Road Projects

Questions (251)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

251. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport her views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38638/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and securing exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme.

Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the development and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. TII ultimately delivers the National Roads Programme in line with Project Ireland 2040, the National Planning Framework and the NDP.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to bring forward the planned review of the NDP and use the review to set out an updated NDP for the period out to 2030. Road projects generally will be considered in this context. The review of the NDP will be aligned with the National Planning Framework and Project Ireland 2040. Work is underway within my Department to contribute to this planned review.

Road Projects

Questions (252)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

252. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Transport when Ministerial approval to allow the appointment of a contractor for works on the Coonagh to Knockalisheen Road, County Limerick; when he expects the approval to be granted and the road completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38652/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. State grants, where applicable, are intended to supplement the funding allocated to the maintenance and improvement of roads by local authorities from their own resources.

The National Development Plan (NDP) does provide for the gradual build up in funding for the road network but funding is not yet at the level needed for the adequate maintenance and renewal of regional and local roads. For this reason the primary focus for capital investment continues to be the maintenance and renewal of the network with some limited investment in road improvement schemes. In this context 12 regional and local road improvement projects were identified for development, subject to necessary approvals, in the NDP and the construction of a Coonagh to Knockalisheen Distributor Road is one of those schemes.

Under the Public Spending Code, capital projects are subject to review and approval at a number of stages. As required under the Code Limerick City and County Council has submitted a recommendation regarding the award of a contract for the construction of the main scheme and I am considering the project at present.

Railway Stations

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (253)

Gerald Nash

Question:

253. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Transport his plans to reopen the train station at Dunleer, County Louth; his views on such propositions from a policy perspective; if his Department plans to engage with the NTA and Irish Rail on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38771/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Deputy is aware that the Programme for Government – Our Shared Future commits toward a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland and I believe that rail has a strategic role to play in achieving that change.

I note that the Eastern and Midland Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy supports the continued development of the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor through targeted investment in transport infrastructure and services, complementing and maintaining its function as part of the EU TEN-T core network. The complementarity between that objective and localised services would need to be considered, as would the potential integration with any relevant local development plans.

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport by rail, however the operation, maintenance and renewal of the rail network and stations on the network including the former station referred to, is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.

In view of Iarnród Éireann's responsibility in this matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Driver Test

Questions (254)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

254. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the steps he is taking to ensure persons seeking to complete their driver theory test are not disadvantaged for an extended period due to the level 5 restrictions as in the case of a person (details supplied); if he will make arrangements for additional resources to be supplied to the RSA to clear the backlog once driver theory testing resumes to ensure applicants can receive a timely booking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38781/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Driver Theory Test has not been deemed to be an essential service under Level 5. As a consequence, the service is closed, effective from midnight on Wednesday 21st of October, and for the duration of Level 5 restrictions. All appointments during that time have been rescheduled to the next available appointment date.

As I am sure you are aware, the Theory Test service was temporarily suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid 19 emergency. When the service resumed in June, there was an increased level of demand and a significant backlog developed. This was coupled with the need to significantly reduce normal daily capacity to comply with occupational and public health requirements.

When the Driver Theory Test Service closed on the 21st of October due to the latest restrictions, the majority of testing centres had almost full bookings up to end December and some into January too as it worked its way through the initial backlog. The decision was taken by the service provider that those whose appointments were cancelled due to the latest restrictions would be rescheduled to the next available appointment date.

The Road Safety Authority has advised my office that it is engaging with its service provider to examine ways of increasing the number of tests within the current health constraints for when services are resumed. This will help reduce and, over time, eliminate the backlog.

While I regret the inconvenience caused, public safety is of paramount importance. My officials and I are working hard to ensure the resumption of services as soon as Level 5 is lifted.

Taxi Regulations

Questions (255)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

255. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport if he has approved the extension of the ten-year rule for the age of vehicle for taxis for another year due to Covid-19; if so, when the extension will be in place; when the NTA is changing its rules, regulations to reflect this extension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38803/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Vehicle age limits for small public service vehicles (SPSVs) are a matter for the statutory regulator, the National Transport Authority (NTA).

The Deputy may be aware that, at the start of the pandemic, the NTA extended until the end of 2020 the age limits for vehicles that were due to reach them from March onward. Furthermore, the NTA has proposed a further extension of these age limits until 31 December 2021 and has recently concluded a public consultation on this proposal. More detailed information in relation to this proposal is available on the following link: www.nationaltransport.ie/consultations/public-consultation-maximum-permissible-age-october-2020/.

Bus Services

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (256)

Denis Naughten

Question:

256. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the number of buses funded through public funds since 1 January 2020 that are zero emissions; the number that are exclusively diesel; the number that are diesel hybrid; the number utilising other fossil fuels; the number using other fossil fuel hybrids; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38828/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure, including the provision of the national PSO bus fleet.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Irish Aviation Authority

Questions (257)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

257. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will intervene in the ongoing superannuation dispute in the Irish Aviation Authority (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38829/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I can confirm that a submission has been made on behalf of some staff of the Irish Aviation Authority in accordance with Section 41 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993, which provides that a dispute on superannuation benefit may be submitted to the Minister for Transport. I am not able to comment on the details of that submission at this point but can advise the Deputy that it will be considered in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Help-To-Buy Scheme

Questions (258)

Michael Collins

Question:

258. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Finance if he will address a case (details supplied) regarding the help-to-buy scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38241/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Help to Buy (HTB) incentive, is a scheme to assist first-time purchasers with the deposit they need to buy or build a new house or apartment. The incentive gives a refund of Income Tax and Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) paid in Ireland over the previous four years, subject to limits outlined in the legislation. Section 477C Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA) outlines the definitions and conditions that apply to the HTB scheme.

Revenue has advised that it understands the key facts as as follows:

- A parent gifted their child a house in 2016;

- The house was deemed unliveable by an engineer and had to be demolished (no date provided for when the house was demolished);

- The child has paid the Local Property Tax (LPT) on this house since 2013;

- The child applied for planning and a mortgage around 2018/2019.

Based on the facts outlined above, Revenue considers there are two key principal conditions that need to be considered:

1. Is the child a “first time purchaser” for the purposes of HTB scheme;

2. Is the property a “qualifying residence”.

Revenue further advise in relation to these issues:

Section 477C TCA provides a definition of a “first-time purchaser” for the purposes of the HTB scheme. A “first-time purchaser” is an individual who, at the time of making a claim under the scheme, has not, either individually or jointly with any other person, previously purchased or previously built, directly or indirectly, on his or her own behalf a dwelling.

In a case where an individual who received a gift of or inherited a house previously, the individual may still be considered a first-time buyer for the purposes of the HTB scheme subject to all other conditions being satisfied, on the basis that they have not previously purchased a dwelling, as the wording of the legislation provides.

Section 477C(2) TCA defines a ‘qualifying residence’. The legislation is very specific as to the definition of a qualifying residence. It must be a new building which was not, at any time, used or suitable for use as a dwelling. Renovation or refurbishment of old houses to either upgrade or reinstate them for habitation does not qualify for HTB. In the circumstances where the house was previously used as a dwelling but fully demolished and a new house built, then it is “new”.

For Revenue to make an assessment that the dwelling being built on the site is ‘new’, sufficient evidence is required which shows that the previous dwelling was demolished and replaced as opposed to being extended/refurbished. Revenue also require as much evidence as possible from the builder, engineer or other professionals working on the project, about the condition of the former dwelling which made it uninhabitable or unsound and required that it was demolished (and the extent of demolition involved). If there is any other information (photos, etc.) that’s relevant in helping Revenue understand that the property meets the criteria in the legislation, this should be included.

I am also advised by Revenue in relation to LPT that any property that is in use as, or that is suitable for use as, a dwelling house is chargeable to LPT. Therefore, the state of dereliction of a property is not relevant where the property is actually occupied as a dwelling house. However, a property that is derelict to such an extent that it is not suitable for occupation (or not actually occupied) is not taxable. For further details please see the Revenue website link www.revenue.ie/en/property/local-property-tax/is-your-property-liable-lpt/is-your-property-uninhabitable.aspx.

The payment of LPT on a property that was gifted to an individual would not prevent the individual from availing of the HTB scheme, where the individual satisfies all other conditions of the HTB scheme.

Given the limited details outlined by the Deputy in relation to this case, the applicant should contact Revenue via MyEnquiries outlining the specific facts and circumstances of their case and Revenue will consider whether the property would satisfy the conditions for the HTB scheme.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (259, 268)

Pa Daly

Question:

259. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the resumption of assessments for primary medical certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38407/20]

View answer

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

268. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if issues with the primary medical certification service will be resolved in view of the large backlog of persons waiting and urgently in need of certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37937/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 268 together.

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from VRT and VAT on the purchase and use of an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant. The cost of the scheme in 2019, excluding motor tax, was €72m.

The Scheme is open to severely and permanently disabled persons as a driver or as a passenger and also to certain organisations. In order to qualify for relief an organisation must be entered in the register of charitable organisations under Part 3 of the Charities Act 2009, be engaged in the transport of disabled persons and whose purpose is to provide services to persons with disabilities.

In order to qualify for relief the applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate (PMC) issued by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer (SAMO) or a Board Medical Certificate (BMC) issued by the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal. Certain other criteria apply in relation to the vehicle and its use, including that the vehicle must be specially constructed or adapted for use by the applicant.

The terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 set out the medical criteria, and that one or more of these criteria is required to be satisfied in order to obtain a PMC.

A Supreme Court decision of 18th June found in favour of two appellants against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal's refusal to grant them a PMC. The judgment found that the medical criteria set out in the Regulations did not align with the regulation making mandate given in the primary legislation to further define criteria for ‘severely and permanently disabled’ persons.

On foot of the legal advice received, it became clear that it was appropriate to revisit the six medical criteria set out in Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument 353 of 1994 for these assessments. In such circumstances, PMC assessments were discontinued until a revised basis for such assessments could be established. The medical officers who are responsible for conducting PMC assessments need to have assurance that the decisions they make are based on clear criteria set out in legislation. While Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument No. 353 of 1994 was not deemed to be invalid, nevertheless it was found to be inconsistent with the mandate provided in Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989.

In order to allow for the PMC assessments to recommence I have brought forward an amendment to the Finance Bill to provide for the existing medical criteria in primary legislation. When the Bill is enacted, this will allow for assessments to recommence in circumstances where the legal basis for such assessments is clarified.

I consider this to be an interim solution only. While I am very aware of the importance of this scheme to those who benefit from it, I am also aware of the disquiet expressed by members of this House and others in respect of the difficulties around access to the scheme. With this in mind I have asked my officials to undertake a comprehensive review of the scheme, to include a broader review of mobility supports for persons with disabilities, and on foot of that review to bring forward proposals for consideration.

Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme

Questions (260)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

260. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Finance if consideration will be given to allow a company (details supplied) to raise EIIS funding towards its equity requirements for a solar farm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38540/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Employment Investment Incentive (‘EII’) is a tax relief available to encourage individual investors to provide equity risk finance to trading companies.

Revenue have advised that in order to avail of EII a company must be a ‘qualifying company’. When determining if a company is a qualifying company regard must be had to both the activities of the company itself and also of the other businesses within its Relief for Investment in Corporate Trade (‘RICT’) Group. The RICT Group is made of a qualifying company and all of its partner businesses and linked businesses. Details of what constitutes a partner business and a linked business are set out in Annex 1 of the General Block Exemption Regulations (‘GBER’). The company and the RICT Group must be an SME and the qualifying company in which the investment is made can be carrying on a trade itself, or it can be the holding company of a trading company.

The company wishing to avail of EII must use the amounts raised by EII for ‘relevant trading activities’, which includes most trades. While there are no specific restrictions for companies engaging in solar activities, the following trades are excluded;

i. Once-off trades,

ii. Dealing in commodities, shares or other financial assets,

iii. Financing activities,

iv. The provision of professional services, which means:

I. Services of a medical, dental, optical, aural or veterinary natures,

II. Services of an architectural, quantity surveying or surveying nature and related services,

III. Services of accountancy, auditing, taxation or finance,

IV. Services of a solicitor, barrister or other legal services and

V. Geological services,

v. The occupation of woodlands

vi. Operating or managing hotels, guest houses etc, unless the activity is a tourist traffic undertaking

vii. Operations carried on in the coal, steel or shipbuilding sectors, and

viii. The production of films.

Finance Act 2018 introduced some changes to the administration of EII. From 1 January 2019 qualifying companies can self-certify their eligibility in relation to EII investments rather than requiring advance approval from Revenue. Revenue has published detailed guidance on EII, which will assist companies in determining whether, on a self-assessment basis, they qualify for EII. That detailed guidance is contained in the following Tax and Duty Manuals: Part 16-00-02, Part 16-00-03, Part 16-00-10 and Part 16-00-11, all of which are available on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie/en/starting-a-business/initiatives-for-startup-businesses-and-smes/relief-for-investment-in-corporate-trades/qualifying-company.aspx.

If, after a review of the Revenue guidance, a taxpayer company seeking EII investment is unsure whether it fulfils certain eligibility criteria, an application can be made to Revenue for an advance confirmation. Details to be provided when seeking confirmations of eligibility are set out at Appendix 1 of Tax and Duty Manual Part 16-00-02, which can be found at the link provided above.

Should a confirmation of eligibility be required, the application must be submitted through the Revenue Technical Service (RTS) and must be made by completing a Form RTS1A. Further guidance on using the RTS, specifically TDM Part 37-00-00a, along with links to the Form RTS1A can be found on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie/en/tax-professionals/rts/index.aspx.

In addition to this, I can inform the Deputy that in the period leading to Budget 2021, and indeed since then, stakeholders have come forward with a number of proposals aimed at broadening out the scope and effectiveness of EII scheme.

These include proposals to amend the qualifying company requirements to allow renewable energy community projects under the Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) to participate.

Given the complexity of the many issues involved, including the need to ensure that state-aid principles continue to be observed, it was not possible for me to bring forward legislative proposals in the context of Finance Bill 2020.

However, in my Budget speech, on 13 October last, I indicated that my Department will, this year, initiate an assessment of how the EIIS can be enhanced in the light of the current crisis. Preparations are already underway in this regards and next month it is proposed to launch a consultation process where stakeholders will be invited to submit their views and suggestions to the Department in writing with a particular focus on the following:

- improved support for start-ups,

- the potential to attract capital from a broader range of investors, and

- the potential to include certain energy-related projects, including RESS projects, within the remit of the scheme.

The intention is that this will facilitate further engagement and discussion with stakeholders leading to the development of proposals for my consideration by end Q1, 2021.

Tax Code

Questions (261)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

261. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the stamp duty payable on the sale of a family farm after a death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37758/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that, in the normal course of events, stamp duty is chargeable on the purchase of agricultural land at the rate of 7.5% and is payable by the purchaser of the land. The fact that the sale happens after a death does not change this position.

In some circumstances an exemption from stamp duty or a reduced charge applies. However, as the Deputy hasn’t supplied any details about the particular situation involved, it isn’t possible for Revenue to say whether or not the full stamp duty charge would apply in this case. Some details about the potential exemptions and reliefs that can apply where agricultural land is purchased are set out below.

Exemption for ‘young trained farmers’

Stamp duty is not payable where a purchaser is under the age of 35 years, obtains a recognised agricultural qualification and satisfies other conditions in relation to the use of the land following the purchase. These conditions include the requirement for a purchaser to spend at least 50% of his or her normal working time farming the land and to retain ownership of that land for a period of at least five years from the date of execution of the deed transferring the land.

Farm consolidation relief

Where a Teagasc-approved consolidation of farmland takes place, involving both a sale and purchase of land, stamp duty at a reduced rate of 1% applies to the excess of the value of land purchased over the value of land sold. The purchase and sale must take place within a 24-month period of each other.

Consanguinity relief

Where agricultural land is purchased from certain relatives (such as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles) stamp duty is chargeable at a reduced rate of 1% on the value of the land. Certain conditions must be satisfied such as the requirement for the purchaser to farm the land or to lease it to someone who farms the land.

Information about the available stamp duty reliefs and exemptions can be found in the “Property” section on the home page of the Revenue website (www.revenue.ie) by following the “stamp duty” link.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (262)

Carol Nolan

Question:

262. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Finance the details of contracts of €25,000 or more than have been awarded by his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines from 1 January 2019 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37797/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The National Public Procurement Policy Framework 2019 issued by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) sets out the procurement procedures to be followed by government departments and state bodies under EU rules and national guidelines. In addition, the Department of Finance has its own internal policy and guidance documents to assist staff to comply with all regulations in regard to procurement.

In accordance with Department of Finance Circular 40/02, Departments are required, on an annual basis, to return a report to the Comptroller and Auditor General, in respect of contracts awarded above the €25,000 threshold (exclusive of VAT) that were awarded without a competitive process.

The following table provides all instances of contracts, greater than €25,000 (exclusive of VAT), awarded from 01 January 2019 by the Department of Finance that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines. One of these payments (Eurotext) was listed on the Department's Circular 40/02 annual report to the C&AG for 2019 and the remaining payments will be listed on the Department’s annual report for 2020.

Year(s)

Contractor

Details

Contract Value (excl. VAT)

2019

Eurotext

Foreign Language translation service required in respect of European Court legal documents. Contract signed in 2019.

€75,579.49(Cumulative value of payments from 2016 to June 2020)

2019

2020

Lilley Ventures t/a Workproducts Inc.

Matterspace Software Tool Licence renewal.

12 months unlimited software usage and maintenance.

The renewal of the software licence was critical in connection with the document searches for the IBRC Commission of Investigation.

2019

€8,736.03

2020

€17,928.88

Cumulative total €26,644.91

2020

McCann Fitzgerald

Assistance was sought directly from this firm who are currently on the Department’s panel of legal advisers. However, a mini-competitive process is still required before a particular firm is engaged from the panel but this part did not take place in circumstances where legal advice was required by the Department as a matter of urgency (and the firm had previously been appointed, following a procurement process, to provide related advices in respect of the same matter.)

Fee estimate: €24,500-26,500

No Fees discharged to date

There are seventeen bodies under the aegis of my Department. Fourteen of these bodies have not awarded a contract of €25,000 or more (exclusive of VAT) that has been found to be non-compliant in any of the given years. These are:

The Central Bank of Ireland, the Credit Review Office, the Credit Union Advisory Committee, the Credit Union Restructuring Board, the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, Home Building Finance Ireland, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, the Investor Compensation Company DAC, the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the National Treasury Management Agency, the National Asset Management Agency and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.

The remaining 3 bodies have provided the following details:

Body

Year(s)

Details

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman

2019

The FSPO complied with all procurement guidelines with the exception of the following supply arrangements. These exceptions are contained within the 2019 financial statements with those pertaining to the current year to be outlined in the 2020 financial statements which are to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

One supply arrangement to the value of €189,865 where a pre-existing contract for ICT operations, support and maintenance was concluded in 2019.

An instance with expenditure of €79,134 where the rapid expansion in staff numbers necessitated immediate reconfiguration of the physical office space to accommodate additional staff numbers while at the same time improving accessibility for customers. The services of the existing general maintenance contractor were employed.

An instance with expenditure of €25,167 whereby a contract for business support services was continued in order to ensure that relevant experience was retained in a number of areas pending recruitment of roles in these areas.

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman

2020

Two supply arrangements through pre-existing framework agreements now expired, for external drafting services, to the value of €49,901 and €48,103. The procurement process to establish a new framework agreement is underway, with the intention to conclude procurement in January 2021. One instance with expenditure of €25,142 whereby a contract for support for the management and administration of the FSPO’s employee pension schemes was also utilised to secure technical information concerning pensions.

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

2019

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners complied with national guidelines and EU regulations with the exception of the listed items. The total of those payments deemed non-compliant with procurement guidelines in 2019 (approx. €754k), represents less than 0.8% of the expenditure on compliant payments. These payments are listed on Revenue’s Statement of Internal Financial Control, (SIFC), for 2019.

Revenue have not yet determined if any payments during 2020 are non-compliant whereby this process is done in conjunction with the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General after year end.

€26,380 for the essential delivery of sensitive legal documents related to Court proceedings. This service will be tendered for to address future requirements.

€34,452 in relation to transportation and assembly of furniture to facilitate office fit outs during 2019. There was a very urgent demand for new accommodation and furniture during 2019 to facilitate new staff recruited for Brexit to meet the original departure dates in March and October. Revenue is currently preparing a tender to address future requirements.

€43,803 relating to the use of stenography services. The service provider is on the OGP framework for both stenography and transcription services setup in 2019. However, a formal tendering exercise to procure the services of this stenographer from this framework was not carried out. This service will be tendered for to address future requirements.

€480,336 in respect of mobile telephony. This relates to the rollover of the existing mobile contract (previously tendered for) while a competition was run. Following a mini competition in conjunction with the OGP, a new mobile telephony contract was awarded in March 2020.

€168,913 relating to long standing contracts for telephonist services. Revenue ceased all such contracts with effect from 30 September 2019. The amount shown is in respect of 2019 expenditure up to that date.

Tax Appeals Commission

2020

Contract Value €39,360 - A business analyst was urgently required to identify the technical specifications required for a new case management system to be built to progress the significant backlog of appeals on hand amounting to approximately €4.2 billion.

The necessary requisition of these services was based on advice from the Office of the Chief Government Information Officer (OGCIO) and the Revenue Commissioners. Three companies on the OGP framework were approached for the provision of a quotation for a contract up to €25,000, which resulted in a nil response. The option of re-advertising under the Government Framework for a higher value contract would have taken considerable time and additional resources but may not have elicited any further responses.

The TAC were availing of Deloitte’s services in relation to another project for automation under the Single Supplier Framework where the prospective engagement was related and integrated into the existing project. The firm were therefore engaged on the basis of prudent risk management regarding consideration of both projects simultaneously, value for money, and efficiency of the service engagement.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (263, 269, 275, 281)

Joe Carey

Question:

263. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the operation of the Covid-19 restriction support scheme; when payments will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37817/20]

View answer

Steven Matthews

Question:

269. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Finance if consideration has been given to expanding the Covid restrictions support scheme to businesses that do not currently meet the qualifying criteria (details supplied) but can demonstrate a significant reduction in income as a direct result of the pandemic. [37951/20]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

275. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Covid restrictions support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38052/20]

View answer

Alan Dillon

Question:

281. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) regarding the Covid restrictions support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38498/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 263, 269, 275 and 281 together.

The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) was announced in the Budget on 13 October 2020. The details are set out in Finance Bill 2020 and guidelines on the operation of the scheme, including the eligibility criteria, are available on the Revenue website:

(www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/press-office/budget-information/2021/crss-guidelines.pdf).

The registration system for CRSS was released by Revenue on 1 November 2020 and eligible businesses have been able to register for the scheme on the Revenue Online Service (ROS) since then. As part of the registration process the business is required to provide certain information, including details such as the location of the business and the average weekly turnover of the business in 2019 (or in 2020 in the case of a new business). Up to 23 November 2020, 8,300 businesses have registered for CRSS in respect of 8,900 business premises. A further 4,300 applications are currently being processed by Revenue.

Since 17 November 2020 an eligible business that is registered for CRSS, and which carries on a business activity from a business premises located in a region that is subject to COVID-19 related restrictions, can make a claim for payment under the CRSS via the eRepayments system on ROS provided it meets the eligibility criteria for making a claim under the scheme.

CRSS applies as regards restrictions in place from 13 October 2020 and eligible businesses that have been subject to restrictions since that date may make a claim covering the period from 13 October 2020 up to the expected end day of the current restrictions, which is 1 December 2020. One payment will be made to eligible businesses covering this restrictions period, with payments made by Revenue within 3 days of the submission of a qualifying claim. Up to 23 November 2020, Revenue has processed €33.5 million CRSS payments relating to 5,400 premises.

The support is available to companies and self-employed individuals who carry on a trade or trading activities from a business premises located in a region subject to restrictions, introduced in line with the Living with Covid-19 Plan, with the result that the business is required to prohibit or considerably restrict customers from accessing their business premises. Generally, this refers to Covid restrictions at Level 3, 4 or 5 of the Government’s Plan for Living with Covid-19 but certain businesses may qualify for the support where lower levels of restrictions are in operation.

The CRSS applies to businesses carrying on trading activities from a business premises located in a region subject to restrictions, which requires the business to prohibit or considerably restrict customers from accessing their business premises and as a result, is operating at less than 25% of turnover in 2019.

The scheme will not apply to a business in the events industry or in other sectors, which does not ordinarily operate from a fixed business premises located in a region subject to the restrictions, but rather supplies goods or services to a business that does qualify for support under the CRSS because, under the Covid restrictions, that other business is required to temporarily close or significantly reduce its activity. Each business must satisfy the eligibility criteria in their own right.

The CRSS is an additional measure for businesses in a region subject to significant Covid-19 restrictions. Businesses who do not qualify under this scheme may be entitled to support under various measures put in place by Government, including existing supports available under the COVID Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS). They may also be eligible to warehouse VAT and PAYE (Employer) debts and also excess payments received by employers under the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, and the balance of Income Tax for 2019 and Preliminary Tax for 2020 for self-assessed taxpayers if applicable.

Deputies will be aware that the Finance Bill is currently progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas, and I have no plans to extend eligibility of the scheme.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (264)

Denis Naughten

Question:

264. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the reason a review was carried out in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37843/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Disabled Drivers and Passengers scheme provides for the repayment or remission of VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT), up to a certain limit, on the purchase of an adapted vehicle for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. Qualification for the scheme also provides access to the Fuel Grant Scheme and for a waiver of motor tax.

In order to qualify for the scheme, the person with the disability must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate (PMC). The awarding of a PMC is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Revenue is not involved in the process. However, any information available to Revenue potentially impacting on a person’s eligibility for a PMC may be passed on to the HSE for review. Revenue may also request the independent Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal to review a person’s entitlement to a PMC in accordance with Regulation 7 of the Disabled Drivers and Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, SI No. 353 of 1994, where there are concerns regarding eligibility for the DPD scheme.

I am advised by Revenue that the person in question was issued with a PMC by the HSE on 29 June 2007. The most recent vehicle that was registered under the scheme by the person was on 14 February 2019. Revenue requested the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal to review the person’s entitlement to a PMC in October 2019 following an examination of his eligibility for the scheme. Following the completion of the review by the Board of Appeal the person was deemed ineligible for a PMC, and the certificate was withdrawn (by the Board of Appeal) with effect from 12 March 2020. Revenue understands that the person was informed of this decision by the Board of Appeal on 18 March 2020.

Consequently, the person’s vehicle was removed from the DPD scheme by Revenue and because the required minimum two-year period of usage was not reached, a portion of the tax relief became repayable. Revenue has confirmed to me that it wrote to the person on 15 May 2020 informing him of the position and requesting repayment.

Motor Insurance

Questions (265)

Carol Nolan

Question:

265. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Finance the measures he is taking to ensure that consumers have access to reduced car insurance premiums; the consultations he has had with representatives of the car insurance sector on this matter from 1 January 2020 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37883/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

At the outset, it is important to note that neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can direct the pricing of insurance products, as this is a commercial matter, nor can we compel any insurer operating in the Irish market to provide cover. This position is reinforced by the EU Single Market framework for insurance (the Solvency II Directive) which expressly prohibits Member States from doing so.

Notwithstanding this, I can assure the Deputy that insurance reform is a key policy priority as reflected in the Programme for Government. This lays out commitments that are aimed at addressing consumer and business concerns on the cost of insurance. In this regard, a Sub-Group of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment was established by Government to oversee insurance reform implementation. This is chaired by the Tánaiste, and also includes as standing members, Ministers McGrath, McEntee, O’Gorman and myself, together with Ministers of State Troy and Fleming. This ‘Whole of Government’ approach provides the best opportunity to address the cost and availability of insurance and will build and expand upon previous commendable work done by the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG). The Cabinet Sub-Group is due to meet again this week and it is expected that it will shortly publish an Action Plan on insurance reform.

I can assure the Deputy that both I and Minister of State Fleming have had extensive engagement with motor insurers and other key policy stakeholders throughout 2020. In this respect, in January, I met with the main insurance companies to relay to them the importance of their responding to reforms by reducing premiums. Subsequently in April in a meeting with Insurance Ireland, I called on insurers to be proactive and generous in relation to their treatment of motor insurance customers during the COVID-19 crises. Most recently as part of a comprehensive engagement on the Government’s new insurance reform agenda with a wide range of stakeholder interests, including Insurance Ireland, Minister of State Fleming concluded a series of meetings with the main insurers in the Irish market. He again raised the need for them to respond to reforms by lowering premiums, to continue to offer forbearance measures, and to expand their risk horizon in the market (such as providing more cover for younger drivers).

Finally, I believe it is important to acknowledge that the reforms already introduced by the Cost of Insurance Working Group have had a considerable impact in stabilising the cost of motor insurance and indeed many consumers should be seeing decreases in the cost of their motor insurance premiums. These developments have been confirmed in respective data from the CSO and the Central Bank of Ireland. The Government intends to build on this success and also focus efforts on increasing both the affordability and availability of insurance for businesses, particularly affecting those SMEs in high-footfall sectors such as hospitality and tourism.

Legislative Process

Questions (266)

Carol Nolan

Question:

266. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Finance the details of all applications made by his Department to the Oireachtas Business Committee to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation sponsored or initiated by his Department from 1 January 2017 to date; the outcomes of such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37894/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The following table sets out all primary legislation for which my Department was responsible, other than the annual Finance Acts, enacted or initiated since the 1/1/2017. The table sets out whether pre-legislative scrutiny occurred in respect of each piece of legislation concerned. The annual Finance Acts are not subject to the pre-legislative scrutiny process so those acts are not included in the table. Similarly pre-legislative scrutiny is not routinely conducted in respect of secondary legislation so the table sets out the position with respect to primary legislation only.

In most cases my Department has written to the relevant Oireachtas Committee, asking whether the Committee wished to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny in respect of the legislation concerned. My Department would not ordinarily specifically apply for a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny but would ordinarily set out the anticipated course of the legislation and ask the Committee whether they wished to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the legislation or not.

However I would draw your attention to the following pieces of legislation in respect of which a specific application for the waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny was made for the reasons set out below:

1. Home Building Finance Ireland Act 2018

The Home Building Finance Ireland Act 2018 was presented and selected for pre-legislative scrutiny, so no formal application to waive pre-legislative scrutiny was made. However in the end the Committee was unable to hold pre-legislative scrutiny in time. My Department submitted the Bill in February 2018, and by May 2018 my Department then requested to press ahead without pre-legislative scrutiny as time for the pre-legislative scrutiny had not been scheduled by the Committee and we needed to meet our deadline for having the agency operative by year end. The Committee agreed to the request, so no pre-legislative scrutiny was conducted.

2. Financial Provisions (Covid-19) Act 2020

The Financial Provisions (Covid-19) Act 2020 provided for Ireland’s participation in the EIB pan-European Guarantee Fund and the SURE Guarantee Agreement. Ireland could not participate in the EIB pan-European Guarantee Fund until the legislation was enacted. In relation to SURE, it was necessary for all Member States to sign the Guarantee Agreement before it came into effect. At the time, indications were received that most Member States planned to complete their parliamentary procedures by the end of June. Our Legislation was therefore required as soon as possible so as not to delay access to the SURE instrument across Europe. Given the urgency of both matters, permission was sought from the Business Committee under Standing Order 173 not to refer the General Scheme for pre-legislative scrutiny.

3. Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Act 2020

The Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No.2) Act 2020 was part of a package of measures put in place to stimulate and support the economy as it resumed activity in line with the Government’s plans for the phased re-opening of the economy following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act contained measures which sought to address the urgent challenges facing businesses as they re-opened and resumed activity in accordance with public health advice and Government decisions in the most effective way. The measures were necessary to ensure that businesses would be in the strongest position possible to respond to the re-opening of the economy. The measures had positive impacts on employment and ensured that as many people as possible would return to work and that they would return as early as possible. Given the urgency of the matters the subject of the Act, my Department applied for a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny.

Title of Bill

Year initiated

Pre-leg scrutiny occurred?

Y/N

Application to waive pre-leg scrutiny made?

Y/N

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017

2017

Y

N

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Act 2017

2017

N

N

Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018

2018

Y

N

Markets in Financial Instruments Act 2018

2018

Y

N

Home Building Finance Ireland Act 2018

2018

N

Y (see below).

Finance (African Development (Bank and Fund) and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018

2018

N

N

Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018

2018

N

N

National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Act 2019

2018

N

N

Credit Union Restructuring Board (Dissolution) Bill 2019

2019

N

N

Investment Limited Partnership (Amendment) Bill 2019

2019

N

N

Finance (Tax Appeals and Prospectus Regulation) Act 2019

2019

Y

N

Migration of Participating Securities Act 2019

2019

Y

N

Financial Provisions (Covid-19) Act 2020

2020

N

Y

Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Act 2020

2020

N

Y

Investment Limited Partnership (Amendment) Bill 2020

2020

N

N

Departmental Staff

Questions (267)

Patrick Costello

Question:

267. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Finance the grade at which the chief data protection officer in his Department is employed. [37915/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Article 37 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into effect on 25 May 2018 requires that where a data controller or processor is a public authority or body, they shall designate a data protection officer (Article 37 (1)(a)).

The data protection officer in my Department is employed at the grade of Assistant Principal (Higher).