Thursday, 20 June 2019

Questions (10, 15, 16)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

10. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the capital projects that are to be delayed or deferred in the years of the National Development Plan 2018-2027 as a result of cost overruns such as the national children’s hospital and national broadband plan which the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, IFAC, calculate could reduce funding for capital projects by as much as €17 billion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25830/19]

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Eamon Ryan

Question:

15. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will revise the capital allocation in the National Development Plan 2018-2027 to take into account the new all of Government climate action plan. [25827/19]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

16. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the review which will take place of the National Development Plan 2018-2027 in view of the estimated cost of the National Broadband Plan and the national children’s hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25828/19]

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Oral answers (14 contributions) (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 15 and 16 together. To allow a debate, I have covered some of the points Deputy O'Brien already raised with me in earlier questions in the answer I have provided. He knows what I am going to say. I know other Deputies have supplementary questions that perhaps we can deal with now.

That is fine. I call Deputy Eamon Ryan.

I thank the Minister. I welcome the publication of the climate plan on Monday. We have done good work.

On a point of order, what has happened to Question No. 12?

We have not got to it yet. We are on Question No. 10. I call Deputy Eamon Ryan.

We are doing good work in our political and governance arrangements regarding how we tackle climate change. The scale of this challenge is beyond compare, however. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, yesterday stated that a reduction of 2% is required every year in the next decade. We then have to ramp that figure up to a 7%, 8% and 9% reduction per annum in the following decade. Many of the investments that we make now, particularly in transport infrastructure, will determine what happens in those subsequent decades. The national development plan agreed last June had no climate assessment done on it whatsoever. Many of the projects in that plan will hinder rather than help us in reaching those long-term net zero carbon reduction targets. Will the Minister now review the capital spending projections in the national development plan and in Project Ireland 2040 in that regard? Will he then also reconfigure the spending so that it does meet our climate objectives within the iterative process that the Minister, Deputy Bruton, is now setting up in the action plan for climate?

I call Deputy Durkan. Is he contributing on this topic as well? I am sorry, the Deputy is not.

I am not going to delay the debate. I will await the Minister's answer.

That is fine, my apologies. I will allow the Minister to respond.

I and other Government Ministers will of course engage with the iterative process that the Minister, Deputy Bruton, has outlined. We will see if there are further choices that we need to make within the current figures and parameters of the national development plan to better meet the objectives laid out in the plan launched on Monday. I differ with Deputy Eamon Ryan regarding what he has said regarding projects in the national development plan and the difference that they can make to addressing climate change.

Within that plan overall, approximately €30 billion has been allocated to improving public transport and to investing in our housing stock to retrofit it to meet our needs from the point of view of emissions. I have heard the Deputy speak critically of the level of funding and where that funding has been allocated. As we move through the Project Ireland 2040 plan, I hope, as does the House, that if there are opportunities, budget by budget, within the figures to make smart changes that we will be in a position to consider them. I am very supportive of the plan and the ambition that the Minister outlined on Monday.

We currently have 51 major national road and motorway projects either being built or in planning. We do not have a single public transport project at the same stage. We need to shift our transport spending radically towards supporting active travel and public transport. If we do not do that, we will see an ongoing sprawl developing further and further out around the country. It will be impossible to serve such a configuration in a low carbon fashion. If we are to be in a position to make those choices, we have to do an immediate reassessment, particularly of the transport plan. We should stop signing new contracts for new roads that we cannot then reverse. We should instead look to see how we can reconfigure transport spending. It is not enough for us just to state that we are going to switch from diesel and petrol cars to electric vehicles. We will just end up with the same gridlocked system and with people in longer and longer commutes. We will not be able to make the fundamental shift towards net zero with a roads-based system. That reassessment needs to be done straight away.

I will comment on the roads aspect first and then on public transport projects. I agree with the Deputy that we need to have a pipeline of big public transport projects underway. We also need to ensure that as resources are available, and they are, we have projects that already have planning permission and are ready to go. I recollect the debate that I had with Deputy Ryan some years ago on the metro and the DART interconnector. He made the point then that what we should have done was move ahead on the planning process for one of those projects, even though the funding was not then available to deliver them. That is why I really hope that in debates now underway on BusConnects and the new metro that we will be able to have projects that will move through the planning process, and a whole cluster of them, and that they will be ready to go. Turning to the road projects, I differ with what the Deputy has said on that issue. There are road projects that are needed from a road safety and connectivity point of view. There is a very good case for those projects going ahead quickly.

No, the Deputy's time is up. He has had his two slots. I thank Deputy Jonathan O'Brien for his co-operation. It allows us to move on. I am sorry, but Deputy Eamon Ryan has been given his allotted time. We move on to Question No. 11. I call Deputy Cowen and I request that he ask his question as quickly as possible.