I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 to 41, inclusive, 45, 47 and 48 together.
The Deputies will be aware that I met with representatives of the IRHA last February and that a working group was set up involving officials of my Department and the Revenue Commissioners, the IRHA and members of the Oireachtas to examine a number of issues of concern to the haulage industry. I am sure the Deputies will understand that I cannot pre-empt the outcome of those discussions which are ongoing.
Among the issues being examined by the group is an essential user's rebate system. I should point out that a system such as that sought by the IRHA, could not under EU law be restricted to Irish licensed hauliers but would have to be extended to all vehicles intended exclusively for the carriage of goods by road with a maximum permissible gross laden weight of not less than 7.5 tonnes. In addition, the rebate would have to include the carriage of passengers by a motor vehicle of category M2 or category M3 as defined in Council Directive 70/156/EEC. Under Council Directive 2003/96/EC, any such rebate would have to be within the confines of the minimum EU excise rates so a 20c rebate as suggested by Deputy Doherty would not be possible. The maximum rebate possible would be in the order of 15c.
Given the wide range of users to which a rebate might be available, it would be difficult to cost such a rebate system. On the matter of fuel consumption lost to the continent, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they do not have such data.
On the matter of fuel prices in general, the excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 58.8 cent per litre of petrol and 47.9 cent per litre of auto-diesel. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK.
Any proposals around temporary taxation adjustments could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was discussed by EU Finance Ministers at an ECOFIN meeting last year where they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.