Priority Questions

Insurance Data

Michael McGrath

Question:

3. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the national claims information database and the integrated insurance fraud database will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21455/18]

This question relates to the ongoing work of the cost of insurance working group and the implementation of its recommendations. It seems that there has been a lack of progress recently. Momentum has stalled and I have selected two items, in particular, on which I want the Minister to respond. The first is the national claims information database, while the second is the integrated insurance fraud database, both of which are central elements of the reforms promised with a view to bringing about a more competitive insurance market. I am looking for progress on both.

I thank the Deputy for his question. The development of the national claims information database is a complex project as insurers very often record data in different ways and do not necessarily use the same definitions. At the end of 2017 work was completed by a data sub-group of the cost of insurance working group on the development of the legislation which would enable the Central Bank to perform this additional function. On 19 December 2017 the Government approved the general scheme of the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Bill. The Bill is included in the Government's legislative programme on the list of priority legislation for publication this session. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach indicated to the Minister for Finance that it would not be conducting pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, which is helpful.

On 26 January 2018 the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel assigned a drafter to the Bill with whom officials in the Department of Finance are working to finalise a draft as soon as possible. I understand good progress has been made and I am hopeful a Bill will be published before the end of this legislative session. Consultation will also have to take place with the European Central Bank on the Bill once it is published. As the Deputy is aware, it will take a certain amount of time following publication of the Bill for it to pass through the Houses. I am hopeful the co-operation of all parties will ensure it will be passed by the Houses as quickly as possible. To ensure the database can be operationalised quickly following the enactment of the legislation, the Central Bank has continued to work in parallel on the technical specification for the database.

The development of the fraud database is a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality whose Department is working on the project. I have been informed that a working group chaired by the Minister which also comprises representatives from An Garda Síochána’s National Economic Crime Bureau, Insurance Ireland and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland is carefully considering the policy and legislative issues related to the new database and has consulted appropriate stakeholders, notably the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, ODPC. I understand the group has completed a comprehensive report which was submitted to the ODCP for its consideration. In its response the ODPC identified a number of challenges from a data protection perspective which must be addressed. The working group is continuing to liaise with stakeholders to overcome these challenges and progress the recommendation. Consequently, it is not possible at this time to provide a timeline for its establishment.

Progress on insurance reforms has undoubtedly stalled. The latest update report appeared online on Friday evening. There was no press release and no alert. When one examines it, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the real meat of the recommendations, the key reforms, is being nobbled. They have certainly been stalled, at a minimum. The national claims information database which aims to provide accurate and reliable data for claims affecting the insurance industry and policy holders was to be in place by next month, yet the full legislation has not been published. It is well behind schedule. It is a similar story with the fraud database; there is no sign of it. The Minister of State says it is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality, but it is a key component of the recommendations of the cost of insurance working group. It is hard to disagree with the Alliance for Insurance Reform when it states progress has stalled. The protocol which requires insurance companies to notify policy holders of progress on claims has stalled. Legislation to compel insurance companies to communicate the reasons for large increases in premiums has been abandoned and there has been no progress on the Garda insurance fraud unit. These are key elements of the reforms recommended which are not progressing. The intent is good, but there is simply no follow-through or delivery.

I have to disagree with the Deputy. The cost of insurance working group has put a lot of effort and energy into dealing with this issue. We are now on the meat-and-two-veg legislative side of things which involves communication between the Department of Finance, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. We must also speak to other stakeholders, including An Garda Síochána. We have to discuss the matter with the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. It is not a question of imposing my will on the people in question. I have to bring them along with me and get agreement on the reforms to be implemented. It is the really difficult stuff that we are trying to do, but we have already done a lot. In fairness to the Minister for Justice and Equality, there are a number of measures that will be implemented in quarter three. They include data protection measures such as people having the opportunity to retain imagery and video related to a claim. A person against whom a claim is being made must be informed within the permitted period to enable the data to be retained in order that he or she can mount a proper defence. An improved pathway where a civil court judge says there is a potential element of a fraudulent or exaggerated claim has to be put in place. The legislation in that respect is fine; the pathway needs to be put in place. It is very easy to point to five areas where we have fallen behind, but it has been forgotten that we have progressed 45 other actions on time, some ahead of schedule.

I do not doubt the Minister of State's personal commitment or that of his officials. Much work has been done, but it is undeniable that there have been significant delays and that many of the key central reforms to bring about a more competitive insurance industry, greater transparency for policy holders and greater accountability have stalled. I have to call it out when I see it because it is the case in this instance. This is about reforming the claims process in order that policy holders will be given much more information at an earlier stage on claims made against them. The results of the work of the Personal Injuries Commission are available. It is benchmarking and looking at award levels in Ireland compared to those in other jurisdictions. It is absolutely vital that that work be completed. The Minister of State will have the full support of the House in driving through these reforms. Where people are not meeting their responsibilities or embracing change and driving change, including Insurance Ireland and any of the large insurance companies, the Minister of State has an obligation to call it out for what it is. Where measures are being stalled because people are not really committed, raising issues and concerns and throwing canards in the way, the Minister of State must call it out for what it is.

I thank the Deputy for his support. I know that the reforms are legitimately supported on every side of the House. Let us make no mistake that the biggest issue we face in the insurance sector is the extraordinary level of awards. The report conducted by officials in the Department of Finance on rewards and benchmarking them with those made in the United Kingdom, our nearest neighbour, produced startling figures. The indications are that the equivalent award in Ireland is between three and five and a half times more. That is the first piece of data we have and it is really helpful. The book of quantum has been reviewed, but the only way it can be reduced is if the Judiciary reduces the awards made. The book of quantum reflects the actual awards made, not the amounts we would like to think should be awarded. When I speak about the cost of insurance, I always make the point that the reason it is so expensive in Ireland is the level of awards. If the awares are high, we cannot hope to have low premiums.

Budget Targets

Pearse Doherty

Question:

4. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the resources available to him in budget 2019 based on known data; the way in which it has changed from the €3.2 billion cited in the summer economic statement 2017; his plans to use these resources to build a sustainable economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21510/18]

I want to focus on the parameters for budget 2019. The most important discussion to be made is how we can use the scope provided by the proceeds of labour to deal with the big issues and challenges we face, including the health crisis, the housing crisis and the cost of living crisis. To do this we need to know what the parameters are. Last year in the summer economic statement it was indicated that €3.2 billion - the fiscal space - would be available in budget 2019. We have been trying to elicit information on how much of that figure has been committed. In a response to a question last night the Minister informed me that €1.8 billion had been pre-committed. It amounts to €1.4 billion when account is taken of the smoothing effect of the expenditure benchmark. Will the Minister confirm that these figures are correct as of today? We understand the figures will be updated in the summer economic statement, but it means that we are looking at an amount of at least €1.8 billion being available in the budget, leaving aside the rainy day fund.

The 2018 summer economic statement will update the parameters for budget 2019 taking into account the publication by the European Commission of the important inputs in its spring economic forecast. The forecasts will take account of all policy changes announced since budget 2018. I am not in a position to comment on the resources that will be available in budget 2019 ahead of the statement. The 2018 stability programme update provides for an increase of €2.8 billion in voted expenditure, including pre-committed expenditure of €2.6 billion next year.  The pre-committed expenditure was composed of €1.5 billion for the national development plan, €400 million to provide for the public sector pay agreement, €400 million to provide for demographics and €300 million to provide for the carryover costs next year of measures introduced in the budget for this year.

Providing for these costs means a deficit of 0.1% of gross domestic product is projected for next year. The available parameters will become clearer in the next number of weeks. The Commission has now published its spring forecasts which are an important input. It is hugely important that we ensure that the policy the next budget implements recognises the fact that we have an economy for which the prospect of full employment is within reach and which continues to make steady progress on many of the matters on which Deputy Doherty has touched.

I do not want to use my priority question month on month just to try to elicit simple information. We have the legal parameters under the fiscal rules which we know is the fiscal space. That was identified as €3.2 billion. Government decisions on whether to use all of the fiscal space are a separate matter and I am not asking the Minister about policy choices at this point in time. I am just looking at what is legally permissible. The summer economic statement spelled out clearly that €3.2 billion was the amount of money available for budget 2019. We are mindful that this could change and that the summer economic statement could increase or, indeed, decrease that sum. According to the data we have as of today, €3.2 billion is available. An impression has been given by the Minister, deliberately in my view, to dampen expectations in the run up to the budget. That impression is that most, if not all, of this money has already been committed. The Minister has provided replies to me through both the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which are aligned, that of the €3.2 billion of fiscal space, €1.4 billion was pre-committed. That means there is €1.8 billion available for discretionary spending in budget 2019. That is what is legally allowed according to the current data, albeit we are mindful such data may change in the summer economic statement. Can the Minister confirm that is case? Are we looking at fiscal space identified last year of €3.2 billion, of which €1.4 billion has been committed in the interim, leaving us with a discretionary amount of €1.8 billion, which may change in future?

I have answered all the questions put to me on the matter in written format. I have answered the question the Deputy put to me in writing and which was made available to my Department in advance of questions in the Dáil. To answer directly the question the Deputy has subsequently put to me, he is correct. If one looks at the amount of last year's fiscal space which was pre-committed, the figure is €1.4 billion, which means there is €1.8 billion for expenditure. That means that for total budget day packages, which is to say decisions made on expenditure, taxation and a rainy day fund, the balance available on the basis of last year's figures is fiscal space of €1.8 billion. However, I emphasise that this is on the basis of last year's figures. As to my intentions for the approaching budget, I want to be very clear. It is my objective that budget 2019 will be the same as budgets 2017 and 2018. I want a budget which makes steady and affordable progress on the issues our country faces, whether they be the huge issues within our society or the economic challenges we have to confront.

I thank the Minister for that clarity. We all need to know what are the figures. Can he also clarify that the €1.8 billion based on last year's figures, which may increase or decrease when we see the summer economic statement, already takes into account the €500 million the Government intends to put into a rainy day fund? While that is a policy proposal with which I do not agree at this point in time, we can get into more detail about that when the legislation comes forward. Will the €1.8 billion be maintained and not reduced as a result of the €500 million for the rainy day fund?

I ask the Minister to inform the House on the Government's policy, which is very unclear but which is in agreement with its partners in Fianna Fáil, as to a one third to two thirds breakdown having regard to tax cuts. Is that one third of the discretionary amount, namely the €1.8 billion which may be available based on last year's figures? As such, will it be €600 million on taxation and €1.2 billion on expenditure with reference to last year's figures?

The first question put to me was on a decision in relation to the rainy day fund. It is my view that we need to set up a rainy day fund and I have already indicated my belief that the appropriate deposit in its first year would be €500 million. That figure comes from the €1.8 billion. That is the answer to the first question.

On the second question, the convention I have had with Fianna Fáil to date and which I expect will be maintained with Deputy Michael McGrath for next year is that a one third to two thirds ratio applies to budget day announcements. I am committed to implementing that.

Budget Targets

Michael McGrath

Question:

5. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if demographics have been included in the calculations for gross fiscal space or net fiscal space; if investment in the rainy day fund is after the calculation of net fiscal space; the final figure for carry-over to 2019 from budget 2018; the precise impact the public service pay deal has on the net fiscal space for 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21452/18]

My question is in a similar vein to Deputy Doherty's and the Minister has provided some clarity in their exchange on the last question. We should not have to put down priority questions in order to elicit this information. The Minister was before the Budgetary Oversight Committee on 18 April and committed to coming back to the committee with answers to some of those outstanding questions. Can the Minister clarify something for me in relation to demographic costs? We were told last year that the net fiscal space at that time had already factored in demographic costs of €500 million. Is the Minister saying now that the Department has identified an additional €400 million of demographic costs for 2019 of which it was not aware this time last year?

Table 3 on page 22 of the summer economic statement 2017 sets out an indicative amount of €3.2 billion based on the parameters available at that time in respect of the estimate of net fiscal space for 2019. In arriving at the net amount, the fiscal space impact of certain pre-committed voted expenditure was deducted from gross fiscal space. The nominal amounts relating to these pre-commitments were set out in Table 1.3 on page 9 of the mid-year expenditure report with €400 million for demographics. Table 4 in the summer economic statement set out an indicative allocation of net fiscal space between expenditure and taxation measures and the rainy day fund. The rainy day fund is shown in the row entitled "d. contingency reserve/rainy day fund".

In relation to current expenditure, there are pre-commitments that arose from the summer economic statement of €700 million that would need to be funded from the current expenditure fiscal space amount or from savings and reprioritisations. There is a cost of €400 million arising in 2019 from the public services stability agreement. This amount was not included as pre-committed expenditure in the summer economic statement or the mid-year expenditure report as the agreement at that stage was subject to ratification by the membership of the public service unions. In addition and as outlined in the expenditure report 2018, there was a cost estimated at that time of €200 million in respect of the carry-over impact of certain measures that would need to be met from the available resources for 2019 or from savings or reprioritisation. The current estimate of the carry-over impact into 2019 is €300 million. I have already detailed the capital commitments and will not use up our time by repeating those.

One should not need to be Sherlock Holmes to piece together these numbers. These are historic figures and our questions are about what was included and already provided for in the fiscal space last year. The Minister appears to be saying that the amount of money required for demographics has doubled for next year. He says €400 million was already provided for and taken into account in the estimate of fiscal space which he provided last year for 2019. He tells us now that an extra €400 million is required for demographics for 2019. In circumstances in which I must be able to have confidence in these numbers, that is an extraordinary change and one the Minister must explain. While last year's summer economic statement said the figures did not include the extension of the Lansdowne Road agreement, there were replies to other parliamentary questions which said those figures had been taken into account. The numbers keep changing.

It is hard to have confidence in what the Minister is saying. He must spell out the components. Is he telling us there is an extra €400 million for demographics and €400 million for public sector pay that were not taken into account? We understand that the €300 million carryover would not have been taken into account. Then the Minister must apply three quarters of the extra capital expenditure and take that from the fiscal space as well. Is that essentially what the Minister is saying?

I am happy to supply a table to the Deputy which lays all of this out. I have supplied it previously in a number of replies to parliamentary questions. The €400 million figure for demographics is unchanged. That is taking account of the move from gross fiscal space to net fiscal space.

The Minister is saying there is another €400 million.

No, and I will provide a table to show that. I will also outline to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, in a further note if necessary, the difference between the net fiscal space of last year, which is going to change again, and the carryover costs we have from last year's budget in respect of capital and current expenditure. It is very clear.

It is not. The €3.2 billion last year was after demographics.

More broadly, when we put together the summer economic statement, I will not be using the concept of fiscal space as a key way of putting our budget together.

That is a different debate.

No, it is part of it.

That is the Minister's decision.

I will lay out in the summer economic statement the figures that I am required to provide. Before we make decisions about how to spend resources, however, we must be clear that we have those resources in the first place. We must raise the taxes to provide them and we must ensure that by spending the resources we are making proper use of them. I wish to be clear about the demographics. That €400 million is accounted for in moving from gross fiscal space to net fiscal space. It is the same €400 million that was outlined in the stability programme update of this year.

It should not be reducing the €3.2 billion if that is correct.

It is not. I have answered that question. The difference between moving from the gross fiscal space of €3.6 billion to the net fiscal space of €3.2 billion takes account of demographics. It is very clear. We have precommitted expenditure next year of the figure I have outlined and we have to find the money to pay for it.

We need a table showing the components of the €1.8 billion.

When we put the economic statement together, we will be explaining what resources we have available for budget 2019 but making crystal clear that we must ensure that it is correct to spend those resources.

It would be helpful if the Minister could take us from the €3.2 billion to the €1.8 billion and outline the key elements of that. He clearly has that information.

For clarity, because this will go on for months, there is €1.8 billion of precommitted expenditure since the summer economic statement. What are the components? The Minister said that €700 million is commitments since then, €400 million is the public service agreement and €300 million is carryover, but that does not add up to €1.8 billion.

I know this is important but I have been too flexible on the time. The Minister can give a brief response.

I am happy to answer all the questions. The difference between the figure of €3.6 billion for last year in moving to the figure of €3.2 billion takes account of €400 million in demographics-----

-----which I have just explained. In addition, we have public capital plan commitments and Irish Water commitments which will take up fiscal space of €300 million. That takes us to the €3.2 billion figure. In addition to that, we have further expenditure commitments that were made after last year's summer economic statement. They consist of €700 million of fiscal space that has two different components - the need to take account of the public service stability agreement, which was not ratified at the time of last year's summer economic statement, and the carryover commitments of budget 2018 measures, which is €300 million. That accounts for the €700 million. On top of that we have additional capital commitments of fiscal space which are €600 million. That takes account of capital grants of €200 million and gross fixed allocation capital formation of €400 million. That is €600 million. All of that added together accounts for the €1.4 billion I gave in reply to Deputy Doherty, which then leads to a balance of €1.8 billion.

Corporation Tax Regime

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

6. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance his plans to close corporate tax loopholes for special purpose vehicles, SPVs, real estate investment trusts, REITs, banks and corporations that are paying negligible amounts of tax as a result of the loopholes in the context of the next budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21723/18]

The debate about the fiscal space is important in terms of knowing what we have available for public expenditure and investment. Regardless of what way one calculates it, however, there is not enough for housing, health, infrastructure investment and education. What will the Minister do about the myriad loopholes benefiting corporations, which we got a glimpse of with the Apple scandal, special purpose vehicles, SPVs, real estate investment trusts, REITs, and vulture funds? There is a host of tax expenditures which are not properly scrutinised and that result in very low, sometimes negligible, corporate tax payments by very profitable corporate interests. Is the Minister going to close some of those loopholes to increase the tax revenue available for public expenditure and investment?

The Deputy’s question is quite wide-ranging and it is not possible in the time allowed to address in detail each of the categories listed, so I will focus on the significant work undertaken in recent years, which is still ongoing, to address tax avoidance at domestic and international levels.

Corporation tax is a significant element of Exchequer tax revenue. Projected corporation tax receipts for 2018 are more than €8.5 billion, representing 15.7% of projected tax receipts. Over and above this, companies also generate substantial tax revenues under other tax headings, including payroll taxes and VAT. The long-term sustainability of corporation tax receipts and of the corporation tax system is therefore a key consideration in every budget cycle.

In 2016, my Department commissioned an independent review of the corporation tax code by Mr. Seamus Coffey. The review was completed and published in June last year and contained 18 recommendations, some of which Mr. Coffey noted were very technical in nature and would require further consultation. I commenced implementing the recommendations last year in budget 2018 with the reintroduction of the 80% cap on capital allowances for intellectual property, and a consultation was held early this year on the implementation of the remaining recommendations. More than 20 submissions were received to this consultation, many of which were detailed and highly technical. My officials are reviewing these submissions and it is my intention to continue this process of open engagement with stakeholders, including my colleagues in the Dáil, through the publication of a roadmap for the implementation of the Coffey recommendations and the anti-tax avoidance directives.

I agree it is wide-ranging, but these tax expenditures and tax reliefs are the dirty great secret of the Irish economic story. They must be examined forensically to see if money being handed back to corporations in allowances and deductions should be invested in public infrastructure and public services. Consider the jump in trading profits from 2014 to 2015. They go from €98 billion to €149 billion in one year. It is a massive jump. How much were the deductions and allowances for this record level of rocketing profits? There was €66 billion in allowances of various types and various deductions of €30 billion. There was €149 billion in profits but almost €100 billion in loopholes. The income that is taxed, therefore, is a fraction of the profits being made. These loopholes are research and development tax credits, tax credits related to intangible assets, loopholes related to intergroup transfers, losses forward so the banks do not pay any tax, capital allowances and a range of others. Will the Minister close some of these or at least examine their value for money?

I am committed to taking on board all the input I have received from the consultation on the Coffey report to ensure we can continue to have a tax code that is both competitive and deals with issues of international concern.

However, where I differ with the Deputy very strongly is in noting that a deduction is not the same as a loophole. Companies of all natures are entitled and are able to reduce some of their tax liabilities on the basis of economic and business activity that they deliver, and under many of the clauses the Deputy has referred to that is exactly what is happening. On the other side of the balance sheet from what the Deputy has referred to are jobs that are created in Ireland and employment and investment that happens in Ireland. All of this is playing a role in our bringing our economy to full employment later in the year.

Yesterday, there were about 100 film workers protesting outside the Dáil for the second week in a row. Does the Minister know why they were protesting? They were there because €70 million is given out in tax reliefs to the film industry. The film industry came to the Oireachtas a few weeks ago and said that it accounts for 17,000 jobs. There are not 17,000 jobs. There are no jobs as a result of that money. Currently, I would be surprised if there were 500 people working, and most of those who are will not have a job in a few weeks. We are not examining whether real jobs are being created or whether real investment is happening. In fact, in his report Mr. Seamus Coffey points out that the tax breaks these firms are getting are so high that the profits are driving up our gross national income so that we have to pay bigger contributions to the European Union, but the tax breaks mean that we do not get the benefit on the other side in tax revenue. Taking research and development as an example, €708 million last year went to the big corporations in research and development tax breaks. Would it not be better to spend that money in the public universities, rather than giving it away to Apple, Google and Facebook?

When the Deputy looks at the companies who are accessing research and development grants, will he also be cognisant of the fact that they are creating employment in Ireland? Many of the companies the Deputy has referred to are very large employers. Their investment, which many other countries wanted, has been secured in Ireland. The different clauses the Deputy refers to, such as grants for research and development and the recognition of such within tax liabilities, are vital ways in which we attract investment to our country and create work. In response to the Deputy's point about the need for further investment in higher and further education, I had hoped that he would point to the fact that the investment plan in Project Ireland 2040 includes a very significant increase in Exchequer funding for higher and further education. I believe that most of the research that takes place there should be funded through the Exchequer.

Criminal Prosecutions

Mick Wallace

Question:

7. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Finance if he has had discussions with the NAMA chairman or CEO regarding a court case involving a former NAMA official charged with leaking information that the DPP decided not to prosecute; if so, the details of the discussions; if no other instances of leaking have occurred within NAMA, his further views on whether the Data Protection Commissioner should investigate the details regarding the case mentioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21665/18]

My question relates to the recent decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, not to prosecute former National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, official Mr. Paul Pugh for the leaking of confidential information. Can the Minister shed some light on the case? Has he spoken to the NAMA chairman or CEO about it? Is the Minister concerned that leaking is going unpunished?

I wish to advise the Deputy that the DPP is entirely independent in carrying out her functions and neither I nor the Department of Finance are privy to her decisions. It would not be appropriate for me to question or query any action taken by the DPP in relation to these proceedings, and I did not discuss this matter with the chairman or CEO of NAMA. However, I am aware from recent newspaper reports of the decision by the DPP not to pursue this matter. Such a decision is solely within the purview of the office of the DPP. 

I wish to inform the Deputy that employees assigned by the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA to NAMA are bound by a number of statutory obligations in respect of the confidentiality of information to which they have access by virtue of their employment by NAMA. These include obligations imposed under section 14(1) of the National Treasury Management Agency Act 1990 and under section 202 of the National Asset Management Act 2009. In addition to this, I can advise the Deputy that staff who are assigned to NAMA by the NTMA are also subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1963. Contravention of these statutory obligations constitutes a criminal offence. Under section 7 of the NAMA Act, a person who commits such offences may be liable to a substantial fine, a term of imprisonment or both.

Under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011, any party with evidence of criminal wrongdoing is legally obliged to bring such evidence to the attention of An Garda Síochána. I am advised that at all times where NAMA has had reason to suspect that confidential information has been unlawfully released, NAMA has informed An Garda Síochána and fully assisted in Garda investigations.

The Minister says that he cannot hold the DPP to account, but he should be able to so hold NAMA. The decision of the DPP raises a lot more questions than answers. We have to wonder what caused the body to feel that it could not prosecute. When did NAMA first find out that Mr. Pugh had been leaking information, and when did they report it to An Garda? These are answers the Minister should get from NAMA. NAMA would like us to believe that Mr. Enda Farrell was the only bad apple in the barrel in nine years, but we know that this is not true. Mr. Pugh was accused of intentionally disclosing confidential information about McCabe Builders (UK) Ltd. to a London-based investment company, Connaught and Whitehall Capital UK Ltd., by email on 6 June 2012. Section 202 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, to which the Minister referred, states that confidential information means "information relating to the commercial or business interests of a participating institution or of a person who is or has been in a relationship with a participating institution".

The section goes on to state:

For the purposes of this section, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is shown, that a person knew that information was confidential information, if that person reasonably ought to have known that it was confidential information.

The information I have is that the senior executives of NAMA are able to pick and choose which information they deem confidential whenever it suits them. The case did not suit them. Can the Minister find out-----

Deputy Wallace, the Minister must be allowed to respond.

-----did the CEO or chairman intervene in this case at the last minute?

A Leas-Chathaoirligh, we have just heard a number of allegations there-----

There were not allegations.

-----levelled against individuals who are not present to defend themselves.

I remind Deputy Wallace that he cannot make allegations.

They were not allegations. They are known facts.

As far as I am concerned, the Deputy cannot make allegations against those who are not here to defend themselves.

When he responds, the Deputy might explain what a fact is, as he understands it, and what is an allegation. The Deputy knows that I cannot intervene in any decision that is made by either the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Data Protection Commissioner. He also knows that it would be entirely inappropriate and wrong for me to engage in any matter which NAMA is dealing with while it is dealing with both bodies. What I have outlined for the Deputy today comprises independent decisions that have been made by both the Data Protection Commissioner and the DPP. I cannot influence any decisions they make in any way, as I know the Deputy understands. When NAMA was dealing with both of those bodies, it would have been wrong for me to be involved in any decisions it made. I have answered the questions that the Deputy has put to me, and I have explained that I am confident that NAMA is aware of all of its duties in relation to this area. Where there are any breaches or issues, NAMA has responded to the relevant authorities.

Deputy Wallace has a final question. He should be careful.

I wrote to the Data Protection Commissioner about this case. Her office seems to be the only wing of the State at present that has any interest in holding NAMA to account. The Minister might be able to help me with this. The Data Protection Commissioner asked me whether the information leaked by Mr. Pugh contained personal data. This is critical to allowing the DPP to investigate. Will the Minister instruct NAMA, as is his right as Minister, to give all files relating to this individual case to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, so that it can investigate it properly? The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner obviously does not have that information, but the Minister could tell NAMA to give the relevant information to it so that it can do its work. The Minister cannot wash his hands of this. The last Minister for Finance did not hold NAMA to account. Will Deputy Donohoe? I am not convinced.

Any investigation that is under way on the part of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner of any matter that it is raising with NAMA is a matter for that body. If it has any concerns that information is not being fully shared with them, or any issues in relation to the investigation, it has significant power under law to deal with that matter. I am sure if there were any such concerns, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner would be using the powers that are available to it.