Public Private Partnerships Cost

Questions (95)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

95. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Taoiseach if the total liability in public-private partnerships is recognised as debt in the national accounts or if it is included in the public sector net debt. [14416/19]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

General Government Gross Debt (or Maastricht Debt) is defined as debt liabilities of government in the categories Currency and Deposits, Debt Securities and Loans. Its compilation is the responsibility of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) who publish annual and quarterly estimates on the CSO website. Liabilities related to public-private partnerships (PPPs) which are classified off-balance sheet are not recorded as part of the General Government Gross Debt. The CSO do not compile a public sector net debt figure. The General Government Net Debt figure published by the CSO comprises General Government Gross Debt less government assets recorded under the same instrument categories as those contributing to General Government Gross Debt. Therefore it does not include liabilities of off-balance sheet PPPs.

Public Private Partnerships Data

Questions (96)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

96. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Taoiseach the total capital liability of on and off balance sheet PPP contracts; and the value as a percentage of GDP. [14417/19]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) publish data relating to PPP contracts biannually in April and October. The latest data is in respect of 2017 and can be seen on the CSO website under the category of Governments Accounts. The contractual capital value of on and off balance sheet PPP contracts at that date was €3,577.4 million. This represented 1.2% of 2017 GDP.

European Council Meetings

Questions (97)

Micheál Martin

Question:

97. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if trade with China was discussed at the March 2019 European Council meeting or at the meetings he attended in Brussels in March 2019. [14370/19]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I attended a meeting of the European Council in Brussels on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 March 2019.

As part of its work the Council prepared the EU-China summit to be held on 9 April 2019. In this regard, we exchanged views on overall relations with China, including trade, in the global context.

Departmental Budgets

Questions (98)

Jack Chambers

Question:

98. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the original budget allocation from Vote 36 for pay and allowances for serving members of the Defence Forces in each of the years 2014 to 2018; the actual spend in each of those years; if there was an underspend and savings in budget for pay and allowances in the same period; if savings were returned to the Exchequer; if they were allocated to other budget lines; and if so, the budget line to which the savings were allocated in the same period. [14511/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Government ensures that Vote 36 - Defence is fully funded to provide for the pay and allowances of the target strength of 9,500 Permanent Defence Force (PDF) personnel, as set out in the White Paper on Defence.

The table below shows the budget allocation for pay and allowances for serving members of the Permanent Defence Force for the years 2014-2018, the outturn for the same period and the savings, which arose mainly due to the actual PDF strength falling below the 9,500 target.

PDF – Pay and Allowances

(Subheads A.3 – PDF Pay; A.4 – PDF Allowances; A.6 – Chaplains)

Vote 36

Budget

Outturn

Savings

2014

€459.0m

€431.1m

€27.9m

2015

€454.0m

€425.3m

€28.7m

2016

€453.0m

€421.9m

€31.1m

2017

€457.0m

€437.0m

€20.0m

2018

€469.1m

€439.7m

€29.4m

With regard to the return of savings to the exchequer, any savings, or part of savings, arising within the Vote may, in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, be used to address spending pressures elsewhere in the Vote or Vote Group (Vote 36 Defence and Vote 35 Army Pensions). Savings arising on the Defence Vote in the years in question have largely been utilised to meet commitments elsewhere in the Vote Group. Specific budget line details of the re-allocations are not available as they are considered globally, across the Vote Group.

In addition, any surplus Appropriations-in-Aid must also be returned to the Exchequer, as required under Public Financial Procedures.

The table below shows the Gross savings on Vote 36 - Defence, the surplus Appropriations-in-Aid (AinAs) and the Net Surrender to the Exchequer for the years 2014-2018.

Vote 36

Gross Savings

Surplus A-in-As

Net Surrender to the Exchequer

2014

€4.9m

€8.7m

€13.6m

2015

€6.8m

€6.9m

€13.7m

2016

€11.1m

€15.5m

€26.6m

2017

€11.3m

€10.1m

€21.4m

2018

€5.9m

€11.1m

€17.0m

The Gross Savings and the Net Surrender in the Table include amounts used to meet the shortfalls in the Army Pensions Vote.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Questions (99)

Jack Chambers

Question:

99. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the establishment figure for technical officers in the communications and information systems corps of the Defence Forces; the number of technical officer appointments in the corps not filled; the establishment figure for grades 5 and 6 technicians in the corps; and the number of grades 5 and 6 technician appointments in the corps not filled. [14512/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I am informed by the military authorities that, as of January 2019, the establishment figure for technical officers in the Communications and Information Services Corps (CIS) of the Defence Forces is 22 personnel (18 Army, 4 Air Corps) and all appointments are currently filled.

The establishment figure for grade 5 and 6 technicians in the CIS corps is 202 personnel, of which there are currently 66 vacancies. A total of 62 personnel are in training across the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps who will be eligible to receive tech 5 pay upon graduation from the CIS Trainee Technician Scheme.

Human Rights

Questions (100)

Clare Daly

Question:

100. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 69 of 12 March 2019, if the minutes of future meetings of the business and human rights implementation group will be published on his Department's website. [14458/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy may be aware, the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the National Plan on Business and Human Rights. Officials in my Department act as the Secretariat to the Group, which is independently chaired by Ms. Breege O'Donoghue. It is intended that once the minutes of the Group’s meetings have been approved by its members, that they will be made available on my Department’s website.

Passport Controls

Questions (101)

Niall Collins

Question:

101. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the case of persons (details supplied) will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14468/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am advised by Passport Service staff that the passports in question are valid and in date.

Passports are internationally recognised travel documents which attest to the identity and nationality of the bearer. The Passport Service, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is responsible for the issuance of passports to Irish citizens and for the maintenance of the security and integrity of the Irish passport. Immigration or administrative requirements for entry into other States, including what documentation is acceptable for those purposes, are not matters that are within the competence of my Department.

Human Rights

Questions (102)

Clare Daly

Question:

102. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 69 of 12 March 2019, the position regarding the UN expert issued guiding principles on human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies document which has been issued by the UN Human Rights Council as opposed to the business and human rights NAP (details supplied); and his plans on rolling out such principles when adopted. [14472/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

At the 40th and most recent session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights presented the Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments for Economic Reform Policies in response to Resolutions on the matter from the 34th and 37th Sessions of the Council.

The implementation of these guiding principles is a matter for each individual Member State, to reflect upon and consider the necessity, relevance and implications for domestic law. Ireland did not co-sponsor the relevant resolution at either of the Council sessions and any such adoption of these guiding principles nationally would require a whole of Government approach involving a number of other Government departments.

Insurance Costs

Questions (103)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

103. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance if an emergency support package will be provided to children's soft play centres until a functioning insurance market is developed here in view of the imminent closures of a large number of profitable children's soft play centres and in further view of the lack of material change to the insurance industry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14292/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

My understanding is that the main reason for the difficulties being faced by the play centre sector is due to a lack of capacity in the insurance market which I understand has been driven to some degree by the overall claims level in the sector. In determining their willingness to enter into or remain in a particular sector of the market, insurers will generally make an assessment of what they consider the overall risk to be. Therefore, part of their assessment of what premium level to charge, or whether to offer cover in the first place will be based on what they consider the general likely trend for claims in the sector will be, based on their overall past experience.

In a recent meeting with Insurance Ireland, I understand that the Minister of State with responsibility for Insurance, Mr. Michael D’Arcy TD, raised the issue of the difficulties play centres currently face in securing insurance. In response, Insurance Ireland highlighted the problems that Irish insurers encountered in this sector regarding claims and specifically the high amounts being paid out. Having said that, Insurance Ireland agreed to relay Minister D’Arcy’s concerns to its members taking into account some of the implemented and proposed Cost of Insurance Working Group reforms, including the proposal to implement the recommendations of the second Personal Injuries Commission Report.

As the Deputy will be aware the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG), which was established in July 2016, has undertaken a detailed examination of the factors contributing to the cost of insurance in order to identify what short, medium and long-term measures could be introduced to help reduce the cost of insurance for consumers and businesses.

The CIWG has produced two reports and a number of quarterly progress updates on the various recommendations made by CIWG and endorsed by Government. The difficulties facing the consumer, voluntary and small business sector from the high cost of insurance premiums are recognised. In addition, it is also acknowledged that in some cases the survival of a business as a viable entity is being put at peril because of insurance pricing. One of the key areas raised by various stakeholders to the CIWG is the level of awards in this country compared with elsewhere. As a result, the Working Group established the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) and commissioned it to examine this issue amongst other things. The PIC reported in September 2018 and concluded that soft tissue injuries are significantly higher here than in the UK and recommended that action be taken to address this disparity through the establishment of the Judicial Council. The PIC recommended that this body would become responsible for preparing the guidelines on personal injury award levels, and would replace the Book of Quantum. In doing this, the PIC believes that the Judicial Council will, in compiling the guidelines, take account of the jurisprudence of the Court of Appeal, the results of its benchmarking exercise etc.

The current position with the Judicial Council Bill is that the Minister for Justice and Equality has recently advised of his intention to further this Bill with a view to having it in place as soon as possible. Alongside this, the Law Reform Commission has included the subject of capping damages in personal injuries litigation in its draft 5th Programme of Law Reform and this work will begin in the next couple of weeks. It is hoped that if there was a significant move in this area, it could have an impact on insurance pricing and could also help attract new entrants into the market. Such outcomes would be of benefit to all concerned and in particular to small businesses such as those in the play centre sector.

Finally, while I am very conscious of the difficulties being faced by the play centre sector in obtaining insurance and that a number of such centres face closure if they are unable to get cover, I believe that the work that is being done to address the cost and provision of insurance to such businesses is where the real solution lies. It is likely that the provision of any support package would amount to the State in effect becoming an insurance provider. Such a step would likely be in breach of the Solvency II Directive and as it would involve the State providing preferential support to one part of the economy over another, it would run the risk of being consider State Aid and contrary to EU State Aid rules. In addition, if a package of Government support, contained or otherwise available more generally to businesses, was put in place, it is also likely that such a measure could result ultimately in insurers withdrawing from large parts of the overall market. This would end up being counter-productive and bad for small businesses in the longer term.

Legal Costs

Questions (104)

Joan Burton

Question:

104. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cumulative financial cost to his Department and other State bodies in dealing with the appeal against the decision by the European Commission in a tax case (details supplied); the amount paid to each individual provider of services in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 in tabular form; and the nature of services provided in defending the position of the State in the case. [14309/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

There has been insufficient time to compile all the data in the time allowed and in the format requested by the Deputy. I have therefore asked my officials to finalise the compilation of the requested information and I will provide it to her. I understand that the Office of the Attorney General are currently examining the issue of whether details of professional fees paid to individuals can be disclosed in the context of GDPR.

Tax Data

Questions (105)

Joan Burton

Question:

105. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost in a full year of the proposed digital tax in France; if full credit was given to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14310/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised that France have announced plans to enact a unilateral digital services tax (“the French DST”) which will apply to the revenues of certain activities of large digital companies with effect from 1 January 2019.

As the Deputy will be aware, a digital services tax was proposed by the European Commission in March 2018 (“the EU DST”), but no agreement has been reached on that at EU level. The French DST and the EU DST are similar, but not identical. They both propose a 3% rate of tax levied on gross turnover. Both have two thresholds which must be met for a company to be within scope. The first, which is identical in both the French and the EU DST, requires the company (or a corporate taxation group to which it belongs) to have worldwide annual turnover greater than €750 million. The second threshold is proposed by reference to the geographical scope of the tax - group revenues from taxable services greater than €50 million p.a. in the EU for the EU DST, or €25 million p.a. in France for the French DST.

Additionally, the services within scope differ between each. The EU DST sought to tax online advertising, the commission fees earned by connecting users on an online platform and the sale of user data. The French DST excludes taxing the sale of user data, except in situations where the sale relates to the placing of online advertising.

With respect to estimating the cost of the proposed French DST if full credit were given for it in Ireland, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the available data is not sufficiently detailed to enable a calculation of the likely tax loss as a result of a digital tax in any specific EU Member State.

Tax Appeals Commission

Questions (106)

Joan Burton

Question:

106. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of tax appeals outstanding by tax head; the years in which the original appeal was submitted; and the dates on which the oldest 25 appeals were originally submitted, in tabular form. [14311/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The TAC was established on 21st March 2016 and new procedures for making, processing, adjudicating and determining appeals came into effect on that date. Prior to this date taxpayers appealed directly to Revenue who then transferred cases to the Appeal Commissioners in the event that the parties wished to proceed to hearing. Since that date, taxpayers appeal directly to the TAC which then notifies Revenue of the appeals. The TAC has full control over the processing and hearing of appeals.

I am advised by the TAC that the number of appeals before it can change frequently, depending on a number of factors, including the number of additional appeals received each day; the numbers closed each day; how many appeals are part-settled and how many that may settle based on the outcome of a ‘leader-case’. The Commission may also be informed, by a party to an appeal, that an appeal has settled or been withdrawn. However, until this is confirmed by both parties, the TAC cannot deem the appeal to be closed.

I am further advised by the TAC that it is not possible, in relation to the legacy appeals, to provide the age of tax appeals before it, as many of them were transmitted to the Commission, in large tranches during 2016 by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. A number of ‘pre-establishment’ appeals were also transferred from the Office of the Appeal Commissioners to the TAC at the same time. The TAC received all of these appeals on and from the date of its establishment i.e. 21 March 2016.

Following its formation in 2016, I am informed that approximately 3,136 appeals transferred to the TAC, at various stages during 2016, from both the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of the Appeal Commissioners. The TAC has further advised me that, as of 22 March, 2019 it currently has approximately 3,566 active appeals under its remit. The oldest appeals received by the TAC date from 21 March, 2016. The following table provides an outline of the number of appeals that are currently being processed:

Tax Appeals Commission

Main Tax Type of Appeals on Hand by Year / Category as at 22 March, 2019

Tax Type

Legacy

Pre-Est’d

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total

IT

527

98

149

703

596

175

2,248

VAT

20

14

28

105

151

31

349

VRT

1

10

37

125

36

209

CT

27

8

16

63

103

17

234

Other**

13

8

22

51

61

34

189

CGT

91

15

22

47

54

21

250

CAT

4

5

6

26

34

12

87

Total

682

149

253

1,032

1,124

326

3,566

* The TAC was established on 21 March, 2016. The system of characterisation of appeals reflected the appeals on hand prior to the establishment of the TAC (‘pre-establishment appeals’), appeals received post establishment of the TAC (‘current appeals’) and aged appeals transferred from the Revenue Commissioners (‘legacy appeals’) and the appeal groups are described accordingly.

** Other includes RCT, LPT, C&E, DIRT, PSWT, Stamp Duty and DWT.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (107, 108, 115, 116)

Joan Burton

Question:

107. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of outdoor customs staff stationed on the Border by county. [14312/19]

View answer

Joan Burton

Question:

108. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the estimate by the Revenue Commissioners of likely Exchequer losses by tax head arising from smuggling across the EU's land border with the United Kingdom once the United Kingdom has left the EU. [14313/19]

View answer

Joan Burton

Question:

115. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of trained dogs engaged in customs and excise activities; the number of dogs under training; and if the Revenue Commissioners plan to increase the number of such animals. [14508/19]

View answer

Joan Burton

Question:

116. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of Revenue Commissioners staff involved in customs valuation activities; the levels of qualification and experience of such staff; and if the Revenue Commissioners plan to increase their number and training. [14509/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107, 108, 115 and 116 together.

Revenue has provided me with the following table which provides details of staff assigned to compliance activities in border counties as well as the total staff based in these counties; this includes staff that are assigned to outdoor duties. Revenue is an integrated tax and customs administration and its resources are deployed based on risk rather than by reference to a specific tax or duty.

Location

Compliance Staff

Total Staff

Donegal

73

108

Louth

65

251

Monaghan

20

40

Sligo

52

72

TOTAL

210

471

As the Deputy is aware, forecasts of tax and duty receipts are produced by the Department of Finance with assistance from Revenue. The role of Revenue is to advise of any potential increases and decreases in taxation that they become aware of in the course of administering taxes and duties and from other data sources available to them. Given the ongoing uncertainty with regard to the eventual Brexit outcome, and the challenges of estimating the impact of smuggling on tax and duty receipts even in normal times, I am advised that it is not possible to develop a credible estimate at this time.

I am advised by Revenue that it currently has twenty trained detector dog teams engaged in Customs and Excise activities. This includes one team that operates on behalf of the Department of Agriculture. Revenue is also running a Dog Handler competition to fill six further positions that are vacant currently.

Revenue has confirmed that it is satisfied that the current level of detector dog teams meets existing Customs and Excise requirements. However, the situation is continuously monitored and further resources can be recruited should the need arise.

I am advised by Revenue that valuation is an integral element of customs training and skills development and that staff involved in customs work could be involved in customs valuation depending on the nature of the work being undertaken at any given time. This includes staff who work in trade facilitation, in customs post clearance checks and in customs compliance management. Training on customs valuation is a standard element of the customs training program. Revenue is a fully integrated tax and customs administration and it is not possible to identify the number of staff deployed on customs at any given time. As a result it is also not possible to provide information on the qualification and experience of these staff.

As the Deputy is aware, in September 2018, the Government granted approval in principle for the phased recruitment of an additional 600 Revenue staff to meet the challenges posed by Brexit. The majority of those six hundred staff will be working on customs work and have undertaken or will undertake an intensive in-house customs training course which includes training on customs valuation.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (109)

Joan Burton

Question:

109. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the steps taken by the Revenue Commissioners to protect customs officers stationed on or close to the Border from attacks; if he has considered arming customs officers as is practice in other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14314/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am informed by Revenue that their preparations do not include any plans for infrastructure at the border. Revenue Chairman, Niall Cody, reiterated this when he addressed the Oireachtas Finance Committee on 24 January 2019. Revenue plans are focused on East West trade. Infrastructure requirements, IT enhancements, recruitment and training on this basis are well-advanced.

The Government has made it clear that its overriding objective is to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Ireland and the EU are at one on this. The EU has been clear that it is determined to do all it can, deal or no deal, to avoid the need for a border and to protect the peace process. And as co-guarantors, the two Governments will continue to have our obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, and to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland

In the event of no-deal, then there will be intensive discussions between the Government, the EU Commission and EU partners regarding the movement of goods North-South. I am assured by Revenue that they will provide whatever technical expertise and assistance is required by the government negotiating team during this process.

In terms of security and safety, An Garda Síochána is responsible for the security of the State and any issues relating to the safety and security of Customs Officers or Customs facilities are addressed to that organisation.