Tax Rebates

Questions (76)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

76. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance the reason the fuel rebate for bus owners recently introduced in the budget is limited to those who use over 2,000 litres of fuel per month as this unfairly disadvantages smaller operators who are commercial bus operators and use over 1,000 litres per month but who fail to meet the 2,000 litre threshold; if there are plans to remedy this matter to allow smaller operators to compete successfully with their larger competitors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15627/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I introduced this scheme in the Finance Act 2013 in order to provide for a repayment to qualifying road haulage and bus operators of a part of the mineral oil tax paid on their purchases of auto-diesel for use in the course of business. In order to address the risk of widespread abuse of the scheme, provision was made for certain restrictions on the means by which the auto-diesel concerned may be purchased. Purchases in bulk must be made from a licensed mineral oil trader, and delivered, in a quantity exceeding 2,000 litres, to a premises or place that is under the control of that qualifying road transport operator. Bulk purchases from licensed mineral oil traders can be verified by reference to the monthly electronic returns that the oil traders are required to make to Revenue.

In designing the scheme, I was conscious of the point raised by the Deputy.  Accordingly, the scheme provides that purchases of smaller quantities, by means of a fuel card approved by Revenue for that purpose, may also qualify for repayment and there is no minimum requirement on purchases made in this way. A fuel card will be approved where Revenue is satisfied that the fuel card provider will supply it with the information required about purchases of auto-diesel by means of that card. There are a number of fuel card providers who can supply suitable fuel cards to road transport operators and fuel retailers.

The purchasing arrangements under the scheme are necessary to enable Revenue to manage repayments to qualifying operators while controlling the risk of fraud. The requirements of the scheme, including those relating to fuel purchases, were explained at length during meetings between Revenue and representative bodies of the transport operators prior to its commencement.

Budget Targets

Questions (77)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

77. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether overall budget 2014 projections will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15670/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

In relation to the targets set out in Budget 2014, I am confident, on the basis of what I have seen to date, we will achieve the targets set out in Budget 2014. As the Deputy will be aware, this Government has met all of its targets to date and has achieved substantial progress in setting the public finances and the economy back on the road to good health and this has been acknowledged by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and most economic commentators. My Department will publish updated macroeconomic and budgetary forecasts in April in the Stability Programme Update. These will take account of the latest economic and fiscal data and will give updated deficit projection over the forecast horizon.

School Transport Administration

Questions (78, 79)

Seán Fleming

Question:

78. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of savings in the administration charges for school transport that will be achieved in 2014 following his press announcement of 30 July 2011 where he said €17 million would be saved in the three years following that press conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15466/14]

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Seán Fleming

Question:

79. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form the specific areas or departments within Bus Éireann in which the savings in the administration charges for school transport were achieved since 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15467/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.

I take it the Deputy is referring to my press release of 30th June 2011. The €17 million saving related to the savings to be achieved in the overall school transport budget under the four year national recovery plan. I take it the Deputy's reference to the administration charges refers to the 13% charge, also referred to as the transport management charge and indirect costs. Savings in this charge were secured by way of a rebate of an element of the charge by Bus Éireann to the Department. The amount rebated in each year since 2011 is as follows: €1.77m (2011), €3.6m (2012) and €3.98m (2013 provisional). The precise amount of savings on the administration charges for 2014 will not be known until after the end of 2014. The explanatory note on my Department's website sets out the areas and headings of the overall company costs apportioned to the school transport scheme under the transport management charge and indirect costs since 2010. The following table summarised these areas for the 3 years 2010, 2011 and 2012. An explanation of the categories of costs is also available on my Department's website.

-

2010 - €m

2011 - €m

2012 - €m

Direct element

3.8

3.6

2.7

Indirect Support

2.8

2.8

3.7

Indirect Regional

4.5

4.3

4.1

Property

2.5

2.5

2.5

Contribution

4.6

3.5

2.0

Total

18.2

16.7

15.0

Apprenticeship Programmes

Questions (80)

Pat Deering

Question:

80. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the requirement for an apprentice mechanical automation and maintenance fitter to have perfect colour vision is not stated on the SOLAS website; and the reason a student who has already achieved a mechanical and electrical degree and received a seven out of ten mark in a colour vision test cannot be accepted as an apprentice. [15475/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

This is an operational matter for SOLAS and the query has been forwarded to SOLAS for direct reply to the Deputy.

Sick Pay Scheme Reform

Questions (81)

Regina Doherty

Question:

81. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the changes to sick leave arrangements for teachers which commence in September 2014 will include the facility to review on a case-by-case basis, making exceptions where necessary (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15499/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Following a review of sick leave arrangements and binding Labour Court Recommendation No. LCR20335, Regulations for a new Public Service wide Sick Leave Scheme came into operation on 31st March 2014. However, in so far as they relate to teachers, these Regulations will come into operation on 01 September 2014.

My Department is currently preparing a detailed consolidated circular letter for schools which will outline how the new regulations will operate for teachers. As is normal practice the detail of the scheme will be placed before the Teachers Conciliation Council a body established in accordance with the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for Teachers. The Council is composed of representatives of teachers, school management, the Department of Education and Skills and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and chaired by an official of the Labour Relations Commission.

Regarding the case referred to by the Deputy the position is that where a teacher has commenced a period of sick leave prior to 1 September 2014 and sick leave continues after that date, he/she will continue to avail of the current sick leave arrangements for teachers for that absence. On resumption of duties after 1st September, any future sick leave absence will be dealt with under the terms of the revised sick leave scheme.

Questions (82)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

82. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the names, addresses and roll numbers of all the two-teacher, three-teacher and four-teacher primary schools outside of the gateway cities and hub towns that do not have a school transport service to them but have students in them in receipt of the remote area grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15514/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The level of information sought by the Deputy is not readily available and to provide such detail would require considerable research involving a number of sections within my Department and Bus Éireann. In 2013 there were over 1300 Remote Area Grant payments made to families of children who attended over 300 primary schools; the total cost of these grant payments was some €0.9m. Should the Deputy wish to contact officials in the School Transport Section of my Department they may be in a position to assist with his enquiries.