Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 136.

Human Rights Cases

Ceisteanna (150)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

150. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to raise with the Israeli ambassador the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10069/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The overall human rights situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the treatment of children in detention, remains a matter of concern. In particular, there are serious concerns about the Israeli military court system which is used in relation to Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including children. The same system does not apply to Israeli settlers in the same geographical area. These courts have a near-one hundred percent conviction rate, a statistic which raises serious questions about the system’s compliance with international standards of due process.Ireland has raised our concerns at EU level and in international fora. In the most recent Universal Periodic Review of Israel, which took place last month, Ireland raised the issue of administrative detention, and made recommendations on the rights of detainees. During my visit to the Middle East last month, I raised Ireland’s concerns about the detention of minors directly with the Israeli authorities, including the issues of night-time arrests and blindfolding. Ireland also provides financial support to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs who are active in bringing these issues to light.

In relation to the specific case raised by the Deputy, the minor was not arrested directly after the incident, but an arrest later took place following political attention being paid to the case in Israel. The arrest was carried out in the middle of the night, and later broadcast on Israeli television. This raises serious concerns.

Irish and other EU diplomats have attended the person in question’s hearings in the military court, as this case has developed. The handling of this case so far is worrying. The minor is being held in Israel, which makes family visits very difficult. She is being held without bail pending trial, which may result in a very long period of detention, on the basis that she is a danger to public safety. This allegation lacks serious credibility.

The individual’s mother and other family members have themselves been arrested and held. The heavy-handed approach to dealing with the minor and her family risks creating an impression that there is an attempt to intimidate or to punish, related to their refusal to stop protesting against the occupation under which they live.

The Israeli authorities should ensure that all legal proceedings are in accordance with international standards of due process, including especially those related to children. I recall that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child entails obligations to use detention only as a means of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, in the case of minors. My Department will continue to monitor this and other cases.

Commemorative Events

Ceisteanna (151)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

151. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the involvement of his Department's officials in planning the commemorations for the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement; and if an all party group is being established to discuss same. [9657/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

A programme of events, at home and abroad, is being developed to highlight this important anniversary and to mark the achievement of the Agreement, which continues to be the cornerstone of our commitment to peace and reconciliation. My Department is engaging with other Government Departments and, both here on the island of Ireland and through our overseas Embassy network, with a range of individuals, groups and institutions, who are considering and planning conferences, seminars, cultural responses, acts of commemoration and other initiatives to mark the 20th anniversary of the achievement of this seminal Agreement. The Government’s programme will include events in Dublin, Washington, London, and Belfast. These will include a revised production of Rising to Reconciliation, which was developed for the 18th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and uses poetry, images and music to reflect on the troubled journey towards peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. Events to mark the people’s vote for the Agreement on the 22nd May are also under development.

While I do not propose to establish a dedicated all party group for the purposes of marking this anniversary, I would be happy to consult and engage with all political parties and other interested stakeholders and have asked my officials to follow up in this regard.

The events marking this important anniversary will provide an opportunity to reflect on the peace process, past and present; to remember the loss of life during the years of conflict; and to look back at all that has happened on the journey of peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

This journey is of course an ongoing one, and the continued imperative to work to realise the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement will form an essential part of the Government’s approach to the 20th anniversary.

Mortgage Debt

Ceisteanna (152)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

152. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance when he and his departmental officials were informed of the sale of mortgage debts by a bank (details supplied) to unregulated vulture funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9810/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I was first informed by Department officials of PTSB’s intention to offer this particular portfolio of loans for sale on Friday 19th January. They were first briefed on the timing of the sale, and potential composition of the portfolio, earlier that week.

As this information is commercially sensitive, and as I must respect stock exchange disclosure rules, I was unable to discuss it openly at that point. The bank's decision to put out a statement on 20th February put many of the details into the public domain and helped clarify the situation.

As I indicated previously, if the transaction proceeds I would expect to be formally consulted on the disposal in due course as provided for in the Relationship Framework between the Minister and the bank.

I should emphasize at this stage that no loan has been sold yet and we won’t know how many loans will be sold for a number of months. In addition, it is not known to whom the loans will be sold. However, I want and expect PTSB to be transparent with their customers when it comes to this sale process as it evolves.

I am also prepared to engage with Deputies from other parties in an effort to see if we can strengthen and enhance the protections that are already in place for mortgage holders in the coming period.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (153)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

153. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Finance if there is an interdepartmental committee in operation examining the possibility of taxing civil servants' car parking as a benefit in kind; if so, the length of time it has been in existence; when it last met; the outcomes that have resulted; his plans to introduce such a scheme; and the estimated amount of revenue that could be realised by such a measure. [10068/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am informed by Revenue that employer-provided parking is not currently subject to benefit-in-kind taxation. I do not currently have any plans to change this. My officials are unaware of a committee such as the Deputy describes.

Freedom of Information Data

Ceisteanna (154)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

154. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance the number of freedom of information requests his Department has received in the past eight years; the number of which were accepted without further escalation and not accepted respectively; the number requested which were not accepted that were escalated to the Information Commissioner; the number of which the Information Commissioner ruled in favour of the person requesting the freedom of information; the number of which the Information Commissioner ruled against his Department; the number his Department appealed to the High Court; the number the High Court ruled against his Department in favour of the applicant; the number which were then brought to the Court of Appeal by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9291/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Banking Sector

Ceisteanna (155)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

155. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has received consultation briefings from the State supported banks in 2017 and to date in 2018 under the terms of the relationship framework agreement; if so, the details of the briefing; the name of each bank that provided same; the nature of the matter on which he was consulted; his response in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9313/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the deputy is aware my relationship with the State supported banks is governed by the Relationship Framework Agreements which were put in place at the insistence of the European Commission as part of the recapitalisation of the banks.

Under the Relationship Frameworks, the authority and responsibility for strategy and commercial policies (including business plans and budgets) and the conduct of the banks day-to-day operations rests in all cases with the Board of the Company and its management team. However, they are required, in connection with certain specified aspects of their activities, to consult with the Minister for Finance.

I can confirm to the deputy that in 2017 and 2018 I have received consultation briefings from each of the State supported banks in relation to a range of matters of a commercially sensitive nature. These included board appointments and loan disposals over the designated thresholds.

Given this and the fact that the banks are all publicly quoted entities I must therefore respect stock exchange market abuse regulations and I therefore am not in a position to disclose the detail of this commercially sensitive information.

Mortgage Debt

Ceisteanna (156)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

156. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the way in which persons due to earn compensation and redress through the tracker examination are treated in circumstances in which they have separated since the misselling occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9322/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Central Bank has advised that as part of the Tracker Mortgage Examination framework, where customer detriment has been identified, the Bank has clearly articulated its expectations of lenders to provide appropriate redress and compensation to impacted customers in line with its prescribed "Principles for Redress".  

An important part of the Examination Framework is the requirement for lenders to establish independent Appeals Panels to deal with customers who are not satisfied with any aspect of the redress and compensation offers that they receive from lenders. In circumstances where lenders make an offer of redress and compensation in respect of a mortgage held jointly by two or more borrowers, the offer will be made payable to all parties to the mortgage jointly.  All parties to the mortgage and the offer of redress and compensation will be entitled to appeal any aspect of the offer to the Independent Appeals Panel(s). Where it is not possible for a co-borrower to obtain the consent of all co-borrowers to the mortgage, the Central Bank has set its clear expectation that this will not serve as a barrier to customers wishing to appeal and such an appeal can proceed on an individual basis. In such circumstances, any award arising from the appeal will be made payable to all parties to the mortgage. This appeals process is additional to the options of bringing a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman or initiating court proceedings.

Mortgage Debt

Ceisteanna (157)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

157. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the way in which compensation under the tracker examination process takes account of money and time spent in the insolvency process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9323/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Central Bank has advised that its Tracker Examination is focused on ensuring that lenders provide fair outcomes for all customers impacted by tracker related failings both from a contractual and transparency perspective.  

As part of the Examination framework, where customer detriment has been identified, the Central Bank has clearly articulated its expectations of lenders to provide appropriate redress and compensation to impacted customers in line with prescribed Principles for Redress. The provision of redress is intended to return impacted customers to the position that they would have been in had the relevant issue not arisen and the compensation, which is to be reasonable, must reflect the detriment involved arising from and/or associated with being on an incorrect rate. Such compensation is to reflect the specific circumstances of each impacted customer.  

An important part of the Examination Framework is the requirement for lenders to establish independent Appeals Panels, specifically to deal with customers who are not satisfied with any aspect of the redress and compensation offers that they receive from lenders. The appeals process is additional to the options of bringing a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman or initiating court proceedings. Importantly customers can also accept the redress and compensation offered and still make an appeal to the independent appeals panels. Customers’ rights to make appeals to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman and through the courts are also preserved.  

For debtors who are involved in the statutory insolvency frameworks, the assets and income of such debtors will fall to be considered in the context of the particular framework including, where applicable, the particular terms of any debt settlement or personal insolvency arrangement   entered into by a debtor (utilising the services of a personal insolvency practitioner) with his/her creditor(s).

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (158)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

158. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the rationale for imposing a rate of 23% VAT on dog grooming services when veterinary services are taxed under the 13.5% rate; his plans to amend the rate (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9328/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The supply of dog grooming services is liable to VAT at the standard rate, currently 23%. The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply and under the VAT Directive there is no provision to allow the reduced rate to be applied to the supply of dog grooming services.

An exception to this rating is grooming that is required in the course of a medical or surgical treatment of animals by a veterinary surgeon. Such grooming will form part of a veterinary procedure liable to VAT at the reduced rate of 13.5%.

Tax Data

Ceisteanna (159)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

159. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of appeals heard by the Tax Appeals Commission in 2016 and 2017 that were adjudications issued inside 28, 60, 90 and 120 days respectively; the number of adjudications that are outstanding for more than 28, 60, 90 and 120 days respectively; the number of open appeals, in tabular form; the number of cases the TAC will hear in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9363/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am informed by the Tax Appeals Commission (TAC) that the following table outlines the number of appeals heard by the TAC in 2016 and 2017 in the bands requested by the Deputy.

Tax Appeals Commission

Appeals Heard that were determined/adjudicated

2016

2017

Adjudicated inside 28 days

26

16

Adjudicated 29 – 60 days later

4

5

Adjudicated 61 – 90 days later

-

1

Adjudicated 91 – 120 days later

2

1

Adjudicated more than 120 days later

21

3

Appeals Heard but determination/adjudication outstanding

2016

2017

Outstanding less than 28 days

-

-

Outstanding between 29 – 60 days later

-

2

Outstanding between 61 – 90 days later

-

-

Outstanding between 91 – 120 days later

-

-

Outstanding more than 120 days later

22

61

Total

75

89

As outlined in the table, adjudication has commenced or been completed, either with or without a hearing, in respect of 164 appeals in 2016 and 2017 by the TAC. Determinations have issued in respect of 79 of those appeals. On average it took 213 days between the hearing and the determination. It is of note that one of the outstanding determinations relates to an appeal that will directly impact on approximately 350 others.

The TAC has informed me that these figures do not reflect the complexity of the appeals or the reasons for any possible delay. The TAC advises that hearings can be adjourned for a number of reasons to include the submission of further evidence, for further hearing at a later date, to await the outcome of Court proceedings etc., and of course for consideration by the Commissioner of the appeal prior to the determining of same. I am further advised that in certain circumstances, hearings or determination can take place in respect of part of an appeal; however the appeal will remain open until all issues are concluded. For these reasons, it is not possible for the TAC to estimate how many appeals it intends to hear in 2018. The TAC is seeking to increase its resources and facilities to allow it increase its output and in that regard my Department is currently reviewing a recent request for additional resources from the TAC.

I am informed that the TAC is increasingly conducting less formal hearings with a view to assisting all parties reach a settlement or agreement more expeditiously. These informal hearings are also being used in order to facilitate the timely progression of appeals and where possible, to agree the main points prior to the formal hearing. In the last year, the TAC has arranged over 200 of these informal hearings which would have directly dealt with 826 individual appeals, notwithstanding that the outcomes of these may have impacted upon other appeals also. Although some remain to take place, the TAC has been able to proceed with 135 informal hearings in relation to 618 individual appeals. A number of these proposed informal hearings have had to be postponed or cancelled at the request of either the Office of the Revenue Commissioners or the appellants. I am informed that it is the TAC’s intention to continue with informal hearings, where appropriate, during 2018.

Following its establishment in 2016, I am informed that approximately 3,322 appeals transferred to the TAC, at various stages during 2016, from both the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of the Appeal Commissioners. The TAC has further advised me that, as of 30 January, it currently has approximately 3,648 appeals. This figure comprises of the following active appeals:

-

Active Appeals

Appeals received 2016:

499

Appeals received 2017

1,475

Appeals received 2018

251

Legacy Appeals

968

Pre Establishment

305

Cases Stated

150

Fiscal Policy

Ceisteanna (160)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

160. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the revised net fiscal space figures in view of the national development plan 2019 to 2023. [9367/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Updated calculations of fiscal space will be published in the Summer Economic Statement 2018 that will be prepared following the publication by the European Commission of the required inputs to the calculation in conjunction with its Spring Economic Forecast. These forecasts will take account of all policy changes announced since Budget 2018, including the impact of the National Development Plan (NDP).

However, the specific impact of the NDP out to 2021 on the Exchequer Borrowing Requirement (EBR) and on fiscal space, based on certain assumptions, is set out in the table.

The NDP announced four new funds that will begin operating from 2019. These are the Rural, Urban, Innovation and Climate Action Funds. The funds will be partly covered by an unallocated capital reserve in the first instance, leaving an additional cost, which will both pre-commit unallocated fiscal space and worsen the EBR.

The net nominal EBR increase resulting from the three funds is set out in the last row of the following table:

New Funds, € millions

2019

2020

2021

Rural

55

80

80

Urban

100

120

150

Innovation

20

30

40

TOTAL

175

230

270

Less Capital Reserve

-98

-136

-94

Net Increase

77

94

176

As the Climate Action Fund, set out in the table below, will be funded from the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) levy, it will have no impact on Voted Expenditure or the EBR.

€ millions

2019

2020

2021

Climate Action Fund

20

30

40

In calculating the impact on net fiscal space under the Expenditure Benchmark, it is assumed that both the Urban and Rural Funds will be recorded as gross fixed capital formation (i.e. subject to ‘capital smoothing’ over four years) and that the Innovation and Climate Action Funds will be treated as capital grants (i.e. not smoothed). A further assumption is that the funding from the capital reserve will offset the Rural and Urban Funds.

Should the operation of the funds change these assumptions then the figures below will need to be amended.

The cost, in fiscal space terms, of the four funds is therefore:

€ millions

2019

2020

2021

Fiscal Space Used

54

36

54

Insurance Industry

Ceisteanna (161)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

161. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the status for insurance brokers that refunded persons as a result of the liquidation of a company (details supplied); the position these brokers have in relation to claims on the proceeds of the liquidation; the process these brokers should take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9382/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Setanta Insurance was placed into liquidation by the Malta Financial Services Authority on 30 April 2014. As it was a Maltese incorporated company, the liquidation is being carried out under Maltese law.

My officials have been advised by the Liquidator that a portion of any refunds due to policyholders may be met from the proceeds of the distribution of Setanta's assets on completion of the liquidation process. The Liquidator has also indicated that whether or not the brokers the Deputy refers to, have claims on the proceeds of the liquidation is a question of Maltese Insolvency Law and would depend on the agreements entered into between the brokers and the policyholders. 

Consequently, in order to fully clarify this matter, brokers should talk directly to the liquidator.