Medicinal Products Availability

Ceisteanna (214)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

214. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Health the status of measures to expand access to Pembrolizumab to all clinically suitable women with cervical cancer. [3688/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Deputy will be aware that a Government decision of 11 May 2018 put in place a package of support measures for the women and families affected by the issues related to CervicalCheck. Those measures included medicines which might not be approved for reimbursement including Pembrolizumab, once they are prescribed by the treating clinician.

Following that decision, concerns were raised regarding the provision of Pembrolizumab to other cervical cancer patients on the same basis as encompassed by the Government decision of 11 May 2018. In the light of those concerns, I asked the HSE to examine ways in which other women with cervical cancer could be afforded access to Pembrolizumab if prescribed by their treating clinician.

That examination would have to have regard to the fact that the drug Pembrolizumab does not have a marketing authorisation in Europe and accordingly cannot be considered for reimbursement through the HSE statutory process. Furthermore, any decision would have to have regard to the fact that Pembrolizumab is an off label investigational medicine for the treatment of cervical cancer and that supporting evidence for the use of this drug to treat cervical cancer is limited.

Following discussions between my Department and the HSE, the HSE has put in place arrangements which will facilitate access to Pembrolizumab for cervical cancer patients, on a case-by-case basis in public hospitals, when a treating clinician determines that this is in the patient’s best interests. All prescribing decisions will be entirely a matter for the treating clinician, in line with patient safety protocols and the Medical Council Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics. The HSE has communicated this approach to hospitals and medical oncologists.

This arrangement will apply to cervical cancer patients only. The statutory responsibility of the HSE for medicine pricing and reimbursement decisions, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, remains unchanged.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ceisteanna (215)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

215. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the supports that can be put in place to help a person (details supplied) following on from their discharge from hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3689/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Home Care Packages Provision

Ceisteanna (216)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

216. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if a person (details supplied) residing in hospital after a recent illness has been awarded 21 hours of care but remains unapproved on a financial basis; the reason for the delay; and when this care package will be finalised and approved. [3467/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Agriculture Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (217)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

217. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an agricultural appeal by a person (details supplied); when a decision will be made on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3511/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Agriculture Appeals Office operates independently of my Department. I have been advised that the records of the Agriculture Appeals Office indicate that an appeal was received from the person named on 19 June 2018 and was assigned to an Appeals Officer. Following a full assessment of the case, a comprehensive decision letter was issued by the Appeals Officer to the appellant on 11 January 2019.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (218)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

218. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of meetings he has attended since the beginning of September 2018 with his officials to discuss and prepare for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3589/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The United Kingdom is a strategically important trading partner for the Irish agri-food sector, with 38% of total agri-food sector goods exported to the UK in 2017, and an even greater reliance on the UK market for specific sectors such as the beef industry. As such, all policy meetings relating to areas exposed to the UK in a Brexit context feature a common thread of discussion on Brexit matters.

It is the most significant challenge facing the agrifood sector at this time. Therefore, my officials and I meet on a daily basis internally, with state agencies and with representatives from the agri-food and fisheries sectors to discuss and prepare for Brexit. We also meet regularly with Ministerial colleagues and their officials, with EU Commissioners and their officials, as well as with EU counterparts

The meetings with the main industry representative organisations such as Meat Industry Ireland, and Food and Drink Industry Ireland, as well as with the farming and fishing representative organisations provide me with an opportunity to hear their concerns, to outline their challenges that the UK withdrawal from the EU will present to them and allow me and my officials update them on developments at EU level and on our preparedness measures.

Brexit is a standing agenda item on my Department's weekly Management Board meetings, where all of the necessary policy and preparedness issues are addressed. Both Minister Doyle and myself have attended Management Board meetings where we have been fully briefed on my Department's planning for a central and no-deal Brexit scenario. I and my officials are also continuing to meet with my EU counterparts in key Member States to ensure they are fully aware of Ireland's concerns about the impact of Brexit on the agri-food sector.

Brexit is also a standing item on the agenda for the regular High Level Committee meetings which oversee the implementation of the FoodWise 2025 programme.

In addition, I and my officials have had a range of bilateral meetings with Commissioner Hogan, with other EU Commissioners, with the Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and with Commission officials to apprise them of Ireland's key 'asks' of the Brexit negotiations and to apprise them of the impacts Brexit will have on the sector.

Finally, myself and my officials are in regular discussion with Cabinet colleagues and their officials to discuss developments and strategies around Brexit as part of the 'whole of Government' response to Brexit.

GLAS Payments

Ceisteanna (219)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

219. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when 2017 and 2018 GLAS payments will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3607/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 3 and has received payments for scheme year 2017. The 2017 balance has been paid following the resolution of an outstanding issue. This application will now move forward for processing of the 2018 advance. GLAS payments are continuing to issue on a weekly basis.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme

Ceisteanna (220)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

220. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if land (details supplied) has been included for qualification under the new round of the ANC scheme. [3612/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has recently concluded the redesignation of eligible lands for the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme, as required under the EU Regulations. The lands referenced in the question, in Killaclug East, were not eligible for the ANC Scheme prior to this redesignation, and are also not eligible under the new designation of eligible lands. An independent appeals process is in place for any farmer who wishes to query the eligibility status of a townland. Further details are available on my Department website: www.agriculture.gov.ie.

Horticulture Sector

Ceisteanna (221)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

221. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to address labour shortages in the horticulture sector; and if he had discussions with his counterpart in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation with respect to work permits. [3691/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am aware that there is a shortage of labour across parts of the agricultural sector, including on horticultural farms.

In addressing this issue, it became clear that while some potential exists to recruit labour from within the domestic and European labour markets, this is insufficient to meet the demand. Therefore, my Department has had extensive engagement with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys and her Department in relation to employment permits for non-European Economic Area nationals.

This engagement culminated in my Department submitting a detailed, evidence based case to Minister Humphreys Department earlier this year which laid out the justification for granting employment permits to three sectors – dairy farm assistants, general operatives in meat plants, and horticultural farm assistants. This resulted in the introduction in May 2018 of a pilot quota of permits by Minister Humphreys, including 500 for horticulture workers. So far, I understand that 39 of these have been issued, with around 60 applications having been received. These numbers are lower than was expected, although I understand that with the drought and the timing of the announcement, demand may have been lower than anticipated.

Alongside the dedicated pilot scheme for the agri-food sector, it is also important to point out that an overarching review of the broader employment permit system has been carried out by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Minister Humphreys published the report on this review last September and my Department, having actively participated in the review, is now part of an inter-departmental group tasked with implementing the recommendations. I am confident that this exercise will lead to a permit regime that is more flexible and adaptable to the labour needs of the agri-food sector, particularly for seasonal employment.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (222)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

222. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of applications received to date for the Brexit loan scheme for food businesses by company size (details supplied); the number of applications approved and not approved, respectively, to date by firm size; and the number of loans granted to date. [3693/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme was designed, in cooperation with DBEI and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), to provide working capital support to enable eligible Irish businesses to implement necessary changes to address the challenges posed by Brexit. The Scheme opened for applications on 28 March, 2018 and it will remain open until 31st March 2020.

It provides for loans of €25,000 to €1,500,000 per eligible enterprise at a maximum interest rate of 4%, ranging from 1 year to 3 years, with unsecured loans up to €500,000. The loans can be used for future working capital requirements or to fund innovation, change or adaptation of the business to mitigate the impact of Brexit.

Applications for eligibility assessment must be made to the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) who on approval will assign an eligibility reference number. This reference number along with the loan application may then be provided to the business's preferred participating lender.

The number of eligibility applications received by SBCI to close of business on 21 January for the Brexit Loan Scheme for food businesses by company size is shown below:

Company Size

Number of Eligibility Applications Approved for Food Businesses

Number of Eligibility Applications Not Approved for Food Businesses

Less than 10 employees

16

0

11 to 49 employees

17

1

50 to 249 employees

9

1

More than 250 employees

0

1

Total

42

3

As at close of business on 21 January there have been a total of 376 eligibility applications received, including food business figures shown above, of which 337 eligibility applications have been approved and 7 are ineligible, as shown in the following table:

Company Size

Approved Eligibility Applications

Ineligible Eligibility Applications

Less than 10 employees

160

3

11 to 49 employees

132

1

50 to 249 employees

45

2

More than 250 employees

0

1

Total

337

7

The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level as at close of business on 21 January is 65 to a value of €14.9m, eight of which relate to food businesses with a total value of €3.6m.

TAMS Funding

Ceisteanna (223)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

223. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of funding approved for works in TAMS II applications that has yet to be drawn down and which expired by the end of 2018; the number of applicants in this position; the value of moneys approved not drawn down by the end of 2018; the status of moneys approved but not drawn down; and if the funds can be carried forward within the scheme or returned to the Exchequer. [3694/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There is a budget in place of €395m for the suite of seven measures available under TAMS II for the duration of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. To date the expenditure amounts to €105.574m. The Scheme is co-funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

964 approvals expired at the end of 2018 with a grant value of €11.787m. At the same time over 8,900 farmers had a TAMSII approval in place for which they had not yet submitted a payment claim with a grant value of €171.904m. All of these approvals represent committed expenditure under the TAMS II measure of the Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020. Until such time as these approvals are acted upon or expire the budget for TAMS must include provision for the potential expenditure involved.

All participants who have completed approved works are urged to submit their payment claims immediately to facilitate early payment.

The Scheme remains open for new applications and applications continue to be received and processed under the Scheme with over 2,000 applications submitted under the latest tranche that closed on 7 December 2018.