Mortgage Lending

Ceisteanna (87)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

87. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the exemptions on the loan to income and loan to value mortgage rules are based on approvals or drawdowns; if there are restrictions on exemptions based on the overall loan book; his views on the alleged practice of banks providing incentives to customers in order for them to delay drawdown of their mortgage until 2019; the views of the Central Bank on same; if there are tools that the Central Bank can use to curb such behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51477/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Central Bank of Ireland’s macroprudential mortgage lending measures, which were first introduced in February 2015, are aimed at enhancing the resilience of both borrowers and the banking sector. The mortgage measures limit the amount of finance that an individual or a couple can borrow to buy residential property. These limits are based on the income of the borrower (loan-to-income limit), and the value of the property (loan-to-value limit).

The Central Bank recently published its 2018 Review of Mortgage Market Measures. The analysis carried out by the Bank as part of this review confirms that the mortgage measures are achieving the Central Bank’s objectives and are contributing to overall financial stability.

The Central Bank advises that the rules, and exemptions, are based on mortgage loan drawdowns and not approvals. The date of drawdown determines which “relevant period” (currently defined as a calendar year) that the housing loan is included in for the purposes of calculating lenders’ compliance levels. Exemptions are calculated as a function of the overall level of qualifying lending during the relevant period, and no restrictions apply based on an overall loan book.

Subject to the macroprudential mortgage measures, each lender is responsible for managing its compliance with the limits of the mortgage rules. Specifically, how a lender assigns exceptions to individual borrowers is a matter for the individual lender, and based on an evaluation of each specific borrower and the lender’s own credit policies. Lenders will also have their own credit policies and the mortgage lending rules are not a substitute for lenders’ responsibilities to assess affordability and lend prudently.

In relation to any incentive offered to consumers, the Central Bank requires lenders to provide inter alia, all relevant information to consumers including the advantages and disadvantages of availing of the incentive, in order to enable the consumer to consider the incentive offered in the context of their own individual circumstances.

In addition, all regulated lenders are required to ensure that in all of their dealings with customers they act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of customers and the integrity of the market.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (88)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

88. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there are risks to Ireland both macro-prudentially andr otherwise from international banks moving significant portions of assets to Ireland in anticipation of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51478/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am informed by the Central Bank that when a licence application is received, it is reviewed from a number of different perspectives. These include micro- and macro-prudential based assessments as well as reviews under the conduct of business and consumer protection codes. In assessing the macro-prudential risks of a banking licence application, the Central Bank examines the potential systemic risk of the applicant on the domestic financial system.

This assessment includes a review of the bank's business model which includes an assessment of the size of the firm, the likely interconnectedness with other financial institutions and the level of interaction with the private non-financial sectors. Consideration is also given to the potential reputation risks to the Irish financial system by the such applicants.

As a member of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), decisions relating to the granting of licences to significant institutions are made in conjunction with the European Central Bank (ECB). When the assessment of the formal application has been completed, the Central Bank will determine whether to recommend to the ECB that authorisation be granted.

A decision will then be made by the ECB on whether to grant a banking licence. A banking licence will only be granted where the ECB and the Central Bank are satisfied that the applicant complies with all of the authorisation requirements.

In addition to licence applications, the Central Bank reviews the potential systemic risk from financial institutions on an annual basis. The objective of the Other Systemically Important Institutions (O-SII) buffer is to reduce the potential impact of a systemically important financial institution’s failure on the domestic economy.

The Central Bank, together with the ECB, is responsible for identifying O-SIIs for Ireland and setting buffer rates. The 2018 assessment was published in November. Six institutions have been identified as systemically important in Ireland and buffer rates have been applied to these institutions. The rates, ranging from 0% -1.5% per cent of risk-weighted assets are to be introduced on phased basis over the period July 2019 to July 2021.

Since the UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016, there has been a notable uplift in the number of firms seeking authorisation from the Central Bank. I am informed that this has included a number of firms operating business models in the capital markets and investment banking space that are new to Ireland.

As these new firms are authorised, the Central Bank will be responsible for the supervision of new risks, including market conduct risk and wholesale credit risk. Though the impact on the Irish domestic economy may be limited, the impact that these firms will have on a pan-European scale may be much greater.

In preparation for the ongoing supervision of these firms, the Central Bank has recently established a new division, the Investment Banks and Broker Dealers Division. A number of these new firms will fall within the SSM supervision model and over the coming months these firms can expect a high level of intrusive engagement both from the Central Bank and SSM.

The Central Bank will seek to ensure that these firms stand up their operations as agreed with the Central Bank, put in place strong and robust risk management processes and demonstrate their independence from any group or parent company in another jurisdiction.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (89)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

89. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there are tax implications in international banks moving significant portions of assets here in anticipation of Brexit; if so, the anticipated cost and-or benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51479/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

In order to estimate any potential implications of such transfers a wide range of information would be required, including estimates of the type and value of assets that may transfer, future trading activities in the State, employment to be created, etc. I am advised by Revenue that, in the absence of such information, it is not possible to assess the cost or benefit to the Exchequer tax yield of such transfers.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (90)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

90. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the moving of assets here by international banks in anticipation of Brexit will have a substantial impact on Ireland’s gross domestic product, gross national product and GNI star figures; if he will quantify these impacts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51480/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As Minister of Finance, I cannot comment on the potential corporate decisions or operations of any individual financial institution, or their financial position. However, in terms of the overall economy, the movement of assets to Ireland by international banks in anticipation of Brexit, would be expected to have some impact on Ireland’s economic output as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), if also matched by substantive operations. The impact on gross national product (GNP) and modified gross national income (GNI*) however would depend on the overall corporate structure of the firms, in particular where the parent is located.

As the movement of assets to Ireland by financial institutions would largely involve financial assets, that movement would not be expected to impact on our national accounts to the same extent as the relocation of capital assets that we have seen in recent years, particularly in respect of intangibles. Indeed it is worth noting that any movement of financial assets to Ireland would be expected to be largely offset by corresponding financial liabilities that fund the assets.

Motor Insurance Costs

Ceisteanna (91)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

91. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the action he has taken to help reduce motor insurance costs specifically for returning emigrants, drivers of older cars and drivers who are switching from named driver status to fully comprehensive in their own right; and the monitoring measures in place to identify pricing trends in these specific sectors of the motor insurance market. [51487/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

At the outset, it is important to note that as Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Neither I nor the Central Bank of Ireland can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, as these matters are of a commercial nature, and are determined by insurance companies based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance which expressly prohibits Member States from adopting rules which require insurance companies to obtain prior approval of the pricing or terms and conditions of insurance products. Consequently, I am not in a position to direct insurance companies as to the pricing level or terms or conditions that they should apply in respect of particular categories of drivers or vehicles.

Notwithstanding this, the issues that the Deputy mentions in her question are either being addressed as part of the Cost of Insurance Working Group’s ongoing implementation of its recommendations or have been examined as part of my Department’s ongoing work. In relation to returning emigrants, the Deputy may be aware that in fulfilment of one of the Working Group’s recommendations, a protocol was agreed between Insurance Ireland and the Department of Finance under which insurance companies committed to accepting the driving experience returning emigrants gained while abroad, when the driver has had previous driving experience in Ireland. Insurance Ireland submitted a report to the Department in December 2017. This report confirmed that Insurance Ireland members have agreed to publish the wording of the agreed protocol on their company websites and any other forms of social media, in addition to providing training for staff who can work through issues with emigrants before they leave, whilst they are out of the country and when they return to Ireland.

Regarding drivers of older cars, I am aware of a number of complaints made through representations to my Department on this matter. As a result my officials have engaged with Insurance Ireland in order to get a greater sense of the issue. In these discussions, Insurance Ireland indicated that they had not discerned a particular trend from enquiries received through its helpline in relation to this topic.

Consequently, as a follow up exercise, Minister of State D'Arcy held a series of meetings with the Chief Executives of the major insurers. At those meetings, insurers pointed out that in making their individual decisions on whether to offer cover and what terms to apply, they will, aside from the age of the car, use a combination of other rating factors, which include the age of the driver and type of the vehicle, the relevant claims record and driving experience, the number of drivers, how the car is used, etc. In addition to the above factors, they indicated that they will price in accordance with their own overall past claims experience.

I understand from the above engagement that it would appear that there has been some movement in respect of the acceptance criteria and the vehicle age threshold levels used by some providers in recent times, particularly at broker level. However this is an issue which my officials will continue to monitor.

Finally, in relation to drivers that are switching from named driver status to fully comprehensive in their own right, Departmental officials have previously discussed this matter with Insurance Ireland and it confirmed that while some insurers do not recognise claims-free driving experience as a named driver, a number of providers do.

In summary, therefore, this issue and the other issues above, demonstrates the need for people to “shop around”. As I have previously stated in replies to questions from Deputies, I would recommend drivers who are quoted increased premiums to consult the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission website, which has an informative section regarding the purchase of car insurance generally. One of the key tips listed to help cut costs is to “shop around” and “always get quotes from several insurance providers when you need to get or renew insurance”.

Motor Insurance Costs

Ceisteanna (92)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

92. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the action that has been taken to date in respect of each of the recommendations made by the cost of insurance working group report on the cost of motor insurance. [51488/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy is aware, the Cost of Insurance Working Group is in the process of implementing both its Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance and its Report on the Cost of Employer Liability and Public Liability Insurance.

The Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance was published in January 2017, containing 33 recommendations with 71 associated actions. While the Report on the Cost of Employer liability and Public liability Insurance was published in January 2018, containing 15 recommendations with 29 associated actions. Both reports contain Action Plans which set out agreed timelines for implementation as well as a commitment that the Working Group will prepare quarterly updates on its progress.

The seventh such update was published earlier this month and can be accessed on the Department of Finance’s website under the ‘Cost of Insurance Working Group’ section. The Deputy may wish to note that this provides an update on the implementation of each recommendation as well as a traffic light indicator on the status of each individual action point, including those with deadlines into the future (19 relating to the Motor Report and 11 relating to the EL/PL Report). The Update shows that of the 78 separate applicable deadlines within the Action Plans of the two Reports to the end of Q3 2018, 62 relate to actions which have now been completed, while substantial work has also been undertaken in respect of the nine action points categorised as “ongoing”. I believe this quarterly report outlines the significant amount of work being done to address the cost of insurance problem. In this regard, there has been significant progress on a number of legislative fronts as well as the publication of the second Personal Injury Commission report on benchmarking of awards.

While I acknowledge that some deadlines have yet to be met, the general direction of travel is positive and this is reflected in the most recent CSO figures (for October 2018) which indicates that private motor insurance premiums have decreased by 22.9% since peaking in July 2016. In this regard, I can assure the Deputy that the implementation of the recommendations remains a priority for the Government and I remain confident that the continued implementation of them cumulatively, with the appropriate levels of commitment and cooperation from all relevant stakeholders, should achieve the objectives of delivering fairer premiums for consumers and a more stable and competitive insurance market.

Flood Prevention Measures

Ceisteanna (93)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

93. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding a flood prevention scheme (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51255/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The protection of Shannon Airport from flooding is the responsibility of the airport owners, the Shannon Airport Authority(SAA).

The airport is protected by a range of embankments on its Eastern and Western sides which are owned by the Airport Authority which is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of those embankments.

There are other embankments adjacent to the airport which protect Shannon town and these are the responsibility of the Office of Public Works.

The Shannon river basin Flood Risk Management Plan recognises the potential risk of damage to Shannon airport infrastructure in an extreme flood event and indicates that Shannon Airport Authority may wish to consider implementing measures to protect against such risk.

Both the embankments that protect the airport and those that protect the town were not constructed to current engineering standards and do not offer the level of protection required to protect against the 1 in 200 year tidal flood event, which is the accepted standard for coastal defences.

In this context it was agreed by the Shannon Airport Authority and the OPW, working in conjunction with Clare County Council, to commission engineering consultants to procure and manage contractors to undertake a joint topographical survey and geotechnical investigation of both the airport and town embankments with a view to determining the shortcomings in the structural integrity and consequent defensive capacity of the embankments.

The technical survey confirmed that the embankments were not of the required standard to protect the airport or the town against the 1 in 200 year event. The commission also included for the engineering consultants to examine the options for addressing the structural weaknesses in the embankments and to recommend the best solution. This study has been completed and has identified a preferred option which involves, as the primary measure, the raising, widening and armouring of the front and back faces and crest of the airport embankments and the raising, widening and armouring of the crest and back face of the town embankments.

It has been further agreed between Shannon Airport Authority and the OPW, in conjunction with Clare County Council, that the required works to both the airport and town embankments will be brought forward as a single project to be co-funded by both SAA and the OPW relative to their respective responsibilities. It is agreed also that the proposed measures to address the risk of fluvial flooding to Shannon town as set out in the Shannon river basin Flood Risk Management Plan will be incorporated into this joint project also. Clare County Council has agreed to act as the lead authority for the project.

A project steering group has been established with representatives of Shannon Airport Authority, the OPW and Clare County Council. The group's initial task will be to agree a brief for the procurement of engineering and environmental consultants to progress the design of the works and to examine all the required environmental considerations.

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (94, 95)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

94. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the changes made as a result of sick leave to the manner in which public servants avail of incremental pay increases since 2010; and the changes to rules governing sick leave and their impact on scheduled incremental pay increases in recent years. [51256/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

95. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the changes as a result of FEMPI or the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 in the impact that sick leave may have on projected incremental pay levels of public servants. [51257/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 95 together.

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 came into operation on 1 January 2018 and gives effect to the provisions of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. The Act provides for increases to the salaries of public servants on specified dates over the period of the Agreement. The relevant pay increases are applied to each increment point of a pay scale, as appropriate.

The provisions of the 2017 Act do not affect incremental progression, in the context of the provision of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme.

In relation to the payment of increments, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform does not have responsibility for the arrangements in place across the Public Service and these are the responsibility of individual public service employers as appropriate.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has responsibility for the arrangements relating to the payment of increments in the civil service.

These arrangements are set out in Circular 9/1987:- Increments. Paragraph 4 of Circular 9/1987 states that ‘An increment is an increase in pay for which provision is made in a pay scale. As a general rule increments are granted provided an officer’s service is satisfactory’. Paragraph 8 goes on to state that ‘Individual Departments bear the primary responsibility for ensuring that increments are granted only to officers whose attendance, performance and commitment throughout the year have been completely satisfactory’. There has been no change in this circular following the introduction of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme in 2014.

While the Increments circular itself has not changed, my Department has developed guidance aimed at supporting civil service employers in assessing the impact of sick absence on increments and other employment benefits. This guidance highlights the importance of proactively managing high levels or patterns of absence and reiterates the provisions of the Increments circular i.e. that an individual’s attendance can be taken into account in awarding an increment. The guidance is intended to assist employers in decision making and does not prescribe that an individual will automatically be ineligible for employment benefits and/or career opportunities, such as increments, because they have reached a particular level of absence.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (96)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

96. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of staff in his Department who have a degree or higher degree level qualifications in economics; the proportion of staff who are so qualified in respect of the total staff of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51260/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

A total of 60 staff in my Department have a degree and/or a post-graduate qualification in Economics, accounting for 14 % of the total staffing cohort. While many staff are economists by profession and support in particular the work of the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGESS) established in 2012, many other staff within the Department have a wide variety of professional backgrounds with a strong quantitative analysis component such as statistics, data analysis, social science, business and financial management, research methodology, evaluation and policy analysis. All of these skills, and others, drive and support competence, capability and capacity in the wide and complex work of my Department.

Trade Union Membership

Ceisteanna (97)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

97. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his policy and the policy in the Civil Service in general relating to facilitating workers who wish to join a trade union of their choice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51275/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Civil Service Conciliation & Arbitration Scheme (C&A Scheme) is the formal structure for the conduct of industrial relations in the civil service. Under the provisions of the C&A Scheme the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform may consider applications from any union or association seeking recognitionunder the Scheme provided that they are holders of a negotiation licence under the Trade Union Act, 1941. Such recognised unions or associations are organised on the basis of grade or category of employees within the civil service in order to facilitate their representative roles. It is accordingly within this context that civil servants are facilitated with union or association membership.

Office of Government Procurement

Ceisteanna (98)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

98. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 189 of 16 October 2018, his plans for further action in view of media reports (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51280/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Further to the reference regarding matters relating to Deutsche Bank, for the avoidance of doubt, there is no contractual relationship between the Office of Government Procurement and Deutsche Bank. Therefore we do not propose to comment in respect of the referenced media reports.

With regard to ongoing investigations into matters relating to money laundering at one of Danske Bank’s operations, and further to my response to your Parliamentary Question of 16 October 2018, remaining cognizant of the responsibility to conduct business in line with applicable laws, rules and regulations, officials from the Office of Government Procurement have engaged and corresponded with the bank and continue to engage on this matter and to monitor closely developments in this regard.

In the event that circumstances arise that would warrant the exclusion of any tenderer from a Framework Agreement, contract terms and conditions provide for such steps to be taken as may be necessary.

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (99)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

99. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the guidance issued to Departments regarding whether sick leave has an impact on the progression of pay increments for public sector workers; if this guidance has changed in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51314/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has responsibility for the arrangements relating to the payment of increments in the civil service.

These arrangements are set out in Circular 9/1987:- Increments. Paragraph 4 of Circular 9/1987 states that ‘An increment is an increase in pay for which provision is made in a pay scale. As a general rule increments are granted provided an officer’s service is satisfactory’. Paragraph 8 goes on to state that ‘Individual Departments bear the primary responsibility for ensuring that increments are granted only to officers whose attendance, performance and commitment throughout the year have been completely satisfactory’. There has been no change in this circular following the introduction of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme in 2014.

While the Increments circular itself has not changed, my Department has developed guidance aimed at supporting civil service employers in assessing the impact of sick absence on increments and other employment benefits. This guidance highlights the importance of proactively managing high levels or patterns of absence and reiterates the provisions of the Increments circular i.e. that an individual’s attendance can be taken into account in awarding an increment. The guidance is intended to assist employers in decision making and does not prescribe that an individual will automatically be ineligible for employment benefits and/or career opportunities, such as increments, because they have reached a particular level of absence.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (100, 101)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

100. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number, date of publication and details of post-enactment reports published by his Department since March 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51378/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

101. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of Acts passed since March 2011 that his Department is responsible for; the date each Act was signed into law in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51394/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 101 together.

The information requested by the Deputy on the Acts passed since 2011 and the dates of enactment is set out in the following table.

Name of Act

Date of Enactment

Appropriation Act 2017

18 December 2017

Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017

16 December 2017

National Shared Services Office Act 2017

26 July 2017

Ministers and Secretaries Act 2017

19 July 2017

Statute Law Revision Act 2016

26 December 2016

Appropriation Act 2016

20 December 2016

Appropriation Act 2015

16 December 2015

Financial Emergency Measures in Public Interest Act 2015

27 November 2015

Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Act 2015

24 December 2015

Houses of the Oireachtas (Appointments of Certain Officers) Act 2015

15 October 2015

Statute Law Revision Act 2015

18 July 2015

Valuation (Amendment) Act 2015

23 April 2015

Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015

11 March 2015

Appropriation Act 2014

19 December 2014

Freedom of Information Act 2014

14 October 2014

Protected Disclosures Act 2014

8 July 2014

Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Officer)(Amendment) Act 2014

12 April 2014

Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Act 2013

24 December 2013

Appropriation Act 2013

20 December 2013

Construction Contracts Act 2013

29 July 2013

Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013

24 July 2103

Ministers and Secretaries Act 2013

23 July 2013

Financial Emergency Measures in Public Interest Act 2013

5 June 2013

National Lottery Act 2013

14 May 2013

Houses of the Oireachtas (Amendment) (No.2) Act 2012

26 December 2012

Appropriation Act 2012

21 December 2012

Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012

31 October 2012

Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other provisions) Act 2012

28 July 2012

Statute Law Revision Act 2012

2 July 2012

Financial Emergency Measures in Public Interest Act 2011

19 December 2011

Appropriation Act 2011

19 December 2011

Ministers and Secretaries Act 2011

4 July 2011

The position in terms of post enactment reports varies according to the nature of the legislation in question. For example:

- The Appropriation Act is an annual Act required to provide authorisation in law for all the expenditure that has been undertaken in a given year on the basis of the Estimates and to provide legal basis for spending to continue in the year following;

- The FEMPI legislation makes provision for the Minister to submit annual reports by the end of June each year on the findings of a review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the legislation and reports have been submitted to the Oireachtas from 2010 to 2018;

- The Statute Law Revision Acts 2012-2016 were commenced in full on enactment and their sole purpose was to repeal archaic pre-independence legislation. As such, there is nothing to review, as the Acts do not “operate” in a meaningful sense. Their entire purpose of repealing other legislation was fulfilled on the day of enactment;

- The Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 was commenced in full on 25th September 2013. The Oireachtas has reviewed the Act by way of Volume II of the Report of the Banking Inquiry;

- The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 was commenced in full on 15 July 2014 and, as mandated by Section 2, the first statutory review of the Act’s operation has been published and can be accessed at the following link: https://www.per.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/Statutory-Review-of-the-Protected-Disclosures-Act-2014.pdf; and

- The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 provided that the Minister would commence a review of the operation of the Act 12 months after enactment, and make a report to each House of the Oireachtas. The first review of the Act was submitted to the Oireachtas and published in April 2017, further details are available at the following link: http://www.per.gov.ie/en/regulation-of-lobbying

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (102)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

102. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the grant and funding schemes operated by his Department; the value of each scheme; the basis or criteria used for the allocation of funding in respect of each scheme.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51410/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Deputy will be aware that the annual Revised Estimates sets out the funding that my Department grants to public bodies and organisations.

The Department, in the main, does not operate funding schemes of a more general nature. However, there is one small exception. The Open Data Engagement Fund 2018 / 2019 made awards totalling €16,365 distributed over 6 projects. The Open Data Governance Board considers applications to support projects that would improve the availability and usage of data on the national open data portal data.gov.ie. The main criteria, apart from the proposing an Open Data project, is that applicants must be an organisation or individual in Ireland. This can include inter alia a public body, business, research body, university, school, college or civil society group. The other main criteria for the Board’s consideration is the level of the applicant’s own investment in time and funds is taken into account.

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (103)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

103. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application by a school (details supplied) for additional classrooms; if the school management will be advised of planned developments in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51228/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is currently considering the school's application for additional accommodation. A decision on the application will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as possible.

Proposed Legislation

Ceisteanna (104)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

104. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to legislate for the use of plain language in Government publications and across Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51230/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

There are currently no plans to introduce plain language legislation.

However, plain English guidelines have been produced by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), who receive substantial funding from my Department, via SOLAS. NALA work with a range of bodies both in the public and private sectors to ensure that there is a focus on the use of plain English in their publications, web and broadcast material. The plain English guidelines aim to ensure that information is presented in a way that helps someone understand it the first time they read or hear it.

Literacy Levels

Ceisteanna (105)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

105. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of adults by age who have literacy issues in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; the number of adults who have numeracy issues by age; the measures he is taking to address the needs of these persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51231/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey measures adults’ proficiency in key information-processing skills - literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments - and gathers information and data on how adults use their skills at home, at work and in the wider community. The survey is conducted once every ten years (the last survey was published in 2013) and therefore records for the individual years requested are not available.

Ireland was one of 25 countries that participated in the first round of the OECD’s PIAAC survey in 2011-12, which was primarily undertaken to provide data on key adult skills, namely literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Ireland had the third highest response rate of participating countries at 72%, with almost 6,000 adults between the ages of 16 and 65 responding to the survey.

The survey found that on the literacy scale, Irish adults achieved an adjusted mean score of 266, slightly above the survey average score of 265, placing Ireland 19 out of the 34 countries that participated to date.

At the lower levels of proficiency, 17.9% of Irish adults scored at or below level 1 for literacy proficiency compared to the survey average of 20.3% of adults across the 34 participating countries. This was an improvement when compared to the 1997 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), in which 22% of Irish adults were assessed as being at Level 1 or below.

Ireland will also participate in the next PIAAC survey, which will be published in 2023.

Adult literacy provision is delivered through a number of dedicated programmes delivered by the overall Education and Training Board (ETB) adult literacy service. Last year, over €33million was provided to support adult literacy and numeracy provision for over 60,000 beneficiaries, with a further 16,000 availing of www.writeon.ie, an interactive web site to help people improve their reading, writing and numbers skills online.

A number of key policy initiatives/strategies are being implemented which are expected to improve Ireland’s outcomes in the key areas. These include the implementation of the recommendations of the adult literacy review published in 2013 via the Further Education and Training (FET) Strategy 2014 -2019 and the FET Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. These included the recommendation that participants on adult literacy programmes are offered more intensive provision, with a minimum of six hours a week. Since the publication of the FET Strategy, a number of other strategies have been published which include recommendations relevant to promoting literacy and numeracy through the use of technology enhanced learning and building the competence of learning practitioners and associates in the FET sector to deliver stand alone and integrated literacy and numeracy provision. The FET Literacy and Numeracy Strategy sets out 12 inter- related elements which aim to promote, develop and encourage literacy and numeracy skills in the adult population.

Progress to date includes the development and launch of the national awareness campaign, ‘Take the First Step’, development of national guidelines for the initial and on-going screening and assessment of participants, and the publication of a number of research projects including the examination of integrating literacy and numeracy in FET programmes and an examination of barriers to participation in FET programmes.

Literacy Levels

Ceisteanna (106)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

106. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children by age who have literacy issues in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; the number of children who have numeracy issues by age; the measures he is taking to address the needs of these children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51232/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

In July 2011 the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy - Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life 2011-2020 - was published. It set out to raise standards in literacy and numeracy in early years and school settings. It recognised the importance of these key skills for all aspects of day-to-day life and learning. Circulars 56/2011 for the primary sector and 25/2012 for the post-primary sector provided information on steps to be taken by schools under the Strategy, including the allocation of additional teaching time to both literacy and numeracy.

An interim review was published in 2017. The review shows that standards in literacy and numeracy have risen with Ireland’s students ranked highly in international surveys, particularly in literacy. To build on these achievements the review sets out updated and ambitious targets for literacy and numeracy in schools so as to further improve the standards for the all learners with specific focus on our lowest and highest achieving students. Specific targets for disadvantaged schools have also been included. Publication of the DEIS Plan 2017 is a significant step and its implementation will be the vehicle for driving progress in terms of improving educational outcomes including literacy for pupils at greatest risk of not achieving their full potential. Achievement of targets under the Literacy and Numeracy review will be measured through the National Assessments of English Reading and Mathematics (NAERM) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The Action Plan for Education 2018 sets out focussed actions in order to close the gap in literacy and numeracy among our learners, this focus will continue.

The Department of Education and Skills does not hold data on individual children in terms of literacy or numeracy issues. These issues are assessed and managed at a school level.

Standardised Testing results from primary schools, come to the Department in an amalgamated form. The purpose of these tests is to inform the development of school profiles, to allocate special education teachers to schools and to inform national education policy.

Measures and supports, such as those listed below, are available for schools to assist them in addressing the needs of a particular student. It is up to schools to adopt these supports as they see fit.

- The Department has set out the Continuum of Support framework to assist schools in identifying and responding to pupils’ needs. This framework helps to ensure that interventions are incremental, moving from class-based interventions to more intensive and individualised support, and that they are informed by careful monitoring of progress.

- Many children require additional teaching support in schools. In such circumstances, the classroom teacher is supported by Special Educational Needs Teachers, who will have access to additional training in the area of special education, and who will work closely with the class teacher to provide additional teaching support for children with special educational needs.

- The classroom teacher, in consultation with the Special Educational Needs Teacher as required, will consider ways in which the curriculum can be differentiated or adapted to suit the needs of individual pupils. This may also involve identifying the most appropriate teaching strategies and programmes to meet the child’s needs, and deciding which additional teaching supports are required. Parents should normally be consulted as part of this process.

- The Department has produced Guidelines for Primary Schools: Supporting Pupils with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools in consultation with the National Educational Psychological Services, the Inspectorate and Special Education Section. This gives guidance to schools in how to use additional resources to support children with learning difficulties and special educational needs either within the classroom or in a smaller learning support context

School Accommodation

Ceisteanna (107, 117)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

107. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application by a school (details supplied) in County Donegal for additional school accommodation for the construction of a classroom, general purpose hall and disability toilets was received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51239/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

117. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application by a school (details supplied) in County Donegal for additional school accommodation, the construction of a classroom, general purpose hall and disability toilets was received; if his attention has been drawn to the need for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51438/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 117 together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school in question has submitted an application for additional school accommodation recently.

My Department will consider the application and a decision will be conveyed to the school authorities subsequently.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (108)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

108. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered introducing a sliding distance scale in cases in which a person is under the distance for the non-adjacent SUSI grant and the family (details supplied) is in receipt of family income supplement by which the payment rate could be increased in accordance with the distance from the college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51240/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student. The student grant scheme does however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means. Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates. The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living away from home.

Under the terms of the student grant scheme, Family Income Supplement (aka Working Family Payment) is treated as an income disregard and is therefore not included in the calculation of reckonable income. It is also a qualifying payment for the special rate of grant.

Budget 2011 provided for a number of student grant measures which came into effect for the 2011/12 academic year, including the change in the assessment of the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24 kilometres to 45 kilometres.

The 24km distance criterion was originally set in 1968 and had not been updated in more than 40 years. Since then, significant improvements have taken place in the road and rail network and it is considered that the revised distance criteria is more consistent with the type of distances that students may legitimately be expected to commute to college.

The current qualifying distance of 45km for the higher non-adjacent rate of student grant takes into account a reasonable radius within which students may commute on a daily basis.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Education and Training Boards Payments

Ceisteanna (109, 110)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

109. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rules regarding the ability of ETBs to reduce FET allowance payments for those on qualifying courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51307/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

110. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the complete former rate of jobseeker's payment including increases for qualified dependents is reduced and not solely the previous personal jobseeker's rate in circumstances in which a decision is taken to reduce the FET allowance payment to a person for lateness, missing training and so on; his views on whether this discrepancy causes unnecessary hardship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51308/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 110 together.

Once an individual has received notification that they have been accepted on a training course they are required to attend their local Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) Office to sign off in relation to their DEASP claim to ensure that there is no double payment.

On commencement of the training programme the learners will receive a training allowance (which is not a DEASP payment) through the Education Training Board that is providing the course. This allowance is calculated from the amounts indicated on a F103 (Participant Allowance Entitlement Form) provided by DEASP.

This F103 form, completed by the DEASP office, establishes the individual’s entitlement to a training allowance. Where the F103 form indicates a personal entitlement the individual will receive a training allowance of €198. This form indicates any additional allowances that are due to paid and can vary in accordance with the personal circumstance, eg. qualified children and/or qualified adults. The form also provides the reduction that is required should the learner have means assessed against their entitlements by DEASP.

The purpose of the training programme is to develop the learner’s skills and competencies and to prepare them for the transition to the workplace. As part of this preparation for the workplace, standard workplace practice are applied and deductions are made to the training allowance based on an individual’s punctuality and attendance.

The manager of the training function has some limited discretion in relation to the application of deductions to training allowance in hardship cases.

It is important to note that learners may apply to DEASP for reimbursement of payments under the Illness Benefit System where they have experienced absences from their training course for periods of 6 days or more due to illness.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (111)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

111. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide an extension or additional school places at a school (details supplied). [51309/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The major project at the school referred to by the Deputy is at Stage 1 of Architectural planning which entails preliminary examination of site and location suitability and initial Sketch scheme.

A revised Stage 1 submission, including an up to date cost plan, was requested from the Design

Team following an increase in the schedule of accommodation to cater for up to 1200 pupils. That submission is currently being reviewed by my Department.

My Department will shortly be in contact with the school authorities to update them on the outcome of that review. This project is included on the Department’s six year school building program to commence Construction in 2019 – 21.