HSE Governance

Questions (155)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

155. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the oversight arrangements in his Department to ensure that the HSE complies with policy and that its performance is satisfactory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24780/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The relationship between the Department and the HSE is set out in the Health Act 2004 (as amended).  Under the Act, the HSE Directorate is accountable to the Minister for the performance of its functions and those of the Executive, and the Director General is accountable to the Minister on behalf of the Directorate for the performance by the Directorate of its functions and those of the Executive.

The legislation requires the HSE to have in place a Code of Governance setting out the principles and practices applicable to the Executive as a public body.  The HSE reports on its compliance with the Code of Governance in its Annual Report and Financial Statements.  The Statement of Internal Control included in the Annual Report reports the HSE’s adherence to the requirements in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Code of Practice for Governance of State Bodies.  The HSE also reports annually to the Department in this regard.  The HSE’s most recent Annual Report (2018) is available on the HSE website at https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/publications/corporate/hse-annual-report-and-financial-statements-2018.pdf.

The Department oversees the performance of the HSE in relation to the delivery of the services set out in its National Service Plan. In this context, the Department holds the HSE to account for the delivery of high quality services across the four equally important domains of:

i. access to services,

ii. the quality and safety of those services,

iii. doing this within the financial resources available and

iv. effectively harnessing the efforts of the workforce.

This is achieved through an on-going monthly performance management process where the HSE reports against the targets set out in the Service Plan. Monthly high-level meetings between management in both organisations are held to discuss on-going or emerging performance issues and to determine actions to resolve and improve areas of concern.  There is also regular engagement between HSE and departmental officials on a wide range of issues to ensure compliance with policy objectives.

The oversight arrangements will be adapted in line with the Health Service Executive (Governance) Act 2019 which has recently been signed into law by the President. Under the new legislation, the HSE Board will be the governing body of the HSE and will be accountable to the Minister for the performance of its functions and the CEO will be accountable to the Board.

A Board governance structure, with strong competencies across key areas, will be a key component in strengthening HSE governance and will contribute to strengthening the oversight and performance of the HSE.

Immediate priority issues for the Board include:

- developing and implementing an effective performance management and accountability system in the HSE

- developing a plan for building public trust and confidence in the HSE and wider health service.

- ensuring the HSE’s full support for and implementation of the Government’s programme of health reform as set out in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy.

Hospitals Discharges

Questions (156)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

156. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the number of delayed discharges by hospital. [24781/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to you directly as soon as possible.

Home Care Packages Expenditure

Questions (157)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

157. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the budget for home care services; the estimated cost in 2019 of the requirement to pay staff for travel time further to an EU directive; the estimated number of home care hours which will now not be funded as a result of this change; his plans to seek a supplementary budget to make up this shortfall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24782/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Homecare is an important support that enables older people to remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. It is also key for patient facilitating timely discharge from acute hospitals. 

This year, the budget for Home Support services is almost €446 million, an increase of approximately €30 million on the 2018 allocation. In accordance with its National Service Plan, the HSE intends to provide 17.9 million home support hours to 53,000 people and a further 360,000 hours through intensive home care packages to 235 people. This means that in 2019 approximately 800,000 more hours of support will be provided than were provided last year.

The allocation of funding for home supports across the system, though significant, is finite and services must be delivered within the funding available.  The HSE needs to ensure that the level of service provision is in line with their budget, delivery plan and the National Service Plan. To achieve this the HSE must ensure that the total number of hours being provided does not exceed targeted levels. While this may impact on their ability to provide new or additional hours, it is in line with normal prudent management of the home support budget.  

I have asked the HSE to reply to the operational elements of the Deputy's question.

Home Care Packages Data

Questions (158)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

158. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the waiting lists for home care services by CHO; and when these waiting times will be addressed. [24783/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Maternity Services

Questions (159, 160)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

159. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the progress on his commitment in December 2018 to produce the legal documents which are to give effect to the agreement reached with St. Vincent's Healthcare Group which he stated would protect the investment of the State and guarantee clinical and operational independence for the national maternity hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24784/19]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

160. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the timescale to which he is working for the provision of a new national maternity hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24785/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

My Department continues to engage with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital to develop a legal framework to protect the State’s significant investment in the new hospital.  St Vincent’s Healthcare Group has agreed in principle to provide the State with a 99-year lease of the land upon which the new maternity hospital will be built, and this will allow the State to retain ownership of the new facility. It is important that the legal framework is agreed before the project advances to the tendering stage.

As the HSE is responsible for the delivery of healthcare infrastructure projects, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly regarding your queries in relation to the timescale for the project.

Health Strategies

Questions (161)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

161. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the status of the implementation of Sláintecare. [24786/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy is aware, a detailed Sláintecare Action plan for 2019 was completed and published on 13 March 2019. The Action Plan sets out detailed deliverables and timeframes for 239 deliverables that are to be progressed in 2019 as part of the implementation of the Sláintecare vision and firmly establishes a programmatic approach to the delivery of the Sláintecare Strategy.

In the first quarter of this year the Sláintecare Programme Implementation Office (SPIO) team has been mobilised to support and drive the implementation of these projects working in partnership with the Department units, the HSE and other partners. During the first quarter of 2019, the Sláintecare Executive Director and SPIO team have continued to engage with citizens, stakeholders and frontline staff across the health and social care service to ensure that these voices are involved in the design and delivery of the Sláintecare vision. A number of workshops, site visits and engagement events have taken place around the country with frontline clinicians. Two briefing sessions have been held with members of both the Joint Committee on Health and the former Committee on the Future of Healthcare. The Citizen Engagement and Empowerment Programme continues to be rolled out, with two regional events taking place in Quarter 1.

I refer the Deputy to the actions completed in Quarter 1 of this year, detailed in the Quarter 1 progress report published on the Department of Health website on 3rd May 2019. Detailed as follows is the activity of the Sláintecare Programme Implementation office to date. I am happy to report that all deliverables for Q1 2019 are 100% on track.

Sláintecare Programme Implementation Office Activity for Q1 2019

- The Action Plan for 2019 was compiled and published on 13 March following review by the SIAC.

- The dedicated Sláintecare Programme Implementation Office (SPIO) staff of 15 have been mobilised and are now actively working with stakeholders and colleagues to progress the 2019 deliverables.

- The Sláintecare Integration Fund was published on 22nd March 2019, with applications being requested by 18th April 2019. A significant number of application have been submitted. 

- The second Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council (SIAC) meeting was held on 27 Feb. Dr Tom Keane is the Chair of the Advisory Council.

- Four stakeholder workshops were held jointly with the Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE, covering topics on chronic diseases and older persons.

- A Citizen and Staff Engagement and Empowerment Programme has been initiated to ensure the voice of service users is heard in the design of the reform programme.

- Content to support a pro-active communications programme for 2019 is in development.

- First quarter progress report 2019 completed and all 28 (100%) deliverables are on track.

Key Sláintecare Advancements since September 2018

- The second Positive Ageing Indicators for Ireland Report was announced and published (May 2019). 

- The DOH, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) reached consensus on a major package of GP contractual reforms which will benefit patients and make general practice a more attractive career option for doctors (April 2019).

- The 2019 Healthy Ireland campaign has been announced (April 2019).

- The Smile agus Sláinte National Oral Health Policy has been launched with a commitment to elements of universal healthcare to be implemented between 2020 to 2026 (April 2019).

- The HSE Board has been appointed (January 2019) on an administrative basis and HSE Director General has been appointed (April 2019).

- A reduction in prescription charges and a decrease in the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme was announced (March 2019).

- The Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 has been published (March 2019).

- The Oversight Group to implement new model of public health medicine has been established (March 2019).

- The Independent review group on the role of voluntary organisations (Catherine Day Report) has been published (February 2019).

- The joint policy statement “Housing Options for our ageing population” has been launched (February 2019).

- The Independent Patient Advocacy Service contract has been awarded (December 2018).

- The Healthy Ireland Outcomes Framework has been launched (December 2018).

- The National Patient Experience Survey 2018 was published. 86% were happy with the service they received (November 2018).

Suicide Incidence

Questions (162)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

162. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the number of suicides which took place in County Tipperary in 2018 and to date in 2019; the preventative service provision in response to these figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24789/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Services

Questions (163)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

163. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if an investigation will be expedited for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24795/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to reply to you directly.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme Review

Questions (164)

Barry Cowen

Question:

164. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health the proposed revisions of the fair deal scheme; the estimated first and full year cost of those revisions; when he expects the relevant legislation to be published; when he expects the legislation to have completed all Stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas; the estimated cost of making these revisions retrospective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24796/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The proposed policy change to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS), to cap contributions based on farm and business assets at 3 years where a family successor commits to working the productive asset, has been approved by Government. My Department developed draft Heads of Bill while considering a number of complex ancillary policy and operational matters which may need to be addressed in the proposed legislation.

It is intended that this proposed policy change, the 3 year cap, will be extended to eligible existing participants in long term residential care so that they are not disadvantaged, but that there would be no retrospective recoupment of contributions for those who have paid contributions over and above the 3 year period. The cost of applying the change to existing residents who will qualify from the coming into effect of the provisions has been factored into the overall cost of this proposed legislative change.

The Heads of Bill has been circulated to Government this week. The changes to the Scheme will come into effect as soon as the legislative process is successfully complete. I intend to progress as quickly as possible, however, the timeline for completion of the legislation will also depend on how it passes through the Houses.

The full year cost of this change to the Scheme is estimated at €9.7m per annum, this however will likely increase after 3 years of the changes being in operation. It is estimated that the cost will increase to €11.6m per annum after this point.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (165)

Peter Burke

Question:

165. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Health the status of an appointment for a person (details supplied). [24802/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, since January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (166)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

166. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if a procedure for a person (details supplied) will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24807/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, since January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Sheep Welfare Scheme

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A

Questions (167)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

167. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers who applied for the sheep welfare scheme in 2019; the number who did not submit their sheep census returns by the due date of 15 February; if he will now accept late applications from those who overlooked this task by accident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24612/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The information requested is currently being compiled and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A
I refer to the information requested under PQ 24612/19 concerning the number of farmers that applied for the Sheep Welfare Scheme in 2019 and the number that did not submit their sheep census returns by the due date.
A total of 19,161 participants were enrolled in the Sheep Welfare Scheme in 2019.  However, a total of 18,345 participants are currently eligible for payment in the 2019 scheme year.  Amongst those not currently eligible for payment are 579 applicants  who did not submit their sheep census by the due date of the 14th of February 2019.
Participants who failed to submit their sheep census by the due date were written to by the Department and advised they could submit an appeal to the Department in relation to the late submission of their census, including any relevant supporting documentation.
Please note that the figure of 18,345 cases currently eligible for payment in 2019 may not reflect the final number paid in the scheme year due to issues such as successful appeals, participants withdrawing from the scheme or failure by participants to meet obligations set out in the terms and conditions of the scheme.

GLAS Payments

Questions (168)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

168. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a GLAS payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24613/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 3 with a contract commencement date of 1 January 2017 and has received payment in respect of scheme year 2017.

An issue arose in relation to a parcel claimed as Low Input Permanent Pasture which requires further checking. This issue has delayed processing of the 2018 Advance payment.   

Once this application clears the pre-payment validations, the outstanding 2018 payments will be processed.

GLAS payments continue to issue on a weekly basis.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Appeals

Questions (169)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

169. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an ANC appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24639/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application under the 2018 Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) was received from the person named on 13 February 2018.

Under 2018 Areas of Natural Constraint scheme, all eligible applicants are required to meet a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per hectare for a retention period of seven consecutive months, in addition to maintaining an annual average of 0.15 livestock units per hectare calculated over the twelve months of the scheme year. Stocking density can be satisfied by cattle, sheep, goats, deer and equines.

Payment under the 2018 ANC Scheme has not issued to the person  named because he has not satisfied the scheme's minimum stocking density requirements. My Department is in contact with him in relation to this issue and have requested additional information in relation to his animal numbers.

Once this information is received, it will be examined with a view to finalising the application.

GLAS Payments

Questions (170)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

170. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a number of GLAS payments (details supplied) are being held up, with his officials citing problems with information technology systems as the reason behind the delays; if the system is adequate; when payments will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24677/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 2 and has received payments for scheme years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Following an inspection, the Planting a Grove of Native Trees action was found to be ineligible on the application. However, this decision was subsequently the subject of a successful review. Department officials are currently working to reinstate the action and the payment for this action will be processed once this is complete.

GLAS payments continue to issue on a weekly basis.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Questions (171)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

171. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if conditions (details supplied) will be included in the CAP reform negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24683/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Since the launch of the draft CAP Post-2020 regulations by Commissioner Hogan in June 2018, officials from my Department have been engaging with the EU Commission and other member States regarding  the proposed changes.

The draft CAP Post-2020 regulations involve significant changes, including replacing the Basic Payment Scheme with a Basic Income Support Scheme (BISS).  The proposals regarding entitlements and convergence in the draft regulations build on the current convergence path in the current CAP. 

The negotiations in relation to the draft regulations are on-going and there is much to be decided upon before final agreement can be achieved.  Until the draft regulations are finalised, it is not possible to comment on specifics regarding entrance into the new Basic Income Support Scheme.

Organic Farming Scheme Data

Questions (172)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

172. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the financial allocations on an annual basis under the 2014-2020 RDP to the organic farming scheme; the annual amount expended on the programme in each year since it was established; the number of approved applicants in the scheme who received payments in each year; and the number who have not received payments in each year since being established by advance and balancing payments in tabular form. [24804/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Organic Farming Scheme under the current RDP 2014-2020 was launched in 2015.  The figures in the table below set out the financial allocation each year together with the amount expended in those years.  The figures regarding payees and the number awaiting payment refer to the scheme year in question.  The scheme is on track to spend its entire allocation.

 Year

 Financial Allocation (€)

 Amount expended in each year (€)

 Payees (per Scheme year)

 Number awaiting advance

 Number awaiting balance

 2015

 12,000,000

 8,030,000

 1,580

 0

 0

 2016

 10,000,000

 8,039,561

 1,642

 1

 0

 2017

 10,500,000

 8,822,131

 1,568

 6

 8

 2018

 10,500,000

 10,519,034

 1,441

 32

 136

 2019

 11,000,000

 2,176,660

 n/a

 n/a

 n/a

Organic Farming Scheme Data

Questions (173)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

173. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the targets committed to, that is, number of hectares of new land into production and number of hectares of converted land, under the organic farming scheme for the 2014-2020 RDP window; and the progress to date on these targets. [24805/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Organic Farming sector has seen unprecedented expansion over the last few years.  This expansion has been driven by the Organic Farming Scheme which was introduced under Ireland's RDP 2014-2020.

The targets committed to under the Organic Farming Scheme were to attract 16,000 hectares of new land into production and to support 46,000 hectares of converted land.  These targets have both been achieved and, in fact, have been exceeded.  26,000 hectares of new land have been converted to organic farming during the current RDP, increasing the land area under organic production to almost 72,000 hectares.

Dairy Sector

Questions (174)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

174. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has requested his colleague the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to consider issuing additional work permits for the dairy sector. [24806/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Following the submission of an evidence-based business case from my Department last year, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D. announced in May 2018 a pilot quota of 50 permits for dairy farm assistants to address labour shortages in that sector.  I understand that this allocation has now been used up.

Having recently received a business case from a farm organisation for a further allocation of such permits, my Department is satisfied that it provides sufficient detail for further consideration by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI).  As a result, the submission has been forwarded to that Department for their assessment.

Beef Industry

Questions (175)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

175. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the changes to equations in the classification machines at meat plants which determine the conformation and fat score of cattle; and his views on the position of a farm organisation (details supplied) that these changes reward factories over farmers. [24808/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department supervised the recent modification trial of the mechanical beef carcase classification system that was carried out in Slaney Meats, to establish compliance with EU legislation in terms of new technology being trialled.

Following calibration of the modified classification machine using 2,400 carcasses in 2018, the new technology was validated on an additional 2,100 carcasses by comparison with the grades of three Department classification officers.  The calibration process explored the optimum equations to maximise the accuracy of the machine.  The equations used are equations that were authorised in authorisation trials carried out and supervised by the EU Commission.

A classification expert from the Netherlands independently monitored the two year trial and produced a detailed report which is currently being reviewed and will be published in the near future on the Department's website. The Report will include accuracy levels relevant to the new technology when compared with the three Department classification officers.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (176)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

176. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the recent EU CAP report (details supplied) and the findings of reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to measures under pillar 1 and 2. [24810/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The findings of the report on the “Evaluation study of the impact of the CAP on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions” referred to by the Deputy are consistent with the higher ambition on environmental and climate action which are part of the new CAP post-2020 proposals, where it is proposed that 40% of the overall CAP budget will contribute to climate action. This will require farmers to achieve a higher level of environmental ambition through both mandatory and incentive-based measures.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has made and will continue to make an increasingly significant contribution to the environmental sustainability of the Irish agriculture.  The report shows Ireland as having the second highest “climate relevant” spending under CAP, when compared to other Member States, demonstrating our commitment and determination to meet the challenge of climate change. Despite uncertainties over the level of future CAP budgets, compounded by on-going Brexit negotiations, the Irish government remains committed to sustaining a strong environmental focus and further mainstreaming climate action under any future CAP programme.

While the mitigation potential for agriculture is limited, agriculture can and must play a key role in contributing to Ireland’s climate change and energy targets in the years ahead. Towards this end, one of the positives that can be taken from this report is the high level of Knowledge Transfer actions which Ireland supports under the current CAP programme when compared to other Member States. These Knowledge Transfer actions along with a strong Farm Advisory Service (also supported under CAP) will allow Irish agriculture to quickly respond to the future expected consequences of climate change.

Mitigation of emissions from the agriculture sector will depend on encouraging behavioural change. Appropriate measures under a new CAP will provide a key vehicle for incentivising such change. Any national CAP Plan will be informed to a significant extent by the need to encourage farmers to engage in climate change mitigation activities.

GLAS Data

Questions (177)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

177. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 1145 of 8 May 2019, the number of farmers nationally awaiting an additional payment as referenced for GLAS payments in each of the years 2016 to 2018, in tabular form; and the number of farmers awaiting such payments by amounts (details supplied). [24811/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

All GLAS contracts will be reviewed to identify cases where an underpayment or an overpayment has arisen due to a change in GLAS actions. This is a standard process. To date, 71 GLAS contracts have been identified for additional payment. These payments issued to GLAS farmers earlier this year to a total value of almost €50,000.

The review process is currently underway for further cases. It is expected that additional payments will issue in the coming weeks to a second group of GLAS farmers. The numbers involved and the total value of these additional payments has not yet been finalised.

GLAS payments continue to issue on a weekly basis.

Fisheries Protection

Questions (178)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

178. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports and protections he will provide to fishermen in County Donegal to ensure they have unhindered access to fishing waters around Rockall following the announcement of the Scottish Government that it will take enforcement action against Irish vessels found fishing within 12 miles of Rockall; the steps he is taking to ensure Irish fishing interests are maintained and access to these fishing waters continue with respect to bilateral discussions with Scotland and the UK, EU level discussions and with talks at the level of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; the historical overview of territorial claims to these waters; and the steps being taken to ensure the territorial right of Ireland to fish in this area continues. [24812/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Deputy will be aware that An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney recently received a formal letter of notice from the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, stating that Scotland would deploy vessels in the Rockall area to take “enforcement action” against Irish vessels found fishing within 12 miles of Rockall from last weekend onwards.

Ireland’s position is that there is no basis for excluding Irish fishing vessels from these waters as they are legitimately pursuing EU fishing opportunities and have done so unhindered for decades. The United Kingdom claims sovereignty over Rockall and thus a twelve mile territorial sea around it.  The United Kingdom first made its claim of sovereignty to Rockall in 1955 and sought to incorporate it as part of the UK in its domestic law by virtue of the Island of Rockall Act 1972.

The Irish Government has never sought to claim sovereignty over Rockall.  Our position has been and remains that it does not accept the UK’s claim to sovereignty over Rockall, which it regards as forming part of the UK’s exclusive economic zone and, accordingly, part of European Union waters under the Common Fisheries Policy, to which the principle of equal access for the vessels of all EU Member States applies.  Irish vessels have operated unhindered in the Rockall zone for many decades fishing haddock, squid and other species and these fisheries are of substantial economic importance to our fishing fleet based in Greencastle, Killybegs, Castletownbere and other ports around the country.

I met with the Irish fishing sector on Friday last to inform them of the letter from the Scottish Authorities. I also emphasised that Ireland’s position in relation to Rockall had not changed.  The industry was appreciative of that engagement but was also extremely concerned at the possibility that unjustified enforcement action might be taken against them.

We have built with Scotland a strong and positive relationship, to our mutual benefit, over many years.  I hope that we can use that close relationship to find a way to resolve these matters and to remove the threat of enforcement action against Irish vessels.  Dialogue is continuing between the Irish and Scottish Governments and there have been close contacts at official level over recent days.  It has now been agreed that a process of intensified engagement will take place, led by senior officials from both administrations.  We are hopeful that, on this basis, the latest difficulties can be de-escalated.

Beef Industry

Questions (179)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

179. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the criterion set down in a draft EU Commission implementing regulation providing temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector that the support will be given on the condition that measures taken by Ireland shall be aimed at reducing production or restructuring the beef and veal sector (details supplied); when his attention was first drawn to the fact that this specific restructuring criterion would need to be fulfilled for such adjustment aid; and the position he took when his attention was drawn to this provision. [24813/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

I am also keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very welcome in this context.  I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission. The announcement by the Commissioner is another example of the importance of EU solidarity when it comes to facing significant economic challenges.

This exceptional aid provision will be given effect through a Commission Implementing Regulation. While Member States will be invited to give an opinion on the draft Regulation through the Commission’s Common Market Organisation Management Committee, the draft Regulation is within the Commission’s own legal competence, and is not for negotiation with Ireland or indeed other Member States, in terms of its content.

Further details on the aid package will be announced in due course following the appropriate stakeholder consultation.