Dáil Éireann

29/Jun/1999

Prelude

Ceisteanna–Questions. - Millennium Committee.

Priority Questions. - Public Service Contracts.

Priority Questions. - Baldonnel (Dublin) Aerodrome.

Priority Questions. - Great Southern Hotel Group.

Priority Questions. - Light Rail Project.

Priority Questions. - Energy Generation.

Other Questions.

Other Questions. - Telecommunications Infrastructure.

Other Questions. - CIE Fares Increase.

Other Questions. - Baldonnel (Dublin) Aerodrome.

Other Questions. - Radon Gas.

Other Questions. - CIE Property Portfolio.

Other Questions. - Electricity Generation.

Other Questions. - Aer Rianta Report.

Other Questions. - Airport Charges.

Message from Seanad.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Order of Business.

Licensed Premises (Opening Hours) Bill, 1999: First Stage.

Electricity Regulation Bill, 1998: Report and Final Stages.

Private Members' Business. - National Infrastructure and Settlement Plan: Motion.

Report of Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights: Statements.

Message from Seanad.

Message from Select Committee.

Report of Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights: Statements (Resumed).

Adjournment Debate. - Death Sentence on Kurdish Leader.

Adjournment Debate. - Grant Payments.

Adjournment Debate. - Funding of Community Games.

Adjournment Debate. - Eastern Health Board Child Care Services.

Written Answers. - Nuclear Plants.

Written Answers. - Gas Sector.

Written Answers. - Light Rail Project.

Written Answers. - Post Office Network.

Written Answers. - Employee Shareholding Schemes.

Written Answers. - Nuclear Plants.

Written Answers. - Rail Network.

Written Answers. - Public Transport.

Written Answers. - Nuclear Plants.

Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.

Written Answers. - Rail Services.

Written Answers. - Aer Lingus Staff.

Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.

Written Answers. - Tribunals of Inquiry.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Commemorative Events.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Job Creation.

Written Answers. - Local Employment Service.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Community Employment Schemes.

Written Answers. - Part-time Working.

Written Answers. - Job Initiatives.

Written Answers. - Inland Fisheries.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Harbours and Piers.

Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Irish Fatalities Abroad.

Written Answers. - Overseas Missions.

Written Answers. - Public Transport.

Written Answers. - Light Rail Project.

Written Answers. - Employee Shareholding Schemes.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Airport Safety Standards.

Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.

Written Answers. - Rail Network.

Written Answers. - Alternative Energy Projects.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Overseas Missions.

Written Answers. - Army Barracks.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Recruitment.

Written Answers. - Army Bands.

Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Scheme.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Farm Partnerships.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Herd Register.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Meat Processing Plants.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Herd Register.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Disabled Drivers Scheme.

Written Answers. - Banking Sector.

Written Answers. - Rural Renewal Scheme.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Mount Congreve Trust.

Written Answers. - Tax Allowances.

Written Answers. - Services for People with Disabilities.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Departmental Staff.

Written Answers. - Vehicle Registration Tax.

Written Answers. - Inheritance Tax.

Written Answers. - Vehicle Registration Tax.

Written Answers. - Tax Allowances.

Written Answers. - GDP-GNP Ratios.

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

Written Answers. - Training Programmes.

Written Answers. - Job Sharing.

Written Answers. - Hospital Services.

Written Answers. - Hospitals Building Programme.

Written Answers. - Drugs Refund Scheme.

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Hospital Accommodation.

Written Answers. - Departmental Funding.

Written Answers. - Funding of Special Olympics.

Written Answers. - Hospital Staff.

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Care of the Elderly.

Written Answers. - E.Coli Infection.

Written Answers. - Health Board Allowances.

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Vaccination Programme.

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Services.

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Nursing Staff.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Health Centres.

Written Answers. - Autism Services.

Written Answers. - Speech Therapy Services.

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Hospital Services.

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Hospital Services.

Written Answers. - Export Licensing Controls.

Written Answers. - Drug Treatment Services.

Written Answers. - Hospital Bed Closures.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Dental Services.

Written Answers. - Hospitals Building Programme.

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Pharmacy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Services.

Written Answers. - Hospital Services.

Written Answers. - Home Help Service.

Written Answers. - Care of the Elderly.

Written Answers. - Child Care Services.

Written Answers. - CJD Statistics.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Suicide Statistics.

Written Answers. - Drugs Refund Scheme.

Written Answers. - Child Abuse.

Written Answers. - Cancer Treatment Services.

Written Answers. - Asthma Incidence.

Written Answers. - Nursing Home Fees.

Written Answers. - Mental Handicap Services.

Written Answers. - Suicide Statistics.

Written Answers. - Genetically Modified Organisms.

Written Answers. - Archaeological Sites.

Written Answers. - Housing Grants.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Driving Tests.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information.

Written Answers. - Private Rented Accommodation.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Written Answers. - Special Amenity Area Orders.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Environmental Policy.

Written Answers. - Driving Tests.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Written Answers. - Traffic Regulations.

Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Written Answers. - Summer Jobs Scheme.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Farm Assist Scheme.

Written Answers. - Employment Support Services.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Increases.

Written Answers. - Child Support.

Written Answers. - National Monuments.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Custody of Children.

Written Answers. - Disabled Drivers Scheme.

Written Answers. - Asylum Applications.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Begging Offences.

Written Answers. - Residency Permits.

Written Answers. - Registration of Title.

Written Answers. - Prison Accommodation.

Written Answers. - Visa Applications.

Written Answers. - Gambling Legislation.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Garda Deployment.

Written Answers. - DNA Data Bank.

Written Answers. - Courts Service.

Written Answers. - Swimming Pool Projects.

Written Answers. - Sports Funding.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - Sports Funding.

Written Answers. - Sports Capital Programme.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Sports Capital Programme.

Written Answers. - Schools Refurbishment.

Written Answers. - Leaving Certificate Examination.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Capital Funding.

Written Answers. - School Re-Opening.

Written Answers. - Teaching Qualifications.

Written Answers. - Schools Refurbishment.

Written Answers. - Schools Recognition.

Written Answers. - Schools Refurbishment.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

Written Answers. - Capitation Grants.

Written Answers. - Schools Building Projects.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Written Answers. - Institutes of Technology.

Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Written Answers. - School Placement.

Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Written Answers. - Incremental Credit.

Written Answers. - Consultancy Contracts.

Written Answers. - Schools Building Projects.

Written Answers. - Disadvantaged Status.

Written Answers. - Training Centres.

Written Answers. - Incremental Credit.

Written Answers. - Home Tuition.

Written Answers. - Capitation Grants.

Written Answers. - Schools Building Projects.

Written Answers. - Special Educational Needs.

Written Answers. - Schools Building Projects.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Autism Services.

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

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

  1.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Taoiseach    the membership of the Millennium Committee; the number of times it has met; its goals and objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15836/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. S. Brennan):  The National Millennium Committee comprises the following members: Deputy Séamus Brennan, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State – Chair; Mr. Richard Holland, principal officer, Department of the Taoiseach; Mr. Peter Barry, former Minister; Mr. Lochlann Quinn, chairman, AIB Group; Mr. Howard Kilroy, Governor, Bank of Ireland Group; Ms Eithne Healy, Chairman, Dublin Theatre Festival; Ms Deirdre Purcell, Journalist/ Author; Ms Patricia O'Donovan, Deputy General Secretary, ICTU; Ms Monica McWilliams, Northern Ireland Women's Coalition; Mr. Derek Keogh, Chairman, Millennium Festivals Limited; Mr. Brian Murphy, Chairman, Office of Public Works; Mr. Paul McGuinness, Manager, U2; Mr. Ronan Keating, Boyzone; Mr. Joe Barry, former Director-General, RTE.

The National Millennium Committee was established to examine and make recommendations on projects of national significance which could be included in the Government's millennium programme. This programme covers the period 1999 and 2000.

The committee was also asked to recommend a system for supporting millennium projects at local and community level. In this regard the £2 million Millennium Recognition Awards initiative was recently announced and advertised in the national newspapers.

On its establishment at the end of last year, the Millennium Committee agreed to a schedule of meetings for 1999. To date, it has met on nine occasions.

[174]

Mr. Quinn:  It is appropriate for me to acknowledge an interest in that my brother is one of the members of the Millennium Committee. That said, have any recommendations been made by the committee and will there be tangible results before the millennium arrives?

Mr. S. Brennan:  Yes, the committee made four recommendations to the Government which have been approved and a further nine or ten recommendations are awaiting Government consideration. Those approved by the Government are as follows: £1 million to Millennium Festivals Limited; £2 million to the millennium community awards, for local initiatives with maximum funding of £75,000 per project, which is being administered by ADM on behalf of the committee; £2 million to Míle Átha Cliath for its board work and Liffey lights project – the lighting of the bridges under the Liffey; £80,000 for the millennium book – the Deirdre Purcell project to have students in schools around the country write articles about the millennium and have them placed in the National Library. That comes to £5,080,000. The matching funding is approximately £9 million which comes from other sources, not from the millennium committee. As well as that there are eight or nine projects: the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester, the Banks of the Lee project, Cork Opera House, Share Cork, Gaiety Theatre, the Municipal Gallery, the Green Town 2000, Millennium Last Lights Ceremony, Ecumenical Service, RTE Educational CD-ROM and the Irish Landmark Trust. Those projects, if approved by Government, would amount to about £4.6 million. The matching spending on those from non-millennium committee sources is £24 million. Overall the committee has committed itself, subject to Government approval, to £9.7 million. That has levered out additional matching spending of £33 million.

Mr. Quinn:  Is the £33 million matching funding coming from lottery or other public sources or is it a mixture of public and private funding? If the Minister of State has that information perhaps he will give the breakdown. On the possible projects that are being considered as distinct from those already announced and agreed, is the Minister of State in a position to outline what he expects will be the end result? What tangible artefacts and events will have been agreed between now and the end of the year when the millennium commences six months and a day from now, other than the parties and the celebratory events which by their nature will be very intangible although they may have a hangover effect?

Mr. S. Brennan:  The Deputy's first question was about matching funds. The matching funds for the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester will come from the UK lottery, the UK millennium funds, the UK Government and the city council in Manchester. The matching funds for the Banks of the Lee will come from Cork Cor[175] poration. The matching funds for the Cork Opera House will come from some trust money which the Cork Opera House has available to it, although I am not certain about the full breakdown. A substantial part of the £3 million matching funds for the Share Project in Cork will come from Cork Corporation and private sources. In respect of the Gaiety Theatre an additional £1.07 million will come from private sources. Funding for the Municipal Gallery, the Francis Bacon studio, will also come from private sources. In respect of the Irish Landmark Trust an additional £600,000 will come from the trust itself which is collected separately by the trust from its other activities. The additional £4 million for the Millennium Festivals Limited would have come from the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation and in regard to Míle Átha Cliath for the Lights on the Bridges the additional £5 million would have come from Dublin Corporation, Míle Átha Cliath having collected some funds from the private sector but not a significant amount.

In regard to the tangible effects, the committee takes the view that its brief is not to organise end of year parties. Its role is to have a more reflective, meaningful and deeper appreciation of what the millennium is about. It is about the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ. It is a Christian commemoration. The people are well able to enjoy themselves on new year's eve without the necessity for Government expenditure.

We have confined ourselves to consider a range of tangible projects of which we can be proud. For example, with regard to the children's hour, we have asked everybody to donate the last hour of their income to the children's fund. While it is a voluntary matter, we have agreed to make that request and to facilitate it in the public service. It should raise a number of millions of pounds for children's causes.

It is unlikely all the projects will be completed before the end of the year. The Deputy asked if tangible items, such as buildings, would be completed by 31 December. That is unlikely. Most such projects will run on well into the middle of 2000. The committee elected to consider themes concerned with the environment, recognition and celebration. There are 568 proposals before the committee. Some 121 have been declined, 152 have been sent to ADM for local consideration and a further 296 are currently being processed.

The millennium recognition awards scheme will be tangible by the end of the year. Under the scheme any local community can apply for an award of up to £75,000 and we expect a few hundred different awards to be granted in that category. The Board Walk and Liffey Lights of Míle Átha Cliath will also take place by the end of the year.

The Last Lights Ceremony is being worked on at present. It should reflect the tone of what we are trying to bring to the millennium. It will commence at 4.30 p.m. on new year's eve and people [176] will be able to bring their families. We hope it will take place in every village and town in the country. It will be a poignant, reflective, peaceful and ecumenical ceremony. It will be the committee's main proposal for new year's eve and its purpose is to bid farewell to the last light of the century.

The Bank of Ireland Group has put up £10 million and launched a scholars' trust in which it will award 600 scholarships over a period. We have talked to the bank about it. The project has been launched and invitations are being sought from students.

Many of the projects are already in progress. The book has been opened and will be finished by the end of the year. We have had meetings with the churches. Subject to the appropriate mechanisms, the President has kindly agreed to address a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad on 16 December on the subject of the millennium. It is the last date on which the Dáil and Seanad will sit for the century. RTE has 60 hours of programmes planned between 1 September and sometime early in the new year.

Mr. Quinn:  I thank the Minister of State for the comprehensive information he has provided the House. Given that not many Members are in attendance, perhaps he would advise all Members what is being done with taxpayers' money, which has been voted by the House, either directly or indirectly. The bulk of the £33 million, with the exception of British lottery moneys, is, by and large, being provided by other voted moneys in the House. It would be good to know how it is being spent. Has Mr. Paddy Duffy's post on the committee been filled by another nominee?

Mr. S. Brennan:  Starting, I hope, at the end of July, we will be publishing a regular newsletter which will be widely distributed. I will immediately communicate the information I have outlined to Members of both Houses. We wanted to establish many of the projects before circulating information on them, but we will now proceed to do that. There is no proposal to replace Paddy Duffy's position on the committee.

Mr. Yates:  Arising out of the recent controversy relating to Mr. Duffy, it transpires he was an ex-officio member of the committee.The membership of the committee comprises people with substantial declared interests. Is there a procedure whereby people absent themselves if there is a conflict of interest, such as their bank or business supporting a particular project, to ensure there is fair play?

Mr. S. Brennan:  With regard to ex-officio membership, Mr. Duffy was not a member of the committee from the date of its last meeting or perhaps a number of days before that. The other ex-officio member is Mr. Richard Holland, principal officer at the Department of the Taoiseach.

[177] In regard to interests, I made it very clear at our first meeting, and reinforced it again recently, that they should be declared. Regularly, at the start of meetings, committee members make it clear that they have an interest in, or are directors of, companies involved in certain projects because they come largely from the private sector and I have been adamant that they make the committee aware of anything in which they have an interest. They have been excellent about that. They have done it openly without having to be prodded unnecessarily by me. It is an essential part of the process and I intend to make sure they stick rigorously to it.

Mr. M. Higgins:  With regard to the enduring contribution the committee hopes to leave in terms of our cultural formation, has there been any proposal for the extension of music education in the regions? What is the status, in terms of the different categories outlined by the Minister of State, of the proposal for the State to take responsibility for The Great Book of Ireland, which was produced some time ago on the initiative of Theo Dorgan and Poetry Ireland? What is the status of the proposal for the study of Celtic migration?

Mr. S. Brennan:  There are 568 proposals before the committee, many of which relate to music. The following is an approximate breakdown: 20 per cent of the proposals relate to arts and culture; 15 per cent relate to science, technology and innovation; 15 per cent have strong spiritual or religious elements; and 15 per cent relate to children and child care. The rest of the proposals involve a mixed bag of ideas. In terms of an enduring cultural legacy, almost 100 are related to the arts. I do not have the proposal on Celtic migration with me, but I recall a submission on it and I will check it for the Deputy.

Mr. M. Higgins:  With regard to music education in the regions, the PIANO report identified a line to the west of which there was no musical provision. While I support the general concept of a conservatoire, there was an opportunity to provide the basic institutional infrastructure for music education, identified by Dr. O'Connor in the PIANO report, particularly in the west.

The Minister of State did not mention the proposal regarding The Great Book of Ireland, which cost £1 million. I am involved in that proposal, but it is likely to go outside the country unless assistance is provided by the State. Another proposal, sponsored by Gaillimh Le Gaeilge and others, including the local authority in Galway, relates to Celtic consciousness, migrations, etc.. I am not asking for details from the Minister of State but I like to think the two specific proposals to which I referred are allied for consideration and, in particular, that it is not too late to consider filling in a missing provision on music education where there is none.

[178]Mr. S. Brennan:  I invite Members to make proposals to the committee. We have tried to conduct our business in a non-political and dignified way to mark this important Christian commemoration. We have had many meetings with the churches and hope to meet local authorities shortly to ensure they can help out locally both during the millennium weekend and throughout the new millennium.

It is a humorous comment that we have not done this before, and few Members of the House will ever do it again. The celebration of the millennium is uncharted waters and the creation of precedents will not worry us. The committee has tried to ensure the millennium will be commemorated in a dignified way and will leave a legacy. It is hoped that some initiatives can be taken and some projects supported which will have a lasting and meaningful effect. The committee would welcome suggestions from Members.

Mr. Sargent:  How many of the 560 projects on the books of the committee directly involve the improvement and extension of the use of the Irish language in the next millennium? Does the Minister of State envisage a similar initiative in the Oireachtas to that in the Israeli Parliament which has set itself the task of improving the use of its national language over a number of years in the parliament? Will the committee give some thought to such an initiative in terms of the projects mentioned by the Minister of State? Perhaps such an initiative is already planned but was not mentioned.

Mr. S. Brennan:  I will ask the committee to consider the Deputy's suggestion. We met Bord na Gaeilge and discussed how the language could be included and recognised to a greater extent given its importance throughout the ages. We will have further discussions about that. I mentioned the Presidential address on 16 December. This may be a suitable occasion to ensure much more Irish is used in the House.

Mr. Stagg:  Given that this is the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, will the Minister of State tell the House how he intends to respond to the large number of postcards all Members of the House have received which urge that a particular Christian ethic should be applied to the millennium celebrations and monuments which may be provided? Although I am not among them, I respect that the vast majority of people in this country describe themselves as Christians. Will the Minister of State respond to this issue?

Will he ask the committee to consider providing a millennium hostel to deal with the continuing scandal of homeless people in this city and other towns as a counter-active measure to the expenditure of £23 million on a luxury mansion for some unknown purpose?

[179]An Ceann Comhairle:  That is a separate matter.

Mr. Stagg:  It is not separate matter. I am seeking a millennium project for the homeless to counteract the expenditure of £23 million on a luxury mansion.

Mr. Sheehan:  It would be a genuine project.

Mr. S. Brennan:  I sought suggestions and I will take the Deputy's point about a hostel on board. I will raise it with the committee at the next meeting. So far we have responded to proposals put to us. We will spend a few hours next week considering if other initiatives could be taken which have not been suggested to date. The Deputy's suggestion could fall into that category and I will ensure it is discussed.

Mr. Quinn:  Perhaps it could be called the Bethlehem hostel.

Mr. S. Brennan:  I will ensure it is discussed. It is a worthwhile suggestion. So far we have responded to ideas suggested to the committee and more than a third of the funds have been committed. We will now consider initiatives suggested by the committee itself. However, I will ensure that the Deputy's suggestion is considered.

I discussed the issue of a statue with the churches and local authorities and I asked them to outline their thinking on the matter to the committee. However, I would not advise the committee to embark on any type of religious project without the specific agreement and understanding of the relevant churches. To date, the matter is still under discussion.

Mr. Sheehan:  What is the total cost of the proposed pillar in the sky monument which is due to be erected in Dublin?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Which monument?

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy is referring to the spike in the dyke.

Mr. Sheehan:  What relevance will that have to the millennium? Is it intended to double its height at the end of the next millennium?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is a separate question.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Deputy should not be worried about the end of the next millennium.

Mr. Dempsey:  He will not be around.

Mr. S. Brennan:  That is not a project of the National Millennium Committee, it is a Dublin Corporation project. I understand it is being challenged in the courts by some citizens – I cannot [180] recall whether the case is finished. It will make it easier to find Dublin.

  2.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she has concluded the necessary preparatory work for the introduction of public service contracts in relation to the CIE subvention; the timetable for the implementation of these contracts; if this issue is linked to her approval of a fare increase to CIE companies; if she has concluded her consideration of the application for fare increases; and, if so, the outcome in this regard. [16279/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  The preparatory work for the introduction of public service contracts is well advanced. I hope to be in a position shortly to circulate a draft memorandum seeking Government approval for a contract in respect of services provided by Bus Átha Cliath. Significant progress has been made on three Iarnród Éireann contracts covering railway infrastructure, mainline rail and suburban rail services, and on a contract covering Bus Éireann services. I hope to bring proposals to Government in relation to these contracts later this year.

I will shortly complete my consideration of applications from the three CIE operating subsidiaries for fares increases. There has been no general round of fares increases for CIE since 1991. I met the CIE unions some time ago to discuss a number of issues. During that meeting the unions urged me to approve an increase in CIE fares. I also recently met the CIE chairman and he too strongly argued the case for an early increase in fares.

Mr. Yates:  Will the Minister outline the level of fare increases proposed by the three CIE companies? Is it 16 per cent? Will she assure the House that she would be slow to go beyond a single digit percentage increase, in view of the overriding policy objective of encouraging commuters to move out of private cars onto public transport? A massive fare hike would be contrary to this policy.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I have no disagreement with the Deputy's tenet that buses and trains should be made attractive in every way in order to encourage people to use them. The proposed increases vary according to the fares, ranging up to 12 per cent. There is no standard increase. I will take on board the Deputy's suggestion that I consider limiting the increases to a single digit percentage.

Mr. Yates:  Will the Minister clarify the position regarding public service contracts? This has been in gestation for four years – what is the delay? Is [181] a fare increase linked to a conclusive agreement between the Department and CIE on public service contracts? During the recent controversy I suggested the fare increase was being postponed until after the local elections, but a Department spokesman said the sole reason for the deferral was connected with those contracts and the two issues were being taken together. Is that correct or was it merely a cynical device to wait until after 11 June before lashing the increase onto the long-suffering commuter?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  There was no cynical device to lash anything to anyone. It will still be some time—

Mr. Yates:  Was the Minister's spokesman correct?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  At this point the two matters are moving together. The method behind the public service contracts is interesting. The Bus Átha Cliath contract is almost ready. It provides that the company will provide all services within its timetable, as amended from time to time, and the Exchequer payment is to be linked to the operation of those buses at peak times on weekdays. The contract specifies the minimum number of buses to be in operation at peak times during different periods of the year. Penalties are to apply if Bus Átha Cliath falls below a threshold of 99 per cent compliance with the provision of the minimum number of buses in peak times. It goes on to outline the further ramifications of that. It is really a case of us providing the money and Bus Átha Cliath providing the services which will be enunciated. I agree with the Deputy that it is taking a long time. They had not been implemented when I came into office two years ago but I believe they are nearing completion. That is probably what the spokesperson was alluding to. There is much contact with Finance on the public service contract obligations as well as with the transport operators.

Mr. Yates:  Is the Minister aware that Dublin Bus receives the lowest subvention from Government of any capital city in Europe? Instead of a fare increase in Dublin Bus, will she consider increasing the subvention to meet CIE's revenue needs?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This year, for the first time in its history, Bus Átha Cliath has 150 new buses which it did not have to provide from its own revenue. We have not worked out the implications but that is equal to a large subvention. We are including in the national development plan yearly increases in the provision of buses for Bus Átha Cliath and others which in turn will be equal to a subvention.

[182]

  3.  Mr. Stagg    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    her views on whether Baldonnel Aerodrome should be developed as a second airport for Dublin city; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16738/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The future development of the military aerodrome at Baldonnel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Defence, in the first instance. Both the Minister for Defence and I have received several proposals on limited development of civil aviation at Baldonnel. I met people in our offices, as did the Minister for Defence who put forward some ideas.

Any use of Baldonnel for civil aviation purposes is a matter which falls to be considered by me, in consultation with the Minister for Defence, in the context of overall airports policy. In that regard, advisers have been appointed jointly by the Minister for Finance and myself to assist in the examination of Aer Rianta's report on its future strategic direction. It is expected that the advisers will complete their work in the near future. We will then report to Government on that, inter alia, with reference to specific proposals. I do not know what the advisers will come up with and, therefore, it would be pointless to speculate.

Mr. Stagg:  Who made the proposals to the Minister and the Minister for Defence in her office? Is she aware that the Secretary General of the Department of Defence recently indicated to a Dáil committee that the Department had no principled objection to developing Baldonnel as a commercial civilian airport? Will the Minister agree that, arising from the housing development in the vicinity of Baldonnel Aerodrome, it will be difficult to find a flight path that will not fly over housing development, which would have serious implications for the people who live in them?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I do not know who met the Minister for Defence but I read in the paper that he met people.

Mr. Stagg:  Does the Minister believe everything she reads in the papers?

An Ceann Comhairle:  These are priority questions and the time is limited.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Most times. I met Mr. Tony Ryan in my office and he put forward a proposal. My officials were with me; that seems to be obligatory now. Mr. Ryan left a paper with us. I met another man whose name I was trying to remember as the Deputy spoke. I believe his name is Patrick McBatt or McButt – I will furnish the Deputy with his name – and he has land adjoining Baldonnel Aerodrome. Residents have written to me – I do not know if they are from the area mentioned by the Deputy – arising out [183] of articles they read in newspapers, about which they expressed their disquiet.

Mr. Stagg:  I am glad it is Tony Ryan the Minister met about this proposal. Is she aware that Mr. Ryan went to all the ICA committees, he went to the Irish Countrywomen's Association, to Tidy Towns meetings and to Kildare residents' meetings seeking support for this kind of cracked proposal? I am sure the Minister would agree it is similar to many other cracked proposals he has put forward, all of which were failures until someone else took them over. Is the Minister aware that Ryanair, of which Mr. Ryan was once a substantial board member, though no longer, has no interest in developing a second airport in Dublin? It wants to operate from Dublin Airport as it is.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  To take Deputy Stagg's last point, I am aware of Ryanair's proposal for a particular pier at Dublin Airport. From that, one can deduce that it is no longer interested, if it ever was, in Mr. Ryan's proposals. God bless his energy if he met all those bodies to put forward his ideas.

  4.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the outcome of her discussions with SIPTU concerning the future of the Great Southern Hotel Group; the commitment, if any, she has given or will give to specifically retain the group as a single commercial entity, provide for an employee share option plan and secure the employment of the staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16280/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Aer Rianta's submission to me last April in regard to the future strategic direction of the company sought the authority to exit from the Great Southern Hotel Group, in a manner determined through a consultative process with the relevant stakeholders. I had a meeting on 20 May last with the regional representative of SIPTU, Mr. Jack Nash, and a delegation of 24 Great Southern Hotel Group staff. I advised them at that meeting that my main consideration would be, of course, to find the right future for the Great Southern Hotels in a way that will also be right for the staff and the Irish tourism industry.

In the meantime, the board of Aer Rianta has retained Arthur Andersen consultants to examine all the options. In relation to employee share ownership schemes in commercial State companies, I have already stated that such schemes will be considered on a case by case basis with the best interests of each company in mind.

Mr. Yates:  Will the Minister outline her position and that of the Government, not that of Arthur Andersen, on the future of this group? She said in a Dáil debate on this matter that she could not give any position on a single entity until [184] she had met SIPTU and heard its point of view. Now that she has done that and some time has elapsed, will she give a commitment to the House that it is the Government's intention to keep this group together as a single entity? Has she had discussions with CERT? The point was made during the Dáil debate on this matter that standards for the hotel and tourism industries depend on CERT having an ongoing role in this matter. Does the Minister intend speaking to CERT about the future of the Great Southern Hotel Group if she has not done so already?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Deputy asked me for the delegation's point of view. It was not in favour of disposal. I spent an hour and a half with the delegation and that was the net result. I told it I would get back to it on that.

The Cabinet has not discussed the future of the Great Southern Hotel Group either formally or informally, so it is clearly not for me to give an opinion now on the matter. I have not yet met with CERT, but when the House rises at the end of this week I intend to do a lot of work in this regard, such as visiting hotels and consulting various agencies and bodies.

Mr. Yates:  Does the Minister think it appropriate that as part of the preparation of any memorandum she might bring to Cabinet, she should have discussions with CERT regarding its role? Specifically, does the Minister agree with the comments of the chairman at the time of publication of the Arthur Andersen report that the State had no business washing dishes or making beds? Does she concur or disagree with that view? It is appropriate that the Minister with responsibility for this matter state her position. What is her perspective on this matter? She has not been afraid to speak about many other State companies. She favours the IPO option in Telecom Éireann and Aer Lingus. Why is she so reluctant to state her position in this regard?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The matter has not yet gone to Cabinet. I presented the Aer Rianta report to Cabinet and, based on that, the Minister for Finance and I engaged people to make an analysis of the report. When that analysis is completed and I have formulated ideas I will go back to Cabinet with those ideas.

Mr. Yates:  The Minister is stonewalling.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I am telling the Deputy the situation.

Mr. Yates:  What about the chairman's remarks?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  If I were to dissect the remarks of every chairman, I would be as well to give up this job.

Mr. Yates:  These were particularly colourful remarks.

[185]Mrs. O'Rourke:  Chairmen tend to be colourful people.

Mr. Yates:  So do Ministers.

  5.  Ms O. Mitchell    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the plans, if any, she has to resolve the potential conflicts which may arise in the construction and operation of the Luas project where the sponsoring agency CIE has declared itself less than enthusiastic with the project; and her views on whether, under these circumstances, the construction will proceed speedily and the necessary feeder buses to Luas and other integration services will be provided by CIE. [16282/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  CIE has assured me that, notwithstanding the reservations it expressed, it is the company's intention to press ahead with implementation of the Dublin light rail project and to ensure the project is managed professionally and proceeds at the maximum possible speed.

Those reservations related mainly to the potential overall cost of the project and the possible implications that this may have for the funding of other CIE capital projects. I discussed this matter last week with the CIE chairman.

Mr. Yates:  The Minister and he had dinner together.

Mr. Stagg:  The Minister had no time for dessert.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The chairman invited me to dinner. I had to return to the House for a vote at 8.30 p.m., so I spent only an hour with him. The meeting was, of necessity, brisk.

I made it clear to him that the Government remains committed to the enhanced and expanded project approved in May 1998 and that I expect the company to devote all its efforts to the implementation of that project in accordance with the published indicative timetable.

Mr. Yates:  Could the meeting be described as a handbagging?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  No, it was very pleasant.

The Government has identified the light rail project as a pilot project for a public private partnership approach. Therein, I think, lies the difficulty. Consultations on the Arthur Andersen study are continuing. I will bring proposals to Government when I have completed those consultations and my consideration of their recommendations.

Whatever decisions are taken in relation to a PPP approach to the light rail project, I am determined it will be implemented as part of an integrated public transport strategy. The recently completed DTO blueprint for the period 2000 to 2006 makes substantial proposals in this regard, including the development of transportation [186] nodes and interchange points, park and ride, feeder and local bus services and integrated ticketing. CIE will be fully involved in, and is committed to, the implementation of this integrated approach.

Ms O. Mitchell:  Is the Minister surprised CIE is becoming less enthusiastic about this project, given that it was agreed almost ten years ago and has been the subject of reversals and delays, so that we are about to build a partial and unintegrated system? Is it any wonder CIE and the general public are losing confidence in the project and that the Minister for Finance is running scared of the unknown and unknowable costs of tunnelling in the city centre?

Does the Minister agree there is now a need for clarity? The Minister says she is bringing proposals for a public private partnership to Government. Is it not long past time for a decision to be made? The nature and extent of private participation is unknown and we cannot allow this vacuum to pertain for much longer.

Is the Minister aware private sector involvement can be successful only if the private sector partner is involved from the beginning in the planning, design and decision-making phase of the project and not merely in the construction and operational process? I know the Minister is very busy with flotations, etc., but where, when and whether we will have a fully integrated and extended Luas system are major questions for Dublin. Will it ever exist? Who will build it? Who will run it? Decisions on these issues must be made now. Will the Minister make these decisions and make them known so an end can be put to the lack of clarity and persistent rumours which are eroding public confidence on a daily basis?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Four days after I issued a document on the possibilities of public private partnership, which remain huge as there is huge private interest, I received the letter from CIE which expressed these doubts for the first time. I had said that part of the study concerned the potential for the private running of Luas for which CIE could put forward its own proposal and bid like anyone else.

Ahead of time Mr. Justice O'Leary gave me his report on 17 December. I agreed it ahead of the timetable set out and work on the line from Tallaght to Dublin City centre is beginning at the end of this year. This has been decided and is being done by public contract. It is the only line for which we have a detailed estimate. Ten days ago, again ahead of time, I received the report from Mr. Justice O'Leary and within the next week or ten days, also ahead of time, I will have given my opinion on it. This will then go ahead and work will commence next year. Each of my actions and those of the agencies have been taken ahead of the indicative timetable.

The first line, from Tallaght to Dublin City centre, was relatively untroubled as, apart from one [187] section, the other adjustments which must be made are matters for local authorities and I think they can be easily overcome.

  6.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the position on the development of wind farms and wave to energy facilities; the comparative costs between these sources of energy and the generation of electricity by coal, oil and gas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16563/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob):  Currently there are ten wind farms in commercial operation with an installed capacity of 63 MWe selling electricity to the Electricity Supply Board. A further 20 wind energy projects have been selected to receive contracts from the ESB, subject to certain conditions.

The third alternative energy requirement competition, AER III, invited applications to develop a wave energy to electricity plant. The information notes advised that European Regional Development Fund grant aid of about £1 million, 1.24 million ECU might be available. The application which was declared successful assumed payment of the grant aid in its costings.

In the event, the monitoring committee of the economic infrastructure operational programme, which includes the European Commission, decided not to grant aid the project and this decision was conveyed to the winning applicant.

Notwithstanding the withdrawal of grant aid, I offered to nominate the project to receive an offer of a power purchase agreement. The winning applicant has not yet informed my Department whether the project will proceed.

Proposals to further promote renewable energy technologies, including wind and marine power, will be outlined in the “Green Paper on Sustainable Energy” which I will publish shortly.

Detailed cost data on the various technologies is not readily available. The ESB regards such data as commercially sensitive, particularly with the emergence of competition in the electricity market. Information in a recent consultant's report suggests approximate information on the cost of electricity from different sources as follows: coal 2p per kilowatt hour, kWh, combined cycle gas 2p per kWh, oil 3p per kWh and wind 4p per kWh. I am aware that the cost of wind is trending downwards. I do not have reliable information about the production cost of wave energy beyond saying it is more expensive than currently operating wind farms.

Mr. Currie:  I note the continuing reluctance of the ESB to supply information. Would the Minister agree that the more information is available, the better we in this House will be able to decide the form of energy to which we ought to give [188] greater emphasis? Will he accept that competitors invariably know these details anyway?

Does the Minister agree that the wind energy aspect is proceeding much more slowly than many of us would have hoped? On the other hand the wind energy technology is developing quickly, the average weight of wind turbines has halved in five years, the average energy output per turbine has increased fourfold and moreover, costs have decreased by a factor of ten in ten years. The Minister seemed to be alluding to that when he said it cost 4p per KWh.

What is the position on North-South co-operation on wave energy and wind energy? As far as I am aware, proposals were being funded under INTERREG II. What have the feasibility studies indicated?

Mr. Jacob:  With regard to the costings, I suppose it is understandable in the age of competition that a company would be slow to come forward with its commercial secrets. In that context, the data which I provided to the Deputy is based on a number of assumptions and that is the best I can do for him. It is pretty accurate.

I would not agree that there is slow progress being made in the area of wind energy. From a very low base, wind energy has actually forged ahead.

There is a departmental strategy, which was put in place when Deputy Stagg was Minister of State, to generate energy from renewable sources up to 2010. The strategy aimed to increase the percentage of renewable energy sources to 10 per cent by the end of 1999 and 14 per cent by 2010. In the forthcoming Green Paper which will plan the strategy for the next ten or 15 years, I propose to substantially increase those targets.

Other measures have been put in place also, such as the fiscal measures announced by the Minister for Finance last year and particularly the Green Paper, on which I am depending, to explore the various options available to ensure that we meet the substantially increased targets for renewable energy sources in the coming years.

With regard to the Deputy's question on North-South co-operation, there is a good deal of co-operation. On off-shore wind energy, there is an assessment study in process at present. Kirk McClure Morton, Consultant Engineers, Belfast, were commissioned by—

An Ceann Comhairle:  The time for Priority Questions has concluded. We must proceed to Ordinary Questions.

Mr. Currie:  Are you sure the 30 minutes is up since we started?

An Ceann Comhairle:  The six minutes for each question is up.

Mr. Currie:  That is 30 minutes. The 30 minutes is not up.

[189]An Ceann Comhairle:  There is six minutes for each question. There is not a provision in Standing Orders to borrow time from one question and give it to another. The six minutes had expired. Stricter limits apply to Ordinary Questions in so far as there are two minutes for the Minister's initial reply and then a remaining four minutes. However, in that four minutes a Member, including the Minister, may not exceed one minute in a supplementary question or reply.

Mr. Stagg:  The Whips did a good job on that.

Mr. Currie:  That is a matter of opinion.

_

  7.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the investment proposals in progress or planned to upgrade the telecommunications infrastructure in the Border region, particularly Cavan and Monaghan; the level of funding, if any, which will be provided; the particular projects, if any, which will be assisted; the level of funding per project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16513/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Deputy is aware that the provision of telecommunications infrastructure is primarily a matter for operators in the newly liberalised telecommunications market.

Recognising that in certain regions competition alone will not provide the required broad band telecommunications infrastructural investment, I recently sought fresh proposals for projects supporting the development of advanced communications networks and services which might be co-funded by the European Union.

A number of proposals were received, they were evaluated by independent consultants and recommendations have been made. Proposals were not received for the Cavan and Monaghan region in the latest round. Contractual details are currently being finalised with a number of companies and I will make these known shortly. The recommended proposals include an INTERREG II funded proposal.

In addition, my Department, together with Forfás, is currently preparing estimates of further funding requirements to ensure nationwide broad band connectivity. All regions will be considered in this review.

Mr. B. Smith:  Can the Minister assure me that her Department will ensure that the telecommunications infrastructural needs of the Border region will be given urgent consideration, particularly in view of statements by the chief executive of Forfás, the chairman of Forfás and the senior executives of the other industrial development [190] agencies that there is a need to upgrade the telecommunications infrastructure in the Border region to ensure it can attract some of the worthwhile inward investment which is coming to the country? As the Minister will be aware, both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment have indicated strongly and consistently that the Border counties need inward investment and that the necessary infrastructure should be put in place to ensure that modern technological industries can be brought to those areas which suffered so much for in excess of 30 years. Now that the peace process is advancing, it needs to be underpinned and consolidated.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy's time is up.

Mr. B. Smith:  Will the Minister assure me that the needs of the Border region will be given urgent consideration by her Department?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  My Department, together with Forfás, is currently preparing estimates of further funding requirements to ensure nationwide broad band connectivity. Following the invitations we sent out, not one Cavan-Monaghan firm applied. However, that was not the Deputy's point and I understand that. The recommended proposals include an INTERREG II funded proposal. I have not seen the details of it but I hope Cavan-Monaghan will be involved.

To answer the Deputy directly, yes, all of the developmental agencies, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment are in favour of inward investment in Cavan-Monaghan. The need for broad band connectivity in that regard is well noted.

Mr. B. Smith:  Will the Minister assure me that when the INTERREG II programme for telecommunications is put in place the funding will be confined to the Border region as we know it because unfortunately there was an INTERREG maritime programme which brought investment to Dún Laoghaire, which did not suffer too much as a result of the trouble in the North over the years? I hope the INTERREG funding for telecommunications will be devoted to the Border region as we know it.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I do not know about the maritime programme but I take the Deputy's point. I will ask my Department to give reality to what he said, that money provided under INTERREG would be for the Border regions.

Mr. Yates:  On a related telecommunications matter, I wish to draw the Minister's attention to the website established by Golden Pages, a virtual thieves' charter in which one can simply input an address and the name and telephone number of a resident is printed out. The matter was highlighted in yesterday's Evening Herald and is an absolute disgrace. This information is not available from directory inquiries.

[191]An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy should table a separate question on this matter.

Mr. Yates:  Thieves may now simply access the names and numbers of residents to see whether they are at home.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is not in order in pursuing this matter at this time.

Mr. Yates:  As a shareholder, the Minister must investigate the matter. Is she aware of the website?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I read the article and will ask my departmental officials to investigate the matter.

  8.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the plans, if any, she has to sanction a fare increase in Dublin Bus and DART services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16475/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I will shortly complete my consideration of applications from the three CIE operating subsidiaries which have made submissions for fares increases. I met the CIE unions some time ago to discuss a number of issues. During that meeting the unions urged me to approve an increase in CIE fares. I also recently met the CIE chairman who strongly argued the case for an early increase in fares.

Mr. Stagg:  Does the Minister agree that the reason the unions and the CIE chairman are arguing for fares increases is that the subvention being given to Dublin Bus and CIE generally is inadequate to meet the required services? Is the Minister simply flying another kite here? She gave the exact same reply in a statement on 8 December 1998 to the effect that she would announce a positive response in the near future. At that time, the Minister was threatening a 16 per cent increase in fares. Has she had an opportunity to re-examine this matter and consider the possibility of encouraging people onto trains and buses by reducing fares rather than increasing them through the provision of the necessary subventions to CIE? It is vital that we get people out of cars.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is important that we encourage people to use public transport. I would be surprised by any utility which would not increase its fares for eight years. Except for some increases over which CIE has control, it is eight years since CIE or its subsidiaries increased fares. Taxpayers' money will, for the most part, pay for the 150 buses although there will be some input from European funds. Is it not desirable to invest taxpayers' money in the public transport system? Does the Deputy feel it is proper for a public utility not to increase its fares for eight years? During [192] that time workers have received wage increases on a yearly basis, as is only proper.

Mr. Stagg:  The Minister seems to be suggesting that it is proper that people who use public transport services should pay for them. Does she agree that the less well off in society comprise the bulk of Dublin Bus users in particular? The same applies to Bus Éireann. Low paid civil servants from the Minister's Department and other Departments use the service extensively at weekends. Does the Minister agree that if people are to be encouraged to remain in a public transport mode, it is unacceptable to increase fares? Will the Minister decide whether she will provide a subvention to public transport in Ireland, either run by CIE or others? Will public transport be paid for by means of subvention or fares? Public transport subventions in Ireland are the lowest in Europe. In some cases, we receive five times less per passenger.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I am reliably informed that that was the case until this year, but I am awaiting exact information on that. In some European countries operating companies supply their own buses, as did Bus Átha Cliath until 1999. The national subvention towards the cost of buses increased greatly last year.

A huge fuss was made when the ESB was not granted the third round of three rates of price increases. I did not grant the third round because the company was making profits in the region of £200 million per year. There has not been any public transport fare increases since 1991.

Mr. Stagg:  The Minister was absolutely right not to grant the increases to the ESB. There was no fuss about that in this House.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  There was plenty outside it.

Ms O. Mitchell:  The Minister stated in a previous reply that new buses could be regarded as a subvention to Dublin Bus.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  A subsidy.

Ms O. Mitchell:  I take issue with that. Does the Minister believe that the provision of new buses necessitates increased subsidies to Dublin Bus? The case has always been made by the company that one of the reasons it did not provide additional buses related to the losses such buses would incur. Additional buses have not been provided as a result of the Government requirement that the company must break even. A genuine examination of whether extra buses would incur losses is required. Public service contracts should be made available in order that we would be aware of what companies make losses and the extent of the subsidy required for the provision of public transport.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Deputy is correct in regard to the public service contracts as we would [193] be better aware of what services are required. Dublin Bus bought its own buses until the recent provision of 150 buses.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The time for this question has expired. We must proceed to the next question.

Mr. Yates:  I indicated that I wanted to ask a question. May I ask a brief question now?

An Ceann Comhairle:  No.

Mr. Yates:  The Ceann Comhairle is ruling me out of order every time I stand up today.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is out of order. The Chair is complying with the rules of the House, which the Deputy is usurping. I ask him to resume his seat.

  9.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    her views on whether Baldonnel Aerodrome should be developed as a second airport for Dublin city; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16455/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  As I already stated in an earlier reply, the future development of the military aerodrome at Baldonnel is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Defence, in the first instance. Both the Minister for Defence and I have received several proposals, which I outlined earlier, on limited development of civil aviation at Baldonnel. Any use of Baldonnel for civil aviation purposes is a matter which falls to be considered by me, in consultation with the Minister for Defence, in the context of overall airports policy. I am awaiting the analyst's report on Aer Rianta which I will bring to Cabinet. The rest of the reply is basically the same as the one I gave earlier.

Mr. S. Ryan:  I do not believe there is any necessity for a second airport in the greater Dublin area. Does the Minister accept that an additional airport in Dublin would result in the duplication of infrastructures and facilities? Does she accept that the international experience of two-airport cities does not support the case for a second airport? Given the importance of Dublin Airport in the general development of the greater Dublin area, particularly north Dublin, does the Minister accept that the development of an additional airport at Baldonnel would result in moving jobs from north Dublin to Baldonnel?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The proposals I received, of which the Minister for Defence also received a copy, did not relate to the provision of a general or commercial airport but to the provision of facilities for private executive jets. The Deputy referred to the experience of cities in which there are two airports. I have noticed that in such [194] instances the smaller airport does not appear to attract the same level of business. Although we are in the early stages, I do not envisage proposals for a major airport but that remains the prerogative of Cabinet.

Mr. Stagg:  Does the Minister agree that Mr. Tony Ryan has every right to build an airport if he wants to?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  He would have to obtain planning permission first.

Mr. Stagg:  He would have to buy land first rather than get it for nothing from somebody else. He would then have to obtain planning permission and the money to build it. Why is he targeting a State asset which he expects to get for nothing? Is that the reason he is targeting it?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I do not know the reason. He came to see me and the Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith.

Mr. Stagg:  And the ICA.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  He was polite and courteous. He is entitled to put his ideas forward.

Mr. Stagg:  Did he put up his own money?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We did not discuss the question of cash.

Mr. Yates:  Does the Minister agree all the arguments in relation to a second airport in Dublin arise from the monopoly position of the existing airport? Is she aware that all carriers are aghast that not only is Aer Rianta abolishing the discount scheme from 1 July but proposing a major hike in landing charges? Will she intervene in this serious issue which shows that passenger numbers in Dublin are no longer increasing to ensure Aer Rianta does not abuse its monopoly position and put up charges willy nilly?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Question No. 13 refers to that matter.

Mr. S. Ryan:  Does the Minister accept that Deputy Yates's comment was a red herring in considering the question of whether there is a need for a second airport in Dublin?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I will not comment on Deputy Yates's comment.

Mr. S. Ryan:  Will the Minister seriously consider the case being made as well as the implications for development and job opportunities at Dublin Airport?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I undertake to examine the Deputy's considerations in a full review of the matter.

[195]10

. Mr. Gilmore:  asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the plans, if any, she has to introduce a radon remediation grants scheme for householders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16488/99]

Mr. Jacob:  I refer the Deputy to my responses to Questions Nos. 31 and 49 on 31 March and Question No. 107 on 17 February. As I mentioned in my responses to those questions, there are no funds available for a radon remediation grants scheme in 1999. While the Government has not provided financial assistance for householders for radon remediation purposes, it has committed considerable resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem and creating public awareness of the problems associated with high radon levels.

I will continue to take an active role in reviewing measures to tackle high levels of radon. I will also monitor progress on existing projects and encourage the RPII to continue its works of maximising public awareness on this issue.

Mr. Stagg:  Does the Minister of State agree that, given the healthy state of the national finances, it is outrageous that the small amount of money required for radon remediation grants has not been made available by the Government? Is he aware that between 250 and 300 people die each year as a consequence of the ingestion of radon gas in their homes? Does he agree that if the same number of people were being killed in any other way, the Government would take strong action? Will he go back to the Minister for Finance with his senior colleague and seek funding in 1999 to tackle this urgent problem?

Mr. Jacob:  The Government is aware of research which shows that long-term exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. The RPII, which has highlighted the risk factors, has made recommendations on what should be done to tackle the problem. Various steps have been taken. The RPII's national radon survey which commenced in 1992 is almost complete. Revised technical guidance documents relating to the national building regulations were published by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government.

Mr. Yates:  The Minister of State is waffling; money is needed.

Mr. Jacob:  The RPII offers a radon test to householders at a cost of £15. At the request of the Minister for Education and Science, it commenced a three year survey of schools last year to ensure any problems are identified. We are endeavouring to ensure the greatest possible level of information is made available to the public. When the Deputy raised this issue last week – it [196] was also raised by Deputy Currie – the Minister indicated—

Mr. Yates:  Half-heartedly.

Mr. Jacob:  —that we would return to it to see if it can be addressed.

Mr. Stagg:  Is the Minister of State aware that when I was in his position I obtained the necessary funding from the Department of Finance? Is he also aware that I put the grants scheme in place after long negotiations with the Department of the Environment and Local Government and that the minimal amount of money is required to implement it? I welcome his comment that he will return to the Department of Finance to look for the money.

Mr. Jacob:  I am aware the Deputy put in place what I consider a meritorious grants scheme which was not implemented by the then Government.

Mr. Stagg:  That is incorrect.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot have an argument about it.

Mr. Yates:  The Minister of State is misrepresenting the position.

Mr. S. Ryan:  He is misleading the House.

Mr. Stagg:  On a point of order, the Minister of State who is not intentionally misleading the House—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not a point of order. The Deputy should please allow the Minister of State to conclude his reply.

Mr. Stagg:  The Minister of State should be aware that funding was provided to implement the scheme but that the Minister for Finance took it away.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  There is a time limit on questions. We must now proceed to Question No. 11.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Is there six minutes available for each question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Yes.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That question took only five.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That question commenced at 3.43.55 p.m. and concluded at 3.49.05 p.m.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It took six minutes and one second.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  After the two minutes for the Minister's initial reply, there is [197] one minute each for supplementary questions and the Minister's further replies, within a limit of six minutes.

Mr. Currie:  The Chair should remember that politics is not an exact science.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Unfortunately, the people who drew up the Standing Order gave the Chair no choice but to follow it.

  11.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if the consultant appointed to undertake the independent review of the scope for revenue generation from CIE's property portfolio has reported to her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16467/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  DTZ Sherry Fitzgerald, in association with DTZ Pieda Consulting and O'Hare and Associates, were appointed on 26 May last to undertake the independent review of the scope for revenue generation from the CIE property portfolio. The review is expected to be completed in about six weeks' time.

Mr. Stagg:  We still do not know what property CIE has and what property it can or is willing to sell. As a result, we do not know what amount it can contribute to the Minister's substantial investment programme. When will it all come together? This has been going on for some time.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  In six weeks. In line with EU directives, the EU was obliged to go through a tendering process—

Mr. Stagg:  That was not necessary to establish what property was in the portfolio.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It was. Sherry Fitzgerald won the contract and it expects to have the review ready in six weeks, which is quite prompt. I cannot do more than that.

Ms O. Mitchell:  What plans does the Minister have to use some of this money to provide integration in the rail service in Dublin? Does she agree that the proposed national convention centre on the CIE treasury holding site offers a unique opportunity to provide a central station which would integrate all rail services?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That question does not arise under Question No. 11.

Ms O. Mitchell:  It does, because it must be paid for by the property.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  It does not. The question relates to the review of CIE's property portfolio.

[198]Ms O. Mitchell:  That is what I am discussing, the CIE property portfolio.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot go into detail about what might be in that document.

Ms O. Mitchell:  This relates to the spending of the money. Does the Minister intend to make that decision, which would provide a framework for future rail investment decisions in Ireland? The key decision is about the central station in Dublin.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  It does not arise under this question. I call Deputy Yates.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It does not relate to the question before me.

Ms O. Mitchell:  The Minister does not have an answer.

Mr. Yates:  Is it an accurate recollection that the Minister asked CIE to investigate the property position? CIE came back to her with a report. What was in that report which led the Minister to commission her own report? Will she publish the CIE report? She is now having a report compiled on a report. Will she confirm that CIE produced its property report and that she did not like it? Why did she not like it?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is not that I did not like it, there was a Cabinet decision to carry out an independent review—

Mr. Yates:  What was wrong with the original report that there had to be an independent review?

Mr. Stagg:  At the Minister's request.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  No, it was a Cabinet decision.

Mr. Yates:  What was wrong with the CIE review?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I do not know if there was anything wrong with it. The Cabinet decided. There were three Cabinet decisions with regard to the £450 million five year programme on railway safety. The first was that all railway lines would be kept intact and operational, the second was that there would be an annual subvention from the Exchequer towards the CIE safety operating programme and the third was to carry out an independent evaluation of the CIE property portfolio.

Mr. Stagg:  When the review of the review is completed, will the Minister ensure that CIE is not allowed to sell land which will be needed for future developments, such as park and ride facilities—

Ms O. Mitchell:  Or for central stations.

[199]Mr. Stagg:  —as occurred in Maynooth where CIE is now purchasing land, having previously sold land for housing?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The criteria laid down for the Sherry Fitzgerald review include future potential development, reopening of old stations and park and ride facilities.

Mr. Yates:  They did not like the report they got previously, so they got another one.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I should think so. Does the Deputy object?

Mr. Stagg:  The Government did not like it.

  12.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she will ensure that there will be no price increase for domestic consumers of electricity for the foreseeable future following the publication of the ESB annual report and accounts; the applications she has received from the ESB for tariff increases for domestic and commercial customers; and her response in this regard. [16298/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I have no application from ESB at this time for a price increase for domestic consumers of electricity. At a press conference held on 25 May 1999 to announce its results for 1998, which were splendid, the ESB confirmed in response to questions that it would not pursue a proposed 3 per cent price increase. Future price increases will be a matter for the new Commission for Electricity Regulation.

The ESB implemented price increases averaging 2 per cent in 1996 and 1.5 per cent in 1997. A 3 per cent price increase for 1998 has not been implemented. The ESB wanted to apply this 3 per cent average increase by way of a 5.25 per cent increase for domestic customers and below 3 per cent for the commercial and industrial sector.

The Government at its meeting on 12 May 1998 decided that there was no justification for this increase in light of the very strong financial performance of the ESB. The ESB has estimated that domestic customers are currently being undercharged while industrial and commercial customers are being overcharged. As ESB faces competition in the future, it is necessary to ensure that there is a level playing field for all industry players.

Mr. Yates:  In relation to the new regulatory environment for the electricity market, will it be open to the ESB to apply for tariff rebalancing, which it informed the Oireachtas committee it wishes to do? It wishes to raise domestic charges by £16 million to cheapen charges in the competitive market for large customers. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that domestic customers will not have to pay more so that large multinationals will get cheap electricity?

[200]Mrs. O'Rourke:  Before I came into office the previous Government had put in place a 3 per cent—

Mr. Yates:  This is tariff rebalancing, which is a separate issue.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It can apply for what it wishes but what it will get is another matter. Obviously, if a company is to apply to a regulator, it can apply for whatever it wants, but what the regulator will give is another matter and I will have no control over it. The putative regulator is well aware of my belief that companies which are making £200 million per year should not be skinning the consumer.

Mr. Yates:  The Minister is deftly washing her hands of this matter and passing it to the regulator. As the shareholder in this company, will the Minister give a commitment that domestic customers will not be subject to tariff rebalancing?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Two years ago the Deputy was a member of a Government which agreed to it—

Mr. Yates:  That is a general issue. The Minister should deal with tariff rebalancing.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy should allow the Minister to reply without interruption.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I cannot give orders to the regulator. An electricity regulation Bill is currently before the House. Any company may apply to the regulator, Thomas Reeves, for whatever it wishes and he will deal with the application. At that point, or prior to it, he will be aware of my policy on those matters.

Mr. Stagg:  Will the Minister agree that she or any other Minister will never again sanction a price increase for electricity for either domestic or commercial users?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Never again?

Mr. Stagg:  Yes. That power is being passed from this House, from the Minister to the regulator. Never again can she sanction an increase.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Yes.

Mr. Stagg:  Does the Minister agree that the ESB has done a good job compared with its nearest competitor? Northern Ireland Electric charges its domestic and commercial customers 18 per cent and 16.7 per cent more, respectively, than the ESB charges its customers in the South. Does the Minister agree that the ESB should be complimented on providing energy at this low price in the Republic?

[201]Mrs. O'Rourke:  The varying points of view from both sides in the Opposition are interesting. ESB prices to the consumer and industry are much lower than electricity prices in any other European country. That is written in the Eurobarometer Survey. Its prices are particularly lower than prices in Northern Ireland. That indicates a good operating technique.

Mr. Stagg:  Public monopolies work well.

Mr. S. Ryan:  The Minister referred to the regulator and what he or she might do.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is a he.

Mr. S. Ryan:  What is the Minister's attitude to the cross-subsidisation of charges for consumers, rather than the commercial end?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  My attitude was expressed when I did not wish to see a price increase, and the Government refused one. I thought a company that was making up to £200 million a year could do without a price increase.

  13.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    her policy on the future of Aer Rianta. [16519/99]

  20.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she has received the analysis report on the future strategic direction of Aer Rianta; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16484/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 20 together.

The Minister for Finance and I have jointly appointed a team of advisers to assist in the examination of Aer Rianta's report on the future strategic direction of the Aer Rianta group. These advisers are now examining and evaluating the full range of recommendations made to me by the board of Aer Rianta. I do not think it would be appropriate for me at this point to speculate on the possible response until they have finished that job, which they will do in the near future.

Following that, and in the light of my own consideration of the advisers' recommendations, I intend to report to Government with specific proposals on the future strategic direction of Aer Rianta.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I appreciate that the Minister cannot tell us now what her or the Government's final decisions will be. However, does she agree it is not in the interests of Aer Rianta, the country or consumers to have a continuation of Aer Rianta's monopoly, or of any other public or private body? Does the Minister agree the approach which should inform consideration of [202] the proposals should be based on that fundamental principle?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I do not know what they are coming forward with, and the Deputy accepted that in his question. However, to exchange a public monopoly for a private one is not very good business.

Mr. Stagg:  Does the Minister agree the sale of Aer Rianta will lead to its private ownership and, thus, of Dublin airport? Does she agree that having a private monopoly that is not subject to the Minister in any sense, except in company law, is the worst possible scenario from the consumer's point of view? That would be a ready made opportunity for the abuse of power by such a private monopoly. In the public interest, will the Minister strive to ensure that will not occur?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The points made by Deputies Jim O'Keeffe and Stagg are in my mind. I do not know what the advisers will come forward with and, therefore, I am constrained in giving a decision on the matter. However, it strikes me that exchanging a public monopoly for a private one cannot be the best way to do business.

Mr. Stagg:  There is only one airport in Dublin. Therefore, somebody can have a monopoly on it.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I wish to press the Minister further on the question of a monopoly. As one who is in favour of neither public nor private monopolies, does the Minister agree that, whatever future is being mapped out, this core principle should be borne in mind – neither a public nor a private monopoly? Whether it is achieved by way of a second airport at Baldonnel, a separately operated terminal at Dublin airport or by independent regulation, we should not have a monopoly in future.

I understand what is being considered is the report on the future strategic direction of the company, as produced by the board of Aer Rianta. Why is the Government's consideration confined to the options produced by the board of Aer Rianta? Why is there not a broader consideration of all options, not just those emerging from the Aer Rianta stable?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The terms of reference for the advisers were laid out more or less in line with the board's report to us. We included the issue of Baldonnel, in whatever guise, for it to be considered. There was one other issue. I will send the Deputy the terms of reference.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I thank the Minister.

Mr. S. Ryan:  In coming to her conclusions, why does the Minister feel there is a need for a change in the status of Aer Rianta, given its history and success over a wide range of areas at Dublin Airport? Why is there a need for change?

[203]Mrs. O'Rourke:  Last August, I wrote to Aer Rianta asking it to look at its future. The company came back with a report.

Mr. S. Ryan:  Did the Minister give the company guidelines?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  No, it was in the light of the company's capital needs. Various matters were laid out, but I did not produce guidelines. I asked Aer Rianta to prepare a report which was published. The letter I sent to Aer Rianta is contained in the report which I gave to Members. I am not saying the Aer Rianta report is good or bad, but it is certainly interesting. I did not say what must happen next, but when I bring the report to Cabinet we will discuss what should happen.

Mr. Yates:  I am sure the Minister is aware the Arthur Andersen report recommended an IPO for Aer Rianta.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That is what they said.

Mr. Yates:  In that context, does the Minister agree that if there were an IPO for Aer Rianta, there is absolutely no guarantee the three airports would be kept together? Given that Dublin is by far the most profitable of the three airports, one could not avoid a situation whereby, later on, some private group might decide to hive off Cork or Shannon. This would pose serious threats to those regions. Will that form part of the Government's regional considerations in any future plan for Aer Rianta?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I have not met the people doing the analysis but, as I understand it, they are taking it on the premise that the airports are State airports.

Mr. Yates:  If a private company purchased Aer Rianta, that could not be guaranteed.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That question will certainly have to be considered.

Mrs. Owen:  Has the Minister finished her reply? I am not sure there was any reply.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I did not know where the interruption came from.

Mrs. Owen:  It came from Deputy Yates.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Yates asked a further supplementary question.

Mr. Yates:  It was the same question. The Minister could not guarantee that a private company or companies might not break up the airports.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is not my intention that they should.

[204]Mrs. Owen:  Will the Minister acknowledge the tremendous work of Aer Rianta over the years, particularly on the north side of Dublin where so many of the company's employees live? Will she also acknowledge the tremendous success it has had in extending the duty free business around the world? Will the Minister assure the House that in her consideration of what will happen to Aer Rianta, she will take into account the important employment element of the company, and that there will be no jobs losses for those currently working there?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I gladly and fully acknowledge the pivotal role Aer Rianta and Dublin airport have played in employment and in being the focus for development and onward investment in that region. There is no doubt about that. That has occurred under successive Governments, Aer Rianta chairmen and boards. I have a warm regard for their work under all Ministers.

Mr. Wright:  The Minister's initial response to the original question is the correct stance to take at this time. She correctly made the point that no company can stand still. Listening to the debate, there is total disagreement on both sides of the House as to what should happen to Aer Rianta in future. I commend the Minister's position, as stated in her initial response.

Mr. Yates:  Say nothing, do nothing.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I thank Deputy Wright for his espousal of my cause.

Mr. Stagg:  Does the Minister agree that Aer Rianta has been particularly successful at running the airports on behalf of the people? Does she also agree there is a need for further serious investment at Dublin airport and, to a proportionally lesser degree, at Cork and Shannon airports? Will she agree the company has been starved of investment capital by this Government which seems to be on an investment strike in that it will not invest in anything? Certainly it has not invested in any of the State companies since coming to power. Will she agree arising from that, that both the management and the unions in Aer Rianta have opted in desperation for an IPO to get funding for the necessary capital investment at the airport? Will the Minister ensure a majority shareholding is retained by the Minister so that a private monopoly will not run Dublin Airport?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I agree Aer Rianta has been a very successful State company. I will continue to say that. Does the Deputy recall the debate on the Aer Rianta Bill when he talked about the double whammy?

Mr. Stagg:  I do.

[205]Mrs. O'Rourke:  It did not get a double whammy.

Mr. Yates:  Yes.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Perhaps it was Deputy Yates who mentioned it. It is not getting it. It was excused a whole year of a single or a double whammy—

Mr. Yates:  The Minister did not deliver on the duty free sales issue either.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  No, I was not able to.

Mr. Yates:  The Minister kept us hanging for a year and half on that one and there was not even the reward of a white feather at the end of it.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  I suppose that is a Duchess of Cumberland job. When will there be an end to the process of consultation or indecision? When will a decision be made by the Government on this issue?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I expect a fully worked out resolution by September.

Mr. Stagg:  When will the “For Sale” sign go up?

  14.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    her policy on charges at Irish airports; and if her attention has been drawn to criticisms from Ryanair which has been seeking lower landing fees, particularly at Dublin Airport and which instead is faced with a proposal to double the landing fees over the next two years. [16518/99]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The appointment of a regulator is the best way of dealing with the economic regulation of airports and, in particular, airport charges. In that regard, I intend shortly to seek Government approval for the drafting of legislation to establish a regulator.

Provided that the required legislation is in place, I intend to have the regulator appointed and statutorily empowered before the end of this year. As regards landing fees, I am very much aware that the level of airport charges has financial implications for both the airlines and for Aer Rianta in particular.

Any decision on the future level of landing fees will be taken by the regulator, following his or her appointment, after taking full account of the interests of the travelling public, the airlines and the airports' revenue needs. I am in discussions, as of today, with the chairman of the board with regard to the discounts which are due to be abolished on Thursday, 1 July. This evening and tomorrow I will take part in discussions.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Will the Minister accept that charges will go up either by lifting the charges or [206] withdrawing the discounts? If a decision is made to appoint a regulator, will the Minister confirm to the House now that there will not be a change in the existing level of charges pending the appointment of the regulator?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I am in the middle of discussions with the chairman of Aer Rianta about that matter and until I have completed those discussions it would be wrong of me —

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Is it the Minister's objective to achieve the end result I have outlined, that there would be a moratorium on charges and that there would not be any no change in the present structure until such time as the regulator is appointed?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That is my objective but the matter remains to be discussed finally with the chairman of Aer Rianta.

Mr. Stagg:  Is the Minister telling the House that again she is kicking to touch on this matter—

Mrs. O'Rourke:  No.

Mr. Stagg:  —and that she intends to do nothing that might have any political implications for herself or the Government until a regulator is appointed? When is it expected that the regulator will be appointed?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  A regulator was set up by the Government of which the Deputy was a member.

Mr. Stagg:  Is the Minister aware that the operators at Dublin Airport, namely the airline companies, would much prefer to deal with a Minister and a Government as the regulator than some ice-cold bureaucrat who would not take account of any of the normal things that Ministers are expected to take into account of when making decisions about charges?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This is a red hot Minister talking. I do not know about regulators being ice-cold. The previous Government introduced Etain Doyle as the regulator for telecommunications. It is good practice to have a regulator for charges. To reply to Deputy O'Keeffe, it is my objective that the discounts to be erased on 1 July should not be erased until the end of the year so that there will be time for the regulatory regime to be in place.

Mrs. Owen:  If that is the Minister's objective, is she saying that in her discussions this afternoon and tomorrow she will tell the chairman she does not want the charges raised until the regulator has had a chance to examine what the charges should be? If so, will she say to the chairman that she will be prepared to cover the costs that Aer Rianta will lose if it does not increase its charges? It maintains that because of the loss of duty free sales it can no longer give out discounts. Will the [207] Minister be prepared to make up the difference if it does not increase its charges?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Most definitely not because Aer Rianta is making a profit. The Deputy must be aware of that.

Mrs. Owen:  I know that.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is a very good company. The Deputy cannot have it every way and also propose a moratorium. What I will put to the chairman is that for the remainder of this year, until 31 December, there would be a moratorium on the 25 per cent. One would need to be Einstein, and even he would have difficulty, to understand the convoluted array of discounts, rebates and so on. By the end of the year the 25 per cent will be of benefit to all airlines, Aer Lingus, Ryanair, CityJet etc., and they will stay in place until 31 December 1999. By then the regulator will be in place.

Mr. Yates:  I had indicated I wished to ask a question.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Question Time concludes at 4.15 p.m.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Seanad Éireann has passed the Regional Technical Colleges (Amendment) Bill, 1999, with amendment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 21 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Roche – the reason for the delay by officials of the Eastern Health Board in processing a request by the grandparents of a child (details supplied) to act as foster parents; (2) Deputy Gormley – the need for continued funding for the Vantastic project run by the Centre for Independent Living; (3) Deputy Naughten – the provision of funding for the establishment of a language unit in County Roscommon; (4) Deputy Ring – an oral hearing for a discontinued invalidity pension for a person (details supplied); (5) Deputy Deasy – the cutting of hedgerows during the nesting season; (6) Deputy Connaughton – the non-availability of third level education grants for student nurses who wish to take the one year degree course; (7) Deputy D. Carey – the hardship for Clare farmers through delayed payments; (8) Deputy Enright – the death penalty imposed on Abdullah Ocalan; (9) Deputy Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) – the need to give increased funding to the community games organisation; (10) Deputy Crawford – the waiting lists in the North-Eastern Health Board region which have [208] increased by 75 per cent in the last two years; (11) Deputy Wall – the industrial action at the Kildare VEC offices.

The matters raised by Deputies Enright, Donal Carey, Roche and Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) have been selected for discussion.

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods):  The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 33, Electricity Regulation Bill, 1998, Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No 34, Statements on the report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights on matters arising from the early release from prison of Mr. Philip Sheedy.

It is also proposed notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 11.30 p.m.; pursuant to Standing Order 78(3), the Dáil shall waive its instruction that not more than two select committees shall meet to consider a Bill on any given day in the case of the proposed meetings of the Select Committee on Education and Science to consider the Qualifications (Education and Training Bill), 1999 [Seanad], today and the Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to consider the Minerals Development Bill, 1999 [Seanad], tomorrow; the Report and Final Stages of No. 33 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 9.30 p.m. by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Public Enterprise; and the proceedings on No. 34, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 11.30 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening statement of the Vice Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights and of the main spokespersons for the Government, the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the statement of each other member called upon shall not exceed five minutes; and the Vice Chairperson of the joint committee shall be called upon to make a statement in reply not exceeding five minutes. Private Members' Business shall be No. 71 – Motion re: Proposal for a National Infrastructure and Settlement Plan.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed to?

Mr. J. Bruton:  Before agreeing to the Order of Business, will the Minister indicate if he would be willing to give an undertaking that the Government will not guillotine the Immigration Bill through its remaining Stages? If he can give such an assurance, we on this side of the House will [209] do everything in our power not to be unreasonable in prolonging the debate or to filibuster. It is important that the provisions of the Bill are discussed in a thorough way. The Government proposal to guillotine the Bill on Committee Stage has been withdrawn from today's Order Paper. Assuming there is goodwill on all sides, will the Minister give an assurance that no attempt will be made to guillotine the Bill on Committee Stage?

Dr. Woods:  I thank the Opposition spokespersons for their co-operation on the Bill. The Government is anxious that it pass Committee Stage by agreement. There are a large number of amendments and three hours have been allocated to Committee Stage today and four hours tomorrow. Discussions will take place among the Whips this evening about providing extended time tomorrow to try to ensure the Bill is completed in the normal way.

Mr. J. Bruton:  The problem is that the Government, as unfortunately happens with Departments—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot discuss this matter. It is before the Whips.

Mr. J. Bruton:  I do not wish to cause disorder, but the Government has produced a raft of amendments – the equivalent of a new Bill – at the last minute. This amounts to laziness in the public service. They could have been introduced weeks ago.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot discuss the matter. It is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Mr. J. Bruton:  I have no doubt the Minister has nothing to do with this. It amounts to inefficiency in the public service.

Mr. Quinn:  The procedure adopted by the Government is unacceptable. I have just been informed by our spokesperson, who has come from the select committee, that very slow and tortuous progress is being made. I do not expect the Minister to be aware of that. There is no way Committee Stage of the Bill can be concluded between now and 1.50 p.m. tomorrow.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot have a discussion on the Bill. It is not on the Order Paper for today. I understand the Whips are discussing the matter.

[210]Mr. J. Bruton:  We wish to avoid a row tomorrow by discussing the matter today.

Mr. Quinn:  After dealing with items 1 and 2, we will be asked to give our assent to a guillotine motion on Committee Stage of a Bill.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  There is no such proposal on the Order Paper today. The item referred to by the Deputy has been withdrawn. It does not arise today. There were originally five proposals; there are now four. There is no proposal to deal the Immigration Bill.

Mr. Quinn:  Has the proposal regarding the Immigration Bill been withdrawn?

Dr. Woods:  Yes. It has been replaced with the proposal on No. 33. Discussions will take place this evening on the extra time that can be provided to deal with Committee Stage of the Immigration Bill.

Mr. Quinn:  The documentation to which the Minister refers has not come into my possession. Will he clarify what is now proposed in respect of the Immigration Bill?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Minister made four proposals on the Order of Business. There is no proposal on the Immigration Bill. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed to?

Mr. J. Bruton:  I do not want to agree to the Order of Business unless I get an assurance that there will be no guillotine tomorrow on the Immigration Bill. We will not delay matters, but we want an assurance that all sections of the Bill will be discussed. We reformed the Dáil to provide for this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed to?

Dr. Woods:  The Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Labour Party will appreciate it is vital that the Immigration Bill is passed by the House before the summer recess. We are prepared to provide any extra time we can to expedite matters and discussions on this will be held this evening.

Mrs. Owen:  We are seeking a commitment that there will be no guillotine on the Immigration Bill.

Question put: “That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to.”

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt. Brennan, Séamus.[211]

Tá–continued

Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
[212] Kitt, Michael.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John.
Martin, Micheál.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Níl

Ahearn, Theresa.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas.
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Ulick.
Carey, Donal.
Clune, Deirdre.
Connaughton, Paul.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas.
Farrelly, John.
Ferris, Michael.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Joe.
Higgins, Michael.
Kenny, Enda.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Ryan, Seán.
Sargent, Trevor.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Stanton, David.
Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Ferris.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is the proposal for dealing with the exercise of Standing Order 78(3) in relation to the Select Committees agreed?

Mr. Quinn:  Regarding the confusion which has arisen following the last minute changes made by the Government to the Order of Business, which were not communicated to my office, there is a danger in this provision, and the one which probably will be before the House tomorrow, that the plenary session of the House is attempting to dictate to a committee when it should terminate its business. I ask the Minister to elaborate on the thinking behind this provision before a precedent is set which would enable the House from time to time to unilaterally dictate when a committee should terminate its business by way of a guillotine motion.

[213]Dr. Woods:  There is not a proposal for a guillotine motion before the House.

Mr. Quinn:  The Minister knows that is not my point. He deliberately did not read into the record the information on the piece of paper he had in his hand. A proposal for a guillotine is being contemplated. It was altered twice in the last hour and it may surface again tomorrow depending on the outcome of discussions today. In relation to No. 2, on which the House may divide, is a precedent being established which will enable the House to dictate to committees when they should terminate their business? If the House votes in favour of this proposal, will a precedent be established which will validate a guillotine motion tomorrow morning?

Dr. Woods:  This is a technical issue. Standing Orders provide for two committees to meet on a particular day. The only purpose of this is to allow a third committee to meet on a particular day. Deputy Bruton raised the issue of the completion of the Bill. This matter is still being discussed and I understand that while the House was dividing, the committee made further arrangements to provide for extra time tomorrow for the Bill along the lines we discussed earlier. It is appreciated that the Bill must be completed this session.

Mr. Quinn:  If agreement is not reached in the discussions between the members of the committee in respect of the Immigration Bill and the 16 page amendment which was finally provided by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform after a two year delay, what is the Government's intention regarding terminating the business of the committee?

Mrs. Owen:  The Government will guillotine it.

Dr. Woods:  With goodwill on all sides, this will bring into operation and fully implement the Refugee Act, 1996, which was introduced by the Opposition parties when they were in Government. I hope that in common with the Government, they want it brought into operation before the summer recess.

Mrs. Owen:  We have waited for two years for it.

Dr. Woods:  I hope that can be achieved on the basis of co-operation.

Mr. Shatter:  It should not be rushed. It is too serious an issue.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We cannot have a protracted discussion on the matter.

Mr. Quinn:  I presume there will be a guillotine motion before the House tomorrow, notwithstanding the totally unsatisfactory nature of the legislation.

[214]Dr. Woods:  I do not want to pre-empt any discussions.

Mr. J. Bruton:  The committee is being asked to act, subject to a guillotine.

Mr. Shatter:  That is correct.

Mrs. Owen:  The sword of Damocles is hanging over it.

Dr. Woods:  The committee is currently arranging extra time to try to cover the Bill.

Mr. Shatter:  It is indicative of the lack of sensitivity the Government has shown on the refugee issue. It has shown an appalling lack of sensitivity.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is the proposal for dealing with the exercise of Standing Order 78(3) in relation to Select Committees agreed?

Question put and declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 33 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 34 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Quinn:  There are two outstanding Bills which the beleaguered Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has yet to bring forward. The first relates to human rights, which is a requirement under the Good Friday Agreement. It was the subject of embarrassment for the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, in Dublin Castle at the weekend and gave rise to the criticism of Professor Brice Dickson, the chief commissioner of the human rights commission in Northern Ireland. In view of the lamentable failure of the Government to bring forward legislation as distinct from circulating the heads of a Bill, when will the legislation be introduced?

Regarding legislation on our obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, when will the amendments to the 1956 Irish Nationalities and Citizenships Acts be brought forward? Will the Minister explain what, if anything, is going on in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform?

Dr. Woods:  I understand the latter Bill will be introduced in the next session. The legislation regarding the human rights commission was cleared by the Government today and will be published shortly.

Mrs. Owen:  When will the Government make a decision on giving work permits to people who are seeking asylum in Ireland?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

Mrs. Owen:  The legislation was again promised by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment last week. The dispute [215] with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is ongoing. There is a demonstration today outside Leinster House by many eminently qualified people who are seeking asylum and who cannot work. They are willing to work in the economy. When will a decision be made? When will the legislation be introduced?

Dr. Woods:  Early next year.

Mrs. Owen:  That is ridiculous.

Mr. Shatter:  It is ridiculous. The IDA is trying to recruit people in America with the same skills as those demonstrating outside Leinster House.

Mrs. Owen:  FÁS has sent a representative to Europe to try to seduce people to come to Ireland to work while there are people here who are willing to work. The legislation was promised before 2000.

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

Dr. Woods:  If the legislation is available before that date, it will be introduced.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot have a discussion on the matter. The Minister answered the Deputy's question.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Indecision is the hallmark of this Administration.

Mr. Connaughton:  Will the Minister ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the proposed animal health restrictions on the export of live cattle to the Continent will come into effect on 1 July, as planned? Is the Minister or the Government aware of the severity of these measures? If they are imposed, no live Irish cattle will be exported for the rest of the year.

Dr. Woods:  What legislation is the Deputy querying?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Animal health regulations, which is not strictly in order.

Dr. Woods:  The Deputy is raising the implementation of legislation, as I understand it. I will ask the Minister to communicate with him.

Mr. Rabbitte:  When will the indexation of fines Bill be published?

Dr. Woods:  Work on this legislation is at a preliminary stage of examination in the Department. It is not possible to indicate a date at this stage.

Mrs. Owen:  It will be 2000 or later.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe:  Which millennium?

[216]Mr. D. Ahern:  Deputy Owen will not introduce it.

Mr. J. Bruton:  What is the present position of the criminal justice Bill, which was recommended following the strategic management study of the Garda Síochána, and of the Garda Síochána Bill? Gardaí are resigning and the number in the force is falling continually, while reports indicate that murders are being committed at the rate of one per day.

Dr. Woods:  The criminal justice Bill on the Garda SMI is expected in late 1999. The figures for recruitment into the Garda and the number of gardaí, which appeared recently in newspapers, are difficult to understand. Deputies know that some 500 gardaí are being recruited at present.

Mr. Barrett:  Some 2,500 gardaí are leaving.

Dr. Woods:  That is totally unsubstantiated. The annual figure for retirements from the Garda Síochána is approximately 400 and the information available to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is that 1999 will be the same as any other year. The Government's aim, during its lifetime, was to set the force's strength at 12,000. The competition may recruit 500 members, which will bring it to a level of—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We cannot have a discussion on this matter. This is not Question Time, the matter was raised purely as a query on the Order of Business.

Mr. Rabbitte:  This is far more helpful than the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on Question Time.

Mr. Quinn:  Since alterations have already been made to the ordering of Government time, does the Government intend making time available this week to take note of its nominee to the European Commission?

Dr. Woods:  Not to my knowledge at this stage.

Mr. J. Bruton:  It should be someone with a doctorate in agriculture, not a mere B.Ag.

Ms Fitzgerald:  In our Celtic tiger economy, a transport service for the disabled, which has run for five years, was closed on 9 June because of lack of funding. Will the Minister ensure a Government Department takes responsibility for investigating why this is happening?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That does not arise on the Order of Business. It was the subject of an Adjournment Matter last Thursday.

Dr. Woods:  There will be a meeting at 5 p.m. today.

[217]Ms Fitzgerald:  Will the Minister take responsibility?

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

Mr. Sargent:  I have questions about two Bills which were promised before the summer recess. Is the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill to be published, given our position in the dock in Europe on many such matters? Given the tragic information about suicide rates, the Government should give greater priority to the mental health Bill. Will it be published before the recess?

Dr. Woods:  I understand the wildlife Bill is to be published this week. The mental health Bill will be published as soon as possible but not during this session.

Mr. Shatter:  When will the report on the approach taken by health boards in the assessment of couples for adoption be laid before the House? It was prepared and, two weeks ago, approved by the Cabinet for publication. Perhaps the Minister could explain why it has not been published yet.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not appropriate to the Order of Business but the Minister may have information.

Dr. Woods:  I understand it is to be published shortly.

Mr. Shatter:  When? We were told it would be published ten days ago.

Dr. Woods:  I have no date.

Mr. Stagg:  On 2 July 1998 the House passed the Firearms (Temporary Provisions) Bill, which gave tourists authority to bring in guns to destroy at will the wildlife mentioned by Deputy Sargent. At that time the Minister promised to set up a review group, which has now reported to him, and that by July this year he would have in place legislation to replace that temporary legislation. When will we see that legislation or, in its absence, will we need to repeal or re-enact the temporary legislation?

Dr. Woods:  The Firearms (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1998, Continuance Order 1999 (S.I. No 189 of 1999), which provides for this, was signed by the Taoiseach on 22 June.

Mr. Stagg:  When will we see the promised legislation, which was to replace the Act by July this year, to stop the scandalous position that tourists can bring guns into this country?

Dr. Woods:  It is unlikely to appear by July this year.

[218]Mr. Finucane:  Will the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources clarify whether he or any of his senior officials in the minerals section of the Department have had discussions with senior management at Tara Mines regarding—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Rabbitte:  On promised legislation and in respect of the dispute between the Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste, when will the Government publish the legislation to establish a new, single financial regulatory authority?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Has such legislation been promised?

Dr. Woods:  The report was published recently and is being studied at present.

Mr. Gormley:  I wish to raise the matter raised by Deputy Fitzgerald. The Minister indicated he wanted to reply—

Dr. Woods:  I have already ruled that out of order. It was discussed on the Adjournment last Thursday.

Mr. J. Bruton:  I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle if he would favourably consider overnight the possibility of raising that issue under Standing Order 31. Deputy Ahearn will put down such a motion.

Mr. Gormley:  The Green Party will do the same.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  The Government has been encouraging a virtual feeding frenzy surrounding the sale of shares in Telecom Éireann, a major public asset which is being privatised, and encouraging people to go into debt to buy them. Will the Government bring forward proposals which will protect these people if its Stock Market gamble goes wrong?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Higgins, do you have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  It is very appropriate in the interests of ordinary people.

Ms Fitzgerald:  Will the Government introduce a motion before the end of the Dáil term in relation to Irish troops serving in Kosovo? This was mentioned as a possibility by the Taoiseach last week.

Dr. Woods:  I am pleased to tell the House that the Government will introduce such a motion. It will be moved today.

[219]Mr. Higgins (Mayo):  I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the Licensing Acts, 1927 to 1997, in order to extend opening times for licensed premises to 12.30 o'clock in the morning; to abolish the “holy hour” on Sundays; to extend opening hours on St. Patrick's Day; and to provide for related matters.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. S. Brennan):  No.

Question put and agreed to.

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

Mr. Higgins (Mayo):  I move: “That Second Stage be taken in Private Members' time.”

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  On a point of order, will the Chair briefly state the rules of debate for Report Stage?

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I had intended asking that question also.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  I do not know whether it is a matter of great minds thinking alike or fools seldom differing.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Great minds thinking alike.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  All Members may speak twice. A Member may make a second contribution which shall not exceed two minutes. The Member who moved the amendment also has the right of reply. In other words, they will be afforded the opportunity to speak three times, when moving the amendment, a second contribution of two minutes and a third contribution to conclude the debate. That refers to the mover of any amendment. Other Members have two opportunities to speak, the second not exceeding two minutes.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Does that apply to every Member?

[220]Mr. Yates:  Twice for every Member and three times for the mover.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 8, to delete “RIALÚ” and substitute “RIALÁIL”.

Deputy Stagg's amendment No. 195, which was accepted on Committee Stage, inserted the Irish language name of the Commission for Electricity Regulation into the long title of the Bill. The Bill's Office has advised, however, that the spelling of part of the name in Irish was incorrect, and the word “RIALÚ” should be replaced with the word “RIALÁIL”. This amendment will make that change. It is Deputy Stagg's amendment incorporated in this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 2 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are alternatives and amendment No. 13 is related. We will take amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 13 together, by agreement.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, to delete lines 1 to 4, and substitute the following:

“‘combined heat and power' means the simultaneous production of utilisable heat and electricity from an integrated thermo-dynamic process where the overall process operating efficiency, based on the gross calorific value of the fuel used and defined as the ratio of energy output usefully employed to the energy input, is greater than 70 per cent. and where the integrated thermo-dynamic process satisfies such technical, operational, economic and environmental criteria as may be specified by the Minister from time to time, following consultation with the Commission;”.

This amendment follows from a commitment I gave to Deputies Yates, Stagg and Sargent on Committee Stage on 12 May, the first day of Committee Stage. We agreed that a new definition of “combined heat and power” would be worked out which would give a firm indication to the industry of the definition of CHP but which would leave some scope for flexibility for the commission to take account of technological developments in the future. The Bill is now to be amended by inserting the new agreed definition which has been worked out with the help of the sustainable energy division in the Department, in consultation with the Irish Energy Centre.

Mr. Yates:  I welcome the approach of the Minister and her officials to the dialogue that has taken place between Committee and Report Stages. In particular I welcome the Minister's amendments Nos. 2 and 13 and I am happy to withdraw amendments Nos. 3 and 4 in my name. [221] On Committee Stage it was proposed that CHP would be defined at a future date by the regulator. I found that all groups, regardless of their perspective on CHP, were opposed to that because it created an air of uncertainty. The Minister has opted for the 70 per cent thermo-efficiency ratio while dropping the 30 per cent ratio I had proposed for the heat requirement. I am prepared to accept that, however, because it is a major step forward in an attempt to define it.

Does amendment No. 13, which is being taken with this amendment for debate purposes, open a Pandora's box in that the 70 per cent ratio could be changed at any time? Perhaps the Minister would outline the circumstances whereby it would be redefined from 70 per cent? In other words, does this create a new uncertainty or is it only in very prescribed circumstances? We have rehearsed all the arguments. We have come up with a definition of CHP, and I am prepared to withdraw amendments Nos. 3 and 4 on the basis that amendment No. 2 in particular is a major step forward.

Mr. Stagg:  I tabled amendments on Committee Stage which I have not retabled. I am happy to accept the Minister's amendment. It is important that it recognises that it is a policy matter for the Minister rather than the regulator to make these types of definitions. I am somewhat concerned about amendment No. 13 which I have not seen before. It is a matter we had not discussed—

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I will explain that when I reply.

Mr. Stagg:  Perhaps we might return briefly to that issue.

Mr. Sargent:  I too welcome the way the Minister and her staff dealt with the dialogue on this matter. I support her amendment as a result and have not tabled any amendments in my own name. What lobbying does the Minister envisage taking place – I am sure it would be intense – if it came to the point where she altered the terms of CHP definition? Does the Minister intend to lay down any ground rules for such lobbying, perhaps by way of legislation proposed by the Labour Party or the Government?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Is the Deputy talking about the lobbyists?

Mr. Sargent:  Lobbying will continue to be a large part of the interpretation of this legislation, given the high stakes involved. Will the Minister lay down any of the ground rules at this point in anticipation of legislation to control that? The Minister has already said that she may prescribe a greater or lesser percentage and I am sure that will be watched with great interest by the people who will invest a considerable amount of capital in CHP.

[222]

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Everybody is welcome to meet me. I meet people with officials from my Department and what I do after that is between myself and the officials. I think a great deal about various matters.

On behalf of the officials I thank Deputy Yates for his kind words and note that he will withdraw amendments Nos. 3 and 4. Amendment No. 13, which we are discussing with amendment No. 2 for debate purposes, leaves some scope for flexibility with the commission but it is to take account of technological developments in the future. This amendment provides that the Minister of the day may, by order, alter the efficiency ratio of 70 per cent in the definition of combined heat and power. If 70 per cent proves too high, it can be lowered and if a technology change so requires, it can be raised to encourage the most efficient ratio. It is not to do with the 28 per cent but with efficiency of operation.

Mr. Stagg:  I am concerned that this new subsection will invite trouble. If the Minister had said she could vary the ratio upwards, that would be fine but all the expert advice we have available to us would indicate that 70 per cent is a reasonable figure. There is no possibility that the technology will get worse. The Minister is unintentionally inviting people to come in and make a case for having it reduced. I suggest the Minister should look at this again, though I am not sure when. She should include “greater” and leave out “or lesser” as that would remove the possibility of pressure to reduce this so that this false CHP could get into the market again, when we think the Bill excludes it.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Is Deputy Stagg saying “or lesser”?

Mr. Stagg:  Take out “or lesser”.

Mr. Yates:  What procedure would apply to the new section 7, as set out in amendment No. 13? Would that require a new role for the Oireachtas, as some other sections in the Bill provide? Would that apply in this case?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I do not see that applying in this case, as the amendment states that “ . . . the Minister may by order. . .”, which would be a ministerial order. A later amendment includes the requirement of a resolution of Dáil and Seanad. Deputy Stagg's point about “or lesser” is fair enough. I am prepared to remove that from amendment No. 13.

An Ceann Comhairle:  When we reach amendment No. 13 the Minister may propose an amendment to amendment No. 13.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.[223]

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are consequential on amendment No. 15 so we will take those amendments together.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 5:

In page 6, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

“‘electrical contracting industry' means the industry of all electrical contractors in Ireland;”.

I regard this as a very serious defect in the Bill and a matter the Minister did not see fit to accept at any stage. She said she would discuss this with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, but I have received very disturbing representations from the Register of Electrical Contractors of Ireland on this matter. Statistics show that almost 500 fires in households are caused by faulty wiring. One must get a RECI certificate before the ESB will connect a commercial premises. The Health and Safety Authority has some role in policing working conditions, but living conditions in houses are not subject to control. The Minister or I could set up a group to give out certificates without any controls being placed on us. This is self-regulation and any contractors who do not want to adhere to RECI's high standards can set up their own regulatory body.

This amendment proposes to give the commission a role in this matter. The Minister says that the commission will only look at the economic and commercial aspects of this matter, but Ms Etain Doyle, the telecommunications regulator, has found gaps in that sector. This amendment addressees a genuine concern in the interests of safety and putting houses on the same footing as workplaces. Amendment No. 6 seeks to define the electrical contracting industry and an electrical contractor. Amendment No. 15 seeks to ensure that the electrical contracting industry operates to the highest possible standards. It does not prescribe what the rules may be, but this is a pass the parcel situation between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Public Enterprise. I feel strongly that this matter should be taken seriously.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Deputy Yates is right. This is a pass the parcel situation. The Tánaiste wrote to me about this and I replied in what I would call a game of pass the parcel between our Departments. I do not feel it should be the responsibility of my Department and Deputies will say, “You would say that, wouldn't you?”, but the Tánaiste does not feel it should be her Department's responsibility either. The Health and Safety Authority has some expertise in this area whereas my Department does not.

Deputy Yates referred to domestic dwellings, but from my time on local authorities I understand that local authorities have the right to ensure wiring in local authority dwellings is to a particular standard. I know they insist on repairs [224] being carried out to those standards. I have not spoken to Mr. Tom Reeves since he became regulator, as I do not think it would be proper, but the regulator has been speaking to officials who have conveyed to me his opinion that this should not be within his remit. He has an economic focus and concentrates on opening markets and defining eligibility, which is necessary work.

The officials and I discussed these amendments this morning and I am not satisfied by the pass the parcel arrangement. It is turning a blind eye to the matter. RECI has contacted me as well. I have not discussed this matter with the officials, but there will be another electricity Bill in the autumn which will deal with those parts of the directive not dealt with by this Bill. By the time we debate that Bill I will seek to have the situation regarding RECI resolved. It is not good enough to leave this hanging.

Mr. Yates:  I appreciate the Minister's bona fides in this regard as no Department will take responsibility. The Tánaiste opened RECI's new offices some weeks ago.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  They asked her, not me.

Mr. Yates:  The considered position of the Tánaiste's Department is that this is not a health and safety matter at work so it will not deal with this. The ESB says it has no responsibility beyond the meter. However, the chairman of the ESB has said that the regulatory situation is far from satisfactory. I think the Minister will agree it is not good enough that the public must endure a system, designed to ensure their protection and safety, that is far from satisfactory, to use the words of the ESB chairman. There will be a serious fire in a house because its wiring is not up to the RECI standard. I will withdraw amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 15 and will put them down again for the next Bill. I am glad the Minister has accepted that unless she puts the boot in on someone, this matter will continue to float. I withdraw the amendments based on the Minister's good intentions, but I press her on it because this is a genuine issue of public safety.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 6 not moved.

An Ceann Comhairle:  We now come to amendment No. 7. Amendments Nos. 10, 11, 25, 58, 62 and 63 are cognate and all the amendments may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 7:

In page 7, line 15, to delete “renewable” and substitute “renewable, sustainable”.

This amendment is the result of a commitment I made to Deputy Sargent on Committee Stage. I agreed to “sustainable” being inserted into the [225] term “renewable or alternative” wherever it appears in the Bill. There are seven such places.

Mr. Sargent:  I thank the Minister for accepting the need for the word “sustainable” as well as the word “renewable” in the Bill. This will bring us into line with the highest international standards and help us to work towards meeting our international obligations. That will be a difficult task and I do not lighten it. This amendment points the way towards meeting our obligations and I hope we will be prepared to co-operate in the work which will be necessary for that.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 8:

In page 7, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

(e) biofuel,”.

This amendment follows a commitment I gave to Deputy Stagg when the Bill was discussed on Committee Stage on 12 May. I agreed that the word “biofuel” would be inserted in the definition of renewable or alternative fuels. I wish to record the name of the originator of each amendment where an amendment was agreed on Committee Stage.

Biofuels are fuels made from biological materials. Usually produced and refined examples include alcohol and vegetable oil.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 9:

In page 7, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

(j) combined heat and power in conjunction with district heating systems;”.

During the debate on Committee Stage on the supply of electricity in aggregate, the question of “single premises” was raised. Can the Minister define the term “single premises”? The IDA has asked me to clarify the position with regard to industrial sites. Others have suggested that allied buildings will be included. How limiting will the definition “single premises” be?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We can follow only the definition in the Bill. On page 7, line 27, the term is defined as, “one or more buildings or structures, occupied and used by a person, where each building or structure is adjacent to, or contiguous with, the other buildings or structure;”.

Mr. Yates:  That is quite subjective.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It is quite subjective.

Mr. Yates:  One could say every building is adjacent to another. I am happy to withdraw the amendment on the understanding that a logical, reasonable and practical interpretation will be [226] made and that the use of steam in pipes in neighbouring buildings will be allowed for heat and power, where there is a bona fide district heating system.

Mr. Stagg:  I recall that the term “single premises” is also used in the directive. There were long discussions about the definition at European level, before the term was agreed. It was agreed, subjectively, to allow for a generous interpretation, if required. Our regulator, who will be au fait with the area will interpret the term. However, this definition does not deal with district heating. Users of district heating schemes, whether tenants in a block of flats or a local authority housing scheme, would not be the main purchasers of electricity, while they would be the main purchasers of heat. The purchaser of heat can sell on the heat to others.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The terminology in the Bill is vague. The term “district heating” connotes huge blocks of flats in Moscow.

Mr. Stagg:  Ballymun has district heating. I suggest that we leave the interpretation of the term to the regulator and presume upon his good sense.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 10:

In page 8, line 17, to delete “renewable” and substitute “renewable, sustainable”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 11:

In page 8, line 18, to delete “renewable” and substitute “renewable, sustainable”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 12 is consequential on amendment No. 39 and both may be discussed together, by agreement.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 12:

In page 8, line 19, after “section 1(2)” to insert “or section 26(6)”

These amendments insert a new subsection 26(6), which requires that before the Minister could make an order to reduce the threshold for eligibility and thereby provide for a greater level of liberalisation, a resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas would be required. These amendments remove the need, as required under section 3, for such an order to be made before each House of the Oireachtas. This is in the spirit of the suggestions made by Deputy Stagg.

Mr. Stagg:  I welcome these amendments. They implement, effectively, what was proposed in my amendment and which I withdrew on Committee Stage.

[227] Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 13:

In page 9, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:

7.–(1) The Minister may prescribe a greater or lesser percentage than that specified in the definition of combined heat and power.

(2) The Minister may by order amend an order made under this section including an order made under this subsection.”.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 13:

In line 1 of amendment No. 13, to delete the words “or lesser”.

Amendment to amendment agreed to.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 17 is an alternative to amendment No. 14 and both may be discussed together, by agreement.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 14:

In page 10 between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

(c) to advise the Minister on the impact of electricity generation in relation to sustainability, and international agreements on the environment to which the State is or becomes a party,”.

This amendment fulfils a commitment I gave Deputy Sargent on Committee Stage. I agreed that the commission would have a duty to advise the Minister on sustainability and Ireland's international environment agreements. Deputy Sargent's Committee Stage amendment mentioned Local Agenda 21 and the Kyoto Agreement on Global Climate Change. We agreed that specific mention of such agreements was not advisable since they could be superseded by other agreements. I agreed to follow the spirit of Deputy Sargent's amendment.

Mr. Sargent:  I welcome the Minister's amendment. On reflection, Local Agenda 21 and the Kyoto Agreement on Global Climate Change could have been mentioned, followed by the words “and other such international agreements”. This would not have precluded other agreements. We should consider the agreements into which we enter. As it is the practice to write them in lower case letters, there is a danger they will be ignored. We have not lived up to our commitments with regard to these two agreements; in fact, we are flagrantly disregarding them. I hope the considerable significance of this amendment will be understood.

[228]Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  I would welcome any advice the Minister could give on the impact of electricity generation in relation to sustainability. The amendment should refer specifically to the issue of incineration as part of that process, as there will be a dispute as to whether incineration as a means of generating power is a sustainable activity. In time this will become very controversial in Dublin and throughout the country. Because of this, incineration, which is a very dangerous means of waste disposal and which will be discussed in terms of heat and power, should be referred to. The Bill should be specific as there is clearly a very strong lobby trying to get incineration up and running and which uses various covers, including the generation of energy through incineration. The generation of energy must not override the huge concerns of communities about incineration and the very serious dangers of environmental pollution which result from it.

Mr. Stagg:  We are dealing with various types of incineration in the creation of electricity. We incinerate turf, coal, oil, gas and biomass which we grow specifically for the purpose of burning. We also incinerate chicken litter and mushroom waste. There are objections to incinerating domestic refuse. There are clean streams of domestic refuse which do not have the negative effects referred to by Deputy Higgins. There are proposals to incinerate toxic waste and the problem arises in this area. Nothing in the Bill will encourage or facilitate such incineration.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  Deputy Stagg is correct in saying there is nothing in the Bill which explicitly encourages incineration. However, there is nothing debarring it either, and this is the point I am trying to make. It is clear that incinerators, depending on the material being incinerated, can release cancer causing and toxic chemicals, including heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, etc., from their smoke stacks. This is a crucial issue for communities. I do not know if the Minister is aware of the huge lobby which exists. The issue is one of waste disposal but it is relevant here because incineration is being discussed in combination with electricity generation. Because of this, the matter should be dealt with in the Bill. In view of the studies which have been carried out in many countries, which show serious health effects resulting from incineration, the Minister should have ruled it out.

The Government is favourable to privatising electricity generation in the same way as it is privatising, selling and flogging every other State asset to what will eventually become multinational concerns. These people are driven only by profit, and the well-being of the communities which will endure the down stream effects are not being taken into account. If the Minister was really dealing with sustainability and environmental considerations from the point of view of [229] the community, what I am suggesting would have been made explicit in the Bill.

Mr. Sargent:  I share the disquiet of Deputy Higgins on incineration. I have debated this issue several times in the House, particularly during the passage of the Waste Management Act.

Mr. Yates:  I wish to raise a point of order. I thought that on Report Stage only matters dealt with on Committee Stage could be dealt with. This matter was not dealt with on Committee Stage and I would like the Ceann Comhairle's ruling in that regard.

An Ceann Comhairle:  New matters cannot be introduced on Report Stage.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  There is no amendment on the matter.

Mr. Sargent:  This is an elaboration of the amendment.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy cannot elaborate on Report Stage. He must strict strictly to the amendment.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  Who is in the Chair – Deputy Yates or the Ceann Comhairle?

Mr. Yates:  I am pointing out the procedure.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The procedure is that it is not in order to introduce new matters on Report Stage.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  On a point of order, I understood Report Stage dealt with amendments.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  I wish to clarify this issue. I am fully in order as the amendment suggests insertion of the following: “to advise the Minister on the impact of electricity generation in relation to sustainability”. Deputies are perfectly entitled to make a contribution relating to this and this is what Deputy Sargent and I have done.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I cannot allow unlimited latitude.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West):  I appreciate that – I did not want latitude. Deputy Yates tried, momentarily, to take over the Chair by introducing a red herring and cutting across the debate.

Mr. Yates:  I made a valid point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I ask Deputies to bear in mind that we cannot have a wide-ranging discussion on incineration. In a very limited way it is relevant to the amendment.

Mr. Sargent:  I have no intention of having a wide-ranging discussion on the matter. I was making a simple point and I appreciate that a point [230] of order was made in mid-sentence. I felt it was important to point out that the inclusion of sustainability in the Bill will allow incineration to be challenged. Given the European directive as it stands, it will be up to people to challenge incineration—

An Ceann Comhairle:  I ask the Deputy to resume his seat as his contribution has exceeded one minute.

Mr. Sargent:  I will be one of the people challenging incineration on the basis of sustainability.

Mr. Roche:  I am at a loss to understand the last two contributions. As I understand sustainability, we are not talking about dumping our rubbish in holes in the ground in future .

Mr. Sargent:  We are.

Mr. Roche:  I know we are talking about the amendment, but the debate has strayed into the meaning of sustainability. I have been following this debate with some interest and participated in it on Committee Stage. Earlier we were talking about CHP. I urge the Minister not to listen to the two prophets of doom who have spoken. Otherwise we will be consumed by a waste mountain.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy should address the amendment.

Mr. Roche:  In countries such as Denmark, where CHP is extremely well developed—

An Ceann Comhairle:  We are drifting into a Second Stage debate.

Mr. Roche:  In Denmark heat is generated and the system of district heating is used very efficiently by burning waste. Incineration does not need to be a threat.

Deputy Sargent is singing a different hymn from that of his former colleague on Wicklow County Council. However, consistency is not something I expect from the Deputy.

Mr. Sargent:  Former is the word.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 15 not moved.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 16:

In page 10, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

“(e) to provide a consumer complaints service for all matters relating to the generating, supply and distribution of electricity.”.

I will be brief in my comments as I want to facilitate adequate debate on all sections. This provision seeks to have a customer complaints service. Since Committee Stage I have examined this [231] matter further and was referred to the ESB's customer complaints arbitration service. Outside the scope of the only existing arbiter are: ESB retail, ESB finance electric, ESB electrical contracts, including public lighting, power generation, national grid businesses and a series of other points on page five of the complaints' commissioner's report. If a customer has a complaint, he or she cannot go to the Minister, the regulator or anybody else. I am prepared to look at this in the context of a new Bill but the Minister should accept amendment No. 16, which would deal with the deficiencies which the complaints' commissioner acknowledges in his first annual report are beyond his scope.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  On 18 May we talked about this on Committee Stage. I am keen that the issue of supply to customers other than eligible customers will be dealt with in the next Bill which will complete the implementation of the directive. That Bill is already in gestation. That will form part of that Bill.

This Bill is initially about the 28 per cent and clearly they will have macro issues. Once it is passed and we move on to the main directive, I will provide for a section which relates to a customer complaints' service which will come into operation.

Mr. Roche:  This issue was discussed earlier. Where we effectively hand over monopoly powers in some areas it is important that there be a customer complaints' service. The Minister's sets out the most valid way of having this.

A major lacuna in law in the past 15 years is that we excluded the commercial and non-commercial State sponsored bodies from the remit of the Ombudsman. It was a dreadful mistake because it meant one could not ask a question here or anywhere else. I am pleased with the model the Minister is proposing. Deputy Yates's concern is a valid one but the Minister's response is the most obvious, and the best one.

Mr. Yates:  I welcome the Minister's remarks and will withdraw amendment No. 16. I take the Minister's point that when we move towards a position where 100 per cent of customers will be eligible to shop around, it will still be an ESB monopoly in terms of transmission and supply. We are only talking about competition for generators. There is an acknowledged series of areas for which there is no service. I hear many complaints about Etain Doyle's operation, that she has no consumer complaints service worth talking about. I understand there will be legislation to deal with that.

I hope that when the section comes, it will not be minimalist and will deal with things, like power cuts over Christmas when the storms blow, how quickly people are entitled to have their service back, to complaints about the metering of bills. We hear of difficulties with premium rate [232] calls from Telecom Éireann where people hotly dispute their bills. In some cases such people take their complaints to the Ombudsman. This section should not be an adjunct of the next Bill but a principal section and covering an area where, as the State has reduced ownership of these companies the Minister will not be accountable as there will be arms length regulation from the legislators, and there will be proper accountability in terms of a customer complaints' service. On that basis I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 18. Amendment No. 19 is an alternative. Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Stagg:  I move amendment No. 18:

In page 10, lines 42 to 46, to delete all words from and including “which-” in line 42 down to and including line 46 and substitute “which does not discriminate unfairly between holders of licences, authorisations and the Board, and they consider protects the interests of final customers.”.

I tabled these amendments because we had a long discussion about the issue on Committee Stage. Subsequently I had further discussions with the departmental officials, who had done further research on the matter. They satisfied me that the words “discriminate unfairly” should be co-joined in this situation.

Mr. Yates:  Amendment No. 19 is in my name and in the name of Deputy Stagg. I was less convinced by the information given by the departmental officials last week.

Mr. Stagg:  I got more information since then.

Mr. Yates:  The argument put to me that “unfairly” was self-evident was almost superfluous because of the existing wording around it. It was put to me by those directly involved in the field that “unfairly” needed to be deleted. I want the Minister to accept amendment No. 19.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  What did Deputy Stagg say?

Mr. Stagg:  I said I will withdraw that amendment but Deputy Yates said it stands until the Minister says something about it.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We checked again with the Attorney General's office following the meeting with Deputies Stagg, Yates and Sargent. We followed up on amendment No. 19. The Attorney General strongly recommended that we should leave it as it is.

[233]Mr. Yates:  I will withdraw it on the basis of the Attorney General's advice.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 19 not moved.

Mr. Sargent:  I move amendment No. 20:

In page 10, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following:

“(c) does not discriminate unfairly between producers of electricity from renewable, sustainable and alternative sources and producers of electricity from fossil and carbon fuels, and”.

This amendment is quite similar to amendments Nos. 18 and 19 but it makes a different point which I ask the Minister to take into account. I will not press the amendment to a vote. When we are talking about discrimination, which the Minister acknowledged on Committee Stage is needed from time to time in the interests of public service obligations or general fair play, there is a point to be made between electricity generated from fossil fuels and from renewable sources in that the cost of producing electricity from renewable resources would tend to internalise the overall costs of pollution, health effects, etc., whereas those producing electricity from fossil fuels would currently be able to operate without the downstream health or pollution effects which were mentioned in international agreements and obligations we have as a country. That is why I ask that the discrimination be in place to take into account the externalities in electricity generation which are borne by the renewable sources, given that wind power and wave power do not involve emissions. If we are talking about fair discrimination, I ask that this be a subject of consideration.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We looked again at that. The commission already has the duty in section 8(3)(a) not to discriminate unfairly between holders of licences, authorisations and the board. The Bill already provides for the thrust and the substance of the amendment. Renewable and alternative forms of energy are already promoted in the Bill at section 8(5)(a), section 8(5)(d), section 13 and section 27. While I accept the reason the Deputy wished to insert this amendment, the Bill has already a heavy overlay of that in it so that the thrust of it is accepted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 21:

In page 11, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(f) to promote the use of renewables and alternative forms of energy.”.

Is the Minister disposed to accept this amendment?

[234]Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Deputy withdrew the amendment on Committee Stage and I said I could accept it subject to a small change in wording.

Mr. Yates:  It was amendment No. 39 on Committee Stage and I dealt with it.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Committee Stage amendment was discussed on 25 May. I could accept that amendment subject to a small change in wording. The wording should be changed to refer to renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy so that it is consistent with the rest of the Bill. Does the Deputy see the point?

Mr. Yates:  I accept that.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Deputy Yates's amendment reads: In page 11, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following: “(f) to promote the use of renewables and alternative forms of energy.”.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 21:

In line 1 of amendment No. 21, to delete “renewable and alternative” and substitute “renewable, sustainable or alternative”.

Amendment to amendment agreed to.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment Nos. 22 and 26 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 22:

In page 11, line 15, after “use” to insert “and production”.

I gave a commitment to Deputy Stagg on Committee Stage to insert the words “and production” in order that the commission would be obliged to encourage the efficient use and production of electricity.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 23:

In page 11, line 15, after “electricity” to insert “, in particular the use of combined heat and power”.

We spoke about the benefits of combined heat and power on Committee Stage.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Amendment No. 22 will result in the inclusion of the words “and production”. It is considered that the commission should have a duty to encourage efficient electricity production generally, rather than the specific production of combined heat and power which is encompassed in the content of amendment No. 22.

[235] Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Sargent:  I move amendment No. 24:

In page 11, line 15, after “electricity” to insert “in liaison with relevant public authorities and interested non-governmental organisations”.

This matter may be dealt with through a clarification from the Minister. The amendment seeks to ensure that the commission would consult public bodies and non-governmental organisations in the course of its work. The Minister indicated that that might occur and my amendment is simply an attempt to ensure it does.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Section 8 sets out the duties of the commission. Where the functions of the commission are dealt with under the Bill in the formulation of the trading mechanism or in the modification of licences, ample provision is made for public consultation. The Deputy wanted to ensure provision would be made for such consultation.

Mr. Sargent:  I take it that material and information outlining its functions will be available from the commission. I urge the Minister to ensure that the public will be aware that the commission has a consultation function. I appreciate that copies of the Act will not generally be handed out when people seek information about the commission. I wanted to ensure that anyone reading the Act would understand the commission's functions.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I am sure the officials will pass on the Deputy's concerns to the regulator. There is no point in the regulator informing himself and his staff of the commission's functions and then pulling down the shutters. The commission should prepare a mission statement outlining the need for the constant publication of documents and liaison and consultation with interested parties. Ms Etain Doyle, the telecommunications regulator, regularly issues consultation documents and invites submissions from interested groups. The electricity regulator should operate in the same manner. He should clearly set out his and the commission's functions for the benefit of the public.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 25 has already been discussed with amendment No. 7.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 25:

In page 11, line 19, to delete “renewable” and substitute “renewable, sustainable”.

Amendment agreed to.[236]

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 26 has already been discussed with amendment No. 22.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 26:

In page 11, line 22, after “use” to insert “and production”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 28 is an alternative to amendment No. 27 and they may be discussed together, by agreement.

Mr. Sargent:  I move amendment No. 27:

In page 11, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

“(e) to require that the system operator gives priority to generating stations using renewable energy sources when selecting generating stations.”.

During our discussions on Committee Stage, there was a considerable level of agreement on the need to ensure the viability of renewable energy sources by requiring that the system operator would give priority to generating stations using wind or wave power when selecting generating stations. That was based on the commonsense understanding that it is not possible to control energy sources such as wind or wave. Therefore, it is essential to take the energy when it is available. The system operator should accord priority to such power stations. Can the Minister ensure that through the acceptance of this amendment or through some other means?

Mr. Yates:  Put simply, wind energy stations want to ensure that when the wind blows, their electricity will be used. If the wind were to blow from 9 p.m. to 12 p.m. on a Thursday night and the ESB were to say it did not need the power because it was full to capacity, then God help the wind people. The Minister previously stated that if the ESB were to use a more expensive electricity source, it would have to have some mechanism of surcharging it.

Section 8(5) states that “without prejudice to subsections (3) and (4), it shall be the duty of the Commission .”. If we are serious about wind power, the wind generating stations should be given something of a leg-up.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We are talking about wind and wave power.

Mr. Yates:  I am primarily referring to wind power.

Mr. Stagg:  I support the general thrust of amendment Nos. 27 and 28. This matter also affects small hydro schemes which will have better electricity production rates when water levels are high. The schemes are very renewable as the water goes down the hill, evaporates and comes up the hill again. The wording should not focus [237] on wind power alone. The term “renewable energy sources” would be the correct one.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The electricity directive allows member states to impose public service obligations on the system operator. There will be a cost involved as renewable energy source stations are usually more expensive than others. In effect, the obligation is a public service obligation and section 38 gives the Minister of the day the power to impose such obligations.

It would not be appropriate to place the duty on the commission without making provision for the payment of the public service obligations involved. I recall what Deputy Stagg's acquaintance at the treasury holding informed him when he said to forget about the amendment because someone would have to pay the public service obligation. This amendment would clearly involve the imposition of a public service obligation and provision would have to be made to pay for that. Section 38 confers power on the Minister to impose public service obligations. I appreciate that the imposition of such obligations would give a leg-up to the stations in question.

Mr. Yates:  The logical extension of the Minister's argument is that the ESB's dispatcher could decide that, because it is too expensive to use wind in the generation of electricity, it will not be used. The previous Government introduced a provision in 1996 under which anyone who wants to can link up to a renewable energy source. The ESB, however, has refused to facilitate anybody. The logical extension of the Minister's argument is that the PSO could be used to stop the ESB using wind in the generation of electricity. We are talking about a small proportion of the overall uptake. Perhaps the matter can be dealt with in another Bill, but an imprimatur should be given to the regulator to instruct that the lever be switched when the wind is blowing. The question of who will pay can be dealt with later.

Mr. Stagg:  When people talk about the cost of using wind in electricity generation, they never mention that there is no pollution. This should be factored in. It is an essential safety net for those who generate electricity using renewable energy sources. Unless they are given priority, they will not get in. There are no public service obligations involved. As the Minister of State said, those who use wind in the generation of electricity are improving their methods with the result that shortly it will not be more expensive.

Mr. Sargent:  This is more of a lifeline than a leg-up for those who use wind in the generation of electricity. The situation is changing. With each new development it is becoming much cheaper to use wind in electricity generation. I contrast this with the recent Bord Gáis announcement that when supplies of gas eventually run out—

Mrs. O'Rourke:  From the Marathon field.

[238]

Mr. Sargent:  —there will be no control over the price of gas which will have to be purchased at international rates. It will not be long, therefore, before there is a level playing pitch but we will not reach that point unless those who use wind in electricity generation are given this lifeline.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I am inclined to accept the amendments. Generating installations using renewable energy sources are tiny in number.

Mr. Yates:  If the Minister wishes, I will withdraw amendment No. 28. A new paragraph may fit in better than a new subsection.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It would be less obtrusive. The words “sustainable and alternative” will have to be included.

Mr. Sargent:  I would be happy with that.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment to amendment No. 27:

In page 11, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

“(e) to require that the system operator gives priority to generating stations using renewable, sustainable or alternative energy sources when selecting generating stations.”.

The extra words are in tune with the rest of the Bill.

Amendment to amendment agreed to.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment No. 28 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We now proceed to amendment No. 29. Amendments Nos. 30, 33 and 45 are related. Amendments Nos. 29, 30, 33 and 45 may be discussed together.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 29:

In page 13, to delete lines 36 to 43 and substitute the following:

“(c) subject to section 27, to supply electricity to final customers which in aggregate does not exceed the amount of electricity which is available to the supplier and which is produced using renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy or electricity purchased, in place of such electricity, in accordance with the trading arrangements provided for in regulations to be made by the Commission under section 8(1)(c), or

(d) to supply to the single premises of the main heat customer electricity which is produced using combined heat and power at the generating station from which that main heat customer is supplied with heat, or electricity purchased, in place of such electricity, in [239] accordance with the trading arrangements provided for in regulations to be made by the Commission under section 8(1)(c),”.

On Committee Stage Deputy Stagg expressed concern about the wording of the subsections and the ability of renewables or CHP suppliers to supply top-up electricity to their customers. This amendment clarifies that renewables or CHP suppliers will be able to supply top-up electricity which they purchase in accordance with the trading mechanism provided for by the commission.

Mr. Yates:  These amendments relate to section 13 which upset me so much that I voted against it last week. This matter featured in the discussions with the civil servants. The Minister's amendments represent substantial progress. The ESB has indicated that my amendments would have the effect of obliging it to provide low cost electricity to an independent. I can offer an example of the converse of spill. Let us say I am providing electricity to Deputy Stagg and he wants 40 megawatts but I can produce only 30 megawatts. The ESB would be obliged to produce cheap electricity for me to sell it to him and I would have a guaranteed profit margin on the ESB's electricity when selling it to Deputy Stagg. I do not want to do that. I accept that point.

The point I am trying to make is that Deputy Stagg would not buy the electricity from me because I would be unable to meet his full requirements. The ESB's response would be predictable. Will amendment No. 29 have the effect of ensuring, without going as far as I had proposed in amendment No. 30, that where somebody cannot meet the full need, the ESB will be obliged to produce the balance of the electricity? Let us look at the converse, where Deputy Stagg wants 40 megawatts and I can produce only two. The result would be the rape of the ESB for 38 megawatts at a cheap price while I make a profit from selling it on. That is not what I meant to do.

Does amendment No. 29 meet the objective of providing for a dual supply on a fair basis? I will be happy to withdraw my amendment on the basis of the Minister's assurances.

Mr. Stagg:  Amendment No. 29 puzzles me. No matter how often I read it, it does not make sense. It states:

(c) subject to section 27, to supply electricity to final customers which in aggregate does not exceed the amount of electricity which is available to the supplier and which is produced using renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy or electricity purchased, in place of such electricity.

What electricity? I do not understand that, and I am not being smart.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I accept that.

[240]Mr. Yates:  It means the shortfall of electricity. In other words, let us say a supplier is producing only 80 per cent, the 20 per cent would be in place of such electricity.

Mr. Stagg:  I understand.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  With regard to amendment No. 29, I acknowledge that we covered a good deal of territory in this regard last week. Amendments Nos. 29 and 33 make it clear that suppliers will be able to supply top-up electricity to their customers in accordance with the trading mechanism to be developed by the commission under section 8(1)(c). Amendment No. 30 could be withdrawn in favour of amendment No. 33. This amendment is intended to address concerns expressed about suppliers' ability to obtain top-up electricity. I undertook to address this issue and emphasised that top-up and spill would be dealt with in the trading mechanism.

The licensed suppliers will be responsible for meeting the contract needs of their customers. Any imbalance between the production of the supplier and the demands of the customer will be met by buying supplementary electricity or selling surplus electricity through the trading mechanism. We had nearly arrived at that formula in the discussion on Committee Stage but we did not have it in the correct format. There is general agreement among present and prospective suppliers about the composition of the trading mechanism. Amendments Nos. 29, 30 and 33—

Mr. Yates:  Will the Minister reply to amendment No. 45 which is being discussed with these amendments?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Amendment No. 45 obliges the ESB and any other electricity generator in the market, other than green generators, to supply electricity to the customers of green generators in the event the green generators are unable to produce the electricity themselves. This is commonly referred to as top-up and can be dealt with under the trading mechanism to be developed in accordance with the policy direction from the Minister under section 8.

I accept the principle of an obligation to provide top-up electricity, subject to the trading mechanism.

Mr. Yates:  Is BGE happy?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I do not know. The Department has not been in contact with BGE this week. My official spoke to its representatives last week and today but they did not mention it.

Mr. Yates:  BGE sent me a fax today but I do not have it with me. I am happy to proceed. This is a big step forward from where we were last week.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Yes.

[241] Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 30 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 32 is related to amendment No. 31. Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 can be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Sargent:  I move amendment No. 31:

In page 14, line 14, after “any,” to insert “as appropriate to the class of electricity generation concerned,”.

Amendment No. 32 addresses a number of the arguments I made on Committee Stage. It is slightly less clear than my amendment, although it is probably legalistically more correct or suitable for the parliamentary draftsman. Can the Minister explain why she could not be more specific about the class of electricity?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  We took advice on it. Amendment No. 32 puts words to what the Deputy hoped to achieve. The commission would have the flexibility to determine different fees, depending on the application, and would have to make information on the fees available on request. It is a fair compromise.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 32:

In page 14, line 15, after “determine” to insert “to be appropriate, having regard to the application being made, and the Commission shall make information on such fees available on request”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 33:

In page 14, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

“(12) The Board shall be obliged to supply electricity to the holder of a licence under subsection (1) in accordance with the trading arrangements provided for in regulations to be made by the Commission under section 8(1)(c).”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Amendments Nos. 35 and 48 are related to amendment No. 34. Amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 48 can be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 34:

In page 14, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

“(12) The Commission shall consult with the Competition Authority in carrying out all [242] its functions relating to the granting of a licence to generate and supply electricity.”.

Perhaps it is not appropriate to deal with this in law. Mr. Reeves should have some consultation or liaison with the Competition Authority and I put down this amendment with the intention of finding out what the Minister proposes as the best form of liaison with the authority.

The Minister's esteemed colleague, the Tánaiste, is particularly sweet on the Competition Authority. In the interest of maintaining good relations between the two Marys, the Minister might consider outlining an appropriate relationship with the Competition Authority.

Mr. Stagg:  It is essential that the Competition Authority or any other authority is not able to second guess a regulator or there will be a crazy mix up. The Minister indicated on Committee Stage that this issue had to be addressed, although I am not sure if it was to be in this Bill or in other legislation.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Tánaiste is, rightly, keen on the Competition Authority. It is under her aegis. There was an advertisement in a newspaper on Friday or Saturday under the heading of the Competition Authority which said it was going to investigate the entire transport competition area, including taxis, buses and trains. They did not even tell us beforehand, although it would have been good manners to do so. We read it in the newspaper and that was how we knew.

Mr. Stagg:  That is what we get for setting up quangos.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The amendment mentions doing all these things, but the Competition Authority has taken the upper hand. There should be a discussion on the primary legislation establishing the Competition Authority. I presume there will be discussions from time to time between the authority and the regulator, but not in a statutory form.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 35 not moved.

Mr. Stagg:  There are 40 minutes until 7 o'clock and if we do not complete this before then we will have to come back at 8.30 p.m.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 36:

In page 15, to delete lines 29 and 30.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I accept the amendment.

Mr. Yates:  I thank the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 37:

[243] In page 16, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

“(b) the extent to which the authorisation will contribute to competition in electricity and lead to increasingly competitive electricity prices for customers,”.

I move this amendment in the hope that it may elicit the same response as the previous one.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This matter was discussed on 15 June and Deputy Yates was not present during that week.

Mr. Yates:  That is correct.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This amendment would impose a requirement which would be practically impossible to meet. It would require a subjective view to be taken of the effect on the market of the grant of each authorisation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 38:

In page 21, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

“(3) Where appropriate a supplier who supplies electricity to one or more eligible customers as defined in subsection (2) shall be regarded as an eligible customer for the purposes of purchasing generation output.”.

Will the Minister please give her views on this matter?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I think that amendment was withdrawn.

Mr. Yates:  It was resubmitted.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The amendment seeks to insert the following wording: “Where appropriate a supplier who supplies electricity to one or more eligible customers as defined in subsection (2) shall be regarded as an eligible customer for the purposes of purchasing generation output”. This was covered by section 13(8) which was inserted by an amendment I tabled on Committee Stage.

Mr. Yates:  The point has been met.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Yes, it has.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 39 has already been discussed with amendment No. 12.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 39:

In page 21, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following:

“(6) Where an order is proposed to be [244] made under this section, a draft of the order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House.”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Amendments Nos. 40 to 43, inclusive, and 46 may be discussed together by agreement.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 40:

In page 21, to delete lines 46 to 48, and in page 22, to delete lines 1 and 2, and substitute “electricity from combined heat and power which may be supplied to final customers under section 13(1)(d) in any specified period.”.

This amendment arises from a commitment I gave last week that a mechanism to enable the Minister to place a cap on the amount of CHP would be inserted into this section. This amendment would mean the Minister of the day can impose a cap on CHP so that there will be no possibility of CHP expanding too quickly and opening the market significantly over the 28 per cent mark. It takes out the limit on the renewables but inserts it on CHP.

Mr. Yates:  There are two points here. One is that under the heading of renewables, CHP, if so defined, would muscle out wind and other energy sources. The Minister has met that point.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That is right, I have met that point.

Mr. Yates:  If Aughinish Alumina built a power station and had a surplus of electricity, there would be a basis on which it would be bought back by the ESB at the spill price, which could be half the price at which they would sell it to eligible customers. The Minister has segregated other renewables from CHP, but has she met the other point?

Mr. Stagg:  The other point in my amendment was to seek to give comfort to CHP where it would have excess capacity over the amount it supplied on an occasional basis, so it could be spilled into the system. I looked at the trading mechanism and we had a long discussion outside the committee with the Minister's officials. The discussions were most helpful. Arising from that, I see no need for a spill mechanism because of the trading mechanism that is now in place.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  To answer Deputy Yates, we have met the first concern which was that CHP would gobble up the other renewables. As regards the second concern, we have put forward the trading mechanism under which that concern will be met.

[245]Mr. Yates:  To clarify that, the trading mechanism will allow spill electricity to be purchased?

Mr. Stagg:  That is right.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Not in an unlimited way, but the parameters of it will be set.

Mr. Yates:  What does the Minister have in mind as a possible range of ceilings? I received one set of briefings to say that CHP would be in the order of 5 per cent of the market, but 5 per cent of 4,000 megawatts is 200. Does this make it a non-runner for Aughinish Alumina? The Minister has made the point that the spill provision is there – the surplus of electricity will be bought back but it will be subject to an overall ceiling. That is the Minister's compromise. What indicative megawatt figure is the Minister talking about, in that this will determine if there is Aughinish Alumina co-generation? Is it 50 or 250?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The independent sector will be able to sell spill electricity to ESB generators at an avoidable fuel cost, for an initial tranche of 25 per cent of total eligible customer demand.

Mr. Yates:  That is one quarter of 28 per cent, which is only 7 per cent.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Yes, that is right.

Mr. Yates:  That is quite small.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The trading mechanism as published, along with the policy of the Minister of the day and the regulator's implementation of that policy, will provide an equitable resolution of the issue.

Mr. Yates:  To facilitate progress, I will withdraw my amendments.

Mr. Sargent:  I tabled amendment No. 46 as a safety net. The Minister has met the requirement for some type of capping facility for CHP, which I am glad to accept. I would be interested to hear her views on the other amendments also.

Mr. Yates:  I am trying to reach a fair compromise. In setting any ceiling, the Minister should consider unique circumstances, such as the extraction of aluminium from bauxite, which requires a huge amount of heat. There should be sufficient flexibility, without distorting the electricity market, for the benefit of CHP. If an individual project makes economic sense, given the amount of steam, heat or waste energy that goes up a chimney, the Minister should consider it.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive, not moved.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 44:

[246] In page 22, to delete lines 7 and 8.

When this amendment was originally discussed on Committee Stage on 23 June it was not moved in error. Amendment No. 110, which this proposes to delete, is no longer necessary since the references in it to subsection 27(1) are redundant following the substantial amendment made on Committee Stage to section 27(1) on 23 June. The original section 27(1) referred to an entitlement to buy electricity. The issue of the supply of electricity is now dealt with in section 13 and section 27(1), which is amended, does not refer to entitlements. Since section 27(3) still refers to such entitlements, it is redundant and should be deleted.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 not moved.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 47:

In page 22, line 32, to delete “by order as soon as practicable” and substitute “within one month”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 48 not moved.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 49:

In page 26, line 35, after “interest” to insert “, as determined in writing by the Commission,”.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This amendment would require the commission to establish the public interest in writing. The public interest would be different depending on the circumstances of each individual. An example is the Freedom of Information Act where decision-makers are required to take account of the public interest. Section 33(4)(a) states: “it has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Commission that it is not in the public interest to provide additional capacity to meet the requirements to be imposed by that agreement,”. The amendment should not be accepted. Every public interest debate would be different depending on the circumstances of each decision.

Mr. Yates:  The ESB should not have sole discretion to determine what is or is not in the public interest. That is more properly a matter for the commission or the Minister. Such a privilege, although there is an appeals procedure, gives the ESB the opportunity to delay, without penalty, the projects proposed by its competitors. This was a concern from the IPPs.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That surfaced last week with regard to giving and getting information and on day 54 they allege they were put to the end of the queue so to speak. The regulator will be the decision-maker as to whatever information the [247] ESB gives him. He will not have to accept what he is given.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 50:

In page 27, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

“(9) Nothing in this section shall disadvantage applicants for licences or authorisations in making offers to potential final customers prior to the issuing of such licences or authorisations.”.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The original amendment No. 127 was discussed on Committee Stage and withdrawn. My amendment No. 119, which was accepted on Committee Stage, addressed this issue by enabling any person, whether they have a licence or authorisation, to enter into negotiation with the ESB regarding access to the grid.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Sargent:  I move amendment No. 51:

In page 27, line 29, after “charges” to insert “in respect of the various classes and categories of primary electricity supplier”.

I recall the Minister discussing this matter with some sympathy. Is she still sympathetic to it?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This amendment would enable the board to impose different charges on different electricity suppliers for the use of transmission. Costs for connection should be on a cost reflective basis. Section 33(7) places a duty of non-discrimination on the ESB in dealing with the provision of access to the transmission. This provision meets the requirement of the electricity directive. As the ESB will be granting access to its own generating station as well as to those of its competitors, it is important that it be required to comply with a statutory duty of non-discrimination. In page 27, line 29, after “charges” the Deputy seeks to insert “in respect of the various classes and categories of primary electricity supplier”. That duty was imposed on the board earlier in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 52:

In page 28, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

“(e) the nature of information to be provided to applicants seeking connection to or use of the transmission or distribution systems and its presentation and transparency,”.

The key point here is the row still ongoing between NIE Meridian and the ESB about the release of information. The Minister made the point last week that we have to wait until the Bill [248] is enacted. It should be a two-way process, the same should apply North and South. I accept all those points. Is there any way the ESB can be prevented in law from blocking information? I am happy to withdraw my amendment if it has side effects. The point is valid. If there is someone who is the sole person with transmission, distribution and supply, IPPs cannot get to first base without this information.

Mr. Stagg:  IPPs are not entitled to the information until this legislation is passed.

Mr. Yates:  I accept that.

Mr. Stagg:  We are talking about a private monopoly operating in Northern Ireland which would not give information to any competitor which tried to get into Northern Ireland. It has the cheek to come down here and tell us our main operator should give it the information before there is a requirement to do so. I do not support that operation and the ESB is right in this regard.

Mr. Yates:  I thought we were in love with our Northern friends.

Mr. Stagg:  We are not in love with a private monopoly which—

Mrs. O'Rourke:  This amendment would only come into effect once the Bill becomes an Act. I accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 53:

In page 28, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

“(5) The Commission, solely, will determine what constitutes an ‘appropriate proportion' referred to in subsection (4)(a) and a ‘reasonable rate of return' referred to in subsection (4)(b).”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 54:

In page 28, line 35, after “capacity” to insert “or where the applicant considers that the Board's proposed charge for work to be carried out is excessive”.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I said on Committee Stage that it is preferable to have a single transmission distribution system. This is the most effective way to operate an electricity system. The EU electricity directive provides for the making of a grant of a direct line permission conditional on the refusal of access to the electricity system on the basis of a lack of capacity. This is reflected in the Bill.

Mr. Yates:  Is the Minister saying the point is made already?

[249]Mrs. O'Rourke:  The point is already covered in the Bill. The Deputy suggests that the EU directive will provide for making the grant application conditional on the refusal of access to the electricity system on the basis of lack of capacity. This is reflected in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 55:

In page 29, line 8, after “line” to insert “As a minimum the owner of the direct line will be compensated to the extent of the Modern Equivalent Asset Value of the direct line”.”

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The amendment refers to the assessment of compensation risk in respect of a direct line where the owner is directed by the commission to transfer ownership to the board. The Office of the Attorney General has advised that the provision made in the Bill using the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act is the standard approach when compensation is to be made by any of the local authorities.

Mr. Yates:  I propose that, at a minimum, the owner of the direct line would be compensated to the extent of the MEAV. I am advised that the MEAV is probably the fairest accounting methodology for the purpose of valuing long life, partially depreciated assets in today's money. Is the Minister accepting the MEAV?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Office of the Attorney General advises that the mechanism always used is that provided for under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act. I am, therefore, unable to accept the amendment.

Mr. Yates:  The amendment gives the commission the power to allow a person to construct a direct line where it is satisfied the person can build the line more economically than the cost quoted by the ESB. This does not compromise the specification of the line. Its main impact is to ensure the ESB's quotations are disciplined by the knowledge that an alternative is available to the applicant. The ESB can often provide an exorbitantly high quote to connect a house. The mechanism proposed by the amendment would provide a discipline and enable a supplier to provide electricity at a cheaper rate.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Office of the Attorney General has advised that to use the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act is the standard approach used where an assessment of compensation is to be made.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 56:

[250] In page 29, line 33, to delete “and”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 57:

In page 29, line 35, to delete “relates.” and substitute “relates; and”.

This is a technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 58:

In page 29, line 37, to delete “renewable” and substitute “renewable, sustainable or alternative”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 59:

In page 30, line 12, to delete “from the date” and substitute “on and after the date”.

The amendment is in response to a commitment I gave to Deputy Stagg.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 61 is an alternative to amendment No. 60 and both may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 60:

In page 30, to delete lines 31 and 37 and substitute the following:

“(a) generating stations which use as their primary energy fuel source peat harvested within the State provided that the amount of peat used in any calendar year to generate that quantity of electricity may not exceed 15 per cent. of the overall primary energy necessary to produce the electricity consumed in the State that year, and”.

Mr. Stagg:  I agree with the amendment moved by the Minister and will not move the amendment in my name.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 61 not moved.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 62:

In page 30, line 42, to delete “renewable” and substitute “renewable, sustainable”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 63:

In page 31, line 3, to delete “renewable” and substitute “renewable, sustainable”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 64:

[251] In page 32, line 24, to delete “or under construction” where it secondly occurs.

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 65:

In page 32, line 25, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

This meets a commitment I made to Deputy Stagg. The Minister of the day should be obliged to make a transitional regime order.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 66:

In page 32, line 31, after “in respect of” to insert “ the annual specified amounts of unrecovered costs or revenue that may occur in each single year applied only to”.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Amendment No. 68 is an alternative to amendment No. 67 and both may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move amendment No. 67:

In page 35, line 8, before “lop” to insert “, taking due care and attention,”.

I propose to withdraw the amendment and accept amendment No. 68 in the name of Deputy Sargent.

Mr. Sargent:  I believe the words “due care and attention” would not necessarily result in good practice, which should be what we aim for.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Sargent:  I move amendment No. 68:

In page 35, line 8, before “lop” to insert “, taking due care and attention to avoid unnecessary damage,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Yates:  I move amendment No. 69:

In page 35, to delete lines 53 to 56, and substitute the following:

“45.-The application of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, shall not apply to commercially sensitive data of the Board.”.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The amendment would remove the commission from the application of the Freedom of Information Act by replacing section 45, which makes the commission subject [252] to that Act. It is unlikely the Deputy intended this.

Mr. Yates:  The ESB asked me to consider this matter. I accept the amendment would have the effect outlined by the Minister. The board is afraid that certain commercially very sensitive data would be affected by the Freedom of Information Act.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The amendment would remove the commission from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. Yates:  The purpose of the amendment is to remove from the provision of that Act the board's commercially sensitive information.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  It would not be appropriate to amend the application of the Freedom of Information Act by making a specific exclusion with regard to commercially sensitive information held by the ESB because that Act already provides for commercially sensitive information. There is a high degree of protection afforded to all commercially sensitive information under section 27 of the Act. It is strongly recommended that the amendment not be accepted because it would have the opposite effect to what the Deputy requires.

Mr. Yates:  I withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister is indicating that the data which the ESB is concerned about will be protected by the Freedom of Information Act and a specific amendment is not, therefore, required.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I move the following technical amendment:

In page 11, line 17, to delete “and” and in line 23 to delete “electricity.” and substitute “electricity; and”.

I accepted amendment No. 27 in the name of Deputy Sargent and two other Opposition amendments which the Bills Office advises would upset the punctuation of the Bill. The matter can be corrected by acceptance of this technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill reported with amendment and received for final consideration.

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

Mr. Enright:  The Minister will recall I expressed concern about changes to permits. I was out of the country attending a meeting of the Council of Europe last week. What is the position?

[253]Mrs. O'Rourke:  I will contact the Deputy tomorrow.

Mr. Enright:  Perhaps the Minister will address the matter tomorrow in the debate on Second Stage in the Seanad.

Mr. Stagg:  I thank the Minister for her co-operation and the assistance of her Department during the passage of the Bill. I certainly got well acquainted with it while discussing and refining it. It was remiss of me not to refer earlier to the officials who accompanied the Minister today. Not only were they present to advise and assist her but we met them between Committee and Report Stages and that facilitated both the acceptance of amendments and the easy passage of the legislation. It was improved by the process.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Beyond all bounds.

Mr. Stagg:  If such a process could be bottled and sold, we would have a good method for dealing with legislation. There was no animosity or personal sniping during the debate, which was also welcome.

Mr. Sargent:  I concur with Deputy Stagg's remarks. It has been a privilege to work on the Bill with colleagues, the Minister and her staff. She displayed extremely mature flexibility and her ability to accept amendments reflected her mastery of her brief. It is to her credit because many of the amendments which were accepted will be extremely welcome. Many people pioneering in the area of renewable energy will breathe a sigh of relief that a number of amendments were made which will hopefully be implemented following the Bill's acceptance by the Seanad and the President.

However, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has a job to do in terms of the waste hierarchy so that we can be genuinely proud of the renewable energy which will be developed and it will not be a source of damage or embarrassment internationally. To that extent, I thank the Minister and her officials for their work, particularly in making time available to meet Opposition spokespersons. It was much appreciated.

Mr. Yates:  I concur with Deputies Stagg and Sargent regarding the Minister's officials, to whom I referred earlier. I put on record my appreciation of the Minister's approach to the Bill. Throughout its passage, she has been patient, flexible and pursued an agenda of consensus and common sense. I appreciate that because it is much more rewarding for Opposition Members. Having been a Minister, I am aware that in all briefs one is advised to say “no”. Essentially, it is a frustrating and arduous exercise to pursue amendment in Opposition without massive resources and back up. It is much more satisfying to feel one is making progress in the passage of a Bill.

[254] At the outset, my objective was to tip toe through the minefield of vested interests, ensure the customer got a better deal and that there would be orderly competition. We do not know what the outcome of the legislation will be or whether there will be 15 licensed operators or one additional operator. I hope there will be orderly development and that the ESB will continue to prosper but that there will also be some level of competition both in terms of renewables and elsewhere in the industry. I also hope a market in deregulated electricity will be developed which will be a model for the rest of Europe.

Mr. Enright:  I join colleagues in thanking the Minister for her courtesy and co-operation during all Stages. She listened attentively and generously accepted meritorious points, which was important. Her officials were absolutely splendid and most co-operative. All my colleagues have put a great deal of effort into this debate and a considerable number of people have helped in a voluntary capacity. I also thank Deputy Yates, although on occasion we might not have seen eye to eye, but we reached agreement.

The Bill is important for the midlands and the Minister addressed many of the concerns of people living there. The competition era approaches and, while it will be new for the ESB, I am certain it will have the ability to cope and develop in the future. We are looking after the consumer and not just those employed in the industry. The Bill will ensure consumers receive a much more competitive price and it will be of great benefit to them. It is splendid and I hope it works out as such.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I thank all speakers, not just for this evening's debate, which was very productive, but for the debate during all the previous Stages of the Bill. Like many of them, I learned as the Bill was going through the House. One should be able to stand up and say one understood the Bill from its inception; I did not. It was an educational exercise for me in that it was a matter of doing one's homework and mastering the amendments and the brief as one went through it. The Bill was so complex that it could not be absorbed. Clearly, if one were to deal with it in that fashion, one's mindset would be to say “no” to every amendment. If one understood everything, one would not agree with any proposal put forward by others. I have always believed, since the day I first entered the House, that ministerial offices do not possess all the knowledge. How could they, given that all of us are human? Therefore, if proper, interesting and suitable points are made during debates, despite the sound advice one receives, one should not always accept it. In general terms, however, I take it.

Mr. Dukes:  It has been established that the Minister does not always believe what she is told. We suspected that for a long time.

[255]Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Deputy did not participate in the debate. Most Opposition amendments were entirely worthy of consideration and the debate came alive as a result. It was a most enjoyable experience because each meeting on Committee Stage was better than the previous one. Each of us gained more knowledge about the Bill between meetings. Deputy Coveney was extremely interesting and interested in the debate at two such meetings and it was a learning experience for him.

A number of interesting issues and people were unearthed during the debate, which demonstrated how other sectors of society operate and which will have repercussions for future Bills. I was not aware that people were foolish enough to write letters, such as those which appeared in the newspaper, and call people collective names which I shall not repeat.

Mr. Stagg:  Corporate thugs.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The debate on the Bill was conducted in a spirit of co-operation and learning, not quite amicability. I found that to be the case, especially in regard to the various amendments which were tabled. I thank Seán Griffin and Micheál Ó Méalóid, who had to put up with my grumpiness in the mornings when we discussed amendments. It was not always done with the greatest of tact but it was certainly done in the full tradition of the public service and I owe them a great deal. I will introduce the Bill in the Seanad tomorrow.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. J. Bruton:  I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

–noting that it will be necessary to build some 40 per cent more houses over the next ten years than currently exist;

–noting that current rates of house price increase represent a crisis for individual families and a serious threat to pay moderation and economic growth;

–noting the requirement to balance commercial and residential development to ensure that suburban developments contain office and commercial space as well as housing, and that centre city developments should contain a proportion of affordable housing so that traffic flows in both directions and transport facilities are used efficiently;

–noting the requirement to plan and develop new cities and centres of popu[256] lation to redesign the physical shape of the country in order to ensure infrastructural problems are overcome in an environmentally sustainable way;

–noting that public transport is underfunded, underutilised and insufficiently competitive;

–noting that the planning process is now hopelessly slowed and deadlocked by objections to development and that some objections can best be overcome if the facilities to support new housing, such as roads, public transport, well-maintained play areas and childcare facilities are put in place at the same time as new houses;

–noting with concern the fact that some potential objectors to developments are either funded by competitors or are bought off by interested developers;

–noting the failure of the Government to produce a coherent national waste management plan which is central to any coherent national plan for housing;

–noting the failure of the Government to adequately address the traffic problem affecting all parts of the country;

is of the opinion that at current and foreseeable rates of growth in housing demand, Ireland is facing a housing and infrastructural crisis; and calls on the Government to tackle the looming housing and infrastructural crisis as a single project and to produce a national infrastructure and settlement plan which would decide future development patterns, to be under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach and be invigilated on a weekly basis by him, so that all our people are housed in places that are accessible to where they work.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Dukes.

It is clear that Ireland faces a major infrastructural crisis. One sees the evidence of this every morning and evening in our cities and towns as traffic is blocked up on the way to and from work. One also sees evidence of it in the queues of people outside auctioneers' offices, waiting for the opportunity to buy houses which are available at limited offer prices. I have every reason to believe that this will continue to get worse unless something is done about it. It requires politics and political action to change this position. I am not a visionary and I cannot foretell the future. However, I have an idea about how politics can influence the future for good or ill. If politics is to influence the future for good, three characteristics are required – predictability, efficiency and transparency.

One of the reasons for Ireland's current economic success is the predictability of our tax policies as they affect business. As the political parties in the House are agreed on basic corporation tax policy, changes in Government have not changed the business environment as far as tax is [257] concerned. Few other European countries have that degree of predictability. Ireland's membership of the European Union has enhanced that predictability because it has set constraints on what this and other member state governments can do to change direction with regard to matters such as budget deficits, environmental regulation, competition policy, etc. Predictability is an important success factor for Ireland and we can be reasonably comfortable about it.

The second requirement for successful political action in the economic field is the promotion of efficiency. This is an area in which Ireland, particularly regarding the provision of infrastructure, has been deficient. Planning for the foreseeable growth in the number of people looking for houses has been particularly inadequate. The political system at governmental level between Departments and between Departments and local authorities has not coped adequately with the rapid, but foreseeable, increase in the demand for additional houses.

For every ten houses we have today, there is a need to provide an additional four in the next ten years. This is the biggest single construction project ever undertaken in the nation's history. It is truly the millennium project because no construction project of its size and proportion has been undertaken in this millennium. It is important that the provision of these additional houses and all the infrastructure necessary to support them is seen as a single project and not as a series of individual projects, some of which may be co-ordinated with others.

The traffic problem is a symptom of a disease and not the disease itself. The disease is the shortage of housing and this represents the fundamental underlying threat to Ireland's economic success. There is a need to put in place a national infrastructure and settlement plan which would be administered on a weekly basis by the Taoiseach to ensure that, over the next ten years, all the necessary infrastructure is provided to create houses for people which are affordable and capable of being lived in in a civilised way.

At present people are not living civilised lives. They must spend an increasing amount of time in their cars morning and evening because the only place in which they can afford to buy a house is far away from their place of work. Meanwhile, because of this extra traffic over longer distances at slower paces, inner city and suburban residents are facing a rapid deterioration in their lifestyles due to the increased use of their housing areas as short cuts by people avoiding traffic jams on the main arterial routes. Smaller suburban and inner city housing areas are now experiencing levels of through traffic for which they were never designed.

Travel times are becoming longer to and from work because in Dublin, in particular, it has been decided to have a low density suburbia with plenty of green space and few multi-storey buildings or high density housing. There are objections to any change in this position, but those who [258] object fail to realise that the choice of having a low density city carries the cost of a consequent large traffic problem. This is because of the undermining of the economics of public transport by the low density choice that has been made.

The traffic problem will only be solved if the overall infrastructural problem is solved, in particular, the problem of housing and of servicing them with schools, bus, train and waste disposal services and all the other requirements, including child care, which are necessary for a civilised life. If houses are built far away from bus and train services, there will be traffic problems. If, as we are trying to do, more houses are built in outer suburbia or the edges of our cities without tackling the resultant waste disposal, schooling, road, footpath and other problems in advance, inevitably there will be objections from existing residents. They see that providing houses without services will worsen their lives and, therefore, they object and use the provisions of the planning Acts to the full.

We are now moving from having a not-in-my-back-yard culture to a BANNA culture – build absolutely nothing near anything. This is becoming the guiding principle. In the recent local elections, individuals were elected whose sole successful platforms were objecting to travellers' halting sites, new houses in a particular area or some other development which is necessary to house people, including the provision of means of incinerating waste. The willingness of people to use the electoral process to pull up the ladder after themselves once they are safely ensconced in a house and forget about the needs of others increased considerably in the recent election. This is a matter of concern, but it only happened because the political process has shown weakness. It has been unwilling to give leadership in these matters.

Political responsibility is thinly dispersed among so many local authorities and councillors who act individually in each case without any sense of a county government, similar to a national Government, making decisions on a county wide basis. This dispersal of political authority and absence of political planning has left the field open to those for whom objection, motivated by personal and selfish interests, is an increasing way of life and of asserting one's individuality and existence in an area. Due to the lack of political authority and planning, an objector culture is developing. This bodes ill for our ability to undertake successfully in the time required the major construction project which is needed to provide four houses for every ten which currently exist to meet the foreseeable housing need.

Due to the haphazard nature of our infrastructural planning, our existing buses, trains and roads are being used inefficiently. There is a need to change the shape of our cities, not in terms of the overall shape of the city but in the sense of having more businesses located in the suburbs and more residences in the inner city so that traffic is in both directions in the morning and [259] evening. If there are places of work in the suburbs and some people living in the cities, people will travel outwards in the morning and inwards in the evening, in addition to people travelling in the opposite direction. That will allow buses, trains and roads to be used more optimally. It is important that we continue seeking to ensure that residential accommodation be a requirement in all inner city developments, and that office and other business accommodation be a requirement in outer city housing developments.

We also need to take decisions not only to build satellite towns around Dublin but to establish other cities as alternative poles of development. Places like Dundalk, Athlone, Carlow and Thurles should be developed around their proposed or existing third level institutions with a view to possible city status.

It is a matter of great importance that we have a national plan which takes these sorts of strategic decisions. From my experience of the introduction of Operation Freeflow, I do not believe we can afford to leave the physical planning task to the Department of the Environment and Local Government on its own. I mean no disrespect to the Minister, Ministers of State or officials of the Department. Its brief is simply too narrow – it does not encompass education, law enforcement, traffic enforcement, child care or many other areas inherent in a successful human infrastructure development plan. Nor does the Department have the authority to decide on the physical shape of the country – it has a contribution to make but it does not have the overall political authority.

That is why we need a plan led by the Taoiseach. Operation Freeflow was introduced solely because I as Taoiseach took a personal interest in the matter. I brought all the relevant traffic authorities – law enforcement, public transport, other facility provisions, etc. – together for lunch in the Taoiseach's office, told them I would meet them again for lunch a month later, and demanded to see results within that time. Things which had not happened, and were not due to happen for years, all happened within the space of that month, simply because the Taoiseach was involved and these people had to report back.

Without making false claims for my abilities in this regard, this is an example of how the Department of the Taoiseach ought to be used to deal with strategic problems in Government. The housing shortage is a strategic problem facing us and is the main contributor to the traffic problem and other factors leading to the deterioration of lifestyle in our society. We must deal quickly with this problem.

In the context of the objector culture to which I referred, I have noticed a deplorable practice in my constituency, which undoubtedly occurs elsewhere also. A cement plant was to be built but a competitor who operated another such plant financed the cost of objectors to the proposed plant; and those proposing the cement plant paid [260] what they called “goodwill money” to objectors, who then withdrew their objections. I regard this as corruption. Politicians have as much or as little influence on the planning process as do objectors, because neither of those groups makes the decisions. If politicians had received or paid such money we would be immediately accused of corruption.

It is corrupt for a company to pay people to object to a competitor's proposal. It is also corrupt for a developer to pay people to withdraw their objections. In both cases the actions materially affect the course of decision making. It could be argued that the decision is taken not by the objector or the developer but by someone else, but in business time is money and if a development can be delayed for a sufficiently long time – in one case objectors used the court as a further delaying tactic, after the planning appeals board had made its decision – that is as good as killing it. People who finance or buy off objectors are, therefore, corrupt in any understandable meaning of the term, and this corruption must be stopped if the bottlenecks in our society to which I referred are to be overcome.

Mr. Dukes:  I propose to share the remainder of the time with Deputy Clune. Deputy Bruton has put our infrastructure problem in a new perspective, that of our future development patterns. This perspective is badly needed and the motion is timely. The Government is in the process of preparing the national development plan for the next EU financing period, from 2000-6. During that period we will face major infrastructural needs with a declining inflow of funds from the EU and a correspondingly large and increasing need for funds from, or supported from, our resources.

It is the accepted wisdom of those involved in planning for economic development that we currently have a major infrastructural deficit but I am not sure how deep that understanding goes. It is far from commonly held that a major part of that deficit is in housing, and Deputy Bruton has set out in clear terms how and why that is the case. The sooner policy makers and the Government realise how central housing is to our infrastructural deficit and how crucial a part of the problem it is, the better.

There are two major components in our infrastructural deficit which we must address between now and the end of 2006 – I take that perspective because it is within that framework that we will examine a national development plan. The first component is the backlog, the insufficiency of our current infrastructural provision in face of our current needs for economic and social infrastructure. Housing is a major part of that problem. There is no sector of the housing market in which supply comes anywhere near meeting the level of demand. House prices are still rising at an appalling rate. It is a measure of how desperate the problem is, and how desperate the Government is, that it must resort to clapping [261] itself on the back because the rate of increase in house prices appears marginally to have slowed down or, to borrow a phrase from “Star Trek”, reduced from warp speed to the merely supersonic.

It was bizarre to hear Government spokespersons being quoted and interviewed last week, saying how wonderful it was that the rate of house price increases was coming down. There is nothing to be smug or self-congratulatory about in the fact that the rate of increase has slowed from ten times to eight times the annual rate of inflation. That is doing nothing for young couples earning £40,000 per year between them who cannot afford to buy a house. No amount of smug self-congratulation by the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, or any other spokesperson for the Government, on the reduction in the rate of increase in house prices will matter a traithnín to a couple in that position because they still will be unable to afford a house at the end of this year, and they will be able to afford it even less by the end of next year.

Such evidence, as is available, indicates that rents are rising also. Rents for modest houses and apartments are now at levels which would have been inconceivable five years ago. I heard of a case the other evening of a couple who are paying rent of £1,100 per month for a relatively modest four bedroom house in a suburb of Dublin. Young couples, forced into the rental sector because they cannot afford to buy a house, are now paying rents which in many cases exceed what they would have expected to pay for a mortgage a few years ago. Last autumn, parents of third level students who live away from home and off campus were shocked to find out the amount by which rents had risen from the previous June. I have no reason to believe the same will not happen this autumn. Students who between them were paying rents of £400 for apartments at the end of their leases in June of last year found that their rentals had gone up to £500 when they went back to rent the same apartments in September or October of last year. That will continue to be the case.

Local authority housing lists are already enormous and no matter how the Government dresses it up, it is perfectly clear that the current rate of local authority housing provision is not keeping up with demand. The waiting lists get longer, and it does not matter for how long the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, goes on about it in this House – and he does go on about it – the housing lists get longer. The level of demand for local authority housing is being further fuelled by the fact that even modest starter house prices are now beyond the reach of many people who, until only a few years ago, could reasonably have expected to be able to buy a home of their own.

Our road infrastructure is appalling. The National Roads Authority considers that it is a reasonable objective to bring average journey speeds between major urban centres to 50 miles per hour. Most Members of this House do a fair [262] amount of driving around the country and no one will disagree with me when I say that nobody travelling from any one of our major urban centres today to any other could possibly hope to achieve an average journey speed of 50 miles an hour without completely ignoring speed limits and common prudence in driving. It cannot be done. That is a medium-term objective identified by the National Roads Authority. We are miles away from that and although we have been spending substantial amounts of money on our road infrastructure, journey times are getting longer even in the areas where we have made major improvements.

I live what would normally be a distance of about an hour's journey from Leinster House. In the past two years, I have found that the journey time at any time of the day is a minimum of an hour, an average of an hour and a quarter and, at some times in the morning, an hour and a half and even up to two hours for a journey of 35 miles. That is not unusual. I had occasion for a time some years ago to travel frequently between my own home and Limerick, a journey which, even before the Portlaoise bypass, I could usually do in about an hour and a half. It would be foolhardy to try to make that journey now in an hour and a half because the level of traffic has increased and the level of provision of road infrastructure has simply not matched it.

In towns throughout the country, raw sewage is still being discharged into water courses. During the course of a recent Question Time in this House, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government refused even to try to indicate a target date by which we might achieve the objective of full waste water treatment in all urban centres. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government was unable to tell me what would be a reasonable timescale in which to expect that we would stop the practice of discharging raw sewage from urban centres into our water courses.

Water quality is a major worry despite the fact that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government tries to put a good gloss on it. The latest Environmental Protection Agency reports on water quality give rise to serious concern. Inevitably, the Government has picked out the good point. It is true that the incidence of heavy pollution in our water courses is decreasing. On the other hand, the incidence of moderate pollution is increasing. The EPA sets out clearly that the number of cases of moderate pollution of water courses is increasing year by year. That means that we have a far more pervasive problem with water quality than is officially admitted.

Our railway infrastructure has come into question in recent times. The Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, who was in the Chamber a short while ago, has been obliged to come forward with a major investment programme of several hundred million pounds, not to bring about a major improvement in the level and capacity of service being supplied on the railways but simply to get [263] what we have into a reasonably efficient and safe condition.

It is interesting that at a time when we are considering making major investment simply to ensure the safety of our railway system we have other projects coming forward, based on spurious ambitions for our railways, that can have major effects on our environment. For example, we have a proposal for a major landfill operation in Silvermines, County Tipperary, being justified on the basis that there is a rail link adjacent to the site. If our railway system cannot safely take the volume of traffic that is on it now, it will certainly not be able to deal with trains bringing tens of thousands of tons of waste down to Silvermines, any more than it will be able to deal with another proposal to locate an incinerator in Kilcock in County Kildare, again on the basis that there is a railway line nearby. I hope that those who are called to make decisions on these matters will examine the wider aspects of our infrastructure provision when they are making them. If they do not, we are storing up enormous problems for ourselves.

I have referred to only four areas of the backlog in our current infrastructure provision. There is another component in our infrastructure deficit, that is, the pressing need that now exists to plan infrastructure provision to deal with current levels of growth and the foreseeable infrastructural demands arising from those levels of growth. A continuation of current levels of economic growth, household formation and rates of population increase will create an escalating need for infrastructure provision. Demands in relation to the quality of the infrastructure provided, whether it is in housing, roads, education facilities, social facilities, waste management, waste treatment, etc., will continue to rise. When we factor in accepted policy objectives in relation to sustainable growth and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we can see that the need for infrastructure provision and expenditure is racked up even further.

The volume and the quality of infrastructure required are not the only demands we face. We must also have regard to the requirements of coherence and efficiency in our planning process, and we must have regard to regional considerations. Coherence and efficiency in planning require a new approach to planning law. The Government had promised a Bill for mid-summer. Mid-summer's day has come and gone and we still have not seen the Bill. With increasing infrastructural demand, planning has become a more contentious issue and all the signs are that this trend will continue. As Deputy Bruton said, the recent local elections showed that there is widespread resistance to infrastructural expansion in key areas such as housing, accommodation and waste treatment and management. It now appears that in some areas the NIMBY principle is a good basis for getting elected. We must wonder what constructive contribution will be made [264] to the increasingly difficult area of planning by the NIMBY brigade when they are involved in making decisions.

Deputy Bruton drew attention to very dubious practices in our planning procedures that are now being admitted to. In those circumstances it is even more urgent that we reinforce the transparency and efficiency of our planning process. It is possible to do these things while giving elected representatives a greater role in the planning process. It would be impossible to provide the public accountability for planning that is required without giving our elected representatives a more explicit and determining role in the planning process.

Regional concerns become more urgent each day for a number of reasons. First is the simple matter of equity. It is inequitable that the fruits of our economic success are not more widely shared throughout our society. It requires no great wisdom to see that today there is still an enormous imbalance in terms of wealth and access to services between the west and the east. We are now paying the price for ignoring the wisdom that was popular in 1969, when we junked the Buchanan report as a result of the most appalling combination of influences. We are now back to that position. As Deputy Bruton said, we need a new approach to the development of urban areas and to providing the services required to allow growth in areas other than those where we have allowed it to take place until now. In terms of efficiency, it is utterly undesirable to have concentration of growth in the eastern half of the country, which is the norm. Infrastructural planning and provision must be seen explicitly as effective tools in remedying this inequity and avoiding this inefficiency. That is what the motion sets out to do and I hope that if the Government even half believes some of the things it has said in the House, it will accept the motion and act accordingly.

Ms Clune:  I support the motion and the point made by Deputy Bruton that he, as Taoiseach, had taken hold of Operation Freeflow. It is time someone at that level addressed the serious infrastructural deficit and the problems people are experiencing from day to day. We are told that those are the problems of a booming economy. If so, that economy should address those problems and invest where necessary to ensure that we maintain our competitive edge, which is vital for the country's future.

Why did less than 50 per cent of the population vote in the recent local elections? Is it that they feel the economy is going so well that they do not need politicians, or is it that they despair at the lack of infrastructure in their local areas and the effect such neglect is having on their lives? In many cases, it is the latter. The lack of forward planning has contributed enormously to daily traffic jams and to the stress caused by living in urban areas.

The Taoiseach recently opened the Jack Lynch tunnel in Cork. That is the culmination of the [265] LUTS plan which was envisaged for the city over 20 years ago. A vital infrastructural development is, however, missing from the west of the city. The lack of a Ballincollig bypass is causing severe traffic jams in the area and turning housing estates into rat runs. Yesterday local elected representatives were asked to a briefing by the IDA and the Cork Institute of Technology, which are proposing a major technology park in the very area that is suffering such major traffic problems. I do not doubt that such a technology park would be a great asset to Cork if the correct infrastructure were in place, but to build it we would need a material contravention of the development plan and there are no roads in place to deal with the extra traffic that such a technology park would entail. What are we, as public representatives, to say? We know very well that it is necessary for the development of the city, but at the same time those living in the area cannot take any more, and I do not doubt there would be objections to the development. The infrastructure must be put in place before the already overburdened population of the area are troubled further.

I live in Dublin three days a week, and Cork's traffic problems are not as severe as those in Dublin. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children was recently briefed on nursing shortages and the difficulties hospitals have in attracting theatre nurses, cardiac care nurses and intensive care nurses. The reason is that nurses cannot afford to live in Dublin. They cannot afford to buy houses here and do not want to deal with the stresses of traffic. A recent meeting discussed loading nurses' incomes to enable them to live in Dublin. This is an opportune time for the Taoiseach to intervene. No Department is taking responsibility for overall traffic management and control in our major city. We will not see Luas come on stream for some years – sometimes it is on, sometimes it is off. It is a debacle, yet there are cars stuck in traffic and this affects the quality of life of those sitting in them as well as the environment. The lack of sufficient public transport is one of the reasons for our traffic problems. Efficient, reliable and affordable public transport, which is provided in many European cities, is the key to solving those problems.

Another major infrastructural problem is the lack of child care facilities, which is contributing enormously to the problems of young people with children. There are two sides to this problem, the first is the cost of child care and the second is the absence of facilities. Both can be solved in different ways.

Yesterday I attended a briefing in my constituency about the problems experienced by people providing child care when applying for planning permission. There are objections if they seek permission to locate in residential areas on the grounds of traffic and noise, while they are not encouraged to look for permission to locate in commercial or industrial areas. Young people are caught in the trap of being committed to work while being unable to afford someone to mind [266] their children. This problem will boil over. The recent child care regulations are very welcome but as a result there is a reduction in the number of places offering child care.

I support the motion. There are other areas I would like to discuss, such as the lack of waste management infrastructure, which we debated recently. I call on the Taoiseach and the Government to address this matter in a coherent fashion.

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  I move amendment No. 1:

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

“Dáil Éireann notes with approval:

the increased levels of funding in 1999 relative to 1997 for infrastructure such as national roads, up by 30 per cent to a record £337 million, non-national roads up by 40 per cent to a record £242 million – in addition to which local authorities are providing a further £81 million – water and waste water up to 70 per cent to a record £275 million and housing up almost 46 per cent to just over half a billion pounds;

–the comprehensive range of initiatives taken by the Government to maximise and expedite housing supply and secure house price stabilisation which have resulted in the moderation in house price increases in the last six months;

–the record level of new housing output of 42,349 in 1998 and the 21 per cent increase in output during the first four months of 1999;

–the announcement of a four year multi-annual programme of local authority house building to provide an additional 22,000 houses over four years;

–the announcement of a Commission on the Private Housing Rented Sector;

–the initiatives taken in relation to the provision of affordable housing;

–the publication of draft guidelines on Residential Density to make more sustainable use of development land while ensuring a high quality living environment;

–the serviced land initiative which will provide serviced sites for over 100,000 additional housing units, and the Rural Towns Initiative;

–the publication of Strategic Planning Guidelines for the greater Dublin area to provide an integrated land use [267] and transportation strategy and a framework for future infrastructural investment;

–the Government's decision in principle to draw up a National Spatial Development Strategy;

–the success of the Government's negotiations on Agenda 2000 and the consequent attainment of Objective One status for the Border, Midland and Western regions;

–that a major new Bill reforming and consolidating the planning code will be presented to Dáil Éireann shortly;

–the additional resources deployed to cope with the increased number of planning applications in local authorities and appeals in An Bord Pleanála;

–the Government's commitments in relation to the Dublin light rail project and Exchequer capital funding for bus and rail investment;

– the measures being undertaken, in the framework of the DTO Short-Term Action Plan and otherwise, in relation to traffic in Dublin in the period to end 2000;

–the publication of a new policy statement on waste management, Changing Our Ways, to provide a national framework for local waste management plans;

–the new Urban Renewal Scheme and the proposed scheme for the renewal of smaller towns;

–the Government's adoption of public private-partnerships as a means of procuring infrastructural services;

and calls on the Government to continue to implement and further develop these policies to ensure that the population has access to adequate housing, that Ireland's infrastructure is brought up to the standards required of a modern, rapidly growing economy during the period of the forthcoming National Development Plan 2000 – 2006, and that physical and economic development takes place in a sustainable and spatially balanced manner.”.

The motion before the House is a very welcome one because it indicates that Fine Gael, like Rip Van Winkle, is at last waking up to the realities of modern Ireland.

Mr. Dukes:  The Minister is only trotting after us.

[268]Mr. Dempsey:  It shows some sign that Fine Gael is waking up to the actions that need to be taken to bring Ireland into the 21st century. Fortunately, it has not taken the Government so long to recognise the problems facing us and, more importantly, to take action to tackle those problems and to plan for the longer term.

Fine Gael spent two and a half years in Government until the middle of 1997 and failed to recognise the developing trends, let alone take action.

Mr. Dukes:  How much of what the Minister pats himself on the back for was set in motion by the previous Government?

Mr. Dempsey:  June 1997 brought us to the end of the rainbow. At the end of a rainbow, one expects to be dazzled by a crock of gold. However, at the end of their rainbow, we were dazzled by the glaring absence of forward planning and building for the future.

In the housing area, there was not a coherent attempt – or even an incoherent attempt – to address the problem of escalating house prices before matters reached the serious situation with which this Government was left to deal. The one major step taken by the previous Government – the increase in stamp duty – only served to hasten the deterioration of the situation by choking off the supply of second hand houses. Fine Gael still does not seem to have learned from its mistakes. Since settling in for the long haul on the other side of the House, the proposals it has come up with have centred on adding demand to the market when the dogs in the street are barking “supply, supply, supply” as the main element of the solution – although not the only solution. The same can be said of its approach to infrastructure and transport requirements.

I welcome the opportunity to draw together and put on the record of the House the enormous achievements of the Government over such a wide area of policy in just two years in office. The motion refers to some of the major challenges the Government has faced, and will continue to face in the period ahead. In confronting them, we should be conscious that these challenges relate to the unprecedented and unpredicted success of our economy over recent years. The continuation of that success will depend, to some extent, on how we respond the these challenges.

The Government's belief that this response must be strategic and coherent across a wide range of policy areas was borne out by the decision in principle to draw up a national spatial development strategy. This was announced as one of the measures adopted in the wake of the second Bacon report.

Fine Gael have only now woken up to the fact that the Government has already taken this decision. Perhaps Fine Gael know about it and are attempting to piggy-back on the Government's decision on the actions taken, or on the other actions about to be taken, by the Govern[269] ment. However, the terms in which its motion is expressed suggest that it has failed to land comfortably on the piggy's back. In calling for a natonal infrastructure and settlement plan, it is proposing an exercise that would be static and partial in character and out of date in concept. The Government, on the other hand, sees the subject matter as part of a wider, more dynamic approach that would take the form of a national spatial development strategy to encompass economic performance, social inclusion and sustainable development.

The arguments for national spatial guidance have been advanced in a number of recent reports and regional studies. The European spatial development perspective, which was adopted by EU Ministers responsible for spatial planning last month, has developed an approach and concepts that we can use to advantage in spatial planning in Ireland. The three fundamental goals of the perspective – social cohesion, sustainability and competitiveness – are very much to the fore in the recently prepared strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area. They have been adopted in the draft regional strategic framework for Northern Ireland which will contribute to achieving a common approach in spatial planning in both parts of Ireland.

The competitiveness of Ireland is dependent on a wide range of factors. A key consideration is the effective economic functioning of each of the different regions of the country. This means developing each region in a way that optimises its own distinctive economic potential, enabling it to exploit fully the resources which it possesses. Each region does not possess the same potential or the same range of attributes and characteristics and it would not be expected that each region or area would develop in a similar way. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and the intention should be to determine what these are and to build upon the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses.

The economic competitiveness of the country and of its regions has to be advanced in parallel with policies to achieve other goals relating to sustainable development, the quality of life, social cohesion and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage. This introduces the concept of a balance between achieving these goals within the country as a whole and within the different constituent areas. Related to the idea of balanced developement is that of integrated development where the aim is to integrate policies as they affect an area. The intention is not only to avoid conflict and diminution of benefits but to achieve a synergy where extra benefits are achieved from the co-ordinated formulation and operation of policies.

A national spatial strategy is, of its nature, longer term than our other planning instruments, with a vision of upwards of 20 years which will provide a coherent context for longer term investment decisions. Public investment cannot be delayed pending the production of such a strat[270] egy. Existing centres will require continuing inward investment.

The building of entirely new cities is suggested as a response to our rapidly growing city regions. While it has been put forward in the past as the classic overspill response, it has a number of serious disadvantages and was rejected as an option in the recent strategic guidelines for the greater Dublin area. The main disadvantage of that model is that it is a very high risk option. It would require high levels of initial investment and is dependent on reaching target populations within a reasonable timescale. Moreover, the development of a small number of new towns offers people little choice in where they will live. There can also be problems associated with achieving a balanced social mix and developing an identity which is so important for stability. A study of the history of new cities in Britain and further afield will see these lessons underlined.

The national spatial strategy is likely to recommend a broad planning strategy for the country at large, to identify broad spatial development patterns for areas and set down indicative policies in the location of residential development, industrial development, rural development and tourism and heritage. The strategy will provide the basis for co-ordination and co-operation in policy formulation and particularly in decision-making on major investment in infrastructure, including public and private transportation infrastructure and major industrial location.

While Ireland has made significant progress over the past decade, the benefits of our economic success have been spread unevenly. The forthcoming national development plan will have as one of its principal objectives more balanced regional development, in so far as public policy can make this happen and can influence the spatial distribution of economic activity. Maintenance of Objective One status for the Border, midland and western regions should assist less developed parts of the country to compete better for foreign investment through the more favourable State aids regime available in Objective One regions.

Mr. Dukes:  That is a ball the Government almost dropped. It was lucky to get away with it.

Mr. Dempsey:  This approach must, however, recognise that there will be certain kinds of large employment enterprises which will always wish to locate in, or close to, the major urban centres. It will be vitally important that the spin-off opportunities that these enterprises present to home grown businesses are fully exploited.

Investment in infrastructure can have an important bearing on the spread of economic activity throughout the country. In deciding on the investment strategy for various categories of infrastructure in the NDP, we will have to ensure it is complementary to and supportive of spatial development. Balanced spatial development should address the needs of all regions within the [271] limits of the resources available. A major infrastructural priority in the greater Dublin region will be to address the problem of congestion, while in the Border, midlands and east regions the priority for infrastructure will be to make the region more accessible for productive investment in industry, tourism and internationally traded services.

On the question of infrastructural investment, the Government has over the past two years significantly increased the levels provided under the existing NDP. Contrast this with the much more timid approach of the rainbow Government which stuck pretty rigidly to the limits of the plan, notwithstanding the evidence of the need to reappraise them in the light of newly emerging circumstances.

A record sum of £337 million is being provided for national road investment and maintenance in 1999 by way of funding to the NRA and local authorities. This represents an increase of 30 per cent on the initial 1997 provision of £255 million. This is also a record year for non-national roads. In excess of £242 million is being provided in State grants for these roads in 1999, an increase of 40 per cent on the initial 1997 figure of £170 million.

On the specific issue of Dublin transportation, the DTO short-term action plan, published last September, is designed to advance and accelerate a set of measures consistent with the DTI strategy which can be completed in the period to end 2000. Detailed objectives include completion of 12 quality bus corridors and 180 kilometers of cycle tracks by end 2000; provision by end 1999 of an additional 150 buses by Dublin Bus; additional rolling stock for DART; lengthening of outer suburban and key DART station platforms; and upgrading by end 2000 of the Maynooth-Clonsilla rail line.

Mr. Dukes:  Not a mention of Luas, has it disappeared?

Mr. Dempsey:  The Deputy should be a little better informed on what is happening with Luas in view of the recent announcements.

Mr. Dukes:  It has literally gone underground.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Minister without interruption please.

Mr. Dempsey:  Similarly, in the area of water and sewerage infrastructure, investment levels have increased by 70 per cent since 1997, to a record level of £275 million this year. Key initiatives are being implemented by the Government to provide services to open up land for residential development. The serviced land initiative has provided £39 million in Exchequer funding to open up 100,000 additional housing sites.

Another important measure announced in this year's budget is the rural towns and villages [272] initiative aimed at providing badly needed water and sewerage facilities in towns and villages that have not been accorded priority under existing programmes. The rural water programme is being driven forward in a planned and properly resourced way and in partnership with the group schemes movement to provide adequate supplies of good quality water to rural areas and to support local development.

However, despite the greatly increased level of existing programmes, the Government recognises that Ireland will not be able to continue to prosper and grow unless the basic infrastructure is in place to support it. We may be approaching EU income levels but we do not yet have the stock of capital, built up over decades of high investment, which is enjoyed in other advanced countries. The Government is determined that this infrastructural deficit will be radically addressed in the new national development plan for 2000-06 which is at an advanced stage of preparation. This plan will aim to mobilise the additional funds flowing to the Exchequer, the funds flowing from the EU as a result of the very successful Agenda 2000 negotiations and private funding, to carry out a seven year infrastructure programme unprecedented in the history of the State. The programme will transform our roads network, greatly improving road access to all regions. Equally, the need to substantially upgrade our public transport infrastructure will be recognised.

Continued large-scale investment will be required in water and waste water services if we are to meet EU environmental standards, support economic development and ensure a strong supply of serviced land for housing. The NDP will also provide for a major investment plan for waste recycling and disposal. The policy context for this programme has already been set in last October's policy statement on waste management, entitled “Changing our Ways”, which set ambitious waste management targets and involves considerable capital investment exceeding £600 million.

The Government has decided the public private partnership approach offers advantageous new routes to the procurement of needed infrastructure and we are committed to exploiting the advantages of the PPP approach to the greatest extent possible. A special unit has been established in the Department of Finance and in my Department for this purpose. The Minister for Finance recently announced an important Government decision on specific PPPs.

If we are to deliver on these capital projects within the timescales envisaged, we need to look at ways of speeding up the planning phase of projects, shortening the lead time and eliminating undue delays. We have been considering how the planning system can contribute to this and the forthcoming major Bill to reform and consolidate the planning system will contain a number of measures designed to streamline procedures and speed up the approval process.

While on the subject of the planning Bill, over [273] the past two years we have been subjecting the planning system to a very rigorous review following extensive public consultation. I am confident the Bill which I intend to publish next month will represent a thorough revision of the existing code which will give us a planning system better suited to modern requirements, while embodying the concept of sustainable development. It will also help address some of the concerns mentioned in the Fine Gael motion, including the issue of social and affordable housing. I look forward to the support of Members on the other side of the House for those provisions.

While the planning system has coped well with the huge influx of applications and appeals, there is no denying that delays have arisen in processing planning applications and appeals at national and local levels. On two occasions last year local authorities were asked to review their operations and, where necessary, to employ additional planners. At various times a number of Members have raised the question of planning offices being inundated and unable to cope with the number of planning applications. As I indicated previously, we asked each of the local authorities to indicate their needs. A survey carried out by my Department in mid-May last showed that staff numbers in the larger local authority planning departments, that is, county councils and county borough corporations, had increased by some 14 per cent, to more than 750, in the preceding year. Several local authorities indicated at the time that they were on the point of recruiting additional staff to their planning departments. I am certain, therefore, that the situation has improved even further since then and that number has been exceeded.

The measures which have been taken to enhance the performance of An Bord Pleanála were outlined in this House last week. Deputies will be aware that I have appointed an additional member to An Bord Pleanála and that substantial additional staffing is being put in place. I expect the cumulative effect of the various measures which I and the board have taken will begin to show results quickly in terms of the time taken to dispose of appeals and to reduce the backlog of appeals which has developed.

I now turn to the housing issue because all of the matters I have been talking about come together in one way or another to impact on housing. The motion recognises this. The Government realised quickly on coming into office that undue inflation in house prices had the potential to damage continued economic progress as well as giving rise to serious social problems. As I said at the outset, the rainbow Government scarcely lifted a finger despite the ominous trends that were already well established during its tenure. By contrast, urgent action has been the hallmark of the Government's approach to this problem. Recognising immediately that the supply of serviced land for residential development was a major factor, I made the case for what has become known as the serviced land initiative and [274] the first tranche was included in the Government's first budget in 1997.

Similarly, we lost no time in initiating a detailed study by experienced economic and planning consultants, working with officials of the Department, to provide a detailed assessment of the factors underlying house price inflation and a set of recommendations for action. It is generally accepted that few reports have been implemented with the alacrity and determination with which we implemented the first and second Bacon reports. While it is well recognised that house price inflation can be difficult to rein in once it takes hold, there are already encouraging signs that the Government's actions are bearing fruit.

House price data for the first quarter of 1999 support the view that the rate of house price increase has peaked and should moderate significantly this year. The rate of increase in house prices nationally, both new and second-hand, was lower in the first quarter of 1999 than in the preceding quarter. A significant feature of these latest figures is that, for the second quarter in succession, there has been little change in the average price of second-hand houses in Dublin, which has tended to be a leading market indicator in recent years. Over the past six months, second-hand house prices in Dublin rose by only 2 per cent, compared with an increase of almost 25 per cent in the preceding six months. There is a good prospect that the trend in new house prices will moderate appreciably in coming periods with the continued increase in new housing output.

Speaking of housing output, last year's output of more than 42,000 set another new record and the indications are that we will surpass that this year. There has been a very substantial increase of 21 per cent in housing output in the first four months of 1999. Furthermore, despite the difficulties in planning departments or An Bord Pleanála, there has been a 14 per cent increase in planning permissions in the first quarter of 1999. That points to a continuing strong trend in future output.

Meeting increased housing demands in a balanced and efficient fashion requires not only increased private housing supply but also providing for tenure choice. It is for this reason we recently announced the establishment of a Commission on the Private Rented Residential Sector, with the aim of producing recommendations which will make an important contribution to achieving a thriving, more diverse and well managed sector.

On the social housing side, we are not content with the fact that we have this year brought the social housing programme to its highest level for 13 years. We are looking to the future and have indicated that a new four year multi-annual local authority housing programme of 22,000 additional local authority houses will commence next year. This represents the equivalent of an increase of more than one fifth on the existing local authority housing stock. In addition, we believe the voluntary housing sector has the [275] capacity to complement the local authority programme in a major way, with enhanced support from the Department and local authorities. Our target is to expand social housing output through the range of local authority and voluntary housing programmes to cover the needs of more than 16,000 households per annum over the next few years, thus delivering social housing to almost 60,000 households over the next four years.

As I said at the outset, I am glad to have been able to speak about the many advances made in the areas of housing, infrastructure and planning over the past two years. I regret that time constraints have allowed me to touch only all too lightly on very important subjects. A tremendous amount of work has already been done to ensure policies in these areas are advanced in a coherent and strategic manner. The forthcoming national development plan will give us a policy and resource framework to take forward these policies over the coming years.

The importance the Government attaches to effective implementation of infrastructure programmes is underlined by the recent Government decision to set up a Cabinet subcommittee, chaired by the Taoiseach, on infrastructural development, including public private partnerships. The membership consists of the Tánaiste, the Ministers for Finance and Public Enterprise, the Attorney General and myself. The subcommittee has a focused job. Its immediate task is to prepare, by mid-September, a framework for action in this area. Among the issues it will address will be those relating to the infrastructural approval process and the development and implementation of PPPs. The subcommittee will be serviced by a cross-departmental team of senior officials from the Departments concerned.

I readily agree that mechanisms need to be put in place to monitor the implementation of programmes in the various sectors so that shortfalls are identified in good time and remedial action taken where necessary. The proper management of any programme requires as much. I am currently examining organisational structures and resources within my Department to ensure policies across the areas in question are delivered in the focused and co-ordinated way that is required. However, I find it difficult to take seriously the proposal in the Fine Gael motion that the Taoiseach would be cast in the role of invigilator, like an exam supervisor patrolling Departments, usurping the role of the Ministers responsible. I thought all along the Taoiseach was an enthusiast for the strategic management initiative.

The House may be assured the Government takes seriously its role in ensuring the Ireland of the 21st century has the physical infrastructure and housing stock befitting a modern, vibrant and inclusive society. Any objective judgment on our record to date in this area would not provide anything but confidence in our ability to deliver on [276] this. That is more than can be said for the record of certain other parties in the House.

Mr. Gilmore:  I wish to share time with Deputy Seán Ryan.

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

Mr. Gilmore:  Any objective judgment of the Government's performance in this area would not make us confident it is capable of delivering anything worthwhile.

The Labour Party supports the motion tabled by Fine Gael which goes to the heart of the next phase in this country's economic development and social progress. It is a theme which has been raised on many occasions by the leader of the Labour Party and a central one in his address to the party conference two months ago. The motion relates to housing, transport and infrastructural deficiencies and highlights the problems the Government has failed to address.

The Government appears to be surfing on the crest of the country's economic success, oblivious to the hazards which lie ahead for our prosperity and to the storm gathering around it. Ireland is a very changed country from the time 40 years ago when these Houses might have been considering the need to industrialise or from 30 years ago when they were preoccupied with the first attempts to modernise Ireland's social legislation. Ten or 15 years ago, the Houses were preoccupied with the seemingly insoluble problem of unemployment.

The modern, prosperous European country we have today, which enjoys levels of wealth and prosperity unheard of a couple of decades ago, came about as a result of changes which had to be worked for and by conscious political decision making. By the same token, political decisions must now be made about the future development of the country. Unfortunately, the Government seems unwilling or incapable of making such decisions.

Notwithstanding the country's economic prosperity, Ireland faces many problems. Our transport infrastructure – road and rail – is closer to the Second than the First World. We have a housing crisis, the magnitude of which the Government has failed to grasp. There are also many warning signs that the prosperity and economic success we now seem to take for granted may be under threat unless remedial action is taken. We are aware of the existence of considerable social inequality in spite of increased prosperity. There are also problems in the education area. However, the biggest problem is on the infrastructural side and housing is the biggest of the infrastructural problems.

This Government has made housing a luxury. A young professional couple at the start of their careers cannot now afford to buy a home of their own. People are forced into renting poor quality accommodation at exorbitant costs, often without [277] security of tenure. Local authority waiting lists are twice the length they were when the Government took office and homelessness is no longer something confined to cardboard city. It is a condition which has been visited upon many people of different ages, people who are being evicted from private rented accommodation and simply do not have anywhere to live.

If any one thing illustrates the shortcomings of this Government as it now marks two years in office, it is surely its utter failure to make any impact whatsoever on the housing crisis. This Government has more resources at its disposal than any previous Administration in the history of the State. Yet, with each passing month, the local authority housing queues grow longer and the price of even the most modest dwellings pass further and further out of the reach of young couples. Tens of thousands of people in the private rented sector face continuing rent increases and insecurity of tenure.

The newspaper photographs we saw last month of prospective buyers queuing for days for the opportunity to buy apartments with prices starting at £150,000 vividly illustrated the extent of the housing crisis and clearly revealed that Government policies are not working. The Government, in general, and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, in particular, seem intent on ignoring the plight of those suffering as a direct result of the Government's failure to deal with the housing crisis.

If the Minister wanted further independent evidence of the seriousness of the crisis, it can be seen in the Dresdner Kleinworth Benson report published last month which revealed that housing in Ireland is now the second most expensive of the countries surveyed. I was not surprised by the contents of the report which confirmed the findings of the Labour Party housing commission. The Labour Party's research revealed that the average price of a house, relative to earnings, doubled between 1994 and 1998. For thousands of people, this means they are priced out of the housing market and do not have any prospect of owning a home of their own.

It is evident that the Government's total reliance on the Bacon report was misplaced and that property prices are continuing to rise at a rate which is creating huge difficulties for first time buyers. Four day queues of people wishing to buy expensive apartments in Dublin and similar queues for semi-detached homes in Dundalk are among the more dramatic illustrations of the expensive and demoralising battle facing young couples as they attempt to put a roof over their heads.

Housing is a social need. Since it represents one of the fundamental requirements of human beings, it should not be treated in the same way as non-essential traded commodities for speculation or investment. Steps must be taken to control the price of housing. The Government should establish a fair price certificate system for all new houses, as recommended by the Labour Party [278] housing commission. The system should be based on agreed criteria such as the quality of the property and should be closely linked to building costs, land costs and levies and provide a reasonable profit for the builder.

The social and economic results of the housing crisis affect every family and town in this country. The Government's policy has failed and a new direction is needed. The recommendations of the Labour Party housing commission represent a radical new approach to the housing crisis. Instead of seeking to ignore the problem, the Government should have the good grace to acknowledge its abysmal failure in this area and should implement the recommendations of the housing commission's report. As a result, house prices would at long last be brought under control and people would be able to afford to put roofs over their heads and have some hope for the future.

The right to good quality, affordable housing should be enshrined either in the Constitution or in legislation, as is the case in most other European countries. A national strategy for affordable housing, backed up by comprehensive inspection and monitoring and overseen by an independent audit committee should be introduced. A minimum of 20 per cent social housing should be provided for in all residential developments. Is this what the Minister was referring to when he mentioned the measures he intends to take in the proposed planning Bill for which we have been waiting for two years? We were informed that it would be published mid year. The Dáil will go into recess later this week and there is still no sign of it. It was my hope that the Minister would at least have named the day. This is yet another example of a continuous string of promises but lack of delivery.

There is a need for 10,000 units of social housing per annum to tackle current waiting lists and other unmet housing needs. The Minister said that 22,000 new houses will be provided over a four year period. In the Estimates which were presented at the Select Committee on the Environment and Local Government two weeks ago, not a single penny has been provided for additional social housing this year. We were informed that a start would be made next year. There is a lead-in time of 18 months to two years in the provision of housing. This continuing delay and long-fingering is prolonging the agony of those in need of housing.

There is a need to introduce a licensing system to govern the private rented sector. All the Government has offered is a commission which will not report until this time next year. This means that further time will elapse before the measures and legislation that are needed now to provide protection for tenants are introduced.

Housing has to be seen in a wider context. There is road and rail gridlock. It now takes five hours to complete a journey that once took three hours. It is unreliable and unsafe to travel by car and there is no public transport alternative. The [279] Luas project agreed by the previous Government was long-fingered, changed and dithered with for so long that even the most optimistic now believe that it will be many years before it is put in place.

There is an urgent need to change and modernise the planning system. The Planning Act, 1963, is out of date. There is a need for a new planning regime which will not confine itself to physical planning but will be based on social needs and will take into account the need to develop communities. It should not be driven by the profit requirements of developers, as has been the practice in our major cities in the past three and a half decades.

Change is not coming from the Government. We are reaching the point where the people will get the change that is required to provide homes, efficient transport services and good planning of the environment and physical and social infrastructure only if there is a change of Government.

Mr. S. Ryan:  The housing crisis is the biggest social problem facing us as a country. Young couples cannot afford new homes. Local authority waiting lists are longer than ever while tenants in the private rental sector face spiralling rent increases. Since the Government came to power two years ago house prices have increased by over 60 per cent and rents by over 50 per cent while there are over 20,000 extra families on local authority housing lists. All this has occurred in a period of unparalleled buoyancy in the economy. This year the Minister for Finance will have a projected surplus of £5.5 billion.

I compliment my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, on his initiative in proposing the establishment of an independent national housing commission to assess the nature and causes of the housing crisis and offer solutions. The Minister and Minister of State have refused to establish such a commission or acknowledge that there is a crisis. The Government's only response has been to publish the Bacon reports which to date have failed to increase the availability of accommodation or slow down dramatically the annual increase in the cost of housing.

In 1998 the cost of housing in Dublin increased by 31.7 per cent. Couples with two average incomes are unable to bridge the gap between the normal maximum loan and the price of a house. Based on 1998 costs, the difference is in the region of £54,000. This is a matter of grave concern and cannot be left solely to market forces.

There is a strong case for intervention. The cost of a house is made up of the price of the land, labour, materials, services and profit. The average price of a site in the Dublin area has risen by 200 per cent since 1995 and now accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the average house price. This is a scandal. If we classify ourselves as a caring society, something has to be done to ensure landowners are not allowed to accrue massive profits as a result of land rezonings or planning permissions.

[280] Action to tackle building land speculation is essential if the problem of spiralling house prices is to be dealt with. The nettle has to be grasped. The Kenny report published in 1973 has to be revisited. The Labour Party will lead the way. I hope the Government will see the merits of addressing the issue.

Notwithstanding the Celtic tiger, there are at least 45,000 families on local authority housing lists. This is some achievement as we approach the new millennium. There has been a huge increase in the number of applicants for local authority housing throughout the country. In Fingal County Council there are well in excess of 3,000 on the housing list. The allocation from the Department has been sufficient to construct 80 and 95 new houses in the past two years at a time when there is much talk about equality, justice and fair play for everybody.

Mr. Dempsey:  That is 20 more than the number provided by the previous Government.

Mr. S. Ryan:  When the Minister does not like what he hears, he intervenes. That is when we know the Minister is on the rack.

Mr. Dempsey:  It is 20 houses more than the last Government provided.

Mr. S. Ryan:  The Minister is on the rack with regard to the housing crisis and people know it. The sooner there is a change of Government, the better. That would ensure equality in the housing market and in housing policy.

The number of houses in the Fingal County Council area is unacceptable and must be increased to at least 400 per annum. That is not too much to expect. There is a massive increase in the cost of private rented accommodation. In my constituency, rented accommodation costs of up to £750 per month have resulted in a huge increase in housing applications and families being forced to live in grossly overcrowded conditions. I hope the Minister responds to the positive recommendations put forward by Fine Gael and the Labour Party this evening.

Debate adjourned.

Mrs. Barnes:  I welcome the opportunity to bring this report before the House and I look forward to it being debated in both Houses of the Oireachtas. Like others who have commented on this matter on the many occasions it has arisen, both inside and outside the Oireachtas, we address the issue with mixed feelings. First, we are conscious of the feelings of hurt and loss experienced by the people involved in the terrible accident which killed a mother of two young children and left her husband a single parent and severely disabled. We are also conscious of the ter[281] rible loss and pain of other people affected by the accident and particularly by what the committee was asked to investigate, the early release of Mr. Philip Sheedy.

I pay tribute to Deputy Eoin Ryan, the chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights for the honourable way he acted when it became obvious that there might be a conflict of interest in the context of the committee's investigation and his remaining in the Chair. I also pay tribute to the members of the committee who worked with me, particularly the members of the working group.

I will give the House a brief summary of the background to the need for the committee to examine the circumstances surrounding this case, the progress or lack of progress made and the lessons the committee has learned. Hopefully, the Houses of the Oireachtas will be able to continue the work that the committee was not able to do within its resources and will raise urgent questions about the initiatives and reforms which are necessary so that if an event again arises which involves the political and judicial branches of Government and confusion about the separation of powers under the Constitution, at least there will be a clear path and more powers to deal with it.

The committee considered the report from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the early release from prison of Mr. Philip Sheedy and presented an interim report to both Houses of the Oireachtas on 20 April this year. In that report, the committee signalled that it would proceed to consider matters arising from this event. It hoped it might be able to obtain answers to the many questions raised by the sequence of events and to be in a position to report back to the Oireachtas. It was hoped that it would be possible to recommend procedures and policies to ensure this would never happen again and to allay the fears and concern of the public about the case.

The committee considered a letter from Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty, dated 16 April, in which he indicated his willingness to make a statement to the committee and “to answer any and all questions which members may raise”. In acceding to Mr. O'Flaherty's request, the committee also decided that the same opportunity should be offered to Mr. Cyril Kelly and Mr. Michael Quinlan. Letters were sent to each asking if they wished to meet with the committee on this basis. During this period the committee was at all times acutely aware of the importance of the constitutional separation of the judicial and political functions. It was also motivated at all times by minimising further hurt to everybody involved in this dreadful case.

The first way the committee tried to proceed was by means of an informal inquiry in which people would voluntarily appear before it. However, in a letter dated 5 May, Mr. O'Flaherty indicated he would not attend and could not further help the committee as the Constitution [282] did not permit him to do so. This effectively meant the committee would not have the voluntary co-operation of all persons. Mr. Cyril Kelly indicated that he had not adopted a final position in the matter and was following the proceedings of the committee. Mr. Michael Quinlan offered to attend and to co-operate with the committee.

In seeking advice from senior counsel it emerged that a number of different procedural ways might be available to the committee. However, all options were fraught with constitutional or legislative difficulties. With that in mind, the committee decided to write to the Chief Justice, Mr. Liam Hamilton, and request him to make further inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the Sheedy case. The Chief Justice had already presented a report to the Government in an efficacious and efficient manner. The committee believed that if he could undertake that task on behalf of the Government he might also be able to continue and conclude it, perhaps with more success than the committee. Alternatively, if the Chief Justice felt he could not undertake that task, the committee asked if he could suggest, within the existing constitutional and legal framework, how the committee might progress.

A reply from Mr. Liam Hamilton, dated 10 June, stated that he had completed all the inquiries open to him and that it was not a matter for him to advise or make suggestions to the committee as to how it should proceed. This second avenue having been closed, the committee had two further options offering some prospect of progressing the matter. The first entailed the continued involvement of the committee or some other Oireachtas committee appointed for that purpose. The second option was the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry.

Members of the committee are conscious of the negative public reaction to the setting up of yet another public inquiry. They are also conscious of the difficulties involved in attempting to amend existing legislation to qualify the exemption now enjoyed by members of the Judiciary under the compellability of witnesses legislation. They are also extremely aware, as are the Members of all committees, that a committee such as ours does not have the time, expertise or resources necessary to bring about a speedy conclusion. The committee is overwhelmed with a huge work programme regarding other legislation and that would add considerably to our difficulties.

The other option is a tribunal of inquiry. The tribunal could be established within appropriately narrow terms of reference with a fixed time for reporting back. It might have a better prospect of securing satisfactory answers. The committee admits that it could face the same legal difficulties and the prospect of constitutional challenge but it might not run directly into the very difficult and immediate problem of the separation of the Judiciary from the Houses of the Oireachtas, a problem the committee constantly faced. The committee believes the Houses of the Oireachtas might not be hindered in the same way and [283] should be allowed to continue to make progress on this matter. The outstanding issue is so serious that is requires, at least, the consideration of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, and even the prospect of having a referendum on a constitutional amendment.

Members of both Houses were faced with the prospect of a constitutional crisis if we had tried to work through a procedural process towards the impeachment of judges. It was then realised that the Article on judicial functions, the special exemption of judges, and the lack of a process being laid out under the Constitution or legislatively, did not allow any forum or procedure to be continued with, that would allow both sides to be heard on this matter. That is still an outstanding and urgent area to be examined. There may be other occasions on which the House will be faced with the same difficulty, so the committee would like the Oireachtas to examine this issue and use all its powers, either by way of legislation or constitutional amendment.

We welcome the fact that as a result of the working group under Mrs. Justice Susan Denham, recommendations have already been made for the establishment of a judicial body to contribute to high standards of judicial conduct, and a system for handling complaints about judicial conduct. Members of the committee agree that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should ensure that such a judicial body is established at the earliest possible date and that the committee will have an input into the recommendations for its establishment. Above all, the committee wishes to convey its frustration and disappointment with the futile attempts to get answers despite the hard work and goodwill of everybody involved on the committee. It is now the responsibility of the Oireachtas to use every possible method to ensure accountability at all levels in every institution of State in order to restore confidence to the administrative and judicial system that has been severely dented.

Article 5.2 of the Constitution concerning judicial functions has been widely interpreted by some of the judges. We could usefully have a debate as to whether the Article has been extended to a far greater degree than was envisaged in 1937.

I thank all members of the committee who worked in such a cohesive way towards achieving a consensus. The commitment and shared concern of all our members was an example of how the committees of this House can and do work. It was an honour to have been able to chair the committee. Unfortunately, the report and its conclusions are not what we would wish to have presented to the House. Our committee, and others, when faced with such difficult decisions – particularly with regard to judicial and political matters – must ensure that even if it means changing the Constitution or setting up a tribunal of inquiry, despite negative public reaction, it [284] must be done. I hope some way will be found to answer the questions arising from the Sheedy case which has given rise to such public concern. I hope also that the judicial body, which should be set up as quickly as possible, will ensure that a case like this will not happen again.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Seanad Éireann has passed the Architectural Heritage, National Inventory and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1998, without amendment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Select Committee on Heritage and the Irish Language has completed its consideration of the Major Events (Television Coverage) Bill, 1999, and had made amendments thereto.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Miss M. Wallace):  I speak on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, who is unavoidably absent at the talks in Stormont this week, which is why he cannot attend the House.

The House will be well aware of the events which led to the transmission by the Government to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights, of the reports of the three separate inquiries in connection with the early release from prison of Philip Sheedy, namely, the report of the Chief Justice, the report of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the report of the Chief State Solicitor.

In summary, on the evening of 10 February 1999, the Attorney General contacted the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, at a meeting in Berlin regarding concerns that had been raised with him relating to the case of the DPP v. Philip Sheedy in the Dublin Circuit Court in November 1998. The Minister decided that an immediate inquiry should be established. At the request of the Minister, the Attorney General then contacted the Chief Justice who initiated an inquiry. The Minister also instructed the Secretary-General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the Garda authorities should be advised of the matter and that the Department should immediately conduct its own inquiries.

The Chief Justice provided the report of his inquiries to the Attorney General on 14 April, who furnished it to the Minister. On the basis of facts either admitted or established at that stage, the Chief Justice accepted that Mr. Justice [285] O'Flaherty became involved in this case in a spirit of humanitarian interest and concluded, inter alia, that the intervention of Mr. Justice O'Flaherty in the re-listing of the case was “inappropriate and unwise, that it left his motives and action open to misinterpretation and that it was therefore damaging to the administration of justice”. The Chief Justice took the view that Mr. Justice Kelly, then a judge of the Circuit Court, should not in the circumstances of this case “have entered on a review of a sentence imposed by one of his colleagues” and, moreover, “failed to conduct the case in a manner befitting a judge”, and that Mr. Justice Kelly's handling of the matter “compromised the administration of justice”. The Chief Justice concluded his report by emphasising that as Chief Justice he has no jurisdiction, whether under the provisions of the Constitution or any Act passed by the Oireachtas, to make any recommendations arising out of the facts in this case.

The report of the Department was finalised on 19 April 1999. It took account of the conclusions of the Chief Justice, the replies from the County Registrar to a series of questions put to him about his role in the matter, and other inquiries which are set out in the report. It concluded that the action of all officials, bar one, were carried out bona fide, in the course of what they took to be their proper duties. In relation to the Dublin County Registrar, Mr. Michael Quinlan, it concluded that, on the information available at that time:

1. While Mr. Quinlan's motives and actions were very evidently misguided, they were not corrupt. He did not know Mr. Sheedy and there is no suggestion that what he did was motivated by any prospect of personal gain or reward.

2. His performance in general, but, in particular, in connection with the official-level inquiry, fell well short of the standards that can reasonably be expected of a person holding the position of County Registrar and, in the circumstances, obstructed and misled the Department's investigation and in fact amounted to misbehaviour.

On 16 April 1999, the Government considered the contents of the Hamilton report and decided, inter alia, to approve the delivery of letters to both judges stating that, in the light of the Hamilton report, it would consider at its meeting scheduled for 20 April proposals for resolutions for the consideration of both Houses of the Oireachtas, for their removal from office under the provisions of Article 35.4.1º of the Constitution. The Government also gave approval to make the necessary arrangements for the immediate release of the Hamilton report to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights. Following consideration of the Department's report on 20 April, the Government approved the [286] release of same to the joint committee. Mr. Michael Quinlan was provided with copies of the departmental report on a confidential basis on the evening of 19 April 1999. Mr. Justice Hugh O'Flaherty resigned on 17 April 1999. Mr. Justice Kelly and Mr. Quinlan resigned on 20 April 1999.

On 20 April 1999 the matter was again considered by Government and later that day the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform made a statement to this House in connection with the circumstances surrounding the relisting of the case of the DPP v Philip Sheedy. The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, informed the House of the resignation of the two judges and the County Registrar and outlined the severance terms to which the Government was and is prepared to agree and which would be brought before the House in due course for approval, namely, the provisions contained in the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 1999, Second Stage of which was opened in this House last Thursday.

The Minister has examined the report of the joint committee and he notes its findings. In particular he notes that the committee finds itself unable to inquire further into the circumstances surrounding the early release from prison of Mr. Sheedy for the legal, constitutional and other reasons outlined in the report and seeks the views of the Oireachtas as to how the outstanding issues can be resolved.

Judges are exempt from compellability under the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and lmmunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997. The committee has considered that an amendment to that legislation could provide that judges and former judges could not be compelled to give evidence in relation to the exercise of their judicial functions. It is the Minister's view that the committee rightly points to the serious difficulties which may follow from such a course of action. Judicial and non-judicial functions cannot be easily categorised, particularly in the context of the handling of a court case. If the amendment were to be included in the compellability legislation further questions would have to be resolved, such as who is to decide in any particular circumstance what constitutes a judicial or non-judicial function. Would the committee or a Minister certify that the actions fall within the judicial category? Would it ultimately be a matter for resolution by a court were there to be a difference of opinion regarding the certification? Does an Oireachtas committee or indeed a Minister have the authority to adjudicate in issues such as whether a particular matter related to judicial functions. Even if it were easy to answer these questions, which it is not, there remains the point that the boundaries they seek to push out stray dangerously close to interference with the independence of the Judiciary.

[287] It seems to the Minister that it is a matter of natural justice that judges should be aware in advance of precisely the matters which fall outside judicial functions. It would be wholly inappropriate to compel judges to answer questions on actions which they considered to be judicial while the Oireachtas considered otherwise. The complexity of the case at issue highlights this problem. In his report the Chief Justice concludes: “I cannot share Mr. Justice O'Flaherty's belief that a judge of the Supreme Court, having called the County Registrar, an official of a lower court, to his chambers, could expect that anything said by him would be received by the said official as if it had come from a private individual.”

As it happens, the question of the independence of the Judiciary was examined by Mr. Justice O'Flaherty in his consideration of the case of McMenamin v Ireland where he quotes Lavery J. in O'Byrne v Minister for Finance [1959] IR 1, as follows:

the danger of interference with independence is obviously from the executive and legislative organs of Government. History – not only our own but all history – teaches that such a danger can be very real. As the independence is declared, it is to be expected that it would be secured and protected. As has been said, the judicial power is the weakest of the three organs of Government, as it holds neither the sword nor the purse.

The words of the joint committee itself in this regard underline the problematic nature of this issue where it states at paragraph 13: “It is the view of the Committee that any enquiry in this area will be entering unchartered constitutional terrain, fraught with legal difficulty and the virtual certainty of legal challenge.”

For his part, the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, has no difficulty with a comprehensive review of the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and lmmunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997, as suggested by the joint committee. He believes that such a review might provide some assistance in determining the practical benefits from any proposed amendments. Moreover, he believes it is essential that any proposed amendments should be examined thoroughly with due regard to the balance that must be maintained between the different branches of Government. A “quick fix solution” to our present difficulty may produce long-term harm to the institutions of State.

The committee's second option is the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, with appropriately narrow terms of reference which include a fixed time for reporting. The Minister considers that the same difficulties referred to above may come into play, in particular the categorisation of [288] judicial and non-judicial functions and the requirement to recognise the independence of the Judiciary. In addition, we have seen the problems which can be caused by narrow terms of reference where the tribunal is forced to return to the Oireachtas for an extension of terms. Furthermore, in theory a fixed time for reporting seems sensible but that in itself can result in a less than satisfactory inquiry. The committee rightly points to two difficulties which could arise if a serving judge of this jurisdiction was to chair such a tribunal, namely, the impact of an appointment would have on the hearing of cases before the courts, and the extent to which members of the Judiciary would be personally acquainted with one or more of those involved in this matter. However, the other options mentioned by the committee, chairmanship by a former judge or a judge of another jurisdiction, are equally problematical. Again, the committee points up that it may well be that a tribunal of inquiry would stand little better prospect of bringing matters to a satisfactory conclusion.

As regards the significance of the insertion of the word “judicial” before “functions” in the 1937 Constitution, I am advised that the Minister finds common ground with the committee in their recognition of the fact that it would not be open, in the absence of a constitutional amendment, to make any inquiry into the exercise of their judicial function by a judge or former judge. It is not clear if the implication of the report is that the committee would favour such an amendment, but the Minister most assuredly would not. The Minister also notes the suggestion in the committee's report that some members of the committee may have a clear grasp of what constitutes the exercise of a judicial function and may be able to draw very precise distinctions in relation to what most of us would regard as very complicated matters. The Minister is convinced in his own mind that if we go down the road of a constitutional amendment to provide for an inquiry into the exercise of functions, judicial or otherwise, by a judge or former judge, we will be embarking upon a very perilous path and one which he is sure is fraught with legal complexity.

It is a matter of great concern to the Minister that a new approach seems to be creeping into our parliamentary process which is that wherever we are hindered in our course because of constitutional difficulties, the suggestion of a constitutional amendment is immediately made. I am very proud of our Constitution. It is a very robust document. I strongly believe it is not simply a document to invoke when of assistance in pursuing a particular political course of action and to amend when it causes constraints to another political project. On balance, for all the frustrations it may produce from time to time, our Constitution serves as a magnificent bulwark of our freedoms and liberties and as a protector of the [289] separation of powers on which the effective working of our democracy depends.

The House will be aware of the very valuable work carried out by the working group on a Courts Commission, chaired by Mrs. Justice Denham, in the development and improvement of the area of courts administration in Ireland. The group was requested to specifically address the issue of judicial conduct and ethics. The sixth report of the working group dealt, among other matters, with this topic.

The group examined the issues surrounding judicial conduct such as judicial independence and the fundamental nature of same in the context of the rule of law and the procedures which are adopted in other countries relating to the handling of judicial conduct that might be considered unsuitable for a member of the Judiciary. It recommended the establishment of a judicial committee and, on publication of that report in April, such a committee was duly established by the Chief Justice, and had its first meeting on 19 May 1999. The committee will consider the sixth report and it will consider further the position in other jurisdictions, including Canada, New South Wales, the United States of America and New Zealand. It will consult with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Bar Council, the Law Society, academics and others and it will also receive submissions from interested bodies.

Furthermore, and of direct significance to our work today, it will advise on and prepare the way for the establishment of a judicial body which would contribute to high standards of judicial conduct and establish a system for the handling of complaints relating to such conduct. It will do other preparatory work, including the relating of judicial standards and ethics and will consider matters which have arisen since the sixth report was finalised last November. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has personally assured the Chief Justice that he will have every support from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Government in carrying out the work of this judicial ethics committee.

The report of the Department made nine recommendations in relation to institutional and procedural changes in the courts designed to prevent any recurrence of the events which led to the early release from prison of Mr. Sheedy. They dealt with issues such as the performance of duties by court staff, judicial conduct and ethics, the review of sentences and establishment of a parole board; the method of appointment of county registrars, the assignment of cases to particular judges, court rules, plea negotiations and the formal transfer of responsibility for the administration of court services to the new Courts Board. Some of these recommendations have been implemented already and others will be the subject of proposals to be brought before Government in due course.

[290] I am informed that the Courts Service Transitional Board is working diligently towards the establishment of the Courts Service later this year. The aim of this significant change in courts administration is the provision of an efficient, effective and accountable service to judges, practitioners, court staff and, most importantly, the users of the court system. This will be support by information technology systems which will facilitate the organisational changes which are now under way. This work was in train before the events with which we are concerned occurred, but these have given added urgency to the radical overhaul of the courts service.

The past few months have raised many difficult and important issues affecting the operation of our courts and there has been a level of concern and debate in this respect which is without precedent. In our discussions of this matter we must never forget that the primary victims in this controversy are the Ryan family, whose private grief has been constantly intruded upon by these very necessary discussions.

However, it is a reality that in many situations we must accept that some truths will only be partially revealed and that we may never get the full facts in specific situations. To quote from the Bible, St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13: “For now we see through a glass darkly.” It is also now time for us to accept this reality and to move on from this episode. We must look to the future and learn the lessons from these events so as to avoid a repetition. That is what the Minster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Courts Service are doing.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo):  There is a fundamental onus on us all as Members of the Dáil and the Oireachtas and an unavoidable moral duty on the Government to get to the whole, unvarnished truth about the Philip Sheedy affair. To fail to do so would be an abdication of the Government's duty to this House and an abject failure of its responsibility. This is, after all, where the public accountability buck is meant to stop.

However, given what the Minister of State has said, it is regrettable that the motto of the Government –“hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”– lives on. I am very disappointed with her response, which is crystalised in her final remarks. Biblical quotations will not suffice, nor will they thwart the determination and right of the public and the Oireachtas to know exactly what happened.

The Government is making a big mistake if it believes this matter can be consigned to the shelves of history. Moving on will not happen until we analyse what happened in the past. The possibility of a constitutional challenge to whatever course of action or further inquiry we engage in should not deflect us from our determination to carry out our duty and to establish the full truth.

[291] It was interesting to note the litany of negatives thrown up by the Minister of State. Nobody knows if a court challenge or challenges would be upheld. The issue should be fully tested before the High Court, the Supreme Court and, if necessary, the European Court. It should be decided conclusively once and for all, otherwise it will remain suspended and unresolved and this and future Governments will never be clear in their position in the events of future similar controversies involving judges.

In the event of challenges being upheld, we should not shirk the need for constitutional amendment, provided it does not interfere with the separation of powers or the narrow interpretation of what constitutes judicial function. It is, therefore, incumbent on the Government that in the wake of the publication of this report, it decides, on the basis of the analysis and studies in the report, which course of investigation or inquiry should be embarked upon to establish the full truth and all of the circumstances surrounding the wrongful early release of Philip Sheedy from prison.

The fact that Philip Sheedy is back in prison and that a Supreme Court judge, a High Court judge and the county registrar were each forced to resign does not mean that the matter has been concluded. We must ascertain why the individuals involved acted in the way they did. We must establish the reason two senior judges, judges entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing the law of the land and with dispensing justice, broke the very laws they were constitutionally charged to uphold. The constitutional declaration made by each judge on taking office to execute that office without fear or favour was breached by the actions of Mr. O'Flaherty, but outside the precincts of the court in that his involvement in having the Sheedy case wrongly listed happened out of court. In the case of High Court judge Kelly, he wrongfully heard the case in that he engaged in ex parte conduct without hearing both sides, he engaged in a mysterious and unexplained calling of the case out of turn and he deliberately misled the court by conveying the impression that he had access to an up-to-date psychological report. All of these individually and collectively breached the constitutional pledge given on taking up such high office.

The Chief Justice has again been commended for the speedy and precise manner in which he discharged the limited task assigned to him by the Government and for the clarity of his findings of fact: the fact that Mr. O'Flaherty's intervention in the administration of justice and that former Mr. Justice Kelly's handling of the case compromised the administration of justice speak for themselves.

In essence, the Chief Justice said that justice was perverted in the Sheedy case and that the two [292] judges involved played key roles in the perverting of justice. Am I not right, Sir, in asserting that to pervert the course of justice is a criminal offence? In such circumstances, where there is clear evidence of a criminal offence – there will not be a clearer presentation of the evidence and the facts than that set out in the Chief Justice's report – the gardaí should be asked to investigate the matter and files prepared.

Mr. Justice Hamilton's limited investigations established the roles of the two judges in the affair. However, in relation to Mr. O'Flaherty, we do not know why such an experienced and senior judge should be guilty of such a serious error of judgment. Given that he has now refused to make himself amenable to any and further investigation, he must be compelled to do so.

In his letter to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights dated 5 June, Mr. O'Flaherty stated he could not assist the joint committee because under the Constitution he, as a former judge, is independent and is not accountable to the Houses of the Oireachtas or any other institution of the State for his conduct in the exercise of his judicial function. However, in the same letter he went on to state he was not involved in any judicial function concerning the conduct of the Sheedy case. He had no part in the hearing, judging or reviewing of the case.

There are clear contradictions in Mr. O'Flaherty's argument. While he was a judge he did not have any judicial function in this case. This in turn means that the section of the Constitution quoted by him on the independence and accountability of the Judiciary does not and cannot apply to him. He was not performing a judicial function and, therefore, his conduct does not come under the article of the Constitution he is now attempting to invoke. In his case there is no question of the independence of the Judiciary being at stake.

What is at stake here is accountability, the same obligation and degree of accountability as applies to any other citizen. Mr. O'Flaherty must be rendered accountable for the very serious charge of which he stands indicted by the Chief Justice, that he damaged the administration of justice. Just as it would be very wrong for the State to fail to act if an ordinary citizen deliberately perverted the course of justice, likewise, it is incumbent on the State to apply the law in this instance and to ensure that Mr. O'Flaherty is answerable before the law. He was not exercising a judicial function. He is, therefore, accountable and answerable before the law of the land, similar to any other citizen.

I regard Mr. Kelly's position as being completely different because he had judicial function in the case, even though he abused it by exercising it wrongly. One cannot, therefore, under the Constitution impinge on or query his actions inside the realms of the court room. However, [293] one is entitled to query why a judge of such high standing should uncharacteristically deviate from and set aside the standards he so rigorously applied previously.

One is entitled to ask Mr. Kelly whether he knew or had any contact with Mr. Sheedy or any member of his family and whether he had been approached by anybody in advance of the case in order to possibly influence him to hear a case over which he knew full well that he did not have seisin. If so, it must be established who approached him. One is further entitled to ask him under oath if there was any contact between him and Mr. O'Flaherty in regard to the case. One is entitled to explore the reason for the unique situation where two judges of such high standing took such a personal interest in the welfare of Mr. Sheedy and if, in advance of the case, there was any contact between Mr. Quinlan and Mr. Kelly, and the possibility of asking Mr. Kelly to explain the reason for the difference between his version of events and that of Mr. Justice Joseph Matthews. One is also entitled to ask Mr. Kelly to spell out in detail his involvement in and knowledge of the case in so far as they did not in any way trespass into the domain of his judicial function.

We again commend Mr. Michael Quinlan for his willingness to make himself available to the joint committee. While the former County Registrar erred grievously in having the case listed, he is, nonetheless, to a certain extent a victim in that it can be presumed that when approached by a judge of the Supreme Court to list the case he must have felt that he was compromised and under pressure. This is acknowledged in the Chief Justice's report where he concludes:

I am satisfied therefore that had Mr. Justice O'Flaherty not spoken to the County Registrar, he the County Registrar would not have telephoned the accused's Solicitor and opened the possibility of the case being re-listed.

Mr. Quinlan's evidence could well be crucial in unravelling some of the unexplored aspects of the case.

The letter of 12 April 1999 from Mr. Michael Staines, solicitor for Philip Sheedy, to the Chief Justice is of particular significance. Mr. Staines recounts in it the telephone call he received from Michael Quinlan querying when he would make application for a review of sentence for Philip Sheedy and emphasising that Mr. Justice Cyril Kelly was awaiting the application. Mr. Staines stated: “I asked Michael Quinlan what this was all about and he indicated to me: ‘You don't want to know”'. It is obvious that this is a comment of considerable significance. It may well be that it possibly related to the approach that Mr. Quinlan had received from Supreme Court Judge, Mr. Justice O'Flaherty. However, it must be established whether the comment also implied that [294] other people had made contact with Mr. Quinlan regarding the listing of the case.

There is an obvious requirement to investigate the roles of other key personalities in the affair. For example, there has been no official investigation of the alleged role of Mr. Ken Anderson. All we have is Mr. O'Flaherty's version of events in which he stated:

Sometime late last year (probably October), I casually encountered a son of family friends and neighbours, Mr. Ken Anderson who was accompanied by a sister of Mr. Sheedy. This encounter was entirely by chance. They gave me an outline of the facts of Mr. Sheedy's case.

We do not have Mr. Anderson's version of this chance encounter other than by way of an interview in The Star.

Again the Chief Justice stated that “They gave me an outline of the facts of Mr. Sheedy's case”. It is clear from this that Mr. Sheedy's sister had a role in soliciting the assistance of Mr. O'Flaherty in attempting to obtain the early release of her brother. To date nobody has interviewed her in order to establish her version of the event or, indeed, subsequent events. There is also a need to establish the full extent of the role of Mr. Sheedy senior. One can understand the deep concern of a parent whose son faced a protracted spell in prison. It is obvious that he played a pivotal role in contacting a variety of people in order to try and bring about his son's early release from prison. He needs to outline the contacts he made with various persons on his son's behalf in any investigation.

The absence of the representative of the Chief State Solicitor from the court when the Sheedy case was called was an aspect of the role of the Office of the Chief State's Solicitor which was not investigated. The Chief State Solicitor was represented by Ms Eileen Creedon. According to Michael A. Buckley, Chief State Solicitor, in his letter to the Chief Justice dated 6 April 1999:

Ms Creedon was called out of court to answer the telephone. While Ms Creedon was absent at the telephone item No. 19 (The Sheedy case) was called by Judge Kelly.

The transcript of the case ran to only one and a half pages. It could not have taken much more than two minutes. The identity of the person who telephoned Ms Creedon has not been established. What has not been determined, or it certainly has not been made public to date, is whether this telephone call happened to be an unhappy coincidence in terms of timing or whether it was a deliberate decoy in order to ensure that the representative of the Chief State Solicitor's office was absent from Court while the case was being heard. We need to hear from Ms Creedon the circumstances surrounding the telephone call.

[295] Most of the investigation of the Chief Justice was concluded by way of written correspondence with the various parties involved. An in-depth oral inquiry is needed, which would enable all the key individuals to whom I have already referred to be questioned in detail about their knowledge of or involvement in the different aspects of the affair. Others who would have to be called before such a process are Mr. Brian McGreary, law clerk in the Chief State Solicitor's office; Mr. S. J. Braonain of the Central Criminal Court; Mr. Brendan O'Donnell of the Circuit Court office; Mr. Michael O'Donnell, Registrar at the Circuit Criminal Court; Mr Luigi Rea, B.L.; Mr. Sheedy's original legal team; and the one which represented him at the controversial hearing on 12 November 1998, including Mr. Michael Staines, his solicitor. The interest in the case of Mr. Sheedy and the involvement of political figures, such as the Taoiseach, former Deputy Jim Tunney, Deputy Brian Lenihan and former councillor Joe Burke would also be of interest to such an investigation.

Similar to other members of the joint committee, I am deeply disappointed that the Chief Justice has declined to resume his inquiry into the Sheedy affair. He claimed that it would be “constitutionally impermissible” and “improper and inappropriate” for him to make any further inquiries into this matter at the request of the committee. The request was motivated in the first instance by an acknowledgement of satisfaction with his original report and, second, with a view to allowing the Judiciary and the bar to deal independently with the issue themselves rather than having judges subjected to scrutiny by an outside or extra-judicial body. Not alone did the Chief Justice decline this option but his curt response to the series of valid questions put to him by the committee was unhelpful and discourteous.

If he wanted to plead constitutional grounds, he should have done so in advance of writing his report at the Government's request. Having carried out his investigation into the conduct of the two judges while they held office and published his report on 14 April it is illogical and contradictory for him to try and argue that it is constitutionally impermissible for him to inquire further into the matter when both individuals are no longer judges. If he wished to plead constitutional grounds he should have done so immediately on being requested by the Government to investigate the affair. If there was no constitutional impediment in the way of his first investigation, then there is no constitutional difficulty now.

Having unsuccessfully sought to have the matter investigated by the joint committee where the key persons involved, prompted by the spirit of Mr. O'Flaherty's first letter, would have voluntarily appeared before it, the committee has fur[296] thermore been frustrated by the unco-operative attitude of the Chief Justice. There seems, therefore, to be two remaining options. While one would like to see the joint committee enhancing its role and carrying out the inquiry itself assisted by an amendment to the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and lmmunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997, in order to enable the judges to be brought before it, it is questionable as to whether a parliamentary committee would have the time, expertise or resources necessary to bring its inquiries to a speedy conclusion.

I share Deputy Howlin's view that a tribunal of inquiry would be the best option at this stage and such a tribunal need not be a protracted affair. The number of personalities involved is limited and well known. It should be possible to draw up tightly circumscribed terms of reference and have the entire matter concluded within a matter of weeks. The public interest demands that the truth must be established. The tribunal should be chaired by a judge or a former judge from another jurisdiction. In view of the senior positions of the two former judges, it would be impractical to expect one of their former peers to sit in judgment on their recently departed colleagues. The refusal of co-operation of the Chief Justice also must be a factor.

A decision from the Government is needed before the end of this debate as to which course of inquiry is envisaged. The joint committee has done the exploratory work. It is now a matter for the Government to recommend and we have no intention of allowing this matter to languish in the sands of time.

Ms O'Sullivan:  I am extremely dissatisfied with the Minister of State's contribution on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in response to the report of the Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights. Is this House made up of men and women or of mice? Choices have been put before us by the joint committee which did a great deal of work on this issue. Others also did much work on it, options were put in good faith before the House and we expected the Minister to make a decision.

A vote was taken at the committee in which the Opposition indicated its priority, which is a tribunal of inquiry. However, the majority of the committee decided that the report would be laid before the House, with options. The report was laid before the House not in expectation of the type of reply we received from the Minister of State. In effect, she said the Government does not want to know any more and it will not make any further inquiries. It will set up a committee in relation to the courts, but it is afraid to go any further in relation to the investigation of the specific matters involved in the Sheedy affair.

[297] The Minister of State said: “Even if it were easy to answer these questions, which it is not, there remains the point that the boundaries they seek to push out stray dangerously close to interference with the independence of the Judiciary.” She went on to make other points about being afraid to push out the boundaries on the issue of the separation of powers. The separation of powers serves us well, but not in relation to the points at issue in this debate because we do not have a clear definition of what is a judicial function. This is obvious in the contributions of the Minister of State, Deputy Higgins and Deputy Barnes and in other comments on this matter. We must push out the boundaries and establish the sense in which judges operate within or outside their judicial functions.

Deputy Higgins referred to Mr. Justice O'Flaherty. It seems clear from the report that it was accepted that Mr. Justice O'Flaherty operated outside his judicial function with regard to his involvement in the case when he requested the registrar to relist it. We must bite the bullet on this issue. I am extremely disappointed because it appears the Government will allow the report to sit on a shelf and that it will do nothing. This is unacceptable. In common with Deputy Higgins, I also call for a public inquiry into this affair.

On foot of the report from the committee, the onus is on the Government to choose how best to proceed. However, there can be no hiding from the seriousness of the affair. Effectively, the Chief Justice elect, a High Court judge and a senior court official were forced to resign after a damning report from the Chief Justice. It is an event without precedent in the State's history and we need to get to the bottom of it. The Government has rejected our suggested approach. We accept that it was not without legal difficulty, but given the absence of prior definitive legal opinion in this area, no approach would be watertight.

This affair has done serious damage to the perception of the administration of justice. When the story broke, we as politicians indicated our determination not only to find out how the judges acted but why they acted as they did. This obligation still holds. Tomorrow the Government will force through generous pension arrangements for the two judges involved. There appears to be a sense within the Judiciary that now the boil has been lanced, namely, the two judges have been removed, they are happy to leave it at that. However, the public is owed more. A tribunal with limited terms of reference is not perfect, but it is the best way forward. If the Government does not agree, it should come up with a better alternative. If the possibility of legal action arising from the inquiries of a tribunal acts as a bar to its establishment, none of the tribunals currently under way would have got off the ground. Perhaps that is what the Government wants.

Deputy Higgins referred in detail to the various [298] questions which arise in relation to Mr. Justice O'Flaherty, Mr. Justice Kelly, Judge Matthews, Mr. Quinlan, the Chief State Solicitor's report and Ms Creedon who represented the Chief State Solicitor at the trial in question. Deputy Higgins referred to the fact that the transcript only ran to one and a half pages and that the Chief Justice was able to report up to a certain point but felt unable to go further. There are many unanswered questions, including those of accountability, and we have a duty to find answers to these questions. If this means the courts questioning what is a judicial function, so be it. I brought along a copy of the Constitution because we are being asked to accept that Article 35 of the Constitution is the basis for the view that we as parliamentarians are not competent to decide if something is a judicial function. Perhaps we are not competent, but I have not heard much comment from the Judiciary or the legal profession generally on the general and important issues which arise in this case.

Articles 34 to 38 of the Constitution deal with the courts and justice. Article 35.1 states: “The judges of the Supreme Court, the High Court and all other courts established in pursuance of Article 34 hereof shall be appointed by the President.” Article 35.2 states: “All judges shall be independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and subject only to this Constitution and the law.” The Article also deals with the process of how a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court can be removed from office for stated misbehaviour or incapacity upon a resolution of the Dáil and Seanad.

I am not a constitutional expert but these provisions are vague. If the Constitution has not been interpreted by the courts in this regard, there is an onus on us to ensure that a process is put in place where this interpretation can be made. Otherwise, these questions will be left hanging in the air. Another issue which is left hanging is whether one has more access to justice if one can strike up a conversation with a judge and if, as a result of that conversation, one can hope something will happen in relation to how one's case is listed. This issue forms part of the background to this matter and it must be investigated in the interest of public confidence that justice is done and seen to be done. It is a serious issue to leave in the background without trying to find out why the events happened as they did in this case.

The Minister of State mentioned the Constitution and said it is robust. She said it has served us well and the Government was unwilling to open it up in any way. However, it is being opened. A committee is considering the Constitution at present. There are people in wheelchairs demonstrating outside Leinster House this evening. When the House was dealing with the Employment Equality Act, the Constitution did not appear to allow us ensure that such people [299] would always have access to work even if there was a cost to the property owner or person offering the job. There is nothing wrong with questioning the Constitution if we believe areas of it may need to be amended. The Constitution has been in existence for many years and it is in order to question it and consider if parts of it need to be improved.

The great number of questions which arise in this matter were not in any way answered by the Minister of State. I do not understand the purpose of the Biblical quotation at the end of her speech about seeing through a glass darkly. I did not know the Minister of State intended to quote from St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, but if I recollect it correctly it states:

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things. Now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face. Now I know in part and then shall I know even as also I am known.

I am not sure that is entirely correct but it is my recollection of the quotation.

Mrs. T. Ahearn:  The Deputy is correct.

Ms O'Sullivan:  One could use other parts of the quotation and say that now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known. That part of the quotation refers to going to heaven, but one could say that we know in part but there is a great deal that we do not know. It appears to the Opposition that the only way we will know the full details of this case is by having the courage to suggest a limited tribunal of inquiry. The Minister said there were difficulties with having it chaired by someone from another jurisdiction but did not indicate what those difficulties might be – she merely threw that statement into the air. I would like a response to that also.

There is anger among the Opposition at the tone of the Minister's response and its failure to address the issues still outstanding in the Sheedy case. We agree with the suggestion that we examine the courts, but it is not suggested how we should deal with the Sheedy case. We accept there are difficulties but feel the only way to deal with them is to allow them to be opened up to examination by a tribunal of inquiry or the courts. It may involve amending the compellability legislation but so be it – we need to find out what was happening, to ensure we get clear answers in areas where judicial function is blurred, and to ensure the public is satisfied that justice is done and is seen to be done.

Mr. O'Kennedy:  In its conclusions, the committee's report states:

[300] The committee has now reviewed these options and considers that the authority and powers currently available to it will not enable it to obtain additional information in relation to the facts surrounding the early release from prison of Mr. Sheedy.

The committee could have reached that conclusion at the beginning by looking at its terms of reference. Nothing in those terms, under any interpretation, would empower, enable or entitle the committee to raise a range of issues such as they have now raised. The notion that former judges should be brought before the committee is utterly outside its terms of reference. Many of the matters in which its members have engaged in public controversy are not based on its authority as a committee of this House.

Its members are so frustrated in not knowing or understanding their terms of reference that they use the most unqualified words of criticism in all directions. The Chief Justice is described as unco-operative. I also heard Deputy Higgins say something which he might like to consider on reflection. I did not intervene at the time and I trust he will give me the same courtesy. He quotes the Chief Justice as saying “these two judges played key roles in the perversion of justice”. That is an outrageous distortion and implication. The Chief Justice did not say any such thing.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo):  “Compromised the administration of justice” and “damaged the administration of justice”.

Mr. O'Kennedy:  I will not be interrupted. The Deputy who has attributed to the Chief Justice the opinion that those judges played key roles in the perversion of justice should acknowledge that this is not only a total distortion of what he said and a falsehood but also a gross intrusion on the independence of the Judiciary, which he seeks to call into question.

These are serious issues. The separation of powers is written into our Constitution for good, valid and sufficient reasons and until recent months, this House and the people we represent were satisfied, confident and comfortable in this separation. The relevant Article of the Constitution properly insists that the Judiciary shall be independent in the exercise of its functions. That has been the bulwark of the Constitution under which we serve. All of us recognise that.

For one reason or another, the Chief Justice was not able to reply to the committee chairman's letter seeking advice, suggestions, or co-operation. That has been used in this House as a reason to attack the Chief Justice and the courts for not being co-operative, to distort and misrepresent what the Chief Justice said, and to imply that he said these two former judges played key roles in the perversion of justice. That is disgrace[301] ful. If Members feel frustrated that they cannot get to the root of the matter we should look at the terms of reference of the Oireachtas and the committee which feels so frustrated. Did we ever imagine that a committee chairman would write to the Chief Justice asking for his co-operation? Is there the slightest tither of awareness on that committee, of the separation of powers in our Constitution? I am further astounded that the Chief Justice is then accused of being unco-operative. This is unbelievable. Whatever frustrations individuals may feel about this sad and tragic event, it is no basis for misquoting, distorting, and undermining our most fundamental constitutional foundation, the separation of powers.

If we address these issues again at any point we must first look at our own powers and terms of reference. Then there would be no danger that we would call into question the independence of the Judiciary, much less try to involve them in political barnstorming or using such outrageous expressions as Deputy Higgins has, namely, “played key roles in the perversion of justice”.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo):  Did Deputy O'Kennedy read the report?

Mr. O'Kennedy:  Yes, and not anywhere does it contain those words. If Deputy Higgins was a properly representative parliamentarian he would withdraw those words because it is a disgrace that they are on the record.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo):  He must not have understood it. Is he looking for promotion?

Mr. O'Kennedy:  No.

Mrs. T. Ahearn:  Having participated as a member of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights in the investigation of the Philip Sheedy affair, it is disappointing to have to speak on a report which is mostly if not all about failure. Two facts are clear from the report. First, that the committee under the vice-chairmanship of my colleague, Deputy Barnes, did everything possible and explored every avenue open to it under its terms of reference to get the full facts of this mysterious case. Deputy Barnes and the committee deserve to be congratulated on their efforts. Second, the committee failed in spite of all these efforts. We are commenting on and evaluating a report which, unfortunately, details our failure to do our business as we wanted. It speaks volumes of the powers of or, rather, the constraints not only on the committee system but on this House to investigate and to satisfy public disquiet and alarm on this case.

Rightly, it was the committee's intention to determine what lessons might be learned and the procedures and policies which might be identified and recommended to avoid a repetition of what [302] occurred. It sought additional information. It is disappointing that it was forced to conclude:

The committee . . . considers that the authority and powers currently available to it will not enable it to obtain additional information in relation to the facts surrounding the early release from prison of Mr. Sheedy.

It is more than depressing to read the report's conclusions. Almost every paragraph is littered with words and phrases such as “failure”, “impossible to achieve”, “unable to get co-operation” and “regrets”. Despite the unsatisfactory nature of the report, the committee should be congratulated on its untiring and determined efforts to investigate and get to the roots of this mysterious case. We failed, but the question we must ask in the House tonight is, where do we go from here? Do we do what the Minister said, look to the future and move on? We should never do that. The Government has a moral responsibility to investigate the reason justice for Philip Sheedy is different from justice for others. The very basis of our judicial system has been undermined by this episode.

We can pose many complex questions this evening, whether they be constitutional or judicial in manner, but I want to pose three simple questions. First, who is this man? He is supposed to be an ordinary citizen, yet everybody, from the highest level of the Judiciary to politicians, jumped through every loop to get him out of prison. Second, why are those involved in the case so reluctant to tell all? Third, why is the Minister so anxious to move on? If the answers to these questions are simple, why are we not getting them? If the answers to the three questions I have posed are not simple, we should not move on.

I want to comment on the attempt by the Minister to use the Bible to try to justify burying this episode. He said that the Bible states: “From now we see through a glass darkly”. I remind the Minister that the Bible also states: “Where there is darkness, let us show light”. The Minister's determination to move on and bury this episode raises serious questions. Unanswered questions leave all of us in this House and the general public very uneasy.

Mrs. Barnes:  I welcome the opportunity to respond. I join with everyone else in expressing disappointment with the speech read by the Minister of State on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I shall deal with the outburst by Deputy O'Kennedy later, but if that is an example of the arrogance of the judicial profession, is it any wonder there is such anger and concern both inside and outside this House?

I am astonished that the Minister would turn down the two options left open not just to the committee but to these Houses. We are talking [303] about the status of this House. I remind everyone that we are the elected Members of a democratic Republic. We represent the citizens and their rights and it is our job to ensure there is accountability on the part of every institution of this State. If we are not prepared to do that, or if we say that some other institution has superior rights to silence us or prevent us asking questions, there is something wrong with our democracy. There are more serious questions to be answered than when we started this debate.

I am astonished that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should say that our robust 1937 Constitution can address the needs, the accountability and the educated views of those outside this House. Much of that Constitution has stood us well, but it is a reflection of the 1930s which has no bearing on us on the brink of a new millennium.

I have struggled with many others both inside and outside this House to hold referenda on the Constitution to give us various rights regarding housing, the disabled etc. As for women and their role, we are still suffering from sections 40 and 41 of the glorious Constitution of 1937.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has responsibility for at least communicating with the Oireachtas committee on constitutional reform and review. If this is the attitude he expresses towards its members, why do they bother to sit? Why did we set up a review commission headed by the eminent T. K. Whitaker, who made dozens of recommendations, if we did not believe that our Constitution needed to be examined and amended? That is the most depressing message we have received tonight.

I resent the tone and the attitude exemplified by Deputy O'Kennedy who treated those of us on this side of the House as if we had no competence or confidence and no sense of the importance of understanding the separation of powers of the Judiciary and the Executive. I remind Deputy O'Kennedy that he and others in his profession in the law courts make their fortunes out of taking different interpretations from the Constitution and legislation enacted in this House.

I want to read something into the record, and I hope Deputy O'Kennedy gets an opportunity to read it – he does not appear to have got an opportunity to read the other reports. The eminent senior counsel who instructed our committee – this is in favour of the 1937 Constitution – stated:

There is an additional word inserted in the 1937 Constitution as opposed to the 1922 Constitution. The word “judicial” is placed before “functions” in the 1937 Constitution. In the light of the insertion of the additional word “judicial”, and based upon a literal reading of Article 35.2, it would appear that an inquiry of a judge or of a former judge of matters relating [304] to events not connected with that person's judicial functions would not be covered by Article 35.2. The article in the Constitution protects the independence of judges in relation to the exercise of their judicial functions and not generally.

I rest my case.

Mr. Enright:  I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me speak on this important subject. I am pleased that you gave it priority on the Adjournment. It is an indication that you share the concern of the Irish people. Abdullah Ocalan has been condemned to death by hanging. It is important that the Irish people, through their representatives in Dáil Éireann, voice their total opposition to this death sentence. It is essential that the Irish people are unified in ensuring that this death sentence is commuted.

Three people were appointed as judges in this case, one of whom is a military officer. I was concerned that family members of the people who had died in the conflict were allowed to wave flags in court and produce pictures of the deceased. There was also a very intensive campaign before people were brought across to the island of Imrali for the trial. It is essential that we condemn terrorism, and while it is important that we do so, the Turkish Government should not carry out the death penalty at this time. Were the death penalty carried out, it would inflame passions, not just in southeast Turkey but from central Europe to the Middle East. It would create a very dangerous scenario.

The death penalty has not been carried out in Turkey since 1984 and it is essential it is not carried out in this instance. The House will be aware that in May a Turkish State security court handed down a death sentence on the Kurdish guerrilla commander, Semdin Sakik, who is a former deputy to Abdullah Ocalan. Mr. Sadik's brother, Arif Sakik, was also sentenced to death. This means that there are three people facing the death penalty in Turkey.

Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe and I am proud to represent my party on that body's legal affairs committee. All Irish representatives on the Council of Europe are opposed to this death penalty; the Council itself opposes the death penalty at all times. Turkey has applied to join the European Union and I believe its application was welcomed and is highly regarded. However, one of the standards of civilisation is that a Government does not impose the death penalty.

[305] I am sure other European Parliaments will join us in calling upon the Turkish Government to ensure that the death penalty is not applied to Abdullah Ocalan and the Sakik brothers. To carry out the death penalty would be wrong and a retrograde step. I hope the Minister for Foreign Affairs, his Department and this House communicate our objections to this sentence to the Turkish Ambassador to Ireland.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. N. O'Keeffe):  The Government regrets that the death sentence has been passed on Abdullah Ocalan by the State Security court of Ankara earlier today and joins the international community in appealing for clemency. Ireland also associates itself with the declaration of the EU Presidency on the outcome of the Ocalan trial.

The Government's opposition to capital punishment as a matter of principle, irrespective of the defendant and the offence of which he is convicted, is well known. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs made clear in the Seanad earlier this year, it is the deeply held view of this Government and that of the other member states of the European Union that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. For those reasons, we and our partners are working assiduously towards the universal abolition of the death penalty. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs said: “the continued use of the death penalty diminishes us all”. Ireland has been following the trial of Abdullah Ocalan closely and a representative of the Irish Embassy in Ankara was present at today's proceedings. Earlier, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, together with our EU partners, called on Turkey to ensure a free and fair trial for Mr. Ocalan. On the occasion of the visit to Dublin of Speaker Cetin of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs emphasised Ireland's concern to see fair and correct treatment for Mr. Ocalan and an open trial according to the rule of law before an independent court, with access to legal counsel of his choice and with international observers admitted to the trial. He also stressed Ireland's strict opposition to the death penalty.

The Government understands that Mr. Ocalan's lawyers have already given notice that they intend to appeal the decision of the Ankara State security court. This appeal will be made in the first instance, to the higher court of appeals in Turkey. If the appeal fails at that level it will be submitted to Parliament where it will be considered by a Parliamentary Committee and, if that committee so decides, by plenary. Ultimately a decision to carry out the sentence would require the consent of the President. In addition to these domestic remedies, Mr. Ocalan's lawyers have [306] also indicated that they intend to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Deputies will be aware that the death penalty has not been implemented in Turkey for the past 15 years, as Deputy Enright said. This is a significant achievement. Ireland would very much hope that Turkey's existing moratorium on execution would be maintained pending the early abolition of the death penalty. As the Council of Europe has recently recalled, President Demirel joined all the other heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe at the Strasbourg Summit in 1997 in a pledge to abolish the death penalty and, pending that, to uphold existing moratoria on executions.

The capture and trial of Abdullah Ocalan attracted widespread attention in the international community and presented Turkey with a difficult and sensitive case. Mr. Ocalan was arrested in mid-February in Kenya and, following charges of treason, separatism and murder, was incarcerated on the island-prison of Imrali. On 3 March, the Turkish authorities granted unrestricted access to Mr. Ocalan in Imrali prison to representatives of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. The delegation declared itself satisfied that Mr. Ocalan was not at risk of physical ill treatment and from interviews with Mr. Ocalan and the three doctors attending him was satisfied that his physical health was good. However, they expressed some unease about his psychological health and recommended that he be provided with a radio, newspapers and books. Following the delegation's visit, a number of recommendations were accepted by the Turkish authorities.

Mr. Ocalan's trial opened before a State security court comprising two civilian judges and one military officer on 31 May with a reading by the prosecution of a 139 page indictment accusing Mr. Ocalan of treason, separatist activities and murder. The trial was adjourned on 8 June to allow Mr. Ocalan's defence team to prepare their case. On 18 June, in a move which was widely welcomed by the international community, the Turkish Parliament adopted a constitutional amendment removing military members from all State security courts in accordance with a European Court of Human Rights's ruling.

Mr. Ocalan's trial resumed on 23 June when the defence team presented their case before three civilian judges. Following a further adjournment, the Court met again this morning when the presiding judge pronounced the verdict on Abdullah Ocalan, sentencing him to death on charges of treason, separatism and murder. In his statement the presiding judge is reported as saying:

the Court has decided unanimously to condemn the defendant to death since Ocalan's crime of aiming to divide Turkish territory by [307] orders he gave to the PKK and the decisions he took are established without doubt.

On the grounds that the PKK's acts had claimed “the lives of thousands of innocent people” it is understood that the judge also refused to commute the sentence to life imprisonment under Article 59 of the Turkish Penal Code as requested by the defence team. In Mr. Ocalan's final statement to the court he is reported to have said that he did not accept the treason charges although earlier in the trial he is reported to have accepted all charges against him but had asked to be allowed to live to mediate peace between PKK rebels and the Turkish State.

Ireland, and its partners in the European Union, continue to be concerned by the Kurdish question. Since 1984 more than 30,000 people have died in fighting between the Turkish Army and the PKK. The EU has indicated that it upholds the territorial integrity of Turkey and utterly condemns terrorism. However, it has made clear to Turkey that the fight against terrorism must be conducted with due respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Mr. Enright:  Hear, hear.

Mr. N. O'Keeffe:  Ireland, along with its European partners, has conveyed to the Turkish Government the view that a peaceful political solution must be found to the Kurdish question and we will continue to urge this approach on the Turkish authorities.

The Government endorses Deputy Enright's motion. The Turkish authorities should ensure that Turkey's moratoriurn on the death penalty is maintained. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has stressed that Ireland will continue to use all diplomatic and political channels to make our views known to the Turkish authorities.

Mr. Enright:  I thank the Minister of State for his reply.

Mr. D. Carey:  I raise an important matter for County Clare farmers. I refer to the five month delay in REPS payments in County Clare. The previous Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Yates, established a charter of rights for farmers which would have enhanced the rates of EU grants to farmers. The charter brought about a great improvement in the relationship between farmers and the staff of the Department of Agriculture and Food where there was a change of attitude towards farmers. There now appears to be an industrial relations problem in the Department and I plead with the Minister to resolve this difficulty, even if doing so costs money.

[308] While I acknowledge the response of the Minister and the Department to the crisis caused by last year's wet weather and the resulting shortage of fodder, the delay in payments under the REP scheme is causing great hardship. Farmers have invested heavily in slatted houses and other pollution control measures and are now kept waiting for payment. The editor of the Farmers Journal said in last week's issue that last year was a profitless year for cattle and beef feeders. It is generally acknowledged that there is a very small profit margin in farming. Farmers who have borrowed to make the required improvements are being charged interest rates of between 11 and 15 per cent. If the weather was good and cattle prices very high, farmers would not complain about a five month delay in grant payments, but the Minister must agree that the delay in payments is causing great hardship in a year when farmers are experiencing a huge shortage of income.

I appeal to the Minister to resolve the dispute in his Department, if necessary by calling in a third party. Farmers' representatives spoke to the Minister about this matter and a slight improvement followed. However, 1,300 applicants still await payment. It has been claimed that approximately one fifth of the total payments have been paid and the Minister claimed, in reply to a parliamentary question, that half had been paid. Approximately 1,300 small farmers who have made no profit in a year of dreadful weather still wait to be paid.

If we wish to see an adequate response to problems such as farmyard pollution, we must look after farmers, who have invested heavily, in this time of need by improving the rate of payment and making those payments on demand, as was promised in the charter of rights.

Mr. N. O'Keeffe:  I thank Deputy Carey for raising this matter on the Adjournment, although as usual he has highly exaggerated the situation. The position is that Ireland's performance in delivering direct payments to farmers under EU headage and premium schemes is among the best in the EU and compares very favourably with that of other member states. For most schemes Ireland rated between first and fifth among the 15 member states in terms of early payment in the 1997-98 scheme year. Ireland was first in the arable aid and ewe premium schemes, third in the suckler cow scheme and fifth in the special beef premium scheme.

Under the 1998 headage and premium schemes, more than £768 million has been paid, of which £35 million went to farmers in County Clare. Payments under the 1998 schemes were made in line with the payment targets set out in the charter of rights for farmers. The Government implemented the charter of rights when it took office. It has made major improvements in the payment of all schemes and has had great suc[309] cess in that area. I visited County Clare on a number of occasions. I have been to the Clare County Show on two occasions and I have heard no claims such as those made by Deputy Carey. The most recent payments were in respect of 1998 extensification premiums under which £75 million has been paid in the last month or so. A new scheme to combat pollution was introduced last week and was widely welcomed.

Mr. D. Carey:  No forms are available.

Mr. Browne:   (Carlow-Kilkenny): The scheme was not rushed.

Mr. N. O'Keeffe:  The scheme was announced last week and anyone interested in it should consult his or her local farm development officer after next Monday. Schemes for dairy hygiene and installation aid have also been introduced. The Government is moving progressively in making payments to farmers. We know and understand the needs of farmers, especially the farmers referred to by Deputy Carey. Payments under all the 1998 schemes have now been made in all eligible cases, in line with EU regulations and the charter of rights for famers which require that these payments be completed by 30 June 1999.

The position with regard to the 1999 scheme is that, to date, £59 million has been paid to Irish farmers. These 1999 payments represent, in the main, payments of the first instalment of the 1999 ewe premium and payments under the 1999 deseasonalisation slaughter premium scheme. Over £41 million was paid to Irish sheep farmers, representing the first instalment of the 1999 ewe premium. These payments were made at the earliest possible date consistent with EU regulations and will ensure that Ireland will again rank number one among the 15 member states in terms of early payment of this scheme.

There was, unfortunately, some delay earlier this year in processing REP scheme applications in County Clare. My Department has addressed this issue in recent months and considerable progress has been made, particularly in the past six weeks. The progress has been facilitated by drafting in additional staff to County Clare and these will remain in place as long as necessary.

Direct payments constituted 56 per cent of farmers' income in 1998 and this proportion is set to increase in the coming years, following the successful outcome of the Agenda 2000 negotiations. It is my objective that the improvements in delivery of these payments which has been achieved in recent years are built on and that the service provided by my Department to farmers is efficient, fair, friendly and transparent.

The amounts paid to farmers in County Clare under 1998 headage and premia schemes are as follows: cattle headage-beef cow, £8.6 million; sheep headage, including top-up, £164,000; suck[310] ler cow premium, £11.490 million; equine headage, £58,000; special beef premium, £6.690 million; goat headage, £5,000; slaughter premium, £300,000; ewe premium, £1.074 million; extensification premium, £5.443 million; arable aid, £16,000; BSE-agrimonetary package, £1.009 million; winter fodder, £1.234 million; winter fodder top-up, £549,000.

The total amount paid under 1998 schemes on 29 June 1999 was £35.115 million. The amounts paid in County Clare under 1999 headage and premia schemes are as follows: slaughter premium, £119,000; ewe premium, £447,000; winter fodder, £298,000. The total amount paid for 1999 schemes on 29 June 1999 was £566,000. The figures are on the record of the House and Deputy Carey may announce them on local radio in County Clare.

This shows the successful service provided by the Government to agriculture in Deputy Carey's county. The results of the local elections show how successful the Government's performance is.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): I thank the Chair for allowing me raise this important matter. I am amazed that it will be responded to by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Keeffe, who seems to be a Minister for all seasons and who responds to debates on everything from headage payments to hanging.

When Joe Connolly founded the Community Games it must have been beyond his wildest dreams that it would now cater for 500,000 children who come from every parish. He could not have envisaged the superb organisational skills of thousands of volunteers who took up the torch to help future international stars develop their potential and, more important, to help those less talented develop an interest in sporting activity which sustains them through life. That activity may not revolve around the routine sports of hurling, football and athletics but involves chess, draughts, clay modelling and choir singing. These activities have given a wonderful opportunity to people with talent.

Joe Connolly could not anticipate the failure to have this fantastic work recognised and rewarded by the State. The grant of £130,000 to the Community Games organisation represents a payment of 25p per child. Does this represent the value put on the unselfish work of thousands of volunteers at parish, county and national levels at great personal cost to themselves? How much money is collected by the State in VAT alone through sales of petrol and all types of sports equipment to those involved in the games? The motto of the Community Games is mens sana in corpore sano. In this age of drugs and crime what could be more apt?

[311] It costs £53,000 to keep a prisoner in jail for one year according to figures supplied last week and £80,000 to keep a juvenile in Oberstown House. Since many re-offend, the cost to the Exchequer is great. This compares with £130,000 given to an organisation that caters for 500,000 juveniles throughout the country. There is something wrong when two juvenile offenders or three adult prisoners cost the State more than the Exchequer contributed to the Community Games.

Surely it is time to accept that prevention is better and cheaper than cure. Surely it is also time to say thanks to all those volunteers who give their time and money in helping others develop interests to sustain them through life. Is anything more important than giving young people an interest and keeping them occupied? It is time the Government said thanks in a very tangible way by giving an extra financial contribution to an organisation which does so much to help so many. We offend those unselfish, unpaid and sometimes unappreciated people at the risk of bringing so much community work to a halt, a situation we must avoid at all costs.

Last Sunday I attended our county Community Games finals and the press conference of the Leinster branch on Monday night, and I met people who are spending much of their own money and who are very unhappy with what is happening. I hope the Minister for all seasons will have good news for the organisation.

Mr. N. O'Keeffe:  I do not mind how the Deputy refers to me – I am doing the business I am charged with doing. I thank the Deputy for raising the funding of the Community Games organisation. The Community Games, now in its thirty second year, is an important organisation which promotes and encourages sporting activity among young people in Ireland.

The games have been of great benefit to communities throughout the length and breadth of the country and provide numerous young people, both male and female, with a constructive outlet for their energies which may help them avoid becoming involved in anti-social behaviour. In fact up to 500,000 children participate in the Community Games each year. The organisation encourages participation and involvement in a wide range of different sports and cultural activities in a friendly and not excessively competitive environment.

The Community Games operates on an area, county, provincial and national level. The area is the basic unit and can be a local, community, urban district, small town or village with a population up to 6,000. There are currently more than 800 areas active in Community Games.

Community Games are probably best known for their Olympic style national finals festival [312] which is held each autumn in Mosney Holiday Centre. There are 26 sporting and cultural activities on the national programme. Approximately 7,500 competitors reach the national finals following qualification at local and regional level.

The Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation provides an annual grant to the Community Games organisation towards areas of expenditure such as administration, organisation, development and equipment. In 1999 the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation approved the allocation of a grant of £129,570 to the organisation which represents one of the largest individual grants to a governing body of sport under this scheme. This is supplemented at local level by grants from various vocational education committees under the youth and sport grant scheme administered by the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. It is estimated that this further funding is in the order of £30,000 per annum.

The Deputy will be aware that from next Thursday, 1 July 1999, the Irish Sports Council will be established on a statutory basis and that under the recently enacted sports council legislation responsibility for matters such as the funding of national governing bodies of sport will come within the council's statutory remit. I wish to assure the Deputy that I will bring the issues raised by him in relation to this organisation to the attention of the Minister, Deputy McDaid, and of the Irish Sports Council and I am confident that the council will bear these in mind when consideration is being given to the funding of governing bodies of sport in the future.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): I wish to clarify that the Community Games is not a sporting organisation and will not get funding.

An Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy might find another way to raise that matter.

Mr. Roche:  I thank the Chair for allowing me raise this issue. I have been a public representative since 1984 and have handled many, cases, both in the House and outside, of injustice and infringements by official bodies. I remind the House that for a long time I was involved with the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace. I was involved in the Birmingham Six and other famous cases in the UK. However, I have never witnessed a case which so sickens me as the manner in which a child's well-being has been handled by the Eastern Health Board.

I pay generous tribute to the Minister who has listened very carefully to me on more than one occasion. This is an extraordinary case which illustrates a major problem in child care legislation. It shows, for example, that there is a need for a family advocate to support families who find [313] themselves in crisis and pitted against the might of health boards.

In this case a family sought help from the Eastern Health Board. They accepted there was a problem – this was never in question. However, the family ended up not getting the help it sought but losing a child they loved. The mother and father of the child went to the Eastern Health Board because they felt a problem existed. They sought counselling. Instead of getting counselling, their child has been in the “care” of the Eastern Health Board since Christmas Eve 1996 when officials of the board used the Garda Síochána to enter the house with force and take the child away. There are two other children in this case.

There are many facts in the case which give me reason for concern, namely, the manner in which the health board dealt with the family in the first instance; the extraordinary manner in which the child was taken and the force used on that Christmas Eve; the number of movements of the child when she first came into the care of the health board; the contradictory and extraordinary versions of the story of the child given to different members of the Eastern Health Board over a period, including myself, in response to questions raised by members of the board about her welfare and the facts of the case; and the extraordinary manner in which the Eastern Health Board has been handling the fostering of the child.

Last year the grandparents of the child sought to have her placed in their foster care. This was rejected on the basis they were “too old” and in poor health. The grandmother of the child is a very sprightly and fine woman who works in a nursing home and cares for her own family. There is no doubt but that she would make a very fine foster mother for her own grandchild. The grandfather of this child is a CE scheme supervisor, dealing on occasions with very difficult young men. He has had a heart by-pass operation but there are many people in the State who have had such operations and who go on to lead full and active lives.

After my first contact with the Minister of State Deputy Fahey late last year, the question of foster care by the grandparents was reactivated, and I thank the Minister for that. However, the Eastern Health Board has behaved disgracefully ever since. Documents which were posted to the Eastern Health Board were mysteriously lost or went astray in the post. A further application form for the child's fostering was lodged earlier this year.

When this issue began to come to the boil again in recent times, there was correspondence between the Minister of State and me and between the parents and other senior political figures in the State.

An official from the Eastern Health Board visited the grandparents earlier this month and told them that they were wasting their time, the board [314] knew all about the grandfather's health and they might as well save themselves the money and withdraw from the case. The grandparents were distraught, they succumbed to this bully tactic and they gave up in despair.

They have, however, reactivated their application as of last week. Professionals outside the Eastern Health Board, who have discussed the matter of the fostering of A.K. and the suitability of the grandparents in that regard with me and the grandparents, are fully convinced that the grandparents have the capacity and are suitable to deal with this child.

The reality in this sad case is that the Eastern Health Board cannot and should not be allowed to continue to operate as a sole agent in the case. I do not believe the reactivated foster care application can be handled by the health board. The health board has operated in a way which prejudices its capacity to be objective. Certainly the health board will not convince me, the child's family or anybody who brings an objective view to bear on this case that it can handle the case objectively or dispassionately. I would ask the Minister of State to ensure that some outside body oversees the manner in which this foster care request is handled.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Fahey):  The Deputy will appreciate that under the Child Care Act, 1991, the provision of services to individual children is a matter for the health board concerned. In particular, section 39 of the Child Care Act, 1991, and the associated foster care regulations, set out the arrangements for the assessment and approval of foster parents or relatives as foster carers by health boards.

As the Deputy will be aware, the child in question is under a care order and the subject of ongoing judicial proceedings. All parties are therefore constrained in what they can say in the matter. However, I received a report from the Eastern Health Board regarding the grandparents' request to foster the child and I am very dissatisfied with its contents. The board informs me that the grandparents requested consideration as foster carers. They met a social worker to discuss their application on 15 June and withdrew their application at that meeting. The health board report went on to state that the grandparents have reconsidered their position. Accordingly, the Eastern Health Board has arranged to meet them on Tuesday, 6 July, to recommence the assessment procedure. I will continue to monitor the situation.

Fostering is the main service provided to children brought into the care of the State. I am concerned to ensure that the best service is provided. Accordingly, I have established the Foster Care Working Group which is reviewing all aspects of [315] the foster care service. That group is due to report later this year.

I listened carefully to what Deputy Roche said. I have been concerned about this case for some time since it was brought to my attention by Deputy Roche and social workers who have been deeply concerned about the way the Eastern Health Board handled it. Either the information which Deputy Roche outlined, including what he said here tonight, is incorrect or the Eastern Health Board has given me incorrect information. I would be deeply concerned if the latter were the case.

This case bothers me more than any other which has come to my attention in my two years as Minister of State. However, the 1991 Act precludes me from getting involved in individual cases. Despite several requests to get to the bottom of the problem in regard to the way this family has been treated, I have failed to get the information I require from the Eastern Health Board. Based on Deputy Roche's information over the past six months and a meeting I had with the family, I am deeply concerned with the way in which this family has been treated by the Eastern Health Board.

I must pay attention to Deputy Roche when he says that he has not ever seen a case where there has been such an injustice and an infringement of a family's rights. I must be concerned when he compares the injustice in this case to that of the Birmingham Six. I must listen carefully when he says that this case sickens him and that it is an extraordinary case.

I have known of Deputy Roche's case in regard to this family for quite some time. I sought independent advice on the way in which this family has been treated and am satisfied that there is a [316] very serious case to be answered by the Eastern Health Board. In its reply to the Department tonight, the Eastern Health Board sought to hide behind provisions of the Child Care Act, 1991. Either Deputy Roche put incorrect information on the record tonight in regard to the grandparents' application in this case or I am being given incorrect information by the Eastern Health Board. Deputy Roche said that there have been downright contradictions in the Eastern Health Board's handling of this case. He stated, and I want him to confirm, that the grandfather is a supervisor in a CE scheme.

Mr. Roche:  So I understand.

Mr. Fahey:  My information is that the family concerned withdrew its application. I am informed by Deputy Roche that this file was lost on an occasion. I am informed that in a recent court case several professionals were very concerned about the present arrangements for the foster care of this child. As Minister of State with responsibility for children, I am very concerned about the welfare of this child. I want to assure Deputy Roche that, as far as it is within my power to initiate an examination of the Eastern Health Board's dealings with this case, I will certainly have such an examination carried out. I hope to respond to the Deputy as quickly as possible.

The way this case was handled by the health board makes me deeply concerned about the State's response to a family which feels it has been badly treated by a statutory authority and, therefore, I will bring about fairly drastic action in the coming weeks. If the accusations about the way this family is being treated are correct, this House must look carefully at the question.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 30 June 1999.

[317]

  15.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she has met the residents involved in the STAD case; the further progress, if any, made in relation to funding their case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16478/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob): On 4 May last, the residents requested a meeting to discuss the Government's offer of a second package of financial assistance towards their independent legal action against BNFL. This offer, made by the Government in December 1997 related to defined areas of work by the residents' legal team, arising from their research activities. Arrangements are being made to facilitate this request and I hope to arrange a meeting shortly.

As the House will be aware, the Government has already committed itself to providing £350,000 towards research activities in respect of this case. Approximately £127,000 has been paid to date under this package. A further invoice received from the residents under this package is being examined in my Department.

  16.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    her views on whether Bord Gáis Éireann should be allowed to diversify; if it has been told to adhere to the Gas Act, 1976; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16473/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob):  The gas sector is being liberalised pursuant to both domestic and EU legislation. The new competition is expected to affect Bord Gáis Éireann's profit earning capacity in the next few years. In addition, BGE is having to use increasing amounts of natural gas at world market prices with the decline of the Kinsale Head gas field to meet the growing demand for gas. Like any competitive organisation it needs to find new ways of replacing this profit loss through diversification of its activities.

My Department's strategy statement states that Bord Gáis Éireann, should continue to grow and develop its business and to exploit its assets, where profitable, making adequate returns on capital employed and to exploit new business opportunities where they are profitable and linked to BGE's core business.

Any specific proposals to diversify by BGE require my approval and that of the Minister for Finance. In that connection, I would have to be satisfied that BGE have the necessary powers and that the project appeared to be commercially sound and would add to the value of the company.

[318] BGE are required to carry out their powers and functions within the parameters of their statutory authority. At present, the relevant legislation applicable to BGE is the Gas Act, 1976, as amended.

Proposals for legislation are being prepared within my Department for a new Bord Gáis Éireann Bill. I will consider in a positive way the question of broadening their powers to engage in other businesses.

  17.  Proinsias De Rossa    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if CIE has clarified to her Department its concerns on the potential overall cost of the light rail project; and the position in relation to funding the overall project. [16464/99]

  64.  Mr. Lawlor    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    her views on the concern that the cost of providing the Luas service in Dublin is rising at a disturbing rate with total costs possibly as high as £1 billion if the rising costs are seriously affecting the cost and benefit dimensions of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16547/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 64 together.

CIE's main concerns related to the potential overall cost of the project and the possible implications that this might have for the funding of other CIE capital projects. I discussed this matter recently with the CIE chairman. I made it clear to him that the Government remains committed to the enhanced and expanded project approved in May 1998 and that I expect the company to devote all its efforts to the implementation of that project in accordance with the published indicative timetable.

Under the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, CIE is given responsibility for procuring the necessary legal powers to provide a light rail system. Once it is granted those powers in a light railway order, it is then responsible for arranging construction, commissioning and operation of the authorised system.

The most detailed estimate has been prepared by the light rail project team in respect of the recently approved Tallaght to Abbey Street line. This estimate of £183 million is currently being evaluated by Halcrow-McCarthy who are consultants to the light rail monitoring committee. This work is expected to be completed shortly and will provide a firmer basis for future estimates of the cost of the full network.

It is my intention to then seek Government approval for a firm capital budget for this line and to appraise the Government of the updated overall cost estimates for the project. The cost benefit analysis will also be updated in light of the revised estimates.

[319] The basis for any suggestion that the project will cost £1 billion is speculative.

  18.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the financial arrangements the Government is making for sub post offices in the context of public service work involving other Departments and semi-State companies under her aegis; if An Post has sought a State subsidy from the Government for the retention of the existing number of sub post offices; if so, her response, if any, in this regard; and if she will ensure that the total revenues per transaction paid to sub post offices by the State will not be reduced. [16299/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I assume that the Deputy is referring to the recent Government decision to extend the existing contract between the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs and An Post for the delivery of social welfare payments and the further development of the post office network through the provision of facilities for citizens.

An inter-departmental group has been established under the aegis of my Department to identify and follow up on opportunities for extending the range of services available through the post office network.

An Post does not receive, nor has it requested, a subsidy from the State. It is a matter for An Post, in consultation with those who hold contracts from the company to operate sub post offices, to decide on the levels of remuneration applicable in that regard.

  19.  Mr. M. Higgins    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    her views on the retention of worker directors on the boards of semi-State companies; if she will reconsider the position on worker participation at board level in Telecom Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16492/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  In my reply of 15 June to Parliamentary Question No. 143, I indicated that discussions had taken place between the Department of the Taoiseach and the ICTU prior to the appointment of the directors to the board of Telecom Éireann. Those discussions related specifically to the question of employee representation on the board of Telecom Éireann.

It was agreed that the general issue of employee representation on the boards of State companies will be the subject of discussion in the context of the post-Partnership 2000 scenario. Any suggestions put forward by the trade unions concerning the role of employee representations [320] in the evolving structure of State companies will be considered in this context.

The obligations imposed by the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Acts, 1977 and 1988, are no longer appropriate to the status of Telecom Éireann as a publicly quoted company following the initial public offering. However the employees will continue to have a voice in the running of the company by virtue of the employee share ownership plan, ESOP, under which the employee trust is entitled to nominate a director to the board. Mr. Dick Spring has been appointed in this capacity. I should also point out that Mr. Bill Attley, on my nomination, was appointed to the board to fill one of the vacancies created by the resignation of the two worker directors, and their alternates, at the board meeting of 19 May 1999.

  21.  Mr. Howlin    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she received satisfactory assurances from the British Minister of State for Energy and Industry on the shedding of 500 jobs by BNFL at Sellafield and the possible compromising of safety at the plant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16460/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob):  On 21 May last, I met with Mr. John Battle, MP, UK Minister of State for Energy and Industry, in Dublin. I raised with him the Government's concerns about any possible safety implications associated with proposed job cuts by BNFL.

Minister Battle assured me that the UK Health and Safety Executive, HSE, would ensure that staff deployment at BNFL was at sufficient levels to maintain safety standards. In a recent follow-up meeting between UK and Irish officials, the UK representatives re-iterated their position that the HSE would satisfy itself that safety standards would be maintained. If necessary, the HSE has the power to prevent any job cuts taking place.

BNFL has already stated publicly that staff reductions will not take place unless it is safe to do so and operational performance can be maintained or improved. Both my Department and the RPII will keep this matter under review in the course of contact with the relevant UK authorities.

[321]

  22.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the degree to which she will offer further capital funding with the objective of enhancing suburban and national rail links; the extent to which she will be able to respond to EU directives in respect of alternative modes of transport with particular reference to the possible sharing of rail infrastructure; if she has evaluated the extent to which these directives will impact on rail transport in the foreseeable future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16517/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  When approving the implementation of the £430 million Railway Safety Programme 1999-2003, the Government also approved an annual Exchequer contribution for five years. The precise amount of that contribution will be determined as soon as an independent review of the scope for revenue generation from CIE's surplus property portfolio has been completed, and a property disposal programme has been agreed.

In addition, the Exchequer and the EU together are providing a total of some £60 million in 1999 and 2000 for capital expenditure by Iarnród Éireann for improvements to suburban rail.

Furthermore, my Department is currently examining non-safety related investment proposals submitted by Iarnród Éireann for the seven years up to 2006. These proposals are being considered as part of the strategic transport needs for the country as a whole, in the context of the preparation of the National Development Plan.

Directive 91/440/EEC, which was transposed into Irish law in 1996, permits limited access to the rail infrastructure of Iarnród Éireann by other railway undertakings. The European Commission recently put forward proposals for further rail liberalisation measures which are currently under discussion at Council of Ministers level.

However, since the transposition of Directive 91/440/EEC there has been no demand for access to the Irish railway infrastructure. The main reasons which I can suggest for this lack of demand are our physical isolation from the European rail network, technical differences in the rail gauge, our low population base and the uneconomic nature of our rail services.

Accordingly, Ireland has sought an exemption from some of the more onerous administrative mechanisms under the current EU rail market liberalisation proposals, where those proposals are unlikely to have any practical effect on opening up the Irish rail market.

  23.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she has responded to the written request to meet with the Transport for All Campaign; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13799/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I met representatives of Transport for All on 14 June 1999. We had a detailed and very useful discussion on a range of matters and I undertook to respond to them quickly on a number of issues for which I have ministerial responsibility.

I have since written to Transport for All indicating that I propose to establish a public transport accessibility committee to advise me on [322] issues relating to accessibility to public transport for mobility impaired and disabled people. I have also asked CIE to establish accessibility units in each of its operating companies, in so far as they are not already in place.

  24.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if her attention has been drawn to the public's disquiet over public transport provision in the Dublin area in that relevant Government Departments and transport agencies make recommendations such as quality bus corridors and the relevant service provider does not seem to be in a position to supply the additional transport vehicles to ensure a smooth transition of use of the quality bus corridor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16300/99]

  59.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if her attention has been drawn to difficulties DART commuters are experiencing particularly due to inadequate capacity of the rolling stock; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16272/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 59 together.

The provision of adequate capacity on our public transport system to meet demand is one of the key objectives of the initiatives being taken by this Government to relieve traffic congestion in Dublin. The Government fully recognises the traffic problems being experienced in Dublin and the fact that future development within the greater Dublin area must be based around public transport. To address this problem and to encourage a shift from private to public transport requires considerable investment and other measures to provide attractive frequent and reliable public transport services.

The Dublin Transportation Office's Short Term Action Plan, published in September 1998, recommended a number of measures to address the faster than projected growth in traffic and slower than anticipated implementation of key elements of the Dublin Transportation Initiative. I immediately responded to the DTO Short Term Action Plan by approving a total investment of over £80 million of investment in buses and suburban rail. These measures form part of an overall package designed to increase peak hour capacity by 37,000 trips. For the first time, the Exchequer has provided direct capital funding for bus and rail investment.

The Deputy has particularly referred to quality bus corridors and the DART service. The provision of QBCs was a key recommendation of the Dublin Transportation Initiative. In all, 12 Quality Bus Corridors will be completed by the end of 2000. The need to increase the bus fleet to ensure the effective utilisation of the network of QBCs and to meet capacity requirements has been recognised and approval has already been given for the acquisition by Bus Átha Cliath of 150 [323] additional buses during 1999 at a total cost of approximately £25.5 million.

So far this year 56 of these buses have been delivered with the remainder being delivered in phases before the end of the year. The 150 buses will provide an additional 9,500 peak hour bus trips – an increase of 20 per cent. Bus Átha Cliath is also planning to increase capacity through fleet replacement and subcontracting of school bus runs to private bus operators.

In relation to the DART service I would point out that ten new DART carriages are due for delivery in October and November this year and a further 16 will be delivered by end of 2000.

These 26 new carriages will be used to enhance existing services and to operate six car train sets. They will also be used to cater for the extended DART network to Malahide and Greystones. They will increase the DART fleet from 80 to 106 carriages – a 30 per cent increase in capacity.

My Department is currently considering detailed public transport investment proposals from the Dublin Transportation Office and the CIE companies as part of its preparatory work for the national development plan. I envisage that the plan will set out a comprehensive strategy and investment programme for public transport in the years 2000 to 2006.

  25.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the policy and record in her Department in monitoring tritium gas discharge levels from the Sellafield plant in view of the fact that THORP began further reprocessing of AGR reactor fuel on 3 May 1999 and this material was suspected as a cause of leaks at THORP before. [14905/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob):  The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, monitors the effect of discharges from Sellafield on the Irish environment, paying particular attention to those radionuclides which are most likely to be of significance and relevance to Ireland. The actual quantities discharged from Sellafield are measured on site and the data is published by BNFL and the UK authorities.

I understand from the RPII that tritium is a radionuclide of very low radiotoxicity and is of relatively little relevance to Ireland from the health point of view. The RPII does not monitor tritium levels in air but it does test fish and shellfish samples from the Irish Sea for tritium. In all cases, the tritium levels were below the level of detection. I am advised by the RPII that as tritium is produced in the upper atmosphere due to cosmic radiation and brought to the earth's surface by rainfall, the detection of tritium in Ireland arising from Sellafield atmospheric discharges in the light of the naturally-occurring background levels would be extremely difficult.

[324] The RPII is aware that THORP recommenced reprocessing AGR reactor fuel recently but does not consider that the reprocessing of AGR reactor fuel is likely to give rise to incidents to a greater extent than the reprocessing of other types of fuel.

I am aware that leaks have occurred at Sellafield in the past irrespective of which fuels were being reprocessed. I have expressed the Irish Government's concerns about incidents at Sellafield and have requested UK Ministers to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the highest standards of safety.

  26.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the proposals, if any, she has to provide broadband and advanced telecommunications infrastructure in the Cavan and Monaghan region to facilitate the development of electronic commerce in view of the need to provide employment opportunities in that area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16512/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  The Deputy is aware that the provision of telecommunications infrastructure is primarily a matter for operators in the newly liberalised telecommunications market.

Recognising that in certain regions of the country, competition alone will not provide the required broadband telecommunications infrastructural investment, I recently sought fresh proposals for projects supporting the development of advanced communications networks and services which might be co-funded by the European Union.

A number of proposals were received, evaluated by independent consultants and recommendations have been made. No proposals were received for the Cavan and Monaghan region in the latest round. Contractual details are currently being finalised with a number of companies. I hope to make an announcement on these projects shortly.

In addition, my Department, together with Forfás, is currently preparing estimates of further funding requirements to ensure nation-wide broadband connectivity. All regions will be considered in this review.

  27.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if, in planning policy to expand railway services, she will adopt a similar yardstick to the 20-year horizon policy adopted by the National Roads Authority for the Department of the Environment and Local Government which results in some element of over provision in the earlier years following expenditure. [14904/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  The £430 million Railway Safety Programme 1999-2003 is the first tranche of the 15 [325] year safety programme recommended by the IRMS consultants. The track renewal, signalling and other infrastructural works being undertaken in this programme will ensure a high quality railway infrastructure well beyond the 20 year horizon referred to by the Deputy. This investment, while primarily designed for safety purposes, will also provide the basis for expansion and improvements in services, as required.

The Dublin Transportation Office recently completed its transportation blueprint for the period 2000 to 2006. It will now be continuing with its work on the updating of the DTI strategy to cover the period up to 2016. It expects to complete the updated strategy 2000 to 2016 in March of next year.

At the request of the Government, CIE will complete a consultancy study by the end of the year on a longer term suburban rail development programme. This study will address a possible new inland rail link to Navan; possible separation of long distance and commuter rail traffic through the construction of by-pass rail lines; quadrupling of existing double lines where feasible; enhancement of rail service to the development centres identified by the strategic planning guidelines.

  28.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    further to Parliamentary Question No. 29 of 19 May 1999, the position for Aer Lingus workers who were on secondment to TEAM and now need to be appropriately placed in a special line of work in order to renew their licence; the number of Aer Lingus workers not suitably placed and who would experience problems in renewing their licence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16301/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I have been advised by Aer Lingus that of the 91 TEAM staff who did not accept terms for the transfer of their employment to FLS Aerospace, 30 have licences issued by the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, and 20 have “approvals” which is a craft qualification granted by the airline on the basis of satisfying company criteria.

In relation to the staff who hold licences from the IAA, 22 have been placed in technical jobs matching their skills while one is on long-term sick leave and another seven have been placed in non-technical posts in the airline. The licences of those seven staff are not due to expire until next winter. I understand from Aer Lingus that they will continue their efforts to place these staff in technical positions prior to the expiry of their licences.

With regard to the 20 staff holding “approvals” issued by Aer Lingus, four have been placed in technical posts in the airline. Of the remaining staff, 15 are in non-technical posts in the airline and one staff member is on long-term sick leave. The process for renewal of “approvals” is a mat[326] ter for Aer Lingus. However, I understand that the renewal process is a relatively straightforward one provided the employee concerned had the original qualification.

  29.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the plans, if any, she has to alter or amend any of the guidelines or terms of reference in respect of the manner or method by which the Director of Telecommunications Regulation will address the issue of television deflectors; if this matter will be brought to the attention of Government in the near future; if any submission on this issue has been made to Government in the past two years; if she has received any communications from those in receipt of deflector relayed television reception or from those deprived of this facility; if she has or will respond to these queries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16516/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I have no plans to alter or amend the manner in which the Director of Telecommunications Regulation will address the issue of television deflectors.

In May 1999 the director published a consultation paper in which she set out proposals for a licensing system for TV deflectors. I understand that the responses received as a result of that paper are currently being examined by the director. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to anticipate the outcome of the director's examination of the issue or to speculate on whether the matter will be brought to Government. I can, however, assure the Deputy that if proposals are made to me, I will give them careful consideration.

While the issue of television deflectors has not been brought formally to Government since the formation of this Government, I keep my colleagues appropriately briefed on a broad range of issues relating to my Department, in line with general Government practice.

The Deputy will be aware that the regulation of television rebroadcasting systems is a matter for the Director of Telecommunications Regulation in accordance with functions transferred to her under the Telecommunications (Miscellan-eous Provisions) Act, 1996 and that representations in regard to the licensing of deflector systems are a matter for the director.

  30.  Mr. Callely    asked the Taoiseach    the total cost to date of the Moriarty tribunal; the daily cost of the tribunal; and the provision, if any, he has made for the total overall and associated costs. [16212/99]

The Taoiseach:  The cost of the Moriarty tribunal to date is £2.643 million. Details are set out in the following schedule. The daily cost of the [327] tribunal varies, depending on whether it is a public sitting day, which would involve significant administration and other expenses, or whether it is a non-sitting day. The 1999 provision for the tribunal is £4.65 million as set out in the Revised Estimates for my Department. It is not possible to estimate the final cost of the tribunal at this stage, in view of uncertainty with regard to its duration and associated issues. The latest indications are that while there may be some savings on the 1999 estimate, there will be significant costs arising next year, when decisions on the award of costs are likely, to date, 24 parties have been granted representation by the Tribunal. My Department is currently in discussions with the Department of Finance on this matter in the context of the multi-annual budgets for the period 2000-2002.

Schedule.

Tribunal of Inquiry (Moriarty Tribunal) – Costs met by the Department of the Taoiseach to date.

1997 (Oct – Dec) Amount
£
Administration 174,837
Legal costs 260,924
Total 435,761
1998 (full year) £
Administration 258,385
Legal costs 1,069,418
Total 1,327,803
1999 (Jan to – 24 June 1999) £
Administration 168,172
Legal costs 711,104
Total 879,276
Overall total to date: 2,642,840

Note 1: Legal Fees:

The main legal costs represent fees to two Senior Counsel, one Junior Counsel and two Research Assistants.

The agreed rates are outlined below:

Moriarty Tribunal

Senior Counsel Junior Counsel
£ £
Brief fee 25,000 16,500
[328] Senior Counsel Junior Counsel
£ £
Refresher fees (sitting days):
first 30 days 1,450 950
next 20 days 1,400 950
thereafter 1,350 900
Non-sitting days 1,350 900
Part day per hour 165 110
Research Counsel
Daily rate 350 300

Note 2: Administration Costs

The administration costs represent the running costs of the Tribunal Office in Dublin Castle.

The total cost includes the following types of expenditure: pay costs of administration staff; meetings; catering and office supplies; taxi and courier costs; advertising services; legal services, searches, etc.; office equipment and maintenance; hire of equipment for tribunal; training; contract cleaning; stenography service; purchase of reference books, etc.; office furniture and fittings; postal and telecommunications.

  31.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Taoiseach    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16410/99]

The Taoiseach:  Between the commencement of the Act and the end of May 177 FOI requests have been received by my Department. Of those, 117 have been from media sources, 17 from business and 15 from members of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The companies or businesses who have most frequently made requests to my Department period are:

Companies/Businesses Number of Requests
RTE 57
The Sunday Times 34
Sunday Tribune 13
Policywatch 5
Amárach Consulting 3

While it is difficult to summarise the general nature of the information sought, the following table will give an indication.

Company/Business No. ofRequests Nature of Information Sought
RTE 57 (i) Details of meetings with the Taoiseach and named individuals.
(ii) Details of diaries/MAC meetings/submissions/FOI requests.
(iii) Details from 49 individual files.
(iv) Details of certain Bills.
[329] Company/Business No. ofRequests Nature of Information Sought
The Sunday Times 34 (i)Details of meetings/correspondence between the Taoiseach and named individuals.
(ii) Expenses incurred by the Taoiseach etc.
(iii) Cost of Tribunals.
(iv) Details concerning certain projects, Acts, committees.
Sunday Tribune 13 (i)Details of meetings/correspondence between the Taoiseach and named individuals.
(ii) Cabinet meetings agenda.
(iii) Expenses/costs.
(iv) Details concerning certain projects, claims, committees.
Policywatch 5 (i) Details of emails/MAC minutes/FOI issues.
(ii) Invoices re: telecommunication companies
Amárach Consulting 3 (i) Details of market /social research undertaken.
(ii) I.T. records, research report, invoices, tenders etc.

Section 47 of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 provides that fees may be charged only in respect of cost of, search for and retrieval of records and the cost of copying of records. Fees may not be charged for examination of records or other deliberations involved in processing requests.

The fees for search and retrieval are fixed by reference to the clerical officer scale – at £16.50 per hour. Copying charges are 3p per copy or photocopies, 40p for floppy disk and £8 for a CD-Rom.

Of the company-business requests identified above, charges were imposed only in relation to two, £69.00 and £65.40 respectively.

  32.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Taoiseach    the steps, if any, taken to commemorate the life and times of Peadar Kearney, the author of the national anthem, by way of marking his birthplace or other significant milestones in his life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16425/99]

The Taoiseach:  I have no plans at present to commemorate the life and times of Peadar Kearney.

  33.  Mr. Allen    asked the Taoiseach    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16617/99]

The Taoiseach:  The consultancies, work groups, studies, analysis and reports commissioned by my Department since July 1997 are outlined in the following schedules for the information of the Deputy.

[330] Schedule

Consultancies, studies, reports commissioned by the Taoiseach's Department: 1. Professor P. Beaumont was engaged on two occasions, during 1997 and 1999, to address a seminar for the High Level Group on Trade Union Recognition. The cost in 1997 was £942.25 and in 1999 was £860.64. 2. The Irish Productivity Centre was appointed in 1998 to provide facilitation at one meeting of the Partnership Committee. The cost was £3,000. 3. Fusio Limited were appointed in 1998 to design the Department's website. The cost was £6,897. 4. Hall Public Relations and Corporate Affairs were appointed in 1998 as PR consultants for the 1798 Commemoration. This contract was completed in 1998 and the cost was £18,000. 5. The ESRI and St. John's University, New York, were commissioned in 1998 by the Partnership 2000 Working Group on Basic Income to carry out a study on the effects of introducing a basic income system in Ireland. Phase One of the study has been completed and Phase Two is expected to be completed within three months. The total cost of the study will be £103,805 and it is intended that the study will be published. 6. In 1999 the Department of the Taoiseach and the Financial Services Industry Association, jointly commissioned a feasibility study into the establishment of a training facility for IFSC companies. The report was undertaken by Prospectus Consultants. It was completed in April 1999 and has been made publicly available. The Department has agreed to contribute £5,000 towards the cost of the report. 7. The Department has commissioned a feasibility study on “the stadium for a new century”. The cost will be £380,033 and the study is expected to be completed in September 1999. 8. Mr. Noel Dorr has been engaged on an on-going basis, since 1995, as the Taoiseach's personal representative on the UN Carlsson Group, set up to consider the future of the United Nations. Mr. Dorr's fees and expenses are met by this Department, and the cost per annum depends on the number and location of meetings. The costs incurred since 1997 amount to £35,478, and Mr. Dorr's fees are, [331] at present, £227 per day. Mr. Dorr makes a confidential report of each of the group's meetings. 9. A consultancy service in relation to performance management was provided to the Department by Mr. Matthewman of William M. Mercer, England in November 1998 and March 1999. The total cost of this service was £2,175 sterling.

Consultancies, studies, reports commissioned by bodies under the aegis of the Department (bodies funded from Taoiseach's Vote)

1.Information Society Commission: Edelman PR were appointed in April 1998 for one year to manage a communications and media strategy for the commission. This contract has been renewed since April 1999. The full cost of the consultancy to date is £78,102; Cyril Drury, from the Learning Organisation was appointed by the ISC in 1998 to assist the learning advisory group of the commission in the preparation of a report on the non-formal environment for learning about information and communications technology. The total cost of the contract is £27,165. The work has been completed and the report, based on this research, will be published on 7 July 1999; Lansdowne Market Research were appointed by the commission in 1998 to carry out awareness research on the Information Society Commission amongst the general public and the business communities. The cost of this research was £48,400 and the report outlining the results of the survey was published in November 1998; 2.Tribunal of Inquiry, Moriarty: IT consultancy: Moss Technology were engaged in 1998 to complete a programme of work on the IT system and ensure that it is Y2K compliant. The cost of the consultancy was £1,452; Baker Consultants were engaged in January 1999 to design, implement and host a web site for the tribunal. The cost was £6,650. 3. All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Consti[332] tution: the committee carried out legal research in relation to the courts systems in other countries, this cost £1,310; Dr. R. Synnott and Landsdowne Market Research were contracted in 1998 to work on research on referendums – the field research was carried out by Landsdowne Market Research at a cost of £5,455 and the report was produced by Dr. Synnott, cost £1,000; G. Hogan, SC, provided the committee with legal advice on amendment proposals, cost £2,420. 4. National Economic and Social Forum: Advance Organisation and Management Development were engaged in 1998 by the forum to carry out work in relation to project teams – the cost in 1998 was £7,000. 5. National Economic and Social Council: Dr. Kieran McKeown commissioned to produce Strategy Report – Unemployment, Poverty and Social Exclusion – total cost is £11,313.50 – the report will be completed in October 1999 and will be published. 6. Referendum Commission: the Referendum Commission engaged Drury Communications as consultants on the Northern Ireland Referendum, in 1998. The cost of the project management fee was £111,622.

  34.  Mr. G. Reynolds    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the number of jobs announced by Forfás and IDA in each county since July 1997; and the number of job losses in each county from July 1997 to date. [16378/99]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney):  Forfás is not directly involved in the day to day activities of enterprise support and consequently has no involvement in new job announcements.

The data requested in relation to IDA Ireland is set out in tabular form for circulation in the Official Report.

IDA Ireland: Job Announcements and Job Losses by County, 1997-1999

County 1997
JobsAnnounced(July.Dec) JobLosses(Full Year) 1998
JobsAnnounced(FullYear) JobLosses(Full Year) 1999
JobsAnnounced(Jan.June)
Carlow -59 100 -7
Cavan -113 -31
Clare -86 -75 45
Cork 3,255 -764 2,564 -1,021 876
Donegal -145 -311 166
Dublin 1,774 -1,282 6,636 -2,075 3,130
Galway 1,225 -205 590 -144 275
Kerry 47 -301 650 -100 166
Kildare -8 -486 450
Kilkenny 150 -14 -8
Laois 45 -76 -108
Leitrim -100 -84
Limerick -347 5,231 -666 100
Longford -131 -10
Louth -171 1,550 -72 560
Mayo 270 -352 200 -33 620
Meath 250 -42 330 -70 45
Monaghan -50 -10
[333] County 1997
JobsAnnounced(July.Dec) JobLosses(Full Year) 1998
JobsAnnounced(Full Year) JobLosses(Full Year) 1999
JobsAnnounced(Jan.June)
Offaly 30 -198 435 -35
Roscommon -24 100 -30
Sligo 43 -45 -85
Tipperary -252 778 -1,093 700
Waterford 650 -92 735 -76 175
Westmeath 500 -5 -247 500
Wexford 42 -71 -140
Wicklow -11 179 -169 108
Total 8,281 -4,944 20,060 -7,186 7,916

Notes: Jobs announced relate to the job potential or jobs to be created over the next three to five years in the relevant projects; figures for job losses are taken from the Forfás Annual Employment Surveys and relate to jobs in IDA Ireland grant-assisted companies. The 1999 survey is not yet available.

  35.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if she has received a detailed application and submission for a local employment service for County Westmeath from Westmeath Employment Network/Territorial Employment Pact; if this will be approved without delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16405/99]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney):  I have not received any detailed submission from the area in question. I should also point out that the Government has approved a restructuring of the employment service function under which the local employment service will be coming under the ambit of FÁS. The purpose of this reorganisation is to secure better co-ordination and complementary between the FÁS employment service and the LES; and to ensure, in the context of the further development of the employment service function, the most efficient disposition of resources. I envisage that decisions relating to the expansion of our employment services will be taken in the framework of these new organisational arrangements.

  36.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the companies or businesses from which her Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16411/99]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney):  As of 25 June 1999 my Department had received a total of 400 requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997. The sources of these requests break down [334] as follows: business – 213, 53.25 per cent; media – 115, 28.75 per cent; public – 51, 12.75 per cent; Oireachtas – 14, 3.50 per cent; staff – 7, 1.75 per cent.

By far the most frequent requester has been Acorn Associates-Mr. Michael Grange. This business entity has sought a wide range of information on a variety of topics but the majority of requests relate to prior dealings with FÁS and extensive prior correspondence with my Department and the then Department of Labour. My Department has found it necessary to refuse sixty-four requests from Acorn Associates as frivolous or vexatious.

Other most frequent requesters are, as one might expect, from the national media. The Irish Times has made 57 requests, The Sunday Times 25 requests, Phoenix six requests, the Sunday Tribune five requests and The Sunday Business Post three requests on a range of topics relating to policy, business and consumer issues of general interest to the public.

Amárach Consulting has made four requests seeking records relating to social research studies, dealings of my Department with specified companies and broader SME issues.

An analysis of requests handled by my Department in 1998 suggests an average processing cost of almost £650 per request. The total amount of fees levied and paid by the most frequent requesters from 21 April 1998 and 25 June 1999 is as follows: Acorn Associates – £35.70; The Irish Times– £34.10; The Sunday Times– £39.50; Phoenix– nil; Sunday Tribune– £239.40; Amárach Consulting – nil; The Sunday Business Post– nil.

[335]

  37.  Mr. Allen    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by her Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16618/99]

[336]Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney):  The information sought by the Deputy is as follows:

Working Groups/Studies/Analysis/Reports Topic Estimated Cost of each where appropriate Date Report was received or is scheduled to be received Report has or will be published
£
Deloitte & Touche Review of Community Employment Programme 54,450 September 1998 Published 1 October 1998
Eustace Patterson Evaluation of the Local Employment Service 29,854 July 1998 Published August 1998
John Fingleton, Trinity College Provide an objective assessment of the operation of the taxi market in Dublin and make recommendations for its future development from a competition perspective 4,000 November 1997 Will not be published
Moore McDowell and Joe Durkan, UCD Provide an objective assessment of the development of the health insurance market since the arrival of a competitor to the VHI 4,800 December 1997 Will not be published
Pat Kearney, SME Partnership Dublin Assessment of certain revised County Enterprise Board Plans 4,700 April 1998 Will not be published
Brendan Murphy, Abbott International Consultancy Services Ltd. Provisional assessment of certain revised County Enterprise Board Plans 2,200 April 1998 Will not be published
Ciara McCarthy Provisional assessment of certain revised County Enterprise Board Plans 2,200 April 1998 Will not be published
Pat Kearney, SME Partnership, Dublin Training needs assessment of Assistant chief executive officers of County Enterprise Boards 4,000 March 1998 Will not be published
Lar Burke Comparative evaluation of IT systems for use in project assessment by CEBs 1,331 October 1997 Will not be published
Ron Immink, TASC Enterprise Division Business survey of childcare facilities funded by the CEBs 4,000 July 1998 Will not be published
Coopers & Lybrand Study on Cross Border Local and Integrated Area Plans with respect to the Community Economic Development Measure of the Joint INTERREG Programme for Northern Ireland and Ireland, 1994-1999 2,154 December 1997 No decision made
Chapman Flood Financing Needs of Small Business 47,795 March 1999 Yes – date to be decided
Tom Martin & Associates Evaluation of the Pilot Network Programme 4,895 10 March 1998 Will not be published
Working Group on Sunday Working in the Retail Sector Discussion Process on Sunday Working 2,100 18 May 1998 Will not be published
Business Education and Training Partnership Forum (which includes an Expert Group on Skills and a Management Implementation Group) Skills needs, manpower forecasting and education for industry and business Ongoing Will not be published
Inter-departmental and Agency Group on EXPO 2000 Irelands presentation at EXPO 2000 Ongoing Will not be published
Inquiry under Section 38(2) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 Mr. Phil Flynn and Mr. Dan McAuley were requested under the aforementioned Act to undertake an urgent inquiry into the dispute between SIPTU and Ryanair 27,986to date Report received July 1998 Published July 1998
Partnership 2000 Social Economy Working Group To undertake a detailed examination of the potential of the social economy both in terms of employment and also in the supply of services 1,000 Mid 1998 Published July 1998
National Minimum Wage Commission To examine and advise the Government on the implementation of a national minimum wage 42,000 30 March 1998 Published 5 April 1998
[337] Working Groups/Studies/Analysis/Reports Topic Estimated Cost of each where appropriate Date Report was received or is scheduled to be received Report has or will be published
Inter-departmental Group on national minimum wage To assist the Government in formulating proposals and a plan of action in respect of implementing the recommendations of the National Minimum Wage Commission 1,857 Interim report received October 1998 Interim report published November 1998
None to date Final report received May 1999 Final report published on 22 June 1999
ESRI study commissioned by Inter-departmental Group on National minimum wage To carry out economic impact study on implementation of national minimum wage 122,080 April 1999 Published as appendix to Final report on 22 June 1999
Rate for the Job Advisory Group To provide report on application of Rate for the Job concept to Community Employment 5,324 18 May, 1998 Will not be published
EU Pilot Benchmarking Programme financed jointly by Commission and Member States, incl. Ireland To study competitiveness in EU industry. Studies in Ireland will concern logistics, financing of innovation, labour skills and information communication technologies. Forbairt and the Department are carrying out the study in Ireland 40,000 Irish study completed November 1998 The Cion. Published EU Report
Reports of Company Investigations To examine the books and documents of the company and to seek explanations
Garuda Limited As above Final Report submitted on 14th December 1998 Report will not be published
Faxhill Homes Limited As above 115,000 Final report submitted on 22 December 1998 Report will not be published
Bula Resources (Holdings) plc As above 201,000 Final report submitted on 22 July 1998 Report published on 22 July 1998
Celtic Helicopters Limited As above Ongoing Decision on publication will be made upon receipt of final report and in light of any legal advice obtained.
Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd As above Ongoing As above
Guinness and Mahon (Irl) Ltd As above Ongoing As above
Hamilton Ross & Co. Ltd. As above Ongoing As above
Irish Intercontinental Bank Ltd As above Ongoing As above
Kentford Securities Limited As above Ongoing As above
Dunnes Stores Ireland Company As above Ongoing (awaiting High Court judgment prior to recommencing investigation As above
Dunnes Stores (Ilac Centre) Limited As above Ongoing (as above) As above
College Trustees Limited As above Ongoing As above
Working Group on Company Law Compliance and Enforcement 7,538 30 November, 1998 Published 15 March 1999
Report on a Regulatory Examination into Sales Practices with particular reference to Allegations of churning of Life Assurance Policies. (Irish Life) 28,150 3 February 1999 Published 5 February 1999
[338][339] Working Groups/Studies/Analysis/Reports Topic Estimated Cost of each where appropriate Date Report was received or is scheduled to be received Report has or will be published
Interim Report of the Authorised Officer. Pursuant to Section 59 of the Insurance Act, 1989. National Irish Bank Financial Services Ltd. 21,787 4 June 1998 Will not be published
Motor Insurance Advisory Board Cost of Motor Insurance 11,000to date On-going December 1999
Deloitte & Touche Review of Job Initiative 20,000 End July 1999 No decision made
Dermot McCarthy Feasibility of introducing a formal preliminary/pre-assessment system for the hearing of cases by the Employment Appeals Tribunal Estimatedcost9,600 January 1999 Report will not be published (consideration is being given to the publication of an abbreviated version)
Ernst & Young Business modelling study 27,043 March 1999 Will not be published
Irish Council for Science, Technology and Innovation. Technology Foresight Initiative. 56,332 Completed Published 30 April 1999
Network Resources Limited Evaluation of Opportunities for Small Firms in the Irish Public Sector Market 74,415 May, 1999 Yes – date to be decided
National Advisory Council on Teleworking Report: New Ways of Living and Working: Teleworking in Ireland. 28,000 June, 1999 Published 10 June, 1999
Price Waterhouse Coopers/Enterprise Ireland Services Sector study and review of all aspects of Services with particular emphasis on regional balance 400,000 To be completed Autumn 1999 Report to be made available by Enterprise Ireland
Forfás Evaluation of Irelands participation in the European Unions 4th Research Framework Programme. 60,000 October 1999 October 1999
IBI Corporate Finance To advise the State in relation to the sale of IFI. 67,900to date Ongoing Not applicable – retained to advise
Information Society Action Plan Implementation Group Government Policy in Electronic Commerce area. 25,000 July, 1999 Report will be published

I should point out that the costs outlined in the reply reflect additional specific costs relating to the committee, consultancy, study, etc. The costs arising from the involvement of Departmental officials are not included.

  38.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if she has been in contact with Government Departments, in particular the Departments of Education and Science and Environment and Local Government, with a view to asking them to fund a number of important jobs currently operated under the community employment scheme and now being cut due to overall reductions in the budget for community employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16653/99]

[340]

  39.  Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if she has been in contact with Government Departments, in particular the Departments of Education and Science and Environment and Local Government, with a view to asking them to fund a number of important jobs currently operated under the community employment scheme and now being cut due to overall reductions in the budget for community employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16654/99]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 39 together.

I am currently formulating proposals for a restructuring of community employment which I will be bringing to Government shortly. The potential impact of the reforms on the educational or local authority sectors will be taken into account in this process.

[341]

  40.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the discussions, if any, which will commence with the social partners to discuss legislative measures to ensure that part-time and temporary workers will have the same legal protection as permanent workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16674/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt):  A tripartite working group, including representatives from the social partners and from my Department, has been set up to discuss the measures necessary for the transposition of the EU Directive on Part-Time Working, which must be implemented by 20 January 2000. The working group has commenced its discussions, and further meetings are scheduled to take place shortly.

The purpose of the directive is to prevent part-time workers from being treated less favourably than full-time workers and, in this regard, it aims to provide for the removal of discrimination against part-time workers and to improve the quality of part-time work generally. The directive is also intended to facilitate the development of part-time work on a voluntary basis and to contribute to the flexible organisation of working time in a manner which takes into account the needs of both employees and employers.

  41.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if she will re-assure participants in the jobs initiative who were long-term unemployed regarding their future beyond 31 December 1999. [16756/99]

  42.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of participants of phase 1 of the jobs initiative regarding the security of their positions beyond 31 December 1999. [16757/99]

  43.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the future for phase 1 of the jobs initiative project. [16758/99]

  44.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the future she sees for the jobs initiative scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16759/99]

  45.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if she has received interim recommendations from consultants (details supplied) with regard to their independent evaluation of the jobs initiative scheme. [16760/99]

  46.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the date for the publication of the study (details supplied) into the jobs initiative scheme. [16761/99]

[342]

  47.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    the role she sees for phase 1 of the jobs initiative scheme in the context of her overall review of the social economy. [16762/99]

  48.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment    if the managing agents of phase 1 of the jobs initiative pilot projects will retain the same quota of positions after 31 December 1999. [16763/99]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48 together.

The jobs initiative is a pilot work re-integration programme targeted at the very long-term unemployed persons on the live register for five years or more and aged 35 or over. Jobs initiative participants have access to three years temporary employment. Budget ‘99 added an additional 875 places to jobs initiative provision, bringing the total number of places available to 2,875.

There were 1,000 jobs initiative places allocated in the first phase in 1996 and these participants will complete their three year term in December 1999. The review of the jobs initiative programme which has been commissioned is expected to be completed in late July.

Decisions on the future of the programme, how it might be improved or better targeted for example, and on the issue of an extension for some of the current participants will be taken when consideration of the review is completed.

  49.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for the Marine    and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the serious pollution problem at the Kings River, Kells, County Kilkenny; if this situation is being monitored; if he has satisfied himself with the quality of the water; and the steps, if any, being taken to eliminate the contamination of this river. [16399/99]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods):  Following reports earlier this month of crayfish mortalities in the Kings River, an intensive investigation, including water and tissue sampling and analysis, has been under way by the Southern Regional Fisheries Board and the Marine Institute in conjunction with the EPA and Dúchas. I am advised that to date the precise cause of the crayfish mortalities has not been identified and that the analysis is ongoing. The brown trout population in the Kings River was not apparently affected. In addition to continuing its investigations to establish whether specific contamination or disease problems are the cause of the crayfish mortalities, the fisheries board is working with the relevant agencies to tackle general eutrophication problems in the Kings River.

[343]

  50.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for the Marine    and Natural Resources if he will have the application for eel and drift net licences reviewed for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and the reason both applications were refused. [16401/99]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods):  The allocation of fishing licences in accordance with the relevant criteria is the responsibility of the regional fisheries boards.

At my request, the Southern Regional Fisheries Board which is the relevant board in this instance, has undertaken to contact the Deputy directly regarding the individual applications in question.

[344]

  51.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for the Marine    and Natural Resources the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16412/99]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods):  The companies or businesses from which my Department has received the most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 are as follows:

Company Number ofFOI requests Nature of Information Sought
Irish Fishermens Organisation 4 List of Departmental files; Fish Withdrawal Compensation Scheme; Fishing Vessel Register.
Phoenix 4 Correspondence between Department and named Solicitors; Provision of lands by Coillte for festivals; Insurance brokers used by Department.
RTE 10 List of files held by Department; Dumping at Sea (including munitions); Oil and gas extraction; Minutes of Management Advisory and Management Committee meetings; Correspondence between Secretary General and the Department of Finance on the ESRI Report on the National Development Plan 2000-06.
The Sunday Times 3 Details of staff sick leave during May, 1998; Ministerial Christmas gifts; Ministerial expenses.

Apart from a fee of £40 levied on RTE, in respect of the FOI request for access to the list of files held by the Department, no fees have been levied on the companies listed above for processing the FOI requests received from them.

  52.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for the Marine    and Natural Resources each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16619/99]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods):  It is not possible, given the limited time available, to compile the comprehensive information requested by the Deputy. I will therefore communicate directly with the Deputy as soon as the information requested is available.

  53.  Mr. McGinley    asked the Minister for the Marine    and Natural Resources the position on the proposed dredging of Burtonport Harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16636/99]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods):  The dredging of Burtonport Harbour is being undertaken by Donegal County Council with financial assistance from my Department. Phase one of the works was completed last year at a cost of over £230,000.

I announced earlier this year that further financial assistance of up to £750,000 would be made available to Donegal County Council in 1999 for the dredging works. The county council has now advised that the necessary statutory permissions for the dredging works, including an EPA licence, are unlikely to be in place until later this year, and that the county council may not now be able to undertake the works until next year. I can assure the Deputy that the funding will continue to be available when the council are ready to proceed with this important project.

  54.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    the diplomatic or other steps the Irish Government has taken to ensure that the recent evidence of mass murder and slaughter by the Serbian authorities in Kosovo as well as other human rights breaches will be vigorously prosecuted by the War Criminals Tribunal; the other recourse through international law available to address the extent of the crimes committed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16407/99]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The Government is appalled at the atrocities committed in Kosovo, of which the full extent is being increasingly shown every day as further evi[345] dence emerges. The planners and perpetrators of such crimes must be made to answer for them. The Government, together with our EU partners, have made clear that the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia will have our full support in carrying out their investigations and prosecuting those responsible. The tribunal is now actively continuing its work of investigation and compilation of evidence, both on the ground in Kosovo and by gathering evidence from refugees. Irish personnel have assisted the tribunal in this work and will continue to do so.

While the tribunal is, of course, the primary mechanism through which individual responsibility for international crimes committed in Kosovo should be addressed, international law goes further and permits the exercise of universal jurisdiction by states for the most heinous of international crimes. Accordingly, if an alleged perpetrator of international crimes was present in this jurisdiction, he or she could be prosecuted and tried within the Irish justice system in appropriate circumstances, for example under the Genocide Act, 1973.

  55.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16413/99]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  Since the coming into effect of the Freedom of Information Act on 21 April 1998, the Department of Foreign Affairs has received a total of 36 requests from companies or businesses seeking records or information of a non-personal nature. Most of these requests have come from the media, with the largest single number of requests being submitted by The Sunday Times, which has made 16 to date. Other media companies which [346] have made more than one FOI request, number of requests made shown in brackets, include RTE, five, Phoenix magazine, three, The Sunday Tribune, two and The Sunday Business Post.

The requests made by The Sunday Times have covered a wide range of topics, extending from current policy issues to matters relating to the administration of the Department, including official travel and expenses. The Sunday Times has also made requests under the FOI Act for copies of consultancy reports commissioned by the Department as well as details of other FOI requests made to the Department. A similar range of preoccupations has been evident in the requests made by other media companies with most requests focusing on current policy issues, administration and costs of the Department or else details of FOI requests made to the Department. In no case so far has the Department levied charges for the provision of information and/or records to members of the media.

A number of FOI requests have also been received from consultancy firms. Two requests have been made by the firm Policy Watch while a further two have been received from the firm Amárach. In general, the requests made by these two firms have sought information on the provision of various services, such as telecommunications and computer software, to the Department. A charge of £49.86 was imposed and paid for processing one of the requests submitted by Policy Watch, fees were not levied in the other three cases.

  56.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16620/99]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The table below sets out the details requested by the Deputy.

Undertaken by Nature of Project Actual or Projected completion date Cost or Estimated Cost
£
Holy Rosary Sisters Ndola Maternity Clinics review, Zambia 1/9/97 6,657.80
Dermot Carty Northern Province Water Programme, Zambia 3/9/97 5,005.77
Cathy Gaynor Gender Training Workshops, Tanzania 7/9/97 4,951.62
Iain Atack Programme for Human Rights & Good Governance, Mozambique 7/9/97 3,000.00
Ernst & Young GOAL Review 8/9/97 22,126.00
Jim Kinsella IFAD Programme – Conference, Rome 9/9/97 2,746.87
Geraldine Cusack Primary Maths Upgrade Review, Tanzania 11/9/97 11,975.75
Precept Consulting Internal Audit Support 11/9/97 &29/11/97 3,630.00
Paddy Fullam Support for Head Teacher Development Study, Tanzania 19/9/97 13,171.27
[347] Undertaken by Nature of Project Actual or Projected completion date Cost or Estimated Cost
£
Michael Scott Evelyn Hone Project Review, Zambia 21/9/97 4,594.38
John McNamara School Inspectorate Study, Tanzania 2/9/97 3,844.23
Ann Bourke-Garcia Health Sector Support, Tanzania 24/09/97 5,032.45
Karen Iles Smallholder Livestock Development Review, Pemba, Tanzania 30/09/97 3,913.75
Frank McMahon Interview Board for TAs in Tanzania 7/10/97 1,788.20
Theo Derkx Review of National Council for Development Education 15/10/97 5,173.76
Precept Consulting Interview Board, Internal Auditor positions 20/10/97 847.00
Emer Dolphin Adult Education Proposal – Appraisal 23/10/97 400.00
Steffen, Robertsen Kirsten UCG Hydrology Centre & UDSM Water Sector Review, Tanzania 28/08/97 5,968.40
Bob Bowman Interview Board,Tourism Sector, Tanzania 5/11/97 625.00
Cambridge Education Consultants Education Sector Review, Ethiopia 10/11/97 10,749.18
SMEC International Pty Ltd. Electricity Network Upgrade, Cambodia 11/11/97 8,000.00
Eric Woods Strategy Plan, Mozambique 16/11/97 4,611.35
Repim (Irl) Ltd Macroeconomic Development, Mozambique 16/11/97 7,961.64
Education Research Centre Examinations & Learning Assessment, Ethiopia 18/11/97 3,827.45
Pat Gibbons Community Upgrading Tanzania 23/11/97 7,001.20
Ann Bourke Garcia Health Sector Support, Zambia 29/11/97 6,337.66
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Joint Technical Review Mission, Ministry of Health , Zambia 8/12/97 3,923.49
Niall Clarke Rural Footbridges Project, Lesotho 9/12/97 3,421.90
Ann Murphy Basotho Ponies Project Evaluation, Lesotho 10/12/97 7,353.87
Noel O'Connell Whole School Development Project, Tanzania 22/12/97 1,174.50
IPA Human Resources Development, Tanzania Nov.97-Apr. 98 141,943 (1997)140,917 (1998)
Eric Woods Mozambique Country Planning Programme 5/01/98 4,971.28
Niall Crowley Mozambique Country Planning Programme 6/01/98 3,911.40
Mary Jennings Sustainable Lusaka Programme, Zambia 7/01/98 4,989.53
Peadar Cremin Education Sector Support, Tanzania 12/01/98 6,787.31
Karen Iles Livestock Project Design, Sidama , Ethiopia 13/01/98 9,790.60
Cathy Gaynor POCMUS Programme Workshop, Zambia 26/01/98 5,617.52
Ann Bourke Garcia Health Sector Support Tanzania April '98 55,884.28
Repim (Irl) Ltd. Interview Board for Programme Officers, Africa 23/02/98 2,275.17
Cathy Gaynor SARIPS, Zimbabwe & Zambia 08/03/9 6,876.27
Moss McCormack Health Sector, Tanzania 8/03/9 9,939.63
Martin McCormack Interview Board for TA in Africa 12/03/98 561.38
Dr. Tom Kelleghan Education Sector Appraisal, Ethiopia 28/03/98 4,479.57
Peadar Cremin Education Sector Support, Tanzania 28/03/98 7,628.3
Maeve O'Sullivan Copperbelt Maternity Services Project, Zambia 29/3/98 7,968.02
Martin McCormack Development & Management of Water Resources Document Review 3/04/98 625.00
Matthew Jowett Health Sector Appraisal, Ethiopia 11/04/98 7,604.69
Elna Bering Department of Labour Review, South Africa 11/04/98 7,211.02
Geraldine Cusack PMUP Korogwe, Tanzania 16/04/98 5,359.19
Sam Moyo Kimmage Manor & TCDC Arusha, Tanzania, Review 19/04/98 9,856.67
Robert Drayton Water & Sanitation Review, South Africa 20/04/98 7,203.12
Anthony Shanley Water Appraisal, Ethiopia 24/04/98 4,497.27
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine HIV/AIDS Programme, Ghana 25/04/98 3,881.53
John Howe Irish Aid Road Projects Review, Phase 1 27/04/98 1,462.38
Mary Jennings Irish Aid Road Projects Review, Phase 1 5/05/98 900.00
Patrick Gibbons Community Infrastructure Programme, Tanzania 5/05/98 3,020 .39
Andrew Lyall Land Bill, Uganda 3/05/98 4,079.15
Ann Bourke-Garcia Health Sector Reform Review, Tanzania 13/05/98 6,239.35
Mike Fitzgibbon Financial Database Upgrade, Tanzania 24/05/98 6,142.67
Cathy Gaynor POCMUS, Zambia 6/05/98 4,373.17
Nicholas Chisolm Irish Aid & Agenda 2000 Study 7/06/98 5,290.00
John Howe Irish Aid Roads Projects Review 7/06/98 24,347.05
Mary Jennings Irish Aid Roads Projects Review 7/06/98 15,720.35
Michael Scott Zambian Investment Centre, Lusaka 8/06/98 4,321.39
Mary Jennings Sustainable Programme, Lusaka, Zambia 8/06/98 2,792.57
John Grindle Tour Guide Training, Mozambique 8/06/98 9,584.85
Cathy Gaynor DSM & CIP Review, Tanzania 9/06/98 9,652.76
Patrick Gibbons Lusaka City Council Research Unit & CIP Tanzania 9/06/98 5,629.98
Barbara McAllister Expert Tour Guiding, Tanzania 27/06/98 7,254.32
Vivienne Forsythe Gedo Region Interventions, Somalia 29/06/98 7,995.94
IPA Local Govt. management Training, Tanzania Dec. 98 24,300.00
Eric Woods Education Sector, Mozambique 9/07/98 6,249.13
Repim (Irl) Ltd. Debt Relief, Tanzania 15/07/98 5,149.37
Matthew Jowett Health Sector Appraisal, Ethiopia 15/07/98 6,612.55
Nicholas Chisolm DAC Environment Meeting, Paris 8/07/98 1,290.17
[348][349] Undertaken by Nature of Project Actual or Projected completion date Cost or Estimated Cost
£
Noel Whelan Public Sector Reform, Uganda 28/07/98 5,402.91
Martin McCormack Water Sector Guidelines, Brussels 28/07/98 681.78
Lagin Consulting Ltd. Irish Aid Financial Systems Review 29/07/98 3,025.00
Cathy Gaynor POCMUS, Lusaka Technical Support 2/08/98 4,814.80
Geraldine Cusack PMUP, Tanzania 2/08/98 828.00
Garvan McCann IFAD & IFPRI Support, Malawi 6/08/98 3,042.00
Leo O'Keeffe Education Sector Reforms 6/08/98 648.44
Mokoro Ltd. Sector Aid Workshop, Dublin & Sidama, Ethiopia 8/08/98 9,594.3
Moss McCormack Mid Level Management Training – Health Sector, Tanzania 18/08/98 4,800.97
Philip Ryan Precept Consulting Goal Review, Dublin Oct. 1998 1,452.00
Cathy Gaynor POCMUS, Lusaka Technical Support 5/07/98 5,290.76
IPA HRD Tanzania Jan. 1998 81,943.00
Garvan McCann FAD & IFPRI Support Malawi 6/08/98 4,317.15
Leo O'Keeffe Education Sector Reforms, Dublin 8/06/98 800.03
Stephen Lister, Mokoro Ltd Sector Aid Workshop, Dublin & Ethiopia June 1998 4,166.21
Geraldine Cusack PMUP, Tanzania 2/06/98 1,250.00
Moss McCormack Mid Level Manag Training (Health Sector) Tanzania 20/06/98 7,287.43
Mary Jennings Interview Board Programme Officer 29/07/98 787.74
Jim Phelan SEP Tanzania 1/09/98 5,403.48
Leo O'Keeffe Educ. Support NP Zambia Aug. 1998 5,033.55
John Grindle NGO Evaluation, Ethiopia 13/07/98 8,125.95
Pat Gibbons CIP Tanzania 8/07/98 5,939.53
Shane Alwright JIHS, Ethiopia 24/07/98 2,876.42
Jean Long JIHS Ethiopia 24/07/98 2,860.99
Peadar Cremin Sector Dev. (Educ) Tanzania 10/08/98 6,011.66
Mary Jennings Sustainable Lusaka Programme 4/09/98 3,360.96
Timothy O'Dempsey Zonal Health Bureau, Ethiopia 26/08/98 4,000.00
Lana Kinley Desk Study, Zimbabwe Nov.1998 401.35
Bernard McLoughlin SWAPS Financial Accountability Study Aug. 1998 8,615.01
Cathy Gaynor Education Guidelines Sept. 1998 1,425.00
Andrew O'Rourke EU Documentation June 1998 750.00
Gavin Olney Micro-Finance Study Ethiopia Feb. 1999 9,000.00
Finola Finnan Consultants Health Register HQ Dec. 1998 3,750.00
Maria McLoughlin Burundi Peace Talks Process Tanzania 31/12/99 115,952.00
Colm O'Rourke Medlab Project Support, Zambia 23/11/98 3,332.40
Finola Finnan Medlab Project Support, Zambia 23/11/98 3,375.53
Nicholas Chisholm National Strategies on Sustainable Development Sunningdale 17/11/98 806.52
Mary Jennings Sustainable Lusaka Programme 30/11/98 3,999.53
Jennifer Chapman Basic Needs & Poverty Review, Tanzania Feb. 1999 4,453.46
Edward Griffin ESDP, Tanzania 9/11/98 2,757.26
Joe Ruddy Tourism Project, Tanzania 31/10/98 7,436.82
Barbara McAllister Tour Guide Training, Tanzania 30/10/98 7,379.95
John Grindle NGO Co-Financing & Block Grant Schemes 28/09/98 3,425.00
Gerry Hughes Review Tourism Sector Support Programme, Tanzania 7/10/98 4,924.05
Moss McCormack Capacity Building & Support to Medlab, Tanzania 20/09/98 4,288.10
IPA SWAPS Financial Accountability Study Oct. 1998 16,000.00
Andrew Burke, St Patricks College BESSIP, Zambia 30/09/98 6,090.00
Colin O'Sullivan Lagin
Consulting Ltd
Irish Aid Financial Systems Review 2nd Phase Oct.1998 9,680.00
Peadar Cremin Capacity Building for ESDP Sept. 1998 2,463.76
Paul Wijmenga Netherlands
Economic Institute
Review of the Export Processing Zones, Zimbabwe Dec. 1998 7,500.00
Brendan Rossiter Local Government Reform Programme, Tanzania 27/03/99 6,616.26
Cathal Higgins Evaluation of Breakthrough to Icibemba Nth. Province Zambia 5/04/99 6,224.52
Noel O'Connell Teacher Training Review, ESDP Tanzania 6/04/99 9,107.86
Brenda Corcoran Ex-Post Evaluation, Lusaka Maternity Clinics 18/03/99 5,122.71
Cathy Gaynor Working Group on Gender, Paris 9/02/99 1,105.41
Orlaith McCaul Irish Aid Review, Lesotho Feb. 1999 5,000.00
Colin O'Sullivan Lagin Consulting Ltd. Irish Aid Financial Systems Review July 1999 5,085.00
Finola Finnan Monitoring Mission HSDP, Ethiopia 28/02/99 6,440.92
Heiki Wihuri, International Water & Sanitation Centre Water & Sanitation Sector Study Lesotho, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe July 1999 43,802.00
Nicholas Chisholm Working Party on Development Cooperation and the Environment, Paris Oct. 1999 2,386.70
John Grindle PROAGRI Programme, Mozambique 26/04/99 7,200.00
Dr Andrew Burke Ed-SDP Appraisal, Tanzania 27/04/99 8,341.00
[350][351] Undertaken by Nature of Project Actual or Projected completion date Cost or Estimated Cost
£
Finola Finnan Establishment of Consultants Register for the Education Sector 4/05/99 3,000.00
Anne Ryan Ed-SDP Appraisal, Tanzania 27/03/99 6,485.50
Moss McCormack Joint Ministry of Health/Partners Appraisal Health Sector Programme, Tanzania 27/03/99 5,299.10
Nicholas Chisholm European Forum on Agricultural Research for Development, The Netherlands 26/05/99 875.43
Peadar Cremin Education Policy and Guidelines July 1999 3,750.00
Vivienne Flanagan Lagin Consulting Ltd. Personnel Management Systems: Phase 1 31/5/99 8,800.00
Vivienne Forsythe Valuation of Irish Aid Support to Gedo Region Somalia 31/04/99 1,293.52
Kieran Kelleher Tanga Mid-Term Review, Tanzania 31/05/99 6,766.40
Andrew O'Connell District Health Review, Uganda 1/06/99 7,250.00
Carol Coombe Participation in the ESDP, Uganda 26/06/99 7,300.00
Paul Cassidy Management Needs Analysis Sept. 1999 25,500.00
Jim Fitzpatrick Desk-top study on new priority country for Irish Aid July 1999 7,200.00
Robert Ainscow Management Needs Analysis Sept. 1999 20,500.00
Helen O'Neill Article for Irish Aid Annual Report 12/06/99 1,000.00
Nicholas Chisholm Attendance at Public Accounts Committee meetings June 99-May 2000 May 2000 6,364.44
Noel Whelan Attendance at Public Accounts Committee Meetings June 99-May 2000 May 2000 7,000.00
Albert de Groot N.E.I. Debt Relief Mission to Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique & Zambia 30/06/99 21,000.00
Denis Gallagher REPIM (Irl)
Ltd
Debt Relief Mission to Ethiopia, Tanzania Mozambique & Zambia 30/06/99 12,772.00
Jane Stanton Oxford Policy Management IFC Technical Assistance Trust Fund Prog.World Bank Consultancy Trust Fund EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund Economic Development Institute 9/07/99 17,371.00
Timothy O'Dempsey Development of Community-based Training Programmes, Ethiopia 16/07/99 8,000.00
Philip Ryan, Precept Consulting Management Review, Tanzania 30/07/99 8,000.00
Orlaith McCaul Benchmarking and Baseline Study, Muheza, Tanzania 10/08/99 6,000.00
Kim Forss Sector Aid (SWAPs) Seminar, Dublin, June 1999 18/06/99 2,300.00
Robert Drayton Review of Irish Aid Fellowship Programme 10/08/99 6,000.00
Finola Finnan Technical Support for Lab Projects in Zambia and Tanzania 25/06/99 9,250.00
Specification of fully automated passport system KPMG Management Consultants March 1999 61,734
Preparation of consultancy document on Cultural Relations Committee Ms Eimear McNamara August 1999 3,464.50
Review of foreign service allowances in Department ECA (Employment Conditions Abroad Ltd), London, September 1998 39,536.60
Eurocost, Luxembourg February 1999 19,711.90
To advise the Minister on major issues arising in the European Union Mr Rory McCabe September 1999 29,100

Note:

A total of 162 consultancy assignments etc. were commissioned by the Development Co-operation Division and paid for from the International Co-operation Vote during the period in question. A report of each consultancy is received within a month of completion of an assignment. As the purpose of the assignments is to assist with the review and evaluation of existing projects and to plan, design and prepare new projects under the Irish Aid Programme, the reports are not published.

Similarly, in relation to the remaining projects, any reports arising are for the purpose of assisting the internal decision making process and it is therefore not proposed to publish them.

  57.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    if the embassy in New Delhi has received a reply from the police in Chennai to its letter dated 29 March 1999 requesting a full report on the murder on 31 December 1997 of an Irish citizen (details supplied) in Madras, Chennai, India; if the victim's passport which was stolen at the time has been cancelled; the position in relation to his property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16685/99]

[352]Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The report requested by the embassy was received from the police in Chennai, Madras, on 22 June 1999 and the Department of Foreign Affairs has sent a copy of it to the brother of the deceased. The case is still under investigation.

When the passport of the deceased was reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs as having been stolen, details were immediately put in the passport stoplist to prevent anybody else using it in connection with an application for [353] another passport. The stolen passport has not yet been found.

Items of personal property found in the hotel room of the deceased are being held by the police in the event of somebody being charged with the murder. The Embassy is seeking an explanation of why a list of those items in the police report does not include three items in a list conveyed orally in January 1998.

The embassy is satisfied that the police investigation is being properly conducted.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, which is frequently in contact with the brother of the deceased, will continue to monitor developments and to give every appropriate assistance.

  58.  Mr. Timmins    asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs    the number of occasions on which his Department has lodged protests with the Israeli Government as a result of incidents involving Irish troops in UNIFIL; if he will give details of these protests involved; and the Israeli response in this regard. [16766/99]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews):  The safety and well-being of all Irish troops serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, and indeed with all UN peacekeeping operations throughout the world, is of paramount concern to the Government, to my colleague the Minister for Defence and to me as Minister for Foreign Affairs. For this reason, all attacks or close firings involving our troops are treated with the utmost seriousness and urgency by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Since the beginning of the year there has been a number of close firing incidents, escalating in frequency and intensity, involving members of the Irish UNIFIL contingent in South Lebanon. These culminated on 31 May in the tragic death of Private William Kedian and the critical wounding of Private Ronnie Rushe.

The Department of Foreign Affairs maintains close liaison with the Department of Defence in relation to all indiscriminate targeting of Irish members of the UNIFIL contingent. Close liaison is also maintained with the UN authorities both in Lebanon and New York. Whenever such incidents take place, a vigorous protest is lodged with the appropriate government involved. In cases involving armed elements in Lebanon – namely Hizbollah – the protest is lodged with the Lebanese Government. In the case of the Israeli Defence Forces and the South Lebanon Army, who are trained, equipped and paid by Israel, the protest is lodged with the Israeli Government. Reflecting the increase in the number of close firings, the number of protests lodged since the beginning of the year has also increased.

On 11 February, following an incident on 7 February when Israeli Defence Forces-South Lebanon Army fired into the Irish Battalion area of operations, the Department of Foreign Affairs [354] protested in the strongest terms to the Israeli Ambassador in Dublin. On that occasion one mortar round impacted on the roof of the Company HQ at UN position P-38 wounding two members of the Defence Forces – Corporal Roche and Private Flaherty. The Israeli Ambassador expressed his regret and denied that there had been any policy change on the part of his government towards the Irish UNIFIL contingent. He promised to bring our protest to the attention of his government.

On 4 March the Department of Foreign Affairs lodged another protest about two further incidents involving the Irish troops at Rshaf on 13 and 16 February. Again the Israeli Ambassador emphasised that there was no change in the Israeli attitude to UNIFIL, but undertook to bring our protest to the attention of his authorities.

On 12 March, when the Israeli Ambassador called to see the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs on a separate bilateral matter, the Secretary General took the opportunity to raise again the issue of close firings. He expressed our fears that such incidents could very easily result in loss of life.

Notwithstanding these protests, the incidents continued. On 31 May Private Kedian, a 22-year-old serving with UNIFIL, was killed in Barasheet in South Lebanon by a mortar fired by the pro-Israeli South Lebanon Army. Two other Irish soldiers serving with UNIFIL were wounded, one very seriously. On 1 June I summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Leinster House. I protested the incident in the strongest possible terms. I insisted that there must be an immediate cessation of such incidents and demanded that the Israeli Government take firm action to prevent such indiscriminate targeting of the UNIFIL contingent.

The Israeli Ambassador expressed regret at the death of Private Kedian and the wounding of Private Rushe and undertook to bring my protest to the immediate attention of his government.

More recently, on 11 June, a further vigorous protest – regarding a series of six close firing incidents on 10 June involving the Irish UNIFIL contingent position – was lodged by the Department of Foreign Affairs with the Israeli Ambassador. On that occasion, although there were no injuries, two of the Irish positions were struck during the firings. I also instructed the Irish Ambassador to Israel to lodge a protest with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was done on Tuesday 15 June. Again the Israeli authorities expressed regret and promised follow up action.

All of these incidents are a cause of the greatest concern to the Government.

We are all aware that there are always risks involved for the brave men and women engaged in peacekeeping. However, neither I nor the Government can accept a situation where Irish personnel working on behalf of the UN are subject to reckless and indiscriminate fire. If such a situation were to continue, we would have no option but to take steps to protect our troops, [355] including reconsideration of our involvement with UNIFIL.

  60.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she will recommend to all public service transport providers working under the aegis of her Department, particularly the semi-State bodies, that the purchase of transport vehicles should be conditional on they being environmentally friendly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16273/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 35 of 18 February 1999.

My Department has allocated a sum of £20,000 to part fund a trial involving the use by Dublin Bus of a vehicle fuelled by Liquid Petroleum Gas, LPG. Dublin Bus is at present in negotiation with a bus manufacturer about the leasing of a suitable bus. In addition, Dublin Bus, in a joint-venture with Bord Gáis Éireann, is operating, on a trial basis, a single-decker bus using Compressed Natural Gas, CNG.

  61.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the progress of the Dublin light rail project; if she has satisfied herself that the indicative time schedule for the project will be kept; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16274/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I am satisfied that progress on the light rail project is proceeding broadly in line with, and in some cases ahead of, the indicative timetable that I outlined in May 1998.

I made a light railway order in respect of the Tallaght to Abbey Street line last March. No application for a judicial review was received within the two months specified in the legislation and CIE can now proceed with securing tenders to allow construction to commence. The target date for the commencement of construction is spring 2000 and the line is expected to be completed in winter 2002. I understand that some preliminary work will get under way within the coming months.

The Government has approved funding for the purchase of the first 20 trams which will operate on the Tallaght to Abbey Street line and this contract was signed by CIE last month.

Last week I received the inspector's report on the public inquiry into the application by CIE for a light railway order in respect of the St. Stephen's Green to Sandyford Industrial Estate light rail line. I am now considering that report together with the other relevant documentation [356] and I will make my decision in relation to the order in due course.

I understand that CIE expects to be in a position to submit an application to me for a light railway order for the Abbey Street to Connolly Station line in August. The public consultation process for the Broadstone to Ballymun and Dublin Airport line began last December and is continuing.

CIE is on the point of selecting consultants to carry out a geotechnical study of the underground section of the project. This is later than I had expected and, while I have been advised that it will not significantly affect the overall timetable, I have asked that there be no delay in progressing this aspect of the work. I expect that these geotechnical studies will be completed by the end of the year.

  62.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the provision or reservation, if any, of shares made for pensioners who retired from, and deferred pensioners of, Telecom Éireann and particularly those who retired in December 1998; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16406/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  Any one who is already in receipt of a pension, or entitled to a deferred pension, if they retired, or left employment, on or before 1 November 1998 from Telecom Éireann is eligible.

Under the terms of the pensioners offer, should an eligible pensioner choose to apply for shares, he or she is guaranteed, should the share offer go ahead, to receive the total amount of shares for which he or she applies and pays for, up to a maximum allocation of £3,000, and subject to the pro rata share value arrangement for spouses of deceased eligible pensioners and dependent children.

Any one who retired from, or left the employment of, Telecom Éireann after 1 November 1998 was included in the ESOP scheme for Telecom Éireann employees and therefore is excluded from the pensioners offer.

  63.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the companies or businesses from which her Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16414/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  The information requested is set out in the attached table.

[357]

Requester Number ofRequests General Description of Requests Monies received from Requester
The Sunday Times 29 A wide variety of issues, including correspondence with tribunals, matters relating to semi-State bodies, matters relating to expenses/ entertainment/ travel of the Minister and Minister of State and a wide variety of other issues including Sellafield, radon gas, the Tuskar air crash etc. £75.75
Amarach Consulting 7 Titles and indices of files in the Department, minutes of management committee meetings, copies of invoices and records of social or market research. £0.00
The Sunday Tribune 6 Expenses claimed by the Minister, correspondence with semi-State bodies and consultants/advisers and minutes of management committee meetings. £0.00
The Irish Times 5 Aer Lingus, aviation policy, ESB and Quality Bus Corridors. £0.00

[358]

  65.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by her Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16621/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the attached schedule.

Consultant(s)/Studies/Analysis/Work Groups Completion Date of Work/Report Actual/Estimated Cost(incl. VAT) Has/will the report be published?
KPMG: Audit of EU backed expenditure by ESB under Economic Infrastructural Operational Programme (EIOP) and INTERREG II Approx.July 1999 £18,634 No
Price Waterhouse Coopers: Audit commissioned by Department of EU backed expenditure by Bord na Mona under the Economic Infrastructural Operational Programme (EIOP) 15 March1999 £9,454 No
Arthur Andersen: A Consultancy Study on the Refining and Trading Operations of the Irish National Petroleum Corporation and the oil supply situation in Ireland 9 January1998 £133,100 No
Salomon Smith Barney: A Consultancy Study commissioned to examine and assess the suitability of the strategic alliance proposal recommended by Aer Lingus with British Airways/American Airways and future capital needs of the airline Phase I byend June 1999Phase II is contingent on outcome of Phase I £35,000 (excl. VAT and expenses)£60,000 (excl. VAT and expenses)
£20,000 (excl. VAT and expenses) for legal services
No decision has been made (each report will be considered having regard to the individual circumstances)
Bernard Murphy and Associates: Advice on Groundwater Vulnerability Research Mid 1998 £1,000 No
Dr. David Drew: Advice on groundwater vulnerability research in Co. Clare Mid 1998 £1,440 No
Geotechnical and Environmental Consultants: Assistance with groundwater studies in Co. Wexford End 1998 £1,750 No
Crowe, Schaffalitzky and Associates: Report of Karst heritage sites November1998 £2,420 No
Matthew Parkes: Palaeontology Curation Spring 1999 £4,500 No
Roger Hooke: Quaternary Studies End 1998 £3,500 No
Gail Ashley: Quaternary Studies Autumn 1998 £3,000 No
Jorge Rabussa: Quaternary Studies Autumn 1998 £640 No
Matthew Parkes: Karst Databases End 1998 £600 No
Bruce Misstear: Groundwater Vulnerability Research – Advice on Assistance with Groundwater Projects Mid 1998 £600 No
Suzanne Tynan: Documentation of IT Procedures in GSI Production of Gold Map of Britain and Ireland Spring 1998 £2,070£1,980 No
Patrick McKeever: Production of Geoteorism products End 1998 £5,400 No
Marcus Pracht: Mapping of Beara Peninsula Mid 1998 £3,894 No
Ken McCafffrey: Provision of training cover in structural geology for GSI staff Autumn 1998 £1,200 No
Vincent Gallagher: Regional Geochemistry Report End 1998 £4,500 No
[359] Consultant(s)/Studies/Analysis/Work Groups Completion Date of Work/Report Actual/Estimated Cost(incl. VAT) Has/will the report be published?
Informatic Management International: Study for potential for Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in relation to national Seabed Survey Spring 1999 £18,150 No
Ewbank Preece O hEocha: Engineering Evaluation of ESB's proposals for the Refurbishment of Ferbane Power Station 23 December1997 £7,603 No
AEA Technology plc (acting through ETSU, Oxfordshire U.K.): Assessment of proposals received under Fourth Alternative Energy Requirement competition (AER IV) August, 1999 £57,741 (Stg)excl VAT No
Kirk, McClure, Morton, Consulting Engineers: Department of Public Enterprise and Department of Economic Development, Belfast joint study of the Off-Shore wind energy resource of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland August, 1999 £82,000(DPE share = £30,760 excluding VAT) Yes
Indecon International Economic Consultants: External Evaluator for the Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme Ongoing £70,740 Relevant material published in annual reports of Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme
Diarmuid Hegarty: Advice on Financial Management Information System December 1998 £3,750 No report was sought, the consultancy related to the provision of advice only
Forbairt: Examination of Environmental Impact Statement for the Carrickmines to Bray natural gas transmission pipeline August 1997 £1,445 No. Report sought for expert environmental advice only.
Liam Ó hÁlmhain: Technical Adviser of Gas Technical Standards Committee £29,580 to date. No report – Consultancy Service
DKM Economic Consultants: Economic evaluation of the natural gas infrastructural options to meet gas demand to 2025 In the nextfew months. £56,845(cost to be borne by Bord Gáis Éireann no fee paid to date) Yes, with commercially sensitive information removed.
Enterprise Ireland: Examination of Environmental Appraisal Report for Abbotstown to Poolbeg natural gas pipeline 24 December1998 £1,300 No. Report sought for expert environmental advice only.
Byrne Ó Cléirigh Consulting Engineers: Examination of Environmental Impact Statement for natural gas transmission pipeline from Ballough to Brownsbarn 20 April 1999 £9,438(cost borne by BordGáis Éireann) No. Report sought for expert environmental advice only.
Byrne Ó Cléirigh Consulting Engineers: Examination of Environmental Appraisal Report for natural gas transmission pipeline from Ballyvass to Athy. 31 May 1999 £5,808(cost to be borne by Bord Gáis Éireann) No. Report sought for expert environmental advice only.
Enterprise Ireland: Examination of Environmental Appraisal Report for natural gas transmission pipeline from Caherlag to Ballincollig 16 April 1999 £1,920(cost to be borne by Bord Gáis Éireann). No. Report sought for expert environmental advice only.
Enterprise Ireland: Examination of Environmental Appraisal Report for natural gas transmission pipeline from Baunlusk to Ballyragget 26 April 1999 £1,450(cost to be borne by Bord Gáis Éireann) No. Report sought for expert environmental advice only.
Enterprise Ireland: Examination of Environmental Appraisal Report for natural gas transmission pipeline from Pilltown to Navan 22 March 1999 £1,290(cost to be borne by Bord Gáis Éireann) No. Report sought for expert environmental advice only.
Gas Demand Study Group Next few months No costs arise apart from normal Departmental staffing costs and some incidental costs Arrangements are in hand to publish as much of the Study Group's work as possible, less commercially sensitive information.
[360][361] Consultant(s)/Studies/Analysis/Work Groups Completion Date of Work/Report Actual/Estimated Cost(incl. VAT) Has/will the report be published?
Analysis of alternatives for meeting demands for natural gas in the island of Ireland (Shannon/McManus): An appraisal of alternative proposed arrangements for meeting the projected demands for natural gas 1 June 1999 No costs arise apart from normal Departmental staffing costs which were borne by the Department of Public Enterprise and the Department of Economic Development, Belfast Already published on Departmental website with commercially sensitive material removed.
London Economics Consultants: Report commissioned by the Energy Advisory Board on Ireland's Energy Efficiency Policy for the period 2000-2005. March 1999 £131,490 Yes
NERA: engaged to undertake a financial and technical review of the proposed charges for access to the Irish gas transmission system Report Expectedshortly £71,250 Yes, with any commercially sensitive material removed.
Arthur Andersen: retained to assist the Department with the review of the NERA report N/A It is anticipated that between 2 and 5 days of the consultant's time will be required at the daily rate of £1,350 + VAT. No Report
A consortium of consultants comprising Warburg Dillon Read, SH&E and AIB: engaged to give advice in relation to the strategic options for the future development of Aer Rianta in the context of a report received from the Board of that company Approx. earlyJuly Etimated cost is £50,000 exclusive of VAT and expenses. No decision has been taken on publication
Indecon Economic Consultants: a study on Aer Rianta's airport charges Approx.mid July The estimated cost of about £99,000 for fees and expenses. No decision has been taken on publication.
Mr. Paul Cassidy: a review of the distribution of staff resources within the Department 11 November1998 £7,260 No
Ms Caroline Pfeifer: the development of the Department's Library 31 December1999 £24,600 No
The Smith Group: Consultancy services in relation to an analysis of Ireland's international telecommunications connectivity (Technical) Approx. endJuly 1999 £15,400 (excl VAT) No
Ovum Ltd: Consultancy services in relation to an analysis of Ireland's international telecommunications connectivity (Economic) Approx. endJuly 1999 £22,100 (excl VAT) No
A&L Goodbody: Consultancy services in relation to an analysis of Ireland's international telecommunications connectivity (Domestic Legal) Approx. endJuly 1999 £25,020 (excl VAT) No
Skadden Arps: Consultancy services in relation to an analysis of Ireland's international telecommunications connectivity (International Legal) Approx. endJuly 1999 £179,974 (excl VAT) No
Price Waterhouse Coopers: Consultancy services in relation to an analysis of Ireland's international telecommunications connectivity (Financial Investment Banking) Approx. endJuly 1999 £63,000 (excl VAT) No
Norcontel (Ireland) Ltd: Consultancy services in relation to the award of EU Structural Funds for broadband Telecommunications Infrastructure Projects Ongoing £215,280 No report
Indecon Economic Consultants: commissioned to carry our a review of the Irish Road Haulage sector. January 1999 £280,000 Yes
Commencements Ltd: commissioned to carry out a postal based survey of a broad sample of the Department's customers. May 1999 £4,800 (excl. VAT) Yes
Precept Consulting: Training Needs Analysis Study for MET Service May 1998 £22,370 No
Arthur Andersen: Background industry research in relation to possible sale of TEAM Aer Lingus January 1998 £3,935 Not published
Siemens Nixdorf/AMS: Development of a Departmental Records Management Strategy, a File Management System Specification and an Implementation Plan. End July 1999 £13,084
(This was co-funded by the Department of Finance who paid £40,000 towards the cost of the Consultancy).
No
[362][363] Consultant(s)/Studies/Analysis/Work Groups Completion Date of Work/Report Actual/Estimated Cost(incl. VAT) Has/will the report be published?
KPMG: Audit of An Post expenditure under EIOP Ongoing £6,352
Excluding out of pocket expenses. Subject to a maximum payment of £10,000
No
Oscar Faber Consultants: Study of the environmental impact of continuing transport growth and the scope for ameliorative measures under the Technical Assistance element of the Operational Programme for Transport (1994-1999). Final Report
expected shortly
£90,000
Cost of study funded 75% EU, 25% CIE.
No decision made
WS Atkins International Ltd: Dublin light rail: Appraisal of Alternative Surface and Underground Options. April 1998 £251,000 Yes
Arthur Andersen/Steer Davies Gleave: Advise on Public, Private Partnership for LUAS project. April 1999 £77,500 Yes
International Risk Management Services: strategic review of rail safety October 1998 £234,740 Yes
Price Waterhouse Coopers: review of Exchequer subvention CIE August 1998 £24,200 No
DTZ Sherry Fitzgerald: review of CIE property portfolio Ongoing £65,945 Decision not made
Light Rail Advisory & Action Group Ongoing. First report due July 1999 No costs arise apart from normal Departmental staffing costs and some incidental costs Yes
Committee on Integrated Ticketing Ongoing No costs arise apart from normal Departmental staffing costs and some incidental costs N/A
Light Rail Monitoring Group Ongoing Normal Departmental staffing costs and some incidental costs. Consultants have been reappointed to assist the group at a cost of £139,000 for a year N/A
Informal Working Group on the possible use of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) by Dublin Bus. Report expected to be completed later in year. No costs arise apart from normal Departmental staffing costs and some incidental costs. Decision notmade.
High Level Task Force on Rail Safety February 1999 No costs arise, apart from normal Departmental staffing costs and some incidental costs No
Coopers & Lybrand – Audit of Telecom Eireann expenditure under EIOP and INTERREG II Programmes Ongoing £18,500(excl VAT) No
Major (Rtd) C. B. Holden – Safety Consultant to Railway Inspecting Officer Ongoing £10,000 No
Hay Management Consultants – Staff Training Services June 1997 andJuly 1998 £10,570 No
Cablelink Steering Committee April 1999 Departmental Costs are being reimbursed by Telecom Eireann and RTE. The cost of advisers is being borne by the shareholders of Cablelink-Telecom Eireann and RTE No
Task Force on International Connectivity Ongoing No costs arise apart from normal Departmental staffing costs and some incidental costs No
Lan Communications: Report on Department's IT Infrastructure August 1998 £8,970(excl VAT) No
Merrill Lynch and AIB Capital Markets: Joint Global Co Ordinators for Telecom Eireann IPO End July 1999 Not possible to predict precisely at this stage. No Report – Advisory Service.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP: International Counsel to Minister for Telecom Eireann IPO. End July 1999 £750,000(incl expenses) No Report – Advisory Service.
[364][365] Consultant(s)/Studies/Analysis/Work Groups Completion Date of Work/Report Actual/Estimated Cost(incl. VAT) Has/will the report be published?
PR/Marketing Advisers for Telecom Eireann IPO
(i)Citigate Dewe Rogerson, with subcontract to Drury Communications and End July 1999 £700,000 direct fees + 10% incentive fee No Report – Advisory Service.
(ii)Citigate Dewe Rogerson with subcontract to Drury Research and Lansdowne Market Research for market research services and End July 1999 £165,000 (budget) No Report – Advisory Service.
(iii)Citigate Dewe Rogerson with a subcontract to Sitel for call centre and database management services End July 1999 Final cost not yet known No Report – Advisory Service.
Irish International Group: Advertising Agency
media advertising End July 1999 Agency commission £225,000 (capped) No Report – Advisory Service.
production of advertising and direct mail material End July 1999 Agency commission £165,000 (capped) No Report – Advisory Service.
creative work End July 1999 £60,000
(actual media and production costs not finalised)
No Report – Advisory Service.
Bowne Group Ltd: Secure Printing End July 1999 Full cost not finalised No Report – Advisory Service.
Price Waterhouse Coopers: Process Fraud Auditor End July 1999 £145,000 No Report – Advisory Service.
Computershare Services (Ireland) Ltd.: – Receiving Agent End July 1999 Final cost not known No Report – Advisory Service.
Mr. Noel Lindsey – Process Auditor End July 1999 £15,000 No Report – Advisory Service.

  66.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the reason her Department is reluctant to agree and implement the SCARF standards agreed by all companies affected by the EU ground handling directive; her views on the setting of safety standards; her further views on whether the initiative of relevant companies deserves support and recognition; if this will be re-examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16706/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  The Deputy is referring to the SCARF training programme which was started in 1992 as a European funded programme by a consortium of airlines, universities, airport authorities and others. It was introduced into Ireland by Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta in 1995. I understand that Aer Rianta intend to adopt the SCARF programme, or a similar level of training, as a minimum standard in their implementation of the Ground Handling Directive at Dublin Airport.

I very much welcome the SCARF programme because it is designed to improve ground handling work practices and to foster a professional commitment to safety among all those responsible for ground handling operations. There is always room for improvement in this area and the companies who developed this programme are to be congratulated for their initiative.

Following the implementation of the Ground Handling Directive, my Department is holding ongoing discussions with the Irish Aviation Authority, Aer Rianta and the ground handling companies in relation to the overall position as regards safety standards to be adopted and are [366] examining whether any changes are required in the current practice.

  67.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she has satisfied herself that the Director of Telecommunications Regulation is the best person to adjudicate on the issue of the use or non-use of television deflectors; if adequate authority is vested in the director's office to deal with this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16791/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  The functions of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation include the regulation and licensing of communications infrastructures, including broadcasting transmission and retransmission systems. In accordance with the Wireless Telegraphy Acts, as amended, the director requires my consent for any regulations that the director may draw up to establish any licensing scheme involving apparatus for wireless telegraphy, such as television deflector systems. I am satisfied that the director has adequate authority in this regard. I am also satisfied that these arrangements properly reflect the allocation of functions between myself as Minister with overall policy responsibility in the area and the director.

  68.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    the degree to which she will support the development of a commuter rail system as an alternative to roads; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16792/99]

[367]Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  I have indicated on a number of occasions both my own and the Government's support for the further development of the suburban rail network. This is being done in the context of addressing deficiencies in the public transport system and to provide alternatives to increasing traffic congestion in the greater Dublin area.

The Exchequer has provided almost £20 million to co-finance suburban rail projects over 1999 and 2000. These projects include the acquisition of additional suburban railcars and DART carriage, track and rail signalling works and platform extensions.

Last March I announced a dual initiative aimed at transforming rail transport in the coming years. This approach will place train travel at the heart of suburban commuting as well as involving largescale spending on rail and safety in the next five years. The proposals for suburban rail included both short and long-term initiatives.

The focus of the short-term programme will be to make more intensive use of the existing rail corridors through possible measures such as provision of additional DART and suburban rail rolling stock and will include: increasing train sizes to eight cars to ease overcrowding; the lengthening of station platforms to accommodate longer trains; upgrading of the line between Connolly and Heuston stations; the development of new stations, Intel, Lucan North, Ashington, Lucan South, at suitable locations, linked to housing and industrial development.

At the request of the Government, CIE will complete a consultancy study by the end of the year on a longer-term suburban rail development programme. This study will address the following issues: a possible new inland rail link to Navan; possible separation of long distance and commuter rail traffic through the construction of by-pass rail lines; quadrupling of existing double lines where feasible; enhancement of rail service to the development centres identified by the strategic planning guidelines.

The short-term rail development programme is already included in the DTO transport blueprint.

  69.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if she has set a deadline for the completion of the enhancement works on the Maynooth to Dublin rail line; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16794/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  Infrastructural work on the Dublin to Maynooth rail line was approved for EU funding and is already under way. All contracts for this work must be signed by the end of 1999 and the work completed before the end of 2000.

[368]

  70.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Public Enterprise    if or when a new competition for alter native energy, particularly biomass, will be agreed; if EU funding under Objective One will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16796/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke):  My Department has hosted four competitions for rights to operate renewable energy based electricity generating stations and to sell the electricity to the Electricity Supply Board under published terms. These competitions will increase renewable energy based electricity generating plant to 10 per cent of total electricity generating capacity by end 1999.

Proposals to further promote renewable energy technologies, including biomass, will be outlined in the Green Paper on Sustainable Energy which I will publish shortly.

In relation to EU funding, I refer the Deputy to the answer to Dáil Questions Nos. 25, 29, 31 and 32 of 24 June 1999, in which the Minister for Finance stated that no commitments on EU aid can be given in advance of a Government decision on the National Development Plan.

  71.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Defence    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16415/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  The most frequent source from which this Department has received freedom of information requests is The Sunday Times. Nine requests have been processed from The Sunday Times journalists. The general nature of their requests has related to the use-disposal of Defence property, ministerial expenses, and the content of freedom of information inquiries. No costs were levied by the Department for the processing of these requests.

  72.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Defence    when the overseas allowances for troops serving abroad will be increased as referred to in an interview with a national newspaper (details supplied) on 17 December 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16495/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  Rates of overseas allowance are increased in line with general round increases in remuneration. In this regard overseas allowances have attracted increases under the provisions of the PCW and P2000.

Claims for additional increases in overseas allowances have been presented by both RACO and PDFORRA under the conciliation and arbi[369] tration scheme for the Permanent Defence Force. By agreement with the associations, discussions under the scheme are confidential to the parties involved. Accordingly, the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on this issue, other than to say I am hopeful of an early resolution.

  73.  Mr. Dukes    asked the Minister for Defence    the state of negotiations on the disposal of Magee Barracks, Kildare; and the difficulties, if any, in regard to legal title to the land and premises. [16511/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  Arising from a request from the Department of Foreign Affairs for accommodation to house Kosovar refugees, I offered that Department the opportunity to inspect the five vacated barracks to check out their feasibility or otherwise for the accommodation of the refugees. Currently Magee Barracks, Kildare is being used for this purpose on a temporary basis. The sale of the barracks will proceed as soon as is practicable.

I am not aware of any difficulties with regard to legal title to the land and premises.

  74.  Mr. Lawlor    asked the Minister for Defence    if suggestions that the site at Clancy Barracks could be used for housing to relieve the crisis in Dublin are being considered by his Department; and if a decision will shortly be made to determine further use of the site. [16548/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  The Government, on 15 July 1998, approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks which are considered surplus to military requirements. The barracks in question are located at Fermoy, Ballincollig, Naas, Kildare, Castleblayney and Clancy Barracks, Dublin. Clancy Bar[370] racks will be vacated by 1 July 2000 and arrangements will be made for its disposal following its evacuation.

Following an application from my Department to Dublin Corporation the entire area of Clancy Barracks has been re-zoned residential in the Dublin City Development Plan 1999. The disposal of the property will be on this basis.

  75.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Defence    the arrangements, if any, being made for 114 civilians who need to be redeployed following the sale of Clancy Barracks in Islandbridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16568/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  On 25 June I met a delegation from the union side of the Joint Industrial Council for State Employees. This included representatives of civilian employees in Clancy Barracks. A target closure date for Clancy Barracks of 1 July 2000 was indicated and the representatives were advised that in the autumn a comprehensive range of options for the civilian employees will be set out. They may include, for example, options of redundancy, transfer to the Curragh or relocation to another barracks in the Dublin area.

  76.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Defence    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16622/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  The relevant reports etc. commissioned by the Department since the Government was appointed were as follows:

Consultancy, Work Group, Studies, Analysis, Report Cost CompletionDates Publicationstatus
Steering Group to oversee and direct the Military Board examining the Reserve Defence Forces £22,264(to date) Summer1999 Notapplicable
Provision of career change/outplacement counselling services for members of Permanent Defence Forces availing of the 1997 and 1998 Voluntary Early Retirement Schemes £302,122 Completed Notapplicable
Analysis and design of a Fishery Control System to enable the Naval Service to meet its obligations under new fishery regulations £479,500 September1998 No
[371] Working Groups, Reports, Studies, Consultancies Cost CompletionDates Publicationstatus
Provision of psychometric services in connection with the 1997 and 1998 Air Corps and Naval Service Cadetships and the 1999 Air Corps Cadetships £136,700(for earlier years)and £31,000(estimated for 1999) 1999 testingwill be completedby late Summer Notapplicable
Provision of psychometric services in connection with the 1999 Naval Service Cadetships £32,000(estimated) Summer 1999 Notapplicable
Market and Financial Feasibility Study for National Aviation Heritage Centre £15,488 Late 1998 No
Inter-Departmental Task Force on the future management and development of the Curragh of Kildare Not possible to quantify costs as each Department/Agency paid expenses of its own staff. Light refreshment costs estimated at less than £1,000 June 1999 No decision

In addition, consultants with appropriate expertise are engaged by the Department as necessary to provide technical services in connection with building and engineering projects.

  77.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Defence    his views on the lack of promotional opportunities in the Defence Forces; if recent early retirements have had a negative impact on these promotions; if there is a large backlog of qualified applicants for corporal positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16703/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  The military authorities advise that promotional opportunities are available to all suitably qualified personnel at present.

Recent early retirements have had no negative impact on promotional opportunities. The military authorities advise that there is no backlog of qualified applicants for Corporal appointments. Any outstanding appointments were filled in June.

  78.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Defence    his views on the reduction of the number of Army bands; if he will quantify the loss to the communities close to the Army barracks of the facilities, advice and help; the way in which the loss to communities can be made good; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16704/99]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith):  Recently, I approved a proposal from the military authorities that the military band at the Curragh should be amalgamated with the band of the Eastern Brigade, the Army No. 1 Band. The amalgamation of these two bands does not involve any reduction in the overall numbers of musicians within the school of music, as already provided for within the Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan as approved by the previous Government. Under the previous organisation of the Defence Forces, each Army command – of which there were four, namely, the Eastern, Curragh, Southern and Western Commands – had a [372] military band. In the new organisational structure, which came into effect on 1 November last, these four commands were replaced by three brigades. Each of these three brigades, Eastern, Southern and Western, has a band as part of its organisation, with the band of the former Curragh Command being now amalgamated with the band of the Eastern Brigade, the Army No. 1 Band.

The military authorities are of the opinion that this new organisation of the school of music will allow all of the Army bands to function to their full potential.

  79.  Mr. Farrelly    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Meath who is on a contributory pension has been refused a farm retirement pension; if this matter will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16257/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  My Department has no record of an application in this case.

  80.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if a fodder payment will be released for a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16258/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named does not qualify for assistance under the winter fodder schemes as he was not an active milk supplier on 1 April 1998 and was not an applicant for the 1998 suckler cow premium, ewe premium or sheep headage schemes. He did submit an application for assistance under the 1999 special fodder hardship fund scheme but on the basis of a Teagasc assessment of his fodder requirements, he does not qualify for any grant under this scheme.

[373]

  81.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if outstanding area aid prob lems will be resolved for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; if 1998 ten and 22 month special beef premia, a suckler cow payment and cattle headage will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16259/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named submitted an incomplete application, in that he did not submit sufficient maps to cover all of the land on his 1998 area aid application. The area aid unit issued maps in order to enable him to identify the location of the remainder of his land. No reply has been received and so his application has now been processed in accordance with the maps originally supplied by the herdowner with his application, resulting in there being an overclaim of 41 per cent.

EU Regulations preclude the making of any area-aid linked payments where the area claimed is in excess of 20 per cent greater than that established. As a result there is a 100 per cent penalty applied to the application and no area-aid linked payments can issue to the person concerned for 1998.

  82.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 106 of 1 June 1999, his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Sligo has not received a REP scheme payment; the reason for the delay; if his cheque will immediately be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16260/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  As I stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 106 of 1 June 1999, an application was received from the person named on 14 May 1999. The application has been accepted and payment has issued in the last few days.

  83.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason for the delay in finalising an application for income supplement under the tuberculosis eradication scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16317/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Under the TB eradication scheme grant arrangements income supplement is paid to herdowners who have 10 per cent or more of their herd, from the number at the original breakdown test, removed for slaughter under reactor permits, form ER 26, during the course of the restriction period.

During the period the holding was restricted, the person named had a total of six animals (out of a total herd of 64 animals tested at the break[374] down test on 9 October 1997, removed for slaughter as reactors under reactor permit. The herdowners holding was de-restricted following a clear reactor re-test in March 1999.

Appropriate reactor grants have been paid on the six reactors removed during the restriction period. However the person named does not qualify for any income supplement payment.

  84.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not received livestock headage. [16320/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named applied for both the cattle headage and suckler cow scheme on 12 May 1998.

There was a problem with his 1998 area aid application which was only resolved after communication with him by the area aid unit of my Department.

The person named was paid his full entitlement of £479.85 under the 1998 cattle headage scheme on 11 May 1998. Payment under the 1998 suckler cow premium scheme will issue within the next seven days.

  85.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if approval will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in respect of the sale of a suckler cow quota. [16331/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named has sold five suckler cow quotas and the application, which was received in my Department on 3 June 1999, has been processed.

A formal approval will be sent to the person named this week.

  86.  Mr. Kirk    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the plans, if any, he has to progress farm partnership concept; the intention, if any, he has to ask Teagasc to actively promote the idea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16332/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The option of establishing farm partnerships is already open to producers. However, there may be implications for such partnerships in the context of quotas, premium schemes and under disease eradication measures, depending on the exact arrangements.

Initiatives of this nature are matters for producers themselves and I am not convinced about the need for the involvement of a state agency.

[375]

  87.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be paid headage and suckler payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16365/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named applied on six cows under the 1998 cattle headage and suckler cow premium schemes. One of the cows, tag number VGB380608, is the subject of an investigation by my Department with regard to its ownership. Inquiries are ongoing at present, and the person named will be informed of the result of the inquiries as soon as they are completed.

  88.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason correcting fluid is not allowed to be used on the new animal registers; the procedure, if any, recommended by his Department in correcting errors on the register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16379/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The herd register is an integral element of the cattle traceability arrangements that have been put in place throughout the EU to provide the assurances demanded by consumers. As it is important that any changes which are made to entries in the register are evident, the use of correcting fluid is not permitted. This is in keeping with normal auditing-accounting practice. If an entry has to be changed, the change must be shown clearly and the reason must be given in the remarks column of the register. This procedure is clearly set out in the notes on completing the herd register that are printed at the front of the register.

  89.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16416/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  A total of 329 requests have been received by my Department under the Freedom of Information Act. These requests have come mainly from individuals.

The companies and business from which my Department has received the most frequent requests are as follows:[376]

The Sunday Times 12
R.T.E. 5
The Sunday Tribune 3

These requests have been across a range of topics of general interest including matter of policy and consumer issues. No fees have been levied in respect of processing these requests.

  90.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when ten month and 22 month beef premium payments will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16443/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named submitted applications under both the ten and 22 month special Beef premium schemes.

Advance payments under these schemes totalling £1,329.45 issued on 18 June 1999. It has now been established that a 100 per cent area aid penalty will apply to this applicant as a result of an overclaim on the area aid declaration. The 100 per cent penalty means that there is no entitlement to special beef premium for 1998. Some £1,198.40 of the advance of special beef premium incorrectly paid has been recouped from a deseasonalisation premium payment.

  91.  Mr. M. Moynihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when installation aid will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16494/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The application in this case was made under the 1994-1997 scheme of installation aid and was received from Teagasc recently. If the application is supported by full documentation as required under this scheme, it will be processed for payment within two months.

  92.  Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when an area aid payment will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [16555/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  A 1998 area aid application was received from the person in question which consisted of three parcels and two plots totalling 73.50 hectares. The applicant wrote to my Department on 24 November 1998 requesting the withdrawal of the two plots. His application was processed for the three parcels totalling 31.20 hectares. Area based payments issued on this area.

[377]

  93.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason for the delay in processing an application to re-open a meat processing factory (details supplied) in County Carlow in view of the fact that this company proposes employing 30 to 35 people at the plant. [16561/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The plant in question has already been approved by my Department under the operation of a firm other than that referred to by the Deputy. Any change of owner-operation requires a new approval. No application has been received for such a change in respect of the plant in question. The official control of the plant, once approved, is dependent on the availability of staff resources within my Department and every effort will be made to facilitate the plant in this respect at the earliest possible date.

  94.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has not received a ewe premium. [16569/99]

[378]Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The delay in payment of the first instalment of the 1999 ewe premium arose because the person named had to submit legal documentation to enable the herd number under which she applied for ewe premium to be transferred from her late husbands name into her own name. This has now been done and arrangements have been made to have payment made shortly.

  95.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16623/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following schedule.

Consultancies, Reports, etc., commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and Food from 26 June 97 to date

Title Date (or expected date) of Completion Cost ofReport Publishedor not
£
Food Industry Development Group Report March 1999 4,272 Yes
White Paper on Rural Development Summary of Submission from the Public (Curtin Dorgan Associates) May 1998 4,419 No
Evaluation of the Farm Relief Services Measure under the Operational Programme for Agriculture, Rural Development and Forestry 1994-1999 Mr. Pat Collier Local and Regional Development Consultant Oct 1998 24,865 No
Impact of Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) Analysis from the National Farm Survey (Teagasc) June 1999 6,560 No
Evaluation of REPS (Fitzpatrick Associates) June 1999 41,150 No
Scoping analysis on Computerisation of Dairy and Cereals Intervention Operations (Arthur Andersen) February 1998 5,000 No
Detailed Analysis on Computerisation of Dairy and Cereals Intervention Operations Phase I (Arthur Andersen) November 1998 60,000 No
Business Re-Engineering Process in Beef Export Refunds Division (Arthur Andersen) Awaiting Report 66,500 No
Certification of FEOGA Guarantee Annual Account 1998 (Arthur Andersen) January 1999 103,500 No
Certification of FEOGA Guarantee Annual Account 1999 (Arthur Andersen) In progress 103,000 No
Provision of expertise in the preparation of the Annual Accounts in electronic format to the Department (Astron Consultancy Ltd) In progress 74,250 No
Provision of accounting expertise to Department (Arthur Andersen) In progress 59,600 No
Sheep Forum Working Group June 99 Nil No
Beef Industry Task Force Report June 99 1,000 Yes
Area Aid Consultancy Project (Arthur Andersen) Completed February 98 43,560 No

  96.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if the entitlement of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford for a 1999 ewe premium will be reconsidered in view of the circumstances relating to the grazing of the sheep on a temporary basis. [16634/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named was found to be in breach of the terms and conditions of the 1999 ewe premium scheme as only seven of the 50 ewes he claimed for were on the lands he declared on his application form. He was informed of the decision in writing by the local district superintendent on 20 May last and [379] advised under the charter of rights for farmers that if he had new evidence not already known to the Department he could have this decision reviewed by forwarding a formal appeal to the local district inspector. He has not done so to date. If he decides to lodge this appeal his case will be reviewed without delay.

  97.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive the remainder of a 1998 beef premium and an extensification premium. [16635/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named did not submit any applications for special beef or suckler cow premium under the 1998 schemes. Extensification premium is only payable in respect of animals on which special beef or suckler cow premium has been paid.

  98.  Mr. Deenihan    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when depopulation and reactor grants will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16686/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  Reactor grants were paid to the person named on 24 June 1999. Depopulation grants for the person named will be paid shortly.

  99.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive a fodder scheme payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16687/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named did not lodge an application for the 1998 suckler cow premium, ewe premium or sheep headage schemes and did not hold a milk quota at 1 April 1998. Therefore he does not qualify for assistance under the winter fodder scheme.

My Department has no record of receiving an application from the person named under the special fodder hardship fund scheme.

  100.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if an application by a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny under the suckler cow and sheep headage schemes will be reviewed in view of the fact he was informed by an official on inspection from the local office that his applications were in order. [16689/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named has applied for six cows under the 1999 suckler cow scheme.

He holds six quota rights which will entitle him to full payment of his 1999 suckler cow premium provided all other office checks are in order. Processing of the 1999 scheme is ongoing at present. [380] However, in accordance with the requirements of the regulations, it is not possible to commence payment before November 1999.

Regarding the sheep headage scheme, the person named had 200 ewes accepted at inspection and payments under the 1999 scheme are scheduled to commence in September.

Payment of his full entitlement under the 1999 ewe premium scheme was made to him on 11 June 1999.

  101.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who applied in 1994 and 1995 for dairy hygiene grants will be paid under the scheme which has recently been re-introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16751/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  There is no record of an application having been received by my Department from this person under the scheme of investment aid for up grading of on-farm dairying facilities during the period 1994-1996. While it is open to the person involved to apply for the new national scheme for the improvement of dairy hygiene standards, investment works carried out without my Department's prior written approval will not qualify for grant aid.

  102.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the official format for the new herd register to be kept by farmers; the authority or regulation his Department approves, particularly software packages for a computerised version for this register; and if an inspector of his Department will require access to the computer hardware or if access to a printout of the information will suffice on inspection of a computerised herd register. [16753/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  EU legislation requires herdowners to keep herd registers of bovine animals and prescribes the information that the register must contain. The consolidated herd register book that my Department recently supplied to herdowners is designed to enable herdowners to record all of the required information. The details that must be recorded in respect of each animal are – date of birth – this is not required for animals tagged before the introduction of the plastic tagging system in 1996 – breed-colour; sex; in the case of an animal moved off the holding, the date of movement and the name and address, or herd number-mart number, of the new owner-keeper; and in the case of an animal that dies on the holding, the date of death and the method of disposal of the carcase.

The EU regulations permit the herd register to be kept in a computer format approved by the competent authority in the member state. It is [381] necessary that any computerised version of the herd register should contain similar security features to those included in the herd register book. Essentially this means that there must be a full and clear audit trail of any changes that are made to entries in the register and that entries in the register cannot be deleted without trace. There is an onus on herdowners, who choose to keep their herd register records on computer, to provide a printout of the register on request for inspection purposes. In the ordinary course of events, printouts will suffice for the purpose of inspections carried out by my Department. However, situations may arise where my Department would require direct access to the computer records.

  103.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon has not been approved for the 1999 EU ewe premium scheme; the status of his appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16781/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  The person named was found to be in breach of the terms and conditions of the 1999 ewe premium scheme. His application was in respect of 50 ewes but at inspection only 46 ewes were presented of which 12 were found at undeclared grazings. The person named admitted at inspection that he did not have 50 ewes at application and his application was consequently rejected in full. He was informed of the decision in writing by the local district superintendent on 20 May last and advised under the charter of rights for farmers that if he had new evidence not already known to the Department he could have this decision reviewed by forwarding a formal appeal to the local district inspector. He has not done so to date. If he decides to lodge this appeal his case will be reviewed without delay.

  104.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food    further to Parliamentary Question No. 55 of 13 May 1999 the number of herds in County Monaghan that were restricted during the past 12 months (details supplied); if these herd owners have to hold all their animals for at least four months causing the same hardship as any other closed herd owner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16797/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh):  During 1998, 203 herds had factory lesion TB herd tests completed in County Monaghan. A total of 96 holdings were restricted for a period greater than four months. During any period that a holding is restricted, a herdowner is entitled to apply for permission to send clear animals which have passed a TB test in the last 12 months to the factory for slaughter.

In the context of Parliamentary Question No. 55 of 13 May 1999, 39 holdings were restricted [382] for a period greater than four months resulting from a factory lesion. No further reactors were disclosed at the re-tests and as a result their holdings were de-restricted. Of the 39 holdings, 25 had restrictions and de-restrictions occurring outside the hardship grant eligibility period i.e. 1 November to 30 April. The balance had a factory lesion situation similar to the person named occurring within the hardship grant eligibility period.

  105.  Mr. Farrelly    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has received representations from an organisation (details supplied) which has asked for the inclusion of blind passengers in the disabled drivers' and passengers' car scheme; if so, the steps, if any, he has taken regarding the submissions made; and when a response will be made in this regard. [16270/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  I can confirm to the Deputy that I have received correspondence and continue to receive correspondence on behalf of the organisation in question. My response to the representations has been the same as my response to the many questions which I have answered on the disabled drivers and disabled drivers passengers scheme in this House so far this year, namely that the scheme is under review by an interdepartmental group chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and that the existing medical criteria for qualification is one of the issues that have been raised with that group.

For the Deputy's further information, I refer him to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 13 dated 24 June 1999 and to the Seanad Adjournment debate on 23 June 1999; both of which deal comprehensively with the difficulties posed by an extension of the scheme to different categories of disabled persons.

  106.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has to amend the position whereby any person who wishes to open a bank account must produce a utility bill in view of the fact that this penalises certain categories of people such as the homeless, ex-prisoners and others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16334/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, implements the EU Money Laundering Directive in Ireland. Section 32 of the Act provides, inter alia, that a financial institution “shall take reasonable measures to establish the identity of any person for whom it proposes to provide a service .”. It is the legal responsibility of each financial institution to ensure that it complies with this provision. The act does not state what may or may not represent [383] reasonable measures and does not provide for the making of regulations in this regard.

In order to facilitate consistent implementation of the anti-money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 guidance notes were issued in May 1995 by the money laundering steering committee, established under the aegis of my Department and representing the various sectors of the financial services industry and the relevant regulatory authorities. These guidance notes recommend that a customer's identity be verified by reference to a document obtained from a reputable source which bears a photograph and signature. The guidance notes also recommend that permanent addresses be verified through, among other things, reference to recent utility bills, such as those of the ESB. The guidance notes state, however, that it may be reasonable to depart from recommended verification procedures in certain circumstances, for example, when the young or the elderly may not be able to provide the documentary evidence of identity which is required of other customers. It is a matter for an institution's management to determine the type of evidence which they are prepared to accept in such cases in order to meet their legal obligations under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. The guidance notes used by financial institutions are in the process of being reviewed by the money laundering steering committee and the operation of customer identification procedures will be examined as part of this process.

[384]

  107.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Loughanelton, Calry, County Sligo, was omitted from the rural renewal scheme in the tax designated area; the plans, if any, he has to have the scheme extended to include this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16384/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  I am aware that any area not specifically included in the rural renewal scheme is thereby excluded from it. On the question of a possible extension of the scheme to other areas, the Deputy may be aware that I announced the commencement of the business incentives available under the scheme last week following their approval by the EU Commission. These are capital allowances for industrial and commercial development which will be available from 1 July 1999 to 31 December 2002. The rural renewal scheme is a pilot scheme. Since this major element of the scheme is only now commencing, it would be inappropriate to consider extending the scheme at this stage.

  108.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Finance    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16417/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  The following is the information requested:

Company/BusinessName No. ofRequests General Nature of Information Sought Amount paid
The Sunday Times 32 Copies of specific reports and of records relating to a number of policy issues and information of a general departmental administrative nature. Nil
The Irish Times 21 Copies of specific reports and of records relating to a number of policy issues and information of a general departmental administrative nature. Nil
The Sunday Tribune 15 Copies of specific reports and of records relating to a number of policy issues and information of a general departmental administrative nature. Nil
Policywatch/Amárach 8 Copies of records of a general departmental administrative nature and on telephone and computer services related expenditure. IR£40
Acorn Associates 7 Copies of records relating mainly to FÁS Nil

  109.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Finance    if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 133 of 22 June 1999, his Department entered into any agreement arising from the Mount Congreve trust other than the three legal deeds described. [16500/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Cullen):  The Commissioners of Public Works have not entered into any agreements regarding the Mount Congreve trust other than those contained in the three legal deeds already referred to in the Deputy's question.

  110.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Finance    the income tax allowance for persons (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [16501/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, [385] according to the information available to the inspector of taxes, each of the taxpayers is entitled to the tax-free allowances appropriate to a single person.

The taxpayers are not entitled to the married persons tax-free allowances because they are not married. A taxpayer who is a single parent may claim a one-parent tax-free allowance under Section 462 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. However, eligibility for the allowance is restricted so that it can be claimed only by an individual who is not entitled to claim the married personal allowance; is not living with another individual as man and wife during the year of assessment; and has resident with him or her a qualifying child-children at any time during the year of assessment.

To be eligible for the one-parent family tax-free allowance, all three conditions must be satisfied. As the taxpayers do not comply with the second condition, they are not eligible for the one-parent tax-free allowance.

  111.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Finance    the consideration, if any, he will give to including blind persons under the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' tax refund scheme in view of the fact the blind will qualify as passengers only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16508/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  I refer the Deputy, for his information, to the reply to the Adjournment debate held on 2 March 1999 which dealt comprehensively with the matter of extending the scheme to the visually impaired. In addition, I refer the Deputy to the reply to the Adjournment debate held in the Seanad on 23 June, 1999 and my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 13 dated 24 June, 1999, both of which dealt comprehensively with the extension of the scheme in general.

[386] The present medical criteria for access to the scheme relate essentially to disabilities which seriously and permanently impair the physical mobility of the person concerned. This reflects the origins of the scheme as a relief for disabled persons who were confined to wheelchairs, but nevertheless, were capable of driving suitably adapted motor cars.

A review of the scheme is being undertaken by an interdepartmental group chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The existing medical criteria for qualification is one of the issues that have been raised with that group. I believe that the proper course of action is to complete the review and to consider the options which may then arise.

However, the cost of the current scheme has been steadily increasing and opening it up to wider ranges of disabilities would significantly add to this cost. I must caution, therefore, against an expectation that any person who suffers from some form of disability will be able to benefit from the scheme following the completion of this review.

  112.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Finance    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16624/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  The following is a list of consultancies, work groups, studies, analysis and reports commissioned by my Department since I was appointed, the date of completion of each report, the cost of each report and if the reports have or will be published. The Deputy should note that the list includes only consultancies leading to a report and does not include for example ongoing IT contracts, etc.

Details of Report Who Completed the Report DateCompleted Cost ReportPublished
Working Group to examine the taxation of returns on Credit Union Savings Credit Union Working Group October 1998 £2,000.00 Yes
Evaluation and Market Pricing of Chief Executive Positions in the Commercial State Organisations Hay Management Consultants July 1998 £69,445.00 No
Public Awareness of the Euro Survey 1 Lansdowne Market Research Ltd. September 1998 £19,958.00 Yes
Public Awareness of the Euro Survey 2 Lansdowne Market Research Ltd. June 1999 £11,000 approx. Published shortly
Design of Hybrid Pension Scheme Mercer Ltd. July 1998 £27,500 + VAT No
Comparison of Public Service and Private Sector Pension Arrangements ESRI August 1997 £18,900 + VAT No
Actuarial Review of Public Service Pension Schemes Irish Pensions Trust Ltd. December 1997 £101,400 + VAT No
Follow up work on initial project Irish Pensions Trust Ltd. October 1998 £21,500 + VAT No
Review of Additional Voluntary Contribution and Purchase of Notional Service Arrangements in the Public Service Mercer Ltd. Not Completed £20,000 + VAT No
[387] Details of Report Who Completed the Report DateCompleted Cost ReportPublished
Further Actuarial Review of Impact of Changes in Pension Scheme Terms Irish Pension Trust Ltd. Expected July 99 £55,000 + VAT No
Investigation into the imbalance in the representation of men and women in grade at HEO level and above IPA, Trinity College and Goodbody Economic Consultants December 1998 £45,000 + VAT Due to be considered by Government shortly at which stage the question of publication will be decided.
Procurement of Air Transport and Related Services Inter Departmental Group and KPMG November 1998 £29,052.00 No report
Audit of the Operation of Travel Policy Deloitte & Touche Expected September 1999 £84,095.00 No
Report on Public Private Partnerships Farrell, Grant, Sparks and Goodbody Economic Consultants August 1998 £20,000 + VAT Yes
Study of Public Sector Pay Determinations Systems Fitzpatrick Associates July 1999 £35,000 + VAT Formal Publication not foreseen
Report in relation to Irish Aviation Authority Pensions Watson Wyatt December 1998 £2,200 + VAT Not being published
Report to assist with the determination and possible discharge of the remainder of the Exchequer's liabilities to An Post, Telecom Éireann and IAA Superannuation Funds HCM International (formerly Howard Johnston and Co.) Expected August 1999 £99,000 + VAT Not being published
Economic Appraisal of an Ireland/Northern Ireland Interreg Economic Development project application entitled “The Cross Border Furniture Development Programme” Coopers & Lybrand November 1998 Stg. £5,000 No
Ongoing Evaluation of the Special Programme for Peace and Reconcilation Price Waterhouse Coopers, Belfast Ongoing to end 1999 £60,000 approx Some parts may be published
National Investment Priorities for the period 2000-2006 ESRI February 1999 £216,500.00 Yes
Phase one of a study on the Labour Market Impact of Human Resources (Education and Training) Interventions in the Community Support Framework for Ireland 1994-1999 ESRI, Deloitte & Touche December 1998 £25,642.10 No
Phase two of a study on the Labour Market Impact of Human Resources (Education and Training) Interventions in the Community Support Framework for Ireland 1994-1999 ESRI, Deloitte & Touche May 1999 £46,948.00 No
Report on Planning Phase 1 for CSF/ERDF/Cohesion Fund Community Initiatives Computer System Price Waterhouse Coopers March 1999 £76,230.00 Not being published
Review of Project Appraisal and Selection Procedures in the Community Support Framework for Ireland 1004-1999 Fitzpatrick Associates May 1999 £99,205.00 Yes
Design and implementation of a Report: “New Performance Management Process” Hayes MSL December 1997 £67,800.00 Not published
Systems Control Review in the Department of Agriculture & Food Steering Group Not completed £100,000 approx Not decided.
*Report of the Single Regulatory Authority Implementation Advisory Group Single Regulatory Authority Implementation Advisory Group May 1999 £8,000.00 Yes

*This report was commissioned by the Government. Secretarial services were provided by the Department of Finance.

[388][389]

  113.  Ms Clune    asked the Minister for Finance    if a person (details supplied) in County Dublin will be provided with a record of her employment in the Civil Service and details of her entitlements following this employment. [16637/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Cullen):  I understand that the person in question was employed as a clerical officer in the Stationery Office from approximately January 1953 until 1958. It is understood that she worked in air traffic control, Shannon Airport, Co. Clare from 1958 until approximately October 1961.

The functions of the Government supplies agency, formerly known as the Stationery Office, were transferred to the Office of Public Works on 1 January 1988. My office has made a thorough search of all the personal files held in respect of former employees of the Stationery Office but regretfully there is no trace of a file for the person concerned.

The Department of Public Enterprise has responsibility for the air traffic control service. That Department has advised, also, that it is unable to trace any records for the person concerned with regard to the period the person concerned worked in air traffic control, Shannon Airport.

I am advised that the Department of Finance wrote to the person concerned on 21 April 1999 stating that she had no pension entitlement as she had resigned from the Civil Service prior to 1 June 1973, the date from which preservation of service was introduced, and that no retrospective provision applied. It also advised that in relation to the payment of a marriage gratuity that at the time, to qualify for such a gratuity an officer resigning before marriage had to indicate her intention of marrying and, in the normal course, must marry within two months of the date of her resignation.

  114.  Cecilia Keaveney    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on the rights of a person in Donegal who works in Derry to drive his company car home in the evenings in view of the fact that the company is registered in Northern Ireland and in view of the Good Friday Agreement. [16672/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  Under Irish legislation, a person normally resident in the State may not use, in the State, a vehicle which is not registered in the State. The only exception to this provision is in the case of small vans and commercial vehicles which can be driven in the State on behalf of foreign companies by State resident employees. Enforcement of this rule, particularly in Border areas, is necessary for the purpose of collecting vehicle registration tax which is an important source of revenue for the Exchequer.

[390] There is, of course, provision for temporary exemption from the registration requirement for persons normally resident outside the State, such as tourists and temporary workers.

  115.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the situation on carry over of inheritance tax thresholds; and if it is in order to carry over the unused allowance from a person's mother's estate to an aunt's estate ten years later. [16699/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  All benefits, taken by either gift or inheritance, from any source except a spouse, are liable to capital acquisitions tax. In general, a person may receive gifts or inheritances in value up to £192,900 from his/her parents free of CAT (class I threshold). Smaller thresholds apply to gifts or inheritances received from other close relatives (class II – £25,720) and from all other categories (class III – £12,860). These thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the consumer price index. Only the value of benefits received in excess of the relevant threshold gives rise to a charge to CAT.

Where a beneficiary has taken previous gifts or inheritances from different sources since 2 December 1988, the value of these benefits must be added to the value of the current benefit when determining the current CAT liability. This process of adding, benefits together is known as aggregation. Any CAT that is referable to the previous gifts or inheritances will be taken into account, to arrive at the CAT that is due on the current benefit.

It is important to note that the £192,900 applies to the class 1 threshold. Any unused amount cannot be availed of in respect of benefits from any other category of disponer. For example, where a person receives £100,000 from a parent, and subsequently receives £20,000 from an aunt, the threshold that applies is £100,000. In other words, the “unused” part of the parent-child threshold does not apply to the £20,000 received from the aunt, and CAT on the £20,000 must be paid in full.

In this year's budget, I brought forward the date of aggregation from 2 June 1982 to 2 December 1988. Only the value of gifts or inheritances taken on or after 2 December 1988 will now be taken into account for such purposes.

  116.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the thresholds and rates for inheritance taxes to nieces and nephews; the advantages or otherwise of giving gifts and inheritances early; and if the tax or a portion of it can be waived or reduced by the giving of inheritances early. [16700/99]

[391]

  118.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    when the thresholds for inheritance taxes between siblings was last adjusted; the increase which have since taken place in property values; and if he will adjust these levels in the coming budget and index link them thereafter. [16702/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 118 together.

There are three thresholds under capital acquisitions tax depending on the relationship between the disponer and the beneficiary. A person may receive up to £192,900 from his or her parents free of CAT. This exempt amount is described as the class I threshold. The class II threshold, currently £25,720, applies to transfers between certain other relatives, such as brother-sister, uncle-nephew and grandfather-grandchild. The class III threshold, currently £12,860 applies for transfers between people who do not fall into either of the other classes. Since 1990 these thresholds have been indexed annually by reference to the consumer price index.

The rate of CAT on inheritances is nil up to the appropriate threshold rate, 20 per cent on the next £10,000, 30 per cent on the next £30,000 and 40 per cent on the balance. In order to encourage lifetime disposals, CAT on gifts is charged at three-quarters of the rate on inheritance. However, where the disponer dies within two years of the date of the gift, the benefit is then taken as an inheritance.

In relation to inheritances between siblings, the elderly siblings relief, introduced in 1991 and which I subsequently increased in the 1998 budget takes account of the special circumstances of elderly brothers and sister who live together. The effect of this relief means that the value of an inheritance of a share or all of their family home taken from a sibling can be reduced by 80 per cent or £150,000, whichever is the lesser. Thus an individual, subject to the conditions of the relief being met, could inherit a half share in a house, with a market value of just over £257,000, before any CAT would be due.

Finally, I would like to remind the Deputy that I undertook during the 1999 Finance Bill debate to review the CAT system before the next budget. However, it is necessary to remember that changes in the CAT area are costly and that they are primarily of benefit to those in receipt of a gift or inheritance and not the general body of taxpayers.

  117.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has examined the recommendation from the consultancy on the taxi business to remove vehicle registration tax from wheelchair accessible taxis; the plans, if any, he has to introduce this change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16701/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  I am aware of the recommendations of the Dublin Taxi Forum which were issued in August 1998. In [392] all more than 40 recommendations were issued, including the recommendation that all wheelchair

accessible taxis coming on stream, under the arrangements proposed, should be zero rated for vehicle registration tax.

I have no plans to remove or reduce the VRT on wheelchair accessible taxis. This matter was considered last year in the context of the preparation for the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill. At that time, it was estimated that the cost to the Exchequer of a refund of VRT on such taxis could be prohibitive if there were a full take-up of the scheme. If the proposed VRT relief were to be restricted to the additional licences issued in future for wheelchair accessible taxis, the potential costs would be correspondingly less. However, such a move could lead to pressure for extension of the relief, on competitive grounds, to all taxis and hackneys – new and old licences alike – and would be impossible to ring fence.

I understand that Dublin Corporation intends to issue a total of 820 wheelchair accessible licences between now and the year 2001. I have also been informed that the demand for the initial batch of licences, which were advertised in the press recently, far outstripped the number required. It would appear that the application of VRT was not a hindering factor.

  119.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Finance    the revised tax allowances which will apply for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and when the arrears will be paid. [16765/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer's tax free allowances for the current tax year, 1999-2000, are as follows:

Married person's allowance £8,400
PAYE allowance £1,000
Total £9,400
Less:
Rent receivable £6,000
Net tax free allowances £3,400

As the taxpayer is in receipt of rental income paid without deduction of tax, it is necessary to reduce his tax free allowances by an amount equal to the rent received in order to collect the tax due on that rent.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that return of income forms will issue shortly to the taxpayer. When these are completed the inspector will be in a position to undertake a complete review of the taxpayer's overall liability and make any refund which may be due.

[393]

  120.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    Ireland's GNP and GDP for 1998; and if he will make a statement on the large difference between both figures. [16771/99]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy):  Estimates of Ireland's gross domestic product and gross national product for 1998 are not yet available. They will be published by the Central Statistics Office on 30 June.

For 1997, GDP was estimated to be £48,241 million compared with GNP of £41,919 million, a difference of £6,322 million or 13 per cent of GDP. This difference relates to a number of items, the most important of which are interest payments on the foreign held component of the national debt and the profits of multinational companies operating in Ireland.

  121.  Mr. Hayes    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if he has received a representation from St Anne's primary school, Fettercairn, Tallaght, Dublin 24, on the need to appoint a speech therapist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16430/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  I have received no representations from St Anne's primary school, Fettercairn, Tallaght, Dublin 24 on the need to appoint a speech and language therapist to this school.

The provision of speech and language therapy services is, in any case, a matter for the relevant health board. In this case such representations should be made to the chief executive officer, Eastern Health Board.

  122.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the arrangements, if any, made to certify apprenticeships obtained through Rehab; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties being encountered by certain former trainees of the centre in Ashtown, for example, a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16673/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The issue of certification of apprenticeships is a matter for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and FÁS. I have requested my colleague Deputy Harney, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to have the matter investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

  123.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the arrangements in relation to job sharing for those employed by his Department and health boards; if employees have an entitlement to transfer to job sharing arrangements; and the period of time in this regard. [16261/99]

[394]Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Arrangements in relation to job sharing for those employed in the Department of Health and Children are governed by Department of Finance circulars 3/84, 2/88 and 4/98. All officers whether established or unestablished and including those still on probation serving in a full-time capacity are eligible to apply for job-sharing. Job sharing is granted to an officer as soon as practicable after that.

The job sharing scheme is also applicable to the health boards. The scheme is open to all staff. The terms of the scheme provide that its operation and management is a matter for each health board and must necessarily depend on the demands of the service. The decision as to whether a specific post or category of post may be filled on a job sharing basis is a matter for each health board.

  124.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the reason proper physiotherapy is not being extended to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason a standing frame only and no assistance was provided for him in his home; and if his Department will provide the therapy, which proved to be successful in the past, at St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny. [16262/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of physiotherapy services in any individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, I have referred the details of the case provided by the deputy to the chief executive officer of the South-Eastern Health Board and asked him to have the matter examined and reply directly to the Deputy.

  125.  Mr. Power    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if the detailed specification and tender documentation in respect of Naas General Hospital has been submitted to his Department; when approval will be given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16297/99]

  160.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the position on the proposed extension to Naas General Hospital, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16679/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 160 together.

The tender documentation for the Phase 2 development of Naas General Hospital has been submitted to my Department and I am pleased to inform the Deputies that approval to invite tenders for the development has issued to the Eastern Health Board.

[395]

  126.  Ms McManus    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the prescribed drugs being included in the new drugs refund scheme. [16316/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The existing drug cost subsidisation and drug refund schemes will be merged into one new drug payment scheme with a threshold of £42 per month per family unit. A common list of reimbursable medicines is being introduced for the GMS scheme and the new drug payment scheme. The introduction of the common medicines list will ensure equity between the general medical services and the new drug payment scheme in relation to the range of medicines paid for by the State under both schemes. The comprehensive range of the most modern therapies required to treat all conditions, which is available on the GMS will continue to be paid for under the new scheme.

The list of drugs, medicines and appliances available to GMS patients as specified in the current GMS code book, including all updates, and with some additions will form the common list of items for both the GMS and the new drugs payment scheme. This common list will be subject to ongoing review and amendment on a monthly basis as new products become available, additions and deletions will be notified on a monthly basis, as at present.

In addition to the common list, a supplementary list of products including dressings and incontinence products will be reimbursable to non medical card holders. Existing arrangements for the supply of these products to medical card holders will remain in place.

  127.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to have an operation for cataracts. [16318/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of medical services to eligible persons in County Mayo in this instance is the statutory responsibility of the Western Health Board. I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

  128.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of hospital beds available for use in Mallow General Hospital; if the hospital is operating to full capacity with regard to bed units; if not, the number of beds currently out of service; the plans, if any, he has to re-open extra beds at this hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16324/99]

[396]Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Mallow General Hospital currently has a bed complement of 75 consisting of 38 surgical, 28 medical including four ENT, four ICU, and five day beds. My Department has approved proposals submitted by the Southern Health Board for the provision of additional medical beds by the re-opening of the 13 bedded medical ward at the hospital. Funding of £265,000 has been provided to meet costs arising in 1999. Plans have been drawn up for the refurbishment of the ward and arrangements are also being put in place to recruit the necessary staff.

  129.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the degree by which the funding available to an organisation (details supplied) in County Kildare will be increased in 1999; if the allocation for 1999 will improve the situation for this organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16335/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Additional funding of £0.480 million is being made available to KARE in 1999 as outlined below: base budget adjustment £0.100 million; six additional respite beds £0.150 million; eight additional day places £0.080 million; emergency placements 1998 – carryover – £0.050 million; non pay inflation and increments £0.100 million.

Following discussions between my Department, the Eastern Health Board and the eastern region central mental handicap planning committee, additional funding is being made available to KARE which will meet the cost of a further six additional day places in 1999. The Eastern Health Board is continuing to work closely with KARE to develop strategies to ensure that services provided by KARE are fully funded.

  130.  Mr. Durkan    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the extent, if any, to which he will offer financial assistance towards the special Olympics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16336/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  My Department has no plans at present to make financial assistance available to Special Olympics Ireland. At local and regional level, it is a matter for the health boards and individual service providers to decide on the level of assistance, if any, which they may wish to make available to support the work of this agency.

As Special Olympics Ireland provides opportunities for participation in sporting events for persons with intellectual disability, the question of the possible provision of financial assistance at national level would, in the first instance, be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation.

[397]

  131.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health and Children    when a consultant orthopaedic surgeon will be appointed to Cork University Hospital. [16339/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The identification of priorities and the appointment of additional staff is a matter for the Southern Health Board in the first instance. My Department is engaged in ongoing discussions with the board regarding this post.

  132.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health and Children    when a third consultant plastic surgeon will be appointed to Cork University Hospital. [16340/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The identification of priorities and the appointment of additional staff is a matter for the Southern Health Board in the first instance. My Department is engaged in ongoing discussions with the board regarding this post.

  133.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health and Children    when a consultant physician will be appointed to Cork University Hospital. [16341/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The identification of priorities and the appointment of additional staff is a matter for the Southern Health Board in the first instance. I have been advised by the board that it will be submitting the consultant application form for this post to Comhairle na nOspideál for its July meeting.

  134.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of inappropriately placed patients in acute hospitals in the various health board areas; and the action, if any, he proposes to take to alleviate the problem. [16342/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table, in respect of the situation as of Monday 21 June 1999. The national number of beds inappropriately occupied is 336, which represents 2.68 per cent of the total number of acute hospital beds throughout the country.

The problem of inappropriately occupied beds in the acute hospital system was identified by the review group on the waiting list initiative. On the recommendation of the review group I have allocated an additional £9 million to services for older people and I am confident that this substantial investment will have a considerable impact on the development of geriatric services and therefore in that context I expect a positive effect on the problem of inappropriately occupied beds.

[398]

Eastern Health Board
Cappagh 0
St. James's Hospital 78
Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin 0
Tallaght 16
Coombe 0
Incorporated Orthopaedic 2
Rotunda 0
Beaumont 25
Mater 13
Temple Street 11
St. Columcilles 8
St. Vincent's Hospital 20
James Connolly Memorial Hospital 23
Naas 13
St. Michael's Hospital 7
Total Eastern Health Board Area 216
Total Midland Health Board 17
Mid-Western Health Board 3
St. John's Hospital Limerick 1
Total Mid-Western Health Board Area 4
Total North-Eastern Health Board Area 30
Total North-Western Health Board Area 20
Total South-Eastern Health Board Area 0
Southern Health Board 8
South Infirmary Victoria 7
Mercy Hospital 15
Total Southern Health Board Area 30
Western Health Board 10
Portiuncula 9
Total Western Health Board Area 19
Overall Total 336

  135.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if each health board has a five year plan in place to deal with care of the elderly. [16343/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt):  A multi-annual action plan for the development of services for older people has either been completed or is currently in preparation in each health board.

  136.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of incidences of E-coli found in the water supply of all hospitals and care institutions in the past five years; if E-coli was found a few years ago in St Ita's hospital, Portrane, County Dublin; the actions, if any, taken in any institution following the discovery of E-coli the number of staff and patients who became ill as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16374/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The table below outlines the number of incidences of E-coli found in the water supply of hospitals and care institutions in the past five years: Eastern Health Board – two; Midland Health Board – none; Mid-Western Health Board – six; North-Eastern Health Board – two; North-Western Health Board – 16 *; South-Eastern Health Board – none; Southern Health Board – three; Western Health – three.

[399] *Due to the time constraints the North-Western Health Board is not in a position to provide figures for the period requested, the figures above relate to the period 1996 to 1998 only. I have requested that the board respond directly to the Deputy on the matter.

A contamination of water, which proved not to be E-coli was discovered, in September 1989 in St. Ita's hospital, Portrane. The water supply in the affected area was shut down and a process of chemical cleansing was undertaken. Tests were carried out on the water supply which proved negative to E-coli contamination.

In each case of contamination all necessary measures to protect public health were put in place where appropriate. The actions taken included the cleaning of water tanks, flushing out of water systems with chlorinated water followed by the taking of repeated water samples. There are no records of any reported illnesses among staff or patients linked to the reported incidences.

  137.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the assistance, if any, his Department is giving to people suffering from epidemolyin bullosa; and if funds will be made available for research into this condition and for the support services offered by Debra Ireland for sufferers and their families. [16375/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of funding to voluntary agencies providing health services to people with physical and sensory disabilities is a matter for the relevant health board. The health boards are empowered, under section 65 of the Health Act, 1953, to provide grant assistance towards the running costs of organisations such as Debra.

The provision of funding for research into conditions such as epidermolysis bullosa is a matter for the health research board. I understand that the health research board did support research on this disease over a three year period in the early 1990's and a total of £33,000 was provided by the board for that purpose.

In 1998, I provided £3,000 and the Eastern Health Board provided £1,000 by way of once-off grant assistance from lottery funds to the Debra organisation.

  138.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the extent of the waiting list and the typical waiting time for a cataract operation for a public patient in each of the Dublin hospitals dealing with these cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16376/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out below.

[400] Adults awaiting cataract procedures: Mater hospital 324; Royal Victoria Eye and Ear hospital 289; St Vincent's hospital, Elm Park 102. As the Deputy will be aware, waiting list data is collected on a quarterly basis and this data relates to the quarter ending 31 March 1999.

The average waiting time for these procedures is as follows: Mater hospital 87 weeks; Royal Victoria Eye and Ear hospital 60 weeks; St Vincent's hospital, Elm Park, 20 weeks.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the total national number of people awaiting ophthalmology procedures fell during the first quarter of this year. I have undertaken important initiatives in regard to the waiting list initiative since coming into office. These include: an allocation of £20 million to agencies for the treatment of patients on waiting lists; the provision of £9 million to services for older people; the provision of £2 million to selected accident and emergency services; the issuing of a new policy circular and guidelines to all relevant agencies regarding the way in which the waiting list should be operated.

I am confident that these initiatives will continue to have a significant positive impact on waiting lists for the remainder of the year, and more importantly that waiting times for public patients will be reduced.

  139.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the plans, if any, in place to increase public awareness of protective vaccination facilities in view of the fact the only 15 per cent of travellers visiting at risk countries receive the necessary vaccinations to protect them against infectious diseases; his views on whether this is a cause for concern and has implications for public health policy; the way in which awareness of travel health risks will be created and persons encouraged to check with their general practitioner or travel health centre before taking foreign holidays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16377/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  I have seen reports of the study referred to by the Deputy. It is of course advisable that, in their own interest, persons intending to travel to countries where certain infectious diseases are prevalent ensure that they take appropriate precautions against contracting such diseases.

However, it is a matter in the first place for intending travellers to familiarise themselves with the general advice on immunisation for travellers to the country concerned. Advice and information is obtainable through general practitioners, health boards, travel health centres, travel agents or the embassy or consulate of the country which it is intended to visit. In addition to the traditional immunisation advice, intending travellers should also consider seeking advice on a range of other issues, for example whether they are medically fit to travel, what medical provision [401] should be made for individuals with pre-existing illness and what general precautions should be taken in relation to eating, drinking and exposure to a different environment from that to which people are accustomed.

It should also be noted that under the terms of sections 10(1)(e) and 12(1)(b) of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act, 1995, among the information which organisers of package holidays are required to make available to possible consumers is information about health formalities required by national administrations for the journey and the stay.

The health boards have statutory responsibility for the control of infectious diseases. The Deputy will be aware that a free primary childhood immunisation programme is in operation so as to protect the population against a range of bacterial and viral infections which might be encountered in this country. It would be open to boards, should they consider that the non-immunisation of persons travelling to countries where certain infectious diseases are prevalent poses a significant risk to public health, to take measures to encourage intending travellers to take appropriate precautions in this regard.

My Department publishes material containing general health advice for persons planning to travel abroad and this deals with the risks of infectious disease and the desirability of ensuring that intending travellers to at-risk countries obtain the appropriate vaccinations, as well as some of the other issues to which I have referred. The immunisation advisory committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland is currently reviewing its immunisation guidelines for Ireland and this included an examination of the advice to medical professionals on immunisation for persons travelling abroad. My Department will be arranging for the distribution of the revised guidelines, when completed, to a range of interested parties.

  140.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for orthodontic treatment in view of the length of time she is on the waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16391/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  As the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Sligo is the statutory responsibility of the North-Western Health Board, I have asked the chief executive officer of the North-Western Health Board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly as a matter of urgency.

[402]

  141.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Health and Children    when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a replacement hip operation. [16397/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of medical services to eligible persons in County Mayo in this instance is the statutory responsibility of the Western Health Board. I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

  142.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a large number of temporary nurses who are employed at Longford-Westmeath General Hospital, Mullingar, County Westmeath, are not paid immediately when due increments; the reason these nurses have to wait considerable periods of time before they are appointed to permanent positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16398/99]

  145.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if state registered nurses employed in temporary positions at Longford-Westmeath General Hospital, Mullingar, County Westmeath are not being paid their due increments commensurate with their qualifications and period of service; if he will ensure that all increments are paid immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16432/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 145 together.

The Midland Health Board has confirmed to my Department that there is no delay in granting incremental credit to temporary nurses employed at the Longford-Westmeath General Hospital, Mullingar and that the relevant national agreements are applied. Heretofore, temporary nurses have been paid in accordance with Department of Health circular S103/196 dated 25 November 1992, which gave effect to the wholetime temporary nurses agreement (1992), as follows: two increments may be granted with effect from 1 January 1992 to those nurses with two years full-time continuous service, or the equivalent of two years aggregate service in the preceding three years in the health service; a further increment may be granted, if appropriate, not earlier than 1 January 1993; a further increment may be granted, if appropriate, not earlier than 1 January 1994.

In accordance with the 1997 nurses pay agreement, incremental credit was allowed up to the seventh point with effect from June 1996.

Following the issue of Labour Court recommendation No. 16094, agreement has now been reached with the alliance of nursing unions in relation to revised incremental credit arrangements for temporary nurses. The new agreement provides for the phased implementation of full [403] incremental credit on appointment as temporary nurses on foot of satisfactory validation of previous nursing service. The Health Service Employers Agency notified the health agencies on 18 June 1999 of the terms of the new agreement, which is effective from 1 January 1999. The Midland Health Board has confirmed that this agreement will be implemented as quickly as possible.

I have also been informed by the Midland Health Board that it is currently in the process of converting a large number of temporary posts to permanent positions under phase two of the conversion process outlined in the 1997 nursing pay agreement. Under this process temporary nurses will be eligible to compete in the confined competition who have: one year's continuous wholetime service with their employer at 1 June 1998 or who have worked a minimum of 4,000 hours in the six years prior to 1 June 1998 and who continue to be available for work on a full-time or part-time basis.

This criteria will be strictly complied with when determining length of service of applicants. When the number of eligible applicants exceeds the number of vacancies-posts which can be filled/converted, applicants will be issued with letters of comfort and offered permanent appointments as vacancies-opportunities arise. The above process is currently well under way in the Midland Health Board area and will be completed in the immediate future.

  143.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16418/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The Department of Health and Children has received 281 FOI requests since the commencement of the Act on 21 April 1998. Some 50 of these were for personal information.

The 231 non-personal requests can be categorised as follows:

Source of Request Number of Requests Percentage ofTotal
Journalists 140 requests 60 per cent
Interest Group/
Corporate
43 requests 19 per cent
Members of Oireachtas 18 requests 8 per cent
Private Individuals 30 requests 13 per cent
Total 231 requests 100 per cent

[404] Of the 140 requests submitted by journalists more than half came from The Sunday Tribune, The Sunday Times and the Irish Medical Times. In general the media has been interested in topical issues and in reports commissioned by the Department. The latter would include reports on health insurance and on eligibility. Financial returns, plans in relation to year 2000, and management advisory committee minutes were each the subject of several requests. Many interest groups and professional bodies have sought policy records relevant to their members. There have also been several corporate requests for contract documents.

The charging mechanisms of the Act are used to encourage requesters to focus their inquiries and to date the charges on completed requests total £158.

  144.  Mr. Hayes    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the facilities that exist in the new health centre in Brookfield, Tallaght, Dublin 24; if a social worker is available on a daily basis to the Fettercairn area; the plans, if any, he has to expand related services at this health centre; his response to the Fettercairn Area Core Group's recommendations on the need for a permanent social worker; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16431/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of facilities in the primary care centres in Tallaght is the responsibility of the Eastern Health Board in the first instance.

I have been informed by the Eastern Health Board that the following facilities are available at the primary care centre at Brookfield: GP services; public health nursing services; social work services; speech and language services; customer information services.

The board has also advised me that the aim of the Brookfield centre, where the general practitioners and the board's community staff work as a multi-disciplinary team, is to meet the total community needs of the population of the area.

The board confirms that there were 38.5 social workers employed in community care area four, which includes Tallaght at 31 December 1998. Social workers are deployed to meet service needs on an ongoing basis and the needs of Fettercairn are prioritised in line with the needs of the area as a whole. The board advises that the needs of community care area four, including Fettercairn, have to be considered with regard to the requirements for social workers throughout the board's area, and in line with the board's ability to recruit to fill existing vacancies.

[405]

  146.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the position regarding the provision of facilities for children with autism in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16433/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of health services to children with autism in County Westmeath is primarily the responsibility of the Midland Health Board. In the first instance, a number of children with autism in the Westmeath area avail of the services provided to children with an intellectual disability in the county. In addition, a special class is currently being set up in the Presentation school, Mullingar, which will cater for up to five children with autism. As well as receiving educational services, the children attending this class will receive appropriate health-related support services.

This year I was pleased to be in a position to provide additional funding of £50,000, with a full year cost of £150,000 in 2000, for the development of specific health-related support services for children with autism in the midland region. This funding will enable a range of health-related support services to be further developed, and provided, where appropriate, on an outreach basis. These services will enhance existing diagnosis, early intervention, pre-school services and services to schoolgoing children with autism. Planning for the continued development of support services for children and adults with autism is included by the Midland Health Board in their overall consideration of the needs in their region.

  147.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if he has satisfied himself with the availability of speech therapy service for post acute care rehabilitation; his estimate of the number of extra speech therapists needed to meet needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16434/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The report of the review group on health and personal social services for people with physical and sensory disabilities, Towards an Independent Future, published in December 1996, set out the requirements for the development of these services, including speech and language therapy services. Since the report was published three new speech and language therapy posts were created in 1997 and ten in 1998.

Another recommendation of the review group is the setting up of regional co-ordinating committees for services for people with physical and sensory disabilities. These bring together health boards, voluntary sector service providers and consumers. One of the primary functions of the co-ordinating committee is to advise on priorities for the allocation of funds available for the development of services. This year £3 million – £6 million full year cost in the year 2000 – has been provided for the development of these services. The question of allocating some of this [406] money for the provision of additional speech and language therapy services will be considered by each board in consultation with its co-ordinating committee.

I should point out that the recruitment of paramedical staff generally is presenting problems throughout the health board regions. Following a Labour Court recommendation in 1997, an expert group was established to examine and report on various issues relating to paramedical grades, including speech and language therapists. Among the issues to be examined by this group are the problems which arise in relation to the recruitment and the retention of various paramedical grades. It is anticipated that the report of this group will be completed later this year.

  148.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the reason for the delay in the case of a person (details supplied) in Kilkenny who is waiting for an urgent nose operation at Ardkeen Hospital, Waterford, and has been informed that he may have to wait until December 1999 or January 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16435/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of medical services to eligible persons in County Kilkenny in this instance is the statutory responsibility of the South-Eastern Health Board. I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

  149.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the proposal, if any, he has to set up a neurosurgery department at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16502/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Neurosurgical services nationally are currently provided at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and Cork University Hospital. The neurosurgical needs of South-Eastern Health Board patients are met from these centres. There are no plans to establish a neurosurgery department at Waterford Regional hospital.

As the Deputy will be aware, the overall range of medical and surgical services available at Waterford Regional hospital has been greatly expanded over recent years. New regional specialities of dermatology, nephrology, rheumatology, vascular surgery and oncology have been established there and a trauma orthopaedic service has also been developed on site. These developments have been made possible by an increase of over £11 million in revenue funding for the hospital in the last three years and by the completion of major phased capital works on the site at a total cost of some £65 million. My Depart[407] ment is continuing to work with the South-Eastern Health Board management in identifying and addressing priorities for the ongoing development of services at the hospital in the context of available funding.

  150.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of patients from each county on the elective waiting list for neurosurgery at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16503/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Waiting list data is collected by my Department on a quarterly basis, by health board, hospital and speciality. It is not collected by place of residence and it would not therefore be possible to give the Deputy a breakdown of the number of patients from each county on the waiting list for neurosurgery at Beaumont hospital.

However, I have asked the chief executive officer of Beaumont hospital to investigate this matter and respond directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

  151.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the reason a post-mortem autopsy report (details supplied) is delayed in Waterford Regional Hospital; if a dedicated histology technician is available in the hospital for coroners' cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16505/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of hospital services in this instance is the statutory responsibility of the South-Eastern Health Board. I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this matter and to reply to the Deputy directly.

  152.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the reason a situation has arisen where a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who was receiving drops through his local chemist from Moorfield Eye Hospital, London, is now unable to get them due to the fact that the hospital requires an export licence; the steps, if any, he will take to rectify the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16550/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  My Department has recently become aware of anecdotal reports which suggest that, as a result of recent changes in practice or procedures by the Medicines Control Agency in Britain, the export of unlicensed medicinal products from Britain may now be subject to some form of export [408] licensing controls. The Irish Medicines Board has contacted the British authorities seeking to clarify the situation and to ensure continuity of supply of any such medicines for Irish patients which they may require.

In the meantime, I am advised that, in the case to which the Deputy has referred, the pharmacist has established an alternative source of supply of the medication involved and will be in a position to supply the patient concerned.

  153.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the policy on rehabilitation and recovery of drug addicts; if this policy consists solely of long-term methadone maintenance; if community based voluntary groups are supported and encouraged in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16565/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Up to now the Eastern Health Board, which has statutory responsibility for the provision of treatment in the Dublin area has been concentrating on expanding its treatment network in order to attract as many drug users as possible into its service. By the end of May 1999 there was a total of 3,891 on the central methadone treatment list.

The objective of our drug treatment programmes is to restore those addicted to drugs to a drug free lifestyle. It is recognised however that this may not be a realistic option, in the short-term at least, for some drug users. In such cases, and this is accepted internationally, methadone maintenance can play a vital role in stabilising the patient and in influencing their often chaotic behaviour. This can have very beneficial results for patients themselves, their immediate family and social circle and society in general.

Methadone maintenance however, can be part of an overall treatment regime which should also include counselling and rehabilitation and which has as its aim, the reintegration of the individual, into society. The Eastern Health Board has identified the provision of increased rehabilitation facilities as part of its service plan for 1999. The board has commenced the development of a rehabilitation programme and will be engaging in a widespread consultation process over the coming months. Voluntary agencies, community groups and other statutory organisations will be involved in this process and the role to be played by such groups and organisations will be discussed.

I am confident, that, arising from this process, the board will shortly have in place a comprehensive programme for all of its clients which will provide appropriate rehabilitation for those who need it.

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  154.  Mr. Crawford    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the theatres in the orthopaedic unit in Our Lady's Hospital, Navan, will be closed for the months of July and August in spite of an increase of 75 per cent in the waiting lists in the north eastern area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16574/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Target activity levels for orthopaedic procedures at Our Lady's Hospital, Navan, as specified in the 1999 service plan will be met. Activity levels are expected to be scaled down during the holiday period to facilitate annual leave for consultants, nurses and paramedic staff. I want to emphasise that this is a scaling down of activity, and not a full closure of the theatres. Necessary refurbishment will also be carried out during the period of scaled down activity. The North-Eastern Health Board expect to carry out the number of procedures specified in their service plan and may even exceed this number.

  155.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Health and Children    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16625/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The information requested is being compiled in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  156.  Mr. Yates    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if he will ensure that there is parity of remuneration and operation for dentists participating in the PRSI and medical card dental treatment schemes; if he will ensure that there is uniformity of fees for identical treatments under each scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the pending ballot and possible withdrawal from the scheme by dentists for medical card holders and the hardship that this would impose on many patients; if he will intervene in this dialogue to ensure continuity of services and agreement with the Irish Dental Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16648/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Dentists providing services for medical card holders under the dental treatment services scheme do so under contract arrangements with the health boards. Dentists providing services for insured persons under the dental treatment benefit scheme – DTBS – do so under contract arrangements with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. The IDA has negotiated a number of special fee increases under the DTBS with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in return for [410] implementation of 1997 budget provisions for the abolition of the £35,000 income limit, relaxation of dependency conditions, the extension of dental benefit to public service workers and for dropping any claims to items which were annexed to a 1992 agreement with that Department, viz pensions, sick leave, study leave etc. These special fee increases were applicable to circumstances peculiar to that Department's agreement with the IDA for the provision of services under the DTBS.

The DTSS is entirely funded by the Exchequer. Health boards must keep within budget and need to maintain adequate epidemiological information on oral health. Operational procedures under the DTSS are designed to meet these needs.

A claim for a fee increase under the dental treatment services scheme has been made by the Irish Dental Association. An offer in regard to this claim has been made through the Health Service Employers Agency. A commencement date for the final phasing of the DTSS i.e. extension of routine treatment to persons in the 35-64 age group and an end to premium payments for emergency treatment are part of a package of proposals drawn up in the context of this claim. Agreement on these proposals will enable my Department in consultation with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs to explore ways in which operational procedures under the two schemes may be further harmonised in the interest of patient and of dentist.

The Health Service Employers Agency – HSEA – has sought clarification from the Irish Dental Association of the association's recent decision to ballot its members on a withdrawal from the scheme. The decision to ballot and threat to withdraw from the scheme was announced to the media before my Department or the HSEA was informed. The HSEA has also indicated its willingness to have further discussions with the association in regard to its claim.

  157.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 240 of 15 June 1999, he will provide a full response on the formation of a project team to advance phase 2B of Mullingar General Hospital; the brief given to this team; the timescale for this team to report; and when work will commence on the fitting out of provision of an additional operating theatre and additional beds at this hospital. [16649/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Further to the information given to the Deputy on 15 June 1999, the position in relation to the development of phase 2B of Longford-Westmeath General Hospital, Mullingar, is as follows: the project team will be asked to prepare a written brief for the development of phase 2B. This is normal procedure in developments of this kind; [411] the project team will be asked to complete its work without delay. The project team itself will have to consider a realistic timescale for the preparation of an agreed brief; and the timescale for commencing construction-fitting out work is not yet clear. This will depend on the agreed functional content of phase 2B, how long the planning and design stages take and on the availability of capital funding for the project.

  158.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Health and Children    when more physiotherapists will be appointed to the Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar, in view of the serious situation which developed and where the urgent waiting list is up to two months. [16651/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The matter of assessing the need for additional physiotherapists at Mayo General Hospital is the responsibility of the Western Health Board in the first instance. My Department will continue to work with the Western Health Board in identifying and addressing the hospital's overall service development needs. In this regard, the appointment of additional physiotherapists will be considered by my Department in the context of the board's competing priorities.

As the Deputy will be aware, in January 1999 construction commenced on a major £22 million development of facilities at Mayo General Hospital. Under this development, the hospital will undergo a major transformation of facilities through the provision of a range of new accommodation and services as well as the upgrading of a number of existing departments with a view to ensuring that it can respond effectively and efficiently to the health needs of the people of County Mayo.

  159.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if he will direct the Western Health Board to allow a pharmacy to be opened in Knock, County Mayo, where there are hundreds of thousands of visitors, pilgrims and elderly people each year and no facilities of this type available. [16652/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  As the Deputy is aware, the issue of a community pharmacy contractor agreement is a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board. The criteria and procedures under which the chief executive officer shall determine the issue of a new pharmacy contract are specified in the Health (Community Pharmacy Contractor Agreement) Regulations 1996. I have asked the chief executive officer of the Western Health Board to reply directly to the Deputy on this matter.

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  161.  Mr. R. Bruton    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if his attention has been drawn to difficulties for young people admitted for orthodontic treatment who also need surgical procedures as in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and the proposals, if any, he has to deal with this problem. [16680/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  As the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in Dublin 5 is the statutory responsibility of the Eastern Health Board I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly as a matter of urgency.

In 1998 my Department provided an additional £250,000 to the Eastern Health Board for the development of its services in oral surgery and restorative dentistry. Planning by the board for the construction of a head and neck day care centre for the eastern region is at an early stage of development. In 1999 my Department provided an additional £120,000 to the Dublin Dental hospital to assist in the expansion of oral surgery services at the new hospital.

I also understand that arrangements have been made for the secondment of a consultant oral surgeon from the Dublin Dental hospital to the Eastern Health Board to assist the board in the provision of oral surgery services.

  162.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health and Children    his views on complaints received regarding the lack of service and facilities in Beaumont hospital, Dublin 9; his further views on the shortage of pillows in the hospital and the advice being given by hospital staff to patients to bring in their own; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16694/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  I have had inquiries made of Beaumont hospital regarding this matter and have been informed that they are satisfied that their stock of pillows is completely adequate to meet patients' requirements. The hospital has no knowledge of any incident where staff have advised patients to bring their own pillows. However situations do arise from time to time, where patients may wish to bring a pillow from home and on such occasions hospital staff would inform patients that this is in order.

[413]

  163.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the proposals, if any, he has to increase the numbers and level of home helps available in the Eastern Health Board area; if the number available has declined in the past few years; if his attention has been drawn to the grow ing concern at lack of home helps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16695/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt):  The level of home help service provided is a matter in the first instance for the relevant health board. Home helps are employed in the Eastern Health Board area by home help organisations and by the board itself. The board has indicated that the level of service is generally being maintained at 1998 levels, although it is finding it more difficult to recruit home helps which has resulted in waiting lists in some areas. Cases are prioritised, with a speedy response to severe-heavy cases, upon the recommendation of a public health nurse. The following table shows the number of home helps employed in the Eastern Health Board since 1995.

Employed by Home Help Organisations Employed by Eastern Health Board Total
1995 3,240 708 3,948
1996 3,201 711 3,912
1997 3,367 715 4,082
1998 3,260 718 3,978

The important role played by home helps in the care of older people is widely recognised and there is growing demand for the home help service to be better organised and developed. In this regard, my Department commissioned an examination of the future organisation of the home help service in Ireland by the policy research centre of the National College of Ireland under the direction of the national council on ageing and older people. This report has been published and is being considered by the health boards and my Department with a view to early implementation. Any difficulties that have arisen in the operation of the service will be examined as part of this process.

As part of the implementation of the recommendations of the report, additional funding was made available this year to enable the home help service to be improved. The additional funding provided to boards, including the Eastern Health Board, may be used for additional home helps or additional hours. Resources have also been provided in the current year to increase the minimum rate of payment for all home helps as part of a phased improvement in the rate of payment for home helps, the remaining phases of which it is hoped to implement as resources permit. It is hoped that this will help to relieve difficulties in recruiting home helps.

[414]

  164.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the level and quantity of chiropodist services available free or at a reduced cost to elderly people; the age limit and income limits which apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16696/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt):  Arrangements for the provision of services, including chiropody services, are a matter for the individual health boards, having regard to their priorities within the funding allocated. Health boards provide a chiropody service to older people free of charge or at a reduced cost either through a service provided directly by the boards themselves or through voluntary groups which are grant aided. The detailed arrangements in each health board are currently been collated and I will forward these to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  165.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health and Children    his views on the lack of facilities in Temple Street hospital, Dublin, and the accusation that x-rays cannot be performed after 8 or 9 p.m.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16697/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  I have had inquiries made of The Children's Hospital, Temple Street, regarding this matter. The hospital has confirmed that there is a radiographer on call from 5 p.m. in the evening to 9 a.m. the following morning. She remains at the hospital until 10 p.m. and can be contacted at home after this time if needed for emergency procedures. Patients needing non urgent x-rays are asked to return the following morning.

In 1999, I was pleased to be able to approve additional revenue funding of £1.240 million to meet the cost of approved service developments at the Children's Hospital, Temple Street, in areas of support staff, paediatrics, nephrology, neonatology, airways management and theatres/day wards. Included in this amount is £0.690 million in respect of commissioning of the following, the national centre for metabolic diseases, and the high dependency unit.

The hospital did not prioritise the radiology services for development funding in 1999. However if this service is prioritised for additional funding by the hospital, it will be considered within the context of the hospital's overall priorities for the year 2000 and the many competing demands within the acute sector.

[415]

  166.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of people who have died of CJD in each of the past five years; the different strains of CJD including the BSE linked, classical CJD; the numbers suffering and dying from each strain; the origin and difference in the various strains; if they are all linked to beef; and if a designated person will be made available to give information to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 whose husband, an ex meat factory worker, has died of CJD and is unhappy with the medical information being supplied to her. [16698/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The number of persons who have died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in each of the last five years is as follows: 1994 nil; 1995 two; 1996 three; 1997 three; 1998 six.

CJD is the collective name for a group of diseases which cause progressive dementia and a loss of control of movement and balance. There are four variants of the condition, namely sporadic (classic), familial – inherited – latrogenic – caused by treatment – and the new variant CJD. Only new variant CJD has been linked to the consumption of beef. All but one of the cases which occurred in Ireland in the last five years were of the sporadic or classic variant. The other case, which occurred in 1997, was of the familial strain. In each of the cases the patient died.

The clinicians treating a particular patient are best qualified to explain and discuss with the family the nature of that patient's condition and I understand that in the case referred to by the Deputy the consultant has met the family and explained the nature of the diagnosis made. Where a family is unhappy with a specific CJD diagnosis, arrangements can be made whereby tissue sections can be referred to the UK surveillance centre in Edinburgh for a second opinion. Should a family wish to discuss with one of the expert members of the national CJD surveillance committee concerns relating to any aspect of CJD or to a specific diagnosis, arrangements can also be made in this regard.

  167.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if he will give details of the situation whereby children being looked after by grandparents and other person where mother or father has left or are unable to cope are being dealt with and supported in different ways leading to perceived unfair treatment; his views on the regulations; if he will bring standardisation of treatment for children whose guardians currently receive (a) no allowance except child benefit, (b) £13.20 of unemployment benefit, (c) £51.60 for orphan's allowance and (d) fostering allowance from health boards; if orphan's allowance will be given where the mother is missing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16722/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Fahey):  Foster care allowances are paid in respect of children who are in the care [416] of health boards in accordance with the Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations 1995 and the Child Care (Placement of Children with Relatives) Regulations 1995. The standard rate of allowance payable, effective from 1 June 1999, is £68.05 per child per week for those under 12 years of age and £75.35 per child per week for those over 12 years of age. In addition there are a number of discretionary payments made by health boards which cover such items as medical, school or clothing expenses.

The Deputy may be aware that I recently established a working group on foster care which will be reviewing the issue of allowances.

The payment of child benefit and orphans allowance are a matter for the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs.

  168.  Mr. Neville    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of suicides for each of the years from 1996 to 1998 for the age categories up to nine years, ten to 19 years, 20 to 29 years, 30 to 39 years, 40 to 49 years, 50 to 64 years, 65 to 75 years and over 75 years. [16744/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The numbers of deaths from suicide for the years 1996 to 1998 are set out in the table below using the age groups requested by the Deputy with the exception of 65 to 75 years and over 75 years. The age groups 65 to 74 years and 75 years and over have been used instead as mortality data are routinely provided in five year age groups.

Deaths from Suicide by Age Group, 1996 to 1998

Age Group 1996 1997* 1998*
0-9 years 0 0 0
10-19 years 39 41 53
20-29 years 121 123 152
30-39 years 91 97 100
40-49 years 69 73 87
50-64 years 58 67 73
65-74 years 14 25 28
75 years and over 17 18 11
All ages 409 444 504

*Provisional figures based on year of registration.

Source: Central Statistics Office.

  169.  Mr. Neville    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of suicides by gender in each county for each of the years 1997 and 1998. [16745/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. Deaths from Suicide by Gender and County, 1997 and 1998.

[417]

County 1997 Male Female Total 1998
Male Female Total
Carlow 12 0 12 5 0 5
Cavan 6 0 6 10 0 10
Clare 7 2 9 13 1 14
Cork 51 18 69 67 13 80
Donegal 10 2 12 15 2 17
Dublin 79 19 98 98 23 121
Galway 22 4 26 24 5 29
Kerry 16 1 17 24 5 29
Kildare 16 4 20 12 0 12
Kilkenny 6 0 6 8 2 10
Laois 3 0 3 10 2 12
Leitrim 4 0 4 4 1 5
Limerick 12 5 17 19 3 22
Longford 5 0 5 1 0 1
Louth 11 0 11 9 5 14
Mayo 16 4 20 8 1 9
Meath 12 3 15 9 2 11
Monaghan 6 2 8 6 2 8
Offaly 3 2 5 8 1 9
Roscommon 8 0 8 7 0 7
Sligo 2 2 4 8 1 9
Tipperary 12 1 13 19 5 24
Waterford 10 5 15 9 0 9
Westmeath 5 2 7 9 2 11
Wexford 16 5 21 9 5 14
Wicklow 13 0 13 10 2 12
Total 363 81 444 421 83 504

Note: All figures are provisional based on year of registration.

Source: Central Statistics Office.

  170.  Ms Clune    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if his attention has been drawn to the large medical expenses experienced by the families of those who suffer from asthma; the proposals, if any, he has to alleviate expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16746/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Persons who are unable, without undue hardship, to arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In determining eligibility, the local health board will have regard to the financial circumstances and medical needs of the applicant. In this regard, income guidelines are used by health boards to assist in determining a person's eligibility. These guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, the person may still be awarded a medical card if the chief executive officer considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board to decide.

There are also schemes available which provide financial assistance towards the cost of prescribed drugs and medicines to people who do not have medical cards. For example, persons suffering from an ongoing condition can avail of the drug cost subsidisation scheme which caters for people [418] who are certified as having a medical condition with a regular and ongoing requirement for prescribed drugs and medicines. Persons who qualify for inclusion in this scheme do not have to pay more than £32 in any month on prescribed medication. Under the drug refund scheme, families and individuals pay the full cost of their prescription medicines and may, at the end of the quarter, claim reimbursement from their health board for expenditure over £90 in that calendar quarter.

With effect from 1 July 1999, the new drug payment scheme will replace the drug cost subsidisation scheme and the drug refund scheme with a monthly threshold of £42. The new scheme will effectively merge the best elements of the two existing schemes and is designed to significantly improve the cash flow situations of families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. Under the new scheme, no individual or family will have to pay more than £42 per month for approved prescribed drugs and medicines for use in that month. For the first time, families and individuals will be able to budget for the cost of medicines. As the scheme will operate on a monthly rather than a quarterly basis, it has advantages over the drug refund scheme. Furthermore, unlike the drug cost subsidisation scheme, there are no qualifying criteria for inclusion in the new drug payment scheme.

I am satisfied that appropriate and comprehensive support is being provided by the State to those with ongoing medical expenses such as people with asthma.

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  171.  Mr. Dennehy    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if he will permit treatment for sufferers of moebius syndrome, a rare disease affecting the nervous system, to be covered by the terms of the general medical scheme. [16747/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  Persons who are unable, without undue hardship, to arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In determining eligibility for medical cards, health boards have regard to the financial circumstances and medical needs of the applicant. Income guidelines are used by health boards to assist in determining a person's eligibility. These guidelines are not statutorily binding and even though a person's income exceeds the guidelines, the person may still be awarded a medical card if the chief executive officer considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board to decide.

In view of this special provision, I do not think that it is justifiable to extend an automatic entitlement to a medical card to any specific group without any reference to their means, particularly in view of the very many areas of pressing need in the health services and the limited resources available to meet them. I am satisfied that appropriate and comprehensive support is being provided by the State, through other schemes, to those with ongoing medical expenses who do not have medical cards.

For example, persons suffering from an ongoing condition can avail of the drug cost subsidisation scheme which caters for people who are certified as having a medical condition with a regular and ongoing requirement for prescribed drugs and medicines. Persons who qualify for inclusion in this scheme do not have to pay more than £32 in any month on prescribed medication. Under the drug refund scheme, families and individuals pay the full cost of their prescription medicines and may, at the end of the quarter, claim reimbursement from their health board for expenditure over £90 in that calendar quarter.

As the Deputy will be aware, with effect from 1 July 1999, the new drug payment scheme will replace the drug cost subsidisation scheme and the drug refund scheme with a monthly threshold of £42. The new scheme will effectively merge the best elements of the two existing schemes and is designed to significantly improve the cash flow situations of families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. Under the new scheme, no individual or family will have to pay more than £42 per month for approved prescribed drugs and medicines for use in that month. For the first time, families and individuals will be able to budget for the cost of medicines. Furthermore, unlike the drug cost subsidisation [420] scheme, there are no qualifying criteria for inclusion in the new drug payment scheme.

  172.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Health and Children,    further to Parliamentary Question No. 194 of 25 May 1999, the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was refused a medical card in view of the fact that he is under constant medical attention due to sexual abuse; the reason he has had no contact from the social worker; the reason the psychologist has not honoured appointments made at the consultation clinic; if a definite set of appointments will be arranged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16768/99]

  174.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 194 of 25 May 1999, further investigations will be conducted into the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, in view of the fact they insist that an application for a medical card was made and refused; if his Department will investigate the complaint from the family that the services extended to them from the South-Eastern Health Board are inadequate and have broken down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16778/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Fahey):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 174 together.

The provision of services to eligible persons in County Kilkenny is the statutory responsibility of the South-Eastern Health Board in the first instance. I have asked the chief executive officer of the South-Eastern Health Board to investigate the position in relation to this case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

  173.  Mr. Higgins (Mayo)    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if he will authorise the signing of an E112 form to enable a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, who has a rare form of cancer which cannot be operated on here, to have the necessary surgery carried out and the cost thereof subsidised at a specialist hospital in London. [16774/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of medical services to eligible persons in County Mayo in this instance is the statutory responsibility of the Western Health Board. I have asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply to the Deputy directly.

[421]

  175.  Ms Clune    asked the Minister for Health and Children    if his attention has been drawn to the increase by 3 per cent in three years in the numbers of teenagers suffering from asthma; his views on this trend; the proposals, if any, he has to address the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16779/99]

  176.  Ms Clune    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the study, if any, he has initiated to ascertain the reason Ireland is ranked among the top four in the world of asthma sufferers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16780/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 176 together.

There is evidence to suggest that the prevalence of asthma is increasing internationally. Some of this increase reflects a change in diagnostic practice while some represents a real increase in the condition. The reasons for the increase are unclear, as asthma is caused by an interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Worldwide research into the causes of asthma is ongoing and I hope that Ireland can benefit from this research. I should also explain that, in the past, precise medical diagnosis of asthma was problematic as the term was frequently used to cover a range of respiratory conditions, including bronchitis. In addition, as asthma is not a notifiable disease, there are no precise statistics available on the number of people with the condition. For the most serious asthmatic reactions requiring hospitalisation, data is available from the hospital in-patient inquiry system. The Deputy may be interested to see the data available in respect of teenagers aged 15-19 years for the years 1994 to 1997, which is set out below. These figures are based on principal diagnosis and include day cases and in-patients. It should be noted that information is not available from private hospitals and that a person attending hospital several times in a given year is counted separately in the statistics for each visit. Age 15-19;530, 1995;561, 1996;466, 1997;488. When the Deputy refers to a 3 per cent increase for teenagers suffering asthma over a three year period, I assume she is comparing a survey undertaken in 1992 of children aged four to 19 years where 11.9 per cent of those surveyed reported asthma, with the results of the first phase of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), undertaken in 1995, which involved children aged 13-14 years and showed prevalence values of 15.2 per cent. While any upward trend must be cause for concern, it is not possible to say with certainty whether the differences in the results reflects an increase in asthma prevalence or a difference in the administration of the surveys. As the Deputy indicates, however, the ISAAC study showed that, for asthma symptoms, the highest 12 month prevalences were from centres in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and this country, followed by most centres in North, Central and South America. The lowest prevalences were from centres in sev[422] eral Eastern European countries, Indonesia, Greece, China, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, India and Ethiopia. While not directly comparable, the Deputy may also have in mind results from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey of adults which also showed the highest asthma symptoms prevalence in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United States.

There is no doubt that the variation in the prevalence of asthma is striking between different centres throughout the world and I understand that the findings of the ISAAC study will form the basis of further studies to investigate factors that potentially lead to these international patterns. The Health Research Board is the statutory body with responsibility for health research in Ireland. The board considers all applications for funding and allocates funding to projects on a competitive basis, subject to the board's peer review process whereby experts in the field assess the merits of each individual project. I will raise the question of follow up or further studies with the Health Research Board and communicate directly with the Deputy in the matter.

  177.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the plans, if any, he has to ensure regulations are put in place to protect patients in nursing homes from fee increases without adequate notice to their relatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16782/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt):  The placement of a resident in a private nursing home and the fees charged is a private arrangement between the nursing home and the individual resident. Accordingly, my Department has no function in relation to the setting of private nursing home fees.

The principal objectives of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, is to ensure high standards of accommodation and care in all nursing homes registered under the Act, and to provide a system of nursing home subvention so that dependent persons most in need of nursing home care will have access to such care. I am satisfied that health boards take a sympathetic view of cases where personal funds are exhausted by increasing the level of subvention where possible. Where this does not solve a problem, a health board will try to provide accommodation in one of its own extended care facilities. One of the changes made to the subvention scheme operated under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, since its implementation permits health boards to contract beds in private nursing homes and pay more than the maximum rates of subvention in such cases. This amendment is to facilitate health boards which do not have sufficient accommodation in their hospitals and homes to meet the needs of [423] those requiring nursing care and which have traditionally relied on the nursing home sector to meet this need.

I should point out that substantial additional funding has been provided in the current year to meet the rising costs of the scheme, including increased payment to people who are having difficulty in meeting their nursing home fees.

  178.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the plans, if any, in place to develop mentally handicapped services in the Ballinasloe area of County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16783/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The provision of services to persons with a mental handicap in the Ballinasloe area is the responsibility of the Western Health Board in the first instance.

This year I was pleased to be in a position to allocate additional revenue funding of £1,595,000, with a full year cost of £1,965,000, to the Western Health Board for the development of new services for persons with an intellectual disability. I have also recently allocated £900,000 capital to the board to put in place facilities to support the new services. Details of the precise services to be put in place in the western region from this additional funding, the location of these services and the individuals who will benefit from them is a matter for the Western Health Board in consultation with the board's regional mental handicap co-ordinating committee, and in line with the priorities the committee has identified for the region.

  179.  Mr. Neville    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of suicides per 100,000 of population in 1998 for each county. [16784/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. Deaths from Suicide: Crude Mortality Rates per 100,000 Population by County, 1998.

County Rate
Carlow 12.0
Cavan 18.9
Clare 14.9
Cork 19.0
Donegal 13.1
Dublin 11.4
Galway 15.4
Kerry 23.0
Kildare 8.9
Kilkenny 13.3
Laois 22.7
Leitrim 20.0
[424] County Rate
Limerick 13.3
Longford 3.3
Louth 15.2
Mayo 8.1
Meath 10.0
Monaghan 15.6
Offaly 15.2
Roscommon 13.5
Sligo 16.1
Tipperary 18.0
Waterford 9.5
Westmeath 17.4
Wexford 13.4
Wicklow 11.7
Total 13.9

Note: All figures are provisional based on year of registration.

Source: Central Statistics Office.

  180.  Mr. Neville    asked the Minister for Health and Children    the number of suicides per 100,000 of population in each health board area for 1997 and 1998. [16785/99]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. Deaths from Suicide: Crude Mortality Rates per 100,000 Population by Health Board Area, 1997 and 1998.

Health Board Area 1997 1998
Eastern 10.1 11.2
Midland 9.7 16.1
Mid-Western 9.8 13.9
North-Eastern 13.1 14.0
North-Western 9.5 14.7
South-Eastern 15.8 13.8
Southern 15.7 19.9
Western 15.3 12.8
Total 12.2 13.9

Note: All figures are provisional based on year of registration.

Source: Central Statistics Office.

  181.  Mr. Dennehy    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the national and EU regulations concerning the growing and sale of genetically modified crops. [16752/99]

  194.  Ms Clune    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    if he will provide details of the EU Commission proposal to modify Directive 90/220/EEC; the progress, if any, made on this proposal in Brussels on 24 and 25 June 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16639/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 194 together.

Within the EU regulatory framework for the safe use of modern biotechnology, I have overall responsibility for Council Directive 90/220 EEC [425] which provides for the intentional release of genetically modified organisms to the environment both for research and development purposes and for placing on the market. The provisions of the directive which require implementation at national level are transposed into Irish law by the Genetically Modified Organisms Regulations, 1994 – S.I. No. 345 of 1994 – as amended by the Genetically Modified Organisms (Amendment) Regulations, 1996 and 1997 – S.I. No. 348 of 1996 and S.I. No. 332 of 1997. The Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority in Ireland for purposes of the regulations.

The proposal from the Commission to amend Directive 90/220/EEC is intended to extend and clarify the scope of the directive and to ensure procedures are commensurate with its scope; strengthen uniformity of decision-making between member states, based on common principles for risk assessment; facilitate linkage with other relevant product legislation; improve the labelling of GM products.

In the course of consideration of the proposal, and especially at its meeting on 24 June 1999, the Council of Environment Ministers made significant progress, with substantial input from Ireland, in strengthening the proposal. In particular, the proposal for a fast-track approval for marketing GM products was abandoned and significant improvements were made which resulted in new common principles to ensure consistency in undertaking environmental risk assessment of product notifications; a new provision imposing a ten year time limit on consents to market GM products, in parallel with new post-release monitoring requirements; greater transparency underpinned by improved labelling requirements linked to a provision to ensure full traceability of GM products through all stages of the production process; new provisions for public participation in the regulatory procedures for the placing of GM products on the EU market; and a recognition of ethical considerations and provision for them to be addressed.

On this basis the council agreed on the proposals, which will be subject to further consideration by the European Parliament and final codecision by Council and Parliament.

  182.  Mr. Farrelly    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    if he has received an application for funding under the archaeological and heritage scheme from a group (details supplied) in County Meath; if he will make a contribution towards the purchase of the cottage adjoining the Ledwidge Cottage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16264/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  No application has been received from the committee referred to for funding under the conservation measure of the [426] Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development 1994-99. Grants for the conservation of protected structures are available from the local authorities under the recently announced scheme for the conservation of the architectural heritage.

I have met with the group involved and have been very supportive of their efforts to ensure the conservation of the cottage. I am confident that through the efforts of the local authority that a successfully outcome can be achieved.

  183.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the reason persons who supply their own labour to construct their own house by utilising the services of, for example, family members are excluded from the first time buyer's grant; the plans, if any, he has to amend the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16323/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  Such persons are not excluded from the new house grant for first time purchasers but are required, as part of the Government's measures to tackle the black economy in construction, to have a contractor or contractors, registered for VAT and holding either a current form C2 or a tax clearance certificate, engaged on the construction of the house and providing labour to a value of not less than £6,000. In addition, materials having a value, including VAT, of not less than £9,000 must be used in the construction of the house. Requirements that certain details be furnished in relation to the C2 form or tax clearance certificate are now generally applied where grants are paid by public authorities.

The value of the labour required to be carried out by registered contractors in the construction of a new house has not been increased since the provision was introduced in 1987 and is not considered to be an onerous imposition on persons who build their houses by direct labour. There are no proposals to remove this requirement.

  184.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    when the details will be available for the refurbishment project at St. Finian's Park, Drogheda, under the remedial works scheme as announced on 27 May 1999; if he will ensure that officials from his Department will meet the tenants' association either separately or in conjunction with officials from Drogheda Corporation to ensure maximum consultation with the residents in the area; his view on whether this consultation should take place without delay and before any definite specification of the necessary works is completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16333/99]

[427]Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  The planning and carrying out of the remedial works to this estate, including arrangements for consultation with the residents, are the responsibility of the local authority.

  185.  Mr. Higgins (Mayo)    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    if the new sewerage scheme for Knock, County Mayo, has been approved; and, if so, when the scheme will commence. [16371/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  I refer to the reply to Question No. 403 of 20 April 1999. The position on Knock sewerage scheme is unchanged. I am not in a position at this stage to indicate when this scheme will commence.

  186.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been awaiting a driving test since September 1998; and if arrangements will be made immediately for a test. [16408/99]

[428]Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  A test appointment will issue to this person shortly.

  187.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16419/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  Since the commencement of the Freedom of Information Act on 21 April 1998 my Department has received 175 requests of which 55 have been submitted by companies or businesses. Charges totalling IR£117.69 have been paid in respect of four of these requests.

The following table includes the names of companies or businesses that have submitted five or more requests to my Department and also gives the general nature of the records or information sought.

DateReceived Requests for Records/Information related to Requester
30-Apr-98 The Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters Sunday Times
01-Jul-98 Expenses met by the Department Sunday Times
03-Jul-98 The Franchise process Sunday Times
03-Jul-98 The Franchise process Sunday Times
22-Jul-98 Private sector investment in funding infrastructural projects Sunday Times
28-Jul-98 Staff sick leave Sunday Times
12-Aug-98 Toll Roads Sunday Times
02-Sep-98 Cross Border Bodies Sunday Times
02-Sep-98 FOI requests made by Oireachtas members and political parties Sunday Times
24-Sep-98 Expenses met by the Department Sunday Times
27-Oct-98 The introduction of car testing Sunday Times
12-Nov-98 Greenhouse Gas emissions Sunday Times
07-Jan-99 Official gifts and entertainment Sunday Times
27-Jan-99 Travel arrangements Sunday Times
05-May-99 Road Pricing Sunday Times
01-Feb-99 Market or social research commissioned by the Department Mark Henry/ Policywatch/Amárach
10-Mar-99 Housing Mark Henry/ Policywatch/Amárach
07-May-99 Procurement Mark Henry/ Policywatch/Amárach
29-Apr-98 Minutes of the Management Advisory Committee Mark Henry/ Policywatch/Amárach
05-May-98 Dublin Electoral Area Boundaries Commission Mark Henry/ Policywatch/Amárach
05-May-98 Dublin Electoral Area Boundaries Commission Mark Henry/Policywatch/Amárach
03-Jun-98 Invoices paid by the Department Mark Henry/Policywatch/Amarach
24-Aug-98 Invoices paid by the Department Mark Henry/Policywatch/Amárach
29-Jul-98 Housing Sunday Tribune
30-Jul-98 Local Authority recruitment Sunday Tribune
04-Nov-98 Development plans Sunday Tribune
25-Jan-99 Expenses claimed by Ministers of the Department Sunday Tribune
17-May-99 Minutes of the Management Advisory Committee Sunday Tribune

  188.  Mr. Dukes    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the agencies responsible for the implementation of the Housing (Standards for Rental Accommodation) Regulations, 1993; and the measures, if any, in place to ensure they fulfil their obligations. [16510/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  Housing authorities are responsible for enforcing the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations, 1993. It is a matter for each authority to put in place arrangements to ensure the effective enforcement of the regulations. I am concerned to see an improved level of enforcement and to this end, housing authorities have been regularly urged by my Department to take all steps open to them to ensure compliance by landlords with the regulations.

  189.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the position regarding the provision of an augmentation water supply for Carrickmacross, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16514/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  I recently approved the Carrickmacross water supply scheme for funding under the rural towns and villages initiative. A brief for the appointment of consultants to prepare a preliminary report for this scheme is currently under examination in my Department and a decision will be conveyed to the local authority as soon as possible.

  190.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the number of housing applications from each local authority in Counties Monaghan and Cavan awaiting sanction and funding in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16515/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  There are no housing proposals in my Department awaiting sanction or approval to funding. Requests for recoupment of expenditure on housing schemes in progress are being processed in the normal way.

  191.  Mr. Cosgrave    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the position regarding the special amenity area order for Howth; when his Department will confirm this order; the reason delays have occurred in his Department in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16554/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  In accordance with section 43 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, Fingal County Council submitted a Special Amenity Area Order for Howth to me for confirmation on 25 March 1999. As there were objections to the order, I have instructed that a public local inquiry be held and I have appointed a planning inspector from my Department to hold the inquiry and to report [429][430] to me thereon. Arrangements have been made to hold the inquiry on Wednesday, 1 September 1999 and all interested parties will be advised accordingly. On receipt of the inspector's report, I will consider it and make my decision. The Act provides that I may confirm the order, with or without modification, or refuse to confirm it. There has been no delay in dealing with this order in my Department.

  192.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16626/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  The information requested is being compiled, and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  193.  Ms Clune    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the reason Ireland has not signed or ratified Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Protocol, 1991; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16638/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. D. Wallace):  Accession to the 1991 UN Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution concerning the control of emissions of volatile organic compounds or their transboundary fluxes is contingent on the implementation of a number of EU directives in relation to volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

A new draft protocol, a draft protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground Level Ozone is expected to set a national ceiling on emissions of, inter alia, VOCs. This is under negotiation at the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) at present and is expected to be open for signature in Goteborg, Sweden later this year. Ireland is participating actively in the negotiations, and the signature of the new protocol, including possible legislative requirements, will be considered on completion of the negotiations.

  195.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    if an application for a driving test by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16640/99]

[431]Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  A test appointment will issue to this person shortly.

  196.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the steps, if any, he will take to guarantee that each local authority is capable of meeting the targets set out in the Government's programme for the building of local authority houses for the period 2000 to 2003, particularly those local authorities where it is obvious they have not sufficient land under their control to meet their target. [16675/99]

  197.  Mr. Barrett    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    if he has satisfied himself that there is sufficient land owned by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to meet the Government's target set out in its multi-annual programme for the period 2000 to 2003 for the provision of local authority houses. [16676/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 197 together.

Local authorities, including Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, have been notified by my Department of the introduction next year of a multi-annual local authority housing programme and have been requested to set in train the necessary preparatory work to produce a streamlined delivery of housing output over a four year period. This includes a key requirement to identify any necessary land acquisition at an early stage and also includes, for example, considering of the need to vary existing development plans in regard to the availability of zoned residential lands to facilitate the provision of housing. Where necessary, local authorities may borrow from the Housing Finance Agency to acquire land and acquisition costs along with rolled up interest charges are recoupable as part of the cost of individual housing schemes. It is now a matter for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to set in train the necessary preparatory work, including any necessary land acquisition for their future housing programme.

  198.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the position on the upgrading of the Prosperous sewerage plant, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16677/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  This scheme is included in the 1999 water services investment programme to go to construction. Funding to allow the scheme to start was approved on 25 [432] May 1999. It is understood that work on the scheme is to commence shortly.

  199.  Mr. Wall    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    if his attention has been drawn to problems of tenants in receipt of social welfare payments who are seeking to purchase county council houses; the plans, if any, he has to rectify the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16678/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  The administration of the tenant purchase scheme is a matter for each local authority. Local authorities must assess each application under the scheme on its merits, having regard, for example, to the tenants' ability to meet the repayments and other expenses involved such as insurance and ongoing maintenance.

Local authorities have been advised that no particular category of tenants e.g. those on social welfare payments, should be regarded as being automatically excluded from purchase but that all such applications must be considered on their merits. A shared ownership option is also available to tenants whereby they would be required to make a minimum initial purchase of 50 per cent of the purchase price of the house with an undertaking to acquire the remaining equity within 25 years.

I have no plans to make any amendments to the scheme at this stage.

  200.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    the situation on the refund of car tax where the vehicle will be permanently off the road; the reason a refund should be refused due to the fact the car was taxed on a three months basis and had 11 weeks to expire; the regulations in this regard; the basis for these regulations; and if applications for a refund will be considered from persons whose cars are burned out. [16707/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  Refunds of motor tax can be made under the following circumstances when: the vehicle has been scrapped or destroyed or sent permanently out of the State, or the vehicle has been stolen and has not been recovered by the owner, or a vehicle in respect of which a tax disc has been taken out has not been used in a public place at any time since the issue of the disc, or the owner of the vehicle has ceased, because of illness, injury or other physical disability to use the vehicle, or the owner of the vehicle has ceased, because of the absence from the State for business or educational purposes, to use the vehicle, or the owner of the vehicle has ceased, because of service overseas with the Defence Forces, to use the vehicle.

[433] In addition the regulations require – for administrative reasons – that not less than a three month unexpired period remains on the disc from the date of refund. The question of reducing this period to one month will be positively considered at the next revision of the regulations.

  201.  Mr. D. Carey    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    when work will begin on the Feakle sewerage scheme which has been approved for grant aid under the village renewal scheme. [16741/99]

  202.  Mr. D. Carey    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    when work will begin on the Ballyvaughan sewerage scheme which has been approved for grant aid under the village renewal scheme. [16742/99]

  203.  Mr. D. Carey    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    when work will begin on the Corofin sewerage scheme which has been approved for grant aid under the village renewal scheme. [16743/99]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 to 203, inclusive, together.

I recently approved these schemes for funding under the rural towns and villages initiative.

I have approved Clare County Council's proposal to update the preliminary report for the Feakle sewerage scheme so as to take account of changes since the last report was prepared. I understand that the council's proposals for advancing the schemes in Ballyvaughan and Corofin will be submitted to my Department shortly.

I am not in a position at this stage to indicate when these schemes will commence, however I can inform the Deputy that, as the money has been allocated for these schemes, there will be no delay in approving proposals to advance them.

  204.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government    when he will deal with a submission from Westmeath County Council for a grant towards the upgrading and refurbishment of Eanell Court housing estate, Patrick Street, Mullingar, County Westmeath; when he will give approval for the necessary grant moneys for this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16764/99]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy):  I refer to the reply to Question No. 70 of 25 March 1999. I have asked my Department to contact the local authority with a view to having the matter expedited.

[434]

  206.  Mr. Ring    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    if he will provide a breakdown of the assessment of an unsuccessful application for the students' summer job scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who has previously been successful for three consecutive years to date. [16394/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  To qualify for participation in the students' summer jobs scheme, students must satisfy a means test which is broadly similar to that currently applying to applicants for unemployment assistance. The person concerned does not qualify, as his weekly means assessed at £67, are in excess of qualifying limit of £65.

The means are based on the father's income as a garda, with allowances in respect of tax, PRSI, superannuation, medical insurance, union fees, mortgage and travel. The net weekly assessable income is calculated at £396.85. For unemployment assistance purposes the weekly benefit derived by an applicant from board and lodgings provided in the family home is assessed at 17 per cent of the net family weekly income. On this basis, the weekly means of the person concerned are calculated at £67.46 which is excess of the qualifying limit.

  207.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16420/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  My Department has received a total of 45 requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 for non-personal information. Of this total, 20 were requests from companies or businesses. The companies from whom the Department has received most frequent requests are: The Sunday Times: five; Amárach/Policy Watch: three; and The Sunday Tribune: three.

Information sought included requests for records related to: the commercial activities of my Department; reports prepared by or for my Department related to ongoing policy development; my expenses as Minister; the minutes of the Management Committee.

Fees in respect of the cost of search and retrieval of records were charged in the case of two requests. The total amount requested in fees was £130.80.

[435]

  208.  Mr. P. Carey    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    if he will revoke the statutory instrument which prevents an old age pensioner from benefiting from every social welfare contribution paid in the last year before reaching 66 years of age in view of the fact it is the Year of the Elderly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16436/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to his earlier Question No. 90 on 2 June last.

Contributions paid by a person in the last year of his or her employment before reaching the age of 66 may be taken into account to satisfy one of the three qualifying conditions governing the old age (contributory) pension payment, namely that a person must have at least 156 contributions paid, or, if the yearly average is between ten and 19, at least 260 paid.

However, such contributions may not be used to satisfy the qualifying condition of having a yearly average of at least ten contributions or 24 in the case of a retirement pension, registered since January 1953 when the unified system of social insurance came into effect, or the time they commenced insurable employment, if later, up to the end of the last complete contribution year before reaching pension age.

As indicated in my previous reply, my Department is, at present, undertaking a detailed review of the qualifying conditions generally applying to the old age (contributory) and retirement pension schemes and in particular the operation of the yearly average condition. I will consider this issue further in the light of the outcome of this review.

  209.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been told to return his pension book in view of the fact that his only income is £12 per week rent from a small house and a case made on his behalf in April 1999 has not been replied to; and if he will have arrangements made to have the pension restored. [16440/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  The person concerned applied for an old age, or non-contributory, pension in September 1998. This is a meanstested payment entitlement to which depends on the weekly value of the persons means.

In assessing means for old age pension purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person may have, together with the value of any capital and the value of property owned but not personally used or enjoyed.

The person concerned was awarded a pension at the weekly rate of £18.50 per week from 18 September 1998, based on a means assessment of [436] £59.40 a week, deriving from capital of £2,595 in the bank and an estimated value of £30,000 for property, i.e. a house owned but not personally used. He was also paid an over-80 allowance of £5.00 a week, living alone allowance of £6.00 a week and a fuel allowance of £5.00 a week, during the heating season from mid-October to mid-April. This award was made pending the valuation office valuation of the property concerned. This was received in January 1999 and estimated the value of the property at £50,000.

In the light of this new information, the person concerned is no longer entitled to pension as his means, including the net yearly value of the property, exceed the current statutory limit of £82.00 per week.

The person concerned was advised of this position on 13 April 1999 and invited to furnish any views or comments he had to offer before his entitlement was revised. The Deputy's reply on his behalf indicated the income being received from renting the property in question. Under the legislation, however, the capital value of the property and not the income it is producing, must be assessed.

A formal decision on his entitlement to old age (non-contributory) pension will issue to the claimant shortly. He will also be advised of his right of appeal against the decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office if he is dissatisfied with the decision.

My Department is currently reviewing the method used to determine the value of capital and property but any change in the method of assessing the value of capital or property would require an amendment of the legislation. There would also be financial implications which would have to be considered on a budgetary context.

  210.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16627/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  As part of the ongoing work in my Department, a wide range of reviews are carried out by staff of the Department as part of their normal work. These generally do not involve additional costs.

Additional costs would be incurred where external consultants are commissioned to carry out specific assignments, whether on policy issues or on aspects of the administration of the Department's schemes and services. Generally speaking it is not considered necessary for such reports to be published.

[437] Details of the reports involving external consultancies which have been provided since I took office or which are due to be provided [438] are as follows. I had no hand, act or part in the selection process in relation to any of these.

Assignment Cost£ Report Date
1. Review of approach and testing of Department's software for Year 2000. 3,025 Jan. 1998
2. Establishing actuarial costs of pensions proposals 13,431 March 1998
3. Review of school meals scheme 10,527 April 1998
4. Research in connection with the working group on access by women to labour market opportunities. 4,000 April 1998
5. Research connected with the national pensions policy initiative 20,887 May 1998
6. Further review of testing of Department's software for Year 2000. 4,235 June 1998
7. Further research connected with the working group on access by women to labour market opportunities 18,000 June 1998
8. Training programme for departmental national anti-poverty strategy officers 4,000 July 1998
9. Review of the Scheme of community support for older people 12,535 end-1998
10. Research on impact of community development programme 16,012 end-1998
11. Review of the incentive effects of secondary benefits on people considering whether to remain in, or take up, employment 25,865 March 1999
12. Review and study of the back to work and BTW enterprise schemes 82,522 Early-2000
13. Preparation of guide to EU Social Security Law, EU Agreements and bilateral social security agreements between Ireland and other countries 58,000 June 2000

  211.  Mr. J. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    the number of the 14,000 farm families who were to benefit under the farm assist scheme who have applied as of the latest date; and his views on whether the scheme will have little impact in addressing problems of rural poverty and in supporting rural regeneration. [16647/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  The farm assist scheme was provided for in the Social Welfare Act, 1999 and is effective from 7 April 1999.

At present there are some 7,000 claims in payment with approximately a further 1,400 claims under investigation or awaiting decision.

The original estimate was that up to 14,000 farmers could benefit from farm assist. The build-up of claims has been slower than expected to date but is expected to pick up pace later in the year. The Department and the farming organisations have been publicising the scheme and will continue to do so.

Farm assist represents a long-term safety net for farmers and is not simply a once-off response to a difficult situation. The scheme represents a significant improvement on previous arrangements and will provide ongoing and effective income support to farm families on low incomes.

  212.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    the situation of local authority rents for those on the back to work scheme; if the rents should be frozen for each of the years of the scheme or the special area allowance scheme for area partnership areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16708/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  The back to work allowance, introduced in 1993, is designed to encourage the long-term unemployed to return to the active labour force. Some 28,000 persons currently avail of the scheme and are participating in employment or self-employment. A further 7,000 are participating on the back to work enterprise allowance, formerly known as the area allowance.

An important feature of both schemes is that the participants are allowed to retain secondary benefits for the duration of the schemes provided that the combined gross household income is less than £250 per week. This limit has applied since 1993 and the majority of participants retain entitlement for the duration of the schemes.

Differential rents is one of the secondary benefits which can be retained and local authorities were notified accordingly by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. The relevant circulars were issued by the Department of the Environment in July 1992 in relation to the area allowance and on March 1994 in relation to the back to work allowance.

  213.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    the entitlement to optical benefit of a person (details supplied) who claims her inquiry to his Department brought a negative response. [16712/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  The person concerned does not qualify for optical benefit. To qualify, she would have needed 26 weeks reckonable contributions paid or credited in either of the two tax years prior to reaching 66 years. She has no reckonable contributions paid or credited in either of those tax years.

[439] She does not qualify under the dependent spouses scheme based on her spouse's PRSI record as she is in receipt of an old age (contributory) pension and does not, therefore, satisfy the dependency condition of the scheme.

If she is the holder of a medical card she may be entitled to some assistance towards her optical costs under the scheme administered by the health boards on behalf of the Department of Health and Children. Inquiries in this regard should be made at her local health board centre.

  214.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    the annual cost of meeting the demand by groups representing parents with twins for double child benefit payments to be made on the same basis as payments currently made for triplets [16715/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  I have recently received a number of representations on behalf of an organisation called Irish Multiple Births Association who are seeking to have the same rate of child benefit paid in respect of twins as applies to children of multiple births involving three or more children.

The background to this issue is as follows. Prior to the introduction of the Social Welfare Act, 1998, child benefit was payable at double the normal rate for each child where three or more children were born together. In the case of twins, child benefit was paid at the normal rate but a grant of £500 was payable at the birth of twins and further grants of £500 were payable when the twins reached the ages of four and 12.

In fulfilment of pre-election commitments, I introduced two key additional measures in the Social Welfare Act, 1998. Firstly, the rate of child benefit payable in respect of twins was increased to 150 per cent of the normal child benefit rate. Secondly, the £500 grants, which previously were confined to families with twins, were extended to include also families with multiple births of three or more children. These measures took effect in September 1998. The estimated full-year cost of increasing the child benefit rate for twins was estimated to be £4.8 million. The cost of introducing double child benefit payments for twins would be of the same order of magnitude.

The 1999 budget provides for an additional investment in the child benefit scheme of more than £40 million bringing expenditure on the scheme to £475 million in a full year. From September 1999, the basic rates of child benefit will be increased by £3 in respect of the first two children and £4 in respect of the third and subsequent children, bringing the rates up to £34.50 and £46.00 per month respectively. These improvements will benefit all families with children, including, of course, families with twins.

The question of providing for any further enhancement of the arrangements for twins under the child benefit scheme is a matter for [440] consideration in a budgetary context, in the light of the resources available and of other competing priorities.

  216.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    the dates on which the annual social welfare increase was given in each of the past ten years; and the amount in each case. [16721/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  The details requested by the Deputy are set out in the following table.

Year Date ofIncrease General Increase in weekly Social Welfare Payments*
1989 Late July 3%
1990 Late July 5%
1991 Late July 4%
1992 Late July 4%
1993 Late July 3.5%
1994 Late July 3%
1995 Mid June 2.5%
1996 Mid June 3%
1997 Mid June £3**
1998 Beginning of June £3 (£5 for pensioners aged 66 and over)
1999 Beginning of June £3 (£6 for pensioners aged 66 and over)

*Increases shown are general increases which applied in the particular year. Special additional increases were provided for particular categories of claimants in different years.

**General increases were provided on a percentage basis up to 1996 and on a monetary basis since 1997.

  217.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs    if he will give details of the situation whereby children being looked after by grandparents and other persons where their mother or father has left or are unable to cope are being dealt with and supported in different ways leading to perceived unfair treatment; his views on the regulations; if he will bring standardisation of treatment for children whose guardians currently receive (a) no allowance except child benefit, (b) £13.20 of unemployment benefit, (c) £51.60 for orphan's allowance and (d) fostering allowance from health boards; if orphan's allowance will be given where the mother is missing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16723/99]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):  The range of child income supports provided under the social welfare system include child benefit, child dependant allowances, and the orphan's contributory allowance and orphan's (non-contributory) pension. In each case, provision exists for the award of these payments to the guardian of a child where the child's parents are not in a position to care for the child concerned.

[441] Child benefit is normally paid to the child's mother or stepmother. If the child does not live with the mother or step-mother, then child benefit may be paid to the child's father or step-father who is living with and supporting the child. If the child is not living with or being maintained by the parents, then child benefit may be paid to the person who is looking after the child.

A child dependant allowance is payable as an increase in the payment rate in respect of a child aged up to 18 who is living with a person who is receiving a social welfare payment. Where a person is receiving a long-term social welfare payment, the child dependant allowance is payable where the child is in full-time education up to the age of 22 years, or up to the end of the academic year after the twenty-second birthday.

The orphan's contributory allowance is payable in cases where both parents are dead or where one parent is dead, unknown, has abandoned or refused or failed to the provide for the child and the other parent is unknown or has abandoned or has refused or failed to the provide for the child and the relevant PRSI insurance contribution conditions are satisfied. The payment is normally paid to the guardian of the child concerned.

The orphan's (non-contributory) pension may be paid for a child who is not entitled to an orphan's (contributory) allowance. In this case, the payment is subject to a means test. Again, the payment is normally payable to the guardian of the child concerned.

The conditions governing entitlement to foster care allowances are a matter for the Department of Health and Children.

[442]

  218.  Mrs. T. Ahearn    asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands    the proposals, if any, she has to renovate Knockkelly castle, Fellard, County Tipperary, to make it amenable for tourists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16567/99]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera):  Knockkelly Castle, Knockkelly, County Tipperary is not in State ownership or guardianship and Dúchas, the heritage service of my Department, does not therefore have a statutory obligation to maintain or restore it. As the resources allocated to Dúchas are fully committed in maintaining those national monuments which are in State care, Dúchas is not in a position to carry out works to the castle.

I should mention that Knockkelly Castle is included in the Record of Monuments and Places for County Tipperary (South Riding) which was established pursuant to section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. As a consequence, the owner or occupier of the castle must give me two months notice of an intention to carry out any work at or in relation to the castle.

  219.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands    the companies or businesses from which her Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16421/99]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera):  The companies or businesses from which my Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, are set out below. A charge has been levied in the case of only one request, for which the sum of £40.17 was received.

Requester No. ofrequests Nature of information sought
The Sunday Times 15 Information relating to sick leave records, details of Ministers' travel, expenses and gifts received, the restoration of the Asgard, report on the Performing Arts Academy, future Teilifís na Gaeilge policy, National Gallery funding, FOI requests by Oireachtas members, RTE remuneration and redundancy, and broadcasting legislation.
Phoenix Magazine 8 Information relating to reports by the press advisor, the extension of film investment incentives, radio licensing and content, report on the Performing Arts Academy, insurance brokers used by my Department, files regarding Lismore Castle and National Gallery funding.
The Sunday Tribune 4 Information relating to Minister's travel, report on the Performing Arts Academy, and copies of Management Advisory Committee (MAC) minutes.
Amárach Consulting 4 Information relating to software tendering, market research, telecoms invoices and copies of MAC minutes.
RTE 3 Information relating to files held by the Secretary General, copies of some of those files and copies of MAC minutes.

  220.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by her Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16628/99]

[443]Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 349 of 30 June 1998 and 297 of 2 February 1999.

The relevant details in relation to additional consultancies are set out below.

[444] I have arranged that updated versions of the lists provided in replies to the questions referred to above, to take account of the latest information on completion dates and costs, will be forwarded to the Deputy within a few days.

Group/Study/Consultancy Estimated Cost Reportingdate Publication
Stg. £
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama – Study on scope and content of the proposed Academy for the Performing Arts 14,000 July 1999 In due course
Design of Corporate Identity for my Department 13,000 July 1999 Not applicable
To evaluate and make recommendations on the case made by Comhar Bigil Teoranta to provide a cable-car service between Inis Bigil and Achill at Bullsmouth competitive tender – publication notappropriate June 1999 Report for internal use
Research Project on Title to Land and Turbary Rights in some 30 Raised Bog SACs 250,000 ongoing to June 2000 Report for internal use
Study on the Economic Benefits of Heritage Investment 5,000 July 1999 Report for internal use
Task group on Policy for the Promotion of Public Awareness of Architecture No significant costs June 1999 Report for internal use
Task group on Policy for Historic Buildings in Public Authority Ownership No significant costs June 1999 Report for internal use
Task group for the Promotion of Architectural Quality in Publicly-funded Projects No significant costs June 1999 Report for internal use
Professional Accounting assistance in preparation of my Departments Appropriation Account 5,480 March 1999 Not applicable
Consultancy to assist project to establish Digital T.V. Competitive tender– publication notappropriate End 1999 Not applicable

  221.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the number of male parents who are impeded from contacting their children following a break up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16438/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The law already contains directions to the court on issues concerning the upbringing of a child where parents cannot agree on such matters.

Policy in the law as it stands in the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964 is that the court must, in deciding matters relating to the custody of and access to children, regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration. Subject to that important criterion, which is applicable in many other jurisdictions, the same Act empowers the court to give any direction it thinks proper in disputes concerning children and the court has powers to enforce any orders made.

The Children Act, 1997 inserted new provisions in the Act of 1964 to specify that the court has discretion whether or not to order joint custody. In the course of passage of the Bill, I strengthened its provisions in this area with a provision that the court, in making decisions in relation to children, must have regard to whether the child's best interests would be served by maintaining personal relations and direct contact with both his or her father and mother on a regular basis. That provision was inspired by a provision in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The court must also, under a provision inserted by the Act of 1997, consider the wishes of the child in suitable cases.

It is, of course, in the best interests of all concerned when parents can agree the arrangements in relation to the custody of and access to their children, rather than have the courts decide the matter. Of importance in this context is that the Act of 1997 places a new emphasis on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms involving counselling and mediation and obliges solicitors acting for the parties to bring the possibilities offered by such procedures to the attention of their clients. It is well recognised that, where couples are separating, counselling and mediation can offer lasting effects which may benefit themselves and their children. The Government has allocated substantial extra funding for the development of counselling and mediation services.

  222.  Mr. Farrelly    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he has received representations from an organisation (details supplied) which has asked for the inclusion of blind passengers in the disabled drivers' and passengers' car scheme; if so, the steps, if any, he has taken regarding the submissions made; and when a response will be made in this regard. [16271/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The public relations officer of the organisation to which the Deputy refers [445] forwarded to me a submission for the interdepartmental group established under the chairmanship of my Department for the purpose of advising what modifications, if any, might be proposed to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme administered by the Revenue Commissioners.

The submission has been forwarded to the interdepartmental group and is among the material submitted by private individuals and organisations which is assisting it in its work. It is envisaged that the group will furnish its report for consideration by the Minister for Finance prior to the autumn and I shall be in touch with the parties concerned at that time.

In addition to the representative from my Department who was appointed chairperson to the interdepartmental group, the group is comprised of a representative from the Department of Finance, the Department of Health and Children and the Revenue Commissioners.

  223.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons refused leave to land in each year since 1994 who (a) did not make an asylum application and immediately left the frontier of the State, (b) did not make an asylum application but remained in the State in other circumstances, (c) made an asylum application but immediately left the frontier of the State, (d) made an asylum application and remained in the State on that basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16346/99]

  224.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    a breakdown of the number of persons refused leave to land in each years since 1994 categorised in each year by nationality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16347/99]

  225.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    a breakdown of the number of persons refused leave to land in each year since 1994 categorised in each year by country or origin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16348/99]

  226.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    a breakdown of the number of persons refused leave to land in each year since 1994 categorised in each year by port, airport, other point of entry into the State or other place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16349/99]

  227.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    a breakdown of the number of persons granted leave to land in each year since 1994 categorised in each year by nationality, country of origin and if the person made an asylum application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16350/99]

[446]

  228.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons where leave to land was granted who sought the facility of an interpreter; the number of cases where this facility was afforded in each year since 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16351/99]

  229.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons where leave to land was refused who sought the facility of an interpreter; the number of cases where this facility was afforded in each year since 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16352/99]

  230.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons where leave to land was granted who sought the facility of a legal adviser; the number of cases where this facility was afforded in each year since 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16353/99]

  231.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of persons where leave to land was refused who sought the facility of a legal adviser; the number of cases where this facility was afforded in each year since 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16354/99]

  232.  Mr. Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of unaccompanied minors refused leave to land in each year since 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16355/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 to 232, inclusive, together.

The following tabular statement gives a breakdown of the numbers of persons refused leave to land in the State. In addition the following are the numbers of persons refused leave to land who applied for asylum:

1994 355
1995 70
1996 177
1997 264
1998 686

These persons were not returned to the place from which they embarked for the State pending consideration of their asylum application.

Statistics relating to the nationality of those refused are not readily available and will take some time to compile. I will arrange to have them forwarded to the Deputy as soon as they are available.

Statistics relating to the number of persons who sought the services of an interpreter and the services of a legal adviser, are not available.

[447] No unaccompanied minors were refused leave to land during the period of time specified.

Breakdown of persons refused leave to land in each year since 1994 categorised by port, airport etc.

1998 1997 1996 1995 1994*
Dún Laoghaire Port 349 304 0 0 0
Dublin Port (including Connolly Rail Station) 512 429
0 0 0
Dublin Airport 1,232 780 397 297 0
Cork Airport and Ringaskiddy Port 41 45 15 3 27
Dundalk Rail Station 37 139 0 0 0
Shannon Airport 22 30 18 33 17
Foynes Port 3 0 2 8 1
Rosslare Port 134 88 116 19 28
Farranfore Airport 0 2 0 0 0
Knock Airport 0 0 0 0 0
Sligo Regional Airport 0 0 0 0 0
Letterkenny Regional Airport 0 0 0 0 0
Waterford Port 97 31 12 37 15
Total 2,427 1,848 560 397 88

*Records for 1994 are incomplete.

  233.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if an application for naturalisation for a person (details supplied) has been granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16356/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was submitted to this Department in September 1997. Having considered the application under the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts, 1956 and 1986 I decided in March 1999 not to grant a certificate of naturalisation. The person referred to was informed in writing of this decision at that time. The person referred to was also informed that I would be prepared to reconsider his application in February 2000, and that officials in my Department would be in touch with him prior to that time to give him an opportunity to update his application. This is still the position.

  234.  Mrs. Owen    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if an application for naturalisation for a person (details supplied) has been granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16357/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to in January 1997. In January 1999, I considered this application and decided not to grant a certificate of naturalisation on the basis of the information submitted by the applicant at that time.

[448] The person concerned is at liberty to apply again setting out full details of his establishment, including his actual residency, in this State.

  235.  Mr. Dukes    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    when he will make a decision on an application for citizenship by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that his work permit is due to be renewed in September 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16409/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was submitted to this Department in February 1999.

The various procedures involved in processing an application for a certificate of naturalisation in respect of a person of full age, coupled with the high number of applications being received, are resulting in applications taking in excess of one year to complete. It is likely, therefore, to be next year before this case is completed.

As soon as full consideration has been given to the case, I will advise both the applicant and the Deputy of my decision.

  236.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16422/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  Out of a total of 623 requests for information under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act made to my Department since April 1998 to 31 May 1999, 42 were from businesses or companies. The highest number of requests made by any one company or business was five.

The information sought by the businesses or companies in question ranged from requests about the tendering process for projects undertaken by the Department to details of the work of the individual divisions of the Department.

My Department did not charge any of these companies for processing their requests.

[449]

  237.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    his views on the safety of refugees and asylum seekers seeking money from motorists at junctions particularly at the exit from the M50 at the Naas Road, Dublin, and at the Newlands Cross exit; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that truck drivers, in particular, are very anxious; the action, if any, he will take to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16441/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The matter referred to by the Deputy has been brought to the attention of the Garda authorities.

I understand that the problem of begging at traffic junctions in the Dublin metropolitan area is an ongoing one, mainly involving non-nationals. To deal with the problem, the Garda authorities in March 1999, appointed an inspector in each district to evaluate the problem, and to develop and implement an appropriate strategy on a district basis. The strategies now in place are reviewed on a monthly basis to assess their continued effectiveness, with amendments made as and when necessary.

With regard to enforcement, I am informed by the Garda authorities that in the period 1 January 1999 to 30 April 1999, a total of 79 prosecutions (all non-nationals) had been instituted and a further 46 cautions (all non-nationals) given to those involved in this activity.

I have been further assured by the Garda authorities that the current proactive approach taken by the gardaí to this problem will be continued.

  238.  Mr. Spring    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the residency status of a US national (details supplied) living in Tralee, County Kerry, to enable the Department of Education and Science to process his application for a higher education grant. [16442/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The person in question has residency in the State up to 31 December 1999 on the basis of his marriage to an Irish national. This permission is renewable on application to his local registration officer.

  239.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 349 of 15 June 1999, he will ensure that County Sligo is on the voluntary transfer which was lodged (details supplied) in view of the fact an incorrect county was recorded; if he will ensure that the corrections are recorded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16453/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  Further to my reply to Parliamentary Question 349 of 15 June 1999 in relation to this matter, I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that County Sligo is recorded on the voluntary deed of transfer which was completed on 12 May 1998.

[450]

  240.  Mr. Finucane    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if a folio number will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in view of the fact purchasers wish to draw up a new deed of trust. [16506/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this property cannot be fully identified on the basis of the information supplied.

If the Deputy could let me have the names of the parties involved, and a copy map of the land in question, together with an up to date Land Commission reference number and any other relevant information he may have at his disposal, I will be in a position to make further inquiries in the matter.

  241.  Mr. Higgins (Mayo)    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the number of cells in the new remand prison in Cloverhill which will have single, two and three occupants; and the size of the cells in each case. [16545/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The main custodial complex for remand prisoners, including prisoners returned for trial, contains 68 single cells and 108 triple cells.

In addition, there is an assessment unit for convicted offenders, which has ten single cells and 12 triple cells. There is also a separate building, within the complex, which houses sentenced trustee prisoners in 13 double cells.

The single cells are eight square metres and the double and triple cells are 10.4 square metres. Triple cells in the assessment unit are 11.18 square metres.

  242.  Mr. McGuinness    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the progress, if any, made in relation to a visa application for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16556/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has now approved a visitor visa in this case.

  243.  Mr. Currie    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the context in which his Department recently inserted advertisements in the national press asking for representations on proposed changes in gambling legislation; the assurance, if any, he will give that no change is contemplated in legislation which will allow the establishment of casinos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16566/99]

[451]Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  On foot of a commitment contained in my Department's strategy statement for the years 1998 to 2000, I have recently established an interdepartmental group to undertake a review the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act.

The advertisements to which the Deputy refers were placed in order to facilitate members of the public and interested parties who may wish to contribute to the process. There are no specific proposals for legislative change in this area at present in my Department. Any such proposals which may emerge from the review process will be brought forward for debate in the normal manner.

The terms of reference of the review group are to review the regulatory environment within which gaming and lottery activities are carried out with particular reference to the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act, any other relevant or proposed Irish legislation, and international developments in the gaming and lotteries area; to identify the [452] issues arising from such a review and to make recommendations designed to address these issues in the context of securing a modern regulatory environment while fulfilling necessary social policy objectives; and to furnish a report on the above for consideration by the Minister and by Government by the end of 1999.

  244.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16629/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tabular statement:

Consultancy/Work Group/Study/Analysis/Report commissioned by this Departmentsince June 1997 Date completed/estimatedcompletion date Cost Published
Financial Systems Evaluation – Land Registry Price Waterhouse Coopers 4 May 1999 £12,700 No report will be published
Actuarial Exercise – Land Registry – Mercer Limited 31 July 1999 £9,630 No report will be published
Matters referred to Law Reform Commission:
–Exemplary damages
–limitation periods in professional negligence cases
–inclusion of pension or insurance payments in assessing damages
–limitation periods in child abuse cases (other than sexual abuse)
in due course in context of work programme of the Law Reform Commission Not available For publication by Law Reform Commission when available
National Crime Forum December 1998 £184,661.69 (paid to date) 7 December 1998
Report to Government of the inderdepartmental committee on immigration, asylum and related issues February 1998 Not available Not published
Review group on investment based naturalisation August 1999 Not available To be published
PR company hired to produce an awareness raising campaign on violence against women issues 8 March 1999 £27,000 No report published
Expert group appointed to consider changes in the Criminal Law which were recommended in the Garda SMI Report Early 1998 £3,851.47 November 1998
Supply of IT consultancy services and systems for Department
Price Waterhouse Coopers (head of consortium of various companies)
A number of projects as specified in the Invitation to Tender. It is expected that the programme will take three years approximately £4,300,000 Not applicable
Analysis of requirements and development of computer systems for the Courts Service
Ernst and Young (head of consortium of various companies)
A number of projects as specified in the Invitation to Tender. It is expected that the programme will take three years approximately £4,600,000 Not applicable
Supply of IT consultancy services and systems for prisons and places of detention A number of projects as specified in the Invitation to Tender. It is expected that the programme will take three years approximately £5,500,000 Not applicable
Prison officer job analysis report Completed April 1998 £26,675 plus VAT and expenses Not applicable
[453] Consultancy/Work Group/Study/Analysis/Report commissioned by this Departmentsince June 1997 Date completed/estimatedcompletion date Cost Published
Assistant deputy governor job analysis report Completed December 1998 £4,725 plus VAT Not applicable
Assistant governor promotion process design Completed January 1999 £13,325 plus VAT Not applicable
Assistant chief officer job analysis report Completed February 1999 £12,275 plus VAT Not applicable
Expert group on the probation and welfare service First report August 1998 Printing cost of report £2,508 November 1998
Expert group on the probation and welfare service Second report shortly Not available Shortly
National steering group on deaths in prison – June 1999 The group was originally established in 1996. They published a report in May 1999. The Minister has invited the group to continue to meet on a quarterly basis No costs Not decided
Expert group to review the psychology service – December 1998 June 1999 Not available Shortly
PR for disability awareness week 7 to 17 May 1999 17 May 1999 £17,545 Not applicable
KPMG Management Consulting – matters relating to the establishment of the National Disability Authority 21 January 1999 £22,316.02 Not applicable
Fitzpatrick Associates – costing of report of commission on status of people with disabilities Autumn 1999 £76,230 Not applicable
Goodbody Economic Consultants – input to interdepartmental committee on implementation of report on status of people with disabilities December 1998 £13,007.50 Not applicable
Deloitte & Touche – report on operation of Irish Council of People with Disabilities December 1998 £11,188.87 December 1998
Deloitte & Touche, contracted to develop a financial management framework for the Garda Síochána contract commenced October 1998 Contract completed December 1998 £94,200 Report not published
Saville and Holdsworth, contracted to develop a human resource management function for the Garda Síochána contract commenced 1 June 1999 Estimated completion date is 31 August 1999 £95,935 Report will not be published
Evaluation of the Garda Síochána's proposal for a replacement garda radio network September 1998 Sterling £13,300 No
Staffing and operational review team consultants – prisons Mid 2000 £30,200 Mid July 2000
Ross Anderson, University of Limerick. Gym equipment tender analysis August 1998 £2,510 Part 1 – May 1998
Part 2 – August
1998
Organisation review commissioned by the Employment Equality Agency September 1998 £18,364 Not applicable
Evaluation and preparation of a report on a survey on equal opportunities in the semi-State sector July 1999 £5,500 (estimate) To be published
Interdepartmental working group on the integration of refugees July 1999 Nil To be decided
Working group on a courts commission – a working paper on information and the courts November 1997 It is not possible to provide an overall cost of the work carried out by the working group Early 1998
Appointed by Deputy Nora Owen when Minister for Justice
Working group on a courts commission – fifth report – drug courts February 1998 It is not possible to provide an overall cost of the work carried out by the working group September 1998
Appointed by Deputy Nora Owen when Minister for Justice
Working group on a courts commission – sixth report – conclusion November 1998 It is not possible to provide an overall cost of the work carried out by the working group April 1999
Appointed by Deputy Nora Owen when Minister for Justice
[454][455] Consultancy/Work Group/Study/Analysis/Report commissioned by this Departmentsince June 1997 Date completed/estimatedcompletion date Cost Published
Steering committee on the introduction of video recording of evidence of children Late 1999 Not available yet End 1999
Survey of telephone systems in courthouses to assess effect of the year 2000 problem on the systems 14 June 1999 £8,700 Report will not be published
National consultative committee on racism and interculturalism (established in July 1998) No time-scale fixed for completion of the committee's work 1999 allocation £90,000 Not applicable
Monitoring committee on the report of the task force on the travelling community (established in June 1998) It is understood that the monitoring committee will produce its report in late 1999 Expenditure estimated at £5,000 will arise in relation to the work of the committee Report is in course of preparation
Traveller communication committee (established in December 1998) May 2002 1999 allocation £300,000 Not applicable
Committee to monitor the 3% quota for employment of people with disabilities in the public sector (established in March 1999). During the lifetime of partnership 2000 Nil Not applicable
To facilitate the prisons building and refurbishment programme. Consulting architects, consulting engineers and other specialists are engaged ongoing basis £2,028,615.03 For internal use – not intended to formally publish
Juvenile justice review group Autumn 1999 Not applicable Not applicable
Review of waste management procedures in the prisons service September 1998 £3,830 For internal use – not intended to formally publish
Review of the Office of the Film Censor December 1998 (completed) £6,600 No
Review of the Office of Charitable Donations and Requests June 1998 (completed) £14,037 No
Strategy statement design and production July 1998 (completed) £13,988 Not applicable
HRM in courts and prisons ongoing £39,942 No
Flowcharting – key work processes for the courts ongoing £6,546 No
Provision as part of Department's website, of internet links to externally generated information relevant to the Department's mandate April 1999 (completed) £10,708 No
Comparative study on refugee laws Summer 1999 (ongoing) £40,000 Not applicable
Study to determine the level of HIV/Hepatitis infection among prisoners 199 (ongoing) £48,000 Not applicable
Evaluation of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act, 1983 1999 (ongoing) £26,000 Not applicable
Preparatory work related to draft EU Convention on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations November 1998 (completed) £10,000 No
Study on Male to Female wage differentials 1999 (ongoing) £56,000 Not applicable
General healthcare study of prisoner population 2000 (ongoing) £144,000 Not applicable
Review of Coroner legislation September 1999 (ongoing) £17,000 Not applicable
Study of North and South attitudes to treatment of offenders in the community December 1998 (completed) £6,000 No
Evaluation of Garda special projects – youth diversion in areas of social disadvantage Summer 1999 (ongoing) £40,000 Not applicable
Review of pensions legislation in the context of separation agreements 1999 (ongoing) £38,000 Not applicable
Examination of reporting of sexual offences June 2000 (ongoing) £30,000 Not applicable
Development of equality proofing arangements 1999 (ongoing) £20,000 Not applicable
Learning disabilities among prisoners 1999 (ongoing) £70,000 Not applicable
Research into children appearing before the Children's Court April 1999 (completed) £19,965 No
Review of Garda CCTV systems 1999 (ongoing) £12,500 Not applicable
Expert working group on childcare: report of the Partnership 2000 expert working group on childcare December 1998 £36,101 3 February 1999
Expert working group on childcare: study on the economics of childcare in Ireland December 1998 £72,600 To be published in July 1999
Expert working group on childcare: study regarding identification of the job profile and training needs of the childcare sector. March 1998 £1,265 No plans to publish
Expert working group on childcare: Study on guidelines for minimum standards for registration of childcare facilities March 1998 £1,500 No plans to publish
[456][457] Consultancy/Work Group/Study/Analysis/Report commissioned by this Departmentsince June 1997 Date completed/estimatedcompletion date Cost Published
Expert working group on childcare: study on consultation with children and parents on childcare February 1998 £2,206 No plans to publish
Expert working group on childcare: study on family daycare provision (childminding – an overview) July 1998 £7,235 No plans to publish

  245.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the proposals, if any, he has to allocate additional gardaí to the Waterford and Kilkenny division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16740/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The detailed deployment of Garda personnel and resources to individual areas is a matter for the Garda authorities who have advised me that the personnel strength of the Waterford-Kilkenny division over the past number of years is as outlined as follows:

Date Strength – All Ranks
31/12/1996 297
31/12/1997 307
31/12/1998 322
01/06/1999 326

The Garda authorities have also informed me that the situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available, the needs of the Waterford-Kilkenny division will be fully considered in the overall context of the needs of other Garda divisions throughout the country.

  246.  Mr. Dennehy    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    if he will make it compulsory for arrested suspects to provide a DNA sample where serious crime is being investigated. [16748/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 37 of 15 June 1999 concerning the establishment of a national DNA data bank. The law on the taking of forensic samples is under review in the context of the preparation of the Criminal Justice (Garda SMI) Bill currently being prepared by my Department.

[458]

  247.  Mr. Higgins (Mayo)    asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform    the reason it has taken seven weeks to conduct an investigation into the listing of a District Court case at Castlerea, County Roscommon; and when the report will be completed and brought before Dáil Éireann. [16777/99]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue):  The Deputy will be aware that, on 5 May 1999, I initiated inquiries in relation to the listing of a court case which was heard in Castlerea District Court on 15 January this year.

I have made inquiries of the Garda authorities and I am informed that the Garda investigation in this matter is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed within the next week. I understand that the other inquiries in relation to this matter will be completed shortly.

It remains my intention to report back to the House on this matter as soon as I am in a position to do so.

  248.  Mr. Naughten    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    the position on the upgrading of Roscommon town swimming pool; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16369/99]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid):  Contract documents for the refurbishment of Roscommon swimming pool were approved last March. It is now open to Roscommon County Council to seek tenders for the work proposed and to submit a copy of the recommended tender to my Department for approval in due course. My Department will be writing to the county council shortly to confirm the position.

  249.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    the grants, if any, allocated by his Department to individual golfers in 1998; the name of the recipients; the amount allocated to each individual; when the allocations were made; if any professional golfers were included; the criteria used in allocating the grants; the way in which these grants were administered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16372/99]

[459]

  250.  Ms Shortall    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    the plans, if any, he has to allocate grants to individual golfers in 1999; the procedures for applying for these grants; the criteria for the allocation of grants; the way in which the allocations will be administered; when he will allocate the grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16373/99]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 250 together.

The allocation of funding to individual golfers and teams is a matter for the national governing bodies concerned namely, the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golf Union, to whom funding is provided in respect of international golf competition and training on the basis of recommendations from the Irish Sports Council.

[460]

  251.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16423/99]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid):  The position in so far as my Department is concerned is as follows:

To date a total of 75 requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been made. The companies or businesses from whom the most frequent requests have been received and the nature of these requests is set out in tabular form.

Company Nature of Information
The Irish Times Request for access to correspondence between Murphy Inquiry into sexual abuse of swimmers and the Department.
Request for access to correspondence between Dept. IASA, FINA concerning doping allegations against a named athlete.
Records pertaining to the inquiry into sexual abuse in Irish Swimming.
Records relating to the business relationship between the Dept. of T/S/R, Societe Tour de France & L'Evenement.
Records relating to FINA allegations against a named athlete.
Records relating to funding for the Irish Youth Olympic team and the 1998 trip to Moscow.
A county by county breakdown on the successful applicants for the 1998 capital grants for recreation facilities.
Sunday Times All files and correspondence relating to the Murphy Swimming Inquiry Report.
Details of expenses met by the Dept. on behalf of the Minister during the period 21 April 98-30 June 98 including details of travel, cash photography services, official entertainment, gifts, mobile phone costs and consultancy.
Records relating to the creation of cross-Border bodies and increased North-South co-operation as proposed in the Good Friday Agreement.
Copies of all FOI requests made by members of the Oireachtas and political parties since the introduction of the Act to include employees such as researchers and press officers.
Details of any Christmas presents other than official gifts and corporate entertainment received by the Minister and Minister of State in December 1998.
Details of all hotels used by Minister and Minister of State on trips outside Ireland since April, 1998.
Policywatch Minutes of MAC meetings.
All information and documentation concerning the tendering for a National Conference Centre. All of the documentation in the Department's possession was of interest to the requestor – i.e. including all submitted tender, documentation, all appraisals of these, any summaries of the appraisals sent to tendering organisations, and any internal communication concerning the project.
Copies of all invoices received and paid from any of the following companies: BT, Global One, TCL, Concert, Cable & Wireless, Indigo, Teis Concert, Ireland on Line, Telecom Eireann, Esat Net, PostGem, Telecom Internet, Esat Telecom, EUNet, Stenor, WorldCom.
Amárach Records relating to public opinion polling staff surveys, focus groups or interviews by external companies

  252.  Mr. C. Lenihan    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    the support, if any, he has given or will give to kick-boxing. [16444/99]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid):  The present Irish Sports Council has been working with the martial arts sporting organisations, with the objective of achieving an appropriate structure for the future development of martial arts in Ireland. The National Coaching and Training Centre is facilitating the process through a joint planning group representative of the Irish Martial Arts Commission to which kick-boxing is affiliated, the Irish Taekwondo Union and the Official National Amateur Karate Association of Ireland.

It is expected that, on successful completion of this process, the martial arts organisations will be [461] in a position to prepare and submit a joint proposal to the incoming statutory based Irish Sports Council due to be established on Thursday next, 1 July, seeking formal recognition for funding purposes within the context of the requirements for such recognition. Under the recently enacted Irish Sports Council legislation, responsibility for such matters comes within the council's statutory remit, including consideration of any application emerging from the process currently under way with the martial arts organisations.

  253.  Mr. O'Shea    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    his response to a letter from a person (details supplied) in County Waterford regarding grants towards sports capital programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16553/99]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid):  A reply to the letter from the person in question was issued by my Department on [462] 4 March 1999. The grant in question was allocated in the 1998 budget and the terms and conditions applied to the payment of the grant were those of the sport capital programme then in place which have been replaced by new guidelines and conditions, referred to in the writer's letter, which apply to the new sports capital programme under which the 1999 allocations will be made.

  254.  Mr. Allen    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    each consultancy, work group, study, analysis and report commissioned by his Department since the Government was appointed; the date each was completed or will be completed; the cost of each in this regard; and if each report has or will be published. [16630/99]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid):  The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the tabular statement below:

Consultancies

Consultant Purpose ofEngagement CompletionDate Report Details/Publication Date Cost. All payments to consultants are liable for withholding tax at the current rate of 24%
Mr. Bart Cronin Press and Information Officer Contract renewable on an annual basis (since August '97) Not applicable £26,252 per annum
Mr. Pádraig Ó hUiginn Policy Adviser for Minister Contract renewable on an annual basis (since 8 September 1997) Not applicable £1,000 per annum
Slattery Public Relations Ltd. (A contract with Slattery Public Relations Limited was originally entered into by the former Minister of State, Bernard Allen. The current contract was entered into on 2 September 1998 following a tendering procedure in line with Government Procurement Guidelines.) Provision of a public relations and media service to the Minister, Minister of State, the Department, and the Irish Sports Council 1 September, 1999 Not applicable Fees of £3,500 per month (excl. of VAT) and expenses of up to a max. of £120 per month
Kit Campbell Associates Specialist Advice for the assessment and selection phase of the tender procedure for development of 50 metre swimming pool June-July 1999 (dependent on finalisation of court proceedings) Consultant's report will be submitted to the project team which is overseeing the tender procedure. Maximum of £52,474 in fees, plus expenses up to max. of £4,947 (both excl. VAT), dependent on the actual no. of tenders assessed
Farrell Grant Sparks Mid-Term and ongoing evaluation of the URBAN Operational Programme 1996-1999 31 December 1999 Mid-Term Evaluation Reports to the Monitoring Committee. Not for Publication. £87,812 plus VAT
[463] Consultant Purpose ofEngagement CompletionDate Report Details/Publication Date Cost. All payments to consultants are liable for withholding tax at the current rate of 24%
Goodbody Economic Consultants Spring 1998 Review of Sub-Programme 2 (as a follow-up to the 1997 Mid-Term Review) May 1998 Review of Sub-Programme 2 of the LURD Operational Programme. Not for Publication £41,700 plus VAT
PA Consulting Services Limited Examination of current grant payment procedures within the Department for National Governing Bodies of Sport 15 January 1999 Internal report made to the Department on 11 March 1999 outlining recommendations for consideration. Not for publication £4,500 plus VAT
PA Consulting Services Limited Facilitate and assist with the development of a strategic planning process in the Department 1 February, 1998 Not applicable £24,034
PA Consulting Services Limited An evaluation of the processes and structures associated with the Government's Drugs Initiative (i.e. the Local Drugs Task Forces and the National Drugs Strategy Team) 21 October, 1998 While it is not proposed to publish the report submitted to the Department, copies are available and have already been circulated to the Local Drugs Task Forces, the National Drugs Strategy Team and relevant statutory agencies £40,660 (inc. VAT)

Other Groups

Group/Committee Purpose ofEngagement CompletionDate Report Details/Publication Date Cost.
ADM Ltd. ADM oversaw a needs analysis of four targeted areas of urban disadvantage, with a view to improving the overall quality of life of residents of the four communities as a model of best practice September, 1998 The findings were presented to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion in September 1998, who decided to implement the integrated services process on a pilot basis in the four areas analysed £75,000
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in Swimming To advise the Government on matters relating to Child Sexual Abuse in swiming June, 1998 Dr. Roderick Murphy, SC, presented his Report to the Minister on 27 May 1998 and it was made public by the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Tourism, Sport and Recreation on 17 June £50,706 (Relates to all costs other than legal costs which were dealt with in the Vote for the Attorney General's Office.)
Expert Committee on Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children's Sport in Ireland Reconvened to review the contents of the Code in the light of the Murphy Report Mid 1999 The Committee is awaiting the preparation of the new guidelines by the Department of Health and Children on handling child abuse cases before completing its report; which will then be published Still ongoing
[464][465] Group/Committee Purpose ofEngagement CompletionDate Report Details/Publication Date Cost.
Review Group – Sports Capital Programme. This Inter-Departmental Committee was chaired by the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. Its members included the Department of Finance; the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands; the Department of the Environment and Local Government; the Department of Education and Science; the City and County Managers Association; Dublin Corporation and the Irish Sports Council The Inter-Departmental Group undertook a review of the Sports Capital Programme as operated by the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation Early December 1998 The Review Group's report was presented to the Minister in early December, 1998; and has been subsequently made available to the Members of the Dáil Select Committee on Tourism, Sport and Recreation and other interested parties

  255.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    if his Department has received an application for capital funding for the erection of a community centre by a community organisation (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if this application will be considered favourably and a significant capital sum granted in view of the significantly increasing young population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16632/99]

  256.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    if an application received by his Department for a grant under the new capital sports and leisure programme from a community organisation (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be favourably considered; when an announcement will be made informing successful applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16720/99]

  257.  Mr. D. Carey    asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation    when a decision will be made regarding the grant aid for sports facilities projects at Leris Road, Drumcliffe, Ennis, County Clare; and the percentage grant aid allocated for capital grants. [16739/99]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 255, 256 and 257 together.

Applications for financial assistance under the sports capital programme have been received from the organisations in question. These are three of almost 1,900 applications received and will be considered when the grant allocations for 1999 are being made in accordance with the criteria for awarding such grants [466] as set out in the terms and conditions of the new programme.

Given the large number of applications received and the level of work involved in evaluating them, I have not been in a position to make final announcements on the 1999 round of grant allocations before now. However, I hope to do so in the near future.

  258.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the timescale and funding allocated to the refurbishment programme at Coláiste Mhuire, Cearnóg Pharnell, Baile Átha Cliath 1; and when this work will commence. [16263/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  My Department has approved in principle the refurbishment of both the primary and post-primary school buildings at Coláiste Mhuire, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. To initiate architectural design an advertisement was placed in the Official Journal of the European Community and in the national newspapers, inviting applications from appropriate disciplines for the formation of a design team for the project. Applications have just been received and are currently being evaluated in the planning and building unit of my Department. When the design team is appointed, a timescale for the architectural design of the project will be agreed. The estimated cost of the project will be identified during the design process. The question of funding will be addressed when the design process has been successfully completed.

[467]

  259.  Mr. Stanton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if his attention has been drawn to changes made to the format of the 1999 higher level leaving certificate geography paper; if his attention has further been drawn to concern expressed by parents, students and teachers on the issue; his views on whether the change in format and the change in marking scheme is unfair to students; the reason the format was changed; the action, if any, he will take as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16322/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  As the Deputy is aware, the content of leaving certificate and junior certificate examination papers has been the subject of much comment and analysis in the media in recent years. It is important that we view all such comment in a balanced way, having due regard for the need for validity, reliability and the maintenance of appropriate standards in our examination system.

As outlined in “Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 1998/1999”, “at senior level it is recommended that geography should be taught from motives which include, but which go beyond, the narrow and traditional objectives of imparting geographical knowledge and the training of students in the recall of facts”.

The syllabus goes on to note that “the student should be taught to acquire facility in the use of the Geographer's mode of inquiry and skills, namely the reading and interpretation of aerial photographs, maps, pictures, tables and graphs and other written sources of materials as well as an involvement in the field work process of observation and recording. Thus, while imparting a body of knowledge that is useful and meaningful to the student, the Geography teacher must also be aware of his/her role in developing the students appreciation of abstract concepts and in gaining the facility in such matters as comprehension, analysis, synthesis and the application of information”.

Applying the above criteria, the examination paper in geography (higher level) for 1999 falls within the given parameters of the stated aims and teaching objectives of the programme. It is also noteworthy that all topics on the examination paper have been examined on previous occasions, while many topics have been asked on numerous occasions.

A number of calls were received from parents, students and teachers in relation to the paper in question. Concerns were expressed that the compulsory question 1 had been reduced from a three-part to a two-part question. There was also comment that, in the regional geography section, which contained four questions, of which candi[468] dates had to answer one, the candidates were asked to divide a country into regions using one of five given countries as an example rather than allowing them to choose one country themselves from among the fourteen countries stated in the syllabus. Callers were asked to put their complaints in writing and were told that all points made would be given full attention in the finalisation of the marking scheme at the examination conference.

As the Deputy will be aware a full analysis of the examination paper is carried out by the team of markers at the examination conference with a view to finalising a marking scheme appropriate to the paper. Due allowance is made in the marking of scripts where any shortcomings in a particular paper or in a particular question are identified through this process.

Apart from ensuring that this process takes place, the Deputy will, I hope, agree that it would be entirely inappropriate for me, as Minister, to intervene directly in the marking of scripts.

  260.  Mr. Belton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if he will arrange sufficient transport for students to Moyne community school from the Ballinalee area in view of the anxiety among parents of students in that area. [16359/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  For the purposes of the post-primary education scheme, the country has been divided into catchment areas, each of which has its own post-primary centre. Recognised post-primary pupils who live at least three miles from the post-primary centre of the catchment area in which they reside, are eligible for transport to that centre.

Under the scheme, eligible pupils who wish to attend a post-primary centre other than their appropriate one may be allowed transport from within the catchment boundary of the centre attended, subject to spare accommodation being available on the service and provided that no additional State cost is incurred.

The pupils from the Ballinalee area are not attending their nearest post-primary school and therefore they qualify only for catchment boundary transport to Moyne community school subject to availability of spare accommodation on the bus. Unfortunately there is no spare capacity on this service at present.

In the circumstances, I regret that it is not open to my Department to provide additional seating to facilitate these catchment boundary pupils.

[469]

  261.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education and Science    his policy on the provision of capital to provide temporary accommodation for primary schools which do not have space to facilitate a remedial teacher. [16361/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  Temporary accommodation is generally provided to cater for a short-term increase in enrolments which will not be sustained in the long-term or for an unforeseen and urgent accommodation need where it is not feasible to provide a permanent building at short notice.

In the case of a primary school seeking additional space to cater for a remedial teacher, the specific circumstances of the school would be assessed by the planning and building unit of my Department before a decision is taken on the type of accommodation to be provided.

  262.  Mr. J. Bruton    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if he will provide a progress report on the proposal to reopen Johnstown national school, County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16362/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  I am aware that the Johnstown area of Navan, County Meath is experiencing a population growth due to significant housing developments.

A review of the primary school accommodation requirements in the general Navan area is currently being carried out by the planning section of my Department in conjunction with a recent report in the matter by the local inspector.

I have asked that the review be completed as speedily as possible, following which a decision will be made as to the need and, if so, the extent of additional school facilities required in the Navan area, including Johnstown.

  263.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the previous nine years training experience in FÁS workshops has been credited to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 for incremental purposes to meet the criteria as an eligible part-time teacher. [16363/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  My Department has been advised by the vocational education committee in which the teacher is currently employed that an application for the award of incremental credit has not been received from the teacher.

[470] Under current regulations, there is not any provision to award incremental credit in respect of previous non-teaching experience to a teacher employed in an EPT capacity in the vocational sector.

A sub-committee of the conciliation council for teachers is currently reviewing the incremental credit scheme and the matter of the award of incremental credit for previous non-teaching experience to EPT teachers is one of the issues being considered.

  264.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the overall cost of the proposed underground car park for his Department at Marlborough Street, Dublin 1; and if this is a priority for him in view of the many demands on capital expenditure in his Department. [16364/99]

  284.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if double glazed windows and air conditioning will be provided in Scoil Chaoimhín, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1, in view of the current ongoing construction work and the proposed building of an underground car park immediately adjacent to the school resulting in air and noise pollution. [16558/99]

  285.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if the facade of Scoil Chaoimhín school building will be renewed in view of the fact it is the only remaining building in the Department's complex at Marlborough Street, Dublin 1, which is in need of renewal and continues to the adversely affected by ongoing building work in the complex. [16559/99]

  286.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education and Science    his response to the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding Scoil Chaoimhín, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. [16560/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 264, 284, 285 and 286 together.

These questions relate to the development of the Marlborough Street site at the Department of Education and Science. In my written reply to Question No. 104 on Thursday, 24 June, 1999 to Deputy Gregory, I gave details of the work involved in the development, and the duration of the contract.

In relation to the specific issues now raised, the position is that my Department has informed the board of management of Scoil Chaoimhín that in the event of an unacceptable level of air or noise pollution arising from the construction works, [471] double glazing windows and/or air conditioning will be provided.

Similarly the board of management has been informed that it is the intention of my Department to renew the facade of Scoil Chaoimhín when the proposed building project on the site is completed.

As regards the provision of car parking facilities, which is an integral part of the overall development, I am informed by the Office of Public Works that the closing date for the receipt of tenders is 30 June 1999, and that in these circumstances release of the estimated cost of the car park element of the project would be prejudicial to the tender competition. As pointed out in my earlier reply, all elements of the project are being financed in full by the Office of Public Works. Consequently the funding does not impact on the resources available to me for capital works in my Department.

The Deputy will agree that the officials in my Department should no longer be required to work in sub-standard accommodation. Prior to my coming to office in June 1997 there was provision of £98 million for capital projects in the education sector whereas in the current year the allocation is £240 million.

I am aware of the concerns expressed by the parents' committee of Scoil Chaoimhín in relation to the development and its impact on the school. My Department was represented at both recent meetings of the board of management. I accept that there will be inconvenience during the construction phase not only for Scoil Chaoimhín but also for the Department's staff and visitors to the Department. This is unavoidable, but the working group being set up consisting of the parents, board of management and the Office of Public Works should go a long way towards minimising any problems arising.

Concern has been expressed by the parents at the lack of consultation with them. Communication with parents of pupils in the school is a matter in the first instance for the board of management. In this context, an official of my Department met with the board of management in the school over two years ago when they were given a general outline of the proposed development. Furthermore there was correspondence with the board of management in June 1997 regarding issues of concern to the school. In these circumstances it is difficult to understand why the parents were not aware of the proposed development.

The physical planning of the project was carried out by a design team under the aegis of the Office of Public Works. In this regard, the Department, as tenants on the site, had no input into the design approach. This was entirely a mat[472] ter for the design architect and the Office of Public Works having regard to the constraints of the site including the presence of a number of listed buildings whose integrity had to be preserved in the design plan.

I want to allay any fears parents or teachers may have in relation to the continued existence of Scoil Chaoimhín. This is not an issue in the proposed development. In fact, my Department has invited the board of management to submit details of any other improvement works which are considered necessary within the school. I am satisfied that on completion of the proposed project there will be a significant improvement in the environment for the children of Scoil Chaoimhín.

  265.  Ms Coughlan    asked the Minister for Education and Science    when recognition will be given by his Department to Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistir, Donegal town. [16381/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  An application to establish Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistir, Donegal town, has been received in my Department. Examination of this application is nearing completion at present and I expect a decision to be made in the matter in the near future.

  266.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if his attention has been drawn to the necessary work to be carried out at Kilmactranny national school, County Sligo; when a decision will be made on its capital improvement works grant; the amount of money to be allocated to enable it to carry out the vital work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16382/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  My Department is currently assessing an application received from Kilmactranny national school, County Sligo for improvement works and a decision on the matter will be taken shortly.

At this stage it is not possible to give details of the moneys which will be allotted to the project as to do so could compromise the tendering process.

[473]

  267.  Mr. Perry    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason school transport was withdrawn on 15, 16 and 17 February and 4 May 1999 from Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal, Curry, County Sligo, in view of the fact that these children had been guaranteed free transport from the outlying amalgamated areas; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the school was not open on 21 and 22 December 1998 and 22 and 23 June 1999; if he will guarantee that this will never happen again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16383/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  To achieve maximum co-ordination of school transport services in relation to opening and closing of primary and post-primary schools, a calendar of school days is drawn up each year by the transport liaison officer in consultation with the schools involved.

Where schools fail to agree a calendar, the transport liaison officer has instruction to draw up a calendar for the area which ensures that there is no duplication of service. All schools are given the opportunity to submit a calendar for the year before timetables are decided. The fact that a service did not operate to Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal on the dates mentioned by the Deputy was in line with the operation of a co-ordinated calendar which was drawn up earlier in the year.

To sanction transport services for days outside the co-ordinated calendar would undermine the co-ordination process and would also involve significant extra costs which would not be justified. In the circumstances I cannot give the guarantee being sought by the Deputy.

  268.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if provision will be made for the special tuition needs of a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16403/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers.

The case made by the school for special assistance for the pupil in question is currently being examined by my Department's inspectorate with a view to determining the precise supports required. The school will be advised of the outcome as soon as the inspectorate's examination is completed.

  269.  Mr. Ferris    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the reason the primary school in Bansha, County Tipperary, was omitted from his list of remedial teachers recently announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16404/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  Bansha national school is included among the schools to which the remedial teacher service is being extended from September next.

My Department wrote to the school on 15 June, 1999 setting out details of the arrangements [474] relating to its inclusion in the service. I understand the school has since confirmed receipt of this notification.

  270.  Ms M. McGennis    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the companies or businesses from which his Department has received most frequent requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, other than requests by businesses for personal information; the general nature of the information sought; and the costs levied on the companies or businesses for the processing of these requests. [16424/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  The following is the information requested by the Deputy.

The Sunday Times has submitted 21 requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997. One request attracted a levy of £237.

The Construction Industry Federation has submitted five requests. No charge was levied.

Mark Henry (for Policywatch and Amárach) and RTE have both submitted four requests. Again a charge was not levied.

  271.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if he has received a request from St. Brigid's boys national school, Foxrock, Dublin 18, and St. Brigid's girls national school, Cabinteely, for the provision of a resource teacher; if so, the consideration, if any, he has given to this request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16426/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  My Department has received an application for a resource teacher post from the schools in question.

The case put forward by the schools is currently being considered by my Department's inspectorate. The schools will be advised of the outcome as soon as possible.

  272.  Mr. Gilmore    asked the Minister for Education and Science    if he has received a submission for increased levels of capitation grant from Froebel College of Education, Blackrock, County Dublin; if so, the consideration, if any, he has given to the request; if he will increase the capitation grant for the college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16427/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  The matter of the level of my Depart[475] ment's funding in respect of students on full-time primary teacher training courses in the Froebel College of Education has been the subject of recent discussions between the college authorities and my Department. The college has sought an increase in the rate of annual grant, and this is currently being processed.

  273.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for Education and Science    the amount provided for the carrying out of safety works at national schools; the works that will be carried out at schools (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if he will ensure that an increased provision will be made for safety in the year 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16428/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin):  Health and safety works at national schools are funded from within the overall capital allocation for primary buildings which is £55 million in 1999. As works are required in individual schools, applications are received and assessed accordingly by the planning and building unit of my Department.

Applications have been received from all the schools mentioned by the Deputy. With the exception of Loughnavalley national school, all applications are currently being assessed. In the case of Loughnavalley,