1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee that covers housing and homelessness. [51712/17]
Vol. 962 No. 6
1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee that covers housing and homelessness. [51712/17]
2. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee that has responsibility for issues pertaining to housing and homelessness; and if he will consider establishing a dedicated Cabinet committee on housing. [50151/17]
3. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee D - infrastructure - last met; and when it will meet again. [52000/17]
4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee in which transport is discussed. [51996/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.
Following the streamlining of the Cabinet committee structures earlier this year, Cabinet committee D was established to cover the areas of housing, climate action, infrastructure investment and delivery, including transport, the national planning framework and the ten-year capital plan. The committee last met on 23 November 2017.
I consider Cabinet committee D to be the appropriate forum to consider housing issues. On housing, the Government has announced a number of additional actions following a review of Rebuilding Ireland. These include measures in budget 2018 to increase expenditure, taxation changes and the establishment of Home Building Finance Ireland to provide additional finance to developers.
The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has also announced further actions in regard to the rental market and the planning system. He has also announced approximately 200 new permanent accommodation spaces as part of this year's cold weather initiative. It is important to point out that these spaces will be permanent. While they are described as being part of a cold weather initiative, they will, of course, still be open in the spring, summer and following winter.
The impact of the Government's policies can be seen in very strong year-on-year increases in planning permissions, housing guarantee registrations, commencement notices and ESB connections.
The Cabinet committee is contributing to the development of the national planning framework and new ten-year capital plan. This long-term approach will provide clarity, coherence and certainty in regard to planning and capital expenditure, including investment in transport.
The ten-year capital plan and national planning framework will also support moving our transport system away from its current carbon-intensive nature to significantly reduce the emissions profile of the transport sector as a whole.
The committee does not have any role in regard to industrial relations matters in the public transport or any other sectors.
Are we taking Questions Nos. 1 to 4 together?
We need to be clear. The first question is on housing and homelessness. The fourth is on transport and the third is on infrastructure. I would have believed the question on housing would be separate from that on transport. We need to be very careful that we are not amalgamating questions and making it impossible for people to focus on a core issue within the minute and a half they are allowed. This kind of grouping needs to be stopped. The same thing happened last week.
The House is aware that, in the past three years, there has been a long string of announcements on housing and regular claims that the Government is getting on top of the problem. Indeed, the Taoiseach announced at his own party's conference that the Government has a plan and that it is working. This was in sharp contrast with the statement of his Minister, who announced simultaneously that the problem will get worse. Generally speaking, given the claims, no one believes we have turned the corner where housing and homelessness are concerned. The language from the Government has been far too complacent. Unfortunately, people are dying on our streets regularly. People who visit Dublin are shocked at the number of homeless people lying on our streets. House prices continue to escalate. Housing rent comprises a huge proportion of people's salaries, particularly young people who are starting out on the employment ladder. All of us in our clinics are meeting young mothers, with their children, who have gone back to live with their mothers in extremely overcrowded circumstances. They are not on any housing list. They may be on a social housing list but they are not identified as homeless. We need to avoid using any language that suggests the problem is well on the way to being resolved. It is not; it is getting worse. We need to get rid of the spin and the attempt to put some gloss on it. I have never seen the problem as bad.
The number on the social housing list is very high. We now have to say to couples and families that, although they have been the list for six years, they will have to wait for another four years. That is what is being said to people in Cork. I can imagine what it is like in Dublin. I have been on the doorsteps in Dublin meeting families who have been told they will never get a council house. This is not about the Taoiseach's latest fad, which is distinguishing between social housing and council housing; it is a matter of the inability of people to have any prospects. They cannot get into the rental market. There is considerable human misery as a result of this problem.
I cannot deal with the transport question now. I have two questions tabled.
On the transport question, I have a number of points. Can the Taoiseach outline the position on our utilisation of the European Investment Fund and particularly the European Fund for Strategic Investment, known as the Juncker plan? We have apparently secured investment only in primary health care centres under that particular plan. Trenitalia, the national train operator in Italy, has secured a €300 million bond agreement to finance the acquisition of new passenger rolling stock through the Juncker plan. Polish transport has also secured funding to completely modernise and renew its passenger rail fleet. Despite this, I do not believe there is any single transport project that we have put forward that could seek potential funding from the European Fund for Strategic Investment. Could the Taoiseach outline why that is the case? We are still investing far less in critical national infrastructure than we need to be.
Will the Taoiseach confirm when the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, will deal with the issue of the second runway at Dublin Airport? It is a critical infrastructural project for the country, never mind the capital. The Minister has really sat on the fence in this regard. We now need decision-making on this core question.
Some 8,000 people are homeless, including 3,000 children. This is a huge indictment of this State. It is a problem that could be rectified by the Government if it had the political will. In addition, we have the spectacle of rough sleepers, as they are called. I refer to people sleeping on doorsteps, on pavements, in front of shops and, more recently, in secluded places along canals and so on. A number of people have died as a consequence.
One solution would be to expand the Housing First programme. The Taoiseach will know that the programme provides housing to homeless people with complex health needs and also provides wraparound health and social care supports.
The latest available figures suggest 180 tenancies have been created. The Government target was 300. That is not good enough by anybody's standards. The Taoiseach said last week that a national director of Housing First would be appointed shortly. Can he confirm when this will be?
I want to deal briefly with the issue of accommodation for the Traveller community. Will the Taoiseach spell out what steps the Government intends to take to address the significant under-expenditure on Traveller accommodation? So far this year, €5.9 million, out of the budget of €9 million, has not been drawn down by local authorities. That means over half the Traveller accommodation budget for 2016-2017 has not been drawn down. Some counties have failed to draw down any funding at all. Therefore, the Government has a responsibility to intervene in this regard. I did some work on this in my constituency and noted the Government can press ahead with some of these initiatives. Could the Taoiseach update the Dáil on plans to establish an expert group to review the effectiveness of the Traveller accommodation programme and the supporting legislation?
In the minute and a half I have I wish to focus on the capital plan. The Taoiseach has repeatedly told us that the Government intends to publish a ten-year capital plan. That is a momentous event because it will tie the next two Dáileanna to a capital programme that he and this House will determine. How can we have an input into the plan? I accept that things will be tweaked over time. I do not disagree with what he suggests, but, in essence, it is to have a strategic view for the next decade of our capital needs and what is to be prioritised in the next decade, largely tying the hands of the next two Dáileanna. We had some announcements in the budget by Ministers who indicated some of their plans. A few of them have announced four-year projects. I have looked at the Exchequer returns for November and see a net capital underspend of €455 million against profile by the end of November. That is a shocking figure of almost 13% against profile. If there is such a calamitous shortage, as I believe there is, in capital expenditure, we should certainly be spending what we have voted at the rate profiled by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Is the Taoiseach confident that all voted expenditure will be fully utilised in this calendar year, but, more importantly, what mechanisms is he proposing to ensure all of us will have a democratic input into a ten-year capital plan and that people outside the House will also have an input in an open and transparent way?
I again refer to the question I asked earlier about housing. It is not acceptable that, on the one hand, we are planning to have a social mix to privatise 800 publicly owned sites, with up to 60% in many of the plans being given over for some form of private housing, whereas the miserable 10% on private sites, supposedly under the guise of a social mix, now turns out to be not even 10%. The Taoiseach has said he has no plans to introduce legislation on the matter. Why is there a different set of rules for a social mix when it comes to private sites? Because private developers want more profit from the sites we are letting them shove social housing off-site or to segregate it in one part of the development, as is happening on big sites where the housing is often smaller. In one case in Dún Laoghaire reported on yesterday the reason given for social housing being off-site is the houses were too big. I know big families who have been waiting for years to get into big houses, but the council stated it did not have any big council house. However, it then refuses to meet or does not insist on meeting the Part V requirement for big houses that could be used to house these families. That is totally unacceptable.
On housing and homelessness which are not the same problem, although they are very much interlinked, we do have a plan and it is working, but it will take time and there will be setbacks. It is very similar to the unemployment crisis we faced five or six years ago, or the mortgage arrears crisis that we faced in recent years. If one puts in place the right policies, sticks by them and drives them through, one will see progress, but we are far from turning the corner yet. However, we will reach that point and will have progressive improvements thereafter.
On rough sleeping and homelessness, the position is getting worse. There is no denying it and I will not do so, but we have made some minor progress in some areas. For example, the number of families accommodated in bed and breakfast acccommodation and hotels is down from its peak in March, which is due to two things, namely, the family hubs which provide much more appropriate accommodation for families and also the provision of additional social housing and social tenancies for many families who have exited homelessness. While people are entering homelessness at very rapid rates, others are exiting it also at much more rapid rates than was the case heretofore. We are seeing at least some evidence of a levelling off in Dublin in the rate of family homelessness, with no or small increases in recent months. I do not say that is something to be celebrated, but it is to be noted.
We have managed to ensure emergency accommodation is available for any family and child who needs it. From 18 December there will be 200 additional permanent beds for rough sleepers in Dublin. That means that unless there is a big increase in the number of rough sleepers for some reason, there will be enough beds available each night. They are single beds in two-bed rooms for those who need them, thus providing shelter and allowing people not to have to sleep rough.
To pick up on the question from Deputy Gerry Adams on Housing First, yes we are expanding it. There have been 180 tenancies. It is the way to go when it comes to dealing with rough sleeping. It has shown some real results because rough sleeping is about so much more than accommodation; it is also about addiction, mental health, often family breakdown, physical health and lots of other issues. Often people struggle to hang onto a tenancy or a home, even when they get one and the supports provided through Housing First seem to be showing some real results. A total of 180 people have moved from rough sleeping into secure, sheltered, safe accommodation under the programme. We have agreed, at the instigation of the NGOs and other homelessness charities, to create a director of Housing First. I do not have a date for that appointment, but I know that it is imminent. We certainly have a long way to go. Nonetheless, the amount of social housing being built and provided is increasing. The number of private homes being built is increasing and it will take a few years to get on top of the issue. I do not accept the view from experts saying it will take ten years. The Government does not accept that position. We want the problem to get better rather than worse much sooner than that.
On the Juncker plan, I will have to check the position and get back to the Deputy. I am not entirely up to date on the extent to which we have drawn down funding under the Juncker plan. The last time I looked at it we had loans rather than grants and loans have to be repaid. We are able to borrow very cheaply on the existing financial markets and also from the European Investment Bank. Luas cross city which will carry passengers for the first time this weekend was in large part funded through a very low cost loan from the European Investment Bank and in the next couple of days it will sign the contract to part-fund the new national children's hospital. We are availing of many cheap loans from the bank, but I am not sure whether they fall under the Juncker plan or whether they are less expensive than loans offered under the plan. I will have to double-check.
I was not aware that we had a capital underspend of €400 million. I am confident that there will not be a significant capital underspend this year. Last week or the previous week the Cabinet allocated a Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for an extra €100 million in capital spending this year over and above what had been budgeted because local authorities are finally starting to ramp up their construction and acquisition of housing and ahead of themselves, which is encouraging. Therefore, we had to find extra money to make sure the bills would be paid this year and that there would be no slowdown in housing construction. Given the planned increase in capital spending by 70% in the next three or four years, we will need to bear in mind that we may run into some problems that we last had when capital spending was relatively high, namely, a risk of construction inflation becoming an issue where we would end up getting less for the same amount of money every year and running into capacity constraints in terms of having the required qualified people, from architects and planners to brickies and engineers. That is not yet a problem, but it may well become one. When one tries to ramp up capital spending by such a considerable amount so quickly, it is possible that one will run into capacity constraints as we did during the boom period over ten years ago.
The national planning framework is linked with the capital plan. They are two separate documents, but they will be tied together for obvious reasons. There has been a lengthy public consultation process on the national planning framework. A huge amount of the capital plan will comprise projects that are already in the pipeline or on which consultation has taken place, for example, in the transport sector.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the National Transport Authority already have a greater Dublin area strategy running out to 2035. Many of the projects that will be in the capital plan already exist in unfunded plans on which there has been consultation. Certainly, any input from Deputies is most welcome.
5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the National Economic and Social Council; and the status of the intended reforms of the NESC. [50383/17]
6. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his Department's work with the National Economic and Social Council. [51718/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 6 together.
The National Economic and Social Council has played an important role over many decades in developing shared understanding between Government and other stakeholders on economic and social policy and, more recently, on sustainable development. Over the coming years, Ireland faces into a period of significant change at home and abroad that will present some new and exceptional challenges. The Programme for a Partnership Government specifically notes the policy challenges where long-term thinking is required. I expect the council to continue to contribute to policy development with a focus on the strategic and longer-term view.
A new council was appointed in May. Four independent members remain to be appointed. I have decided this is to be done through the Public Appointments Service process. The council has adjusted its working measures and methods, with fewer plenary meetings, greater use of working or project groups and more structured engagements with policy actors, interests and commentators.
The council published its most recent report, Moving Towards the Circular Economy in Ireland, on 25 October. The council has approved a work programme up to 2019 comprising three themes. The first relates to low-work-intensity households, quality tailored services and participation. The second relates to climate change and governance of the low-carbon transition. The third relates to land value, land use and urban development. Work on each of these themes is progressing and will be reviewed at the forthcoming council meetings. As is normal practice, I will submit the council's reports to Government for information before they are published.
It is not clear, although perhaps I missed it, whether the National Economic and Social Development Office has been stood down. The legislation around the National Economic and Social Development Office and the establishment of the NESC as the remaining statutory body has been listed as part of the Government legislative programme since 2013. Will the Taoiseach set out precisely when this will be completed?
The NESC also has responsibility for supporting the North East Inner City initiative. One of the key recommendations of Kieran Mulvey's report on the challenges facing communities related to the maximising of educational, training and employment opportunities. The involvement of organisations such as the Dublin City Community Co-operative is crucial to the achievement of the Mulvey report objectives. Despite this reality, the 2018 funding for the 13 organisations under the co-operative umbrella remains in doubt. There has been no confirmation of what amount, if any, of the annual transitional funding will be provided for the co-operative for 2018. These are vital organisations in the local community. They are the cement that holds some of these communities together. Yet, their funding remains precarious. If they are not properly funded and are unable to deliver services, then we will be letting down the people they serve.
Will the Taoiseach follow up on this and get his answers from the Minister for Rural and Community Development to secure clarity on the funding intentions for the Dublin City Community Co-operative for 2018?
Deputy Boyd Barrett is next. Can Deputies try to stick within the allocated time to enable us to get through everyone?
NESC has done considerable work on housing in recent years. I can suggest one area where we need to do considerable work. The Government needs to do something on the issue of affordability and NESC could possibly be a vehicle. We still do not have any real plan for affordable housing. We have a market where prices are spiralling out of all control and where much of the funding the Government has put, wrongly, to my mind, into the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund and so on is simply money going to subsidise private developers, but with no guarantees whatsoever over the affordability of the housing that comes back. We need some actual affordability when it comes to delivering affordable housing. Otherwise, as was the case with the Celtic tiger property boom, we will have vast numbers of houses but only on offer at vastly inflated prices that no one can afford or that people are required to take on unsustainable debt if they wish to purchase.
Earlier this year, NESC produced a detailed research paper relating to the development of infrastructure plans and the levels of consultation that represent good practice. Has the Taoiseach implemented the plan in this way in preparing for the new capital plan and the national marketing plan?
In every study of the Irish economy, whether public or private, there has been an absolutely consistent message about our need to go further on the knowledge base of our economy. In particular, we need to further ramp up research at every level - that is a universal recommendation.
Unfortunately, for the first time in 20 years, it appears the Government is abandoning the vision of a research-intensive economy. The budget did little more than allow small progress. Different Ministers have admitted that we will miss agreed targets for research activity under the current science strategy. That is regrettable. This makes the current Administration the first to fail to hit three such targets and the first to plan for failure in the opening period of a science strategy. Can the Taoiseach explain why this is the case? Why did the Government agree to effectively abandon targets for levels of funding and activity in research in its first budget?
One area where NESC has been helpful and successful in the past is sustainable development. The Taoiseach referenced the NESC work programme. Will he indicate whether the council intends to take on any work in respect of climate change? When a former Minister and current EU Commissioner - someone the Taoiseach knows well - is calling on Ireland to wake up soon, we know it is time for us to take drastic action. Otherwise, as I have said previously, we are sleepwalking into a situation where substantial fines might be imposed on us. It makes no sense not to prepare to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases but opt to prepare to pay fines instead. NESC might have some useful advices if it was tasked specifically with that job. I am keen to hear the Taoiseach's views.
I agree on that last point. NESC has done some good work on climate change. The council has shown far more ambition than the Government. The Taoiseach says these are all long-term issues. How will the council's work in climate change co-ordinate with the work done by the national dialogue on climate action, the planning framework and the capital plan? This is a long-term problem but we need the right decisions and a change of course now.
I endorse Deputy Martin's point about the infrastructure commission. I understand the IMF recommended something similar in its recent report on public expenditure. Will the Taoiseach briefly outline his view of the role of the executive in NESC? The Taoiseach has set out what the council is doing. Does he envisage an expanded role, additional resources or a more precise role for the executive other than simply servicing the council? What use does the Taoiseach intend to make of the executive in this area?
I will start towards the end of the questions on climate change and the NESC. One of the three themes that the council will pursue in its workplan through 2018 is climate change, especially the governance of low-carbon transition. I was asked about the actions the Government is taking. I agree we need to do far more than we are doing at present. The capital plan will contain many actions and commitments relating to climate change, including in the area of public transport. These include transitioning away from the bus fleet as we fuel it currently, electrifying some of our railways, further investment in forestry and so on. Budget 2018 included new incentives to encourage more people to buy or lease electric vehicles.
The views of different parties are relevant, either in the context of the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil or Opposition parties in general. I am keen to have consensus on carbon taxation. I think we need to increase carbon tax in the coming years.
If we could secure cross-party agreement to do that in a stepped way in the next couple of years, I would certainly be willing to do so and have that conversation with the parties.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, is working on a number of initiatives which I hope he will be able to publicise in the coming weeks and months. They focus in particular on the renewable heat programme, the better and warmer homes scheme, the insulation programme and-----
The Government may need to come up with a name other than the renewable heat programme.
I will ensure it is called something else. Windscale and Sellafield were different names for the same plant, albeit with many more safeguards. The Minister will also publicise other actions, particularly regarding price supports for solar power and other forms of renewable energy.
On the National Economic and Social Development Office Bill, work is under way to prepare heads of the Bill and these will be brought to Government in early course. The Bill will provide for the dissolution of the National Economic and Social Development Office, NESDO, and deal with related matters, including the transfer of functions to the National Economic and Social Council, NESC. NESDO was initially created under the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 as the body corporate for three constituent bodies, the National Economic and Social Council, National Economic and Social Forum, NESF, and National Centre for Partnership and Performance, NCPP. As NESF and the NCPP were dissolved by order in 2010, leaving NESC as the only remaining body, the framework of the NESDO was consequently no longer necessary.
It is important when discussing affordability that we view the issue in terms of a triangle. There are three types of affordability, namely, affordability to rent, buy and build. Examples of measures the Government is taking in this area include a new affordable housing scheme. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, should be in a position to publish the details of the new scheme soon. The current scheme dates from 2010 or 2011 and is out of date and the Minister will advance the new scheme in the new year. We are also changing the planning regulations, particularly regarding apartment building in cities to make it much less expensive to build apartments, thereby generating more construction of apartments. We have worked into programmes such as the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, a requirement to provide a proportion of affordable housing in any developments that are made possible as a result of LIHAF.
The requirement is poorly defined.
Home Building Finance Ireland, HBFI, has not yet started but when it starts it will certainly not be a subsidy as Deputy Boyd Barrett described it. It is a loan and developers who receive development finance from HBFI will have to repay their loans with interest. Rather than being a subsidy, it will generate a return for taxpayers through cash repayments on the loans and a social return in terms of new housing that perhaps would not otherwise be built.
On the north inner city, Mr. Kieran Mulvey recommended a wide range of actions to advance the social and economic regeneration of the area and the Government is committed to implementing these in full. As recommended, a programme implementation body was established last June comprising representatives of the statutory, community and business sectors. The board is led by Mr. Michael Stone and is being supported in its work by the local programme office established in Sean McDermott Street. The chair of the board reports regularly to an oversight group of senior officials chaired by Mr. Martin Fraser, the Secretary General of my Department. This is to ensure continued strong engagement across all Departments and agencies and to deal with any structural barriers and issues highlighted by the board. I will continue to ensure ministerial oversight and support of this initiative is provided through the Cabinet committee system.
Since its first meeting in June, the board has moved quickly to establish four dedicated subgroups to advance specific measures on the priority areas of crime and drugs, education, training and employment opportunities, services for families and young people and physical improvements. The board implemented a number of proposals across the four priority headings in 2015 at a cost of €2.5 million. This is in addition to the range of local measures implemented in 2016, which were worth approximately €5 million. Further measures will be developed and supported in 2018, with funding of €2.5 million set to be provided through the RAPID programme. To ensure the wider community is involved in the process, the first in a series of community consultation events took place in Larkin community centre on 19 October. We have also confirmed our full commitment to reopening Fitzgibbon Street Garda station following a programme of refurbishment works for which a planning application has been made.
We are also fully behind the development of a community hub on the Rutland Street school site. This is being overseen by Dublin City Council, which is finalising costs. Examples of other specific projects that have been delivered include new and refurbished sporting facilities; new outreach workers targeting street dealing who have been in place since September last; the appointment by the Department of Employment and Social Protection of a full-time case officer dedicated to securing job opportunities from local employers; a new construction skills course, which has run several times and secured employment for local participants; the development of a local project to tackle the major problem of litter and dumping in the area; continued improvements by Dublin City Council to lighting, roads and hoardings; the award of community grants totalling €123,000 to 40 small local projects; closed circuit television, which is at an advanced stage of approval, to be installed at 13 sites across the north inner city; and a programme of clean-up works under way on local railway bridges and the canal bank in co-operation with Irish Rail.
7. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on Cabinet committee A - economy. [49177/17]
8. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee A - economy - will next meet. [50202/17]
9. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee A - economy - last met; when it is scheduled to meet again; and if he will report on its work. [50384/17]
10. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on Cabinet committee A - economy. [51711/17]
11. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee A - economy - will next meet. [51719/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 11 together.
Cabinet committee A held its first meeting on 12 September. The Cabinet committee's focus will be on economic issues, including the implementation of the Action Plan for Jobs 2017 and preparation of a new, more focused action plan for next year; labour market policies, including the implementation of pathways to work and responding to emerging skills pressures; competitiveness and productivity challenges for business; rural affairs and the implementation of the Action Plan for Rural Development; and the development of a roadmap for pensions reform. I expect to see further progress in all these areas in the coming months, building on the measures announced in budget 2018 and brought or being brought through the Houses in legislation, including the Finance Act, Social Welfare Bill and Appropriations Bill.
Responsibility for rural affairs policy rests with the Minister for Community and Rural Development. However, as this is a priority issue for the Government, my Department will support implementation of the action plan through the Cabinet committee and associated senior officials group. The most recent meeting took place on 23 November and the next meeting has not yet been scheduled.
As there are nine minutes left and five Deputies have tabled questions in this group, each speaker must confine his or her contribution to one minute.
The country is taking a reputational hit in two areas of the economy. The first area, precarious jobs, makes a mockery of the republic of opportunity and highlights the Government's failure for months to publish the report on bogus self-employment. The second area, corporation tax, is causing serious reputational damage to the country. The Revenue Commissioners admit that certain large corporations, which are global in scale, do not pay any corporation tax. In addition, four banks, including Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks, announced last week that they are sharing tax loss assets of €5.5 billion between them. Will the Taoiseach accept that Ireland needs a new narrative on corporation tax? We need a minimum effective corporation tax rate. We must also address the use of losses and loopholes by institutions such as banks.
On Monday, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, published a ground-breaking report on precarious work entitled, Insecure and Uncertain: Precarious Work in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The report found that 160,000 people or 8% of the workforce are experiencing significant variations in their hours of work from week to week. This has serious ramifications for workers' lifestyles and work and life planning. Progress on the Bill to address zero-hour and if-and-when contracts has been painfully slow. When will we see action on these issues? Two weeks ago, I asked when the report commissioned by the then Minister, Deputy Burton, would be published. I was told it would be published imminently. When will we see it?
I also want to raise the issue of precarious work. That is essentially work that is insecure and unpredictable, including low-paid work, work with limited or no benefits and work in unsafe and unhealthy workplaces. I understand that in this institution some staff are also on short-term low-hours contracts. Here, in the Parliament of the State, that is the sort of example that we are setting. Sinn Féin has a banded hours Bill that will address many of the issues involved. It has been subject to intense pre-legislative scrutiny at committee. It is ready for amendments but it has been held up by the Department of the Taoiseach. Will the Taoiseach accept that this issue needs to be resolved and clear the way for Sinn Féin's Banded Hours Contract Bill 2016 to proceed to committee for amendments?
It is a year since we were told the new capital investment plan was nearly ready and would run up to 2021. Since then, the plan has been repeatedly delayed and the Taoiseach has announced it will claim to be a plan for the period up to 2027. For the first time in the history of such plans, the Government is proposing to announce and then sell, via a multi-million euro marketing campaign, a plan in which projects will not be planned, agreed or funded for many years. There is an element of cynical political manoeuvring going on in relation to this plan. It is the intention of Ministers to tour the country announcing projects that could be ten or 15 years out. I am aware of where people have been approached to hurry up and submit a plan in time. I was even asked would I agree to the plan for a major piece of infrastructure so that it could get considered. In other words, people want local announcements. It would be a worry that people are trying to get pet projects in and that the level of quality being attached to the process is diminishing as we get closer to the announcement date.
I am with the other Members of the House on the insecure employment and precarious jobs issue. We are awaiting legislation on that. We were promised it.
Income tax returns are not in "alignment", to use the word of the moment, with employment. That has been a feature for a while. Is there any deep analysis coming from the Department of Finance in that regard?
I could go on, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I was denied on the first two questions. My two were lumped into one.
The broadband issue has not gone away. I would say on the national spatial plan-----
There will be no time for answers.
We need to reflect on the spatial plan because it is putting limits on development in towns across the country.
There will be no time for answers. I have to be fair. I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.
The Taoiseach complained about constraints in terms of capacity to deliver housing but the ICTU report confirms something that most of us know anecdotally. Significant numbers of people who formerly worked in construction will not work in construction because of rampant bogus self-employment and the poor conditions and pay of employment for construction workers. If the Taoiseach wants to deal with capacity problems in housing construction, he should deal with bogus self-employment, precarious work and poor conditions of employment in construction.
On the corporate tax issue, I attended yesterday an event organised by Oxfam, Trócaire, Christian Aid and other development NGOs, all of which stated categorically that we fitted - in fact we are top of the league table - the criteria of a conduit for tax havens and aggressive tax avoidance by big multinationals and had spearheaded what is now a rapid race to the bottom in terms of corporations not paying their fair share of tax across Europe.
The Taoiseach has two and a half minutes.
Deputies will be pleased to hear that this morning the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, received approval from Cabinet to publish the employment (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. The Bill will be published in the next few days. It delivers on the programme for Government commitment to tackle some of the problems caused by casualisation of work and to strengthen the regulation of precarious work. The key objective of this important legislation is to improve security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those with variable hours and to outlaw zero-hour contracts in most cases. Cabinet approval for that Bill was granted this morning and we expect the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, will publish it in the next few days.
Some of the commentary and analysis regarding changes to work patterns is not fully borne out by the facts. In the last number of quarters, the number of employees in part-time employment has fallen whereas the number of employees in full-time employment is increasing. That is not surprising. Initially, when a country comes out of a recession, when it comes out of a severe unemployment crisis, new part-time jobs are created and over time those part-time jobs become full time, and that is why the number of part-time jobs is now falling and the number of full-time jobs is now increasing again. We need to bear in mind that part-time work is not necessarily always a bad thing. Some people want to work part time and have their own reasons for doing so.
In terms of temporary employment, the most recent statistics show that the percentage of employees in temporary employment stood at 7.2% in 2008. That rose to 8.7% in 2011 and has fallen back to 7.1% in 2016. While the number of temporary employees overall may have increased because there are more people working, the percentage of the workforce in temporary employment is lower than it was eight years ago. That is an important fact for people to be aware of.
Similarly, the number of employees who are self-employed is increasing. As employment increases, as the population grows, more people establish their own businesses or professions. The percentage of the total workforce in self-employment was 10.3% in 2008. That rose to 11.3% in 2011 and fell back to 10.4% in 2016. The percentage of the workforce in self-employment is only 0.1% higher than it was eight years ago. These are facts that people need to be aware of.
Of course, the numbers are increasing because there are more people in the country and there are more people at work, but the percentage of the workforce who are self-employed, in part-time employment or in temporary employment is not increasing. Being in part-time employment or being self-employed is not a bad thing. In my view, it can be good for many people.
There are different ways to deal with the changes in the world of work. Thirty or 40 years ago, people might have hoped to get a job with a company, to be made permanent, to stay working with that company for their entire lives and to have a pension paid for by that company. Work has changed fundamentally in the past 30 or 40 years. I believe most people now in their 20s or 30s will work for a number of different employers. They may be self-employed for a period of time - often by choice, sometimes perhaps not. They will probably work in more than one or two countries. What we need to do is approach that in a modern way. One can try the reaction, which is to try and ban new forms of employment which is not the right way to go, or restrict immigration or restrict people from travelling to take up jobs elsewhere, or one can embrace the fact that economies evolve and societies change and adapt labour laws accordingly, not to ban these new forms of employment but to provide better social protection ensuring that everyone is covered by the social insurance system. That is why we have extended so many benefits to the self-employed that were not there previously. It is also why we want to bring in auto-enrolment for pensions to ensure that everyone pays in to a pension fund and can carry that pension fund with him or her as he or she moves from job to job, in and out of employment and self-employment and from country to country.