Dáil Éireann - Volume 487 - 18 February, 1998
Written Answers. - Skills Training.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
109. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which she proposes to make savings under the Community Support Framework of four million ecu on advanced technical skills training and seven million ecu on specific skills training in accordance with the reprioritisation of expenditure under the mid-term review of the Community Support Framework; whether she is of the view that advanced technical skills and specific skills are now of a lower priority than they were when the programme was initiated; if the savings will involve the abandonment of any existing activities; the correspondence, if any, she has had with the European Commission in this regard; if she will publish this correspondence; the implications of these savings or decommitting  of funds for potential beneficiaries of the expenditure; when the Community Support Framework committee will meet to discuss this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22707/97]
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Miss Harney) Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Miss Harney)
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Miss Harney): The two programmes in question — advanced technical skills, ATA, and specific skills training, SST — are co-financed from Structural Funds under the Human Resources Development Operational Programme, HRD-OP. The reductions referred to were effected by the decisions on reallocations of Structural Funds, taken in the context of the mid-term review of the Community Suppport Framework, by the CSF monitoring committee which met last July. They were further endorsed by the HRD-OP monitoring committee at its meeting last October. They were part of a package of reallocations which resulted in a net increase in the funds available to the HRD-OP.
In taking those decisions, the relevant monitoring committees were informed in particular by the ESRI mid-term review report on Structural Funds — Report No. 31, published in July 1997. That report took account of the changed economic and labour market conditions which had evolved since the Structural Funds programmes were negotiated in 1993 as well as the outcomes from programmes in the period under review. In that sense, the recommendations in the report, and the reallocations made by the relevant monitoring committees, reflected a reprioritisation of measures within the Structural Funds Programmes. In that context, for example, over half of the 48 mecu reallocated to and within the HRD-OP has been directed towards programmes for early school-leavers which reflects a strengthened priority being given to that area in the programme.
It is a matter for the relevant implementing agencies — the Department of Education and Science in the case of the ATS measure and FÁS in the case of the specific skills training programme — to determine how they will respond to the reduced funding. In the latter case, where I have an indirect responsibility, some reduction in SST activity will be taking place although the seven mecu reduction has to be seen in the context of the 54 mecu ESF support which remains committed over the next two years to the industry training for the unemployed measure, of which SST is a major component. Furthermore, the reduction is more than balanced by an extra 29 mecu allocation made available to FÁS under the mid-term review process for a range of training and labour market supports, including extra provision for early school-leavers and traineeships.
I had no correspondence with the Commission on these matters. There was a negotiation process with the Commission on the Structural Funds mid-term review, led by the Department of Fin ance, operating within parameters set by the  Government, and, as mentioned, the formal decisions relating to reallocations were duly taken within the relevant monitoring committees in July and October last.
Dáil Éireann 487 Written Answers. Skills Training.