilosa District Rural Development Programme 8,855.00
Ethiopia
Ethiopia Country/Framework future progs. 9,000.00
Rural Development — Sidama Education — Training Design 4,947.00
Levels of community participation in Sidama Development Programme 5,747.00
Zambia
Gender Guidelines — development 16,650.00
Compound Upgrading — assess and critique progress in community capacity building 9,957.00
Urban Upgrading Kamanga and Ndeke Compounds 1,892.00
Situation Analysis Study of Laboratories 2,657.00
Recommendations on further development Lusaka City Council Research Unit 4,161.00
Completion report on Kitwe and Lusaka Maternity Clinics 5,462.00
Cytology Screening Project 2,555.00
Kilosa + Ulanga Health Programme 6,306.00
Uganda
Kakumiro/Kigadi Feeder Roads 11,382.00
Other Projects
Management Training 7,864.00
Evaluation and Audit Unit 9,723.00
Human Rights Democratisation Programme — future strategy 8,504.00
UN Reform Irish Presidency Group 9,487.00
Total 169,172.00

Reviews/Studies Cost 1997
IR£
Lesotho
Review, National Teacher Training Computer Studies 2,797.00
Tanzania
Tanzania Country Education Programme 1,812.00
Ethiopia
Review Ethiopia Country Programme 1,877.00
Zambia
Kasama — Review of Primary Education 2,688.00
Evaluation of Chilange Cement 1,681.00
Review of Procurement of Medical Laboratory Supplies 2,037.00
Rwanda
Identification of Future Programmes 1,186.00
Other Projects
Identification of Country for Programme Aid Support 17,024.00
Total 169,172.00

[1750] In addition, the Anglo-Irish and Information Division engaged a firm of consultants in 1996 to evaluate applications for funding received under the Co-operation between Public Bodies Measures for which my Department has responsibility for implementation and monitoring under the EU Support Programme and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of Ireland. These consultants were retained to evaluate applications for 74 new projects. The actual cost to date is £6,776.00. These costs will be met from the Technical Assistance sub-programme of the EU Support Programme in the Vote of the Department of Finance.

Office of the Tánaiste

The cost of the research study relating to violence against women realised at £5,000. This brought the total actual costs of the four studies/reviews to the original estimated figure of £49,210.62.

  72.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs    the number and names of persons appointed to boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees under the aegis of his Department; the remuneration attached to each position; the expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence to date for every member of each relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6291/97]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  There are five boards-committees that come under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs. They are: agency for personal service overseas; cultural relations committee; Irish aid advisory committee; the national committee for development education; the refugee agency.

Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO)

There are 11 members of the APSO board. There is no remuneration attached to any of the positions on the APSO board and no costs have been incurred by any member of this board. The names of the members of the APSO board are as follows:

1. Dr. Anthony Clare

2. Fr. Des McGillicuddy

3. Mr. Paul Cullen

4. Mr. Howard Dalzell

5. Mr. Martin Greene

6. Mr. Robin Hanan

7. Ms Mary Sweeney

8. Ms Anne Connolly

9. Ms June Carr

10. Ms Mairead Hayes

11. Ms Maeve Healy

Cultural Relations Committee (CRC)

There are 18 members of the CRC. There is no remuneration attached to any of the positions on the CRC. Eight members of the CRC have received travel and subsistence expenses at a total cost of £3,901.71. The names of the members of the CRC and a breakdown of the costs involved are as follows:

[1751]1. Brendan Kennelly Expenses £20.00
2. John Behan
3. Siobhán Bourke
4. Paul Brady
5. Cecily Brennan Expenses £902.28
6. Terence Brown
7. Ann Deeney Expenses £477.60
8. T.V. Honan Expenses £375.38
9. Fionnuala Hunt
10. Alf MacLochlainn Expenses £32.00
11. Jackie McKenna Expenses £850.23
12. Emer McNamara Expenses £732.28
13. Chris Meehan
14. Peter Murray
15. Doireann Ní Bhriain Expenses £511.94
16. Micheál O'Siadhail
17. Patricia Quinn
18. Liz Sharkey

Irish Aid Advisory Committee (IAAC)

There are 14 members of IAAC. There is no remuneration attached to any of the positions on IAAC and no costs have been incurred by any member of this committee. The names of the members of IAAC are as follows:

1. Prof. John Kelly

2. Ms Deirdre Farrell

3. Mr. Niall Toibin

4. Mr. Noel McDonagh

5. Mr. Paddy McGuckian

6. Mr. Michael O'Donnell

7. Mr. John O'Shea

8. Mr. Howard Dalzell

9. Mr. John Gogan

10. Mr. Sean Byrne

11. Ms Margaret Fitzgerald

12. Mr. Tony Fahey

13. Ms Gretchen Fitzgerald

14. Ms Sylda Langford

National Committee for Development Education (NCDE)

There are 22 members of the NCDE. There is no remuneration attached to any of the positions on NCDE. Three members of this committee have received travel and subsistence expenses at a total cost of £3,525.99. The names of the members of the NCDE and a breakdown of the costs involved are as follows:

1. Mr. Liam Wegimont Expenses £902.36
2. Mr. Tom O'Connor
3. Mr. Tom Curran
4. Ms Mary Quinlan
5. Mr. Sean MacNamara
6. Mr. David Joyce
7. Ms Anne Webster
8. Ms Fiona Dunne Expenses £720.53
9. Mr. John Grindle
10. Mr. Michael O'Sullivan
11. Dr. Colm Regan
12. Mr. Albert O'Ceallaigh
13. Prof. Helen O'Neill
14. Ms Cris Mulvey
15. Ms Mary O'Sullivan
16. Ms Helen Cole
17. Mr. Peadar Crowley Expenses £1,903.10
18. Ms Anne Fitzpatrick
19. Ms Heike Vornhagen
20. Mr. Kevin Kelly
21. Mr. Colm McGrady
22. Mr. Peter Finnegan

Board of the Refugee Agency

There are 15 members, including observers, on the Board of the Refugee Agency. There is no remuneration attached to any of the positions on the board of the Refugee Agency and no costs have been incurred by any member of this board. The names of the members of the board of the Refugee Agency are as follows:

1. Ms Iseult O'Malley

2. Mr. Tom Wright

[1752] 3. Mr. Barry O'Hara

4. Ms Noreen O'Sullivan

5. Ms Mary Lally

6. Mr. Sean McGabhann

7. Mr. Jim Cantwell

8. Mr. Robert McLean

Observer Members

9. Mr. Philippe Lavanchy

10. Dr. Wendy Cox

11. Col. Jim Croke

12. Mr. David Keane

13. Sr. Phil Sinnot

14. Rev. Dermot Clifford

15. Ms Nadette Foley

The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) is the only board which comes under the aegis of the Office of the Tánaiste. There are 48 members of the Forum. Salaries are payable in respect of three positions on the Forum. Those details are as follows:

Name Post held Salary
Maureen Gaffney Chairperson £33,988.00
Prof. Donal Dineen Chairperson of Standing Committee £7,000.00
Dr. Eileen Drew Chairperson of Standing Committee £7,000.00

Ten Members of the Forum have received travel and subsistence expenses at total costs of £10,938. The names of the members of the Forum and the costs involved are set out below:

1. Maureen Gaffney Expenses £2,248.00
2. Eithne Fitzgerald T.D.
3. Prof. Donal Dineen Expenses £4,650.00
4. Dr. Eileen Drew Expenses £676.00
5. Martin Cullen T.D.
6. Chris Flood T.D.
7. Tom Kitt T.D.
8. John O'Connor T.D.
9. Frances Fitzgerald T.D.
10. Joe Costello T.D.
11. Kathleen Lynch T.D.
12. Senator Willie Farrell
13. Senator Marian McGennis
14. Senator Paschal Mooney
15. Senator Bill Cotter
16. Senator Madeleine Taylor-Quinn
17. Senator Mary Kelly
18. Senator Cathy Honan
19. Senator Mary Henry
20. Paula Carey
21. Charlie Lennon
22. Patricia O'Donovan
23. Manus O'Riordan
24. Tom Wall
25. Mirette Corboy Expenses £813.00
26. David Croughan Expenses £131.00
27. Aebhric McGibney Expenses £120.00
28. Declan Madden
29. Aileen O'Donoghue
30. Mary Coleman
31. Ciarán Dolan
32. Monica Prenderville Expenses £1,627.00
33. Michael Slattery
34. Mervyn Wynn
35. Ursula Barry
36. Noreen Byrne
37. Cris Mulvey
38. Mike Allen
39. Brendan Butler
40. Niall Crowley Expenses £140.00
41. Mary Daniel
42. Eithne McNulty
43. Gearóid O'Maoilmhichíl
44. Breda Dunlea Expenses £105.00
45. Roger Acton
[1753]46. Jeanne Meldon
47. Fr. Seán Healy
48. Carmel Rouston Expenses £428.00

There are 33 alternates who occasionally attend meetings of the NESF. They receive no remuneration for this role and only two have received travel and subsistence expenses amounting to £969.00. The names of the alternates and a breakdown of the costs are as follows:

1. Brian O'Shea T.D.
2. Paul McGrath T.D.
3. Helen Keogh T.D.
4. Senator Brian Hayes.
5. Senator John Farrelly
6. Tommy Broughan T.D.
7. Trevor Sargent T.D.
8. Senator Fergal Quinn.
9. Senator Pat Meagher
10. Margaret Nolan
11. George Hennessy
12. Séamus O'Donoghue
13. Inex McCormack
14. Charlie Lennon
15. Aileen O'Donoghue
16. Caroline Jenkinson
17. Rosmarie Smith
18. Esther Cokram.
19. Peter Sands
20. Peter McCabe
21. Kitty Harlin
22. Tricia Balfe Expenses £247.00
23. Maria Hegarty
24. Fintan Farrell
25. Geraldine Glynn
26. Jim Murphy
27. Michael McDonagh
28. John Murphy
29. Sr. Brigid Reynolds
30. Anne Meehan
31. Janice Ranson Expenses £722.00
32. Jacqui Browne
33. Sheila Simons

There are four committees at present in the Office of the Tánaiste. They are:

1. Violence against Women

2. Freedom of Information

3. National Anti-Poverty Strategy

4. 2003 Special Olympics Bid Steering Group

Violence against Women

There are 23 members on this committee. No remuneration is paid to any member of this committee and only three members have received travel and subsistence expenses at a total cost of £467.24. The names of the members and a breakdown of the costs involved are as follows:

1. Eithne Fitzgerald T.D.
2. Julie O'Neill
3. Séamus Feely Expenses £311.98
4. Mary Higgins
5. Monica O'Connor
6. Noreen Byrne
7. Harry Ferguson Expenses £77.63
8. Mary Crilly
9. Eugene Davy
10. Padraig Greene Expenses £77.63
11. Louise Graham
12. Dr. Fidelma Savage
13. Dr. Claire McNicholas
14. Dr. Mary Sheehan
15. Dr. Emma Nelson
16. Richard Fennessy
17. Ruby Morrow
18. Liam Walsh
19. Michael Gleeson
20. Ann McGuiness
21. Frances Spillane
22. Michael Murray
[1754]23. Patrick Donnelly

Freedom of Information

There are 21 members on this committee. No remuneration or expenses have been paid to any member. The names of the members of this committee are as follows:

1. Peig Ní Chrualaoich

2. John Deeney

3. Brendan O'Callaghan

4. Mary O'Loughlin

5. Ger Banville

6. Alice O'Flynn

7. Declan Doyle

8. Tony Enright

9. Paul Murphy

10. Elizabeth Munro

11. P.J. Breen

12. Tríona Quill

13. Philip O'Reilly

14. John Haskins

15. John Neville

16. Michael Cunniffe

17. Paul Dillon

18. Silda Taylor

19. Gerry Dwyer

20. Julie O'Neill

21. Gerry Kearney

National Anti-Poverty Strategy

There are 21 members on this committee. No remuneration or expenses have been paid to any member. The names of the members of this committee are as follows:

1. Julie O'Neill

2. Senan Turnbull

3. Gerard Walker

4. Mike Allen

5. Sarah Craig

6. Michael Gogarty

7. Nill Crowley

8. Kerry Lawless

9. Germaine Lloyd

10. Esther Cockram

11. Seán Healy

12. Aebhric McGibney

13. Séamus Feely

14. Sean Halpin

15. Brendan Ward

16. Cormac Carey

17. Joe Mooney

18. Paul Fleming

19. Margaret Kelly

20. Kathleen Stack

21. Kieran Sheedy

2003 Special Olympics Bid Steering Group

There are 12 members on this committee. No remuneration is paid to any member and five members have received travel and subsistence expenses at a total cost of £4,867.85. The names of the members of this committee and a breakdown of the costs involved are as follows:

1. Julie O'Neill Expenses £1,412.29
2. Roy Dooney Expenses £1,022.21
3. Joe Cullen
4. Paddy Heffernan
5. Pat Shiel Expenses £457.00
6. Tim Quirke
7. Pat Wylie
8. Frances Flethcher
9. John Neary
10. Paddy O'Mahony
11. Cyril Freaney Expenses £1,292.86
12. Mary Davis Expenses £683.49

[1755]

  73.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of reports or studies which have been commissioned by him since his appointment; the cost of each report in each case; whether the report has been made publicly available; and if not the reason therefor. [6113/97]

  74.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of consultants' reports commissioned by his Department since he took office; the number which have been completed; and the cost to date. [6128/97]

[1756]Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 74 together.

The following is a list of reports, reviews and studies ordered from within my Department and carried out by consultants since my appointment as Minister. The list includes the purpose and cost of the reports and where appropriate, the reason why the report is not publicly available.

Consultant Purpose Cost Action since completion Reason report is not publicly available
£
Fitzpatricks Mid-term evaluation of the Regional Impact of the Community Support Framework for Ireland 1994-99 55,530 This report has now been circulated to the eight Regional Authorities for consideration by their Committees. Reports also forwarded to the Monitoring Committees of each of the Operational Programmes.
ESRI Mid-term evaluation of the Community Support Framework for Ireland 1994-99 191,000 Report is due at the end of April and will be submitted to the CSF Monitoring Committee in July
KPMG Subsidised loan scheme under the Peace & Reconciliation Programme 50,820 This study is ongoing
KPMG Baseline study under Peace & Reconciliation Programme 21,296 Report printed to support the better operation of the scheme
KPMG Evaluation of projects under the Ireland/Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme 2,480.50 Report printed to support the better operation of the scheme
KPMG Appraisal of Monitoring Framework of the Ireland/Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme 4,779.50 Report printed to support the better operation of the scheme
Coopers & Lybrand Evaluator for the mid-term report on the Special Support Programme for Peace & Reconciliation No payment yet Report due in April, 1997
Coopers & Lybrand/Indecon Evaluator for the mid-term report on the Ireland/Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme No payment yet Report due in March, 1997
Dept. Finance Review of arrangements for management of European Regional Development Fund & Cohesion Fund Phase 1: Arrangements in Govt. Departments 54,000
(incl. report below)
Management reports only
[1757][1758] Review of arrangements for management of European Regional Development Fund & Cohesion Fund Phase 2: Audit and Review of Financial Control and other arrangements at Agency level See above Management reports only
Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Service Remuneration of medical consultants 150,000 Report published
Remuneration of various groups which come within the Review Body's general remit 260,000 Report published
Price Waterhouse/Indecon Independent evaluation of the economic impact of the Dublin International Financial Services Centre 40,300 Used in discussions on the IFSC corporation tax regime with EU officials in the context of international tax competition Report not published given the narrow focus of the study which was in support of discussions with the EU Commission on the IFSC tax regime
ESRI Comparison between public service and private sector pension arrangements No payments yet Ongoing
ESRI Report on the economic implications for Ireland of European Monetary Union 105,000 Report has been published
Price Waterhouse Management Strategic Management Initiative 93,254.70 Organisation Review Report Internal report only
Hay Management Consultants Internal reorganisation of Department's support/consultancy services £7,260 No published report Re-organisation has been completed
Organisational analysis and development work for CMOD 2,722.50 No report Internal only
Design & Develop a Performance Management System for the Civil Service No payments yet Ongoing
Institute of Public Administration Research projects on behalf of the committee for Administrative Research 87,300 Reports published or under consideration by the committee prior to publication
Price Waterhouse Human Resources Consortium Project to assist a number of Departments to advise and develop a Human Resource Strategy in the context of the SMI STG£20,974 Ongoing
Peter Bacon and Pension Deloitte & Touche Fund Investment Study in association with Irish Association of Investment Managers and the Irish Association of Pension Funds. 18,895.36 Report published.
[1759][1760]IPT Actuarial Services Ltd. Study on the impact of voluntary severance and early retirement on the Exchequer's pension liability to Telecom Éireann Pension Fund for pre-vesting day service and an analysis of the qualification of its impact 26,499.00 Report to the Dept. only Contained commercially sensitive information
Ray Gray, Craig Gardner/Price Waterhouse Facilitator in assisting an internal departmental committee on accounting systems in Government 11,481.69 Internal report went to the Committee of Secretaries
Irish Pensions Trust To design a computerised model for projecting the long-term costs of public service pension schemes No payments yet Ongoing
LRDP Evaluator for the mid-term Evaluation of the Ireland/Wales INTERREG Programme No payments Ongoing

  75.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Finance    when a VAT refund will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in view of the fact that details have been submitted in 1996 in this regard. [6169/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they received the claim in question on 14 February 1997. However, some aspects of the claim require further clarification. When the necessary clarifications have been obtained, any refund due will be paid as a matter of urgency.

  76.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the time schedule to establish a third banking force; and his views on whether it is unlikely that he will bring proposals to Government in this regard and that this 27th Dáil will have the opportunity to consider the matter due to the forthcoming general election. [6189/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The proposal in relation to the third banking force arose out of legitmate concerns about the level of competition within the Irish retail banking market and problems regarding access to finance and other banking services. Since the proposal was first mooted, there has been significant change in the regulatory framework and in the competitive forces in the marketplace. The influx of foreign-based banks, the increasing role of building societies, the emergence of the credit unions as a viable alternative to the high street banks and the ongoing development of post office counter services are the main changes we have seen in market competition. Moreover, an improved regulatory framework, including the Consumer Credit Act, 1995, the Competition (Amendment) Act, 1996 and Bills on credit unions and the Central Bank currently before the Oireachtas, has already had and will continue to have the effect of sharpennig competition in the marketplace. Finally, economic and monetary union will open up the market further to major external competition from other European and international banks.

This dynamic and changing environment in the retail banking market has obviously had a major impact on our consideration of the future of the State banking sector. There are a number of options available, each of which would have varying impacts on competition, employment and the delivery of cost-effective, customer-based services. At this time, no final decision has been reached on a preferred option and required changes. This complex matter is still under consideration within my Department.

  77.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Finance    his response to a letter (details supplied) from a person in Dublin 10 whose husband is on invalidity pension and who feels she has no incentive to do part-time work. [6191/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I would draw to the Deputy's attention that I did not receive direct correspondence from the taxpayer in question. However, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer and her husband are jointly assessed to income tax. Accordingly their combined income is taken into account for the purpose of establishing their liability [1761] to tax. The income received by the taxpayer from her employment is taxable. Her husband is in receipt of an invalidity pension from the Department of Social Welfare. The pension is also chargeable to income tax but is paid gross — without tax being deducted — by the Department of Social Welfare. The method of taxing social welfare pensions is that an amount equivalent to the annual social welfare payment is deducted from the person's-couple's annual tax free allowances.

The couple will have a tax liability in any tax year in which their joint income exceeds the exemption limit — in the current year the exemption limit for a married couple is £7,800 with an additional allowance of £450 for each of the first two dependent children and £650 for the third and subsequent children. However, as the taxpayer did not commence employment until 4 December 1996 and in view of the fact that the couple have a daughter in full-time education, it is unlikely that the couple will have an income tax liability in the current tax year. An amended tax free allowance certificate reflecting this will issue to the taxpayer and any tax deducted by her employer will be refunded directly to her.

  78.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    whether the pensions of all ex-State and semi-State employees will continue to be based on the full equivalent salary scale including productivity or other payments of existing staff; the talks, if any, which have taken place with the ICTU to reduce pensions or base them on salary levels minus productivity payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6192/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Pension increases in commercial semi-State bodies are primarily a matter for the body itself. As regards the area for which I have direct responsibility, the civil and public service, the position has been that, since the 1960s, pension increases have been linked to pay. In practice, pensions are calculated and subsequently increased by reference to the rates of pay of serving officials. Full parity has applied, on this basis, since 1986.

As regards the restructuring deals currently being negotiated under the PCW, they are, in the main, being dealt with under Option A of Clause 2 (iii) of Annex I to the PCW which requires “changes in structures, work practices or other conditions of service” and “flexibility and change” by employees. The various Option A deals differ widely from each other in their structure and the outcome of talks has still to be finalised in the case of several major public service groups.

Pending completion of the latter and consideration of the pensions issue generally, I am not in a position, at this stage, to set out the effect of such deals on pensions in payment in respect of former public servants. I should say, however, [1762] that the issue of pensions increases in the foregoing context is the subject of ongoing discussions with the public services committee of ICTU.

  79.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    whether the building known as the Ballymun Workmen's Club, Dublin 11 is still under his control; the action, if any, he has taken to remove the squatters from this building; whether officials under the aegis of his Department have recently checked out the building to see if it is causing a nuisance and health hazard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6193/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I understand that the premises referred to were developed by a company which raised funds to provide a facility for the community and that Dublin Corporation provided a site and grants to assist this purpose. Unfortunately the facility was never fully completed and the company was subsequently dissolved.

Under the terms of the State Property Act, 1954 property which is undistributed on the dissolution of a company becomes State property. This is what happened in this case. When my Department was approached about this property the normal steps were taken to establish how the State's interest in the property might properly be disposed of. My Department has pursued this aspect in conjunction with the office of the Chief State Solicitor and the position has now been clarified; the State's interest in the property has been waived in favour of Dublin Corporation.

  80.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for Finance    the consideration, if any, he has given to the matter of decentralisation of a Government Department to south Tipperary; if he has received a request from Tipperary South Riding County Council to receive a deputation to discuss the matter; if he will meet the deputation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6194/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I can confirm to the Deputy that I have received the request referred to. I have agreed to a request from Deputy Michael Ferris to meet a deputation from Tipperary South Riding County Council to discuss the matter.

  81.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will give details of the meetings he had during his recent visit to the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6257/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  At the request of the IDA, I attended a number of meetings in Washington and New York during the period 24-26 February last with US companies [1763] interested in establishing in the IFSC. In view of the confidential nature of the negotiations taking place between the IDA and a number of these companies, it would not be appropriate to give details of the companies concerned.

The IDA were extremely pleased with the meetings and are very hopeful that new projects will emerge as a result.

I also met officials of the International Monetary Fund in Washington in the context of my current chairmanship of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

  82.  Dr. Woods    asked the Minister for Finance    the percentage rates of GDP, GNP and inflation rates for each of the years from 1991 to date. [6285/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The figures requested are as follows:

GDP, GNP and Inflation: Percentage changes

GDP GNP Inflation
(Volume) (Volume)
1991 1.3 1.9 3.2
1992 3.6 2.0 3.0
1993 3.0 3.0 1.5
1994 6.6 7.4 2.4
1995 10.1 7.3 2.5
1996 7.25 6.25 1.6
1997 6.25 5.25 2.2
[Forecast]

Note: (1) The official statistics for the years 1991 to 1995 in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Gross National Product (GNP) and inflation are compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

(2) The figures for 1996 and 1997 are Department of Finance estimates and forecasts respectively, except for inflation in 1996 which is an official CSO outturn.

  83.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Finance    the number and names of persons appointed to boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees under the aegis of his Department; the remuneration attached to each position; the expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence to date for every member of each relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6302/97]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The State bodies for which my Department is responsible are ACCBANK plc, ICC Bank plc, an Post National Lottery Company, the Central Bank and the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), the membership of whose boards and the details of their remuneration are as follows:

[1764] ACCBANK plc.

Ms Gary Joyce Chairperson
Mr. John McCloskey Chief Executive
Mr. James Curtis
Mr. John O'Reilly
Mr. Séamus Mallon
Mr. Michael Smith
Mr. Michael Hanrahan
Ms Ann Nolan
Ms Shelia McGuinness

Six of the eight non-executive directors receive remuneration of £4,000 per annum. One, a civil servant, receives no remuneration and the chairperson receives remuneration of £6,000 per annum.

ICC BANK plc.

Mr. Phil Flynn Chairperson
Mr. Michael Quinn Managing Director
Mr. Tom Considine
Ms Mary Clare O'Connor
Mr. Leo O'Donnell
Mr. Eamon Freaney
Mr. Joe McPeake
Mr. Sean Kelly
Ms Anne Connolly

Six of the eight non-executive directors receive remuneration of £4,000 per annum. One, a civil servant, receives no remuneration and the chairperson receives remuneration of £6,000 per annum.

An Post National Lottery Company

Mr. John Hynes Chairperson
Mr. Ray Bates
Ms Therese Kearney
Mr. Kieran McGowan
Mr. Tom O'Beirne
Mr. Michael O'Muircheartaigh
Mr. Terry Reynolds

With the exception of those who hold board or executive positions within An Post, the directors receive remuneration of £4,000 per annum.

NTMA Advisory Committee

Mr. D.J. Moran Chairperson
Mr. Gerold Grant
Mr. Paul Carty
Mr. John F. Daly
Mr. Lewis L. Glucksman
Mr. Patrick H. Mullarkey
Mr. Donald C. Roth

The chairperson receives remuneration of £10,000 per annum. Five of the remaining six members receive remuneration of £5,000 per annum. The sixth, a civil servant, receives no remuneration.

There are also a number of other formal advisory or similar bodies which operate under the aegis of my Department. Details of the membership [1765] of these bodies and their remuneration are set out below.

Valuation Tribunal

Mr. Liam McKechnie Chairperson
Ms Mary Devins Deputy Chairperson
Mr. Fred Devlin Deputy Chairperson
Mr. Con Guiney Deputy Chairperson
Mr. Finian L. Brannigan
Mr. Michael Coghlan
Ms Michael Coghlan
Ms Marie Connellan
Ms Brid Mimnagh
Mr. Barry Smyth
Ms Rita Tynan

The members of the tribunal are paid on a daily sitting fee basis which is £250.17 in the case of the chairperson, £169.77 in the case of the deputy chairperson and £132.13 in the case of the other members.

Commission on Public Service Pensions

Prof. Dermot McAleese Chairperson
Mr. Brian Aylward
Mr. John Cullen
Mr. Brian Geoghegan
Mr. Brendan Hayes
Mr. Eamon Heffernan
Ms Anne Maher
Mr. Joe McGovern
Mr. Dan Murphy
Senator Joe O'Toole
Ms. Anne Vaughan

The only person remunerated is the chairperson who receives £7,500 per annum.

Civil Service Arbitration Board

Mr. Gerard Durcan, SC Chairperson
Mr. Kevin Duffy
Mr. Derek Hunter

The chairperson and Mr. Duffy receive a fee per sitting day of £525 and £250, respectively. Mr. Hunter is paid a retainer of £10,000 per annum to cover service as nominee of the Government on all public service arbitration boards.

Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Service

Mr. Michael Buckley Chairperson
Mr. Peter Malone
Ms Vivian Jupp
Ms Helen O'Dowd
Mr. Cormac McHenry
Mr. Sean Walsh

The chairperson receives remuneration of £10,000. The other members of the body, with the exception of the Labour Court members, receive annual remuneration of £5,000.

In addition to those bodies listed above there are a large number of boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees which operate under [1766] the aegis of my Department, and in relation to which it would require an inordinate amount of time and effort to provide the Deputy with all the information requested.

  84.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Health    the number of children who have been placed in care in each of the past ten years; and the average cost per child, differentiating between foster care and residential care, over the same period. [6317/97]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie):  The most recent year for which official statistics on the number of children in care are available is 1992. Statistics in respect of 1996 are being compiled at present and I will forward these to the Deputy when they are available.

I am therefore providing the Deputy with the following statistics for the years 1982 to 1992. These figures do not include children in day care or day fostering, children living with their mothers in sheltered accommodation or women's refuges or children living at home who are being supervised by the health boards.

Number of Children in Care 1982-1992

Year* No. of Children in Care at 31st December Foster Care Residential Care
1992 3,090 2,284 (73.9%) 765 (24.8%)
1991 2,944 2,161 (73.4%) 742 (25.2%)
1990 2,885 2,084 (72.2%) 756 (26.2%)
1989 2,756 1,980 (71.8%) 734 (26.6%)
1988 2,614 1,857 (71%) 705 (26.9%)
1985 2,503 1,391 (55.6%) 1,067 (42.6%)
1984 2,400 1,288 (53.67%) 1,105 (46.04%)
1983 2,534 1,338 (52.8%) 1,186 (46.8%)
1982 2,446 1,365 (55.8%) 1,072 (43.8%)

*No statistics were collected for the years 1986 and 1987.

I am unable to provide an average costing figure in relation to maintaining a child in care as the cost varies from case to case depending on a number of factors, including the age and needs of the child, the type of placement, whether he or she needs specialist counselling, medical or psychological care and the level of supervised access between the child and his or her parents.

The cost of keeping a child in residential care is considerably greater than the cost of foster care. The main reason for the difference is the cost of employing professionally trained staff to care for children on a twenty-four hour basis.

The Deputy may wish to note there has been a major shift from residential to fostering as the preferred mode of care. Between 1982 and 1992 the percentage of children in foster care increased from 56 per cent to 74 per cent.

[1767]

  85.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Health    the number of reports or studies which have been commissioned by him since his appointment; the cost of each report in each case; whether the report has been made publicly available; and if not, the reason therefor. [6123/97]

[1768]

  86.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health    the number of consultants' reports commissioned by his Department since he took office; the number which have been completed; and the cost to date. [6139/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 86 together. The information requested is set out in the following schedule.

Studies Undertaken Consultant/Organisation Cost of Projects (including report) Reports/Study completed Status of Reports/Study
£
Information Technology report in respect of the Department of Health/Irish Pharmaceutical Union agreement Ernst & Young 90,000 1 For use within the Department, and forms part of the implementation of the Information Technology aspects of this Agreement
Evaluation of Pharmaceutical Pricing Agreement TCD 45,000 1 For use within the Department of policy review purposes
Evaluation of Proposals to establish Pharmacoeconomic Research Unit DCU 2,250 1 For use within the Department of policy review purposes
G.P. Drug Target Scheme Evaluation Cork University Hospital 75,000 1 For use within the Department of policy review purposes
Design of Study and processing of data for National Survey of General Practice UCG 14,460 1 The results of the surveys are currently being analysed and the publication of this analysis will be discussed with the Irish College of General Practitioners
Children's Rights Alliance Study Children's Rights Alliance 10,000 1 Published
Focus Ireland Study Focus Ireland 15,000 1 Published
Assessing Nursing Practice Oliver Morgan 3,000 1 Report is for use within the Department, and for the enhancement and development of nurse evaluation practices
Nursing Evaluation Southampton University 28,000 1 Report is for use within the Department, and for the enhancement and development of nurse evaluation practices
Nurse Study Project-Royal Hospital, Donnybrook Enda Cobain 60,000 1 Report is for use within the Department, and for the enhancement and development of nurse evaluation practices
Review of Nursing Applications Centre Price Waterhouse 56,000 1 Report is for use within the Department, and for the enhancement and development of nurse evaluation practices
Report on Personal Services to Disabled Mr. Michael Bruton 9,790 1 Published
Report of Nutrition Advisory group Nutrition Advisory Group 43,500 1 Published
BSE Reports Food Safety Advisory Board (FSAB) 590 2 One Report published, the second will be published later this year
Report on infant feeding FSAB 5,000 Report being completed
Surveillance of Food-borne and Zoonotic Disease FSAB 13,200 1 This report was commissioned by the FSAB to examine the systems in place for the assessment of zoonotic diseases
[1769][1770]National Food Consumption Survey FSAB/UCC/TCD 45,000 Report is being prepared
Study of Fluoride in the Irish Diet FSAB Report is being prepared
Study of Fluoride in Fortifying Foods in relation to Neural Tube Defects FSAB Report is being prepared
Literature review of Evaluation of Anti-Smoking Campaign UCG 28,147 1 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
Evaluation of AIDS Awareness Campaign UCG 20,593 1 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
Evaluation of Anti-Drugs Campaign UCG 18,565 1 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
Literature review of Workplace Health Promotion UCG 5,042 1 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
Evaluation of the National Healthy Week Campaign Lansdowne Market Research 12,650 1 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
Testing of Anti-Drugs Campaign Behaviour & Attitudes Ltd. 11,800 1 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
Testing of Anti-Smoking campaign and health promotion posters DTA Marketing Ltd. 3,030 2 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
Evaluation of Irish network of health promoting schools UCG 5,000 1 For use by the Department in assessing health promotion policies and strategies
National Suicide Strategy Task Force on Suicide 4,000 1 To be published
Review of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Dr. McCarthy 41,641 Report in progress, and is being prepared to advise on policy on development of Child/Adult Psychiatric Services
Development of National Policy for Care of Mentally III Working Group Interim report is expected shortly
Research of maternal baby bonding/post natal depression The Coombe Hospital (Dr. S. Barry) 7,000 Report is complete but not published, and its purpose is to determine the association between the incidence of Post-natal Depression and the occurrence of Maternal bonding in mothers
Review and study of Acute Psychiatric bed use in the EHB area Eastern Health Board 20,000 This study is ongoing and is to determine whether there are sufficient beds to cope with demand
Health Policy Research Studies ESRI 122,000 6 Range of studies covering, inter alia, performance measurement, hospital utilisation and general practitioner services, for policy evaluation purposes within the Department
Information Technology within Department of Health Several Organisations 55,229 4 For use for the development of Information Technology within the Department
Chemical Study-Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Irish Sudden Infant Death Association 23,760 1 Published
Medical Indemnity-Advice Mercer Fraser Ltd. 115,553 2 For use within the Department as an aid to review of policy in relation to Medical Indemnity arrangements
[1771][1772]Casemix-Implementation of casemix programme in Irish hospitals Several organisations 87,138 1 For use by the Department in the analysis and development of its Casemix Budget Model, in association with hospitals participating in the Casemix Programme
Strategic Management Initiative Arthur Andersen 26,015 1 For use by the Department in the development of a strategic management strategy
Nursing Studies Vincent Millett & Assoc. 14,068 1 For evaluation purposes within the Department
Feasibility Study in Respect of the Establishment of Mental Handicap Institute TCD 20,000 1 Published
MRI Consultancy Prof. David Banta 2,304 1 For use for evaluation purposes within the Department
Personal Assistance Services Study UCG 6,000 1 Published
Review Group on Disability Review Group 11,797 1 Published
Status of Persons Disability Study via Department of Equality and Law Reform-Office of Public Management 19,000 1 Published
Child Health Services Study Michael Bruton 14,000 1 Published
Public Health Nursing Consultancy Kieran McKeown Ltd. 6,350 1 For evaluation purposes within the Department
Pregnancy Research TCD 150,000 Not yet complete
Mental Handicap Services — Autism study Irish Society for Autism 5,827 1 For policy development purposes within the Department
Refugees Research The Refugee Agency 7,000 1 Published
Women's Health Plan CMC Ltd. 1,500 This was a commitment as part of the Partnership 2000, para. 5.13, and has been forwarded to Government
Public Health vision project The Henley Centre 5,142 1 For policy development purposes within the Department
Pharmo-economic Research Mr. A. Foley 2,250 1 Published
Risk Management Information Merrett Health Risk Management Ltd. 6,280 1 For use within the Department as part of a review of Medical Indemnity Scheme
Study on Ambulance Service Response Times UCD 23,000 1 For use within the Department as part of the Evaluation of Ambulance Response Times. Work is still in progress
Hospital Utilisation (in six Accident and Emergency hospitals in Dublin) Eastern Health Board 25,000 1 For use within the Department to evaluate emergency admissions to hospital beds
National Council for the Elderly — Healthy Ageing Programme National Council for the Elderly 113,000 Report will be published in 1999
National Consultative Committee on Health Promotion — Sub-Committee on Young People National Consultative Committee on Health Promotion 3,358 1 Report Published
National Consultative Committee on Health Promotion — Sub-Committee on Workplace Health Promotion National Consultative Committee on Health Promotion Report will be published shortly

[1773]

  87.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Health    the national lottery funding made available by his Department for projects in County Limerick in 1995 and 1996; if he will give details of each project; and the level of expenditure involved. [6146/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The following organisations in County Limerick received funding from my Department's discretionary allocation of national lottery funds in 1995 and 1996:

Organisation Paid in 1995 Amount
£
Bergerie Trust, Limerick 75,000
Drumcollogher and District Day Care Association, County Limerick 75,000
Irish Red Cross Society, Limerick Branch 10,000
Limerick Social Service Council, Henry Street, Limerick 10,000
Newcastlewest Meals on Wheels, Newcastlewest, County Limerick 1,500
Order of Malta, Limerick Unit 10,000
Rathkeale Going Strong Club, Rathkeale, County Limerick 528
St. John's Senior Citizens Club, Good Shepherd Complex, Pennywell Road, Limerick 600
St. Mary's Senior Citizens, Keeper View Terrace, Limerick 600
St. Patrick's/St. Bridget's Group, Bawn Mor and Lisnagry, County Limerick 600
The John Nash Charity (Richmond Terrace Sheltered Housing Project), Henry Street, Limerick 10,000
Villiers Housing Association Ltd., Villiers Square, Church Street, Limerick 10,000
Total 1995 148,828

Organisation Paid in 1996 Amount
£
Ballynanty Community Network Group, Moyross, Limerick 10,000
Bergerie Trust, Limerick 75,000
Cerebral Palsy Ireland, Limerick Branch 30,000
Drumcollogher and District Day Care Centre, Drumcollogher, County Limerick 10,000
Irish Wheelchair Association, Limerick Branch 3,000
Limerick Hancicapped Children's Committee, St. Joseph's Street, Limerick 20,700
Limerick Senior Citizens Club, Henry Street, Limerick 5,000
MOVE Limerick, Caherdavin Lawn, Limerick 4,000
Rathfredagh Cheshire Home, Newcastlewest, County Limerick 60,000
St. John's Ambulance Brigade of Ireland (Limerick Branch) 10,000
St. John's Senior Citizens Club, Good Shepherd Complex, Pennywell Road, Limerick 1,000
St. Mary's Senior Citizens, Keeper View Terrace, Limerick 1,000
St. Patrick's/St. Bridget's Group, Bawn Mor and Lisnagry, County Limerick 1,500
St. Vincent de Paul Society, Limerick 3,500
The Women's Health Clinic, Newcastlewest, Limerick 3,000
Total 1996 237,000

[1774]

  88.  Mr. E. Walsh    asked the Minister for Health    if he will have arrangements made for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 to have orthodontic treatment and any preliminary work required carried out after a wait of four years, to enable this person to have her just entitlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6148/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): As the provision of orthodontic treatment and dental treatment to eligible persons in Dublin 24 is the statutory responsibility of the Eastern Health Board I have asked the chief executive officer of the Eastern Health Board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly as a matter of urgency.

  89.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Health    if he will respond to a query from Deputy Seamus Brennan regarding a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24, which was raised in a parliamentary question on 25 September 1996, and was the subject of further correspondence on 23 October, 25 October and 6 November 1996; his views on whether a suggestion by the health authority that this person can be dealt with by the Garda and the courts is unusual in view of the diagnosis of the forensic services that this person is suffering from a personality disorder; his views on whether by definition a personality disorder is an illness and requires the intervention of his Department rather than judicial intervention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6149/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I have been in contact with the Deputy on this matter, as he points out, since my response to his original parliamentary question on 25 September 1996.

The Eastern Health Board, which is responsible for the delivery of health services, including mental health services, in Dublin has furnished me with a further report on the person referred to by the Deputy.

The board has pointed out that two consultant psychiatrists have stated that the person does not have a mental handicap and does not suffer from mental illness. It would not therefore, be appropriate to refer the person to either service for treatment. A consultant forensic psychiatrist has given a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder and the board's suggestion that the person be dealt with through judicial intervention is derived from consultants' opinion that he is fully aware of, and responsible for, his own actions.

  90.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Health    if his attention has been drawn to the problems and complications arising out of communicable diseases, particularly in our hospitals; the matters brought to his attention in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6150/97]

[1775]Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The term “communicable disease” covers a wide range of conditions, which cause very many problems and complications for the health services as a whole, including our hospitals. I have spoken to the House on numerous occasions about matters relating to AIDS, Hepatitis, Meningitis, Tuberculosis and Influenza, to mention just a small number of these conditions, and I have outlined the various measures which are in place to tackle each of the conditions concerned. With specific reference to hospital issues, I have established a group to report to me on measures which need to be taken in relation to problems arising from the infection of health care workers, and I have published guidelines covering procedures for the management of the hospitalacquired infection MRSA.

Given the breadth of the area covered by the term, the Deputy will appreciate that it would be impossible in the context of a reply to a parliamentary question to set out all of the matters that have been brought to my attention in respect of each and every communicable disease, but I will be happy to respond to any more specific questions which the Deputy may wish to put to me.

  91.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for Health    if it is proposed to publish a charter of rights for psychiatric patients; if so, if such a charter will be included in the general patients charter after legislation is enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6153/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): My Department is preparing new mental health legislation. This legislation will give greater protection to the civil rights of those with mental illness who need to be detained for treatment and will bring Irish legislation into conformity with international law. The legislation, which is currently being drafted in the office of the Attorney General, will be introduced as soon as possible to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

As set out in the White Paper — A New Mental Health Act, the legislation will provide for the appointment of a commissioner of mental health whose remit will include a review of the quality of care of patients in our mental health services. The commissioner will also produce a code of practice for the care of the mentally ill.

I would like to assure the Deputy that I am committed to the introduction of a charter of rights for patients of our mental health services, separate to that of the general hospital patients' charter, but believe it would more appropriately be formulated and introduced at the same time as the other protective measures being provided for in the new legislation.

[1776]

  92.  Dr. Moffatt    asked the Minister for Health    the progress, if any, which has been made regarding funding for independent living; and if he will make a statement regarding a letter (details supplied). [6155/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The establishment of an independent living fund has been proposed to me by the Centre for Independent Living as a means of funding a personal assistance service to enable people with disabilities to live independently in the community. The development of a personal assistance service was examined by the advisory group on personal assistance. While it did not recommend the establishment of an independent living fund, it recommended that funding of a personal assistance service should be considered in the context of the development of support services generally for people with disabilities.

The report of the review group on health and personal social services for people with physical and sensory disabilities, Towards and Independent Future, which was published last December, recommended, inter alia, that funding deficits for existing services be addressed in the first instance. An additional £2.188 million was built into the health board allocations in 1997 to help put the services on a more secure financial footing and to enable some services initiated in 1996 to be further developed. Of this funding, £200,000 was provided for the development of existing personal assistance services. A further £1 million in revenue funding for the development of services for people with physical and sensory disabilities is being provided in 1997. Discussions are taking place between officials of my Department and the health boards as to the priorities in service development for the allocation of these funds. The personal assistance service is one of those under consideration.

  93.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health    the number of doctors who are on duty at any time in the casualty department of Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; the least number on duty at any time; whether they must do ward duties at the same time; the reason it could take eight hours and ten minutes waiting time to get an initial examination of a few minutes by a doctor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6157/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): Beaumont Hospital has advised me that the numbers of doctors normally assigned to the accident & emergency department in Beaumont Hospital is as follows:

Time No. of Doctors
08.00 a.m. 4
10.00 a.m. 5
11.00 a.m. 6
2.00 p.m. 7
4.00 p.m. 6
5.00 p.m. 5
6.00 p.m. 3
midnight 2
03.00 a.m. 1

[1777] The doctors are deployed in order to match the normal pattern of attendances as closely as possible. All these doctors work exclusively in the accident & emergency department and they do not at any time do ward rounds or any other work outside the A & E.

In all cases patients are assessed on arrival by an experienced nurse. The medical condition and priority of the patient are decided and this is kept under review as the situation demands. This process is designed to ensure that the most urgent patients are seen first.

At times unanticipated peaks in activity occur, with a large number of patients arriving within a short time. It is regretted that at such times delays may occur. I understand that Beaumont Hospital is currently reviewing arrangements for dealing with such unexpected upsurges in activity, with a view to improving the services in the A & E department.

  94.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Health    whether a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a further appointment in Galway Hospital in view of the fact that this person's condition has deteriorated rapidly and her family and general practitioner are extremely worried. [6159/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): As the provision of medical treatment to eligible persons in County Mayo is the statutory responsibility of the Western Health Board in the first instance I have asked the chief executive officer of the Western Health Board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly as a matter of urgency.

  95.  Mr. M. Kitt    asked the Minister for Health    the improvements, if any, which are proposed for the Ballinasloe area, County Galway, in respect of mentally handicapped services in view of the fact that he met the Ballinasloe parents group in April 1996; whether extra funding will be provided in 1997; whether an adult day centre, respite care facilities and a residential group home will be included in these proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6160/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The provision of services to persons with a mental handicap in the Ballinasloe area, County Galway is a matter in the first instance for the Western Health Board.

As the Deputy is aware, additional funding of £12 million has been provided in 1997 for services to persons with a mental handicap; £2 million is being used to meet identified needs in existing services. The remaining £10 million is being used to put in place new services, including additional residential, respite and day care places.

[1778] Details of the precise services to be put in place in each health board region and the individuals who will benefit from these services will be agreed by the regional mental handicap co-ordinating committees in line with the priority needs which have been identified for each region. Details of the funding which is to be made available to each health board region for new services in 1997 will shortly be notified to the boards.

  96.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Health    the amount received or to be received by his Department in 1997 and in each of the past four years in respect of the pilot programme for the employment of people with disabilities; and the amount for each year which has been granted to enterprises operating under this scheme. [6256/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The pilot programme for the employment of people with disabilities in viable business enterprises was launched in 1994 for a three year period. At the end of the pilot phase it was envisaged that the business would be commercially viable having regard for the disabled subsidies to the businesses.

In November, 1994 six applications from the then Rehabilitation Institute — known as Gandon Enterprises, the commercial arm of the REHAB Group — were approved for funding. In October, 1995 a seventh project, SETC was approved for inclusion in the pilot programme.

Funding for the programme comprises three elements: capital grants, employment subsidies in respect of able-bodied employees and employment subsidies in respect of disabled employees. Provision for the programme is included in the Department's vote for services for people with disabilities and is based on the overall limit set for the programme each year. However, actual expenditure relates to the level of uptake of the grants and subsidies in any given year, which is determined by the participating enterprises. Participating enterprises received in full all funds requested under the programme.

The Department of Health's annual estimates of expenditure and actual expenditure under the scheme is set out in the following table. These figures include the costs for the administration and evaluation of the programme.

1994-95 1996 1997
(£m) (£m) (£m)
Departmental Estimate 3.6 2.4 1.5
Actual Expenditure 2.6 1.6 NA

[1779]

  97.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Health    the number and names of persons appointed to boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees under the aegis of his Department; the remuneration attached to each position; the expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence to date for every member of each relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6303/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The number and names of persons appointed to boards under the aegis of my Department, since my appointment as Minister and the remuneration attached to each position are set out in the following table. The expenses — including travel and subsistence — incurred by each member of each board under the aegis of my Department — except An Bord Uchtála — is not available in the Department.

The expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence for An Bord Uchtála — the Adoption Board — are also set out.

All appointments to State boards under the aegis of my Department, and the payment of remuneration to members of boards under the aegis of this Department are determined according to the relevant Act or Statutory Instrument establishing each board and is in accordance with Government policy.

Information regarding the appointments to committees, commissions or subcommittees is not yet compiled. I will write to the Deputy directly with this information in due course.

The Minister for Health has appointed the following persons to State Boards under the aegis of his Department since 16 December 1994 to date¹. The number of persons appointed is 228.

Board Member
An Bord Altranais Charlie Hardy
An Bord Uchtála Patrick Durcan²
Beaumont Hospital Séamus O'Brien
Peter McLoone
Denis McCarthy
David Bouchier-Hayes
Joyce Dillon
John Gleeson
Dr. Henry Osbourne
Bridget Hogan
Dr. Joe Walsh
Bridget Birmingham
Ann Devitt
Dr. Aidan Hampsen
Brid Nolan
Aileen Barrett
Kevin Jones
Blood Transfusion Service Board Patrick Hourigan
Dr. Rosemary Boothman
Valerie Mannix
Prof. Ian Temperley
Dr. Rosemary Hone
Prof. Shaun R. McCann
Deirdre O'Connell
Anne Small
Diarmuid Shanley
Roy Hanan
Dr. Sheelah Ryan
[1780]Board of the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Dublin, incorporating the National Children's Hospital Jennifer Sowman
Gay R.L. Hogan
James V. Ruttle
Maurice J. Brooks
Dr. Kenneth Milne
Randall Plunkett
Prof. Davis Coakley
Charles O'Connor
Comhairle na Nimheanna Tom McGuinn
Cyril O'Sullivan
Dr. Ann Bruzzi
Niamh Cosgrave
Tommy Neville
Patrick Kavanagh
Dr. J. Donohue
Catherine Cleary
Thomas Holly
Michael O'Dwyer
C. O'Driscoll
Jerome O'Mullane
P.J. O'Connor
Dr. Mark Lynch
Dr. J.A. Treacy
Dr. Iona Pratt
Prof. John Feely
A.J. Quirke
Comhairle na nOspideál Dr. Charles Shanahan
Dr. Tom Peirce
Dr. Margo Wrigley
Prof. Brendan Drumm
Dr. Fred Jackson
Laura Viani
Denis Doherty
Catherine McDaid
Frank Ahern
Sheila Sullivan
John Murphy
Prof. Jim Fennelly
Prof. Anthony Clare
Dr. Mary Henry
Christine Carney
Aidan Hurley
Maurice Neligan
John McCarthy
Dr. John J. Murphy
Prof. Frank Keane
Dr. Fidelma Flynn
Prof. B.G. Loftus
Dr. Deborah Condell
Dr. Mary White
Dr. Fiona Bradley
Dr. Orla O'Reilly
Wendy O'Conghaile
Dental Council Dr. Gerry Gavin
Noel Pocock
Dr. Jacinta McLoughlin
Maureen Considine
Drug Treatment Centre Board Fr. Sean Cassin
Denis McCarthy
Sr. Raymond Bates
Eastern Health Board Dr. John Meehan
Reggie Lalor
Food Safety Advisory Board³ Dr. Fergus Hill
James Duggan
Dr. James Kiely
Ray Ellard
Prof. John Hannan
Mary McCarthy-Buckley
[1781] Dr. Vivion Tarrant
Maura Nolan
Colm Gaynor
Sean O'Donoghue
Ailish Forde
Mary Kearns
Dr. Cliona Foley-Nolan
Prof. Michael Gibney
Prof. John Flynn
Dr. Emer Shelly
Bríd O'Connor
Dr. James Sheridan
Hugh Boyle
Food Safety Board of Ireland Dr. Daniel O'Hare
Prof. Cecily Kelleher
James Kennedy
Caroline Gill
Prof. John Hannan
Darina Allen
Dr. Fergus Hill
William Fagan
Ann Scanlon
Health Research Board Dr. Brian A. Lawlor
Dermot Smyth
Jim O'Brien
Health Service Employers Agency John Cooney
P.J. Fitzpatrick
Martin Cowley
Maria Cronin
Frank Ahern
Brendan Phelan
Michael Kelly
Irish Medicines Board Pat O'Mahony
Rita Clancy
Albert J. Costello
Denis Cronin
Marie Hogan
Anne Nolan
Tom O'Mahony
Prof. Kevin O'Malley
Maura Waters
Leopardstown Park Hospital Sandy Adams
Nicholas Jermyn
Dr. Tim O'Dwyer
Eddie Matthews
John McGilligan
Marley Kavanagh
Monica Walsh
Marie Lewis
Major M. O'Connell
Alan Burnham
Midland Health Board Dr. Katherine Brown
William Aird
Mid-Western Health Board Mary Jackman
National Cancer Registry Mary Dowling
Board Prof. Bernadette Herity
Prof. Áine Hyland
Prof. Niall O'Higgins
Dr. James J. Fennelly
Dr. Kieran Sheahan
Dr. Martin Rouse
Prof. Alun Evans
Dr. Elizabeth Keane
Dr. Niall Tierney
Fergal Lynch
National Council for the Elderly Brian Murnane
Dr. Mary Hynes
Dr. Patricia Walsh
Tim Leddin
National Drugs Advisory Dr. Thomas B. Barragry
Board4 Dr. William Boles
Dr. Declan Bonar
Dr. Rosemary Boothman
[1782] Dr. Joseph Briscoe
Dr. Kevin Connolly
Prof. John Feely
Michael G. Gaynor
Dr. Kathleen McGarry
Tom McGuinn
P.F. Nowlan
Dr. Daniel O'Mahony
George O'Malley
Prof. Kevin O'Malley
Prof. G.G. Shaw
National Rehabilitation Board Frances Spillane
John Collins
Joe Cody
Owen Roe O'Neill
Joe Fallon
Noreen Mullane
Mairin Daly
Patrick Halley
Carmel Caden
Laurence Kavanagh
Jacqui Browne
John Flannery
North-Eastern Health Board Tom Kelly
Southern Health Board Dr. Catherine Molloy
St. James's Hospital Board Vincent Barton
Seamus O'Brien
St. Luke's and St. Anne's Hospital Board Dr. J.G. Cooney
Francis Flannery
Sr. Marie McKenna
Sr. Bernadette McMahon
Sr. Catherine Mulligan
Donal O'Malley
Patrick Shanley
Brian Slowey
Kay Conroy
Sr. Antoinette Kelleher
Kevin O'Donnell
Tallaght Hospital Board Vincent Barton
W.S. Sterling
Thomas Cullen
Prof. Richard Conroy
Seamus O'Brien
Prof. D.J. McConnell
Mary McCarthy
Prof. Hilary Hoey
Catherine McDaid
Eamon Walsh T.D.
Anne Farrell
Chris Flood T.D.
Voluntary Health Insurance Board Sheila Brazil
Paul Coulson
Ann Fitzgerald
Phil Flynn
John McMenamin
John O'Connor
Lucy Pugh
Clare O'Connor
Dermot R. Hussey

¹An individual appointed to a board and subsequently reappointed to the same board in the period is included once only.

²Patrick Durcan was appointed to An Bord Uchtála by Government Decision.

³The Food Safety Advisory Board continues to operate pending the statutory establishment of the Food Safety Board of Ireland.

4 The National Drug Advisory Board was dissolved with the establishment of the Irish Medicines Board on 1st January 1996.

[1783] The level of remuneration of members of boards under the aegis of the Department of Health is as follows:

Adoption Board: £2,000 per annum is paid to each ordinary member of the Board. An annual fee of £49,252 (at 31 December 1996) is paid to the full-time Chairperson of the Board.

Blood Transfusion Service Board: £15,000 per annum is paid to the Chairperson of the Board.

Health Research Board: While the Establishment Order for the Board provides for the payment of remuneration as may be determined by the Minister, the current board decided not to accept such remuneration.

Irish Medicines Board: The Irish Medicines Board Act, 1995 provides for the payment of remuneration to the Chairperson of the Board. Discussions are on-going with the Department of Finance to determine the appropriate level of remuneration.

Voluntary Health Insurance Board: £6,000 per annum is payable to the Chairperson of the Voluntary Health Insurance Board. Other members of the Board are paid £4,000 per annum.

Each Health Board: £7,500 per annum is payable for the combined allowances of the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of each Health Board.

Remuneration paid to members of boards under the aegis of this Department is determined according to the relevant Act or Statutory Instrument establishing each board.

The expenses incurred by the members of An Bord Uchtála for the period 1 January 1996 to 31 December 1997 are as follows:

£
Vivienne Darling 658.37
Patrick Durcan 7,892.05
Deirdre McIntyre 500.84
Nora Nowlan 657.93
Virgina Rochford 1,836.34
Geraldine Shanley 208.15
Orlaith Traynor 171.72

  98.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    the plans, if any, he has to amend the Equal Status Bill to include provision for adoptees obtaining a copy of their original birth certificate, containing the names of their natural birth parents, to help facilitate closer contact between both parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6111/97]

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  The Equal Status Bill deals with discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, [1784] age, disability, race and membership of the travelling community. The matter raised by the Deputy does not come within these grounds and I do not intend to make an amendment to the Bill to address this issue.

  99.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    the number of reports or studies which have been commissioned by him since his appointment; the cost of each report in each case; whether the report has been made publicly available; and if not the reason, therefor. [6121/97]

  100.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    the number of consultants' reports commissioned by his Department since he took office; the number which have been completed; and the cost to date. [6137/97]

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 and 100 together.

The information on the number of reports of studies which have been commissioned by me or my Department in the period since I took office has been provided in my reply to Question No. 33 of 19 February, 1997 — Vol. 475, No. 2, Col. 437.

As indicated in that reply much of the work was undertaken to provide a service, conduct polls etc. and no formal report was required. Accordingly, the Keegan report was the one report made public. It was placed in the Oireachtas Library on 28 February 1995.

The contents of the QMP and MRBI work in relation to the Divorce Referendum was not published because it related to internal policy matters. It was, however divulged for the information of the courts in the course of both the McKenna High Court and Supreme Court case and the Hanafin High Court and Supreme Court case.

The Summary Report on the Evaluation of the Pilot Childcare (1994-95) Initiative was published on 7 February 1997.

  101.  Mr. Doherty    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    the cost of each centre operated under the Legal Aid Board on a yearly basis under the headings of cost of building, either purchase or rental, running costs including electricity, and stationery, staffing costs and other costs; the number of centres currently in existence; the number of centres which are in properties owned by the State, leased by the State or rented by the State in short-term lettings; the number of persons employed by the Civil Legal Board and for the provision of legal services, excluding head office staff, under the headings of solicitors, legal executives, secretarial or ancillary and support staff; the number of staff employed by the Civil Legal Aid Board in Head Office; and the various grades of staff therein. [6253/97]

[1785]Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  Details of approximate expenditure for 1996 in respect of each law centre operated by the Legal Aid Board, together with the staffing details of the board's law centres and its head office, are in the following tabular statements which I propose to have circulated in the Official Report. I would draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that the law centres at Navan and Cavan opened in the latter part of 1996 and the law centres at Newbridge and Tullamore opened in 1997.

[1786] There are 30 full-time law centres in operation at present. Of these, the law centre at Waterford is owned by the Legal Aid Board and the other 29 are leased by the board.

The Legal Aid Board has an authorised staff complement of 224 and has two extra staff who are on loan from other Government Departments and offices. In addition, the board has authority to employ a Grade A solicitor and a clerical assistant-typist to operate the private practitioner scheme. At present it has 14 staff vacancies, all of which are in the clerical grades.

Legal Aid Board

Estimate of Expenditure per Centre 1996

Wages and Salaries Rent on Leases Establishment costs (incl. ESB) Other Running Costs Total Costs
Ormond Quay 237,187 19,675 96,977 67,359 421,198
Gardiner Street 264,527 20,736 32,040 117,524 434,827
Tallaght 156,279 23,027 12,687 75,201 267,194
Clondalkin 177,853 24,121 11,540 76,679 290,193
Finglas 156,019 20,520 10,558 76,153 263,250
Athlone 91,742 7,001 6,673 52,758 158,174
Castlebar 93,875 11,850 4,446 28,868 139,039
Cork North 171,346 38,334 111,748 164,566 485,994
Cork South 179,657 20,551 8,607 74,985 283,800
Dundalk 65,861 9,556 3,269 53,578 132,264
Galway 142,832 15,000 7,730 68,890 234,452
Letterkenny 77,671 17,136 2,678 56,392 153,877
Limerick 113,611 12,000 5,875 51,871 183,357
Sligo 55,484 6,000 3,944 22,198 87,626
Tralee 86,632 7,100 4,726 31,588 130,046
*Waterford 93,533 nil 7,024 44,435 144,992
Nenagh 83,191 7,500 4,293 40,248 135,232
**Longford 49,413 2,650 39,117 91,180
Kilkenny 82,724 5,050 3,201 36,288 127,263
Portlaoise 82,234 4,025 4,424 27,111 117,794
Blanchardstown 124,597 23,909 8,227 50,072 206,805
Wicklow 89,666 11,050 5,695 10,589 117,000
Monaghan 51,571 12,125 55,443 17,554 136,693
Wexford 84,794 8,000 36,173 40,241 169,208
Ennis 81,140 12,150 6,571 27,053 126,914
Mount Street 191,096 49,000 21,391 96,673 358,160
Navan 11,216 12,750 33,439 27,386 84,791
**Newbridge 49,740 49,740
Cavan 5,069 5,516 21,900 20,701 53,186
**Tullamore 30,425 2,844 33,269
Total 3,100,819 403,689 614,095 1,498,921 5,617,518

* Purchase price of £51,404. (This is inclusive of the cost of renovations.)

** Payments of any outstanding rents for 1996 have yet to be made.

Staffing

Law Centres

Solicitor Grade C 9
Solicitor Grade B 32
Solicitor Grade A 40
Executive Officer 1
Law Clerk 31
Clerical Officer 6
Clerical Assistant-Typist 75
Total 194

Head Office

Chief Executive 1
Assistant Chief Executive 3
Higher Executive Officer 8
Executive Officer 5
Staff Officer 1
Clerical Officer 6
Clerical Assistant-Typist* 9
Solicitor Grade A* 1
Total 34

*One CA-T and one Solicitor Grade A employed in the private practitioners scheme.

[1787]

  102.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    the number and names of persons appointed to boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees under the aegis of his Department; the remuneration attached to each position; the expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence to date for every member of each relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6304/97]

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  Information in respect of people appointed to membership of boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees operating under the aegis of my Department, during the term of the present Government, is as follows:

Legal Aid Board

In May 1995 I appointed 13 persons to the Legal Aid Board in accordance with the terms of the non-statutory scheme of civil legal aid and advice. I appointed the same 13 people to the Legal Aid Board on 11 October, 1996, in accordance with the terms of the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995.

The 13 serving members of the Legal Aid Board are as follows:

Ms Clare Connellan,
(Chairperson)
Mr. Patrick Kennedy
Mr. Dan McCarthy
Ms Anne Watkin Mr. Robert Browne
Ms Lousie Crivon Mr. Paddy Howard
Ms Mary Maher Mr. Dermot Condon
Ms Bernadette Owens Mr. Frank Murphy
Ms Aine Elliott Ms Nessa McMahon

The gross annual remuneration for individual board members is £2,400, with the exception of the chairperson, whose gross remuneration is £4,000 per annum.

Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities

I appointed Ms Paula Lyons and Mr. John Collins to the Commission during the term of the present Government. All other members were appointed at earlier dates.

No remuneration is involved

Ad-hoc Steering Group

On 6 April 1995, I announced the appointment of the ad-hoc steering group to facilitate the establishment of an interim Council for the Status of People with Disabilities. The nine members were as follows:

Ms Claire Brennan Mr. Eugene Callan
Mr. Tony Darmody Mr. Michael Fox
Mr. Colm O'Doherty Ms Mary O'Mahony
Ms Rachel Pollard Ms Mary Rafferty
Mr. Frank Tracey

No remuneration is involved.

Irish National Co-ordinating Committee for European Year against Racism, 1997

The Irish National Co-ordinating Committee for European Year against Racism, 1997 has a membership of 26 as follows:

[1788]Anastasia Crickley John Hurley
Deepak Inamdar Gearóid MacNamara
Thomas McCann Fintan Farrell
Brian O'Flanagan Nadette Foley
Brid O'Brien Wendy Cox
John O'Connell Conal Ó Caoimh
Marian Tannam Gary Quinn
Martin Collins John O'Neill
Niall Crowley Deirdre Morrissey
Patrick Yu Liam Berney
Tadhg O'Leary Paul Murray
Shahzad Quidwai John Kelleher
Ailbhe Smyth Garry Tobin

The committee forms smaller working groups for some purposes.

No remuneration is involved.

Monitoring Committee on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Second Commission on the Status of Women

All of the members were appointed prior to December 1994.

No remuneration is involved.

National Co-ordinating Committee for the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women

All of the members were appointed prior to December 1994.

No remuneration is involved.

Employment Equality Agency

All of the members were appointed to the board of the Employment Equality Agency prior to December 1994.

Apart from a payment of £3,000 per annum to the chair of the board, no remuneration is paid to members.

Task Force on the Travelling Community

The names of those appointed to the Task Force on the Travelling Community during the term of the present Government are as outlined hereunder:

Mr. Matthew Ryan

Councillor Seamus Rodgers

Senator Mary Kelly received honoraria to the value of £1,500 in respect of her role as chairperson to the Task Force.

It is not possible in the time available to complete the information requested in relation to expenses, including travelling and subsistence but I will arrange for these details to be forwarded to the Deputy in due course.

  103.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    the number of reports or studies which have been commissioned by him since his appointment; the cost of each report in each case; whether the report has been made publicly available; and if not the reason, therefor. [6116/97]

[1789]

  104.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    the number of consultants' reports commissioned by his Department since he took office; the number which have been completed; and the cost to date. [6131/97]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh 103 agus Uimh 104 le chéile.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question No. 139 of 28 January 1997.

All the completed reports referred to in that reply have been made available to the public with the exception of two which were commissioned for internal use only, the functional brief for phase 2 of Collins Barracks and the Grand Canal Docks Study.

  105.  D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív    den Aire Ealaíon,    Cultúir agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil iarratas aige ó Choiste Forbartha Charna, do thogra ar a nglaotar Cliabhán an Chultúir i gCarna, faoin gClár Feidhme Turasóireachta de chuid Aontas na hEorpa, Dreasachtaí Forbartha Cultúrtha 1994-99, agus chun a fhiafraí de cén uair a dhéanfar cinneadh ar an iarratas seo agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [6245/97]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  Is féidir liom a dhearbhú gur chuir Cliabhán an Chultúir Teo, Carna, iarratas isteach chuig mo Roinnse faoi Chéim II den Scéim Dreasachtaí Forbartha Cultúrtha 1994-99. Tá súil agam go mbeidh ar mo chumas cinneadh a ghlacadh faoin iarratas seo go luath.

  106.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    when approval for a site for a new county museum in Clonmel, County Tipperary will be given; the amount of funding to be allocated in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6246/97]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  Under the cultural development incentives scheme which I am administering under the operational programme for tourism 1994-99, I approved, in principle, on 28 June 1996 an offer of grant assistance to an absolute maximum of £750,000 towards the cost of developing the Tipperary South Riding County Museum. On 19 February 1997 on foot of a revised proposal from Tipperary South Riding County Council, I conveyed my approval for the development of the proposed museum facility on Suir Island, Clonmel. This offer of grant assistance can only be confirmed when a number of outstanding issues relating to the project are resolved to by Department's full satisfaction.

[1790]

  107.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    the projects funded by his Department and agencies under the aegis of his Department in County Limerick in 1995 and 1996; and the location of each project; and the grant aid involved. [6247/97]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  Funding amounting to £1,693,738 which included a sum of £857,918 from the European regional development fund was paid in respect of the following projects-schemes in County Limerick during 1995 and 1996:

1995 1996
£ £
(a) Arts and Heritage Service projects
Desmond Castle, Newcastlewest 155,806* 196,354
Desmond Castle, Adare 3,548* 52,214
Extension of Navigation, Limerick City 600 2,795
Hunt Museum, Limerick 100,000 315,130
European Regional Development Fund
Hunt Museum 353,260 504,658
(b) Ciste na Gaeilge
Conradh na Gaeilge, Limerick City 1,500
(c) National Heritage Council projects (funded from the national lottery for the period from 1 January 1995 to 9 July 1995)
Glin Castle — Roofing 7,873

*Channelled through the Vote of the Office of Public Works.

The Heritage Council, which I appointed on 10 July 1995 under the Heritage Act, 1995, is an autonomous statutory body which has power to provide assistance — including financial assistance — and advice to persons and bodies in matters relating to its functions. A detailed list of any grants approved or paid by the statutory Heritage Council will be published in its annual reports.

The figures which I have provided above do not take account of moneys expanded or approved directly by other bodies under the aegis of my Department such as An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Bord Scannán na hÉireann or Bord na Gaeilge during the period in question. Details of grants awarded by such bodies and the location of specific projects funded are available in their annual reports.

I should point out to the Deputy that, in addition to the expenditure to which I have referred, a significant allocation of £687,500 in relation to Limerick City Gallery of Art has been approved by me under the cultural development incentives scheme but not yet expanded.

[1791]

  108.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    if he has received an application from the Excel project in Tipperary town; if so, when a decision will be made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6249/97]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  I can confirm that on 27 February 1997 I approved, in principle, an offer of grant assistance to an absolute maximum sum of £650,000 towards the cost of developing the Tipperary Exel project under Phase II of the cultural development incentives scheme which I am administering under the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-99. The offer of grant assistance for this project will be confirmed as soon as a number of issues relating to the project are resolved to my Department's satisfaction, including in particular firm confirmation of the availability of all matching funds required to complete the project.

  109.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    the number and names of persons appointed to boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees under the aegis of his Department; the remuneration attached to each position; the expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence to date for every member of each relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6305/97]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  The following table details the ministerial or Government appointees currently serving on boards, committees, commissions or subcommittees under the aegis of my Department and the appropriate fee payable in respect of each position.

Payment in respect of travel and subsistence for appointees is a day-to-day matter for the bodies to which they are appointed. Payment in respect of such expenses to members of committees, commissions, etc, is made where appropriate and in accordance with normal Civil Service regulations and rates.

Table

Annual Fee
£
Bord na Gaeilge
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh (Cathaoirleach) 3,000
Caitlín Lough 2,000
Fidelma Mullane 2,000
Sorcha Maebh Ní Chonchúir 2,000
Claudia Nic Dhonncha 2,000
Pádraig Ó Scannláin 2,000
Séamus Ó Tonnaí 2,000
Mairéad Ní Dhuinnshléibhe 2,000
Liam Ó Maonlaí 2,000
Alan Titley 2,000
Tadhg Ó hÉalaithe Dada
Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge
Éamon Ó hÓgáin (Cathaoirleach) No fee payable
Seán de Fréine
Ursula Ní Dhálaigh
[1792]Áine Nic Gearailt
Diarmaid Ó Cathasaigh
Rhoda Uí Chonaire
Vivian Uibh Eachach
Broadcasting Complaints Commission
Geri Silke (Chair) No fee payable
Al McDonnell
Liam O'Regan
Cormac Dunne
Martin McHugh
Marie O'Brien
Caroline Crowley
Caretaker Board of the National Museum
Barbara Nugent (Chair) No fee payable
Sean Cromien
John de Courcy-Ireland
Julie Godson
Una Hughes
Ann Kelly
Paul Murphy
John O'Reilly
Aidan Walsh

£
An Chomhairle Ealaíon
Prof. Ciarán Benson (Chair) 3,000
Pat Murray nil
Vivienne Roche nil
Vic Merriman nil
Aiden O'Carroll nil
Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy nil
Jane Dillon-Byrne nil
Eavan Boland nil
Ciarán McGonigal nil
Laura Magahy nil
Eithne Healy nil
Proinsias Mac Aonghusa nil
John Wilson nil
Terry Prone nil
Paul McGuinness nil
Kathleen Watkins nil
Páraic Breathnach nil

£
An Comhairle Oidhreachta
Freda Rountree (Chair) 3,000
Anne Brennan 2,000
Emer Colleran 2,000
Michael Conaghan 2,000
Michael Conry 2,000
Ruth Delany 2,000
Jimmy Dunne 2,000
Elizabeth Fahy 2,000
Orna Hanly 2,000
Anna McHugh 2,000
An tAth. Tomás Ó Caoimh 2,000
Peter Pearson 2,000
Jim Reynolds 2,000
Michael Ryan nil
Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington 2,000
David Slattery 2,000
John Waddell 2,000
Heritage Council Standing Committee on Wildlife
Alexander Butler No fee payable
Anne Farrell
William Smith
Heritage Council Standing Committee on Archaeology
Ted Creedon No fee payable
Michael O'Hanrahan
Primrose Wilson
[1793]Heritage Council Standing Committee on Architectural
W.A. Houlihan No fee payable
Loughlin Kealy
Deirdre Kelly
Heritage Council Standing Committee on Inland Waterways
John Carolan No fee payable
Carton Finegan
Heather Thomas

£
An Ceoláras Náisiúnta
Dermot Egan (Chair) 3,000
Audrey Corbett nil
William Dowdall nil
Pat Heneghan nil
Fergus Johnston nil
Aiveen Kearney nil
Peter McEvoy nil
John McNally nil
Marie Louise O'Donnell nil
Irene Nolan nil
Joan Parker nil
Malachy P. Smith nil
Ann Fuller nil
Niall Doyle nil
Joan Hickey nil
Cultural Development Incentives Scheme Advisory Committee
Christopher O'Grady (Chair) No fee payable
Colm Ó Briain
Pauline Moreau
Laura Magahy
Mary Cloake
Freda Rountree
Jack Higgins
Fintan Coogan
Grand and Royal Canals Corridor Studies Task Force
Senator Pat Magner (Chairperson) No fee payable
Breda Power
Carmel Sherry
Kevin O'Connor
Ruth Delany
John Martin
Claire Caffrey
Enda Conway
Pauline Moreau
Philip Jones
Douglas Hyde

£
Independent Radio and Television Commission
Niall Stokes (Chair) 3,000
Gillian Bowler 2,000
Aiden Meade 2,000
Mary Ruddy 2,000
Eileen Brophy 2,000
Kieran Mulvey 2,000
Christopher Cooney 2,000
Jack Davis 2,000
Gerard Danaher 2,000
Jude Bowles 2,000

£
Louis Marcus (Chair) 9,150*
Mary Alleguen 2,000
Deirdre Friel 2,000
Neil Jordan 2,000
Nuala Moiselle 2,000
Ann O'Connell 2,000
Morgan O'Sullivan 2,000

*This represents one fifth of the maximum of the Principal Officer (Higher) salary and is paid to Mr. Marcus on the understanding that he devotes at least one full day a week to the affairs of the Irish Film Board.

[1794]Irish Manuscripts Commission
Brian Trainor No fee payable
Rev. Monsignor Patrick J. Corish
Rev. Francis X. Martin
An tOllamh B. Ó Cuív
Prof. F.J. Byrne
Prof. L.M. Cullen
Prof. G.J. Hand
Prof. D. McCartney
David Craig
Mary Daly
Mary O'Dowd
Anngret Simms
Prof. D.W. Harkness
Prof. J.F.M. Lydon
Prof. G. MacNiocaill
M. Ní Bhrolcháin
M. Mac Conghail
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Gillian Bowler (Chair) The chairperson is entitled to a fee of £1,000 however, this has not been claimed. No fee is payable to the other appointees.
Kieran Corcoran
Jim Dorgan
Rita Fagan
Maurice Foley
Eoghan Harris
Gary Joyce
Gordan Lambert
Brian Maguire
Mike Murphy
Paula Murphy
Brian O'Doherty
Amelia Stein
Lochlann Quinn
Dorothy Walker
National Gallery of Ireland — Board of Governors and Guardians
Carmel Naughton (Chair) No fee payable
William Finlay
Tony Ryan
Lord O'Neill
Prof. Gerald Doyle
Maighréad McParland
Ciarán McGonigal
Lady Clementine Beit
National Library of Ireland Council of Trustees
Barry Murphy No fee payable
John Gray
Loretto Brennan-Glucksman
Ailbhe Smyth
National Theatre Society
Gemma Hussey No fee payable
Deirdre Purcell

£
Radio Telefís Éireann Authority
Prof. Farrel Corcoran (Chair) 6,000
William Attley 4,000
Garret Fitzgerald 4,000
Desmond Geraghty 4,000
Anne Haslam 4,000
Betty Purcell 4,000
Bob Quinn 4,000
Patricia Redlich 4,000
Anne Tannahill 4,000
Údarás na Gaeltachta
An tOllamh Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh (Cathaoirleach) 6,000
Sorcha Maebh Ní Chonchúir 4,000
Pádraigh Ó Dochartaigh 4,000
Sorcha Ní Dhonnacha 4,000
Séamus Mac Ruairí 4,000
Bríd Ní Shirín 4,000

[1795]

  110.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for the Environment    the plans, if any, there are to repeal the law which allows school buses to be overcrowded in view of the fact that 79 pupils can legally be carried on a 52 seater coach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6144/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  A review of the road safety implications of the regulations governing seating accommodation in school buses is at an advanced stage in my Department.

  111.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for the Environment    the amount of funding which was allocated to the Western Health Board for the special housing aid for the elderly scheme; and the number who have benefited from the scheme in 1996. [6158/97]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  A total of £690,000 for the operation of the scheme of special housing aid for the elderly in 1996 was allocated to the Western Health Board by the task force who, under the aegis of my Department, administer the scheme.

Information regarding the actual number of people assisted under the scheme in 1996 is not available in my Department; however, the end of year returns furnished by the Western Health Board show 418 projects were completed in its area in 1996.

  112.  Mr. N. Treacy    asked the Minister for the Environment    the occasions when on-the-spot fines are currently used; the plans, if any, she has to extend their use for breaches of the speed limit and other minor road traffic offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6269/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  On-the-spot fines already apply to parking offences, offences involving speed limits, and the offences of non-display of a current tax disc, non-display of an insurance disc, and the overloading of a vehicle.

The question of extending the system to other traffic offences is being considered, in consultation with the Department of Justice.

[1796]

  113.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will provide an allocation of funds and give a timescale for the commencement and completion of work on a sewerage scheme and treatment plant for Kinsale, County Cork, in view of the fact that raw untreated sewage flows directly into Kinsale Harbour. [6388/97]

  135.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will sanction the immediate commencement of work on a new sewerage scheme for Kinsale, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6260/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 135 together.

My Department has requested Cork County Council to review the preliminary report for this scheme in the context of the council's proposals for sludge management. The council's response to this request is still awaited. Provision to further advance the planning of the project has been made in my Department's water and sewerage services capital work programme for 1997 but I am not in a position to say when work will commence.

  114.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of reports or studies which have been commissioned by him since his appointment; the cost of each report in each case; whether the report has been made publicly available; and if not the reason, therefor. [6127/97]

  115.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of consultants' reports commissioned by his Department since he took office; the number which have been completed; and the cost to date. [6143/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 115 together.

The information requested is set out in the following table. In general, the reports which have not been published are those where there is likely to be insufficient public interest to justify the costs arising, or where the subject matter is of a technical or specialised nature, or where the content is to be used or incorporated in a document intended for subsequent publication.

[1797][1798]Title-Purpose of Project Undertaken by Cost to the Department Expenditure to date Completed Made Publicly Available
£ £
Review of impact, effectiveness and cost of the tax based urban renewal schemes — designated areas KPMG Management Consulting in association with Murray O Laoire, Architects and Urban Designers and the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre 113,740 113,740 Yes Yes
Dublin Docklands Task Force to recommend arrangements to develop an overall master plan for the Docklands area of Dublin and appropriate implementation and co-ordination arrangements Task Force comprising DOE and representatives from Departments of the Taoiseach, Marine, Transport, Energy and Communications, Enterprise and Employment, Finance and Dublin Corporation, Dublin Port and Docks Board, Grand Canal Corridor Study Task Force 6,371 6,371 Yes Yes
Tidy Towns Competition Review Ad-hoc committee comprising DOE, Tidy Towns Committees, sponsors, adjudicators, Office of Public Works, local authorities and other experts on urban environment Nil Nil No N/A
Report of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Strengthening the Protection of the Architectural Heritage Department of the Environment, Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and Office of Public Works Nil(1) Nil Yes Yes
Professional Study on Local Government Financing KPMG Management Consulting 92,402 92,402 Yes Yes
Occupational Health System in the Fire Service Dr. Gerard Kidney 3,249 3,249 Yes No
Preparation of Code of Practice for Safety at Indoor Concerts Working Group comprising DOE, Departments of Education, Health and Justice, An Garda Síochána and Dublin Corporation 20,000(e) 204 No N/A
Promotion of Best Practice in Housing Management Housing Management Group comprising DOE, local authority officials and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (Consultants) 6,426 6,426 Yes(2) Yes
Transfer of administration of SWA rent and mortgage supplementation to local authorities Inter-Departmental Committee comprising officials from DOE and Departments of Finance, Health and Social Welfare Nil Nil No N/A
Review to consider equality of opportunity and related matters in the local authority service Working Group representative of DOE and the County and City Managers' Association Nil Nil No N/A
National Litter Survey MC O'Sullivan and Co. Ltd. 29,766 29,766 Yes Yes
ENFO Review DOE and Consumers' Working Group Nil Nil Yes No
Coastal Zone Management Study Brady, Shipman, Martin (lead consultants), Natural Environment Consultants, Susan Gubbay and HR Wallingford Ltd. 39,000(3)(e) 35,922 No N/A
Preparatory work for the Quality Status Report for the Celtic Seas Marine Institute 7,500(4) 7,500 Yes No
[1799][1800]Preparation of the Quality Status Report for the Celtic Seas Marine Institute (QSR Office) 175,000(4)(e) 50,000 No N/A
Public Art Research Project Steering Group comprising DOE, Department of Arts Culture and the Gaeltacht, Arts Council, Temple Bar Properties Ltd. and Consultants (Public Art Development Trust) 13,971(5) 13,971 No N/A
Report on Local Authority Archives and Records Local Authority Archives Steering Group, comprising DOE, local authorities, An Chomhairle Leabharlanna and the National Archives 100,000(e) 85,460 Yes Yes
Review of applications for inclusion in a proposed amendment to the EU Architects Directive Review panel comprising DOE, Professor Cathal O'Neill, James Pike, Helen Blair and Gerry Walker 15,000(e) 10,454 No N/A
Economic Evaluation of Cohesion Fund Environmental Projects Fehily, Timoney and Weston 55,117 55,117 Yes No
Greater Dublin Region Water Supply Strategic Study Generale des Eaux and MC O'Sullivan 513,721 513,721 Yes Yes
Economic Instruments supporting Environmental Policy ESRI 52,390 48,750 No N/A
Formulating Environmental and Social Indicators for Sustainable Development ESRI 18,850 18,850 Yes Yes
Preparatory paper in the context of the preparation of the “National Sustainable Development Strategy” Environmental Management and Auditing Services Ltd. 6,002 6,002 Yes No
Mid-term review of Environmental Services Operational Programme 1994-99 Environmental Resources Management and Fitzpatrick Associates 53,000(6)(e) 9,101 Yes No
Construction Industry Review and Outlook, Annual Review — 1995, 1996, 1997 DKM 44,770(7) 29,643 Yes(8) Yes
Fire aspects of Eurocode 1 Building Research Establishment (UK) 5,791 Nil Yes No
Eurocode 6, Phases 2 and 3 Forbairt 3,630 3,630 Yes No
Sample Survey of Residential Repair and Maintenance Expenditure ESRI 13,500(9) Nil No(10) No
Assessment of methods for stopping spread of fires Agniconsult 1,000(e) Nil Yes No
Conversion of Radon Survey Results to Computer Format University College Dublin 500 500 Yes No
Redrawing of Technical Guidance Documents which support the Building Regulations McHugh O'Cofaigh Architects 22,500(e) 20,692 No N/A
Strategic Review of Construction Industry Strategic Review Committee comprising representatives from DOE, construction industry and private-public sector clients 25,000(11) 5,120 No N/A
[1801][1802]Study of organisational arrangements to support the establishment of a Director of Traffic for Dublin Price Waterhouse 61,935 61,935 Yes No
External Evaluator to the Operational Programme for Transport, 1994-99(12) DKM 198,803(9) 194,482 No N/A
Mid Term Review of the Operational Programme for Transport, 1994-99(12) DKM 64,000(e) Nil No N/A
Non-National Roads Pavement Condition Study Ove Arup & Partners Ireland with PMS Pavement Management Services Ltd. and Jennings O'Donovan & Partners 168,000(e) 134,144 No N/A
Survey of Motor Tax and Insurance Evasion(13) National Roads Authority and Garda Síochána 5,000 5,000 Yes No
Electronic retrieval system for motor tax legislation Alan Moore 4,500(e) 1,210 No N/A
Evaluation of IT hardware and system software requirements for NVDF Price Waterhouse 8,712 8,712 Yes No
Evaluation of proposal for Wide Area Network procurement for NVDF Baltimore Technologies 8,712 8,712 Yes No

(¹)Costs borne by the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

(²)First report published in December 1996; the Group continues to meet and further reports may be produced.

(³)Jointly funded by Departments of the Environment, Marine, and Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

(4)Jointly funded by Departments of the Environment and the Marine.

(5) Jointly funded by DOE, Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Office of Public Works and the Arts Council.

(6) Engaged by DOE, as lead Department for the Programme, on behalf of the Operational Programme Monitoring Committee.

(7) Three year cost.

(8) Annual Reviews for 1995-96 only.

(9) Annual Cost.

(10) Ongoing monthly survey.

(11) Jointly funded by DOE and Construction Industry Council.

(12) Engaged by DOE, as lead Department for the Programme, on behalf of the OP Monitoring Committee; apportionment of costs between Departments not yet finalised.

(13) Exclusive of Garda Síochána-Department of Justice costs.

(e) Estimated.

(N/A) Not applicable.

  116.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for the Environment    the consideration, if any, he has given to an application from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to construct an eight-bay halting site on public amenity lands at Lower Dodder Road; whether more than one application was received from the council for the development of the lands; the cost of the proposal or proposals; whether the economics of this location are affected by the need to address potentially serious undermining of adjacent building foundations by way of special works or guarantees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6225/97]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  A proposal for a halting site at Lower Dodder Road was first submitted to my Department on 12 August 1994. Revised proposals, at an estimated cost of £520,000, were approved on 4 February 1997. The estimated cost includes all site works which the local authority consider necessary for the development of the site.

  117.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for the Environment    if, further to his reply to Question No. 138 of 25 February 1997, he will request a speedy report from the inspector at the public inquiry on the Dundrum by-pass; his views on whether a speedy report and subsequent decision by him is in the public interest; when he expects the report of the inspector to be presented to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6230/97]

[1803]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I have nothing to add to the reply referred to. The inspector in this case, as in all others, is aware of the importance of submitting his report as soon as possible.

  118.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for the Environment    the submissions, if any, he has received on the need to improve road traffic directional signs; the additional moneys, if any, which will be made available to road authorities in 1997 in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6227/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Responsibility for the provision and maintenance of traffic signs on the national roads network, including the funding of such signs, is a matter for the National Roads Authority. Responsibility for signs on non-national roads is a matter for individual local authorities, financed from their own resources, supplemented by the discretionary grant provided annually by my Department. Road grants have been fully allocated this year and there are no moneys available from which a further grant could be made to any local authority.

In December last, following extensive consultation with local authorities, I published a comprehensive traffic signs manual which sets out policy, and the standards to be applied, in relation to all aspects of road signage including directional signs. There have been no significant submissions to my Department in the matter of directional traffic signs since publication of the manual. The application of the standards set out in the manual will help to ensure that signage is both effective and well maintained.

  119.  Mr. L. Fitzgerald    asked the Minister for the Environment    whether £300,000 has been made available by his Department to Fingal County Council for the completion of phase I of the Baldoyle flood relief programme; whether £2.2 million has been made available for phase II of the scheme; whether £600,000 has been made available for improvements to the Howth public water supply; if this sanction means that work can commence immediately on these three projects; if all of the moneys can be taken up in 1997; if full provision has been made in the 1997 estimates for these three projects; if he will give a breakdown of the work involved in each of the projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6228/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Phase 1 of the Baldoyle flood relief scheme was completed in 1995 and all approved capital expenditure has been recouped by my Department to Fingal County Council.

Fingal County Council was given approval last [1804] January to commence immediate construction of an advance section of the Baldoyle flood relief scheme, phase 2. This section involves the construction of the river Mayne outfall, at an estimated cost of £300,000. I have also approved the preliminary report of phase 2 of the scheme, at an estimated cost of £2,200,000, and Fingal County Council is due to submit contract documents to my Department later this year. This phase involves the structural rehabilitation of the Willie Nolan Road culvert using relining techniques and the construction of a pumping station at the western end of Admiral Park.

With regard to the Howth water supply scheme, I gave approval to Fingal County Council to proceed with construction last November. The estimated cost of this scheme, which involves the construction of a 1,300 cubic metre capacity service reservoir on a site adjacent to the existing Baily Green Reservoir, is £600,000 and construction is expected to commence later this year.

Financial provision for all of the foregoing has been made in my Department's work programme for 1997.

  120.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will give comparative figures on the basis of traffic counts between the level of traffic, both car and heavy vehicle, current on national primary and secondary roads in County Louth and similar roads in the rest of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6229/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Information regarding traffic levels on each national primary and secondary road is available in the publication “National Roads and Traffic Flow 1995,” a copy of which has been placed in the Oireachtas Library. Data for 1996 are not yet available.

  121.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Environment    the progress, if any, which has been made towards the building of a swimming pool in Dundalk, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6343/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  There is no proposal from Dundalk Urban District Council before my Department at present for the provision of a swimming pool in Dundalk.

  122.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for the Environment    the amount of money allocated in 1997 for completion of the south Leitrim regional water scheme; and the amount spent under this scheme in each of the years from 1990 to date. [6231/97]

[1805]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Leitrim County Council may apply to my Department for the recoupment of expenditure on the south Leitrim regional water supply scheme as it arises in 1997. The recoupment of expenditure on the scheme from 1990 to date by my Department was as follows:

Year Amount
£
1990 197,843
1991 1,353,111
1992 1,384,900
1993 412,500
1994 1,146,866
1995 356,978
1996 100,000

  123.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will provide funds in 1997 for the upgrading of Carrigallen group water scheme, County Leitrim. [6232/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  As already announced, responsibility for the administration of the group schemes programmes being devolved to the local authorities, subject to existing commitments on foot of approvals issued by my Department. Where schemes have already been approved, such as the Carrigallen scheme, the local authority will be asked to issue the grant allocation to the group as soon as possible.

  124.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for the Environment    the amount of money which will be provided in 1997 for the upgrading of group water schemes in County Leitrim. [6233/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  As already announced, a total capital provision of £15 million is to be made available by way of block grants to local authorities in 1997 in respect of a devolved programme, comprising: the existing group water and sewerage grants scheme; the new multi-annual programme for the take-over and upgrading by local authorities of existing group water and sewerage schemes, and small public water and sewerage schemes costing less than £250,000.

Allocations to individual local authorities have not yet been made but I intend to do so as soon as possible.

  125.  Dr. Moffatt    asked the Minister for the Environment    the progress, if any, which has been made in respect of funding for addressing the problem of water supply to an area (details supplied) in Mayo. [6234/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Mayo County Council has submitted a proposal costing £100,000 for Rake Street, Crossmolina, under the small schemes programme. It will be a matter for the council to decide which small water [1806] and sewerage schemes should proceed under the new arrangements for the devolution of such schemes to local authorities.

  127.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for the Environment    when the application made by Funded Housing Initiative South Tipperary (FHIST) for ten new housing units at Burgagery Lands West, Clonmel, County Tipperary will be sanctioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6236/97]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  The project is one proposed to be undertaken with the assistance available for the provision of housing accommodation by approved voluntary housing bodies. Approval to a grant of £294,000 was notified on 25 February 1997 to Tipperary (SR) County Council which is responsible for the detailed administration of the scheme, including certification that particular projects comply with its terms.

  128.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that primary schools will remain liable for water charges; if he intends to review the position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6237/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Domestic water and sewerage charges have been abolished with effect from 1 January 1997. There are no proposals to abolish water charges in respect of other premises or uses.

  129.  Mr. Mulvihill    asked the Minister for the Environment    when he will allocate funding for the proposed library in Midleton, County Cork to have it refurbished and stocked; and if he will make a statement on the matter in view of the fact that the proposal has been with his Department for approval since 1994. [6239/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Proposals for a new branch library in Midleton have been received in my Department. Having regard to the high level of demand for funding for library proposals generally, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve the proposals.

  130.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for the Environment    the current position on urban renewal status for Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6240/97]

[1807]

  131.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for the Environment    the current position on urban renewal status for Tipperary town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6241/97]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.

An overall review of the urban renewal schemes as they have operated to date is currently under way. As part of the review, a consultants' study on the impact of the schemes in economic, social and architectural terms has been completed and published and is now the subject of a process of public consultation. Submissions have been invited from interested persons and organisations in relation to the study's conclusions and recommendations. Copies of the study are available in the Oireachtas Library. There are no proposals at this stage to extend the present urban renewal scheme to any additional areas. It would be inappropriate to consider what new areas, if any, might be suitable for designation as part of any future scheme until general policy in relation to the next phase of urban renewal is determined in the light of the review.

  133.  Mr. Hyland    asked the Minister for the Environment    the reason for the delay in payment of a group water scheme grant to a person (details supplied) in County Laois. [6243/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  As already announced responsibility for the administration of the group schemes programme is being devolved to the local authorities, subject to existing commitments on foot of approvals issued by my Department. Where schemes have not yet been approved, including the Bawngorra scheme, it will in future be a matter for the relevant local authorities to decide on grant applications.

  134.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Environment    when work on windows will commence in areas (details supplied) in Dublin 1, under the proposed window replacement programme. [6244/97]

[1808]Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  Dublin Corporation has made proposals for a programme of works to upgrade elements of its housing stock, including window replacement. There are no funds at my disposal from which assistance could be provided for the works in question. The management, maintenance and improvement of existing dwellings is the responsibility of the local authority, to be financed from its own resources. However, where funding is made available, under the remedial works scheme, to assist authorities in carrying out major structural works to designated housing estates, the installation of replacement windows may be included as part of such works.

  136.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for the Environment    the plans, if any, he has to upgrade the fire brigade facilities at Kinsale, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6261/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  The upgrading of its fire brigade facilities is a matter, in the first instance, for Cork County Council. No proposal in this regard has been received from the council.

  137.  Mr. O'Donoghue    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number and names of persons appointed to boards, committees, commissions or sub-committees under the aegis of his Department; the remuneration attached to each position; the expenses incurred by each member including travel and subsistence to date for every member of each relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6292/97]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Information regarding the amounts paid in respect of expenses to individual members of the boards of semi-State bodies is not available in my Department. In the case of a number of committees, some of the members are paid travel and subsistence expenses by my Department, at civil service rates; in other cases, expenses may be paid by the parent organisations. Details in individual cases are not readily available.

The other information requested is as follows:

Body Persons appointed since December 1994 Remuneration
£
An Bord Pleanála Margaret Byrne 45,525
Lewis Clohessy 45,525
Michael O'Connell 45,525
An Chomhairle Leabharlanna Ned Fahy Nil
William Simpson Nil
[1809][1810]Custom House Docks Development Authority Dervilla Donnelly 12,500
Michael Buckley 2,500
Brendan O'Donoghue Nil
Padraic White 2,500
Roy Douglas 2,500
Dan McGing 2,500
Gina Quin 2,500
Valerie Mulvin 2,500
Environmental Protection Agency Advisory Committee Bill McCumiskey (ex-officio) Nil
Thomas Casey Nil
Audrey Dickson Nil
Noel Dillon Nil
John Duffy Nil
Mary French Nil
Mary Kelly Nil
John McCullen Nil
Breda Naughton Nil
Joseph O'Flynn Nil
Hillary Tovey Nil
Brian Walsh Nil
Fire Services Council Donal Connolly Nil
Karl Cashen Nil
Betty Bell Nil
John Fagan Nil
Donal Guerin Nil
Martin Lawton Nil
Siobhan McGloin Nil
Niamh O'Doherty Nil
Christine Somers Nil
Sean Purcell Nil
Ann Reynolds Nil
Eamon Woulfe Nil
Housing Finance Agency Joe Allen Nil
Patrick Cogan 2,000
Thomas Corcoran Nil
Terry Cosgrave 2,000
Thomas Cullen 2,000
James Hehir Nil
Daniel Hurley 2,000
Mari Hurley 2,000
Finola Kennedy 3,000
Finbar Kennelly 2,000
Maureen Lynott 2,000
Patricia Robinson 2,000
Patrick d'Arcy 2,000
Local Government Computer Services Board Brid Carter Nil
Patricia Tyrrell Nil
Ian Keating Nil
Blaise Treacy Nil
Frank Kavanagh Nil
Donal O'Donoghue Nil
Owen Keegan Nil
William Moloney Nil
Michael McLoone Nil
Riobard Ó Ceallaigh Nil
Patrick Fahey Nil
Local Government Staff Negotiations Board (dissolved on 1-1-97) J. Cooney Nil
N. Dillon Nil
E. Hannan Nil
K. Hickey Nil
J. Higgins Nil
B. Johnson Nil
Frank Kelly Nil
Kevin O'Sullivan Nil
S. Stewart Nil
Jack Taaffe Nil
N. Bradley Nil
Des Mahon Nil
John McGinley Nil
[1811][1812] Eddie Sheehy Nil
Joseph Gavin Nil
P.J. Gavin Nil
Matthew O'Connor Nil
Local Government Management Services Board Kevin O'Sullivan Nil
Niall Bradley Nil
Joseph Gavin Nil
P.J. Gavin Nil
Frank Kelly Nil
Des Mahon Nil
John McGinley Nil
Matthew O'Connor Nil
Eddie Sheehy Nil
Jack Taaffe Nil
Daniel McElhinney Nil
Jim Lillis Nil
Brendan Aherne Nil
Medical Bureau of Road Safety Prof. Conleth Feighery Nil
Gerry Maher Nil
Dr. Francis Martin (Director) 42,260
National Building Agency Dermot Foley 3,000
Matt O'Connor 2,000
Michael Dillon Nil
Michael Breen 2,000
Aileen Doyle 2,000
Finian Matthews Nil
Margaret Doyle 2,000
Jim Kelly 2,000
Ann McGuinness Nil
Joan O'Connor 2,000
Peter Roche 2,000
Maeve Sheehan 2,000
Vincent Toher 2,000
National Roads Authority John Kenna 2,500
Sheila McCabe 2,500
Catherine Neville 2,500
Patricia Oliver 2,500
Rosemarie Smith 2,500
Owen Wilson Nil
National Safety Council Riona Ní Fhlanghaile Nil
Bernadette Kinsella Nil
Patricia Walshe Nil
Francis J. Nolan Nil
Neil O'Donnell Nil
John Parker Nil
John McNally Nil
Cartan Finegan To be decided
Marie Laffoy Nil
Pat Ó Súilleabháin Nil
Rent Tribunal Moya Quinlan 188(daily fee for hearings)
Mary Devins 170.50(daily fee for hearings)
Brendan Dillon
Joseph Maguire
Louise Moloney
Leo Martin Snr.*
Mary Doyle 134.75(daily fee for hearings)
Felix McKenna
Sheila O'Flynn
Bill Stanbridge
Val Stone
Vincent Toher (Deceased)
Temple Bar Properties Ltd. Laura Magahy Nil
Pat Kenny Nil
Derek Brady Nil
[1813][1814] Patricia O'Donovan 2,500
John O'Connor Nil
Joseph Moreau 2,500
Patricia Quinn Nil
Caroline Brady 2,500
Ann Matthews 2,500
Tony Murray 2,500
Philip King 2,500
Caroline McCamley 2,500
Temple Bar Renewal Ltd. Brendan Lynch Nil
Sean D Dublin-Bay Loftus Nil
Derek Brady Nil
Joe Doyle Nil
Dara Gallagher Nil
Carmel Sherry Nil
Finian Matthews Nil
Phelim O'Reilly Nil
Matt McNulty Nil
Mary Freehill Nil
Emer O Siochru Nil
Emer Malone Nil
Dublin Transportation Office Steering Committee John Mahony Nil
John Fitzgerald Nil
John Henry Nil
Tom King Nil
Therese Ridge Nil
Prof. S.H. Perry Nil
Willie Soffe Nil
Frank Kavanagh Nil
Donal Mangan Nil
David Byrne Nil
Ray Byrne Nil
Kevin O'Sullivan Nil
Pat O'Toole Nil
Blaise Treacy Nil
Pat Mangan Nil
Jimmy Farrelly Nil
Building Regulations Advisory Body Paddy Morrissey 3,000
Michael Collins Nil
Mirette Corboy Nil
Liam Fitzgerald Nil
Pat Forkan Nil
Denise Germaine Nil
Brian Hendrick Nil
Brid Kelly Nil
Robert Lyons Nil
Jeanne Meldon Nil
Derek Maynard Nil
John McCarthy Nil
Sean McCarthy Nil
Attracta McCoy Nil
Niamh O'Doherty Nil
Krystyna Rawicz Nil
Denis Wall Nil
Michael O'Connell Nil
Michael McCarthy Nil
DTO Local Authority Committee Therese Ridge Nil
Noel Ahern Nil
Tom Stafford Nil
Mary Mooney Nil
Martin Brady Nil
Dermot Lacey Nil
Roisin Shortall Nil
Cathy Fay Nil
Ciaran Cuffe Nil
Carmencita Hederman Nil
Tony Gregory Nil
Lucia O'Neill Nil
Olivia Mitchell Nil
Frank Buckley Nil
[1815][1816] Larry Butler Nil
Bernadette Connolly Nil
Anne Devitt Nil
David Healy Nil
Liam Creaven Nil
Michael O'Donovan Nil
Charles O'Connor Nil
Don Tipping Nil
Eamonn Walsh Nil
Michael Nolan Nil
John O'Neill Nil
Tom Keenan Nil
George Jones Nil
Sib Rooney Nil
Mary Sylver Nil
DTO Consultative Panel Prof. S.H. Perry Nil
J. Davis Nil
Eddie Breen Nil
Derek Mitchell Nil
Catherine Murphy Nil
Frank Cruise Nil
Mike Jones Nil
Frank Benson Nil
Tom Coffey Nil
Joe Jones Nil
Deirdre Judge Nil
Peadar Ward Nil
Karen O'Sullivan Nil
Hugh Geraghty Nil
Tom Newton Nil
Joe Herron Nil
Anthony Tobin Nil
Paul Bushnell Nil
Eamon Ryan Nil
Frank King Nil
Kevin McGlynn Nil
Richard O'Byrne Nil
Cyril McHugh Nil
John O'Sullivan Nil
Deirdre Kelly Nil
Michael Fox Nil
Dan Mayclin Nil
Des Murphy Nil
Eamon Kane Nil
Christine Whyte Nil
Anthony Foley Nil
Dominic Tuite Nil
James A. Crowley Nil
Philip Mahony Nil
John Killeen Nil
Ciaran Tracey Nil
John R. Goulding Nil
John Scannell Nil
David Gill Nil
Ann Marie Gill Nil
Tony Crooks Nil
National Traveller Consultative Group Pat O'Hara 3,000
Fintan Farrell Nil
Helen Casey Nil
Martin Collins Nil
Tom Kelleher Nil
Seamus Dooley Nil
Hannah O'Mahony Nil
John Murphy Nil
Inter-Departmental Committee on the transfer of the administration of SWA rent and mortgage supplementation to local authorities Tom Corcoran
Emer Brady
Wally Bruton
NilNilNil
John Collins Nil
Denis Conlan Nil
Michael Errity Nil
Bernadette Lacey Nil
[1817][1818] Jim Lillis Nil
Pat Ring Nil
Tim Harrington Nil
Committee to carry out Strategic Review of the Construction Industry Tony Barry
Kevin Kelly
NilNil
Frank Lee Nil
Des Byrne Nil
Michael Collins Nil
Brendan O'Mara Nil
Charles Costello Nil
Noel O'Neill Nil
Jim O'Farrell Nil
Nicholas O'Loughlin Nil
Una Redmond Nil
Edmond Flynn Nil
Michael McCarthy Nil
Kevin Duffy Nil
Maurice Greene Nil
Working Group to prepare a Code of Practice for Safety at Indoor Concerts Ray Dollard
Brian Power
NilNil
Aoife Nic Réamoinn Nil
Paddy Heffernan Nil
Frank Ahern Nil
Dave Fennell Nil
Dick Kelly Nil
Ciaran McNamara Nil
ENFO Review Group — Consumer's Working Group Teresa Curley Nil
Sinead Begley Nil
David Hickie Nil
Mary Kelly