There have been few new Brexit related developments since yesterday and the House will have a chance to discuss the current situation later on today. Last year the Government promised that one of the key responses to Brexit would be Project Ireland 2040 and the capital plans associated with that document. However, yesterday amid all the drama, the Minister for Finance attended a meeting of the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight and revealed that it would be necessary to change many of the key capital plans in terms of both start dates and possibly their scale, owing to rising costs and labour shortages. He spoke specifically about the lack of skilled workers in construction and mentioned electrical engineers in particular. He spoke about the challenge of capital projects across Europe and the competition for labour and contractors. He told the committee that as we move through 2019, this will have to be a factor in capital project decisions that are made and that because we are seeing higher tender prices than expected, this is having an impact on the public budget. He then outlined a review process.
At the same time yesterday, the chairman and project director of the new children's hospital were attending a meeting of the Joint Committee on Health, outlining the disaster that is the management of that particular project. The new hospital was originally meant to cost €650 million but it may now cost €2 billion, if not more. What was very clear yesterday, as was pointed out by my colleague, Deputy Donnelly, is that those in charge of the project do not understand the costs or where this will end up. The chairman and the director were unable to outline the premium or the extra costs for building the hospital on the confirmed site. We are now looking at a potential overrun of between €1 billion and €1.5 billion. That money has to come from other capital projects, placing additional pressure on capital budgets, particularly within health.
We were told that Project Ireland 2040 was the great panacea for all of our ills but it has turned out to be built on a hill of beans. How did the Government allow this happen? Why did the Minister for Health fall asleep at the wheel while costs went catastrophically out of control? What other key projects in the capital plan are under threat and what launch dates are under threat because of cost overruns? By how much is the national broadband plan currently overrunning, for example? Will key projects such as Dublin metro run to schedule? When will the review announced by the Minister for Finance yesterday be completed? Will it be published with the same fanfare as Project Ireland 2040? I doubt it.