Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

EU Funding

Charlie McConalogue


61. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has held discussions with the European Commission on the allocation of additional funding for the Border region in view of the particular challenges that will arise in that area following Brexit and the need to improve infrastructure to assist existing businesses remain competitive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48995/18]

Niamh Smyth


191. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the particular infrastructural needs of areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan will be given priority consideration if Cohesion Funds are available post-2020 in view of the negative impacts Brexit will have on the Border region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49276/18]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 191 together.

As I am sure Deputies will agree, the EU-funded INTERREG and PEACE programmes continue to act as important drivers of regional development for the Border region of Ireland and for Northern Ireland. 

INTERREG programmes funded by the EU exist to address the challenges encountered by border regions.  In the case of Ireland, an additional and unique programme, the PEACE programme, addresses the challenges in the region arising from conflict.  

The current INTERREG programme has a total value of €282 million and is aimed at promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion.  The current PEACE programme has a total value of €270 million and aims to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border counties of Ireland.

Ever since the UK referendum on EU membership the Government's clear and consistent position has been that it is committed to the successful implementation of the current programmes but also to a successor post-2020. To that end, my officials and I have been working closely with the European Commission at all levels to ensure this important source of funding for the Border region continues post-Brexit and we continue to do so.

I am pleased, therefore, that the Government’s ambition for the programmes was reflected in last December’s EU-UK joint report on Brexit in which both parties undertook to honour their commitments to the PEACE and INTERREG programmes under the current multi-annual financial framework, MFF, and to examine the possibilities for future support favourably.  This was matched by a commitment from the Commission to propose the continuation of the programmes in its proposal for the next MFF covering the period 2021-2027.   

This has happened, and I warmly welcome the Commission’s proposal for a special new PEACE PLUS programme, which will build on and continue the work of both PEACE and INTERREG.

Brexit will have a negative impact on counties in the Border region. We hope an agreement can be reached but counties such as Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal and the Border region generally very much depend on programmes such as PEACE. They have made an important contribution to peace and reconciliation and many community projects have gained from them. As someone from a Border county, I know the visible, tangible benefits and advantages that derive from such programmes. The implications of the loss of such funds is something people in the Border region were conscious of during the referendum campaign.

The Minister referred to a PEACE PLUS programme. I ask him to ensure that continues and that the Government commits to do that.

Some 83% of the PEACE IV programme, of €270 million, is committed with 88 projects approved for funding. These include groups of projects under the local authority PEACE action plans, and projects in the area of shared education and giving additional support to children and young people. I have visited some of these projects and am aware of how valuable they are.

Under the INTERREG programme, €282 million has been allocated, 87% of available funding, which has been committed to 32 different projects. I am committed to working with the European Commission to try to put in place a successor programme to these funding streams. This will form part of the negotiation that we will have with the Commission across most of next year in respect of the new European budget.

I thank the Minister. It is vital in light of Brexit. In Cavan and Monaghan county councils, PEACE offices play an integral and significant role in terms of delivery of community and social projects, and there is an economic benefit for all projects that are allocated PEACE funding. PEACE workers in Cavan and Monaghan county councils, such as Jane Crudden, have been instrumental in delivering on that due to their engagement with community groups and due to the community groups having the willingness and the foresight to take on the projects.

As we know, there is huge bureaucracy involved in regard to all of these projects. It is important that community groups are not burdened with further bureaucracy when it comes to securing funding, given these issues become more complicated and complex as we go on. I ask that the Minister commit to securing further funding and that there would be a positive bias towards the Border area.

It is in recognition of the vulnerability of our Border counties and the north west to the great challenge of Brexit that, for example, in Project Ireland 2040 we have put particular focus on key projects, such as the N2 and N3, that will be of particular benefit to the communities and counties the Deputy represents. It is why we are also committed to the A5 project and why, for example, we have made particular commitments to projects like the Ulster Canal.

In regard to the concerns on bureaucracy, I will certainly keep this in mind. I am encouraged by the fact the drawdown is so high. The fact over 80% of the funding for both funds has now been committed points to the fact these structures are working and can work. As I said, I will certainly keep the Deputy's points in mind in the negotiations that will continue in regard to a successor to PEACE and INTERREG. I know these are valuable programmes, I know they have made a big difference on both sides of the Border and I will work hard to deliver something that will take their place.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Clare Daly


62. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has had discussions with the Minister for Defence regarding the problem of pay in the Defence Forces and the impact on recruitment and retention. [49209/18]

I ask the Minister if he has had discussions with the Minister for Defence regarding the problems of pay, recruitment and retention. I note the Minister for Defence managed to wrestle an extra €37.5 million from the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, in the defence budget. However, when we see only €6 million of that went on pay, it really puts the issue into perspective and, particularly given gardaí got €60 million to deal with pay, we can see the scale of the problem. Does the Minister think it is sensible that the Defence Forces would spend six times the amount on capital expenditure than they spend on pay?

As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Service Pay Commission has been asked by Government to examine the issue of recruitment and retention in the public service and to establish, in the first instance, whether and to what extent a difficulty may exist in terms of recruitment and retention in respect of specific groups, grades and sectors of the public service. Where a recruitment or retention difficulty is identified, the pay commission is tasked to examine the full range of causal factors.

It is important to point out that the terms of reference for the pay commission for this exercise, as agreed by the parties to the public service stability agreement, do not provide for a generalised pay review for any group. The pay commission emphasised this point in its first module report on nurses, non-consultant hospital doctors and consultants.

The commission is approaching its work in a modular format, having recently completed module 1. The next phase, module 2, will focus on certain other areas of the health services and the Defence Forces. The early inclusion of the Defence Forces in the pay commission's schedule of sectors to be examined under the terms of its remit was welcomed by both myself and the Minister for Defence. I can further inform the Deputy that it is the position that officials from my Department are in close liaison with their colleagues in the Department of Defence in the preparation of material for submission to the pay commission on the issues of recruitment and retention. The pay commission will, having due regard to its terms of reference, consider the matter of recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces and issue its findings accordingly. I look forward to receiving its report.

I am, of course, aware of the pay commission. I am also acutely aware of the fact Defence Forces personnel do not have a collective voice in the way normal workers organised in a trade union would have. There is extreme urgency in this situation. We are operating against the backdrop of a massive 21% reduction in Defence Forces personnel, a huge increase in workload and the fact a third of the people who left in the last five years bought their discharge - that is how desperate they are to get out. It has become a paradigm of austerity that when there are cutbacks, it actually costs more than is saved. In the Naval Service, for example, it costs €100,000 to train somebody to able seaman level, and when they leave, that expertise cannot be replaced. That is the particular crisis we now have and it comes against the backdrop that we are spending multiples of that amount on shiny new ships we cannot afford to staff. It seems ridiculous that we are wasting money on equipment in that way. There is a huge urgency in addressing these matters. Pay is not the only reason people are leaving.

I had a question down on this point which was, unfortunately, transferred. I want to take the opportunity to ask the Minister if he appreciates there are serving members of the Defence Forces who, because their pay is so low, are qualifying for the working family tax credit, or family income supplement, as it was called. This is a mark of why morale is so bad in the Defence Forces. People are being offered jobs outside and are leaving a career they love and in which they have served their country so well and so proudly.

It used to be the norm all over Ireland that a soldier at corporal level with a family could look forward to buying an affordable house. That has all gone out the window. The Government has shown no imagination in assisting members of our Defence Forces, who do us proud in Ireland and right around the world, to become owners of an affordable house.

Instead, they are out there competing in the rental market in a regime of savage rent increases. No wonder they are leaving.

As Deputy Burton will be aware, and Deputy Daly also has a lot of experience in this area, the way in which we manage public sector wage and allowance policy is via a collective agreement. Any change that is made or considered for the Defence Forces, therefore, has immediate consequences for the rest of those who work in the public and civil services, as noted in the debate a short time ago with Deputy Jonathan O'Brien in regard to those who work in our nursing and midwifery services.

Deputy Daly specifically put to me the issue of why the Department of Defence and the armed forces have got increased funding for capital expenditure. I thought increased funding for equipment, vessels and vehicles would be welcomed, particularly given the Department and some parts of the armed forces have been calling for that.

In regard to the point put to me by Deputy Burton, I reiterate that we have a collective wage agreement overall, and the value of this is still understood by the Labour Party. As I said in regard to nurses, I have nothing but the highest respect for the contribution our armed forces make at home, on the seas and further abroad.

I make the point that, for a newly qualified three-star private and their Naval Service equivalent, after approximately 29 weeks of training, their salary at that point stands at €27,257, including the military service allowance. In the debate on allowances or salary, it is important to have that point in mind.

I am sure the Minister finds it ironic to be criticised by his former colleagues for the policies they brought in together, but such is life in here. Increased capital expenditure would, of course, be welcome if we had the staff to operate the equipment.

The point is that staff and personnel are being bled dry and are leaving in droves. We do not have the personnel to operate that. Restoring pay to pre-FEMPI levels, as we are often told, is not good enough. It does not address the situation of post-2011 recruits or the cost of living issues. That explains some of the problems being experienced. When small increases in pay operate against the increased workload that fewer Defence Forces personnel are expected to shoulder, the hourly rate is seen to plummet and people spend more time away from their families. They do not have the protection of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 or all the things which make it a very family-unfriendly situation. They do not have the same security of tenure as other public sector workers, in fact they must reapply every few years. This is a critical situation. If we are talking about prudent management of our financial resources then investing in staff is far more cost-effective than investing in shiny new toys when we do not have the personnel to operate them.

I feel I have to correct the record slightly to say that a new tank or vessel is anything but a toy. It is meeting an equipment need that has been raised with me by the Department of Defence, originating in the armed forces. It is anything but that and at the very least it contributes to ensuring the safety of the personnel who Deputy Daly is referring to. The Deputy was very clear about what she is looking for. She wants us to go to a wage level that is higher than it was before the implementation of FEMPI. They will be higher than they were before we got into difficulty.

I know the Deputy will have ways that this can be paid for but that is overall a wage bill for our public services that will ultimately compromise our ability to deliver services, and all the other things I have been called on to do over the past 45 minutes since I came in here. I am committed to standing behind the work of the Public Service Pay Commission to see if it will yield recommendations that can be delivered while maintaining an overall collective wage agreement. I reaffirm the great respect I have for all those in uniform who represent our State at home and abroad.

If a person has a Garda uniform they get an extra €60 million, if they have an Army uniform they get an extra €6 million.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Joan Burton


63. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he plans to address the status of community employment supervisors and make provision for their payments as per the Labour Court recommendation of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49206/18]

Jonathan O'Brien


73. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of community employment supervisors and provision of their payments under a Labour Court recommendation of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48989/18]

Has the Minister found a mechanism to resolve the situation for community employment, CE, supervisors, the Labour Court recommendation on their pensions and so on? I am conscious that the recommendation was made before the crash. We are now in a period of restoration. Many proposals have been put forward. What progress has the Minister made to give effect to restoration proposals?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 73 together.

As Deputies will be aware this issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

This matter was the subject of discussion at the community sector high level forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the community employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to costs and precedent. A detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues under consideration. The scoping exercise clearly illustrated the significant issues at play here, with a potential cost to the State of between €188 million per annum and €347 million depending on the size of the sector, in respect of funding to enable a pension contribution in State-funded community and voluntary sectors. This excludes any provision for immediate ex gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

It continues to be the position that State organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not for the State to provide funding for such pension schemes. The employees in question are, or were, employees of private companies notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, in receipt of State funding.

Community employment is an absolutely vital part of the social employment-social enterprise structure of this country. There are more than 1,000 CE supervisors. They give really valuable and important services to communities in urban and rural areas, particularly in areas of disadvantage. I am sure the Minister would agree that the people involved in community employment as supervisors and assistant supervisors have given a very good service to the State. Various detailed proposals have been put forward which would address this issue. The cost is not enormous and these people have given service. More importantly, the community service model which is so vital to our social infrastructure is in serious danger of simply disappearing because there is not a proper structure for resolving an issue like this.

The Minister is having a kind of King Canute moment. The economy is in recovery yet he is holding up his hands and saying in terms of legitimate areas such as the Defence Forces and community employment supervisors that he is not able to do anything. We have a process of restoration at the moment and that should be applied to the CE supervisors.

I will not add to what Deputy Burton has said but I contend that these workers are providing a fundamental public service. Everyone recognises that and they are funded by the public purse. For that reason alone, the Labour Court recommendation on them should be implemented. This is a Labour Court recommendation and failure to implement that by the Government undermines the court.

I will provide a running total of the cost of the different demands and needs being articulated to me this afternoon. We are now at approximately €918 million. The one-off payment for the CE schemes would cost €318 million, with an additional one year cost of a minimum of €180 million; there is €300 million that I updated Deputy O'Brien on in respect of the nursing issue and a further €120 million of the cost of meeting the need in respect of professional development hours. Far from having a King Canute moment I am having a déjà vu moment where our economy is doing well in the face of many different risks and different social needs. Both Deputies who have spoken on this matter know that collective agreements matter in that they allow us to manage the value of the issue in respect of competing demands. They know that if I was to meet any of the needs the Deputy refers to it would trigger a whole other set of demands that the Exchequer cannot meet without compromising other commitments we have either to taxpayers or to citizens who depend on services. That is why I am adopting my stance on these matters. Far from trying to undermine the role of our public servants or the people who work in community employment organisations, I am simply looking to make sure we are in a position to be able to continue to meet affordable wage needs in the future.

Deputy Donohoe's reputation is that he is the Minister who dipped down the back of the sofa and found something between €750 million and €1 billion, notwithstanding the information that was given to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. He lashed out the money. Not alone did that happen, but at the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis last week, the Taoiseach was offering tax cuts to everyone, in particular the very well off. We were presented with a Supplementary Estimate earlier of €20 million for the Pope's visit to the Phoenix Park. I say to the Minister, "Come on." He has lashed out the money here, there and everywhere to favoured particular projects. However, he has not been able to do it for public and affordable housing and he has not done it for the Army. He has not bothered to address seriously in his response community employment in respect of which there is a Labour Court recommendation.

Did the scoping exercise carried out last year come up with any other proposal bar looking simply at how much it would cost to implement the Labour Court recommendation? If any other organisation or private entity ignored such a recommendation, the Minister would be critical, as would I. I have added the figures. If one includes the ex gratia payments, it would come to €854 million. As such, the Minister is probably a bit short in his own figures.

We might compare figures afterwards and see what is the gap. Either way, it is a large figure. No other issues were identified in the process with the community employment sector regarding the scoping of the costs of different options to address the matter. I outlined in my reply to the Deputy what work the forum did and the costs relating to it.

Regarding Deputy Burton's comments, I answered the question on community employment and I said I recognised the value of what people in the sector do and the contribution they make. The Deputy offered a description of me lashing out money but let us look at what that is for. It is additional money to provide social housing this year, to deal with homeless services and to maintain health services. I am sorry the Deputy has such a view on making money available to organise the visit of the Pope, who is a Head of State, to our country. It was about trying to ensure the event could go well and safely in recognition of how many people would participate in it.

We have a public sector wage agreement that is not even a year old and I am committed to maintaining it.

Question No. 64 replied to with Written Answers.

Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme

Aindrias Moynihan


65. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the funding available to advance flood relief plans on the R587 Macroom to Dunmanway road at Ardcahan Bridge; whether the necessary works will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49195/18]

The R587 is a key access route for west Cork along which traffic passes through Crookstown and Coppeen. There is great concern regarding Ardcahan Bridge, which often floods and results in the road being closed. Action must be taken to improve matters and to prevent flooding from blocking the road. It is not a matter of a quick fix. This is a special area of conservation with wildlife to take into account and there are costs associated with the studies required in that regard. I ask the Minister of State to consider the options to support the local authority on this matter.

I am advised that local flooding issues are a matter, in the first instance, for each local authority to investigate and address and that local authorities may carry out flood mitigation works using their own resources. The OPW operates a minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme to provide funding to local authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation works or studies to address localised flooding and coastal protection problems within their administrative areas. The scheme generally applies to relatively straightforward cases where a solution can be readily identified and achieved in a short timeframe and which meets the criteria of the scheme.

Flooding caused by the ponding of rainwater or a lack of capacity in surface water drainage systems are the responsibility of the local authority. The local authority is also responsible for funding and carrying out the maintenance, upkeep and improvement of its roads network infrastructure. It is open to Cork County Council to bring forward a proposal under the minor works scheme for viable measures at this location provided the scheme criteria are met. However, no application has been submitted under the minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme for this location.

The Minister of State outlined the matter as an issue of ponding and minor works, but the flooding involved is substantial and it happens three or four times each winter resulting in the blocking of a key artery for west Cork. The local authority is working in a special protected area in this case in which there are freshwater pearl mussels, salmon and various other wildlife species of which account must be taken. To carry out studies on that wildlife and to identify the works required involves substantial costs. Cork County Council carried out investigations two years ago and was making inquiries with the OPW regarding the costs of what was identified as a major job. Can those preliminary works be funded? It is about more than just the cost of works such as digging and the removal of gravel; it is also a question of the preparatory work and the costs associated with that. The R587 is a key artery for west Cork coming all the way up through Coppeen and Crookstown and when it closes, it causes great inconvenience, not just for locals but for the wider region.

I am fully aware of the issue but the local authority can apply through the minor works scheme for funding to carry out a study. The Deputy said that nothing has happened two years on, but that is not down to my Department. It is a matter for the local authority to make an application to the scheme. If the criteria are met, it will be funded. It is up to the local authority to do that. There is money available. This year we increased funding for minor works from €2 million to €5 million. While the money is there, it is a question of finding the criteria to set around it. The Deputy is talking about roads infrastructure and I understand that there are different bodies and Departments involved. However, it might be a matter the local authority needs to take up by prioritising a minor works application.

This is not about blaming the Minister of State's Department or the local authority. Studies have been carried out and materials have been put together. The Minister of State says there is funding and a scheme. If the local authority makes an application, I take it the Minister of State will be in a position to fund it. We need to get the relevant work done. It is not about a quick fix and I am not engaged in a blame game. I want to ensure all the doors are open for Cork County Council so that it can get the relevant works needed around Ardcahan Bridge completed as soon as possible. Not only must the wildlife be taken into account, but the complexity of how the flooding happens must also be considered. It comes down the road and out of the river in a number of different ways. There is no quick fix, but if the Minister of State says he has the money, we will have the local authority's report sent into him.

I was clear that the application must meet the criteria in the minor works scheme. If it meets those, the funding is there. However, the criteria must be met. I am one Minister of State who has gone around the country to see flooding at first hand in every constituency, including the Deputy's. I am very much to the forefront in saying that if an application meets the criteria, we will fund it. However, it has to meet them.

Public Sector Staff Retirements

Martin Heydon


66. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he expects to adjust the retirement age for public servants who wish to work beyond 66 years of age. [49182/18]

Martin Heydon


69. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of progress of the Bill to change the retirement age for public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49183/18]

I raise the matter of the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018, which proposes to allow public servants to work beyond retirement age if they wish. While the Bill has come through the Seanad and passed Second Stage in this House, I continue to be contacted by public servants who are close to their 66th birthdays and who need the Bill to pass to allow them to continue to work.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 69 together.

The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018, which provides for an increase in the compulsory retirement age to 70 for public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004, was published on Monday, 9 July 2018. It passed all Stages in the Seanad on Tuesday, 17 July, and completed Second Stage in the Dáil on 7 November. Committee Stage is provisionally scheduled for 11 December 2018.

While scheduling of time for the enactment of legislation is ultimately a matter for the Oireachtas itself through the Business Committee, my intention is to ensure enactment as soon as possible.

Once the Bill is enacted and commenced, the vast majority of public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004 will have a new compulsory retirement age of 70. For the most part, those public servants currently have a compulsory retirement age of 65.

Until the commencement of the Bill, the current compulsory retirement age continues to apply and public servants reaching the age of 65 are required to retire. To accommodate public servants who reach the age of 65 in the period between the Government decision to increase the retirement age and the commencement of the necessary legislation, I arranged for the introduction of interim measures.

The interim arrangements, which must respect the current statutory position of the compulsory retirement age of 65, provide a temporary solution to affected public servants by allowing them to be rehired for a period of one year, until they reach the age of eligibility for the State pension, which is 66. Existing retire and rehire arrangements are being used to accommodate affected public servants in each sector.

I thank the Minister. I know the scheduling of the House is a matter for the Business Committee but allowing for the fact that it is at Committee Stage on 12 December, it is leaving it tight. Is there a chance that we could pass this before Christmas? It would be great for people and I have concerns for people who will reach their birthdays over the Christmas period were the legislation not to pass. We are in the hands of the committee as well to try to expedite it through as much as we can but it is an issue that we should work on with all sides of the House to try to get it through as quickly as we can.

I understand that the Minister is saying the increase is for those recruited prior to 1 April 2004 and up to the age of 70. That means that different age limits will not apply to different public servants. When it changes it will be 70 years of age for all. Can the Minister confirm that this measure is open to all public servants so that there are not different rules for different elements of the public service?

I spoke on this Bill during Second Stage at the beginning of November. Notwithstanding the optional interim measures which the Minister mentioned, there was an expectation arising out of his comments on this issue that it would be passed long before the proposals that are pending Committee Stage. Deputy Heydon mentioned impending birthdays but many birthdays have come and gone and many people were forced to retire in the interim since the Bill was announced. Many of these people did not wish to retire but were not given the option. Is it possible to bring forward amendments that would be retrospective to when the interim measure was announced which would provide for those who did not have the option of availing of the interim measure?

I recognise the strong interest that Deputies Cowen and Heydon have had in this matter. As this Bill was first introduced, some of the ideas first came from Deputy Moran in some meetings that I had with him well over 18 months ago.

I am not planning on changing the legislation to make it in any way retrospective. We brought in interim measures and this is a Bill that many are hoping will pass but regardless of what date it passes on, unfortunately there will be some people who could be affected either side of it.

On what we can do to address the issues that have been raised, I have looked to schedule this Bill at the earliest opportunity and on foot of the exchange that I have had here, I will talk to the Government Chief Whip and see if there will be an opportunity to schedule Committee Stage a few days earlier. If that were to happen, given the consensus there is for the passage of this Bill, that might facilitate a prompt Report Stage a few days after that and then passage of the Bill.

I thank the Minister. I support those measures and it is a sign of how good the Bill is that the only complaints the Minister is getting are around how quickly it can pass. If we can all work together on all sides of the House, there would be great merit in trying our best, as I know the Minister is, to get this passed before Christmas and to get it enacted as soon as possible.

It is not often that I deal with enthusiastic claims to get a Bill passed quickly but we are in this case because it could make a difference to the lives of many.

On the question that the Deputy put to me that I did not answer on whether there are any employees who are outside of the terms of this Bill, the answer is those who because of the physical nature of their work might not be able to continue to fulfil that work as the years pass on are affected. For example, I recollect that firemen at least are excluded from the terms of this Bill but I will provide information to the Deputy on what other employees are excluded from it.

Public Service Pay Commission

Jonathan O'Brien


67. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the further work and publications expected from the Public Service Pay Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48991/18]

Can the Minister give an update on this issue? I know that we covered it in part in the priority questions.

The Public Service Pay Commission has adopted a modular approach to its work programme for its current exercise focused on recruitment and retention issues in the public service.

As the Deputy will be aware, the first module was published by the commission in August 2018 and deals with issues relating to nursing and midwifery, non-consultant hospital doctors and hospital consultants.

The commission has not yet confirmed a timeline for completion of the further modules of its work programme which will examine recruitment and retention issues in certain other areas of the health sector, the Defence Forces and the Civil Service, building on the preliminary analysis in its 2017 report and on the various submissions it has received.

A final module in 2019 will pick up on residual areas requiring examination including senior executive positions and professional and technical posts in the Civil Service.

I thank the commission for its work to date.

We covered this under priority questions and we also mentioned new entrants and the recruitment and retention of staff. Are we looking at the end of 2019 for the final module which will look at other areas outside of the health service?

Yes, that is correct. The work is under way currently and the next module will be delivered in 2019. I know that work on that is well advanced.

Climate Change Policy

Thomas P. Broughan


68. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the funding available to Departments for tackling climate change; if his Department is receiving requests for additional expenditure in this regard; if so, the Departments and the amount, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48841/18]

The Minister of State knows about the targets we have for 2020 for carbon emissions, which we are dismally failing to reach. We have a new Minister announcing an all-of-Government action plan, which is presumably concerned with the actions that will be taken by each Department. What impact will that have on spending in 2019 and will there be supplementary budgets? We have had eight supplementary budgets already and I have a parliamentary question down on that but it is not an oral question. Will it mean additional supplementary budgets for each of the Departments so that this all-of-Government plan is covered?

I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe. He has to go to the Seanad for the Finance Bill.

Policy responsibility for tackling climate change is a matter for the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment in the first instance. However, a sustained whole-of-Government approach will be required to enable Ireland’s transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. The Minister, together with his Departments, is committed to playing his part in this transition.

The funding available to Departments is determined through the annual budgetary and Estimates process. Each Department makes proposals on a range of measures they would like to implement in the coming year and climate action measures are embedded within the proposals from those Departments covering sectors of the economy responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore a matter for those individual Departments to identify the amount which is being spent on climate action from within their own spending envelopes.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has committed, under action point 12 of the national mitigation plan, to develop proposals for identifying, monitoring and reporting of climate-related expenditure through the Exchequer. As a first step, this year’s Revised Estimates Volume, REV, will tag climate-related expenditure in a separate section of that report.

Ireland has also joined the OECD Paris collaborative on green budgeting. The Minister's objective and that of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in joining this initiative is to integrate environmental and climate outcome based reporting into our annual budgetary processes. This will be an iterative process but Ireland's participation in the Paris collaborative will lead to more transparency on the level and effectiveness of Ireland's climate expenditure.

In addition to funding made available to Departments for tackling climate change through the annual budgetary and Estimates process, the national development plan and Project Ireland 2040 also provide significant increased levels of funding for climate action related measures. Project Ireland 2040 commits a record level of investment for climate change initiatives over the next decade, with €21.8 billion specifically allocated for national strategic outcome 8 - transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society, and I understand some of that announcement will be made later in the week.

A number of the other national strategic outcomes in the national development plan are also directly relevant to delivering on our climate action goals - €14.5 billion is allocated to ensure compact smart growth and a further €8.6 billion is allocated for investment in environmentally sustainable public transport while €8.8 billion is allocated for the sustainable management of water and other environmental resources.

The senior Minister had an opportunity in the budget to deliver some type of a green budget and now we are talking about a whole-of-Government action plan for which the Minister does not seem to have any funding and if he is to get funding for it, it will have to be approved by this House. Our Parliamentary Budget Office, in one of its many excellent reports, has reported on climate change. There is grave concern that we have missed our targets in 2016 and 2017 and we will miss the target for this year. It appears we could be facing fines ranging from €65 million to €130 million per percent of the 2020 target that we miss. The Minister of State's Department has quantified this, in general, as a possible fine of €600 million, which is an astonishing figure of a fine we could face in 2020. The report, to which I referred, shows we are ranked second last among the EU nations in our mitigation plan's performance.

The Government seems to have done almost nothing by comparison with countries like Sweden and many of our other European partners to address this. The Government had an opportunity to address this in the area of transport in budget 2019 but it did not want to know about it. It has not taken any of the steps set out in regard to agriculture or aviation. The Government will be handing the new Government that will be formed following the next general election a fierce problem to address in terms of climate action.

With due respect, whether there will be a general election is not relevant to the question.

The Minister of State might not be here then.

None of us might be here so the Deputy should not pre-empt the decisions of the good people of Dublin Bay North. Regarding what the Government has done in the budget, every element of Government expenditure in every Department has come in on foot of a bilateral relationship - the Deputy might consider it unfortunate that the senior Minister is not here - and the policies are whole of government policies. There is green budgeting already incorporated into this year's budget. The Deputy need only consider the continuation of the vehicle registration tax VRT relief for hybrid cars, the decision of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to continue investing in green buses whereby the bus fleet that will be bought by the State under Project Ireland 2040 will be of a green nature, and our commitments to phasing out Moneypoint and the extraction of peat. Those are all issues that will be transformative in reducing our overall emissions of carbon dioxide.

Regarding agriculture, and I had a discussion on this with another Deputy representing an urban area over the weekend, the farming community and the agricultural sector are playing a huge part already in making Ireland far greener. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in its bilateral relationships with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in which I am the junior Minister - I know the Deputy regrets that the senior Minister is not here replying to him - have climate action mitigation measures in place.

I represent an urban constituency but I come from a rural part of Dublin and I know many of these issues going back to my childhood. The reality is that the Government had an opportunity in budget 2019 to set out what it would do. Why did we not have the whole-of-Government action plan then, with specific tasks for each Department? The Departments would then come back to the Minister with respect to those tasks and he could quantify the type of funding that would be necessary. If a cost-benefit analysis of this is done and we were to take the actions we need to take, it would be far cheaper than the European Commission asking us to pay €500 million or €600 million, an amount that would fund an extraordinary level of developments in health, housing or whatever. The Minister has a very poor record on this matter in government. I am a member of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. We need to have ex ante assessments done of what the Minister wants each Department to achieve next year. That is the reality. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, has moved into the Department with responsibility for climate action and suddenly he announced this plan but we want to see it fleshed out and to identify from where the money is coming.

The Deputy is getting very parochial all of a sudden regarding Dublin Bay North and whether we have a very poor or a very good record in government. The Taoiseach outlined this here last week. The climate action agenda is not just a Government agenda. A challenge has been laid down, even to Deputies like Deputy Broughan. How much will he charge the people per tonne of carbon? Deputy Eamon Ryan challenged the leaders of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin. I do not know whether he challenged the Deputy’s leader on how much he would charge per tonne of carbon.

We lead ourselves.

This is a whole-of-society issue in the same way as the water issue was, and we know how that wound up. There are many stories to be told about that and we will rue that day yet. However, there is a whole-----

Does the Minister of State want to bring back water charges?

The Deputy claims to know a great deal about rural Ireland. There are people in my constituency, Deputy Broughan’s constituency and Deputy Cowen’s constituency who are paying for water. We are not adverse to it at all.


I am laying down the same challenge to Deputy Broughan as the Taoiseach did. How much would he charge per tonne of carbon? Let us put his figure on the table and quantify it. Let us put the Government’s figure on the table. Let us put everybody’s figure on the table. We should take a whole-of-Government and a whole-of-society approach to this issue rather than kicking it around because the Minister responsible happens to represent Dublin Bay North.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.