UN Security Council

Questions (37)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

37. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he has identified support for Ireland's case for nomination to the UN Security Council, further to his recent address to the UN General Assembly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40898/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland is seeking election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in June 2020 for the 2021-2022 term. Ireland’s candidacy was announced in 2005.

The campaign leading up to 2020 is already well under way. I am using every opportunity during bi-lateral contacts and meetings to press the value of Ireland playing a strong and independent role on the Council. In addition, my Department’s diplomatic staff in Ireland, our Permanent Representation to the UN in New York, and our entire Embassy network have been actively presenting our case and seeking support.

Each year, Ireland attends the United Nations General Assembly held at UN Headquarters in New York. This is the largest gathering of Heads of State and Government and Ministers in the UN calendar.

The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly got underway in early September.

The theme for this year’s General Debate was "Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies”.

I delivered Ireland’s National Statement to the General Debate in which I emphasised Ireland’s strong support for multilateralism as the best way to address global problems. It is my firm view, which I believe is shared across the Oireachtas, that a collective effort is the only way to address global challenges such as conflict, migration and climate change, which are often linked.

The statement offered the opportunity to highlight Ireland’s role in UN peacekeeping, disarmament and humanitarian assistance, and to highlight Ireland’s concerns regarding the situation in the Middle East.

While attending the UN General Assembly, An Taoiseach, Minister of State Cannon and I met with a large number of Heads of State and Government and Ministers from all regions. During these constructive bilateral engagements, we received a strong hearing. Ireland’s track record at the UN is widely respected as is our sense of Empathy, Partnership and Independence which are hallmarks of our Security Council campaign. We face strong competition in the election for two non-permanent seats on the Security Council from Canada and Norway, two States which we highly respect and with which we work closely at the UN.

Through all of our interactions in recent days, and the extensive range of meetings which will take place over the coming 20 months, UN Member States will be very aware that Ireland will continue our strong efforts for election to the Security Council.

Passport Applications Fees

Questions (38)

Brian Stanley

Question:

38. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the standard fee for passports for persons who have been employed and self-employed for over four decades here will be waived; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40987/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The cost of the standard ten year adult Irish passport compares favourably with many other jurisdictions. At a cost of €80, which breaks down to €8 per year, the Irish passport fee compares with approximately €8.60 per year for a British passport, €8.60 per year for a French passport, €9.60 per year for renewal of an American passport and €17.20 per year for an Australian passport.

Given that any shortfall in revenue or additional costs would have to be met by the taxpayer, I do not have any plans at this time to reduce the application fee for any category of adult passport.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (39)

Brian Stanley

Question:

39. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the charge is the same for citizenship for persons who apply from outside the EU. [40988/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The fees for citizenship through entry on the Foreign Births Register are set out in Statutory Instrument number 47/2013 - Foreign Births Regulations 2013, which provides for fees as follows:

Under 18 Registration: €125 + €20.00 for the certificate

Over 18 Registration: €250 + €20.00 for the certificate

These fees are uniform irrespective of where a person applies from. A non-refundable postage and handling fee of €8 is also charged.

Since November 2016, it has been possible to make online payments when applying for Foreign Birth Registration. However, at a number of missions (Embassy Abuja, Embassy Addis Ababa, Embassy Dar Es Salaam, Embassy Freetown, Embassy Nairobi, Embassy Maputo, Embassy Malawi, and Honorary Consulate Auckland), payments must be made directly.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (40)

Niall Collins

Question:

40. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has given consideration to opening an embassy in Georgia as part of expanding Ireland's global footprint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40989/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Embassy of Ireland in Sofia, Bulgaria is accredited on a non-residential basis to Georgia. Ireland enjoys excellent relations with Georgia.

With the launch of ‘Global Ireland: Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025’, the Government is committed to doubling the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint in the period ahead, while also continuously reviewing the scale of Ireland’s overseas network.

In considering expanding our diplomatic representation overseas, a range of factors is taken into account including our national political, economic and trade priorities, as well as the availability of resources.

There are currently no plans to open an Embassy in Tbilisi.

Passport Applications

Questions (41)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

41. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a passport application by a person (details supplied) will be expedited; the target and turnaround time for passport applications; if turnaround times are regularly relayed to post office staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41013/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

An application for the individual named was registered with the Passport Service on the 2 October 2018. The Passport Service has been in touch with the applicant regarding the latest status of his application and has explained what is required to allow his application be processed as quickly as possible.

The Passport Service aims to process all passport applications submitted via Passport Express within 15 working days. At present, renewal applications through Passport Express are being processed in an average time of 10 working days, excluding postage time.

The fastest way for applicants to apply for a passport renewal is using the Online Passport Renewal Service. Target turnaround time for applications made via the online service is 10 working days plus postage. Current average processing time is 8 working days, and over 50% of applicants who have used this channel this year have had their application processed within a week. The online service currently accommodates only adult renewals and passport card applications, but it is planned to further extend this service to child renewals by the end of 2018.

The Passport Service continues to work closely with the Communications Unit of An Post to ensure that information disseminated by An Post staff is accurate and up to date. Turnaround times for all categories of applicants are regularly published on www.dfa.ie/passports.

Passport Applications Fees

Questions (42)

Seán Fleming

Question:

42. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the estimated amount it would cost in a full year if the passport application fee was reduced to €60 for persons over 75 years of age based on 2017 figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41021/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Based on 2017 application volumes, the Passport Service has calculated the potential annual cost of reducing the passport application fee to €60 for applicants over 75 years of age to be just under half a million euros.

The cost of the standard ten year adult Irish passport compares favourably with many other jurisdictions. At a cost of €80, which breaks down to €8 per year, the Irish passport fee compares with approximately €8.60 per year for a British passport, €8.60 per year for a French passport, €9.60 per year for renewal of an American passport and €17.20 per year for an Australian passport.

Given that any shortfall in revenue for such a subsidy would have to be met by the taxpayer, I do not have any plans at this time to waive or reduce the application fee for any category of adult passport.

UN Conferences

Questions (43)

Seán Crowe

Question:

43. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the regulation of transnational corporations and other business enterprises in international law will be elaborated in advance of the fourth session of the UN Intergovernmental Working Group; his views on the development of a UN treaty on business and human rights in view of the fact this regulation will complement a national action plan on business and human rights; and the way in which his Department will contribute to this session in Geneva. [41113/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

A number of developing countries, led by Ecuador and South Africa, have proposed the elaboration of an internationally legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises and in this regard an Inter-Governmental Working Group was established in 2014 on foot of a resolution of the Human Rights Council.

The next session of the Inter-Governmental Working Group is scheduled to take place in Geneva from 15-19 October. Ireland and our EU partners are looking at how we might actively and constructively engage in the session notwithstanding some serious concerns about the way in which the work of the Group has been conducted to date. In the first instance, we agree with the view expressed by countries across all regions on the need to revert to the Human Rights Council for a new resolution following the completion of three sessions of the Inter-Governmental Working Group. Furthermore, the Programme of Work for any future sessions, including possible speakers, should be negotiated in coordination with regional and other groups. The nomination of the Chairperson and the conduct of proceedings should be in accordance with the principles set out in the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, including impartiality and respect for the rights of minorities as well as majorities. We also think it is essential that the participation of all stakeholders including civil society, trade unions and business should be facilitated.

We have noted with interest the zero draft of a legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises circulated in July by the Ecuadorean Permanent Representative in Geneva. Ireland is open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding Treaty, which we believe should treat all economic operators in a non-discriminatory manner and should therefore cover companies engaged in purely domestic operations as well as transnational corporations.

We would wish to see essential human rights principles reflected in any possible instrument, which should reaffirm the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights and stress the primary responsibility of States under existing human rights obligations to protect against human rights violations.

Ultimately, if it is to achieve its objectives, any legally binding instrument should enjoy broad support among UN Member States to ensure its effectiveness as well as international coherence in the framework of business and human rights. We would like to see any new initiative build on, rather than duplicate, existing measures such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. Above all we believe that it should be rooted in the UN Guiding Principles. In this regard, we are of the view that the appropriate place for the discussion of any new initiatives is the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, which was established in 2011 by the Human Rights Council to serve as a global platform to discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles.

Syrian Conflict

Questions (44)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

44. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to a report on the Syrian conflict (details supplied); his views on the recommendations of the report; if, in view of the report's contents, he will reiterate his concerns about Russian involvement in the conflict with the diplomatic mission here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41150/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am all too aware of the awful human suffering caused by the Syria conflict. There has clearly been a pattern of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure by the Syrian regime and its allies, as we saw in Eastern Ghouta earlier this year. These acts are reprehensible and in direct contravention of international humanitarian law and I have made my views clear in this House and in various international fora. Atrocities have also been committed by groups such as ISIS in the course of this conflict, and my condemnation of those acts is also on record.

Russia is in no doubt of Ireland’s position: our concerns have been raised with the Russian authorities directly on numerous occasions at Ministerial and official level. Last October, I met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov and reiterated that Ireland condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the use of chemical weapons. I also called on Russia to ensure civilians are protected, and to exert its influence on other parties to the conflict to do the same. I, and my officials, will continue to raise our concerns with the Russian authorities, at every appropriate opportunity.

In relation to the recommendations in the report to which the Deputy refers, key themes are accountability and effective multilateral action.

Ireland has consistently called for the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. We take every appropriate opportunity to speak out against human rights abuses in Syria in UN and other international fora. At the last meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2018, Ireland co-sponsored a resolution on the human rights situation in Syria which condemned the continued and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, including the use of chemical weapons against civilians, the denial and diversion of humanitarian aid and medical assistance, and the use of starve or surrender tactics that we have repeatedly seen in Syria.

Ireland and the EU also provide political and financial support to a broad range of measures which aim to ensure full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. For example, we are supportive of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria established by the UN Human Rights Council. In 2017, Ireland provided €100,000 in financial support to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) established by the UN General Assembly. The IIIM aims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria.

In addition to our core contributions to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ireland has contributed €200,000 specifically to the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria. In June 2018, Ireland co-sponsored the decision adopted by the State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention introducing an attribution mechanism to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria and elsewhere.

In addition, Ireland has consistently supported EU sanctions targeting the Assad regime and its supporters, and will continue to do so as long as the situation on the ground justifies these measures.

Ireland and the EU firmly believe that there can be no military solution to the Syria crisis and support the UN-led efforts to bring about a comprehensive, sustainable and inclusive resolution of the crisis.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (45)

Alan Kelly

Question:

45. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there is a policy regarding ministerial use of private email for Government business in his Department; and if so, if it will be published. [41524/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The ICT Unit of the Department provides a secure email service and the Department’s ICT Security Policy governs the use of the email system for all staff, contractors, agents and third parties. There is no stand-alone policy governing Ministerial use of private email and therefore the issue of publication does not arise. I use my Departmental secure email account for confidential official business.

Vehicle Registration

Questions (46)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

46. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the records of registration that are kept in respect of ownership of motorbikes, scramblers and other off-road vehicles; the location in which these records are kept; the agency charged with administering such records; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40733/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Vehicles are registered by Revenue under the provisions of the Finance Act 1992, Part II, Chapter IV. Motorcycles, scramblers and other off-road vehicles must be registered if they are designed and constructed for road use and as such have type approval under the EU system of classification for vehicles. Vehicles which are not designed and constructed for road use cannot be registered under the above mentioned provisions.

The registration record produced when a vehicle is registered includes data in relation to the vehicle and data in respect of the person registering the vehicle. With regards to the vehicle, the data captured is based on the vehicle’s Certificate of Conformity in the case of new vehicles or the previous registration document in the case of used vehicles. Some data, such as the Vehicle Identification Number, is common to all vehicles and other data captured will depend on the type of vehicle (e.g. a passenger car, a bus, a heavy commercial). In relation to the person registering the vehicle, Revenue captures the name and address of the person and, in the case of used vehicles, the PPSN.

The vehicle and personal data (except for the PPSN) is transmitted on a daily basis to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, which maintains the National Vehicle Driver File and records changes in ownership.

Farm Household Incomes

Questions (47)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

47. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance if an extension of income averaging can be made available to all sectors with regard to income volatility experienced by many farmers from year to year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40826/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Decisions on taxation matters, including decisions (if any) in relation to farm income stabilisation measures, are made in the context of the annual Budget process. The Deputy will understand that I cannot give any indications of my plans in advance of the Budget speech later today.

Tax Compliance

Questions (48)

John McGuinness

Question:

48. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) is on the correct rate of tax with regard to their pension. [40618/18]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that it has recently reviewed the tax affairs of the person in question and is satisfied, based on the information on record, that their rate of tax is correct.

Revenue will however make direct contact with the person to determine if their circumstances have changed in any way that could impact on their rate of tax.

Oireachtas Banking Inquiry

Questions (49)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

49. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the progress made on implementing each recommendation of the banking inquiry with relevance to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40631/18]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I will address the Deputy's question in relation to the progress made on implementing each recommendation of the Banking Inquiry with relevance to my Department by firstly explaining the broader changes that have occurred since the crisis, and then going into detail on the progress on implementing the recommendations of relevance to the Department of Finance. I am pleased to report that the recommendations have either been implemented or otherwise addressed.

Since the financial crisis, there has been a significant number of measures taken to address the failures highlighted in the post-crisis analysis. This includes measures to address the recommendations of the Banking Inquiry. These have been at an institutional, national, and EU level. Both the Department of Finance and the Central Bank of Ireland have undergone significant organisational change in terms of structure, culture and resources.

There has also been a large amount of new legislation introduced at a national and EU level to address the weaknesses that came to light during and after the crisis.

The former Central Bank of Ireland and the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority have been re-amalgamated into one body, the Central Bank of Ireland (the Central Bank). The approach to banking supervision has radically changed to one that is more assertive, risk-based, and challenging, and one which is underpinned by new legislation, predominantly the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 and the Central Bank Supervision and Enforcement Act 2013.

The Department of Finance has implemented the recommendations of the ‘Wright Report’; it has restructured its divisions; and it has implemented an open recruitment policy to ensure an optimum skills mix. The Department’s objectives are to ensure a sustainable macroeconomic environment and sound public finances, with a balanced and equitable economy, enabled by a restructured, vibrant, secure, and well-regulated financial sector.

The establishment of the State’s Financial Stability Group has facilitated and strengthened communication and coordination between the State institutions i.e. the Central Bank, the Department of Finance and the National Treasury Management Agency.

National regulatory measures have been complemented by EU-wide reforms and new legislation. In the EU, the Banking Union has been put in place, thus implementing the commitment of the European Council in June 2012 to break the bank/sovereign link.

The EU Banking Union provides for a single prudential supervisor through the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), a single rulebook, and a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM). This aims to improve coordination and militate against negative spill-over in the future. The European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) is responsible for the macro-prudential oversight of the EU financial system and the prevention and mitigation of systemic risk. The ESRB monitors and assesses systemic risks and, where appropriate, issues warnings and recommendations.

There have also been economic and fiscal reforms at an EU level. The Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) was strengthened following the adoption of the ‘six pack’ legislative package in 2012. The reformed SGP is now complemented by a new surveillance mechanism which ensures that macroeconomic imbalances, as well as debt and deficit targets, are monitored. This mechanism, the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (MIP) should ensure that emerging imbalances, such as housing bubbles, are detected at an earlier stage and acted upon.

I now refer specifically to the recommendations of the Banking Inquiry that are relevant to my Department. The majority have been implemented or else the recommendations have been otherwise addressed. Some recommendations refer to ongoing or periodic reviews, and these are continuing.

Review of section 33AK of the Central Bank Act 1942:

- A review of section 33 AK is occurring as part of the forthcoming Central Bank (Amendment) Bill. The Central Bank is assisting in this review.

- It is important to consider that the ability to disclose to a judge will depend on the legal mandate of the particular inquiry, the nature of the particular documentation under consideration and the EU law provision (where relevant) applicable. Any proposed amendment to section 33 AK will also require prior consultation with the ECB.

The membership of the Board of the Central Bank, appointed by Government, must include sufficient expertise and relevant direct experience in financial stability and prudential regulation:

- The current members of the Central Bank Commission were all appointed after the financial crisis, and possess the relevant knowledge and experience as is statutorily required.

- Any future members will be appointed from an open competition under the remit of the Public Appointments Service, following the guidelines for appointments to State Boards.

Establish a formal process with clear procedures for situations where there are conflicts between the advice provided by the Department of Finance on matters where exceptional risks are involved and the decision proposed by the Minister:

- While this recommendation is specific to the Department of Finance, the Corporate Governance Standards for the Civil Service, published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2015, requires that all Departments and Offices have in place a published Governance Framework that, inter alia, should “set out the formal processes and mechanisms for documenting decisions made within the Department to include Ministerial consideration and filing of same”, (p.13).

- In the Department of Finance, all submissions and advice to the Minister are recorded on an E-submissions system. This allows the Department to fully document its advice on matters where exceptional risks are involved, while respecting the constitutional and existing legislative frameworks, and the ultimate decision proposed by the Minister.

The banking division in the Department of Finance should be periodically subjected to a performance review by an independent third party to ensure fiscal, capital market, and banking expertise is adequate to challenge information and assumptions provided to it by the Central Bank of Ireland:

- The Department, as a whole, is subject to the capability review programme as part of the Civil Service Renewal Plan. The capability review process assesses relevant Department attributes such as the structural capability of the Department, including its strategic HR, learning and development, and culture and values. The review is undertaken by a Review Team based in the Reform and Delivery Office of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

In addition, the Department and the Banking Division are subjected to regular review through:

- Annual Oireachtas oversight and scrutiny of the Department’s resources and outputs;

- IMF periodic reviews of the Department’s role in financial policy and regulatory matters, such as the IMF Financial Sector Assessment Programme conducted in 2016; and

- Periodic performance reviews of the Department, such as the Wright report.

Specifically, the Department has taken actions to improve the fiscal, capital market and banking expertise in the Department and the Banking Division through:

- Professional Diplomas in Financial Services and Government Economics have been developed by the Department in conjunction with the Institute of Banking and the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) respectively.

- These measures help ensure Departmental staff possess the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their duties effectively.

- Increased recruitment of economists, and financial and capital market experts into the Department to assist in the analysis and challenge of financial and economic data.

- The Shareholding and Financial Advisory Division (SFAD) is comprised of circa 18 civil servants and secondees from the National Treasury Management Agency with extensive private sector expertise and professional qualifications in: capital markets (debt and equity), corporate finance/investment banking, accounting and auditing, and law.

- The Department has regular interaction with investment bankers, analysts, lawyers, accountants, tax advisers, investment funds, private equity funds, stockbrokers etc. so as to ensure that the Department has access to up to date market information and intelligence across a wide range of subjects.

Acceptable bands should be agreed with regard to the proportion of total State taxation revenue accounted for by defined cyclical, transaction-based taxes, including triggers for follow-up action when these limits are breached:

- The objective of ensuring that cyclical or windfall revenue is not used to fund permanent increases in public expenditure has already been addressed through reforms introduced in the Stability and Growth Pact and the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance. In particular, the issue is addressed by the expenditure benchmark, which limits the growth in general government expenditure to the trend growth rate of the economy unless discretionary revenue measures are introduced to fund higher increases.

- Also, in line with Government policy, and subsequent to the SGP reforms mentioned above, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council was established and given the function of monitoring compliance with the fiscal rules, assessing the official forecasts and whether the fiscal stance is conducive to prudent economic and budgetary management, including by reference to the Stability and Growth Pact.

- The introduction of the Rainy Day Fund will allow for cyclical revenues to be paid into the Fund to ensure such revenues are not used towards current expenditure.

Legislation governing the powers of the Minister for Finance relating to directions to the NTMA should be reviewed:

- The issue of Ministerial directions to the National Treasury Management Agency, as provided for under Section 4 (4) of the NTMA Act 1990 and elsewhere in the NTMA’s legislation, was reviewed since the period dealt with by the Inquiry’s report. The preparations of the NTMA (Amendment) Act 2014 involved a thorough review of Ministerial powers including directions to the NTMA. The issue was also discussed at length as part of the Committee Stage and following reflection the Department, the Minister and the Oireachtas were satisfied that the existing provisions were measured and appropriate.

- It is important to note that the NTMA’s treasury functions, such as borrowing on behalf of the State and managing the national debt, are delegated to the Agency by the Minister for Finance under the NTMA Act 1990, as amended, so these remain primarily responsibilities of the Minister for which he/she is accountable.

The operation and effectiveness of NAMA should continue to be reviewed, in particular when medium term property price movements can be taken into account. When NAMA completes its work, it should be the subject of a further comprehensive and final review:

- In line with the recommendation, NAMA is kept under review. The C&AG carries out ongoing and ex-post reports on NAMA’s performance. Both the Department and the C&AG continue to review NAMA during its lifetime and would envisage carrying out such a report once NAMA has completed its work.

- Carrying on from the 2014 Section 227 report, the Department of Finance continues to develop its views regarding NAMA’s strategy and continues to monitor NAMA’s performance relative to the market and expectations. One key element of this ongoing analysis is the comparison of NAMA’s outturn to changes in the value in asset classes and geographies in which NAMA holds assets. These ongoing analyses will continue to assist in the Department’s evaluation of NAMA’s strategy regarding its remaining portfolio, including the future strategic direction around the Dublin Docklands SDZ development and the strategy around the Residential Funding Programme.

- In addition to ongoing work, the Department fully intends to perform a comprehensive review of NAMA once its work is complete. Section 227 of the NAMA Act requires that, as soon as may be after 31 December 2012, and every 5 years after that while NAMA continues to be in existence, the Minister assess whether NAMA has made progress towards achieving its overall objectives, and decides whether continuation of NAMA is necessary, having regard to the purposes of this Act. In addition, the Minister may also, at any time, have NAMA report to him or her regarding progress on the achievement of NAMA’s purposes.

- Similar to Section 227, Section 226 of the NAMA Act required as soon as may be after 31 December 2012, and every 3 years thereafter while NAMA continues to be in existence, that the C&AG shall assess the extent to which NAMA has made progress toward achieving its overall objectives.

- The next Section 227 Report is due in 2019. Under Section 227, the Minister also has the power to effect an off-schedule Section 227 report at a time that coincides with the achievement of NAMA’s purposes under the Act. It is envisaged that the final report conducted under this section of the Act will make final conclusions regarding NAMA’s achievement of its overall objectives - essentially a comprehensive review which will be performed at or very close to such time as NAMA has completed its work.

The European Commission’s recommendations on audit changes for banking should be implemented:

- Legislation signed into law on 17th June 2016 giving effect to the new EU regulatory framework on statutory audit (Statutory Instrument 312/2016, entitled European Union (Statutory Audits) (Directive 2006/42/EC, as amended by Directive 2014/56/EU, and Regulation (EU) No 537/2014) Regulations, 2016) aims to achieve a high level of harmonisation of statutory audit requirements and a common regulatory approach across the EU.

- The legislation widens the remit of the Irish Auditing and Accountancy Supervisory Authority (IAASA). IAASA will now be directly responsible for the inspection of the audits of Public Interest Entities (PIEs), such as credit institutions, insurance companies and entities listed on regulated stock exchanges. The new measures address this recommendation and also include notable changes to the regulatory regime for auditors, particularly for the audits of PIEs.

Literacy Programmes

Questions (50)

Micheál Martin

Question:

50. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the involvement of his Department in tackling adult literacy; if a financial allocation is provided for same; if so, the way in which it is utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40682/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

My Department has no specific financial allocation provided for tackling adult literacy.

As part of Public Service Reform, our colleagues in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform promoted the use of plain English and provided plain English language training courses in 2016, for staff in other Departments. All learning materials undertaken by One Learning, the Civil Service Learning and Development shared service, are completed with reference to the National Disability Authority’s Accessibility Toolkit - Making Information More Accessible.

Imports and Exports Data

Questions (51)

Michael McGrath

Question:

51. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will address a matter raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding import and export statistics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40705/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it provides statistical information on the movement of goods into and out of Ireland to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), based on Intrastat returns made by traders. The Revenue Commissioners also carries out follow up queries with traders where requested to do so by the CSO. The CSO is responsible for analysing the data and making the information publicly available.

Occasionally, Intrastat returns include inaccuracies, such as incorrect reporting of commodity codes by traders. Following a request from the CSO for a review of figures that were included in a report sent by it to the person in question, Revenue discovered that a trader had used an incorrect commodity code to report the export of another product as being an export of radiators. This resulted in the report on the volume of exported radiators being inflated. The CSO was informed of the error on 24 July 2018.

The Revenue Commissioners has advised me that it is working with the CSO to correct the data as quickly as possible. The CSO will then ensure that the revised information is provided directly to the person in question.

Tax Avoidance

Questions (52, 53)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

52. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the plans he and the Revenue Commissioners have to address the loss of tax revenue through tax avoidance schemes outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40743/18]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

53. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the September 2018 annual report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which found that a quarter of 140 high-net-worth individuals had taxable income of less than the average industrial wage and that 90 taxpayers in this group paid income tax at a lower rate than that paid by the average taxpayer; the action he will take on foot of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40744/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 53 together.

It is Revenue’s role to ensure compliance with tax legislation and to collect the correct tax due based on taxable income determined in accordance with tax legislation. This requires taxpayers to submit annual tax returns of their income and gains to Revenue.

The Deputy will be aware that the findings in the Annual Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) include references to the taxable income of high wealth individuals (HWIs) and the rate of income tax paid by these taxpayers. Both taxable income and income tax payable are determined in accordance with tax legislation which include the availability of reliefs and tax credits. Such credits and reliefs where applicable have, as stated by the C&AG in his report, the effect of reducing the tax liability of an individual for any given year of assessment. As also stated by the C&AG in his report, while high earners are well placed to utilise the wide variety of credits and reliefs available, they may also be liable to pay additional tax by virtue of their high income in the form of the domicile levy and the high income earners restriction.

I am advised by Revenue that it has had a particular focus on HWIs over a long period. HWIs have been managed by dedicated units with its Large Cases Division since it was established in 2003. Dedicated case managers are responsible for profiling, risk assessment and compliance activities for HWIs within their case base and Revenue’s Anti-Avoidance Unit operates within the HWI Units. Revenue has recently split its Large Cases Division into two divisions, one of which will now focus on HWIs, avoidance and pensions. This structural realignment is being supported by an expansion in the number of specialist and experienced staff assigned to the oversight of the new Division’s case base.

I am satisfied that the structural realignment being advanced by Revenue combined with the mandatory disclosure regime which applies to marketers, promoters and users of ‘disclosable’ transactions and the use by Revenue of the powers available to tackle tax avoidance and tackle schemes that involve contrived, artificial transactions that are designed purely to produce a tax advantage for the taxpayer will continue to deliver an outcome where HWIs pay the appropriate tax in accordance with the legislation. I am also assured by Revenue that in line with its comprehensive risk assessment programmes, there is appropriate examination and evaluation of the tax returns submitted by HWIs and where necessary compliance interventions are undertaken to verify the accuracy of the returns. Where under-declarations of income or gains are identified or where tax avoidance activity is identified, Revenue will be relentless in its action in such cases and take whatever action is necessary to recover all taxes legally due together with associated interest, penalties and surcharges where relevant.

Furthermore, the High Earners Restriction, which aims to limit the use of certain tax reliefs and exemptions by those on high incomes, is meeting its objective.

As detailed in the recently published Revenue report on the operation of the High Income Earners Restriction, in 2016 some 149 high-income individuals with an adjusted income of €400,000 or more (i.e. where the restriction fully applied) paid an average effective tax rate of 30.1% on the combination of adjusted income and ring-fenced income. The additional tax collected from these 149 taxpayers was €25.8 million, representing an increase of 175% on the tax that would otherwise have been paid if the restriction had not applied. An important outcome of the restriction is that 54 individuals with adjusted incomes of €400,000 or more, who would not otherwise have paid tax in 2016, were brought into the tax net for that year.

The 2016 report also shows that 372 high-income individuals with an adjusted income of up to €400,000 (i.e. where the restriction applied on a graduated basis) paid an average effective tax rate of 19.09% on the combination of adjusted income and ring-fenced income. When the USC is included, the average tax rate is 28.61%. The additional tax collected from these 451 taxpayers was €12.7 million, representing an increase of 242% on the tax that would otherwise have been paid if the restriction had not applied. Some 164 individuals with adjusted incomes of up to €400,000, who would not otherwise have paid tax in 2016, were brought into the tax net for that year, as a result of the restriction.

The performance of this measure is noted by the C&AG in the recent report. The report notes the relatively high effective tax rate on income earned by high wealth individuals (which in 2015 was 39.2% compared with an average tax rate of 16.3% for all taxpayers).

Tax Data

Questions (54)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

54. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of all tax expenditure inclusive of the domicile levy and all other tax reliefs and credits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40745/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the available information in respect of the cost of tax expenditures (credits, allowances and reliefs) is published on Revenue’s statistics webpage at https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/costs-expenditures.aspx.

My Department also publishes its own Report on Tax Expenditures each year, and I expect that the 2018 version will be published with the Budget 2019 documents today at www.gov.ie/budget.

I am also advised by Revenue that as the domicile levy is an annual charge of €200,000 levied and paid by relevant individuals, it is not a tax expenditure. It is payable by Irish domiciled persons with Irish situated property that is valued at greater than €5m, worldwide income that is in excess of €1m and Irish income tax in a year that was less than €200,000. The amount of the domicile levy may be offset against any Irish income tax arising for a relevant year of assessment.

The following table sets out the number of persons who have filed Domicile Levy returns and the amount collected since commencement. Returns for 2017 are due 31 October 2018.

Levy Year

Number of Returns

Amount Paid €million

2010

32

3.4

2011

33

3.9

2012

27

3.0

2013

20

2.1

2014

13

2.0

2015

13

2.4

2016

10

1.4

Total

148

18.2