Commencement Matters

Nursing Staff

I thank the Minister for attending to address my concerns about the Institute of Community Health Nursing. One thing of which we can be sure is that all of us wish to be healthy, live long and have a family with few medical concerns, but at one stage or another everyone here will use the health service, in some cases in an emergency and in others for longer term care. Therefore, we must develop, protect and care for health services, something at which we are failing miserably. Despite the economies that have been forced on us, we can be proud of the nurses and doctors who serve us so well. Their loyalty to us and their care should be mirrored by ours for them. The foundations of effective and economic care lie outside the walls of the high-tech hospitals and in the communities. Countless international studies by bodies such as the World Health Organization show that the highest quality and most equitable systems are based on the primary health care model, that is, the care we receive where we live.

My bias is not based on my profession as a GP in rural Ireland but on fact. Family doctors and public health and community nurses have a pivotal role to play. Every day they serve young mothers and their babies and care for the elderly who cannot be as independent as they once were. They are a resource, of which we can be proud and which we should nurture because they are our eyes in communities. For years they have been involved in the early detection of vulnerability and identifying problems such as neglect, child and elder abuse, post-natal depression and the risk of suicide. Community health nurses are generalists. The community is their client and their caseloads include people of every age group across the health-illness spectrum, including mothers and babies, schoolchildren and older people, as well as those with intellectual, mental and physical disabilities. They also provide care for and support those in need of palliative care, as well as their families. They work from local health centres or primary care centres and provide a range of services free of charge, including child health and school visits, visits to care for older people and provide care on discharge from hospital. They provide home and clinical care for adults who have a nursing need and hold a medical card. They co-ordinate respite care support services for carers and assess the need for special equipment. They knock on 10,000 doors every day, delivering services discreetly and effectively in a timely fashion.

Community nurses are supported by the Institute of Community Health Nursing, a small yet vibrant body, the funding of which is far from adequate. In fact, it is abysmal. The organisation seeks the development of the profession in order to research what is done in order that it may be done better and to be an advocate for those who often cannot make their own voices heard. The ICHN is severely struggling to keep services running with the limited number of public health nurses available.

We are all aware that the population is ageing and the Government and the HSE are using this as a justification and reasoning when explaining the crippled emergency department crisis. The chronic ailments afflicting people can and should be addressed by public health nurses in the comfort of their own homes which afford them security and dignity. The waiting lists for older people to receive day care services and families to receive a respite care service when they need a break are a continual frustration and bottleneck in the system.

The key word and a solution is integration in the health system, with social services, hospitals, general practitioners and public health and community nurses working together, preferably through partnership arrangements, for the betterment of the health of the country. The problems we see in secondary care services will never be rectified until primary and community care services are adequately resourced.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter in the Seanad and the opportunity it gives me to outline my views on public health nurses and primary care services. I fully agree with the Senator who has been a strong advocate for primary care services for many years that if we are serious about breaking what is now an annual vicious cycle of overcrowding in emergency departments in acute hospitals, we must look at providing more services in the community and finally making real the phrase a decisive shift to primary care services. This has a number of elements, including the new GP contract and looking at the role of practice nurses. I absolutely believe the role of public health nurses is another element.

The Institute of Community Health Nursing, ICHN, was established in 1985. As the Senator knows, it is a professional and educational body representing community nursing in the Republic of Ireland. The ICHN has a history of supporting community nursing services through education, development and research and its professional development and collegial networks. Through its global and international networking forums and conferences, the ICHN demonstrates the impact of community nurses in practice. I am happy to state the Department of Health has supported the work of the ICHN through regular engagements on matters of mutual interest, attendance at annual conferences and contributions to publications. There is ongoing engagement with the chief nurse's office in the Department and the ICHN, as well as other units in the Department of Health.

I assure the Senator that I absolutely recognise the importance of recruiting and retaining nurses in the public health service. The programme for Government includes a commitment to expand the public health nursing service, which demonstrates how we value these services. There are 1,745 public health nurses, of whom 1,498 are whole-time equivalents, in the health service. This year 108 student public health nurses are in training. I am pleased to inform the Senator that a needs analysis is under way in the office of the nursing and midwifery directorate in the HSE to determine how many training places will be required this autumn. It is very important that we get this analysis and data correct. HSE management is committed to implementing a range of initiatives that will support future recruitment and retention.

In recent years Ireland has made significant achievements in key outcomes related to the health and well-being of the population, be it with reference to cancer, chronic disease management, cardiac care and life expectancy. However, challenges still persist, especially in accessibility to timely and appropriate health care and the growth in the number of people reaching older age, as the Senator mentioned. All of these indicators point to the growing need for an enhanced role at community level health care that best meets the health needs of patients in the home or as close to home as possible. It must also mean new roles and structures being developed for community nurses and midwives. These will build on the new community health care structures already in place. With this in mind, new policies being led by the Department will recommend the development of integrated acute and community nursing and midwifery practice to enhance patients' access to appropriate health care services. As we develop these policies throughout the year, I will keep in touch with the Senator.

The shift in providing health care from a focus on hospital to primary and community care will play a real part in achieving the integrated care for patients for which the Senator advocates. The ICHN should continue to play a pivotal role in contributing to the development of these new policies and in supporting these professionals in education, development, research and networking through their professional development and networks.

On funding arrangements for the ICHN, the HSE has informed me it has provided funding for the institute in recent years. On foot of this debate, I have asked the HSE to provide the Senator and me with a report on the funding requirements and funding provided for the ICHN. I will revert to the Senator when I receive it.

I thank the Minister for his response. It is welcome that there may be a review of funding for the organisation which does invaluable work. It receives a very small amount of money for the work it does. I thank the Minister for coming to the House to explain it.

EU Bodies

I thank the Cathaoirleach for accepting this Commencement matter and the Minister for coming into the House to take it. I have raised it previously and had a discussion with the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, about it. I will not repeat the speech I made a number of months ago. I have tabled the matter to receive an update from the Minister. I know that the matter was raised yesterday on the Order of Business by Senators Colm Burke and Frank Feighan.

I would like feedback on the Minister's trip to London. I hope it was a success. What are the concerns the European Union may raise? An issue I would like the Minister to address is that at a meeting I had with a Commissioner prior to Christmas in Brussels, he stated no official application had been received from the Irish Government. Will the Minister give us an update on whether an application has been submitted and what is its make-up? What is the big pitch the Government is making to bring the European Medicines Agency to Ireland?

A number of difficulties were identified in independent reports the previous time I spoke in terms of accommodation and education facilities. They have moved on and we have seen the Government's Rebuilding Ireland strategy. I am confident, as I hope the Minister is, that it could address any concern about accommodation needs for the potential 900 employees who could move to Ireland. Concern about the lack of education facilities was also cited. Three schools in Dublin provide the international baccalaureate at various levels. A planning application was made in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to build a large international school in Leopardstown for up to 800 pupils. It would cover the full range of four to 18 year olds. The changes are happening rapidly in Dublin and throughout Ireland and will have a huge impact on any possible application.

I appreciate the Minister coming to the House and would appreciate any update he could give.

I thank the Senator for raising the matter again. I also thank him for highlighting from an early stage in the House and in every possible forum his view that Ireland would be an ideal location for the European Medicines Agency. I have had a number of conversations with him about the issue and I am very grateful to him for his support for the Government's bid on behalf of Ireland to host the European Medicines Agency in Dublin.

The European Medicines Agency plays a very important role in the protection and promotion of public health through the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines for human and veterinary use in the European Union. As a consequence of Brexit, a decision will have to be made on a new location for the European Medicines Agency. In view of its important public health remit, it is absolutely essential the relocation be managed in a way that will ensure minimal impact on the vital work of the agency during the transition period and beyond. I cannot stress this point enough. While there is, rightly, a debate on the location, as a Minister for Health in the European Union, I strongly believe it is so important there be certainty as quickly as possible on the location and the overriding criterion must be minimising disruption of the vital work in the interests of patients in this country and throughout the European Union. The Government believes the decision should be made quickly once Article 50 is triggered and that it will be important to arrive at a solution that will maximise the retention of existing staff.

On 25 October 2016 the Government agreed to my request that Dublin should seek to be the new location of the European Medicines Agency. The Government also approved the establishment of an interdepartmental and interagency working group, chaired at senior level by the Department of Health, to prepare a bid to support relocation of the agency to Dublin. The group consists of representatives from the Departments of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as the Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA, IDA Ireland, the Health Research Board, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland. The group will shortly undertake a consultation process with wider stakeholders, including importantly, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, business and patients.

Work on a bid for Dublin is well advanced. The group has identified a number of factors which would make Dublin the suitable, ideal and best location. They include the use of the English language, a city and country which are safe, stable pro-EU environments, proximity to London in order that staff could either move or commute here and proximity to the Irish medicines regulator, the HPRA. There is also the strong record the country has in regulating medicines to an exemplary standard.

The country's growing economy means that the spouses of EMA staff would have strong employment opportunities here. There is excellent air connectivity with other EU capitals and internationally. There is a strong pharmaceutical and life sciences sector in Dublin. We have a depth and density of talent when it comes to available people. I met the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, in October 2016 to discuss Dublin’s suitability in the context of relocation of the European Medicines Agency. Following the meeting, I wrote to him to set out formally some of the reasons Dublin would be a suitable location. As the Senator mentioned, I travelled to the headquarters of the European Medicines Agency on Canary Wharf in London on Monday of this week to meet its executive director, Professor Guido Rasi. While the contents of the meeting are confidential, I can tell the House that it was a very useful information-sharing exercise. I had an opportunity to outline what Ireland was considering and explain why we believed Ireland would be a good location. I heard from the European Medicines Agency about its preparedness for relocation.

The crucial point is that disruption must be minimised because of the vital nature of the European Medicines Agency's work. There has been a wide range of informal contacts on this issue with individuals at home and abroad. I will visit Brussels on 6 February for a further meeting with the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety and a number of other representatives of the Commission, including Commissioner Hogan, a number of Irish MEPs, Irish diplomatic representatives in Brussels, and stakeholders and business people representing Irish interests. Work will continue in the coming weeks and months to prepare the country's bid to have the EMA relocated to Dublin. Officials will use every possible opportunity to present the case for Dublin at home and abroad. With my team, I had an opportunity last night to brief the Taoiseach on the matter. I am delighted that he is fully supportive of the bid. I look forward to his continued support as we work on it in the coming weeks. The relocation of the European Medicines Agency to this city would be good for Ireland and Dublin. Most importantly from an EU perspective, it would be good for the workings of the European Medicines Agency. I will certainly keep the Senator and the other Members of the House up to date as the bid progresses.

Senator Neale Richmond must be pleased with that informative answer.

I am enthused and ecstatic and very grateful to the Minister. Anyone who has ever worked in sales knows the importance of a strong pitch and a strong bid. I could mention many positive factors in recommending Ireland as a location, but the Minister has covered them well. I have a supplementary question about the actual formal process of application. Are we at that stage? When will we submit the official bid? I appreciate that meetings have been and will be held. This is a good and formal process. The Minister can be assured that I will continue to contribute whatever little support I can in the context of my activity within the European People's Party. When will the actual application be submitted and when will we learn the outcome? What can civic society and the private sector in Ireland do to contribute to the bid process?

The Senator is right. We need everybody - Government personnel, officials of State agencies, diplomatic representatives and MEPs, regardless of their party affiliation - to get behind this great national challenge. It is in the interests of Ireland, Europe and certainly patient safety. We have a great track record. Ireland has an ability to be a wonderful home for the European Medicines Agency.

I had meant to refer to the international school. I thank the Senator for pointing out that a number of schools in this city already provide the international curriculum. While I do not wish to get involved in planning matters, the development of a further international school, wherever it may be located, would be in the interests of Ireland as a modern European country and Dublin as an inclusive international capital city.

The Senator also asked about the process to be used in the relocation of the European Medicines Agency. The formal process in this regard and in dealing with many other Brexit issues will not commence until the Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May, triggers Article 50. It has already been outlined by Mr. Michel Barnier and a number of others that four baskets of issues need to be considered in the context of Brexit. The relocation of the two European agencies based in the United Kingdom - the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency - is included in one of the baskets. While the decision will be taken by Heads of State and Government at European Council level, I expect the European Commission to set out criteria. While the profession of politics in which we are all involved is very important, it is also very important that this decision be health-led and result in the European Medicines Agency being relocated in such a way as to minimise disruption, best retain staff, enable the agency to get on with its job and provide certainty as quickly as possible. I hope the European Commission will provide criteria and guidance for the Council to consider. As far as I know, work is under way in the Commission with a view to being able to inform the Council at the appropriate time after Article 50 has been triggered.

I welcome my colleague from west Cork, Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, and her guests to the Visitors Gallery. I hope they will have an enjoyable visit to the Oireachtas.

Drug and Alcohol Task Forces

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy.

I welcome the Minister of State and thank her for coming to the House to address the lack of a co-ordinator post within the south inner city local drug and alcohol task force. I hope she has good news for me in order that the issue can be resolved today to the benefit of the community.

The staff of the task force had intended to be present for this debate, but they were unable to come because of the pressure they were under. I hope I will be passing on the good news to them immediately after the debate.

Two years ago, following the retirement of the long-serving co-ordinator of the south inner city local drug and alcohol task force, the co-ordinator post was removed without notice by the HSE. It should be noted that the co-ordinator post was filled by the sole staff member of the project. This unfair and apparently deceptive action has had a detrimental effect on the needs of the local community. The continuing failure of the authorities to provide an explanation, reason or rationale for this decision makes it all the worse.

For the past 24 months volunteers have been attempting to administer and co-ordinate the task force on a part-time basis. They have staggered and stepped. They have put in extra hours and many of their own resources, but the lack of the post has not been addressed. I applaud them for their work, in the absence of which the entire task force would have been stood down by this point. When some of the people concerned met one of the Minister of State's colleagues in September 2016, they were led to believe steps would be taken to recruit a co-ordinator within a reasonable timeframe, but that has not happened. I need the Minister of State to clarify a number of points. Why was the post removed in the first place? Who made the decision? Will the Minister of State outline the steps that have been taken since the meeting with the group in September last year to ensure the co-ordinator post will be reinstated? Will she confirm that the post will be reinstated? What timeframe can we expect for the recruitment of a co-ordinator?

Some funding was provided on a piecemeal basis for the task force to support the work it was doing. This was like putting a Band-Aid over the gaping wound in the area. This money was stripped from other front-line services which cannot afford to lose any more money, having previously lost money which had been ring-fenced for various projects. Other task forces in the area have had extra staff supplied to them recently. I am not trying to act in a tit-for-tat manner when I mention that task forces which already had staff were given extra staff, while staff were removed from the south inner city local drug and alcohol task force. The addition of alcohol to the ambit of the drugs task forces some years ago placed an even more significant onus on one person whose job has been taken away. I appeal to the Minister of State who is responsible for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to reconsider this aspect of the matter in the context of that legislation. This has become an onerous job since responsibility for alcohol issues was merged with the work of the drugs task forces.

I am concerned that there is no one to lead the promotion of health, well-being, diversion, improvement and rehabilitation from the scourge of drugs and alcohol in communities. Will the Minister of State explain why the post of co-ordinator of this service which is based in Ballyfermot was removed without notice? Will she reassure me, the staff and the clients of the service that the post will be reinstated? I would like the issue to be addressed comprehensively because it is having a direct effect on my constituency and that of the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, Dublin South-Central. I ask the Minister of State to outline her plan to resolve the matter. I am aware of her grá for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, as I mentioned. All of this ties in for the well-being of the country, especially communities that have been devastated by alcohol and drug issues.

I thank the Senator for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity to update the Seanad on the current position on the post of co-ordinator of the south inner city local drug and alcohol task force. The Minister of State with responsibility for this area, Deputy Catherine Byrne, asked me to convey her apologies as she is unavoidably detained elsewhere.

I emphasise the Government's commitment and ongoing support, in line with the national drugs strategy, for initiatives to tackle the drug problem. Reflecting the Government's commitment to addressing the drugs and alcohol issue, an additional €3 million in funding has been allocated to the Health Service Executive this year for addiction services. The increased budget includes funding for a pilot supervised injection facility, more detoxification places and improved access to treatment services for those aged under 18 years.

I am very aware of the key role drug and alcohol task forces play in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem in their areas. Task forces are also key players in co-ordinating action at local level to ensure there is a targeted response to the problem of substance misuse in local communities. Drug and alcohol task force co-ordinators are, in the main, employed by the Health Service Executive.

On the specific issues raised by the Senator, I am advised by the HSE that the co-ordinator post for the south inner city local drug and alcohol task force has not been suppressed. I understand funding was made available by the HSE to fill this post on a three days per week basis from June to December 2016 and that, since January 2017, funding has been made available by the HSE for the post to be filled on a five days per week basis. I am pleased to learn that HSE addiction services has agreed to provide funding via a section 39 grant aid agreement on an ongoing basis for the south inner city local drug and alcohol task force to maintain this post. This funding will be paid to a voluntary organisation in the south inner city which has a hosting arrangement with the south inner city local task force. The HSE has informed me that it intends to review this arrangement on a regular basis in line with the conditions of funding. I hope this information will be welcome news to the Senator and others.

The Government is committed to putting in place a new national drugs strategy this year to provide leadership and a renewed response to address the drug problem. It is expected that the new strategy will build on the harm reducing approach of previous policies. The process of developing a new strategy has involved a wide-ranging national debate on our approach to the drug and alcohol problem, with more than 2,000 public submissions received on the issue.

The Senator also asked a number of specific questions which only the Health Service Executive is in a position to answer. I will ensure they are conveyed to the HSE when I return to my office and ensure it reverts to the Senator with responses. However, I expect the task force to have liaised with the HSE and have some understanding of the reason the decision was made. If that is not the case, I will ensure the Senator is given a response.

I thank the Minister of State for what appears to be good news, although my naivety has been bashed out of me a little by the nuances of the responses provided by politicians. The staff of the south inner city local drug and alcohol task force were not aware of the information the Minister of State has provided and believed the position in question had been suppressed or ignored. While they were reluctant to publicise the issue, they could no longer continue to struggle to cover this crucial area without staffing. I am pleased that funding has been found for a full-time post, although I am not sure the task force staff are aware that funding had been provided for a three days per week position. I would like to find out which voluntary organisation in the south inner city has the hosting arrangement to which the Minister of State referred. If she is unable to provide an answer, I will find out the information.

I congratulate and support the Minister of State on her stance on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which I acknowledge does not have much to do with the matter I raise. Nevertheless, the Bill addresses the well-being of citizens and I assure the Minister that it has my and Sinn Féin's full support.

While the Senator has strayed slightly ultra vires, I will allow her compliment.

Road Projects Status

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí a alma mater.

The matter I raise is the western relief road to Carrigaline, a town the population of which has grown by an astonishing amount in recent decades. Carrigaline which sits on the southern side of Cork city has been one of the five largest growth areas in the State in the past ten years, recording population growth of more than 20,000 in that period. Unfortunately, this growth has not been matched by infrastructural development. While recent investment in schools has been greatly appreciated, one of the key issues facing residents is core infrastructure, specifically the road network serving the town.

Carrigaline lacks a western relief road to take pressure off the town's main street which is used by up to 18,000 vehicles daily. The lack of a second main street or western relief road has a major impact on the quality of life of its residents. Plans for a relief road were drawn up as the town developed. More than 15 years ago the relief road proposal was included in the county development plan and Part 8 planning permission was secured for the project some years ago. The design process has been completed and the project is now shovel-ready. All that is lacking is the money to ensure the project will proceed. The cost of the project has been estimated at between €6 million and €8 million. I acknowledge that an infrastructure fund is in place in Cork and that Cork County Council has applied to it for funding. However, we need to secure support from the Minister and his Department to press ahead with this key project.

A new relief road would change how Carrigaline functions. In terms of the spatial strategy, we have seen the overheating of Dublin and, in many ways, Carrigaline is overheating as a result of substantial population growth. We need to follow up on this growth by providing infrastructure. It is not feasible to have between 15,000 and 18,000 cars using one main street every day. All of the traffic modelling has been done and we know what the solution is. The planning process has concluded and we now need cash to ensure this infrastructure can be provided to enable the town to develop.

The county development plan contains significant plans to develop Carrigaline. One development at Shannon Park could provide more than 1,200 houses. This is on a scale seen primarily in Dublin. Key road infrastructure is needed because the construction of another 1,200 houses in the next five or six years without the construction of the relief road would, unfortunately, result in chaos. We must avoid such a scenario. I hope we can get the ball rolling and press ahead with the relief road because Carrigaline needs infrastructure.

I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to address this matter which is a priority for him and others in the region. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, including the western relief road in Carrigaline, are statutory functions of the local authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of projects to be funded from these moneys is a matter for each local authority.

Ireland has a particularly extensive road network, at approximately 99,000 km, and the maintenance and improvement of national, regional and local roads place a substantial financial burden on local authorities and the Exchequer. Given the cutbacks in State funding for regional and local roads during the recession, it was necessary to curtail the grants programme for major new regional and local road schemes and major realignment schemes to protect the funding available for the maintenance of the existing network.

Analysis undertaken by the Department of the strategic framework for investment in land transport published in 2015 estimated, on a conservative basis, that expenditure of €580 million per annum was needed to keep the regional and local road network in steady condition. To avoid deterioration in the condition of the regional and local road network each year, 5% of the network needs to be strengthened and 5% needs to be sealed by way of surface dressing works. For the past few years only half of the required road pavement works have been undertaken on the regional and local road network. These are the difficulties we face in addressing this issue which I acknowledge is a source of huge concern for the Senator. The background is very bad, but I am sure the Senator will be aware that the position is improving and will improve further in the years ahead, particularly in 2019 and 2020, and in the context of the mid-term review which is due to commence soon.

Decisions on the transport elements of the capital plan 2016-21 were framed by the conclusions reached in the strategic investment framework for land transport. Based on the findings of the report, it is envisaged that maintenance and renewal of the road network will continue to be the main priority in the medium term. The bulk of the roads capital budget, approximately €4.4 billion, is earmarked for essential work, with a further €600 million allocated for implementation of the PPP road network, which is under way. My Department must work within the annual allocation set out in the plan. In that context, the capital plan provides for a gradual build-up in capital funding from a relatively low base to the levels needed to support maintenance and improvement works. While there will be an almost 9% increase in overall funding in this area in 2017, it will take some years to restore steady State funding levels for land transport. The focus will have to continue to be on maintenance and renewal of infrastructure.

Under the strategic grants scheme programme, my Department provided grant assistance for Cork County Council for the acquisition of land for the Carrigaline western relief road. As mentioned by the Senator, there is no grant commitment in place for the construction of the road. In that context, it was not possible to include a range of road upgrade projects in the capital plan, given the overall funding envelope available. On the possibility of additional funding within the plan period, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is commencing the capital plan review. While there is a strong case for additional funding for the transport sector, the parameters for the review and the final decisions on allocations are matters for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Government as a whole. I continue to emphasise to the local authorities the importance of prioritising expenditure on roads when allocating their resources.

I thank the Minister for his response and honesty in what is set out therein. Realistically, funding for this road project is not a priority under any plan. However, it needs to be progressed. The mid-term review of the capital plan will be very important not only in relation to this key piece of infrastructure but also to other pieces of core infrastructure throughout the country. In terms of Brexit, taking into account the fact that Dublin could over-heat, we need to ensure the regions have proper infrastructure to allow them to develop. I hope the project will be re-examined in the context of the mid-term review of the capital plan. The knock-on effect on the regions of the inclusion of this and other core projects included in the capital plan would be positive.

I again thank the Minister for his response on the issue which I propose to raise again with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

I thank the Senator for his contribution. He has made a very strong case which I will take into consideration. I will bear in mind the representations he has made in the context of the mid-term review of the capital plan.

Sitting suspended at 11.15 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.