63. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the cost of medications acquired in each of the past ten years (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28616/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 63-82
63. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the cost of medications acquired in each of the past ten years (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28616/19]View answer
It has not been possible in the time available to compile all of the necessary information requested by the Deputy. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.
64. Deputy John Lahart asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the availability of bike parking spaces and lockers in all buildings used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28693/19]View answer
The Department of Defence has made available bike parking spaces and lockers in each of the buildings occupied and managed by the Department as indicated in the following table.
Number of bike parking spaces
Number of lockers
Staff of the Department of Defence also have access to bike parking spaces in two other buildings which the Department shares with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, respectively.
65. Deputy John Lahart asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the model of the car or cars used by him in the performance of his official duties; and if it is a diesel, petrol or electric engine. [28709/19]View answer
The model of car I use in the performance of my official duties as Minister with responsibility for Defence is an Audi A6, diesel.
66. Deputy John Lahart asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the availability of bike parking spaces and lockers in all buildings used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28697/19]View answer
At present, my Department is responsible for 12 buildings in various locations in Dublin, Balbriggan, Limerick and Cork which have a total of 185 bicycle parking spaces and 188 lockers.
67. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the arrest of a person (details supplied) by Egyptian security forces in dawn raids on 25 June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28722/19]View answer
It has been reported that a number of arrests took place on 25 June in Egypt, including the case raised by the Deputy. The arrest of journalists is always a matter of concern, given the important role which the media plays in holding governments to account. I believe that a strong and stable democracy cannot flourish without full respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedoms of assembly, association and expression. Ireland actively works to promote and protect the right to these freedoms in the relevant international fora.
At the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is currently ongoing in Geneva, the EU issued a statement on Human Rights situations that require the Council's attention. Among other issues, the statement refers to the situation in Egypt, recalling the importance of the respect of freedom of expression, media, assembly and association and the need to stop unduly restricting space for civil society, including through arrests and long periods of pre-trial detention.
The EU and Egypt adopted partnership priorities for 2017-2020 at the EU-Egypt Association Council, which took place in July 2017. The priorities make it clear that human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as set out in international human rights law, the Treaty on European Union and the Egyptian Constitution – are a common value and constitute the cornerstone of a modern democratic state. These agreed priorities commit Egypt and the EU to promoting democracy, fundamental freedoms and human rights as constitutional rights of all citizens, in line with their international obligations.
During the seventh EU-Egypt Association Council in December 2018, which is the forum for formal EU-Egypt political dialogue, the EU expressed concern about efforts in Egypt to limit freedom of expression and opinion, including through the arrest and sentencing of journalists and bloggers on anti-state charges. The EU also called on Egypt to adhere to its commitments to promote and protect the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, as well as the freedom of the press and access to information, as guaranteed by the 2014 Constitution and according to Egypt's international obligations.
Ireland conveys these messages to Egypt on a regular basis at political and official levels, including most recently at a meeting between the Egyptian Embassy and the Human Rights Unit in my Department in June. I also discussed human rights with my Egyptian counterpart during his visit to Ireland in February.
68. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the recently published Kushner plan for the Middle East; his views on the reaction to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28804/19]View answer
The United States introduced the economic element of their long awaited plan for the Middle East Peace Process, entitled Peace to Prosperity, at a meeting which took place in Bahrain on 25-26 June. The published document sets out a range of possibilities for economic revitalisation and growth for Palestinians and the neighbouring countries, which could be achieved if the parties can agree a settlement of the conflict, and large scale international investment can be attracted to the region. Part of the purpose of the workshop, which was aimed primarily at Gulf Arab states, was to introduce the plan to such possible donors or investors. Ireland was not represented at the meeting.
This document covered economic issues only, and does not address the political questions, which are at the core of the search for peace in the Middle East. I understand that the US team continues to work on those elements.
I have always been clear in my view that an economic element can help support a well-thought out political solution, by setting out a vision of a post conflict situation in which all are winners. But as I have stated consistently, it is not possible to solve political problems by economic means alone. Support to the Palestinian people is, of course, always important and welcome. However, any potential investor or donor, public or private, will be very conscious that the main impediment to economic development for Palestinians, and the reason for the severe contraction of the Palestinian economy over the last two decades, is the web of restrictions due to the Israeli occupation. It is thus very difficult to discuss economic possibilities separate from the political context.
The EU has encouraged the US in its efforts to develop a peace plan, and Ireland has done this in all our contacts with the US Middle East team. It is my strong view that any plan must address the needs of both sides if it is to be successful. Preparing the ground can also be crucial to winning a considered hearing for any plan, and improved dialogue between the US team and Palestinian community and its leadership will be important in this regard.
69. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the expected ratification process for the Mercosur trade agreement; and if Dáil Éireann and other national parliaments will need to ratify the agreement. [28829/19]View answer
The trade agreement reached last week is part of a comprehensive new Association Agreement under negotiation between the EU and Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay). The Association Agreement is composed of a political and cooperation pillar – on which negotiators already reached a general agreement in June 2018 in Montevideo – and the trade pillar.
Both sides will now perform a legal revision of the agreed text to come up with the final version of the Association Agreement, including its trade aspects. The Commission will then submit the Association Agreement to EU Member States and the European Parliament for approval.
Once the final text of the Agreement has been received and analysed by relevant Government Departments, I will be able to revert to the Dáil with further information on this matter and on the exact process for Ireland to complete the internal procedures necessary for the entry into force of the Agreement.
70. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will send elections observers to Ukraine for the elections in July 2019; if not, the reason underpinning the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28860/19]View answer
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade administers and maintains a roster of suitably skilled individuals available to deploy on international election observation missions organised, in the main, by the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The EU and the OSCE-ODHIR regularly issue calls for the nomination of observers to participate in the election missions organised under their auspices. The Department reviews each call and responds accordingly on a case-by-case basis, including with regard to the overall annual budget available for participation in election observation missions, the geographic spread of EU and OSCE missions and the resources of the Department's Elections Desk.
Ireland made a substantial contribution of short-term observers to the OSCE mission which observed rounds one and two of the Presidential elections held in Ukraine in March and April 2019. Twenty-two observers participated in the first round of the election. This contribution was over four times larger than Ireland's usual deployment to an OSCE mission, and also represented the largest ever contribution to an election observation mission from a roster mustered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Five of these observers returned to observe round two in the Presidential election as part of the OSCE mission. Information concerning Ireland's contribution to the OSCE election observation mission in Ukraine is set out in the response to Parliamentary Question No. 51 of 18 April 2019, to which I refer the Deputy. The complement of observers sent to the two elections in Ukraine is approximately half the number of Irish observers nominated in a calendar year.
To ensure a spread of Irish representation as observers at elections elsewhere this year, including countries in which there are substantial Irish Aid funded programmes, the decision was made not to nominate volunteer observers to the OSCE mission observing the Parliamentary elections in Ukraine this July.
71. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position in relation to the talks between the Irish and British Governments and the Northern Ireland political parties in relation to the need to have the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29008/19]View answer
The absence of vital institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.
I have been working intensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in recent weeks in the talks at Stormont to support the leaders of the political parties in finding an agreement that will get all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up and running again.
We have today seen the British Government introduce an amendment to UK legislation to extend the period for calling an Assembly election. This step underlines the seriousness of the absence of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, and the urgent requirement for an agreement between the political parties on operating the institutions again.
I want to acknowledge that all five political parties have engaged constructively in this process with that objective over the last number of weeks. Progress has been made across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue between the party leaders.
The awful murder of Lyra McKee and the outpouring of public feeling that followed demands a serious response at political level. People want to see real progress made. There is no patience for anything except urgent and determined progress.
The two largest parties have a particular responsibility to reach an accommodation to secure the formation of a new power-sharing Executive.
The two Governments have called on the parties to continue to participate in this dialogue with each other towards a sustainable accommodation for all.
The Governments and the leads of the Working Groups will also continue to engage with all the parties in discussions on the outstanding issues.
The Governments will have to make an assessment before lone on whether it is possible to move quickly in this period to final agreement.
The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.
72. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to amend the eligibility criteria for receiving a primary medical certificate to include persons that have mental and or intellectual disabilities in addition to physical impairment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28785/19]View answer
The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, payment of a Fuel Grant, and an exemption from Motor Tax.
To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must satisfy one of the following conditions:
- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;
- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;
- be without both hands or without both arms;
- be without one or both legs;
- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;
- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.
The Scheme represents a significant tax expenditure. Between the Vehicle Registration Tax and VAT foregone, and the fuel grant, the scheme cost €65m in each of 2016 and 2017, rising to €70m in 2018. This figure does not include the revenue foregone in respect of the relief from Motor Tax provided to members of the Scheme.
I understand and fully sympathise with any person who suffers from a serious disability and can’t access the scheme under the current criteria. However, given the scope and scale of the scheme, any possible changes to it can only be made after careful consideration, taking into account the existing and prospective cost of the scheme as well as the availability of other schemes which seek to help with the mobility of disabled persons, and the interaction between each of these schemes.
Accordingly, I have no plans to amend the qualifying medical criteria for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme at this time.
73. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the projected general Government expenditure in 2020 if he delivers a budget of €2.8 billion comprised of €1.9 billion pre-committed, €0.2 billion expenditure reserve and €0.7 billion additional discretionary spending as outlined in the Summer Economic Statement; and the percentage increase in expenditure this constitutes since 2019. [28648/19]View answer
My Department produces a full set of economic and fiscal forecasts on a bi-annual basis, in the spring Stability Programme Update (SPU) and in the autumn Budget.
The calculations of the available budgetary package in the Summer Economic Statement (SES) 2019 are anchored to the forecasts set out in the SPU published in April. It is important to point out that the fiscal forecast set out in the SPU publication (Table 10) incorporated an indicative budgetary package of €2.8 billion for 2020. While there are compositional changes to the €2.8 billion included in the SES, it should be noted that these have no impact on the headline general government balance for 2020. The official projection for the 2020 general government balance remains that set out in the SPU at 0.4% of GDP.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the €0.7 billion in unallocated resources can comprise expenditure or tax reduction. In the SES, as in the SPU, €0.6 billion has been allocated for taxation changes on a technical illustrative basis.
However, the exact amounts and distribution between revenue and expenditure is a matter for Government and will be announced at the time of Budget 2020.
In relation to the second part of the question, general government expenditure of €87.6 billion in 2020, as set out in the SPU forecast, is projected to increase by 2.6 per cent or c. €2.3 billion in year-on-year terms from 2019 to 2020, and is consistent with the SES figures outlined in the Deputy's question.
74. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Finance the availability of bike parking spaces and lockers in all buildings used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28696/19]View answer
The Facilities Management Unit of my Department arrange for the provision of accommodation on behalf of staff of both the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
The position is that bicycle parking spaces are available for staff who wish to use them in respect of all six buildings occupied by the two Departments.
With regards to lockers, these are available in some locations but, due to space constraints, it is not possible currently to provide these in all six locations occupied by staff.
75. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Finance the model of the car or cars used by him in the performance of his official duties; and if it is a diesel, petrol or electric engine. [28712/19]View answer
The car used for official duties is a Skoda Superb with a diesel engine.
76. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated first and full year cost of increasing the cap for entrepreneurial relief on capital gains tax from €1 million to €5, €10 and €15 million, respectively. [28754/19]View answer
86. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of expanding the capital gains tax entrepreneurial relief to include individual external investors such as angel investors and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28764/19]View answer
87. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons based on the most recent data that have availed of the entrepreneurial relief for capital gains tax; the annual cost in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28765/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 76, 86 and 87 together.
I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Ready Reckoner at link: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/ready-reckoner/index.aspx (page 14) shows the estimated cost of increasing the life time limit for revised Entrepreneur Relief.
For the Deputy's convenience, this information is presented in the following table.
Proposed Lifetime Limit € million
Full Year Cost € million
The numbers availing of the Relief, and the cost to the Exchequer, are available at link: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/costs-expenditures.aspx. The most recent year for which data are presently available is 2016, it is expected that 2017 will be available in the coming weeks at the same link.
For the Deputy's convenience, the information available is presented in the following table.
Cost € million
I am advised that it is not possible to cost the proposal to expand the relief to additional investor types in the absence of quantifiable data on the likely uptake were this to be done.
77. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated first and full year costs of decreasing the non-PAYE USC surcharge from 3% to 2%, 1% and 0%, respectively; the estimated number of persons affected by such a change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28755/19]View answer
I am advised by Revenue that the costs of reducing (or removing) the non-PAYE 3% Universal Social Charge (USC) surcharge as outlined by the Deputy are shown in the following table. It is estimated that the proposed change would affect approximately 23,570 taxpayer units.
First Year Cost €m
Full Year Cost €m
Reduction of USC surcharge from 3% to 2%
Reduction of USC surcharge from 3% to 1%
Removal of the USC surcharge
These estimated figures are based on projected 2019 incomes, calculated on actual data for the year 2016, and may be revised. The estimates do not account for any behavioural impacts that might result from removing the non-PAYE USC surcharge.
78. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated first and full year cost of reducing the €75,000 limit to €40,000, €50,000 and €60,000, respectively, for the special assignee relief programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28756/19]View answer
79. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated first and full year cost of extending the special assignee relief programme to employees employed from outside an organisation rather than restricting it to employees moving within an organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28757/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.
I am advised by Revenue that it is tentatively estimated, without taking account of the potential new employees that may qualify for the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP) scheme as a result of the reduced limits, the cost to the Exchequer in terms of income tax foregone, based on those who availed of the relief in 2016, would be:
1. €60,000 limit: €1.28 million and €1.43 million first and full year cost, respectively.
2. €50,000 limit: €2.14 million and €2.38 million first and full year cost, respectively.
3. €40,000 limit: €3 million and €3.33 million first and full year cost, respectively.
In relation to extending the relief to those joining an organisation, as the Deputy may be aware, as part of the SARP review in 2014, the proposal to include employees that were newly employed from outside an organisation rather than restricting it to employees moving within an organisation was considered. The review found that to include new hires in this manner could cause job displacement in the Irish labour market; if, for example, an Irish tax resident individual and a foreign based individual with similar skills both applied for the same job, it would be less costly for the employer to hire the foreign based individual. This would place the Irish tax resident individual at a considerable disadvantage. Notwithstanding this, Revenue advise me that it is not possible to provide an estimate of the first or full year cost of the proposal as there are no data available on the potential take up.
80. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 79 of 21 June 2018, the estimated annual cost of removing the income tax, including USC and PRSI, on dividend income and replacing it with a flat rate of taxation on dividend income of 20%, 30% and 40%, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28758/19]View answer
It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to dividend income from Irish resident companies.
I am advised by Revenue that based on tax returns and the yield from Dividend Withholding Tax for 2016, the replacement of all Income Tax, USC and PRSI on dividend income with a flat rate of taxation of 20% is tentatively estimated to be a loss in the region of €95 million.
On the same basis, the estimated tax yield from imposing a flat rate of tax of 30% in place of Income Tax, USC and PRSI on dividend income could be in the region of €95 million. The estimated tax yield from imposing a flat rate of tax of 40% could be in the region of €280 million.
These estimates are based on no behavioural change.
81. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated annual cost of expanding the foreign earnings deduction to an extra country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28759/19]View answer
82. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons based on the most recent data that have availed of the foreign earnings deduction per annum; the annual cost in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28760/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 82 together.
I am advised by Revenue that it is not possible to estimate the cost of expanding the FED scheme to an extra country as there are no data available on the number of taxpayers that might qualify to claim the deduction, or how this might vary depending on what additional country was chosen or the ability of the taxpayers concerned to absorb the deduction.
Revenue further advise me that the most recent year for which data are currently available is 2016 (it is expected that 2017 data will be available in the coming weeks). In 2016, 413 persons availed of the deduction with an Exchequer cost of some €3.5 million. The latest information on the cost and number of individuals availing of the Foreign Earnings Deduction (FED) scheme can be found at the following link:
The FED scheme is being reviewed at present along with the Special Assignee Relief Programme.