Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears

Questions (201)

Michael McGrath

Question:

201. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a lender does not have to offer the solutions outlined in paragraph 39 of the code of conduct on mortgage arrears; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21988/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I have been advised by the Central Bank of Ireland that Provision 39 of the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) requires that a regulated entity must explore all of the options for alternative repayment arrangements that are offered by that particular regulated entity.  These options may include the types of alternative repayment arrangements outlined in Provision 39 (a) to (l).  However, Provision 39 does not oblige a regulated entity to offer particular alternative repayment arrangements to borrowers.

Provision 40 of the CCMA provides that a regulated entity must document its consideration of each option examined under Provision 39 including the reasons why the option(s) offered to the borrower is/are appropriate and sustainable for his/her individual circumstance and why the option(s) considered and not offered to the borrower is/are not appropriate and not sustainable for the borrower’s individual circumstances.

In turn, Provision 42 provides that where an alternative repayment arrangement is offered by a regulated entity, the regulated entity must provide the borrower with prescribed information, including a clear explanation of how the alternative repayment arrangement works and the reasons why the alternative repayment arrangement(s) offered is considered to be appropriate and sustainable for the borrower, including demonstrating, by reference to the borrower’s individual circumstances, the advantages of the offer for the borrower and explaining any disadvantages.

Provision 45 provides that if a regulated entity does not offer a borrower an alternative repayment arrangement, for example where it is concluded that the mortgage is not sustainable and an alternative repayment arrangement is unlikely to be appropriate, the regulated entity must provide the reasons on a durable medium to the borrower and advise the borrow of the other options available to them, the borrowers right to appeal the decision to the regulated entity’s Appeals Board and that the protections of the MARP no longer apply.

Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears

Questions (202)

Michael McGrath

Question:

202. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there are provisions in legislation or in the code of conduct on mortgage arrears that stipulates that the lender at the time of a review must honour the existing arrangement in circumstances in which the financial circumstances of a borrower have not changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21989/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I have been advised by the Central Bank of Ireland that the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears 2013 (CCMA) seeks to ensure that lenders have fair and transparent processes in place for dealing with borrowers in or facing mortgage arrears. All cases must be handled sympathetically and positively by the lender, with the objective at all times of assisting the borrower to meet his or her mortgage obligations.

The Central Bank expects that where a co-operating borrower is complying with the terms of an alternative repayment arrangement (ARA) and where the borrower’s circumstances have not changed, the terms of the ARA will continue to be honoured. Where the borrower’s circumstances have changed, in line with Provision 40 of the CCMA, any change to the ARA must be appropriate and sustainable for the borrower’s circumstances.

Provision 42 of the CCMA requires that where an alternative repayment arrangement is offered by a lender, the lender must advise the borrower to take appropriate independent legal and/or financial advice and provide the borrower with a clear explanation, on paper or another durable medium, of how the alternative repayment arrangement works.  This explanation must include the frequency with which the alternative repayment arrangement will be reviewed, the reason(s) for the reviews and the potential outcome of the reviews, where:

(i) circumstances improve,

(ii) circumstances disimprove, and

(iii) circumstances remain the same;

Lenders must ensure that any changes to the ARA are proportionate to the change in the borrower’s circumstances.

Loan Books Purchasers

Questions (203)

Michael McGrath

Question:

203. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there is a legal obligation set out in legislation or in the codes of the Central Bank on a lender to transfer all documentation pertaining to the loan when that loan is sold to another party; if there are data protection considerations in relation to this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21990/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Central Bank that while there is no specific provision in the Central Bank’s codes which requires that a full file be received by the loan purchaser from the original lender, the General Principles of the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code 2012 provide that “a regulated entity must ensure that in all its dealings with customers and within the context of its authorisation it acts honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of its customers and the integrity of the market” and that “a regulated entity must ensure that in all its dealings with customers and within the context of its authorisation it acts with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of its customers”. 

In this regard, the Central Bank expects that sufficient due diligence, including exchanging sufficient information and information setting out specific commitments made to consumers, must be both facilitated by the firm selling/securitising loans and conducted by the firm purchasing or servicing the loans.

Any data protection considerations would be a matter for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. 

Garda Stations

Questions (204)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

204. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for the now closed Kill O'The Grange Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21883/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As part of the Programme for a Partnership Government, the Office of Public Works (OPW) was requested not to dispose of any closed Garda stations pending the outcome of two reviews of closed Garda stations.

 The first review identified six closed Garda stations for reopening and the second review, published on the 21st December 2018, did not identify any further closed Garda stations for reopening.

An Garda Síochána has recently advised the OPW that they no longer have an interest in the former Garda station at Kill O’The Grange and the Commissioners of Public Works have now recommenced the process of identifying either alternative State use or disposal of the property, in line with OPW’s disposal policy on surplus vacant property.

The OPW policy with regard to non-operational (vacant) State property, including the former Garda station at Kill O’The Grange is to:

Identify if the property is required/suitable for alternative State use by either Government Departments or the wider public sector.

If there is no other State use identified for a property, the OPW will then consider disposing of the property on the open market if and when conditions prevail, in order to generate revenue for the Exchequer.

If no State requirement is identified or if a decision is taken not to dispose of a particular property, the OPW may consider community involvement (subject to a detailed written submission, which would indicate that the community/voluntary group has the means to insure, maintain and manage the property and that there are no ongoing costs for the Exchequer).

The OPW will again establish if there is any alternative State use for the property prior to disposing of it on the open market. 

Early Retirement Scheme

Questions (205)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

205. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the process of requesting correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21919/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The terms and conditions as set out in the Collective Agreement on Redundancy Payments of June 2012, included a ban on public service re-employment for beneficiaries for two years and, thereafter, the prior consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform was required.

In addition the Voluntary Redundancy Schemes of 2010 in the Health Sector also required the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for any public service re-employment after expiry of the 7-year re-employment ban, which expired on 31 December 2017.

In light of economic conditions, the Minister agreed in 2017 to remove the requirement for his consent for re-employment after the respective fixed re-employment bans expire.

There remains, however, the permanent ban on re-employment for those who availed of the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme in the Health sector, covered by Circular 7/2010.

Election Expenditure

Questions (206)

Niall Collins

Question:

206. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the remuneration that returning officers receive for carrying out their duties in respect of the 2019 local and European elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21985/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The final remuneration that Returning Officers receive for carrying out their duties in respect of the 2019 Local and European elections are not available as final accounts from Returning Officers are not due until six months after the election.

The remuneration paid to Returning Officers’ for the 2014 European & Local Elections was €12.4m (this figure includes the Dublin West and Longford West Meath by-elections).

State Properties

Questions (207)

Jack Chambers

Question:

207. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if there has been a change of policy to change the use of lodges in the Phoenix Park from use by staff to short-term market rental; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21376/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

There has been no change of policy regarding the use of lodges in the Phoenix Park.  There are a number of dwellings in the Phoenix Park that are currently vacant due to their poor condition.  The OPW has recently commenced a programme of refurbishment of some of these properties in order to protect and preserve their historic value as part of the Phoenix Park estate. 

The lodges in the Phoenix Park are allocated on the basis of a number of criteria.  These criteria range from allocating a residence to OPW staff in specific posts where there is a requirement for them to be present in the Park at all times, to the assignment of an official residence to a designated office holder.   

Other criteria include options to lease these historical lodges to the Irish Landmark Trust (ILT) for short-term letting to individuals under agreed terms and conditions.  The OPW has worked with the Irish Landmark Trust for several years to ensure that residential heritage properties can continue to be used in a way that is sympathetic to their original design and intention.  The ILT is a non-profit organisation that seeks out interesting and unusual heritage properties in need of conservation.  The ILT works on a range of properties from lighthouses and schoolhouses, to castles and gate lodges.  As an educational charity, its primary aim is to conserve and sustain significant buildings.  ILT properties are presented as living buildings, not museum settings, hence their use as short-term holiday accommodation that provide public access to the buildings in a way that respects the history and architectural integrity of these structures.  Over the past two decades, the ILT has worked with a number of partners, including the OPW, to conserve 31 distinctive buildings across Ireland.  Examples at OPW heritage properties include the Castletown Gate House and Battey Langley Lodge at Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare and the Annes Grove Miniature Castle at Annes Grove Gardens, Castletownroche, Co. Cork.  

While the OPW may dispose of properties that are surplus to State requirements on the open market, lodges like those in the Phoenix Park are considered intrinsic to the historic estates, parks and gardens in the care of the OPW and are not disposed.  Therefore, in general, these are retained in the ownership of the State.

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (208)

Michael Harty

Question:

208. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works will consider floodlighting Clare Abbey (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21451/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

There are a number of aesthetic and practical considerations involved in deciding whether floodlighting of particular sites is either feasible or appropriate.  The nearby availability of a power source, cost, rural light pollution and the appropriateness of floodlighting isolated sites must all be taken into account.

 The general policy of the Office of Public Works, guided by principles from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is not to floodlight National Monuments in rural settings, for several reasons, among them;

1) Energy conservation - The benefits of floodlighting any Monument must be balanced against energy conservation policy and sustainable development principles.

2) Light pollution - Light pollution is causing a general diminution in the quality of views of the sky at night and is adding to global warming.

3) Impact on fauna and flora - Strong lights on a building at night can encourage excessive growth of invasive and opportunistic plant growth which, as well as creating additional maintenance work may also damage a Monument.  Nocturnal animals, birds, insects and moths can be disturbed by bright lights.

4) Possibility of anti-social behaviour - In a site such as Clare Abbey, the introduction of floodlighting can attract unwanted visitors. The potential for litter, graffiti and vandalism is increased if a Monument is floodlit.

For these reasons, and also current budgetary constraints, the Office of Public Works does not consider that  floodlighting of Clare Abbey should be installed.

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (209)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

209. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if signage will be provided in an area (details supplied). [21499/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Signage on public roads, including the main street of Doneraile and all approach roads to Doneraile, is a matter for the local authority, in this case Cork County Council. The Office of Public Works has no role in the provision of signage on public roads.  Nevertheless, OPW is available to discuss signage relating to Doneraile Estate with the Council if that can be of benefit.

Ministerial Functions

Questions (210)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

210. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the ownership of lands at a location (details supplied) which may have been vested in him. [21555/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Under Section 28(2) of the State Property Act, 1954, land vested in or held in trust for a body corporate immediately prior to its dissolution, (other than land held by such body in trust for another person) becomes property of the State in the person of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.  The interest acquired by the Minister is described as a defeasible interest as it may be defeated by restoration of the company up to 20 years after dissolution.

I am informed that there is some land at the location identified that may have been held by a dissolved company at the time of its dissolution. Further investigation is required to confirm if the Minister holds an interest in land in the area.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has the discretion, under Section 31 of the State Property Act 1954, to waive his interest in property that has devolved to the State under Section 28, if he believes it is proper to do so having regard to all the circumstances of the case.

If it is confirmed that the Minister holds an interest in land at the specified location an application from a suitable party, requesting that the Minister waive his interest to them could be considered. 

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (211)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

211. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount spent in fees to companies (details supplied) by his Department in each of the years 2011 to 2018. [21585/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I wish to advise the Deputy that details of my Department's spend on consultancy costs, professional fees, legal fees and advisory fees since its establishment in 2011 up to end Q1 2019 can be found at

https://assets.gov.ie/8249/5e0e1baa64ca413bb0e3b33dc04150bf.pdf.

Garda Stations

Questions (212, 213)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

212. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date on which the new mobile phone mast will be installed at Buncrana Garda station. [21621/19]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

213. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the planned installation of 3G and 4G technology in Buncrana Garda station can be upgraded to 5G in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21622/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland (CPW) grant licences to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) who hold a Mobile Telecommunications Licence to provide Mobile Telephone Services.  

A standard licence agreement sets out the terms and conditions under which MNOs are permitted to locate on OPW property.

The Commissioners have recently granted a licence to an MNO for the installation of 3G and 4G technologies at Buncrana Garda Station.  Any subsequent upgrade of equipment would require a further licence agreement.

I understand from my officials that there is currently no date confirmed for the installation of the equipment on the mast at Buncrana Garda Station.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (214)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

214. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment requested a cost analysis of any of the alternative options to the national broadband plan; if so, if these were completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21711/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Spending Code requires that Departments undertake an appropriate appraisal, such as cost benefit analysis (CBA) or cost effectiveness analysis, on all expenditure proposals with an estimated value in excess of €20 million, before any approval is given to proceed to procurement.  The Public Spending Code further requires Departments to submit their appraisals for such projects to my Department for technical review - in terms of the methodology used and to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Public Spending Code.

Departments are further required, under the Public Spending Code, to continually update project appraisals / CBAs as the procurement process evolves, and as actual tender costs (as opposed to cost estimates) become available.  My Department may be consulted to technically review such updated appraisals / CBAs, if necessary.

While my Department is not involved in the assessment of the tenders for individual projects, if it emerges that the cost of a project is not capable of being met within the agreed multi-annual capital allocation of the relevant procuring Department, then that Department must engage with my Department to explore how to proceed in relation to the project. 

In the case of the National Broadband Plan, the Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment engaged with my Department in relation to the technical review of the cost benefit analysis of the proposal, in accordance with the requirements of the Public Spending Code.  In addition, over recent months, the two Departments have worked together to explore a number of potential alternative options to the current NBP tender process.  These options have been set out in the documentation published by the Departments in recent weeks. 

As none of these contingency options were taken forward they were not subjected to a fuller specification and development of a detailed project proposal requiring a formal CBA.

National Children's Hospital

Questions (215)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

215. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projected budgetary impact of the national children's hospital project from 2019 to 2024 or the latest available date; and the estimated way it will impact the general Government balance in each affected year in gross, percentage of GDP and percentage of GNI in tabular form. [21820/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The National Development Plan announced an investment programme of €116 billion over the period 2018 - 2027.  There will be no increase in this amount to facilitate the construction of the National Children's Hospital, therefore there will be no additional impact on GGB, GDP or GNI*.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (216, 217)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

216. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the planned capital spending which will be cut or reprofiled from other projects to account for new national broadband plan liabilities; the details of each project; the cost of each project being cut or reprofiled; the Department to which this capital spending was originally allocated; in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21821/19]

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Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

217. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he plans to increase the size of the National Development Plan 2017-2028 to account for the unplanned expense of the national broadband plan; if so, the amount; the impact of this increase on the general Government balance in each affected year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21822/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 217 together.

As I have previously indicated, I intend to provide the additional capital required to fund the cost of proceeding with the National Broadband Plan from future revenues.  This will be done in the context of updating the overall multi-annual capital ceilings set out in Project Ireland 2040.

Public Spending Code

Questions (218)

Micheál Martin

Question:

218. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if there is a practice of stating prices for public projects that exclude VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21831/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Spending Code is the set of rules and procedures that apply to ensure that value for money standards are upheld across the Irish Public Service. The Code sets out the appraisal/business case requirements for every publically funded project. It stipulates that every spending proposal should be appraised carefully but the resources spent on appraisal should be commensurate with the cost of the projects or expenditure proposals. Projects over €5 million should be subjected to an economic appraisal.  

It is currently being reviewed as part of the ongoing reform of Ireland’s capital management systems to strengthen the existing guidance to better align with the realities of project delivery and with a particular focus in improved appraisal, cost estimation and management. The revised central elements of the Public Spending Code relating to the appraisal and management of public capital projects will be published before the summer.  Further technical guidance building upon these central elements will follow in the second half of 2019 and in 2020.

Costs are stated in different ways for public projects depending on the stage the project is at in its lifecycle.

The Public Spending Code sets out the requirements for business cases for public projects including: 

- setting out project objectives and scope,

- identifying and costing feasible options,

- analysing a narrowed list of viable options using financial and sensitivity analysis and, for projects over €5 million, economic analysis,

- setting out a risk strategy outlining key risks and potential mitigation measures,

- setting out a plan for project delivery,

- setting out a plan for how the project will be monitored and evaluated; and

- making a recommendation as to the delivery option which will achieve the desired outcome and which would represent value for money.

Within the business case, the financial analysis looks at the project cashflows over the economically useful life of the project to inform affordability. The cashflows should include all costs such as operating, capital, labour, tax, charges, etc. VAT is included in the financial analysis cashflows.

While the financial analysis assesses affordability, the economic appraisal assesses the economic and social value of the project. A number of adjustments are made to the financial analysis cashflow figures to arrive at the figures used in the economic analysis. The adjustments include reflecting the deadweight loss associated with taxation used to raise public funds and removing transfer payments such as VAT. VAT is not included in the economic costs of the project.

In recognition of the different VAT levels that are applied in different jurisdictions across the EU, the thresholds that determine the applicability of the EU procurement directives are stated as VAT exclusive. When tendering public contracts the same principle is usually applied.

Official Travel

Questions (219, 220, 221)

Catherine Martin

Question:

219. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the mileage rate for public servants using an electric car; the way in which it was calculated when it was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21970/19]

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Catherine Martin

Question:

220. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the mileage rate for public servants using an electric bicycle; the way in which it was calculated when it was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21971/19]

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Catherine Martin

Question:

221. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the analysis that has been carried out of the potential to incentivise a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by adjusting the mileage rates for public servants using cars and bicycles of various categories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21973/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 to 221, inclusive, together.

Travel on official duty is an integral part of the functions carried out by many civil and public servants.  As a standard principle, public servants should always use public transport for official travel in the first instance, where suitable.

Where the use of car is deemed necessary, the mileage rates are designed to compensate an officer for the costs incurred in using their own car on official business. The rates are based on a methodology which takes account of both overhead costs (such as car purchase costs, depreciation and insurance) and also running costs (fuel costs and maintenance). The rates are intended to reimburse an officer for the costs incurred and are not considered to be a source of emolument or profit. As such, these rates are not considered to be an incentive for officers to use their own cars for official travel.

All-electric vehicles, including both cars and electric bicycles, are a relatively new and developing technology. Comprehensive information such as that available for petrol/diesel driven cars is not yet available for electric vehicles and, as a consequence, it has not yet possible to devise a mileage rate for electric cars and bicycles in the same manner as for petrol/diesel vehicles. The current policy of my Department is that civil servants using all-electric vehicles may claim reimbursement at the lowest mileage rate (0 – 1200 CC) which currently stands at 37.95 cent per kilometre. This policy will be kept under review and will be adjusted as appropriate as the situation with electric vehicles becomes clearer. 

The Deputy will also be aware that the Revenue Commissioners administer a tax relief scheme for employers to provide a bicycle to employees where the employee does not incur a tax cost for benefit in kind. The Cycle to Work Scheme operates by way of a salary sacrifice and may also be used towards the cost of an electric bike. Where an officer uses their own bicycle for official travel, they may claim mileage at a rate of 8 cent per kilometre. This rate has been in place since 2007 and was determined by reference to annual wear and tear, the average cost of a bicycle, depreciation, maintenance, cleaning and repairs, and protective clothing.