Fiscal Policy

Ceisteanna (59)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

59. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on deposit and withdrawal mechanisms if the Government proceeds to establish a rainy day fund. [9137/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy will recall, on 31 January last I appeared before the Oireachtas Budgetary Oversight Committee to discuss the proposal to establish a Rainy Day Fund.

That engagement was part of the consultation between my Department and the Oireachtas, following the publication of my Department’s Rainy Day Fund consultation paper along with Budget 2018 last October. At the hearing on 31 January, I outlined the rationale for establishing the Rainy Day Fund, the key design concepts in terms of size, deposits, withdrawals and replenishment; and considerations regarding issues such as the State’s debt levels and the EU’s fiscal rules.

I both welcome and appreciate the views of Oireachtas members and I am now considering those views, as well as those shared via submissions, including those from the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and Fianna Fáil.

Separate to this, I now also await the report of the Budgetary Oversight Committee which, as the Deputy will note, is due over the coming weeks, as indicated by the Chair during the session.

It is my intention, in the context of all of these views and submissions, to progress the Rainy Day Fund proposal in terms of the key design and operational concepts, and to progress the enabling legislation for the Rainy Day Fund’s establishment. The legislation will set out the proposed deposit and withdrawal mechanisms taking account of all these views and submissions.

Sale of State Assets

Ceisteanna (60)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

60. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his views on the approach to the sale of State assets in the commercial banks; and the purposes for which disposal of State shares will be earmarked. [9138/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy will be aware, the State currently owns c. 71% of the shares in AIB, 14% of the shares in Bank of Ireland, and c. 75% of the shares in Permanent TSB. Following the IPO of AIB last year all three of our bank investments are now listed on the main markets of the Irish and London stock exchanges, providing improved liquidity and marketability for the State's shares.

Officials in my Department continue to monitor the performance of the banks, their share prices and equity markets more generally to determine the next sensible opportunity to realise value from our investments. It is important to point out that exiting our investments in a measured way that will optimise value for our citizens, will take a number of years, but I do not propose to set out a rigid timeline for disposal. To do so would potentially impact the value we can achieve. However as I have said before I believe that over the medium term we will recoup all of the money that we invested in these banks during the financial crisis.

In order to proceed with another sale of bank shares, I would need to be satisfied that the market was prepared to put a fair and reasonable value on the bank's equity, bearing in mind its current performance, future prospects and the outlook for the economy, and I would do so on the advice of officials in my Department. It should be noted that the 'Programme for a Partnership Government' places limits on the sale of shares before the end of 2018.

Revenue Commissioners Data

Ceisteanna (61)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

61. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the size and key breakdown elements of outstanding tax owed by commercial entities and the farming sector to the Revenue Commissioners at the end of each of the years 2013 to 2017. [9139/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the data requested by the Deputy cannot be compiled in the time available. I will write to the Deputy directly in the matter when the available data is provided to me by Revenue. The table sets out the overall tax debt for each of the years 2013 – 2016, as published by Revenue, in its annual report for each of those years.

YEAR

Total Debt

Debt available for collection

2013

€1.84bn

€1.01bn

2014

€1.695bn

€907m

2015

€1.812bn

€823m

2016

€1.94bn

€755m

European Central Bank

Ceisteanna (62)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

62. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the reason no public competition was held to identify a person for nomination to a possible position on the executive board of the European Central Bank. [9140/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As Minister for Finance, I nominated the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Professor Philip Lane, earlier this month for the position of Vice-President of the European Central Bank.  This was on the basis that Professor Lane is an exceptionally well-qualified candidate who would make an ideal person to serve on the Executive Board of the European Central Bank.     

Central Bank of Ireland Staff

Ceisteanna (63)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

63. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the way in which vacancies for the positions of governor, deputy governor and executive directors of the Central Bank are filled; and the reason public competitions are not held for all these positions in view of the crucial role of the bank in monetary policy. [9141/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I wish to clarify for the Deputy that where vacancies in the positions of deputy governors and directors of the Central Bank of Ireland arise, open competitions are the usual method of filling the vacancies. The current Governor was also appointed by open competition.

The legislative background for filling vacancies for the positions of governor, deputy governors and directors of the Central Bank of Ireland is set out below.

(i) Governor

Section 19 of the Central Bank Act 1942 provides that the Governor shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Government. 

The current Governor was appointed after an open call for expressions of interest in tandem with the hiring of specialist international Executive Search services, the rationale behind the dual process being to ensure as open a competition as possible.

(ii) Deputy Governor

In a legislative context, the Central Bank’s Deputy Governors are referenced as “Heads of Function” (Section 23 of the Central Bank Act 1942 provides that a reference to the Heads of Function is a reference to the Head of Central Banking and the Head of Financial Regulation). Section 23B of the Central Bank Act 1942 further provides:

(1) The Commission shall, with the consent of the Minister, appoint suitably qualified persons as Heads of Function.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), an appointment as a Head of Function shall be made by open competition.

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply to the appointment of a Head of Function if the Commission, with the consent of the Minister, decides that appointment to the office by open competition would be inappropriate.

“The Commission” in this Section 23B refers to the Central Bank Commission while “the Minister” refers to the Minister for Finance.  The Head of Central Banking and the Head of Financial Regulation are known as the Deputy Governor – Central Banking and the Deputy Governor – Prudential Regulation respectively.

(iii) Director

The role of director within the Central Bank of Ireland is not a statutory role and has no legislative basis.  A director within the Central Bank does not sit on the Central Bank Commission. Section 6D of the Central Bank Act 1942 addresses the appointment of staff within the Central Bank generally (including directors).  This section provides that an appointment must be made by competition to be conducted in accordance with rules made by the Commission but this provision does not apply in circumstances where the Commission decides that appointment to the position by competition would be inappropriate.

Based on the foregoing, vacancies at Deputy Governor and Executive Director level are generally filled by open competition advertised for a 2-3 week duration through national and, on occasion, international media.  Applicants are then shortlisted into the selection process which is as follows:

- 1st round interview – generally a technical and competency based interview;

- Assessment Centre – conducted by external occupational psychologists;

- 2nd round interview & presentation – one relevant non-executive Central Bank Commission member participates at this stage of the process and an external independent panel member may also participate at this stage. For all Director level vacancies, a combination of any two from the Deputy Governor Central Banking, Deputy Governor Prudential Regulation or Director General Financial Conduct also participate. 

- For Director level roles, the final stage of the process is an interview with the Governor. 

On occasion, vacancies at Director level, may be filled by a lateral transfer (i.e. by a serving member of staff at the same salary grade as the vacancy).  On such occasions, and where the full selection process as outlined above is not considered necessary, the lateral transfer decision to appoint to the role will be made by the Governor, in consultation with a relevant non-executive Commission member and the relevant members of the Governor’s Committee.

The above process has been approved by the Central Bank’s Audit Committee and aligns with Section 3.8 of the 2016 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies which states that states that non-executive directors should bring an independent judgment to bear on issues of strategy, performance, resources, key appointments, and standards of conduct in State Bodies. 

The following roles in the Bank are considered as “key appointments” for the purpose of Section 3.8 of the 2016 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies:

- Deputy Governor-Central Banking;

- Deputy Governor-Prudential Regulation;

- Director General- Financial Conduct;

- Chief Operations Officer;

- All executive Director roles;

- Head of Internal Audit;

- Head of Organisational Risk;

- Head of Financial Control;

- Registrar of Credit Unions;

- General Counsel;

- Secretary of the Central Bank.

NAMA Operations

Ceisteanna (64)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

64. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the remaining work of NAMA; the estimated likely net proceeds from the completion of NAMA; and the statutory task and future roles he envisages for the agency. [9142/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I wish to advise the Deputy that it is expected that NAMA will substantially complete its work by 2020. The Agency announced in October 2017 that it had redeemed all of its €30.2bn in Senior Debt which was guaranteed by the State. However, notwithstanding the successful achievement of this primary and important objective, three years ahead of schedule, there is still a significant body of work yet to be completed by NAMA.

Subject to current market conditions prevailing, this includes redemption of NAMA’s subordinated debt of €1.6 billion by March 2020 and completion of its Dublin Docklands SDZ and residential funding programmes. The most recent details on NAMA's remaining work are available in the Agency's Annual Statement 2018. This is available on the NAMA website via: https://www.nama.ie/about-us/publications/section-53-reports-and-accounts/.

The carrying value of NAMA's loan portfolio at 30 September 2017, net of impairment, was €3.7bn. Much of this portfolio is secured by low-value, granular assets and realisation of its full market value over the next three years will require patient and extensive work on the part of NAMA. It is through the successful completion of its deleveraging, Docklands and residential funding programmes that NAMA currently projects a surplus in the region of €3bn to be returned to the State once it completes it work. As per section 60(2) of the NAMA Act 2009, NAMA may use surplus funds to redeem and cancel its senior and subordinated debt. Surplus funds may only be returned to the Central Fund once NAMA's debt has been redeemed in full.

Any NAMA surplus paid, while Exchequer positive, will not impact the general government balance, in line with Eurostat rules. It will be a decision for the Government as to how any surplus returned by NAMA will be utilised within the framework of the fiscal rules.

NAMA was mandated in late 2009 to deal expeditiously with its acquired loan portfolio and to extract best value from that portfolio. NAMA has been extremely successful in achieving this mandate and has now entered into the final phase of this work which involves completing its remaining deleveraging activity and implementing its residential delivery programme and Dublin Docklands SDZ programme.

As such I do not intend to extend the current remit of NAMA beyond its expected completion in 2020 and in line with its original approval from the EU Commission I February 2010. However, I refer the Deputy to the announcement in my Budget statement in October 2017 of the establishment of Home Building Finance Ireland (HBFI), which is intended to increase the availability of debt funding on market terms to commercially viable residential development projects. It is my intention that HBFI will draw on the expertise and experience in residential development funding that currently resides in NAMA in order to efficiently deliver on its objectives.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (65)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

65. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the number of officials and advisors that travelled from his Department to the launch of the NDP, NPF in County Sligo; the cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9146/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

One member of staff (adviser) traveled to the launch of the NCP and NPF in County Sligo.  No travel and subsistence claims in relation to this event have been received, at the time of writing.

Stamp Duty

Ceisteanna (66)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

66. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance the supports or reliefs that exist for family transfers of small businesses from the increased rate of 6% stamp duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9170/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the transfer of a business and its associated assets within a family constitutes a conveyance on sale for stamp duty purposes. Stamp duty is payable by the person receiving the business assets. Where the business assets are sold or otherwise transferred for less than market value, section 30 Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 imposes a charge to stamp duty at the market value of the assets transferred. 

There are no reliefs that may apply in such cases. Family relationships are not relevant for stamp duty purposes, other than in the case of certain transfers of farmland between family members where a relief known as ‘consanguinity relief’ may apply. This relief applies a reduced rate of stamp duty of 1% to transfers of farmland between certain blood relatives provided certain conditions are met involving the active farming of the land on a commercial basis.

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Ceisteanna (67)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

67. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance his plans to improve tax relief measures in relation to the purchase of vehicles for use by persons with a disability; when such measures will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9203/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As you may be aware, the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, payment of a fuel grant, and an exemption from Motor Tax.

The tax reliefs under the scheme are very significant, with a maximum tax relief in respect of persons purchasing an extensively adapted vehicle set at €22,000. A summary table of these tax reliefs can be accessed at page 21 of the document at the following link

https://www.revenue.ie/en/importing-vehicles-duty-free-allowances/documents/vrt/vrt7.pdf.

The Scheme represents a significant tax expenditure, costing €65m in each of 2016 and 2017. This figure does not include the revenue foregone in respect of the relief from Motor Tax. I have no plans to increase the tax reliefs under the scheme.

Tax Reliefs Eligibility

Ceisteanna (68)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

68. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance his plans to restore tax relief for trade union subscriptions; the results of a review into the issue carried out by his Department in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9210/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The review of the appropriate treatment for tax purposes of trade union subscriptions and professional body fees carried out by my Department in 2016 was included in the 2016 report on tax expenditures published on budget day 2016 http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2017/Documents/Tax_Expenditures_Report%202016_final.pdf.

The review concluded that “analysis of the scheme using the principles laid down by the Department’s Tax Expenditure Guidelines shows that it fails to reach the evaluation threshold to warrant introduction in this manner.

The reinstatement of this tax relief would have no justifiable policy rationale and does not express a defined policy objective. Given that individuals join trade unions largely for the well-known benefits of membership, and the potential value of the relief to an individual would equate to just over €1 per week, this scheme would have little to no incentive effect on the numbers choosing to join. There is no specific market failure that needs to be addressed by such a scheme, and it would consist largely of deadweight.”

Given the conclusion of the review, I have no plans to reintroduce such a relief.

Mortgage Repayments

Ceisteanna (69)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

69. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the rules regarding the ownership of accounts into which a mortgage borrower makes repayments when the mortgage loan is owned by an unregulated loan owner and is serviced by a regulated credit servicing firm; if the account must be in the name of the regulated credit servicing firm; if it can be in the name of the unregulated loan owner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9222/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Most loan agreements include a clause that allows the original lender to sell the loan on to another firm.  The Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2015 (“the 2015 Act”) was introduced to fill the consumer protection gap where loans are sold by the original lender to an unregulated firm. Under the 2015 Act, if the firm who bought loans from the original lender is an unregulated firm, then the loans must be serviced by a ‘credit servicing firm’ which is regulated by the Central Bank.  Credit Servicing Firms are typically firms that manage or administer credit agreements such as mortgages or other loans on behalf of unregulated entities.

Credit servicing firms must act in accordance with the requirements of Irish financial services law that applies to ‘regulated financial service providers’. This ensures that consumers, whose loans are sold to another firm, maintain the same regulatory protections that they had prior to the sale, including under the various statutory Codes of Conduct issued by the Central Bank.

The 2015 Act does not include any specific rules regarding whether the account must be in the name of the regulated credit servicing firm or if it can be in the name of the unregulated loan owner.

Bond Markets

Ceisteanna (70)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

70. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 151 of 13 February 2018, the interest rate charged on the €602 million in Exchequer borrowings; the maturity date of these borrowings; the cost of reversing out these borrowings and refinancing them with standard Government debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9223/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The NTMA have informed me that Schuldschein were issued by Ireland in March 2009, as well as in June and September 2010 with original maturities ranging from fifteen to twenty years. They were issued as a means of diversifying the Exchequer’s sources of funding. They were issued at fixed interest rates, similar to standard fixed-rate Irish government bonds. The weighted average interest rate of 5.8% was in line with Irish government bond yields at that time.

For example, in March 2009 an Irish government bond maturing in 2020 was issued via auction at a yield of just over 5.8%. Similarly in September 2010, a bond maturing in 2018 was issued via auction at a yield of just over 6%. This was the last bond auction before Ireland entered the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support in late 2010.

The first Schuldschein is due to mature in March 2024, and the last in September 2030. Schuldschein are, by their nature, generally held to maturity by the initial investor. In cases where they are sold, it will be at the full market price reflecting their fixed interest rate to maturity. This effectively creates a “break-cost” which would need to be considered if an opportunity for re-financing arose, as the associated costs could offset any potential interest savings. In this sense, they are very similar to standard fixed-rate Irish government bonds.

Bond Markets

Ceisteanna (71)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

71. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 151 of 13 February 2018, if banks (details supplied) have outstanding borrowings, not investment assets, in bonds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9224/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I have been informed by AIB and PTSB that neither bank have outstanding borrowings in Schuldschein bonds.

National Development Plan

Ceisteanna (72)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

72. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the parts of the national development plan that will assist development in County Longford. [9077/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The ten-year National Development Plan (NDP) has been put in place to underpin the implementation of the National Planning Framework (NPF) to support the development of all counties and regions, both urban and rural areas.

The NDP sets out an investment programme of €116 billion, aligned to the ten National Strategic Outcomes (NSOs) detailed in the NPF which are critical to long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability in the period to 2040.  Investment in urban and rural regeneration and development, drawing on two new Funds with total resources of €3 billion established for this purpose have the potential to have a transformative impact on both urban and rural areas and communities countrywide.  The sharp focus in the NDP on measures to strengthen the all-island economy have a vital role to play in mitigating the risks and realising the opportunities created by the UK's exit from the EU.  A core priority under the NPF which is supported by the investment plans in the NDP is the essential requirement to enhance and upgrade accessibility between urban centres of population and their regions, particularly in relation to road linkages to the North-West from Dublin which, the NDP notes, have been comparatively neglected until recently.  Total funding of €8.8 billion is allocated to the NSO of strengthened rural economies and communities which is a cornerstone of NDP, including in relation to the delivery of the National Broadband Plan and significant investment in regional and local roads.  The NDP also contains, as a priority, increased investment in public transport including train fleets.  Chapter 5 of the NDP details as a fundamental objective of the Plan the investment planned in enhancing regional growth potential through an integrated programme of measures including, for example, regional sectoral clustering and the promotion of entrepreneurship on a regional basis.  The Plan also highlights the importance of strengthening Ireland's international connectivity through continued investment in ports and airports, including under the Regional Airports Programme.  It sets out the major programme of investment planned in the heritage area including in national parks and nature reserves.  Continued investment over the ten years of the Plan to ensure the sustainable management of water resources is a further investment priority which is clearly relevant to all regions and counties.  Finally the Plan sets out the investments planned in the areas of quality childcare, education and health services which are a defining characteristic of attractive, successful and competitive places.

Under the NPF and as set out in section 6.3 of the NDP the three Regional Assemblies are now tasked with co-ordinating, promoting and supporting the strategic planning and sustainable development of their regions, consistent with the objectives of the NPF through the preparation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSESs).  The RSES for the Eastern and Midland Region is due to be completed by early 2019.  This provides the opportunity for the priorities for County Longford, for example, those that are included in the existing Longford County Development Plan focused on sustainable growth and quality of life and on achievable employment and population growth within Longford and the Midlands region to be integrated into a regional investment plan which is expected to a major driver of the implementation of the NPF.

 

Economic Growth

Ceisteanna (73)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

73. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the growth forecasts for the economy upon which the national development plan 2018 to 2027 is based for each year in GDP and GNI up to 2027; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9087/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Exchequer funding envelope of €91 billion detailed in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027 is underpinned by a prudent and moderate scenario relating to the economy’s potential growth over the period of the Plan. This ensures that the projected level of public capital investment over the ten years of the Plan is sustainable and affordable in the context of the projected fiscal capacity of the economy over that period.

As set out in section 3.2 of the NDP, the growth projections underpinning the Exchequer capital envelope contained in the Plan are based on GNI*. As the Deputy is aware, the Economic Statistics Review Group has recommended the use of GNI* when measuring the size of the Irish economy.

Macroeconomic projections adopted in the Plan for the period 2018-2021 are detailed in Annex 3 of the Economic and Fiscal Outlook for Budget 2018. As set out in the NDP, a potential or trend growth rate of 2% in volume terms is assumed over the period 2022 to 2027. This potential growth rate aligns with the most recent long-term growth projection from the European Commission for Ireland for the 2020s while being lower than the OECD long-term projection of almost 3% for that period. The prudent approach taken to the macro-economic and public capital investment framework in the plan is confirmed in terms of Ireland’s historic growth performance averaging about 4½% over the whole of the period from 1966 – 2017. The 2% real growth assumption for 2022 to 2027 is supplemented with the conventional assumption that inflation will average 2% in line with the upper limit of the ECB’s inflation target yielding a 4% nominal growth projection over the period.

National Development Plan

Ceisteanna (74, 79, 80)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

74. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council was consulted in relation to the €116 billion announced in the national development plan 2018 to 2027; if so, the details of the consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9088/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

79. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the National Treasury Management Agency was consulted in relation to the €116 billion announced in the national development plan 2018 to 2027; if so, the details of the consultations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9225/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

80. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the European Commission Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs was consulted in relation to the €116 billion announced in the national development plan 2018 to 2027; if so, the details of the consultations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9226/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 79 and 80 together.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) is an independent statutory body whose purpose is to provide an independent assessment of official budgetary forecasts and proposed fiscal policy objectives. While my Department did not consult with the IFAC in relation to the National Development Plan, IFAC's broad support for the Government's proposed approach to increased public capital investment, in its November 2017 Fiscal Assessment Report, was noted, as follows:

"Having been scaled back to a low base, public investment levels are expected to ramp up quite rapidly again, rising to levels that are among the highest in the EU under current plans. For instance, by 2021, public investment is planned to rise to 9.8 per cent of primary spending; 8.9 per cent of total revenue; and 3.5 per cent of GNI*. Across all measures, this would be higher than present levels for countries such as France, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK as well as for the EU and Euro Area aggregates. Importantly, this is possible while still complying with the fiscal rules in later years. "

"A commitment to stick to a specified level of public investment as a share of GNI* would be a sensible basis for fiscal policy over the medium term. If adhered to, this approach could help to prevent forced cuts to public investment in downturns and excessive expansions in investment during booms the preparation of the National Development Plan."

My Department consulted with the National Treasury Management Agency in connection with a number of the roles performed by that Agency, including:

- NewERA, in relation to the commercial State sector element of the National Development Plan;

- the National Development Finance Agency, as a member of the Expert Group reviewing the potential role for PPPs in helping to deliver elements of the Plan; and

- the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, in relation to the role that the Fund could play in leveraging additional private investment to complement State-backed investment under the Plan.

In addition, of course, acting as the National Development Finance Agency, the National Treasury Management Agency is the statutory financial advisor to State authorities in respect of all public investment projects with a capital value over €20 million. The Agency will therefore continue to be consulted by the relevant Departments and Agencies in relation to all projects of this value that have been included in the National Development Plan, as required in accordance with the Public Spending Code.

With regard to the question of consultation with the European Commission Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs, the position is that the Government engages with that Directorate General on a regular basis, through the framework as established by the European Semester. This engagement has dealt with issues related to capital expenditure on a number of occasions in recent times:

- In July 2016 the European Commission made the Country Specific Recommendation that Ireland should prioritise government capital expenditure in public infrastructure, in particular transport, water services and housing.

- In February 2017 the European Commission subsequently commented in the Country Report for Ireland that some progress had been made in prioritising government capital expenditure.

- In July 2017 the European Commission made the following Country Specific Recommendation:

"Better target government expenditure, by prioritising public investment in transport, water services, and innovation in particular in support of SMEs. Enhance social infrastructure, including social housing and quality childcare; deliver an integrated package of activation policies to increase employment prospects of low-skilled people and to address low work intensity of households."

The National Development Plan seeks to address these issues by increasing investment levels in Ireland at a sustainable rate to amongst the highest in Europe and, very importantly, by ensuring that our infrastructure investment will be strictly guided by the National Planning Framework and its 10 National Strategic Outcomes.

Office of Public Works Projects

Ceisteanna (75)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

75. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the timeframe for the planned extension to Longford town Garda station. [9133/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) and An Garda Síochána (AGS) are in the early stages of planning a refurbishment and upgrade of cells and custody facilities at Longford Garda Station.

It is not possible, at this stage, to provide a timeframe for delivery of the project but OPW and AGS will continue to work together to ensure that the project progresses as speedily as possible.

National Development Plan

Ceisteanna (76, 77)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

76. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount spent by the NDP information office for the NDP 2007 to 2013; the amount that was spent on public information and publicity campaigns for that NDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9168/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

77. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a high level group was established in 2008 to manage communications for the NDP 2007 to 2013; if so, the name of that group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9169/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 77 together.

My Department is collating the information requested in the Deputy's question from the file record which requires a review to be carried out on archived files and will respond to the Deputy directly in relation to this matter as soon as possible.

Scoileanna Oileáin

Questions Nos. 79 and 80 answered with Question No. 74.

Ceisteanna (78)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

78. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Pearse Doherty den Aire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe an bhfuarthas comhfhreagras a seoladh chuige faoi thionscadal i gContae Dhún na nGall; cén réadmhaoin atá i gceist atá faoi úinéireacht na Roinne (sonraí tugtha); cathain a eiseofar freagra scríofa; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [9219/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Is féidir liom a dhearbhú go bhfuair mo Roinn comhfhreagras maidir le iar Scoil Náisiúnta Inis Bó Finne, Contae Dhún na nGall. Scrúdóidh m’oifigigh an cheist agus freagróidh said an comhfhreagras a luaithe is féidir.

Questions Nos. 79 and 80 answered with Question No. 74.