Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 8 Jul 2021

Vol. 1010 No. 3

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

I ask for the co-operation of Deputies. There is a long list of speakers and everyone wants to get in. Each contributor will have up to one minute.

Last night, the Government pulled a political stroke by forcing through a last-minute amendment that gave a tax break to vulture funds to buy up thousands of homes throughout the State, pushing up house prices and outbidding first-time buyers. We really could not make this up. In the middle of a housing crisis, when the Minister knows and every person in the House knows that young people are locked out of affordable housing, that people cannot pay the cost of them and that there is a scarcity of housing, the Government unleashed these vulture funds to wreak havoc in the housing market by buying up these homes from under the noses of aspiring home owners. It has now given them a tax break to do so. Let there be no doubt that while the Government won the amendment last night, and the vulture funds and cuckoo funds won the amendment last night, it was the ordinary people of this city and the State who lost out. It was aspiring home owners who lost out, it was first time buyers who lost out, it was renters who lost out and it was the taxpayers who lost out. Will the Minister explain why the Green Party adopted this shameful position?

I ask Members to stick to time.

The Deputy knows as well, in turn, that our interests are with the local authorities and approved housing bodies in delivering social housing. The Deputy knows this is the interest of every party in the House. I cannot accept this type of definitive split that people on one side of the House are in favour of vulture funds, cuckoo developers or others, and the rest of us are all in favour of social housing and approved housing bodies. We all have this similar interest in mind.

It is the same in respect of the particular difficulties in local authorities and in meeting the interests of young people. We have the exact same interest in providing for young people as the Deputy's party does. Yes, we will look to change, as we are doing in Government, the mechanisms by which we do it. We do not agree on all the policies that have been there in the past but we are working to change them, and we will, in a way that is for the better of young people.

We all share that objective.

The issue here, if we get beyond the sloganeering, is very real. In my community in Marino, there has been a discovery this week about a development on Griffith Avenue. When it was being proposed, there was a lot of internal debate in the community about its size and scale, which was making people uneasy. There was also a lot of sentiment in the local area that development was needed to house our people. We discovered this week that 343 of these units are being sold to a vulture fund. Young people are facing an average rent of €1,914. What are we supposed to do in this situation and how can we prevent it from happening again? When the Minister says, and I genuinely believe he agrees, that this is not something that should happen, how can we prevent it from happening? It is very real; it is happening right on our doorsteps.

The main way we prevent it from happening is by working with the Land Development Agency, particularly on public lands or lands the State has an ability to influence. We go into the market. That is why I keep coming back to cost rental as a fundamental strategic change in what we are doing here, in that we go into the market and start providing affordable rent and affordable purchase in a way that brings market prices down. That is what we are doing in government. We are implementing the Land Development Agency Bill 2021. I am working with all the public bodies under my Department's remit to see where we can get access to such land, especially land close to the centre of the city, whether on the north side or south side. That is the practical measure that allows us to increase supply. It requires change. Going back to what I said about changing policies, it is a new way of doing it, a different strand and a different way of seeing rental and public housing. It is public housing that is in the market but not subservient to the market.

We have to change the market. That is how I think we can do it.

The Green Party in government is supporting a model of cost rental that involves profit returns for investment funds. That is what is happening. Last night, the Government voted to provide tax exemptions for cuckoo funds to buy up homes. In addition to these tax exemptions, the State is incentivising the bulk buying of homes by investment funds by copper-fastening guarantees of rental income for 25 years. The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers has said the State should be seeking 50% discounts on market rents when agreeing any long-term leases. Instead, the State is paying almost the full market rent and agreeing discounts of as little as 10% or even 5%. Why is the Government paying out almost double the recommended rate and when will it end these sweetheart deals with investment funds?

I want to clarify this because it is important. We have been talking about this issue in the Dáil for four or five years, as I recall. Our party was the first to introduce a motion on cost rental, three or four years ago, on which we got cross-party support. There was a reference in that motion to the Vienna model because Vienna and Austria have shown a really good example of how this can work. It takes time but, over the long term, the housing becomes an asset that can be used as collateral to get more public housing. The Vienna model also recognises that sometimes the state will allow pension funds and other investors in to back up and support public housing and get a return from it. It is a low return and it is regulated, but it does help. One of the reasons it helps is that there is also then the potential for us to do some of this off balance sheet. It gives local authorities the ability, over a long timeframe, to keep housing supply going, even if the national budgetary situation is difficult. It is important to say that we stand by the Vienna model, we want to replicate what is happening in Austria-----

I am moving on, Minister. We are over time.

-----and we think it could work here.

The Minister may be aware that Balfour Beatty is closing down its operations in Ireland. It has had a contract for years with Gas Networks Ireland that is paid for by public money. That contract is being taken over by GMC, which is seeking 70 redundancies from the Balfour Beatty workforce. The Minister may not be aware that GMC is bullying and intimidating workers into taking redundancy on the basis that if they do not take it now, they will lose out in a year's time. One of the reasons GMC is giving for these redundancies is that they are a consequence of climate change. Does the Minister agree that this is unacceptable on two counts, namely, on the basis of just transition for workers and also on the principles of social dialogue? The company should be forced to negotiate with the trade union, SIPTU, for a decent transfer of business, TUPE, arrangement and for redundancies for workers if they want them, not because they are being forced to take them. GMC is receiving public money to carry out work-----

Thank you, Deputy. The Minister to respond.

-----on our gas infrastructure. It is a breach of the principles of just transition.

We need a just transition and I do not believe that transition can be done on the basis that climate change and the switch away from fossil fuels gives companies permission not to work in a way that is within the spirit and law in terms of social partnership and looking after workers' rights in this country. I do not accept or agree with that. We have to rely on the institutions of the State, including the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court and other mechanisms, where there is any question arising in such matters. I do not have the specific detail of the case the Deputy mentioned and I do not want to draw conclusions until I have a chance to look at it. There are mechanisms in place in the State to protect workers' rights and labour rights and they are the first place to which we turn. On the wider issue of just transition, we must intervene to make sure that where jobs in the fossil fuel industries are lost, we provide alternatives.

Thank you, Minister. I am moving on to the Regional Group.

That is what we are doing.

We are all aware that representatives from the hospitality industry and officials from the Department of Heath are currently meeting to discuss how best to tease out the reopening of indoor dining over the next couple of weeks. That is a good thing. We are also aware that there are approximately 750 pharmacies across the country in which members of the public are being vaccinated on a first come, first served basis. Has any thought been given to asking or directing the pharmacy sector to prioritise the administering of the Janssen vaccine to indoor hospitality workers who, because of their age demographic, may not have been picked up by the mainstream vaccination programme? If not, it is something the Minister and the Government might consider.

I will pass on the Deputy's suggestion to the Minister for Health. There has not, to date, been a prioritisation given to any category of workers other than front-line health workers, including staff in nursing homes, who obviously had to be prioritised because there was an immediate threat to the lives of their patients if they were not vaccinated. Other than that, the prioritisation has been on the basis of age, which was appropriate. I am very glad that we now have an opportunity for younger people to get vaccinated. Our key priority must be to try, as the Taoiseach has been doing, to get as much international supply as possible into the State and get everyone vaccinated as quickly as we can. That would be Government priority, rather than differentiating on the basis of profession. As much as I can see the logic behind the Deputy's proposal regarding hospitality workers, I have not heard it discussed in the various meetings I have attended.

I want to thank the Minister in the first instance for his engagement with people from Tipperary County Council, Jobs4Tipp, March4Tipp and Tipperary Town Chamber of Commerce. Will he ensure, as part of the review of the national development plan, that the first priority is a bypass for Tipperary town? I know he is clear on that and he is leaning towards bypasses. If it is part of the N24 project, all the better, but the bypass of the town must be done. It is being choked, especially since Brexit, with the huge increase in heavy freight traffic from the west to the east. I plead with the Minister again, at this vital time, to give priority to this. The community groups in Tipperary are made up of wonderful people, who were forced onto the streets as part of the March4Tipp campaign two years ago. They will go onto the streets again if they have to but they would rather work with the Minister. Ní neart go cur le chéile. That is the way they want to work. They are good, dedicated and ingenious people but they cannot survive any longer unless the heavy trucks are taken out of their town. They are suffering from the smog and, above all, the congestion.

We are over time, Deputy.

People must be allowed to trade and the town must be allowed to thrive. We are depending on the Minister.

We have had extensive discussions on this issue in a range of forums. I agree with the Deputy that the bypass of Tipperary town is exactly the sort of project that should be prioritised. I am encouraged that in the recent public consultation looking at the broader options for the upgrade of the N24 route, as I understand it, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, listened to the views expressed and did not rule out an immediate prioritisation of the bypass of Tipperary town as an example of what could be done. The N24 road can link into that as it is further upgraded.

The example given concerned the similar approaches taken in Cashel and Cahir, which worked very effectively. Therefore, I agree with the Deputy. Tipperary is an example of a beautiful and stunning Irish market town. We must bring life back to the centres of such towns. We must keep heavy goods vehicles out of them and bring back shopping and people to live in the centres of those towns. Tipperary town will thrive on the back of such developments.

On page 89 of the programme for Government, Our Shared Future, the Government acknowledges the "importance of the Irish language as the first language of the State". However, mná tí have been given a paltry €1 per student increase on last year's compensation for losing students and keeping accommodation ready for their return. Why are they being treated so disrespectfully, if the Government acknowledges the importance of the Irish language? In addition, Irish colleges, such as Coláiste Bhun an Inbhir in Donegal, were not consulted on the changes made this year, despite the Minister concerned stating that everyone had been consulted. Will the Government commit to reviewing the compensation being paid and ensure that these providers are properly supported in these difficult times?

I do not have the details, but I recall that in recent days the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin, has issued further funding to the mná tí who have lost out because of the loss of Irish colleges again this summer. Difficult choices must be made regarding the allocation of resources, but I will check. My understanding is that further funding has been provided, but I will pass on the concerns raised by the Deputy, see if any community or other organisation has been left out and, if so, if that can be addressed. Support for such initiatives, however, is a top priority for the Minister.

I thank the Minister for taking this question. Is he aware that some parents have not received child benefit payments this month? I have received several reports of child benefit payments for children aged 16 being suspended. Before the onset of Covid-19, parents were required to have a form stamped by school authorities confirming that their child was proceeding into fourth or fifth year. The requirement was deferred last year because of the pandemic. I understand that many parents were not aware of this requirement and some did not receive forms. They now find themselves without child benefit payments. This will clearly have implications as preparations are made for the return to school in September. I contacted the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, asking her to investigate this issue. Groups such as Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids, SPARK, and Barnardos Ireland have also been in contact with the Department of Social Protection. Will the Minister raise this issue with the Minister for Social Protection to ensure that payments will be reinstated, pending certification, in September?

I am informed that an issue has arisen this week where payments have not issued in respect of 17-year olds. Payments in respect of 40% of the 60,000 children in this age group have been impacted, but all other payments to the children and families concerned have been issued. I understand the Department has received calls and representations on this matter and it is working to have these payments restored and reissued in the next two weeks. The child benefit cases involved will also be put back into payment to September. Certification forms will issue to those parents for completion by their schools when they reopen to ensure continuation of payments to those parents from October.

I am sure that the Minister will agree that the Paris accord of December 2015, when 196 countries came together to acknowledge the gravity of the global climate change challenge, was a seminal moment. The gravity of the situation was acknowledged in the context of safeguarding food security and ending global hunger. Those 196 signatories committed to "Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production". In that context, I acknowledge the framework for the delivery of the targets we have accepted in this House in respect of the climate change legislation, which is currently going through the Seanad and which I wholeheartedly support.

I request that the Deputy ask his question, as we are over time.

Does the Minister acknowledge the imperative of consultation and, in so far as possible, consensus regarding targets for the agricultural sector-----

Please, Deputy, we are over time. I call the Minister to reply.

-----that do not threaten food production?

If we do not adhere to the time, then other Deputies will not be able to get in. The time allocated for the question is up to one minute. I call the Minister to reply.

Consultation is key in this regard and that can take place in different forms. We had an interesting and good meeting in our social dialogue process with the representatives of the farming sector last month. Many different views were expressed. Much attention was focused on the issue of climate, because it is going to be critical. I refer to climate adaptation as well as to reducing emissions. Equally, as I said earlier, this involves providing payments and increasing incomes as we reduce emissions. Therefore, consultation is going to be key. There are different views within the farming sector, however, depending on different circumstances in different parts of the country. The Government must balance those different situations.

I keep returning to the fact that the land use review and the plan that will emanate from it, reflecting the different circumstances in different parts of the country, as well as all the various elements of the agricultural sector, including dairy, beef, sucklers, crops, horticulture, tillage, etc., will mean that we will require a varied approach depending on those different needs. More than anything else, however, we must agree on how we can get young people into farming. We must listen and talk to them about how we can make this work. That will be key.

I raise the issue of housing adaptation grants for older people and those with disabilities. Louth County Council has a lack of funding in this regard, and I imagine it is an issue for all local authorities. My office is dealing with many people who fall into the priority 1 category, which covers those who are terminally ill and fully in need of care, to facilitate release from hospital or to avoid future hospitalisation. That is what is necessary from a societal point of view and from the point of view of savings. However, we could be waiting for two or three years before these people are dealt with because insufficient moneys are available. We must examine the entire process, how it is undertaken for particular categories of people, including children with major disabilities and their needs in this respect.

I thank the Deputy, but we are over time.

First and foremost, we need the money. It is not going to cut the mustard otherwise.

I would very much welcome it if the Deputy could provide me with details in this regard and I will certainly pass them on to the relevant Minister. As he said, I am sure this is an issue right around the country. If a specific problem is emerging in Louth, however, I will be happy to pass the information on to the relevant Minister to ensure it is addressed and targeted.

I would like to hear the Minister’s opinion on the traditional art of stone wall building. I also ask him to contact his colleagues, for example, Minister Humphreys, to see how we could incorporate stone wall building into potential artwork along the sides of roads. A heavy emphasis has been placed on modern art thus far in that regard. Beautiful pieces of art have resulted and they have all been worthwhile. However, we must look as well at the traditional art of stone wall building. Places such as Arraheera in Fanad, County Donegal, as well as locations in the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s constituency i nGaillimh, have many areas that we could look to for examples of this traditional form of stone wall building being brought back to life through schemes. We are not talking about an extra budget, but about looking at this traditional art in a more creative way through existing schemes.

Following up on what I said earlier about young people getting involved in farming, the same applies to some of our heritage skills. A generation of people, many of whom I know, have these skills and an incredible variety of abilities and knowledge concerning a range of methods of stone wall building. We risk losing those skills and abilities if we do not value and protect our heritage and pass on those skills to a new generation. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Malcolm Noonan, is doing a great deal of work in the area of heritage. He is providing additional funding, but also looking at the entirety of our policies.

I agree with the Deputy. The special character of many of our areas and their characteristic landscape, including our walls, is critical and central. It brings real benefits and is something we have to keep and transfer on to a new generation of people to have those skills.

In May, I raised the unacceptable closure of the medical assessment unit in Nenagh hospital due to staff shortages. Thankfully, I have been informed by hospital staff that the unit has been fully operational since then. In response to a parliamentary question, the HSE informed me that work is ongoing to recruit a permanent team and a consultant there. It also stated the medical assessment unit was closed for patient safety reasons due to staff shortages. This is a two-way street. Patients need this medical assessment unit open and fully operational or the only option they will have is the accident and emergency department in University Hospital Limerick. Last week, the registrar of the medical assessment unit handed in her registration, so now there is no permanent registrar and no permanent consultant. I ask the Minister to ensure the HSE immediately recruits for these two positions-----

Thank you, Deputy. We are over time. The Minister to reply.

-----with a permanent functioning team behind them in order that the medical assessment unit in Nenagh Hospital can be fully operational at all times.

We are over time. The Minister to reply, thank you.

It is an issue right around the country. Earlier this year, as well as during the Covid pandemic, the Government agreed incredible planned increases in staff within our hospitals and healthcare systems. Many of those have been delivered but we are still waiting on other positions to be filled. It is proving difficult. There are skills shortages in our country, which are not helped by the restrictions on travel that Covid has brought. This is not because of a lack of budget or a lack of will. What is happening in Nenagh is a very good example of the difficulty in finding people to fill those positions. I ask the Deputy to provide me with details and I will check with the Minister for Health if there are any reasons this has been delayed other than a shortage of suitable applicants coming forward. If there is any other obstacle, we will have to address it.

Respite and day services are so important to families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. This was further reinforced during the pandemic when those services were not available. In Macroom, the Cope Foundation ran services for five days a week, which was hugely valuable for local clients and their families. There is always an ongoing need to extend that to a seven-day service for Macroom. Will the Minister engage with Cope and the various authorities to ensure a seven-day and seven-night service is available for Cope clients in Macroom?

Again, this is an issue a right around the country as the hours of many day care and other disability services have been constrained. The availability of respite services has been constrained. Additional funding of €5 million has been provided to develop new respite centres. Despite Covid and the recent attacks on the ICT health system infrastructure, all community health services, including disability services, are now back operating as normal. Regarding the Cope Foundation in Macroom, if the Deputy could forward me those details, I will happily pass them on to the Minister for Health. I support the wider opening and reopening of services.

The Minister will be aware of the dramatic reduction in personal injury awards over the past two months by as much as 50%. He will also be aware that that reduction is a result of actions taken by the Government, which took a long time and encountered ferocious opposition. However, insurance premiums have not reduced commensurately. The idea behind bringing down personal awards was that premiums would be reduced and that these savings would be passed on to the consumer. What is the Government's proposal to compel these insurance companies to pass on these savings to the consumer, which has always been the intention?

That is absolutely the intention. The focus on bringing down insurance costs is not just a recent one and did not just come about on the back of that recent legislation. It has been consistently applied across a range of areas. The Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, held a series of meetings with the main insurers in the Irish market in April to discuss the guidelines and the need for insurers to respond by reducing premiums and expanding their product offering. I understand most insurers committed to decreased premiums in response to this development and the Minister of State intends to meet with them again later this year to review progress in this regard.

Critical to this issue is the national claims information database that the Central Bank maintains, which increases transparency in the insurance sector. It contains details of all claim costs, premium prices and claim settlements going back as far as 2009. We should be able to see the impact of the new guidelines-----

Thank you. We are over time. We do not have time for the Minister to read the rest of his response. I call Deputy Andrews.

Ranelagh Gaels is a growing and innovative GAA club founded by its current president, Liam O'Hagan. Ranelagh Rockets is its new initiative to support and include children with additional needs. Ranelagh Gaels is all about inclusion but it does not have a home. Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines has the only full-sized GAA pitch in the Dublin 6 area. It is vital this pitch is maintained and opened up to schools and clubs like Ranelagh Gaels and Portobello GAA club so they can have a home. Will this Government and the Minister for Defence transfer the pitch in Cathal Brugha Barracks to Dublin City Council to preserve this sporting facility for the community and the likes of Ranelagh Gaels and Portobello GAA?

Like Deputy Andrews, I am very familiar with Ranelagh Gaels and its incredible story. It is a relatively new club and there has been growth and engagement with the local community across a range of groups, including the Ranelagh Rockets and other teams that are now coming up. It will not be too long before Ranelagh Gaels is starring in county championships and winning games. The development of Gaelic football, hurling and camogie has been phenomenal, particularly on the southside of Dublin. It is no surprise to any of us that Dublin beat Galway last week in the hurling. Excuse me, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for raising that matter. If you go canvassing anywhere in south Dublin there is a hurley in every second doorway. It is only a matter of time until we start doing well in the championship.

The Deputy is right that there is a shortage of available land in Ranelagh. It seems the pitch in Cathal Brugha Barracks would be an optimal location to allow the club to help many of these young people engage in the sport.

Thank you, Minister.

I do not know what sort of arrangement would be involved and I do not think the land could be transferred to Dublin City Council-----

-----but I will certainly encourage the Minister of Defence to make it available to the club.

I know it is unsatisfactory but we are over time. We have 37 seconds left and there are five people waiting. I ask for the Minister's co-operation. I am not going to take each question separately because we are over time. Deputy Quinlivan has 30 seconds to put his question.

I will do my best. The Government is committed to progressing a living wage within its lifetime That commitment in the programme for Government should be welcomed. The Tánaiste previously remarked that the improvement of workers' conditions is a priority for him. As such, it is disappointing that the matter of a living wage has been subcontracted out to the Low Pay Commission. Its form when it comes to improving workers' wages would not make us hopeful. In the previous Dáil, the Low Pay Commission twice recommended an increase of 10 cent when reviewing the minimum wage. The introduction of a living wage is crucial for those who kept the State going during the very scary months of the Covid pandemic and for those who straddle the poverty line.

Thank you, Deputy. We are over time.

When does the Minister envisage the Government will publish its plan to move to a living wage?

If all the Deputies persist in going over time we will not reach everyone. We are only doing this with the co-operation of the Minister. We are over time and there is a list of people. I will let the Minister answer this question briefly and I will take the four remaining Deputies in one go and he might give them a composite answer.

I believe the Low Pay Commission is well placed to advise the Government on this matter and I look forward to receiving its report and implementing it.

We have four remaining Deputies, beginning with Deputy Paul Murphy. He has 30 seconds.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I appreciate her giving me the time. The Government is about to make a big mistake in approving the business case for the MetroLink to go to Beechwood, without considering the main alternative of going to south-west Dublin.

I received an answer from the Minister to a parliamentary question, which seems to imply that the alternative cannot be considered outside of the formal six-year review process. That rule would not make any sense and that has already been broken. It also means not taking into account the evidence that has emerged.

Does the Minister agree that it would make sense to approve it up to St. Stephen's Green and then have independent reviews of the different options?

Special schools reopened last February. Public transport services will be increased to 75% from 19 July but people who are fully vaccinated are still waiting on the public health advice and on Government direction in this area. This includes those in disability training centres, where there is as little as 20% capacity being provided, or older people who have had no day service whatsoever since March 2020. Why are the doors of these vital services still closed to the most vulnerable in society?

The programme for Government promises to prioritise the development of microgeneration, which lets people sell excess power back to the grid, by June 2021. We are a month past the deadline. When will microgenerators be able to sell back to the grid and make renewable technology more affordable? Under what terms will this be done?

My question is about the vaccine roll-out through the pharmacies. While it is welcome and the interest in uptake by young people aged between 18 and 34 is encouraging, no pharmacies in west Cavan are administering the vaccine. This is not because they are not interested; it is because they have been told by the HSE that it will not facilitate them joining the scheme. I would love to know why that is and what the situation is there. There is also no centralised booking system so people can book onto several waiting lists in pharmacies, and are doing so, which is causing a waste of vaccines.

On Deputy Paul Murphy's question, there are three options for the extension of MetroLink on the south side. One is to go south-west to Terenure and Rathfarnham and potentially on to Tallaght; one is going up the green line, which will not be a viable option for a variety of different reasons; and one is going south-east to University College Dublin, UCD, Stillorgan and Sandyford, which would be able to address capacity issues on the green line. Whichever is the best option on transport and economic, social and community development terms will be the one that is picked. It is appropriate for that to be done within the review of the greater Dublin area transport strategy. The proposal, as developed by MetroLink, to extend beyond St. Stephen's Green, does not preclude any one of the options. It is better for us to go with the outlined proposal that has been 25 years in the making from TII and the National Transport Authority. Then, as a second development, we should look to extend further, either south-west or south-east, whichever is the more optimal option.

On Deputy Naughten's question, I commit that the next phase in the reopening has to include day care services, which are critical. If we can be successful, as we have been doing in our step-by-step and cautious but considered approach, I have every confidence that we will see those services restored. They are critical, not just for the health of individuals but also for their families. There are also all the other knock-on consequences of not having them available.

Deputy Patricia Ryan asked about microgeneration. We are in the final stages of preparing to deliver that and I expect it imminently. It will open up the possibility of being able to export and get a price for excess renewable power that people may have.

Deputy Tully mentioned the issues the pharmacies partaking in the vaccination programme are experiencing. That was set out by the vaccine task force, which has done a good job and it seems to be working well. Decisions on individual pharmacies were taken on the basis of having an appropriate network relative to the volume of vaccines that we had. If we saw a significant increase in vaccine supplies internationally, the task force would continue to review the situation. It has done almost 30 different iterations of the vaccine roll-out plan. That could include further online booking mechanisms. My understanding is that it is working well. The only problem we have is access to vaccines from the international environment. If that increased, our response on the ground would increase at the same time.

Sitting suspended at 1.15 p.m and resumed at 1.55 p.m.