I propose to take Questions Nos. 312, 454, 611 and 643 together.
An Independent Working Group to examine the issue of defective housing has been established and will publish a report on their findings. Officials from my Department participate in this Working Group. The objectives of the group are to identify the scope of relevant significant defects in housing, to evaluate the scale of housing affected, to propose a means of prioritising defects, to evaluate the cost of remediation, to recommend appropriate mechanisms for resolving defects and, to consider financing options in line with the Programme for Government commitment to identifying options for those impacted by defects to access low-cost, long-term finance.
With regard to any recommendations for Government to introduce tax expenditure measures that may arise from the Working Group's report, retrospective or otherwise, such proposals would be assessed in accordance with my Department's Tax Expenditure Guidelines. These make clear that it is important that any policy proposal which involves tax expenditures should only occur in limited circumstances, for example where there are demonstrable market failures. In particular, they provide that a tax-based incentive should only be considered where it would be more efficient than a direct expenditure intervention. The introduction of such measures is a matter that would fall to be considered in the context of the annual Budget and Finance Bill.