Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (76)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

76. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the number of staff working in the procurement area for major State infrastructure projects in his Department. [4585/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department does not directly engage in procurement of any major state infrastructure projects.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (77)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

77. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of staff working in the procurement area for major State infrastructure projects in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4575/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process. The principal aim over the period of the White Paper will be to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements, including response to security risks and other emergencies, both at home and overseas.

In accordance with the National Development Plan, the capital allocation for Defence has been increased to €106 million for 2019, an increase of €29 million. The National Development Plan provides for a total of €541 million for Defence over the period 2018-2022. This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years.

The Department’s Contracts Branch manages overall procurement policy within the Defence Organisation, reflecting the specialised nature of the equipment profile. Contracts Branch, which has a staffing complement of nine, has a range of functions within the procurement area ranging from the direct management of procurement activities for defensive equipment and materials including ammunition, the contract management of major capital equipment programmes as set out in the White Paper on Defence, the disposal of obsolete equipment and corporate governance issues. The Branch engages with the Office of Government Procurement and provides procurement advice to other Branches of the Defence Organisation.

Military Medals

Ceisteanna (78)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

78. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps he has taken to honour the recommendation of a person (details supplied) to award medals to a number of men who served with the UN at the siege of Jadotville in 1961; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4593/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September "A" Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.

The issue of the award of medals to the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion was comprehensively addressed in 1965. A properly constituted Medals Board considered the various cases presented and made a decision that no medals would be awarded. The Chief of Staff of the day considered the decision of the Board and was satisfied with the findings. Subsequently, the question was raised again in a letter to a newly appointed Chief of Staff. He forwarded the letter to the original Medals Board and asked that they reconvene and review their decision. The Board indicated that the issues raised had received due consideration and that they were not prepared to alter their findings.

In accordance with Defence Forces regulations the award of medals for bravery is time bound. These may not be awarded in any case unless a recommendation is made through the usual channels to the Chief of Staff, not later than two years in the case of the Military Medal for Gallantry, and not later than four years in the case of the Distinguished Service Medal, after the performance of the act in respect of which the recommendation is made. Such awards are made on the recommendation of a Military Board appointed by the Chief of Staff for the purpose of examining and reporting on every recommendation for an award.

A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.

Recognition of their contribution over the years include:

A. A presentation of scrolls to "A" Company in 2006.

B. Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.

C. In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

D. A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Costume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.

E. On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, I decided to issue a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces and I was delighted to be able to formally recognize the brave actions of these men.

Furthermore, on 13th June 2017, the Government decided, as an exceptional step, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville. This medal presentation ceremony took place on 2nd December 2017 in Custume Barracks, Athlone. This location is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here that “A” company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo.

I am satisfied that the events and happenings to date properly honour the collective bravery of the men of “A” Company and full and due recognition has been afforded to them in their honour.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Ceisteanna (79)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

79. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the review taking place within the consultation procedure in respect of restoration of the allowances and so on to members of the Defence Forces which were substantially reduced; his plans for full restoration of same without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4692/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Similar to other sectors in the public service, the pay of Permanent Defence Force personnel was reduced as one of the measures to assist in stabilising national finances during the financial crisis.

Improvements within the economy have provided an opportunity to begin the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) legislation which imposed pay cuts across the Public Service during the financial crisis.

Pay is being restored to members of the Defence Forces and other public servants in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay.

The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, which was accepted by members of the Permanent Defence Force through their representative associations, provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the Agreement. The increases due under the agreement from 1 January 2018, 1 October 2018 and 1 January 2019 have been paid to Permanent Defence Force personnel. Further increases in pay are scheduled in 2019 and 2020.

By the end of the current Public Service Pay agreement the payscales of all public servants (including members of the Defence Forces), earning under €70,000 per annum, will be restored to pre-FEMPI levels. The restoration of the 5% reduction to allowances cut under FEMPI is also scheduled as part of that agreement.

Election Monitoring Missions

Ceisteanna (80)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

80. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 59, 60 and 61 of 24 January 2019, if he will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4518/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

As a result of a selection process held during 2018, a new roster of international election roster observers was put in place in January 2019. There was a particularly high number of applications, with almost twice the number of applications to roster places. A number of unsuccessful candidates have asked that their applications are formally reviewed by way of an appeals process. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on any individual application while an appeals process is on-going.

Election Monitoring Missions

Ceisteanna (81)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

81. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department operates a national roster for international election observation; the way in which the roster is drawn up; his plans to observe elections in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4523/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade administers and maintains a roster of suitably skilled individuals who are available to deploy on international election observation missions organised, in the main, by the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

A new roster was put in place in January 2019. This followed a selection process launched on 2 July 2018. A Volunteer Information Booklet was made available on the Irish Aid website, which provided information on the operation of the roster and the selection process. I refer the Deputy to the response to Parliamentary Question 109 of 19 December 2018, which outlined the selection process. Training for new roster members is currently being provided and security vetting is on-going.

The EU and the OSCE/ODHIR issue regular calls for nomination of observers to participate in the election missions organised under their auspices. The Department will review each call which issues in 2019 on a case-by-case basis and respond accordingly, including with regard to the overall annual budget available for participation in election observation missions.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (82)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

82. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of staff working in the procurement area for major State infrastructure projects in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4579/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

While my Department is engaged in some capital projects overseas, it has no remit for major state infrastructure located in Ireland.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (83)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

83. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there are ongoing discussions between Departments and their counterparts in Northern Ireland on preparations for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4686/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The continuing absence of vital institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is a source of deep concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government. The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions. Both Governments are determined to find a way beyond the current impasse to get the institutions operating again and I remain in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on how this can be pursued.

The devolved institutions of the Agreement are urgently needed so that the mandated Assembly and power-sharing Executive can represent the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland and address issues of concern, including the challenges for Northern Ireland of the UK decision to exit the European Union. The North South Ministerial Council is also essential to oversee and develop North South cooperation on matters of mutual interest, as provided for under the Good Friday Agreement.

In the absence of an Executive, there are continuing discussions between officials of all Departments and their counterparts in Northern Ireland to continue to maintain the efficient functioning of North-South cooperation.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (84)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

84. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there is co-ordination with Departments and local statutory agencies on preparations for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4687/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Detailed Brexit preparedness and contingency work is being taken forward on a whole of Government basis, across all Government Departments and Agencies, co-ordinated by officials in my Department, working closely with the Department of the Taoiseach.

In accordance with the Government decision of 11 December 2018 to give greater immediate priority to preparations for a disorderly Brexit, and requiring Departments to urgently take forward all necessary work on that basis, no deal Brexit planning is coordinated by the Secretary General to the Government.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade chairs and co-chairs a number of coordination structures and groups put in place to assist with advancing Brexit preparations and contingency planning. These structures and groups facilitate a whole of Government approach to Brexit preparedness and contingency planning.

The Assistant Secretary Group on no deal Brexit Planning, co-chaired with the Department of the Taoiseach, meets on a very regular basis in Government buildings. The Senior Officials Group (SOG) on Brexit-related legislation, also co-chaired with the Department of the Taoiseach, meets on a very regular basis in Government buildings.

The Inter-Departmental Group on the EU and Brexit is a fortnightly senior level meeting chaired by DFAT where departments update on European Union and Brexit developments in their remit.

All relevant Government Departments are invited to attend these Groups. In addition, the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel also attend the Brexit-related legislation SOG.

The Landbridge Project Group first met in October 2017 and meets on an ad hoc basis to review issues relating to the UK Landbridge. It is attended by Government Departments with particular concerns related to use of the UK Landbridge.

Brexit Coordinators Group is a weekly meeting of Brexit coordinators from Government Departments. It has met since 2017.

In addition, the Brexit Stakeholder Forum was convened in September 2017 as a means to inform and explain the Government’s position during the Article 50 negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The Forum brings together key stakeholders with a view to providing regular updates on the progression of the negotiations; facilitating the sharing of different sectoral concerns regarding Brexit; and providing a platform for the interaction of sectoral and EU expertise so as to underpin the Government’s comprehensive and cohesive response to Brexit. Among the key stakeholders in attendance at the Forum are IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Intertrade Ireland, Bord Bia and Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Government Departments and local statutory agencies have also liaised and coordinated together through the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready communications campaign, launched in September 2018. As part of the campaign, which is ongoing, Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events showcased the extensive work of the Government’s agencies, bringing together this experience and expertise in a ‘one stop shop’ for citizens and businesses in particular. Over 2,500 citizens and businesses attended the events held throughout October and November in Cork, Galway, Dublin, Monaghan, Limerick and Letterkenny.

A large number of local and national statutory authorities were represented at the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events and were available to advise citizens and businesses on preparing for Brexit, including Enterprise Ireland, Inter Trade Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, the Health & Safety Authority, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, IDA Ireland, Bord Bia, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Fáilte Ireland, and Údarás na Gaeltachta.

The work of statutory Agencies has been central to the Government's approach to preparing businesses for Brexit and providing the necessary supports and assistance. As part of this work, Enterprise Ireland provided €74m in grant aid to Brexit exposed firms in 2018. In addition, 151 of Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Be Prepared grants, and 657 of InterTrade Ireland’s Brexit Start to Plan voucher schemes, have been approved to date. In the agri-food sector Bord Bia's Brexit Barometer plays a vital role in identifying the key risks facing the sector.

Insurance Data

Ceisteanna (85)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

85. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number and value of pay-outs owed to policyholders retained by insurance companies in each of the years 2016 to 2018, for example, in the form of the typical 20% being withheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4483/19]

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. My Department does not collect the type of information being sought by the Deputy. In addition, it should be noted that the Central Bank of Ireland does not systematically record any information on retentions or partial settlement payments in the standard returns submitted by companies, however it does get information on the aggregate amounts paid and aggregate amounts outstanding for different classes of business, but cannot tell whether the outstanding amounts relate to claims that have been partially paid or are fully outstanding.

For the Deputy’s information, I have been advised that the making of interim payments, particularly in a property repair context is a standard practice by most insurers. Different insurers may adopt different approaches to the use of interim payments and may retain different levels of the overall amount (retention), however you should be aware that this is generally a commercial contractual matter between the insured and his or her insurer and is set out in the policy document.

The use of interim payments generally arises in a situation where the full extent of the liability may not be known until works have been completed. The intention behind this approach is to ensure that the customer can afford to meet the payments as they arise during the repair work for cash-flow reasons, notwithstanding that he or she expects to recover the full cost of the overall work from the insurer. Retention, in this context, refers to an amount held back by the insurer until it can confirm that the works required have been completed and final invoices or receipts are available that validate the costs incurred for the repair/ reinstatement work.

The Deputy will be aware that the Consumer Protection Code includes provisions related to insurance claims handling processes. The practice of retention is not prohibited by law or any other regulatory requirement such as the Code. However the Central Bank expects that firms will act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of their customers in accordance with the general principles of the Code. To this end, it has conducted reviews in relation to retention in the past. I am aware, for example, that in 2013, it requested insurers to make clearer to policyholders their general approach to retention at the time of the product being purchased and again when a claim is instigated.

It is also worth noting that where any consumer is dissatisfied with the service received from his or her insurance provider, including on interim payments and retention, he or she should consult the website of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman – https://www.fspo.ie/make-a-complaint/ – which advises on the correct complaints procedure that consumers may follow should they wish to formally complain.

Finally, as the Deputy is aware this issue of retention and interim payments has arisen on foot of negative feedback that Minister of State D’Arcy has received personally from policyholders of delays in claims processing in relation to recent storms. As indicated in a previous PQ the Minister of State has asked that his concerns be further examined by members of the Cost of Insurance Working Group over the coming weeks.

VAT Rate Application

Ceisteanna (86, 87, 90)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

86. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4501/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

87. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if a matter relating to VAT charged on products (details supplied) will be clarified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4507/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

90. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding VAT on food supplements, vitamins and minerals; his plans to impose a 23% VAT rate on such products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4521/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 87 and 90 together.

The standard rate of VAT applies to food supplements. However, a Revenue Commissioners concession allowed the zero rate to be applied to certain types of vitamins, minerals and fish oils. Revenue has since decided to remove this concession with effect from 1 March 2019 so that all food supplements will be charged at the standard VAT rate.

It should be noted, however, that human oral medicines, including certain folic acid and other vitamin and mineral products, licenced by the Health Products Regulatory Association will continue to apply at the zero rate of VAT. Infant foods will also continue to be zero rated.

The operation of the concession became extremely problematic as a result of efforts by certain businesses in the industry to extend the concession beyond the scope permitted. Consistent challenges to Revenue guidance and decisions on the VAT rating of products gave rise to serious concerns about compliance within the industry and unfair competition between compliant and non-compliant businesses.

However, independent of Revenue’s decisions on interpretation, I agreed during the recent Finance Bill to put in place a process that will conclude in the 2019 Tax Strategy Group Paper to examine some of the policy choices around the VAT treatment of food supplements.

Tax Data

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 86.

Ceisteanna (88, 89)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

88. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 180 and 181 of 15 January 2019, the number of cases in which inappropriate use of section 949AG of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 occurred; the percentage of cases this represented in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4515/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

89. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of Circuit Court appeals lodged by the appellant in tax appeals cases in 2012 and 2013; the percentage of cases heard at appeal in the same period this represented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 89 together.

Section 949AG of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (which was inserted by the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015) was identified by Revenue and the Tax Appeals Commission ("TAC") as being interpreted, in a small number of instances, as applying in all situations and as conferring the right on appellants to require the TAC to require disclosure of all of Revenue’s documentation on a particular taxpayer or matter, regardless of whether the Commissioners considered that this was required to determine the particular appeal or not. Revenue have advised me that "a small number of instances" refers to no more than 10-15 cases.

For the deputy's reference, 901 appeals were received by the TAC in 2016, 1,751 appeals in 2017 and 1,680 in 2018. Thus, instances where section 949AG was considered to be used inappropriately account for less than 1% of the total cases received by the TAC in the period from its establishment to year end 2018. However the Deputy will be aware that only a minority of cases proceed to a full hearing and determination.

Legislative change in respect of section 949AG was raised by and discussed with both the Appeal Commissioners and Revenue. Both parties indicated that they had no objection to the deletion of section 949AG. Their view was that the removal of the section (as well as a consequential amendment to section 669 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, to re-insert a provision which was removed when section 949AG was originally enacted) would address the concern identified while not adversely affecting the TAC's ability to require the provision of information as needed.

The current legislation provides the TAC with a wide range of other powers to require Revenue and appellants to supply information to assist the Appeal Commissioners in their adjudication and determination of an appeal. It is considered that these powers are sufficiently extensive to allow for the effective operation of the appeals process. However, the removal of section 949AG precludes any assertion that it should apply in all situations, even in those where there is no statutory requirement for the Appeal Commissioners to have regard to the same matters to which Revenue was required to have regard.

I am advised by Revenue that it previously provided information on the number of appeals made to the Circuit Court, and decisions given by that Court, in the years 2012 and 2013 to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. The information was provided as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Finance (Tax Appeals) Bill 2015 conducted by that Committee on 27 January 2015. After that meeting, Revenue provided some follow-up information in writing to the Committee and its letter of 13 February 2015 included the following statistics in relation to appeals to the Circuit Court:

Circuit Court Decisions:

Year

Total Appealed to Circuit Court

Total Decisions

For Revenue

% of Decisions

For Taxpayer

% of Decisions

Ongoing

Settled/Withdrawn

2013

28

7

6

86%

1

14%

13

8

2012

33

19

17

89%

2

11%

3

11

Total

61

26

23

88%

3

12%

16

19

At the time, Revenue also estimated that the Appeal Commissioners made 110 determinations in 2012 and 118 determinations in 2013 (228 in total). However, it is not possible to say how many cases were heard (but not determined) by the Appeal Commissioners in those years.

The Deputy may wish to note that Section 27(4) of the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015 preserved the right of some appellants to appeal to the Circuit Court in certain circumstances in respect of existing appeals following the establishment of the TAC. To date one appeal has been appealed to the Circuit Court in accordance with this provision. The Circuit Court upheld the TAC’s determination.

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 86.

Financial Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (91)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

91. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the requirements banks must follow to fully inform customers of the true cost of cashback and other offers when it comes to mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4538/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Provision 6.12 of the Central Bank Consumer Protection Code states that, where a regulated entity offers an incentive to a personal consumer on an existing mortgage (and, following an addendum to the Code which came into effect on 1 January 2019, now also in respect of a new mortgage), the regulated entity must provide the personal consumer, on paper or on another durable medium, with the information needed to consider the incentive offered.

This information must:

a) quantify the implications for the personal consumer of availing of the incentive including an indicative cost comparison of the total cost of the existing or new mortgage if they do not avail of the incentive and the total cost of the mortgage if they avail of the incentive;

b) clearly set out the length of time during which the incentive will be available;

c) clearly set out any assumptions used, which must be reasonable and justifiable;

d) set out the advantages and disadvantages to the personal consumer of availing of the incentive;

e) include other key information which the personal consumer should have available to them when considering the incentive; and

f) include a statement that the personal consumer may wish to seek independent advice prior to availing of the incentive.

This provision requires that consumers have sufficient clarity about the precise nature and scale of the benefit of an incentive to them, including the potential impact of an associated incentive on the cost of their mortgage.

Financial Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (92, 97)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

92. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the types of bank accounts that are prevented from being shown on such platforms; the reason for these types of bank accounts being prevented from being shown on electronic banking platforms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4539/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

97. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of banks in the market that enable customers to view accounts from other banks; if the European payments services directive compels banks to provide this service; if so, the way in which the directive will be enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4554/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 97 together.

The revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) opens the EU payments market to regulated entities offering consumer or business-oriented payment services based on access to payment accounts.

It requires account servicing payment service providers (normally banks) to grant access to payment accounts to these regulated third party providers, known as account information service providers.

An account information service provider can use the access to payment accounts to provide the account holder with aggregated online information for their accounts held with multiple providers. The legislation provides that access to payment accounts is only possible with the permission of the account holder.

The requirement to provide access under PSD2 is confined to payment accounts. Banks themselves may provide account information services to account holders, but they are not obliged to do so.

PSD2 was transposed into Irish law in January 2018 through the European Union (Payment Services) Regulations 2018, and the Central Bank is the competent authority in the State for the purposes of the Payment Services Directive.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (93)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

93. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the macro prudential and consumer protection regulation regarding electronic banking platforms such as a platform (details supplied); the way in which this will be impacted by Brexit if these platforms are regulated prudentially in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4540/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

On 8 February last year the European Commission issued a notice to stakeholders on the “Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU rules in the field of Banking and Payment Services”. The notice stated that, subject to any transitional arrangement that may be contained in a possible withdrawal agreement, as of the withdrawal date the EU rules in the field of payment services payment services in the internal market will no longer apply to the United Kingdom.

It warned that UK entities providing payment services, as well as e-money issuing, will lose the ability to passport; meaning that those entities will no longer be allowed to provide services in the EU on the basis of their current authorisations.

As part of contingency action planning focused on a no-deal scenario, the European Commission issued a further communication on 13 November “Preparing for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”. The Commission repeated the earlier warning and stressed that contingency measures taken by national or EU authorities cannot replace the preparations that each business must take. Where new authorisations are required, regulated entities were reminded of their responsibility to apply in good time.

The Deputy may be interested to know that the referenced firm announced on 13 December that its application for a European banking licence had been approved by the European Central Bank, and that it intends to passport its Lithuanian banking license to other EU jurisdictions.

Credit Card Interest Rates

Ceisteanna (94)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

94. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of customers who do not make credit card repayments before the interest free period expires; the average interest rate charged once the interest free period expires; the value of credit card debt outstanding; the value of that debt that is subject to interest following the expiry of the interest free period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4542/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Central Bank issues statistical information on cred and debit cards every quarter. The last release, which relates to November 2018 may be found at https://centralbank.ie/statistics/data-and-analysis/credit-and-banking-statistics/credit-and-debit-card-statistics.

The Central Bank has advised that the total value in November 2018 of:

- Convenience and extended credit card debt was €1,652,381,000

- Outstanding interest-bearing extended credit card debt was €1,077,775,000

- Convenience credit card debt was €574,606,000

The Deputy should be aware that:

- Convenience credit is defined as the credit granted at an interest rate of 0 per cent in the period between payment transaction(s) undertaken with the card during one billing cycle and the date at which debit balances from the specific billing cycle becomes due.

- Extended credit is defined as the credit granted after the due date(s) of the previous billing cycle(s) has/have passed, i.e. debit amounts on the card accounts that have not been settled when this was first possible, for which an interest rate or tiered interest rates usually greater than 0 per cent are charged. Often minimum installments per month have to be made to at least partially repay extended credit.

The Central Bank has also advised that the weighted average interest rate on extended credit card debt was 14.84% in November 2018.

The Central Bank has advised me that they do not have any published data on the percentage of customers that do not make credit card repayments before the interest free period expires.

Banking Operations

Ceisteanna (95)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

95. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the reason a bank may refuse to open a regular bank account for an individual; the regulation surrounding such matters; the number of persons in 2018 who were turned down by banks when attempting to open regular bank accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4543/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Payment Accounts Directive, transposed in September 2016 by the European Union (Payment Accounts) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 482 of 2016), contains a right to open a payment account with basic features with a credit institution. This right extends to any person who is legally resident in the European Union, regardless of whether he or she has a fixed address.

A payment account with basic features is similar to a regular payment account in many respects. It allows a person to place money in the account, withdraw cash from the account, and to make payments using direct debits, debit cards, or credit transfers. An important difference is that a payment account with basic features does not offer credit facilities, such as an overdraft.

Regulation 16 of the European Union (Payment Accounts) Regulations 2016 permits a credit institution to refuse to open an account on one of two grounds. Those grounds are set out in the legislation, but essentially are that the applicant already holds a payment account or that refusal is necessary to comply with money laundering and terrorist financing legislation.

Regulation 16 (5) stipulates that, where a relevant credit institution decides to refuse an application, it shall:

“(a) notify the applicant in writing and free of charge of the refusal and the grounds for the refusal, unless such notification would be contrary to section 49 of the Act of 2010 or objectives of national security or public policy,

(b) where the refusal is on the grounds referred to in paragraph (4), take appropriate measures as required under Chapter 4 of Part 4 of the Act of 2010,

(c) advise the consumer of:-

(i) the procedure for submitting a complaint to it against the refusal, and

(ii) the consumer’s right to contact the Bank and the Financial Services Ombudsman in relation to the refusal, including the relevant contact details.”

Firms should also be mindful of provision 2.11 of the Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code). This provides that a regulated entity must ensure that in all its dealings with customers and within the context of its authorisation it “without prejudice to the pursuit of its legitimate commercial aims, does not, through its policies, procedures, or working practices, prevent access to basic financial services”.

If an applicant is refused an account he or she can submit a complaint against that decision to the credit institution. A consumer who has a complaint that is not resolved by the credit institution’s internal complaints mechanism may make a complaint to the independent Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.

The Central Bank is the designated competent authority for the purposes of the European Union (Payment Accounts) Regulations 2016. The Central Bank informs me that information referring to the number of persons turned down would not be disclosable.

Brexit Issues

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 92.

Ceisteanna (96)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

96. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to install trade facilitation bays in Border counties in the event of a no-deal Brexit; when he expects these to be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4545/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am informed by Revenue that their preparations do not include any plans for infrastructure at the border and this is in line with the Government’s position that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland. Revenue Chairman, Niall Cody, set out this position clearly when he and Revenue officials appeared before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach on 24 January 2019.

The Government has made it clear that it is committed to avoiding the return of a hard border on the Island of Ireland. In the event of no-deal, then there will be intensive discussions between the Government, the EU Commission and EU partners regarding the movement of goods North-South. I am assured by Revenue that they will provide whatever technical expertise and assistance is required by the government negotiating team during this process.

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 92.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (98)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

98. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff working in the procurement area for major State infrastructure projects in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4578/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I can advise the Deputy that the Department of Finance does not directly procure any major public infrastructure projects.

The Deputy may wish to note that there are currently three staff working in the procurement section of the Department of Finance and all staff within this area have undertaken accredited training in public procurement. The Department’s Compliance Officer also performs the role of Procurement Officer for the Department. The Procurement Officer provides guidance and support to staff on undertaking public procurements including promoting compliance with EU public procurement directives and regulations.

My Department is committed to ensuring that procurement processes undertaken by its staff are carried out in conformity with all relevant national and EU legislation.

In relation to construction policy and rules I would refer the deputy to my answer in relation to my role as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Revenue Commissioners Enforcement Activity

Ceisteanna (99)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

99. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the number of the 18,000 construction employment investigations carried out in 2016 which resulted in the €58 million yield to the Exchequer which were compliant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4632/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that it always aims to match its intervention options to the compliance behavior exhibited by the taxpayer. The intervention options range from light touch Aspect Queries through to Investigations for cases of suspected serious tax and duty evasion. Full details of Revenue’s suite of compliance interventions are set out in Chapter 2 of the Code of Practice for Revenue Audit and other Compliance Interventions.

The following table sets the number of different interventions carried out by Revenue on the construction industry in 2016. The information is broken down by intervention type and by the numbers/percentages that were found to have tax liabilities. The total yield figures comprise of tax, interest and penalties.

Intervention Type

Number Closed

Number Yielding

% Yielding

Total Yield €m

Aspect Query

16,823

3,293

20%

€24.7

Profile Interview

192

51

27%

€2.7

Audit

1,063

736

69%

€27.2

Investigation

5

2

40%

€0.2

Totals

18,083

4,082

23%

€54.8

Mortgage Data

Ceisteanna (100)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

100. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of mortgage switches that have taken place in each year since 2000; the number as a percentage of the overall number of existing mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4650/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Data provided by the Central Bank of Ireland indicates that switching (defined as loans issued by one lender to refinance an existing mortgage with another lender) of credit institution PDH mortgages for each year since 2003 (data is not readily available prior to that point and the data also includes a certain estimation for the period prior to 2010) is as set out in the table.

As the Deputy will note from the table, the level of mortgage switching peaked in 2006 when approximately 27,000 mortgages switched provider. Over the period 2009 to 2014 switching decreased significantly, reflecting subdued lending activity in the overall Irish market at that time. From 2015 onwards, the number and value of switcher loans has increased and in 2017 a little over 3,000 mortgages switched provider.

Year

No. of switcher mortgages

Switcher mortgages as a % of outstanding credit institution PDH credit

2003

14,247

4.0

2004

18,121

4.9

2005

25,944

7.1

2006

26,565

7.0

2007

25,937

6.7

2008

21,374

4.9

2009

5,774

1.0

2010

2,722

0.4

2011

1,137

0.2

2012

455

0.1

2013

292

0.1

2014

503

0.1

2015

1,433

0.4

2016

2,438

0.6

2017

3,070

0.8