National Broadband Plan Funding

Questions (1)

Barry Cowen

Question:

1. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way in which the national broadband plan will be paid for between 2020 and 2023; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25799/19]

View answer

Oral answers (29 contributions) (Question to Public)

The total cost of the broadband plan between 2020 and 2043 will now be almost €3 billion. That includes €1.5 billion of additional funding over and above the amount already allocated in the development plan between 2020 and 2027. Of that amount, €782 million will be required between now and 2023.

On "Six-One" some weeks ago and in answer to a parliamentary question that I asked, the Minister said categorically that no project or development plan would be cancelled, delayed or impacted by the decision to proceed with the broadband plan. Will he explain in detail how the broadband plan will be delivered? He says it will be funded by increased revenue in the future but the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, IFAC, states that is not credible. The Secretary General of the Department has indicated that funding will come from future capital expenditure projects while the Minister states that is not credible. The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, stated this morning that taxes might have to be raised. I believe the money will come either from borrowing or cuts in expenditure. Will the Minister enlighten the House as to how the plan will proceed?

As the Deputy is aware, I am responsible for setting the overall multi-annual capital expenditure ceilings and for allocating these resources across Departments. My Department is also subsequently responsible for monitoring expenditure, on a monthly basis, at a departmental level against these agreed ceilings. In this context, the precise schedule of multi-year funding of the national broadband plan will be set out in full in the context of the budgetary process for 2020.

Beyond that, I should explain, as I have on a number of occasions, that the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is the sponsoring agent and the Government is the final sanctioning authority. It is the responsibility of the sponsoring agency for the national broadband plan, although I will be working closely with that Department, to comply with the provisions of the public spending code.

Where the Government is the sanctioning authority, the public spending code makes it clear that the day-to-day oversight functions of a sanctioning authority revert to the relevant line Department which is the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The Government is then involved at the major decision points.

My Department has engaged with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment throughout the process on the economic appraisal of the national broadband plan. In addition, there was also ongoing engagement between the Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment and my Department on the cost and affordability of the project, in particular once it emerged that the cost of the project was not capable of being funded within the allocation that had originally been made for the project in the national development plan.

In monetary terms, the impact of the project on the overall fiscal position will necessitate an additional requirement of approximately €200 million in 2021 and 2022 and approximately €300 million in 2023, which will result in a depreciation in the general Government balance of approximately 0.1% of both GDP and GNI* on an annual basis. I will lay out in budget 2020 and in the run-up thereto how I plan to accommodate that.

I ask the Minister to clarify the comments he made previously, especially those he made on "Six-One" and subsequently. He said categorically that no project within the national development plan would be cancelled, delayed or impacted by the decision to proceed with the national broadband plan, even though it is to cost an extra €1.5 billion. The Minister says the project will require an additional €500 million between now and 2023 but we are also awaiting details of the outstanding €400 million overspend on the children's hospital. In the short term, that amounts to almost €1 billion. Will he indicate where that amount will come from during the budget process? IFAC states it is not credible that it will come from future revenue. The ESRI states it will possibly come from taxation. The Secretary General of the Minister's Department says that projects will be forgone, although the Minister disagreed with that statement and said it was not credible. These organisations and individuals have laid their cards on the table quite categorically and it is incumbent on the Minister to do likewise on behalf of those we all represent.

As part of the budgetary process for 2020 and beyond, I will engage with Deputies Cowen and Michael McGrath on the matter, as I am required to do.

I repeat that it is my intention that no other projects will be affected as a result of the decision to move ahead with the national broadband plan. There are other reasons beyond any decision on the national broadband plan that projects can be delayed. A project can proceed in a different way than anticipated due to the planning process, decisions taken by Departments or the time required for the tendering process. All those factors can and do arise. I reiterate that it is not my intention to change other projects as a result of going ahead with this decision on the broadband plan.

The Deputy asked me to put my cards on the table. At a certain point in time, Fianna Fáil will need to do the same on the national broadband plan. The issue I have grappled with is that, if one is committed to 100% coverage and the use of fibre optic technology, and wants it to happen on time, this is, on balance, the only way of doing so. If the Deputy feels differently, as is his right, he will need to explain what his alternative is at a certain point in time.

The beauty of the Minister's position is that he is in government and has responsibilities. He has to decide priorities on behalf of this Dáil because he has the majority to do so. Playing games with me about what I would or would not do is not up for discussion here. I need to know what is available in the public finances to deliver a development plan to which this Dáil has agreed. The Minister is not being straight with people when he does not enlighten them in this regard. I ask him to be conscious of that and of the fact that, as I said, others who are independently appraising the national broadband plan have said his position is not credible. It is worrying that he has not sought to clarify his previous comments on his commitment that no project will be affected. He is now saying projects may be affected but he will not enlighten us as to how they will be affected. He said that projects will be delayed. Some €99 million worth of projects have been delayed because this year's commitments in the national broadband plan have not been acceded to and the costs overrun for the national children's hospital.

The Minister has yet to inform us of another €400 million in addition to the €500 million between now and 2023 that he mentioned in his initial reply. What exactly will be delayed? How long will it be delayed ? Will it be delayed for long enough to cause people to forget about the commitments that were made on road trips last year?

I do not need the Deputy to remind me of my responsibilities. I am well aware of them. The Deputy is not without responsibility.

My responsibility is to hold the Minister to account.

If the Deputy feels we have made the wrong decision in the case of the national broadband plan, it is incumbent on him to say at some point what he would do differently. It is clear that he has formed the view that we have made the wrong decision, as he is entitled to do. As already stated, if he believes we are doing the wrong thing, he will have to grapple with the issues with which I have grappled. I reiterate that the decision in this regard will not affect other projects. As we know, every year things happen with other projects that do not result from policy decisions made by me. The original view of the Deputy's party was that Ireland 2040 did not exist and was not going to deliver a material benefit to communities and citizens.

When did I say that?

His party now holds the view that it is of such high value and can make such a difference to people that it is very eager to ensure that it is not affected at all.

When did I say that?

I ask the Minister to correct the record. When did he hear me say anything like that? I respect the commitments made in the development plan. I acknowledge that it can be a success and can bring benefits, especially in the regions.

I need to know whether the money is there to meet the demands relating to the promises the Minister is making. He is not being straight with the people when he tells them that the money will come from future revenues. He is expecting to have magic money at his disposal.

I have to move on to Question No. 2 in the name of Deputy Jonathan O'Brien.

As I have stated previously, the Minister is the Freddie Mercury of politics, exercising his kind of magic. It is time he came clean to the public on this issue.

No, I take exception to the point the Minister is making. He is here because we have the good grace to allow him to be in government and in a position to give stability to this country. He is riding roughshod over us, and it is a mistake he will regret if he keeps going with this answer.

We are not being fair to other Members. At the outset, I asked everybody to stay in order. I will give the Minister 30 seconds to make some brief remarks.

I have publicly acknowledged on a number of occasions the role Fianna Fáil has played in maintaining stability at a point of difficulty. I stand by the point to the effect that I heard this plan being dismissed as one of spin even though it is one of substance.

Money is needed to match it.

I will be outlining how this plan will be funded. The money is there to make Project Ireland 2040 a reality. That is the truth.

We have gone way over time.

The Minister has stated that projects in health and other areas will be foregone because of the overspend, but he is not showing the same conscience when it comes to this issue.

I have called Deputy O'Brien. I ask Members to allow him put his question.

I am quite happy to let them argue, to be honest.

When Deputies' time is up, they should allow the next person to put his or her question.

Freedom of Information Legislation

Questions (2)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

2. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if legislative changes are planned to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25966/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Public)

In light of recent court cases, is the Government planning to propose changes to the existing freedom of information legislation?

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 revised, updated and consolidated the freedom of information regime in this country, removed the upfront fee for requests and made the system in general more user-friendly.

The success of this initiative is illustrated by the fact that between 2014 and 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, there was a 67% increase in the number of requests made to public bodies. It is expected that the Information Commissioner's next annual report will show that the number of requests in 2018 exceeded the 33,979 received by civil and public sector organisations in 2017 as part of a consistent upward trend.

Some 85% of the freedom of information requests decided on by public bodies in 2017 were granted in full or in part. Just 3.5% of those who made freedom of information requests in 2017 sought an internal review, which involves a reconsideration of the request at a higher grade in the organisation, after the initial decision was made. Almost 60% of requests in 2017 were for personal information, with the majority of those who made requests being clients of the public body concerned.

The Deputy will agree that by any objective standard, all indications suggest that the freedom of information regime is robust and effective in delivering on the objectives of openness, transparency and accountability of public bodies. However, the success illustrated by the recent year-on-year increases in demand has been accompanied by significant challenges, particularly with regard to the demands placed on public resources.

Against this backdrop, the Department's central policy unit for freedom of information has continued to work closely with stakeholders throughout the Civil Service and the public service with a view towards improving freedom of information practice.

Our aims are to ensure that the objectives of those who make freedom of information requests are met as efficiently as possible, to build technical knowledge capacity and to develop an appreciation of the broader significance of freedom of information legislation for the business of relevant organisations.

I agree that the changes have led to a dramatic increase in the number of freedom of information requests. While the Minister is correct in stating that there has been an increase of approximately 60%, I would like to take issue with the figures he cited when he spoke about requests that are granted. According to information we received in response to parliamentary questions, the percentage of requests that went on to be granted decreased from 62% to 51% between 2014 and 2017. Some of them may have been successful on appeal. In light of recent court cases in this area involving the Information Commissioner, one journalist has described the Freedom of Information Act as being "dead". There is concern following two recent court rulings. Can I take it from the Minister's reply that there are no definitive proposals to look at the legislation? The Minister is looking at the capacity to deliver on the existing Act. Is that correct?

That is correct. I am aware of the evaluation that has been formed by some people in respect of the operation of the freedom of information legislation. I do not have any evidence to corroborate the suggestion that predictions of the demise of the freedom of information legislation are being borne out. I have monitored what has happened following the three court judgments to which the Deputy refers, one of which relates to the Department of Health. At this point, it is not clear that the consequences of these judgments will affect the operation of the Bill. It is something I will keep under review. I understand that the Deputy's party is considering the introduction of legislation in this area.

That is correct. We signed off on our Bill yesterday and we look forward to submitting it. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is now denying more requests than it is granting. We are concerned about that trend. The Department received 207 requests last year. Sixty were granted and 67 were refused. We are seeing a gradual trend towards more requests being refused than granted. That is borne out by the figures. As already stated, the percentage of requests granted decreased from 62% to 51% between 2014 and 2017. The trend seems to be going in the wrong direction. That is why we are proposing legislation. I understand that the Minister is looking at this matter and will keep it under review.

I look forward to seeing and considering the Sinn Féin legislation. The fact that there has been a change or an evolution in the number of requests being granted or denied does not mean that the legislation is no longer working. Rather than believing that the legislation is in some way failing to meet its objectives, surely we should be open to the view that officials who make their own independent decisions on these matters are acting in a way that complies fully with the spirit and the letter of the freedom of information legislation. This important legislation plays a really important role in public life. I will look at the consequences of the relevant judgments in order to determine whether they are having any effect on the operation of the legislation. At this time, my assessment is that they are not having any such effect.

Public Service Pay Commission Reports

Questions (3)

Barry Cowen

Question:

3. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the Public Service Pay Commission report will be published; the reason it has not been released to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25800/19]

View answer

Oral answers (21 contributions) (Question to Public)

The Public Service Pay Commission report on the Defence Forces was given to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in early May, or so we were led to believe. Can he confirm that, and tell us when will it be published and why has it not been published to date? Will he be conducting negotiations with the Defence Forces and their representatives prior to, or after its publication?

The Public Service Pay Commission was established to advise the Government on public service remuneration policy. In the current phase, which is the second phase of the commission's work, it was tasked by its terms of reference to undertake an examination of whether, and to what extent, there are difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff in key areas of the public service identified in its first report. The Public Service Pay Commission has adopted a modular approach to its work programme for its present exercise. As the Deputy will be aware, the first module was published by the commission in August 2018 and deals with issues relating to nursing, midwifery, non-consultant hospital doctors and consultants. The commission engaged on work in relation to the Defence Forces in accordance with its terms of reference. Written submissions were received, and the commission has now completed its examination of recruitment and retention matters in the Defence Forces and has submitted its report to me for consideration. The report will be submitted to the Government. To answer the Deputy's three questions - I anticipate it will be coming to the Government in the next couple of weeks; I received it in May, although I cannot be sure whether it was early or late May; and we will be engaging with the Defence Forces on the report. However, this will be after its publication, as has been the case with other reports.

I was anxious to know when in May it was received, because it might not have been appropriate if the Minister had it in advance of, or after, the election on 24 May. I do not know, but it is important that we know. Why is there a delay in publishing it and bringing it to the Government? There is a real issue at stake here that was not only recognised at the time it was included in the public service pay agreement in that in recent times, and in the intervening period, it has become patently obvious there are huge issues in the retention of staff within the Defence Forces. Morale, as the Minister knows, is at rock bottom, and it is incumbent on him to ensure this process is adequately, appropriately, and speedily dealt with in order to re-establish that morale, as well as the public's faith in and commitment to the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces have huge work to do, and they continue to do it. We are very proud, and would like to remain proud, of them. We do not want to see its personnel compromised or ill-treated by a process designed to help and assist them, which was entered into by both parties in good faith. I hope the Minister will respond as to when he received the report, and why there is delay in bringing it to Cabinet and publishing it.

I am also conscious of the nursing one to which the Minister referred. It was somewhat flawed, as its chair said, in that the relevant data was not available, which meant its credibility was questioned-----

The Deputy should let the Minister respond. He will have another opportunity to speak.

-----and I hope we will not have the same issues with the commission's report this time.

It has only been a number of weeks since the report was received. I would hope the Deputy would understand that when I receive a report, particularly one that is independent of me, it is necessary that I take time to consider it and reflect on how we can best move forward with the report to a successful conclusion with the Defence Forces. I share pride in the work of our forces with the Deputy, and it was an important moment when Cabinet made agreed to the deployment of a number of our rangers in Mali, highlighting the expertise and work they can do for us across the world. It is a pity the Deputy could not wait to read the report before his party decided to bring forward a Private Members' motion on the issue. Up to that point, his party had been constructive in the area of public pay and had upheld its commitments regarding the public service stability agreement. If the Deputy understands my need to take time to consider the report, I hope that he reads the report himself before deciding on whether we are handling the issue of Defence Forces pay in the appropriate way.

I appreciate the mechanism and machinery that is in place regarding the public service pay agreement and the commitments contained within it. I also acknowledge the right of the nursing fraternity, Defence Forces, and consultants, subject to the conditions associated with that agreement, to allow for agreements to be acted on, bearing in mind that both parties, including the Minister and his Government, signed in good faith. It is surprising that conditionality appears to have been associated with the request to go to the Labour Court regarding the strike action being taken this week. I sought clarification of that matter from SIPTU officials and despite comments from the Taoiseach, it was clarified to me yesterday. I will investigate that further when the time is right, but we will step back from that for the moment while the machinery of industrial relations and the State are working in that realm.

We have every right to bring forward motions on matters that affect those we represent, especially those who were given a commitment within the agreement that the commission's report would be forthcoming. If nothing else, I hope that motion has forced the Minister to act a bit quicker than he has to date in reflecting on what is contained within the report and making recommendations to the Government. I trust and expect that he will make provision, from within the confines of what is available to him from the State, to act on recommendations that emanate from that agreement, considering both parties entered into it in good faith. This is not just about the headline rates-----

-----associated with it but the conditions as well, which have led to the processes we have alluded to.

I expect the Deputy's co-operation.

I appreciate the acknowledgment from the Deputy of the good faith I had in participating in this process. I also note the way in which his party has handled the issue of public pay in the years in which I have been dealing with this matter.

The Garda deal was the only bespoke deal, and the Minister gave it that.

Other members of his party decided to move ahead-----

It was not Fianna Fáil.

Allow the Minister to respond without interruption.

-----and form a judgment in relation to the contents of this report-----

The Minister knows that better than I do.

-----before it was published. Fianna Fáil put us in a position where we had to deal with a motion on the Defence Forces' pay and conditions-----

I am listening to the people. I do not need a commission report to tell me there is a problem with retention.

Deputy, please allow the Minister to finish.

-----before the report was even published. The Deputy underestimates the difficulty of managing public pay in a sensitive way in our current economy. Both Fianna Fáil and Deputy Cowen have previously shown a responsible attitude to how public pay is managed, and I regret that, on this occasion, they have not been able to maintain that approach when it comes to the Defence Forces. I look forward to publishing the report and engaging with the Defence Forces and others on how we can respond to the issues within it.

Project Ireland 2040 Funding

Questions (4)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

4. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the capital projects that will be delayed, deferred or cancelled as a result of capital project overruns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25967/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Public)

I refer again to the capital projects which may or may not be delayed or postponed as a result of the recent decision on the national broadband plan.

As the Deputy will be aware, I am responsible for setting the overall five-year multi-annual capital expenditure ceilings, and for allocating these resources across Government Departments. My Department is also subsequently responsible for monitoring expenditure on a monthly basis at a departmental level against these agreed ceilings. Decisions on how and where these allocations are then invested by individual Departments are a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant Minister, in line with the conditions of delegated sanction specified by my Department. It is therefore a matter for individual Ministers to manage their projects within the greatly increased capital ceilings available to them under Project Ireland 2040. As I have previously indicated both in response to Deputy Cowen and at other points, I intend to provide additional capital to ensure the national broadband plan can move ahead, and I stand by the commitments I have made to maintaining projects in other areas. Project Ireland 2040 seeks to reform how public investment is planned and delivered. It sets out an overall vision for Ireland's public capital projects and signals a shift to greater integration in regional investment plans, better co-ordination of strategies, and more rigorous selection and appraisal of projects to secure value for money. A number of decisions have been made within it, relating, in particular, to the work of our delivery board and construction sector group in responding to the various pressures now under way in the delivery of big capital projects.

What we are saying, therefore, is that all the projects that have been publicised will go ahead unless there are delays for reasons other than budgetary ones, such as delays in planning or delays associated with a project just not being ready to commence. Based on what the Minister is saying, all the projects announced will go ahead and none will be cut or postponed for budgetary reasons. The Minister is going to provide the additional capital to meet the shortfall associated with the children's hospital and the national broadband plan. That is what I am taking from the Minister. If it is the case, we require an additional €900 million approximately between now and 2023 to meet the costs of the national children's hospital and national broadband plan. Will additional capital funding be provided without having an effect on projects already announced?

What I am saying is that, as a result of the decisions made on broadband, and in dealing with the national children's hospital, I will not change other projects. The other projects have associated needs, within communities and the country. I want to make sure they move ahead. Projects do not go ahead every year for reasons that have nothing to do with budgetary policy, but this can, in turn, create options for the Government. This is broadly the case in the management of all capital projects and all capital plans.

We have to presume all the projects will go ahead and that none will be delayed, for whatever reason. Some may be delayed because of planning issues but we do not know from month to month how delayed a project may be. Does the Minister know? Does he know how much could be re-profiled for next year? My understanding is that no projects are to be cancelled for budgetary reasons. If so, an additional €900 million, at a maximum, could have to be added to the cost of the capital programme. If this is added to what the Minister has already doubled down this week in terms of tax cuts, it represents a lot of money. He has not indicated where it is coming from yet. That is why there is concern.

The Minister criticises us in the Opposition for fantasy finances and for seeking to spend so much money. He has not indicated where he is going to find all the money in question, however. Therefore, it is not fair to be criticising us for coming up with figures and then not providing the very figures himself.

I have done it for this year in the context of what happened with the national children's hospital. As we moved through the year, we managed to respond regarding the additional funding needs of the hospital and maintain commitments we have made elsewhere.

The national broadband plan will require funding beyond what was included within the capital ceilings. Given the magnitude of that decision and the number of years for which a cost will be incurred, what I have said is the case, and it is what I am going to be honouring. In the run-up to budget 2020, with all its staging posts, I will have to outline how we will come up with the additional funding to deliver on the capital projects. I am confident that, in the context of the very significantly enhanced capital plan we have and our national finances moving into a position of surplus, we will be able to do that.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (5)

Joan Burton

Question:

5. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to ensure the Office of Government Procurement revises its tendering processes to allow for the purchase of carbon neutral products for use within State offices and buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25710/19]

View answer

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Public)

Has the Minister's Department plans to ensure the Office of Government Procurement revises its tendering processes to allow for the purchase of carbon-neutral products for use within State organisations and buildings and for use by organisations funded by the State? Although the State is probably the biggest purchaser of materials for projects, we have no guidelines on carbon neutrality.

I apologise for being a little delayed. I was opening a conference.

The Government supports the move towards more green public procurement and recognises that the public service must demonstrate its commitment to sustainable development and use its influence to persuade others of the changes required to reduce our collective impact on the environment.

Work to promote the incorporation of social and environmental considerations in public procurement is being progressed by the Office of Government Procurement, OGP, under the national public procurement policy framework, which is the overarching policy framework for public procurement in Ireland. Under this framework, proposals to implement environmental considerations in public procurement are being developed through the cross-departmental social considerations advisory group, chaired by the OGP.

The Minister and I have been in discussions with our colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on green public procurement in the context of our climate action plan. We have agreed that the incorporation of green criteria into public procurement will be achieved in a structured manner, with progressive implementation focusing on areas that have the greatest impact.

In this regard, the OGP, in co-operation with the Department of Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is currently developing a circular for Departments and offices on promoting the use of environmental and social considerations in public procurement. The circular will direct Departments and offices to consider including environmental criteria in their procurement, where such clearly defined, quantifiable, verifiable and measurable criteria have been developed by the Department of Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

An overarching objective of all public procurement is the achievement of value for money. In implementing environmental considerations in public procurement, it is crucial that an approach is adopted that will further Government policy while also ensuring a competitive market place where suppliers can compete aggressively, resulting in the desired pricing outcome. In areas where the market is not yet sufficiently competitive, a phased approach to environmental considerations in public procurement may be necessary to encourage the emergence of new suppliers with innovative solutions. Care should be taken to ensure the addition of environmental considerations to public contracts is achieved in a manner that does not mitigate against small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs as they may not be in a position to bear the additional costs or administrative burden.

I believe the Minister of State will acknowledge that his response is largely a repeat of an answer given previously by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe. Since the Minister's answer was given some time ago, has anything happened? The Government has gone on a bus to Grangegorman and has launched another long document, with 200 headings. This is all about process. May I give the Minister of State some examples?

Is there a cost-benefit analysis, on a carbon emissions basis, on the BusConnects project? There are changes proposed to the bus services in Dublin. Some are very acceptable and others are not. The proposal involves the destruction of a great number of trees, which clean the air. It also involves significant losses, potentially of gardens. Hedging is the most effective resource in reducing asthma in children. The of State's response is a repeat of one given by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe. Can the Minister of State identify and give us some examples of the actual progress he is making?

I can, actually. The concept of social considerations, of which environmental considerations are part, was part of an initiative by our Department some time ago before the recent discussion on the climate change agenda was ramped up with the publication of the action plan on climate change. On foot of a visit to my office by a former Member of the Oireachtas, Ms Kathleen O'Meara, who is from the Deputy's party and who is head of Rehab, I wanted to try to advance the concept of social considerations contained in the EU directive, particularly in the area of disabilities. It is in this context that my Department established a working group with the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. In the development of policy in this area, we have to be very mindful. My interaction with Deputies on all sides of the House on procurement policy invariably comes back to the protection of the SME sector, in addition to efficiency and value for money.

It is something we must be mindful of in the context of the directive. We are working through it. It is something we take very seriously. On the specific matter raised by the Deputy -----

The Minister of State will have a further minute to answer.

I am trying to open a conversation with the Minister of State so that we might discuss examples. For instance, the Government is ordering six vehicles which will take some account of carbon but there is no other concrete example, although those six vehicles may be followed by 600 others in the next couple of years.

When the Minister of State goes to the self-service restaurant in Leinster House to have a cup of tea or coffee, he might look to find the green bins that would allow people to recycle their waste there. We can start with very small examples that will help people change. Over the last ten to 20 years, many lighting systems in public buildings have been changed so that when a room is vacated the lights go off. Those are the kinds of examples I seek. I can appreciate from the Minister of State's answer that discussions are only starting.

Last night, I was at a community centre with a couple of hundred people-----

The Deputy's time is up. I thank the Deputy.

It is threatened with closure. It is in Hartstown in my constituency. Its ceiling lights are deemed by everybody to be the most polluting kind of public lighting.

The Deputy will have more time later. Please.

Will the Minister of State please give concrete examples of what the Government proposes?

We are making great strides on public lighting across the country. Deputies will have seen this in the replacement of public street lighting which is now using LEDs which is far more efficient. These are cropping up all over the country. I cannot comment on the specific matters raised by the Deputy earlier. I cannot comment on the hedges because I do not have the details.

From her time in government the Deputy will appreciate that we must be very careful that we do not give a monopoly-type situation an unfair advantage in procurement. That would be very unfair. On transport, we are purchasing buses from an existing framework which must be concluded before we may move on to a new one. However, Irish Rail has already committed to the procurement of carriages. We are moving to a new agenda.

Returning to social considerations, we are doing a lot of work in this area. I welcome the opportunity to have that dialogue but I have already written to all spokespersons for examples of how we can continue the procurement reform agenda in the context of the EU directive. I would look forward to any kind of engagement on this.