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Tuesday, 20 Jun 2017

Written Answers Nos 1709-1728

GLAS Payments

Questions (1709)

Michael Ring

Question:

1709. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a GLAS payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in view of the fact the delay is causing undue financial hardship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28721/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 1 with a contract commencement date of the 1 October 2015 and has received full payments in respect of the 2015 scheme year.

During the 2016 prepayment checking process an issue presented on the computerised crosscheck of Department databases in relation to the Protection of Watercourse from Bovines actions.  My Department has reviewed the issue and the 2016 payment will be further processed with a view to issuing payment at the earliest opportunity.

Organic Farming Scheme Payments

Questions (1710)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

1710. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) will receive their organic farm payment for 2016 which was due in December 2016; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28827/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The outstanding Organic Farming Scheme payments relate to cases where issues have been identified and follow up with the applicant is required.  These issues are being dealt with on a case by case basis. The person named is one of the aforementioned cases. Once the outstanding issues have been resolved, payment will issue.

Aquaculture Development

Questions (1711)

Clare Daly

Question:

1711. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 238 of 25 May 2017, his views on whether the criticism levelled against his Department in the recent EU audit of controls on organic foods can be applied also to so called organic farm salmon. [28828/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The audit undertaken last year by the EU of the controls applied by Ireland in the organic sector was extremely detailed and included a review of controls in the aquaculture sector. Overall, the audit team concluded that Ireland had a control system in place which laid down a clear division of tasks between the competent authority and the various control bodies, but that improvements were required in a number of areas. Many of these had already been identified by my own Department as part of its ongoing assessments and evaluations, and work was already underway to address them. In relation to aquaculture, the EU audit team had a number of specific recommendations to make, which were welcomed as constructive by my Department and which are being implemented.

Aquaculture Development

Questions (1712)

Clare Daly

Question:

1712. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Question No. 239 of 25 May 2017, if the payment of the certification fee directly to the organic control body by the operator means that the certification exercise cannot be considered independent and should be carried out by a State agency such as the Marine Institute. [28829/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In accordance with the governing EU Regulation, the Department, as the Competent Authority, has opted to delegate certification of organic operators to four Organic Control Bodies. This approach is in common with many other EU member states. The registration fee applying is entirely a matter between that organisation and its members. 

The Organic Control Bodies concerned are subject to supervision and ongoing monitoring by the Department. Furthermore all Organic Control Bodies must be accredited on an annual basis by the relevant accreditation body.  All of these controls are designed to ensure the independence of the certification process, which is also verified by EU audit, and I am satisfied that this independence is in no way compromised by payment of the relevant fee.

Aquaculture Licences

Questions (1713)

Clare Daly

Question:

1713. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 240 of 25 May 2017, his plans to commission an independent review of his Department's organic certification system for farmed salmon; and his further plans to withdraw organic certification from salmon farms pending the outcome of that review. [28830/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The certification system for organic salmon in Ireland is subject to ongoing review and assessment by my Department and was also included in last year’s comprehensive audit by the EU of the controls applied by Ireland in the organic sector generally.  The EU team had a number of specific recommendations to make in relation to aquaculture, including the inspection of organic salmon farms, which my Department recognises as constructive and which are being implemented.  I have no plan for a further independent review of the nature suggested by the Deputy.  However, as indicated in previous replies to similar questions from the Deputy, my Department is reviewing compliance by a specific operator with the existing suite of organic requirements.  Investigations and reviews of this nature are an important part of my Department’s controls in this area.

Aquaculture Licences

Questions (1714)

Clare Daly

Question:

1714. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Question No. 241 of 25 May 2017, if his Department's fisheries and marine division controls all elements of aquaculture licensing from initial application to appeals against ministerial decisions; and his views on whether this serves to thwart the intentions of the Houses of the Oireachtas which established the regulatory agencies such as the Marine Institute and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority as independent bodies, in view of the fact that it undermines public confidence in the integrity of the licensing system, that the payment of grants to operators licensed under such a compromised system may be in breach of legislation and that the continued operation of this system by his Department amounts to maladministration. [28831/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The issues referred to by the Deputy are managed by my Department strictly in accordance with applicable legislation.

All applications for aquaculture licences are considered by my Department under the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act and related legislation.

There is always a strict separation between my Ministerial role as decision maker in respect of aquaculture licence applications and my Ministerial duty to promote the sustainable development of the industry. This separation of duties is strictly observed.

The Sea Food Policy Management Division of my Department is responsible for corporate governance oversight of the independent Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board (ALAB). The Board was established under Section 22 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997. The function of the Board is to provide an independent authority for the determination of appeals against Ministerial decisions in respect of aquaculture licences.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) was established by the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 which provides that the Authority is independent in the exercise of its functions.  Specifically, Section 46 of the Act provides that the Minister may give such general policy directions in writing to the Authority in relation to its functions as is considered appropriate but that the Minister may not exercise any power or control in relation to individual cases, or groups of cases, with which the Authority is concerned, or in relation to the performance in particular circumstances by the Authority of its functions.

The Marine Institute (MI) was established under the Marine Institute Act 1991. As the State agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation in Ireland, it provides scientific and technical advice to Government to help inform policy and to support the sustainable development of Ireland’s marine resource.

Under the Sustainable Aquaculture Scheme implemented as part of the European Maritime and fisheries Fund Operational Programme 2014-20, supports for capital investment in aquaculture are confined strictly to aquaculture enterprises that are fully compliant with the terms and conditions of their aquaculture and foreshore licences. Supports for capital investment in aquaculture sites located in Natura 2000 areas are available only to sites that are fully licensed in compliance with the Habitats and Birds Directives.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (1715)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1715. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the final year of an AEOS 2 contract will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28842/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The final year of the AEOS 2 contract of the person named was due to end at the end of 2016. However, the herdowner applied for GLAS and was accepted into that scheme with a contract commencement date of 1st January 2016 which was to run to the end of 2020, replacing the AEOS contract.

The GLAS approval letter which issued on the 29th January 2016 stated that applications could be withdrawn by contacting the section in writing by 31st March 2016. A withdrawal letter dated 7th April 2016 was received on 11th April 2016.

As the person named had joined GLAS the final year of the AEOS contract was set aside.

I have asked my officials to review the file and they will be in contact with the person named directly when this review is complete.

Turbary Rights

Questions (1716)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1716. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to review turbary rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28864/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In cases where the Minister is the owner of lands subject to turbary rights I have no plans to review those rights.  In all other cases it is a private matter between the parties concerned.

Fish Exports

Questions (1717)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

1717. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the WTO tariffs that would apply for fish exports to the UK for each stock in relation to which such data is available in the absence of a trade agreement being formalised between the UK and EU within the two year period after Article 50 is triggered and if Britain decides to leave the Single Market and customs union at that point, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28929/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Government is fully committed to seeking a negotiated settlement between the EU and UK on Brexit, which will provide for continued unfettered access to the UK market, without tariffs and with minimal additional customs and administrative procedures.

However in the event that the EU and UK fail to negotiate a mutually acceptable trade agreement, both jurisdictions will have to apply the WTO ‘Most Favoured Nations’ tariff rates in relation to their imports.

In such a scenario the task of estimating tariff rates for specific products is complex, given that for tariffs for most fish products the ad valorem (value), product mix and the year of application are all relevant issues in determining the final tariff rate.

The specific rates for products are set out in the WTO database for the relevant countries, available at (http://tdf.wto.org/default.aspx)

My Department is currently carrying out an ‘in depth’ examination of the tariffs and duties for all of the main agri food exports to the UK, including fishery products,  in order to establish the total duty applicable as a percentage of the 2016 declared value.

GLAS Appeals

Questions (1718)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

1718. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an appeal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28958/17]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named submitted an application for GLAS 3.

During the GLAS pre approval checks for the Low Input Permanent Pasture action no record of a grazing enterprise was found on the holding on the Department databases under the herd number the GLAS application was submitted.

The person named has submitted additional documentation showing ownership of ovines under a second herd number. Department officials have reviewed the case on the basis of this additional information and the application will now be further processed for GLAS 3 approval.

Departmental Staff Relocation

Questions (1719)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

1719. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of staff under the remit of his Department who have applied to be transferred to Department or State agency offices located outside the Dublin region in each of the years 2014 to 2016 and to date in 2017, in tabular form; the estimated average cost incurred for each staff member that relocated outside the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29031/17]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Due to the diverse range of staff employed by my Department, a number of different transfer arrangements/agreements are in place for these various grade streams. Given the variety of these arrangements there is no single list of staff requesting transfer to any location.  

My Department supports staff mobility and seeks to accommodate requests from staff to transfer to specific locations where possible, taking account of the business needs of my Department.  The transfer arrangement/agreements that are in place ensure a structured approach to the redeployment of staff to locations where they are needed.  No additional expenditure is incurred by my Department when staff apply for and are transferred to locations outside Dublin.

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Questions (1720)

Martin Ferris

Question:

1720. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason an inaccurate press statement issued by Inland Fisheries Ireland with the headline, New Study reveals Pike Native to Ireland, has not been corrected to reflect the actual report's findings despite requests from organisations (details supplied); the reason Inland Fisheries Ireland has failed to remove this inaccurate press statement from its website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28727/17]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) that the information provided in the press release issued by the Agency on 15 October 2015 is entirely consistent with the information provided in the peer reviewed scientific publication entitled “Genetic structure of pike (Esox Lucius)" jointly authored by 5 scientists and published in the Journal of Biogeography.  The paper reveals a complex and previously unrecognised colonisation history of Ireland. 

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Questions (1721)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

1721. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the details of the sale of a property that was previously occupied by the Central Fisheries Board (details supplied); if conditions were attached to the sale of this site in view of its architectural and historical significance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28815/17]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Matters in relation to premises are a day to day operational matter for the Board of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) subject to Public Financial Procedures. However, I am informed by IFI that the site referred to in the Question was sold, following advertisement, in a public tender process in March 2013.

IFI is not aware of any condition attached to the sale of this site.  However, under section 55(1)(a) of the Planning & Development Act 2000, Balnagowan House, which is on the site, has been added to the record of Protected Structures.

The sale was part of the overall and on-going rationalisation of the fisheries service which included, inter alia, the purchase and fit out of a new headquarters for IFI in Citywest to facilitate exit from relatively expensive temporary rented accommodation.

North-South Interconnector

Questions (1722)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1722. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will redraft the terms of reference for the North-South Interconnector to reflect the wishes of the persons in the areas of counties Cavan and Monaghan affected and two groups (details supplied) as per the Fianna Fáil Dáil Éireann motion which was passed in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27426/17]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

On 19 December 2016 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the North-South Interconnector project in Ireland. The decision concluded a lengthy planning process which included an Oral Hearing completed over eleven weeks from March to May last year. The planning decision is currently the subject of Judicial Review proceedings. The planning process for the section of the project in Northern Ireland is ongoing with an oral hearing concluding on 27 February 2017.

In light of the motions passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, I have had proposals prepared for an updated independent study. In preparing the terms of reference for this study, my officials held meetings with representatives of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign on 28 March and the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee on 3 April. This engagement was important in facilitating local representative groups input into the terms of reference drafting process.

I approved the Terms of Reference for the study and published them on my Department's website on Monday 8 May. This study will bring further clarity to the relative cost and technical merits of overhead and underground solutions for the North South Interconnector.

Following the publication of the Terms of Reference, I met with the Deputy and a number of other Oireachtas members from Cavan, Monaghan and Meath on Tuesday 16 May. This meeting provided me the opportunity to update the members on progress in relation to the proposed study and for the members to provide feedback.

As discussed at that meeting, it is not proposed to include external factors (such as local tourism, health, landscape, agriculture and heritage). These were examined as part of the statutory planning process which is the appropriate method by which such impacts are assessed and evaluated and therefore there are no plans to re-draft the terms of reference.

The impact on land and property values and the level of compensation paid in lieu of such impacts was also discussed at the meeting with Oireachtas members and at the meetings with the community groups referred to in the question. Whilst it would not be appropriate for me to intrude on settled processes for addressing these issues between developers and affected landowners, in light of the concerns that have been voiced, I am commissioning  research on international comparative practice on the approach to and levels of compensation provided to land and property owners in proximity to high-voltage power lines.

Sporting Rights

Questions (1723)

Peter Burke

Question:

1723. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the processes involved in the tendering for the broadcast of GAA matches on public and private broadcast networks; the frequency with which this process must take place; the efforts in place to allow for the national broadcaster to have fair access to GAA matches in view of its public service responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28259/17]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The sale of the broadcasting rights of sporting events, including the right to broadcast GAA matches, is a matter for the rights holder concerned and any broadcaster that may have an interest in purchasing these rights. As Minister, I have no role in this process.

Section 114 (1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 states the principal objects and associated powers of RTÉ and Section 118 of the Act states the equivalent objects and associated powers of TG4. Section 98 provides that both shall be independent in the pursuance of these objects, subject to the requirements of the Act.

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive provides that Member States may designate sporting and cultural events of major importance to society as free-to-air. At a national level, the Broadcasting Act 2009 sets out the statutory process for designating events as free-to-air in this jurisdiction.

Under the 2009 Act, I, as Minister, am obliged to review the list of designated events every three years. The purpose of the review is to consider the appropriateness of the current list of designated events and to examine whether to add any  events of major importance to society.

Currently, the All Ireland Senior Inter-County Football and Hurling Finals are designated as events of major importance to society and are made available for broadcasting on a free to air basis.  

I have recently received approval from the European Commission to designate the All Ireland Senior Ladies Football and Camogie Finals as events of major importance. This process will be completed shortly and will ensure that these events will be available on a free to air basis.

Energy Schemes

Questions (1724)

John Curran

Question:

1724. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the success or otherwise of the warmth and well-being pilot programme that commenced in 2016 and piloted in parts of Dublin 8, 10, 12, 22 and 24; the number of persons who have benefited from this programme in each area, in tabular form; his plans for the expansion of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28729/17]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Warmth and Well-being scheme is a pilot initiative being delivered under the Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty and the Healthy Ireland Framework. The main aim of the scheme is to demonstrate the positive effects that making homes warmer and more energy efficient can have on the health and well-being of people in energy poverty who are living with a chronic respiratory condition. An independent research project will assess the impact the scheme is having. At the conclusion of the scheme and with independent evidence on its effectiveness, the potential for a wider rollout will be considered. In total, 202 homes have been upgraded so far under the scheme, the majority of these in Dublin 24. However, the wider eligibility criteria were only announced at the end of last year so by the end of this year I expect a more balanced pattern of homes completed. There is a currently a waiting list of over 400 eligible applicants across the five areas and the rate of homes completed under the scheme will substantially increase from July onwards when SEAI increases the number of contractors available to deliver deep retrofits.

I expect to allocate at least €20m in funding to this pilot to provide for the upgrade of at least 1,500 homes. This is the minimum size necessary to develop the evidence base that will be necessary to reach conclusions on the potential for a wider rollout of the scheme. 

The Deputy may also be aware that the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme is available on a nationwide basis to low income households who are at risk of energy poverty. More information on this scheme is available on SEAI’s website at: http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Warmer_Homes_Scheme/About_the_BEWH.html or Freephone: 1800 250 204.

Health and Safety Inspections

Questions (1725, 1726, 1727)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

1725. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the recent leak of emissions at a location (details supplied); if he will report on the findings of the EPA regarding the incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28999/17]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

1726. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the actions being taken in the wake of the recent incident at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29023/17]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

1727. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a health and safety report is being carried out in the wake of the recent incident at a location (details supplied); when it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29024/17]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1725 to 1727, inclusive, together.

Industrial Emissions installations are subject to a range of regulatory controls under national legislation, including the conditions attached to a licence issued by the Environmental Protection Agency on the operation and management of such sites. As Minister, I have no function in monitoring or enforcing the conditions attached to such licences and I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by the EPA, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function conferred on the Agency under the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992 as amended.

Health and safety in the workplace is not an issue under my remit as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Therefore, I have no role in relation to the operation of the facility in question, nor the investigation of such incidents.  These are matters for the appropriate statutory agencies and I understand that the EPA and the Health and Safety Authority are both investigating the matter.

Energy Schemes

Questions (1728)

Willie Penrose

Question:

1728. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will publish the research and consultation on minimum energy efficiency standards in the rented sector as outlined in the Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty 2016-2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29105/17]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

As outlined in the Government's Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty, minimum standards for energy efficiency in the rented sector are being considered because published research has demonstrated that people living in rented accommodation are more than twice as likely to live in a home with an E, F or G Building Energy Rating (BER) than homeowners. Households living in relatively energy inefficient properties spend €160-€419 per annum more on energy than households in a home rated with a BER of B. This leaves those living in rented accommodation more vulnerable to energy poverty.    

This situation arises as the typical tenancy in Ireland is short and hence tenants do not tend to invest significant sums in the property they are living in. At the same time, landlords under-invest in energy efficiency works as the tenants are the ones who benefit from  the consequent energy bill savings and in a constrained rental market there appears to be little value placed on the energy efficiency of a rented property. These diverging incentives mean that energy efficiency investment is much lower in the private rented sector than among homeowners, even though Government grant schemes such as the Better Energy Homes scheme are open to landlords.

My Department has worked with external consultants to examine the impact of introducing minimum energy efficiency standards to counteract this market failure but this must be balanced against the impact such regulations would have on the price and availability of rented properties.

With the publication of the 2017 Census, my Department is working to update the research findings and incorporate this new data. By the autumn I intend to present the findings of this updated research to a seminar of tenant and landlord interest groups, with a view to publishing the research shortly thereafter and engaging in a full public consultation.

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