Professional Qualifications

Ceisteanna (258)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

258. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on an organisation's (details supplied) endeavours to be included in updated regulations in view of the service it has provided over the years; and if he will request the Department of Health to approve these amendments. [5067/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The issue of clinical competence and recognition of practitioners is, in this instance, a matter for the Minister for Health.

My Department has no role or function in this matter.

Radioactive Waste

Ceisteanna (259)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

259. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the contact that has been made with the British Government and his views on a recent consultation in Britain with proposals that would see a part of the island of Ireland being used to dispose of nuclear waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5100/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

There are presently no plans to site a geological waste facility for radioactive or nuclear waste on the island of Ireland.   Following previous unsuccessful attempts to identify a long-term geological waste facility, the United Kingdom's Department of for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has launched a consultation paper on how to better engage and represent communities across England and Northern Ireland in any future process to consider siting a geological waste facility.  The consultation paper notes that “the process to identify and select a site for a geological disposal facility requires detailed technical work that is estimated to take around 15 to 20 years”.  The paper further points out that any future proposals on the siting of such a facility in Northern Ireland would be subject to planning decisions made by the Northern Ireland Administration. The United Kingdom-Ireland Contact Group on Radiological Matters, comprising officials from UK and Irish Government Departments and scientific Agencies responsible for ensuring radiological safety, meet biannually to discuss matters of interest to both parties, including existing and planned installations, transport of radiological materials, and long-term strategies to safely store radiological and nuclear waste. Ireland will engage on this matter through this Group and continue to monitor developments in this area.

Internal Audits

Ceisteanna (260)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

260. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department has completed an external quality assurance assessment of its internal audit function as required by the Institute of Internal Audit standards that were introduced in 2012 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5106/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) sets the requirements in relation to internal audit in the public sector. In November 2012, DPER issued Revised Internal Audit Standards for Central Government which determined that the Institute of Internal Auditors International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing (IIA Standards) would apply across all Government Departments. Under standard 1300 of the IIA Standards (Quality Assurance and Improvement Programme), Internal Audit Units are required to carry out external assessments at least once every five years. The purpose of the external assessment is to assess conformance with the IIA Standards and assessments may be accomplished either through a full external assessment or a self-assessment with independent external validation.

In July 2017, my Department's Internal Audit Unit carried out a self-assessment of their activities which concluded that the unit generally conforms to the IIA Standards. Generally conforms means that the relevant structures, policies, and procedures of the activity, as well as the processes by which they are applied, comply with the requirements of the individual Standard or element of the Code of Ethics in all material respects.

In August 2017 my Department engaged Crowe Horwath to provide the required independent external validation. The purpose of the validation was to verify the assertions made in the self-assessment concerning adequate fulfilment of the internal audit activity and its conformity to IIA Standards. In their Independent Validation Statement, Crowe Horwath concurred with the results of Internal Audit Unit’s conclusion in the self-assessment that the activity generally conforms to the IIA’s Standards.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (261, 262, 263, 264)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

261. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when fibre broadband will be rolled out at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5122/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

262. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when fibre broadband will be rolled out at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5123/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

263. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when fibre broadband will be rolled out at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5124/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

264. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when fibre broadband will be rolled out at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5125/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 to 264, inclusive, together.

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland now have access to high speed broadband.  Within a year that will rise to nearly 8 out of 10 premises and by 2020 9 out of 10 premises or 90% of premises will have access to high speed broadband.

In April I published an updated High Speed Broadband Map which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/eircode:

- The  AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP and are the subject of an ongoing procurement process. 

- The BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. 

- The Light BLUE areas represent eir's commercial rural deployment plans to roll out high speed broadband to 300,000 premises by the end of 2018 as part of an Agreement signed with me in April.

The table details percentage of premises to be covered by the State Intervention and through commercial investment in the areas identified by the Deputy.

County Name 

Townland

AMBER  Premises within the NBP Intervention Area 

BLUE  Premises within Commercial Operator’s Area

LIGHT BLUE premises planned rural deployment

Cork

Gurteenroe

17% (102)

83% (512)

 

Goranenagappul(Clondrohid)

15% (15)

85% (87)

 

Ryecourt(Cloughduv)

9% (8)

87% (79)

4% (4)

 

Coolmucky(Cloughduv)

45% (38)

55% (47)

One bidder, eir, publicly withdrew from the procurement process on 30 January, citing "commercial, regulatory and governance issues".  While this is regrettable, it is a commercial decision for eir to make.  The procurement process continues with the enet/sse consortium

The specialist NBP procurement team will continue to engage intensively with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the earliest possible achievement of the Government’s objective of providing reliable high quality, high speed broadband to all premises in Ireland.  When the procurement process reaches a satisfactory conclusion for Government, a contract will be awarded and the network roll-out will commence.

The NBP procurement process is supported by a Steering Group and Procurement Board, both of which include highly respected international experts with extensive relevant experience and by a specialist procurement team of over 80 people with comprehensive financial, funding, technical and procurement expertise and experience. With a single bidder focus there are opportunities for reducing the timeline for the procurement process to progress to a conclusion, which is good news for citizens waiting for high speed broadband. 

Delivering high speed broadband to citizens across Ireland remains a firm commitment of mine and this Government. In April 2017, I signed a Commitment Agreement with eir in relation to its plans to provide High speed broadband to 300,000 premises in rural areas on a commercial basis. eir has reconfirmed its committed to completing the roll out by the end of 2018.  Information on eir's planned rural deployment is available at http://fibrerollout.ie/eircode-lookup/. A copy of the Commitment Agreement is available on my Department’s website www.dccae.gov.ie. Quarterly updates on eir's rural deployment are published on this website. Although deployment figures for Q4 2017 have not yet been verified by my Department’s teams, I understand eir has passed over 120,000 of the committed premises to date.

Prior to the roll-out of the NBP State led intervention, practical initiatives continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities.  The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure. There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website.

Communications Market Regulation

Ceisteanna (265)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

265. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on providing the Commission for Communications Regulation with enhanced powers to address compliance issues across the industry to allow for more direct intervention; his further views on the nature of such powers; his views on whether the proposed Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill is an appropriate method for their introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5126/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), established pursuant to the provisions of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 (as amended) is the statutory independent regulator of the electronic communications and postal markets.  In addition, ComReg is empowered to investigate suspected breaches of competition law in respect of electronic communications and related services. The proposed Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill will confer certain additional powers on the Commission for Communications Regulation in connection with the National Broadband Plan.

My officials and I engage with ComReg on a regular basis, on a wide variety of regulatory matters. Among the issues discussed with ComReg is that of enhanced enforcement powers, and we will be continuing that engagement in light of developments at national and EU level. The most appropriate mechanism to implement any required changes will be explored at that point.

Communications Market Regulation

Ceisteanna (266)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

266. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on wholesale market competition and the necessity to create the environment and appropriate structures to drive this further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5127/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The provision of electronic telecommunications services by private operators, including wholesale services, occurs within a fully liberalised market.  Decisions by those operators with regard to all matters pertaining to the delivery of the service, including wholesale mobile services, are a matter for the service provider concerned. The regulation of the telecommunications market and the companies operating within it, to the extent permitted by law, is a statutory function of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in accordance with the Communications Regulation Act 2002.

ComReg is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions and is directly accountable for the performance of its functions to the Oireachtas.

Energy Prices

Ceisteanna (267)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

267. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the action he is taking to address the problem of higher utility charges for persons with pre-pay meters and the lack of competition for this market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5129/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Electricity and gas markets in Ireland are commercial and liberalised, and operate within national and European regulatory regimes, supported by legislation. Government has no statutory function in the regulation of energy markets or the setting of gas or electricity prices. The position of successive Governments has been that competitive energy markets result in greater choice for consumers and businesses, in terms of suppliers, products and prices. Competition drives down consumer prices. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is solely a matter for the independent regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which was assigned responsibility for the regulation of the Irish electricity market following the enactment of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 and subsequent legislation. The CRU licences the supply of electricity under section 14 (1) of the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999, and it has licensed a number of suppliers, which offer a range of electricity services, including, in the case of several firms, prepay meters.

The CRU ceased regulating electricity retail prices in April 2011 and gas prices in 2014, and prices are set on a commercial and operational basis by all suppliers, including those providing prepay meters.  The CRU monitors retail energy markets to ensure that competition continues to develop. It also oversees non-price aspects of competition and has taken steps to facilitate market access for new supplier firm entrants and to increase transparency and consumer engagement in retail markets. The CRU is accountable for the performance of its functions, including the monitoring of retail market competition, to a committee of the Oireachtas, and not to Government.

Waste Management Regulations

Ceisteanna (268)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

268. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the establishment of a regulator for the waste industry. [5231/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I have established a Household Waste Collection Price Monitoring Group (PMG) to monitor the rates charged by household waste collectors and to date the PMG has met on five separate occasions: 13 September, 11 October, 14 November, 12 December and 9 January 2018 and considered four months of pricing data trends. Statements by the PMG have been released on a monthly basis since November 2017 and are available on my Department's website as are details of the role and membership of the group as well as the market analysis of the cost of household waste collection carried out by the group in December, 2017.  In addition, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is conducting a study on the operation of the household waste collection market. The CCPC has indicated that it hopes to finalise the study in 2018.  

The results from the PMG will be monitored and analysed and in conjunction with the study being undertaken by the CCPC will provide an evidence base regarding the future monitoring or the potential need for additional regulation of the waste market.

Apprenticeship Data

Ceisteanna (269)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

269. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of persons enrolled in apprenticeships in his Department and State agencies under his remit, by gender, in tabular form; and if he will list each such apprenticeship. [5252/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

There are no persons enrolled in apprenticeships in my Department.

The information requested regarding the agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for each Agency. I will request the relevant bodies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisation.